Sup­plies run­ning out for Iraqis left in Mo­sul

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MO­SUL:

Rasha rum­mages through her kitchen cup­board and holds up a nearly empty bag of rice - the last of the stock of sup­plies for her fam­ily of five in Iraq’s bat­tle­ground city of Mo­sul.

“I don’t know what will hap­pen when this runs out,” she told AFP, as her five-year-old son Yunus fid­dled with a toy bazooka his fa­ther made him. “We are re­ly­ing on God.” A few blocks away from the home in the densely packed Aden neigh­bor­hood, Iraqi spe­cial forces are bat­tling Is­lamic State (IS) mil­i­tants in grind­ing house-to­house fight­ing to oust the group from Mo­sul, the last ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­ter it con­trolled in the country.

But the fam­ily are among the thou­sands of res­i­dents of Mo­sul sit­ting tight in ar­eas re­taken by gov­ern­ment troops and pray­ing that the hur­ri­cane of vi­o­lence will soon pass them by. While aid agen­cies es­ti­mated that some 200,000 res­i­dents could flee the city in the first weeks of the fight­ing, five weeks into the op­er­a­tion only around 70,000 civil­ians have fled their homes. Those who stay be­hind in the city - of­ten too scared or un­able to quit - are fac­ing both dan­ger and de­pri­va­tion. “We’ve al­ready had three mor­tars hit our roof,” said the moth­erof-three. “I am so afraid for my chil­dren.”

Power lines are cut, gas for heat­ing is run­ning low, and drink­ing water is nearly gone. The only sup­plies the fam­ily re­ceives are the oc­ca­sional bags of bread and packs of bot­tled water the troops from Iraq’s elite Counter-Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice (CTS) can bring them. But with tem­per­a­tures at night drop­ping below zero Cel­sius - the thought of mak­ing the per­ilous jour­ney out of Mo­sul with three young chil­dren to one of the sprawl­ing camps for dis­placed peo­ple seems daunt­ing. “At least here we have a roof over our head,” Rasha said.

‘Huge Con­cern’

For hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies, try­ing to reach the peo­ple in­side the re­cap­tured ar­eas of Mo­sul is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ur­gent. The fight­ing and high risks mean that aid de­liv­er­ies have been se­verely re­stricted. The United Na­tions says it has been able to de­liver food to some 37,000 peo­ple, but they are on the very eastern fringe of the city. “Se­cu­rity and ac­cess is the big chal­lenge,” In­ger Marie Ven­nize, a spokes­woman for the World Food Pro­gramme in Iraq, told AFP. “It is a huge con­cern for us be­cause we know that peo­ple need food as­sis­tance.”

Aid agen­cies have urged the Iraqi forces to en­sure them with ac­cess or open up safe cor­ri­dors. Ven­nize in­sisted agen­cies were “dis­cussing ev­ery­thing all the time” for aid to reach peo­ple who need it in Mo­sul, but said air drops for now were not on the ta­ble. With fight­ing rag­ing against a de­ter­mined en­emy who is un­will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate, there ap­pears pre­cious lit­tle room for ma­noeu­vre and the op­er­a­tion looks set to last weeks, if not months longer.

Maan Al-Saadi, a com­man­der with the CTS, in­sisted that the as­sault was “ahead of sched­ule”. But he said IS was us­ing un­con­ven­tional meth­ods that made re­tak­ing ter­ri­tory more ar­du­ous. “They are us­ing car bombs, sui­cide bombers and civil­ians as hu­man shields - this makes it dif­fi­cult for us.” On Wed­nes­day, pro-gov­ern­ment mili­tias west of Mo­sul said they cut off the last re­main­ing routes from Mo­sul to IS-held ter­ri­tory in Syria. And that means the mil­i­tants left in the city - al­ready will­ing to blow them­selves up in their hun­dreds to slow the Iraqi ad­vance - are now al­most cer­tainly gear­ing up for a fight to the death. “They can­not flee. They have two choices - give up or die,” Saadi said. —AFP

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