Moments ago, the Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi reiterated statements made earlier today by senior Iraqi Army officials who announced the final stages of preparations for the long awaited Fallujah offensive.
In a statement on Twitter, the Iraqi PM said: “Zero hour for the liberation of Fallujah has arrived. The moment of great victory has drawn near and ISIS has no choice but to flee.”
Meanwhile, ISIS fighters held up at Fallujah have little chance of retreat as the Iraqi Army has had the Islamist stronghold encircled for the past 6 months.
In announcements made on state television, commanders of the Iraqi Army asked the families in Fallujah to raise the white flag to mark their locations in efforts to avoid civilian casualties.
Meanwhile, ISIS has been preventing civilians from leaving the city in what could easily be considered a human shield tactic.
In early 2014, Fallujah was the first major Iraqi city to be captured by the Islamic State but has been an Islamist hub since U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein more than 10 years ago.
Some 75,000 civilians remain in Fallujah with most of them lacking basic necessities.
Nevertheless, senior Iraqi official Falih al-Essawi said three escape routes were soon to be opened for civilians to camps west, southwest and southeast of the city.
Following recent government offensives in Ramadi, Rutbah and Hit, the capture of Fallujah would secure the the highway from Baghdad to the Jordanian border, more than 500 kilometers in total.