The fight against the Islamic State group (aka ISIS or ISIL) in the Middle East has resulted in two recent victories. Iraqi forces have made rapid gains in Fallujah, Iraq, and opened a second front in the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, while U.S.-backed Syrian forces have made significant advances as well.
The Iraqi forces entered Fallujah on Friday and made "rapid and unexpected gains," the New York Times reported. ISIS forces remain in the city but there was little to no resistance from the group's fighters. The gains could be interpreted as a "shift in tactics" for the extremist group or a "sign of their weakness," the Times wrote. ISIS fighters had held the city since late 2013.
Iraqi forces advanced farther into the city Saturday, seizing a hospital as fighting continued, the Associated Press reported. Officials said Iraqi forces now control 80 percent of Fallujah. Thousands of people who had been trapped inside the city have managed to flee, according to the Times.
Attention also turned to a new area Saturday. Iraqi forces opened a second front, eyeing Mosul, an ISIS stronghold. Reuters reported that counter-terrorism forces and two army divisions backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes advanced toward an airfield, representing an important step toward retaking Mosul. The airfield could serve as a key staging ground for an attempt to take the city serving as the de facto capital for ISIS in Iraq.
Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Syrian forces advanced Saturday to the western entrance of the ISIS-held city of Manbij, Reuters reported. The news agency cited sources. The city is the last remaining territory held by the extremist militants along the Syria-Turkey border. The forces are now a little over a mile from the city's center. There's been a major offensive on the city since the end of May, but until Saturday forces had been held out of Manbij.