Iraqi forces attack on Mosul’s Old City

MOSUL VIDEO: Iraqi Forces Fend off ISIS Desperate Attack in Mosul's Old City
Vastavam web:  Mosul’s Old City, where Iraqi forces are closing in on the Islamic State group’s final urban refuge in Iraq, is an ancient maze of narrow alleys.At its heart lies the emblematic Al-Nuri mosque, where jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in June 2014 after his forces seized Iraq’s second city along with swathes of territory extending into neighbouring Syria.Perched on the bank of the river Tigris and protected for centuries by 11th century ramparts, medieval Mosul was a key meeting point for merchants from India, Persia and the Mediterranean.Today, the three-square-kilometre (one-square-mile) district is a maze of alleys lined with stone houses, small shops and the workshops of local carpenters, weavers and metalworkers.
It contains numerous markets, churches and mosques, the most emblematic of which is the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri.The mosque takes its name from Nureddin al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172 after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.A predecessor to Saladin, Zinki was a Muslim hero in what he labelled a jihad (holy war) against the crusaders.Present-day jihadists often borrow his rhetoric, referring to western forces as “crusaders”. One influential rebel group in Syria has even named itself after him.After seizing Mosul, IS fighters hung their black flag from the top of the 45-metre (150-foot) tower.
While the jihadists destroyed priceless historical sites in other parts of their “caliphate”, witnesses say the “hunchback” was saved after locals formed a human chain around it to protect it.Historians and architects fear that fierce fighting in the Old City will imperil its heritage as well as the mosque’s fragile minaret.A UNESCO-led effort launched in June 2014 to stabilize the structure was interrupted just days later as IS seized control of Mosul in a lightning assault.In a “desperate plea” published in March, Iraqi architect Ihsan Fethi called for the Old City to be spared.He urged Iraqi and international coalition forces not to resort to “any sort of indiscriminate artillery, bombing… or any similar heavy weaponry” in the battle for the Old City.