#MosulOps: Iraqi forces restore cross on recaptured Assyrian church
The pictures taken on Monday and released by local news outlet al-Mosuleya show Iraqi special forces and Assyrian Christian militiamen restoring the cross on the dome of St Barbara Church in the town of Karemles (known in the Assyrian language as Karemlesh).
Iraqi forces have been pushing toward Mosul from several directions since the launch of the wide-scale offensive against IS, which involves more than 25,000 Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish forces, Sunni tribal fighters and state-sanctioned Shia militiamen.
Karemles, less than 29 kilometres southeast of Islamic State group's last bastion in Iraq, was liberated on Monday – it was once home to home to thousands of Christians before it fell under IS control in 2014.
IS has subjected captured Christian residents to the worst forms of displacement and dispossession of rights with homes and churches being forcefully confiscated by the extremist militants.
In January, satellite images confirmed that the oldest monastery in Mosul had been demolished by the group, which considers churches "heretical sites".
"Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically levelled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land," Catholic priest Reverend Paul Thabit Habib said at the time.
Last Thursday, Iraqi forces retook full control of Bartella and Qaraqosh – two other small Christian towns to the east of Mosul, prompting Christians to celebrate in the streets of Erbil.
An estimated 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, however recent figures suggest as little as 200,000 remain.
Social media users have compared the inspiring images of the makeshift wooden cross being re-erected in Karemles to the historic photograph of US troops raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
Others have said it gave them hope that Iraq will finally be united after IS is eliminated from the country.
Translation: "Karemles has been totally liberated and the cross has been erected on its church. Look at this beautiful place IS stole from us."
Translation: "When Iraqi go to war: The army puts a cross on the dome of a church in Karemles."