Thousands of civilians flee Mosul amid fierce battle

Baghdad, March 1 (IANS) Thousands of civilians have been displaced from western Mosul in Iraq as a military operation was on Wednesday being carried out in the city’s more densely populated areas.

At least 12,700 persons were displaced in the past two days from western Mosul, where Iraqi forces have been fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants.

About 16,500 civilians have been displaced from the city since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on February 19 announced the launch of military operations in western Mosul.

Displaced families are moving primarily south to Hammam al Alil, where security screening is undertaken, then further south to displacement camps and emergency sites, where emergency assistance is provided.

As the number of displaced citizens increases, more space is needed in the camps. The current space is enough for receiving another 85,000 people, and work is ongoing to expand shelter capacity.

“The situation is unbelievable,” reported a 46-year-old man from inside the city.

“There is no food, no clean water, no gas for heating, no medicine and no services.”

So far, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided ready-to-eat food for over 6,000 people who have fled villages to the south of western Mosul.

Sally Haydock, Iraqi representative and country director of WFP, appealed to all parties to the conflict “to facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Iraqis in need of assistance”.

Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling the IS to take control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions.

According to media reports, Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces have moved near to the local government building suffering heavy casualties.

Iraqi forces on Monday captured a strategic bridge across the Tigris River, after seizing Jawsaq neighbourhood from the IS.

Outside the city, the Iraqi Army has been advancing through an open desert to sever the road between west Mosul and the IS-held town of Tal Afar to prevent the jihadists from resupplying or retreating as they come under pressure from Iraqi forces advancing from the south.

However, the process is slow as the terrain is exposed and there are no roads. The security forces have to use bulldozers to make a path ahead.

–IANS

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