Middle East UN: Civilians in ‘terrible danger,’ as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul

UN: Civilians in ‘terrible danger,’ as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul
A member of the Iraqi forces, consisting of the Iraqi federal police and the elite Rapid Response Division, secures a building as troops push into the Old City in Mosul, Iraq, March 19, 2017. (Photo: AFP)

MOSUL, Iraq (Kurdistan24) – Iraqi security forces on Monday continued their advance into Mosul’s Old City as thousands of civilians remain under the Islamic State’s (IS) rule.

The security forces have liberated several neighborhoods from the insurgent group since the operation to free western Mosul began last month.

However, security personnel have highlighted the struggle to advance into the Old City because of narrow alleyways and crowded streets.

The push into the city center where the Great Mosque of al-Nuri is located, the place where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014, puts civilian lives at risk.

Military vehicles are unable to navigate in the area while the use of heavy artillery puts civilian lives in further danger.

The commander of the Rapid Response Division’s Second Brigade General Mahdi Abbas Abdullah said Iraqi forces “aimed to press forward to enter the Old City,” according to AFP.

“The offensive has resumed in the same area as yesterday…which is made up of large buildings, markets, and narrow streets where the enemy is hiding,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande released a statement pointing to the “terrible danger” civilians faced as forces advanced.

“People fleeing are telling us it’s very difficult to enter or leave the Old City,” Grande said.

“Families are at risk of being shot if they leave and they are at risk if they stay,” she added.

Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces, with the help of the US-led coalition, launched an offensive to recapture Mosul from IS in October 2016.

Since then, the forces have freed the eastern part of the city while the offensive in the west is ongoing.

 

Editing by Ava Homa