Iraq: As forces progress in Mosul, humanitarian concerns increase
Government forces are forcing militants of the Islamic State to continue to retreat in the battle for Mosul and Lt. Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi of the elite troops said they are “very close” to the main government complex. He is hopeful that they will take control of the site very soon after they took over a principal bridge leading to central Mosul’s Old City.
The operation to take over the important extremist bastion of Mosul began two weeks ago and clashes have been fatal on both sides. Major Ali Talib of the Iraqi elite force noted that militants of the Islamic State have “some mortar (teams) and snipers positioned inside homes” to resist the offensive as well as suicide car bombs. The situation has contributed to the slow progress of the operation while the US-led coalition continues to provide aerial support.
While advance on the ground is progressing, concerns about the humanitarian cost of the war are mounting, as more than 40,000 people are reported to have fled Western Mosul within the past week. The number is expected to increase as more territories are liberated. Clashes between government forces and extremist fighters are getting closer to the most densely populated parts of the city and aid agencies have expressed concerns that camps to accommodate people fleeing the city are almost full. The UN warned that the number of displaced people could reach 400,000.
Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has highlighted that it is “seriously concerned” about the reported use of chemical weapons in Mosul. It has requested the “assistance” and cooperation of Iraqi authorities in the investigation. The United Nations warned that the alleged use of chemical weapons, if confirmed, would be a war crime and a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The Islamic State group has been accused of using chemical weapons during its battles with government forces.
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