Thursday, 12 December, 2019

Iraqi forces advance on ISIS-held neighborhoods in western Mosul

Christy Curtis | 29 May, 2017, 05:13

Iraqi armed forces launched an operation today to capture the last Daesh-held enclave in Mosul, according to a military statement.

"It was a trap", the officer said.

However, a combination of concentrated attacks by the Iraqi military and the volunteer forces, who rushed to take arms after top Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling for fight against the militants, blunted the edge of the Daesh offensive and in recent months led to liberation of much of the territories occupied by Daesh.

Iraqi forces announced the beginning of the final push on the last IS strongholds in Mosul Saturday.

The move came a day after the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets telling residents to flee crowded neighborhoods just north of the Old City, where most of the militant forces are clinging on as Iraqi forces encircle the district.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press news agency, two Iraqi military officers described the advance on Mosul's Old City as "cautious" and the clashes on Sunday as "sporadic".

Iraqi forces, backed by heavy USA -led air and artillery strikes, began a new offensive into the Islamic State's final bastions in the city.

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Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the northern city since the offensive to reclaim it was launched in October a year ago.

Multiple security forces are attacking "what remains of the unliberated areas" on the west bank of the River Tigris, the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

Residents in the Old City sounded desperate in telephone interviews made over the past few days.

An average of 10,000 people were reported to flee conflict areas on a daily basis in Western Mosul with 16, 000 fleeing their homes last Thursday, the largest movement of civilians in a single day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said this week.

"Although the United Nations is not present in the areas where fighting is occurring, we have received very disturbing reports of families being shut inside booby-trapped homes and of children being deliberately targeted by snipers", he said, emphasizing that families in the city still lack access to clean water and medicine and many have only limited access to food.

The probe found that at least 105 civilians had been killed and 36 remained unaccounted for, but said most had been killed by the secondary explosion of IS munitions stored in a nearby house. They were similarly unaware that Is had placed explosives at the site, the report said. The protection for civilians is a legal and moral obligation, 'he said.

Global aid group Save the Children expressed concern that the call for civilians to leave could expose them to additional danger. One of the worst incidents came on March 17, where the Pentagon determined a US airstrike set off secondary explosives laid by IS; the ensuing blast killed more than 100 civilians sheltering in a home in western Mosul.

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