Aid groups warn of chaos after Mosul civilians told to flee

Henrietta Brewer
May 29, 2017

After almost eight months of fighting Iraqi forces appear poised to retake what was once the Islamic State's largest stronghold in Iraq and the birthplace of its caliphate.

Scores of Islamic State militants attacked Iraqi forces, shortly after the latter seized control of Tibb al-Mosul town in the city's western side, the Rapid Response officer said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.

Soldiers are storming the Shifa neighborhood and al Jamhouri Hospital. Federal police are moving in on the al Zanjili district and Iraqi counter-terrorism forces are advancing on the al Saha al Awla neighborhood.

Mosul had been the last major IS stronghold in Iraq, but recent offenses have cornered the jihadists into select pockets of the old city.

All three neighborhoods are located north of the Old City, a warren of closely spaced buildings and narrow streets.

Iraqi forces said they made gains in a new assault on IS there on Saturday. The U.S. fight against IS was initially described as one that would not involve "boots on the ground", and both U.S. commanders and politicians pledged that American forces would not be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.

"As many as 200,000 additional people may try to leave in coming days", the United Nations said Saturday in a statement following the call for Old City civilians to leave. Fighting, especially in the city's west, has been ferocious, leaving Iraqi forces with thousands of casualties. Unlike past urban battles against IS, in Mosul Iraq's government asked civilians to remain in their homes in order to avoid massive numbers of displaced families requiring camps and other assistance.

An Iraqi official says a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has been killed in an explosion during clashes with the Islamic State group west of Mosul.

Nasiri, who had been an adviser for Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, was killed in a roadside bombing near Baaj, west of Mosul, Ibrahim said.

Residents in Mosul started to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Saturday after three years under ISIS rule who imposed rigorous Shariaa laws on the population including mandatory wearing of burqa and niqab for women.

Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is aiming to control the border in coordination with the Iranian-backed army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The UN last week said up to 200,000 more people could flee Mosul as fighting moves to the Old City.

In a statement today, UN's Under-Secretary General for humanitarian affairs Stephen O'Brien said, families are being shut inside booby-trapped homes and children being deliberately targeted by snipers.

USA defense officials say "taking the time" to surround Islamic State strongholds is part of a new approach in the war against IS under the Trump administration, aimed at preventing militants from regrouping after territorial losses and foreign fighters from fleeing.

"We are noticing that the closer we get to the Old City, the greater the resistance", he added, looking over the roughly 8 square kilometers (3 square miles) of Mosul territory still in IS hands on a satellite mapping app.

Airstrikes have hit 2,600 ISIS-held oil and gas targets, resulting in the lowest revenue for the terror group since 2014, it said. ISIS fighters have utilized any dastardly advantage they can in an attempt to maintain their hold on western Mosul, including the use of human shields and suicide bombers.

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