Monday is going to be another bloody day in Fallujah—possibly the bloodiest yet. Before dawn, the Iraqi military launched a final offensive to recapture the city from ISIS, which has held it for more than two years. "With God's blessing we have launched the third phase of the operation to storm the center of Fallujah city," a military spokesman said on state TV, per CNN. "There is heavy air cover for this operation from our heroes in the Iraqi air force and the coalition." Al Jazeera reports that around 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped between the advancing Iraqi military and allied militias on one side, and an estimated 1,000 ISIS fighters on the other, who are believed to be using civilians as human shields.
The United Nations has warned that there has been a "dramatic increase" in the number of men and boys executed in Fallujah for refusing to fight for ISIS. As the operation, which began a week ago, entered its final phase, militants launched a wave of bombings in the Baghdad area, killing at least 20 people in what is believed to be an attempt to distract security forces, the AP reports. In northern Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga fighters launched a fresh offensive Sunday to recapture villages near the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, reports Reuters, whose correspondent encountered English-speaking coalition troops loading armored vehicles near the frontline but was unable to determine their nationality. (Read more Fallujah stories.)