The Israeli website Debka reported Tuesday that Iraqi forces were able to liberate Hawija "without firing a shot" because of a prior agreement with IS militants.
"Iraqi troops had not, and will never, strike a deal with [the Islamic State], neither in Hawija nor anywhere else," Iraqi Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahia Rasoul said Tuesday. "There had been a ferocious fighting, hundreds of IS were killed and hundreds of explosive devices were defused"
Rasoul called the allegations "very funny."
The Debka report said, according to its sources: "Instead of launching this offensive, Iraqi army commanders negotiated a deal with the jihadists through the mediation of local Arab tribes. They granted safe passage for the occupiers and their families to withdraw from Hawija, in return for a commitment not to resist the Iraqi army's takeover of the town. Iraqi troops indeed secured a corridor for their exit, after which the Islamic fighters headed for Diyala in eastern Iraq near the Iranian border."
Iraq's Joint Operations Command declared the ouster of Islamic State forces in Hawija not long after beginning the offensive in September. The town, about 30 southwest of the city of Kirkuk, became an Islamic State stronghold in 2014.
In the Kirkuk region, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners expressed "deep concern" for civilians' safety.
"Nothing is more important than protecting the civilians who have been impacted by the conflict," Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a release. "International humanitarian law is clear. Everything must be done to ensure people are safe and have access to the assistance they need."
She noted there are "incidents of collective punishment, restrictions on free movement, evictions, forced returns and sexual exploitation and violence, including in emergency sites and camps."
"There are heartbreaking cases of children, the elderly and disabled people being separated from their families," she added. "Hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of very young children, have been exposed to extreme danger, stress, and trauma and will require years of specialized support and care."
Grande's office reported Monday more than 5.4 million people have been displaced in Iraq since the start of the conflict.