Civil­ian toll mounts as Mo­sul siege nears end

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - ME FRYKBERG

IRAQI forces ex­pect to take all of western Mo­sul in Iraq in the next few days, thereby lib­er­at­ing the en­tire city from the grip of Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

How­ever, the price for the lib­er­a­tion con­tin­ues to be high for civil­ians with hun­dreds killed over the past few days and the UN warn­ing that 100000 chil­dren re­main in jeop­ardy as fight­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment forces and the mil­i­tants con­tin­ues.

“The bat­tle to re­cap­ture Mo­sul is go­ing smoothly and the city is to be lib­er­ated in days, said a spokesper­son for the Iraqi Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand (JOC) in Bag­dad on Sun­day.

“The vic­tory in the lib­er­a­tion of Mo­sul will be sym­bol­ised by the re­tak­ing of the Grand Mosque of Al Nuri in western part of the city, said Brigadier Gen­eral Yahya Ra­sool, the JOC spokesper­son, in an in­ter­view with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion.

At least 230 civil­ians were killed over the past two days by IS mil­i­tants as well as Iraqi fighter jets in western Mo­sul.

Colonel Reda Ab­dul­lah Al Ba­hadli, of the Rapid Re­sponse forces, told Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency, that from late Satur­day on­wards at least 157 civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren who were try­ing to es­cape the Al Zan­jili neigh­bour­hood, had been killed by the ji­hadists.

An­other 43 civil­ians were killed as the Iraqi Air Force car­ried out air strikes on IS lo­ca­tions in Al Shifa district in north-east Mo­sul.

Ac­cord­ing to Ba­hadli, 30 civil­ians were also killed as Iraqi troops at­tacked IS pock­ets in the dis­tricts of Al Shifa, Al Zan­jili, Al Borsa, Bab San­jar and Bab Al Toub in western Mo­sul.

How­ever, the Fed­eral Po­lice said Iraqi troops were now in control of 65% of Al Zan­jili and had evac­u­ated 130 fam­i­lies ex­plain­ing that the slow ad­vance was meant to spare civil­ian lives.

Fol­low­ing the lib­er­a­tion of Al Si­hha Al Oula district on Fri­day, IS is now only in control of the two re­main­ing dis­tricts of Al Shifa and Al Zan­jili – and parts of the Old City.

Iraqi forces have been sweep­ing through north-western neigh­bour­hoods of western Mo­sul over the past few weeks in prepa­ra­tion for an in­va­sion of the strate­gic Old City where some of the diehard IS mem­bers are holed up.

The mil­i­tants lost eastern Mo­sul in Jan­uary fol­low­ing three-months of bloody bat­tles. The mil­i­tary of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture the western part of the city was launched in Fe­bru­ary.

Mean­while, the UN chil­dren’s fund (Unicef) warns that the lives of some 100000 chil­dren re­main­ing in western Mo­sul are on the line as the fight­ing rages.

“We are re­ceiv­ing alarm­ing re­ports of civil­ians in­clud­ing sev­eral chil­dren be­ing killed in west Mo­sul,” said Peter Hawkins, Unicef ’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Iraq, not­ing that boys and girls are be­ing killed, in­jured and used as hu­man shields as the fight­ing in­ten­si­fies by the hour.

Call­ing on all par­ties in west Mo­sul to keep chil­dren out of harm’s way at all times, Hawkins pleaded for at­tacks on civil­ians and civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, clin­ics, schools, homes and wa­ter sys­tems to stop im­me­di­ately.

In other dis­turb­ing de­vel­op­ments, Iraqi forces have been ac­cused of us­ing the con­tro­ver­sial, deadly war weapon white phos­pho­rus in an at­tack on IS-held ar­eas in western Mo­sul.

An ex­plo­sion was cap­tured on a Kur­dish TV sta­tion which was live-stream­ing on Satur­day when Iraqi forces made their move.

Stills from the blast showed it ap­peared to have the sig­na­ture bright white plume of smoke which fol­lows a white phos­pho­rus at­tack, Hu­man Rights Watch told Al Jazeera.

Ad­di­tion­ally the corpses of men – sus­pected of be­ing IS mem­ber­sor sym­pa­this­ers – and sub­se­quently sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted by Iraqi spe­cial forces and mili­tias con­tinue to be found.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A mem­ber of the Iraqi mil­i­tary forces dis­em­barks from a tank in Mo­sul’s al-Zan­jili district in Iraq on Mon­day.

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