ERBIL — More than 100,000 civilians remain trapped in Hawija, as the Iraqi forces are preparing to launch an operation against the Islamic State militants in the town, an Iraqi official said on Tuesday.
The town of Hawija (located about 65 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk city) is currently a main stronghold for the IS militants, after the Iraqi forces liberated the city of Mosul and its neighboring town of Tel Afar.
According to Brigadier General Yahya Rasul, a spokesperson for the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi troops will not rush the campaign and their main priority will be to evacuate and protect all civilians still trapped in Hawija, as the IS insurgents are expected to use them as human shields.
In the past week, the Iraqi Air Forces dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Hawija and its surrounding areas, informing the IS militants that they can either "surrender or die" and urging all civilians to flee the area.
The town of Hawija was captured by the IS militants back in 2014, when the extremist group emerged in Iraq. Since then the jihadists have killed thousands of civilians and Iraqi forces personnel.