Iraq Anbar operation
Members of Iraq's Shi'ite paramilitaries launch a rocket toward Islamic State militants outskirt the city of Falluja in the province of Anbar, Iraq Reuters

Iraqi forces, along with Shiite militias, have embarked on a counter-offensive against Islamic State (Isis) militants to retake Anbar, the country's largest province.

Local Sunni tribes, federal police forces, and army personnel are set to be part of the coordinated efforts in the western province.

"The military operations to liberate Anbar started at dawn today. Our armed forces along with al-Hashd al-Shaabi fighters, special forces, federal police and Anbar tribes-people are now engaged in intense fighting and advancing toward their agreed targets," Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command said in a televised address.

The announcement of the renewed offensive has come just after the much-delayed F-16 fighter jets dispatched by the US forces arrived in Iraq. The Anbar operation will be buttressed by US airstrikes.

A similar operation was launched to recapture Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, when it fell into the militants' hands in May 2015, although the campaign quickly spluttered. The initial focus of the latest operation will be to flush out Islamists from the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

"The only fear of the people of Anbar and especially Fallujah is the Shiite militia because their actions are not less in scale than those of ISIS towards the people of Anbar," a prominent Sunni tribe chief, Sheikh Yahya al-Sunbul told Rudaw.

"The proof is the continuous and indiscriminate bombardment of Fallujah, the looting and destruction that will take place after ISIS leaves as we saw in Tikrit." About 50,000 civilians are estimated to be present in Fallujah.

According to UN figures, as many as 7,800 people were killed in Anbar in June alone. The Anbar operation will put the resilience of IS and effectiveness of the Iraqi military to the test yet again.

"We will punish the criminals of IS on the battlefields. The heroes of our security forces, the Popular Mobilisation Force [Shiite militias] and the tribal sons are dealing ISIS terrorists defeat after defeat," said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a statement.