UN fears over plight of Mo­sul civil­ians

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - ANA

AS THE fight against the Is­lamic State (IS) ap­proaches western Mo­sul, in Iraq, the plight of ap­prox­i­mately 750 000 civil­ians has raised the con­cerns of the UN.

One hun­dred days af­ter the start of the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions to re­take Mo­sul from the IS, fight­ing which had mostly taken part in the eastern part of the city is ex­pected to move to­wards the western sec­tor of Mo­sul.

To date, 180 000 peo­ple have fled the city’s eastern sec­tions while more than 550 000 civil­ians have re­mained in their homes.

“We are re­lieved that so many peo­ple in the eastern sec­tions of Mo­sul have been able to stay in their homes. We hope that ev­ery­thing is done to pro­tect the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who are across the river in the west.

“We know that they are at ex­treme risk and we fear for their lives,” said Lise Grande, UN Hu­man­i­tar­ian Co-or­di­na­tor for Iraq, in a state­ment on Tues­day also signed by other hu­man­i­tar­i­ans from UN agen­cies and civil so­ci­ety.

“We don’t know what will hap­pen in western Mo­sul but we can­not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of siege-like con­di­tions or a mass ex­o­dus.

“The re­ports from in­side western Mo­sul are dis­tress­ing,” said Grande, not­ing that hu­man­i­tar­ian part­ners are un­able to ac­cess these ar­eas and the prices of ba­sic food and sup­plies are soar­ing.

“Wa­ter and elec­tric­ity are in­ter­mit­tent in neigh­bour­hoods and many fam­i­lies with­out in­come are eat­ing only once a day. Oth­ers are be­ing forced to burn fur­ni­ture to stay warm,” she added.

“We don’t know what will hap­pen in western Mo­sul but we can­not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of siege-like con­di­tions or a mass ex­o­dus,” said Grande.

“They can be killed by booby­traps and in cross­fire, and could be used as hu­man shields.”

The Iraqi se­cu­rity forces have adopted a hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cept of op­er­a­tions putting civil­ian pro­tec­tion at the cen­tre of their bat­tle plan.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian part­ners wel­come this ap­proach and re­new their col­lec­tive call on all par­ties to the con­flict to up­hold their obli­ga­tions un­der in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law to pro­tect civil­ians and en­sure they have ac­cess to life-sav­ing as­sis­tance.

“The world’s at­ten­tion is fixed on the mil­i­tary cam­paign in Iraq. But once this is over, there will still be a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis,” Grande said, not­ing that as many as three mil­lion Iraqis, maybe even four mil­lion de­pend­ing on what hap­pened in Mo­sul, Haw­iga and Tel Afar, might be dis­placed from their homes as a re­sult of the con­flict.

“These fam­i­lies will need to make cru­cial choices about how to re­build and re-es­tab­lish their lives. And we will need to be here to help them. We hope and trust that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will not walk away af­ter Mo­sul. It would be a mis­take – a very big one – if this were to hap­pen,” she added.

Dis­placed peo­ple who have fled the Is­lamic State strong­hold in the Arabi neigh­bour­hood, north of Mo­sul, ar­rive to reg­is­ter their names at a mil­i­tary check­point be­fore be­ing trans­ported to camps in the east of Mo­sul, Iraq, yes­ter­day. PIC­TURE: REUTERS

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