Thousands flee as fighting intensifies in Iraq’s Mosul

The UN refugee agency says up to 2,300 people are daily fleeing Mosul as battle to retake the city from Daesh rages on.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Displaced Iraqi people, who fled the Daesh stronghold of Mosul, gather as they leave Khazer camp to go home, Iraq January 4, 2017.

More than 2,000 Iraqis a day are fleeing Daesh-held areas of Mosul as Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition began a new phase of their battle to retake the city from Daesh, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

More than 125,000 people have been displaced out of a population of roughly 1.5 million, but the numbers have increased by nearly 50 percent to 2,300 daily from 1,600 over the last few days, the UN refugee agency said.

After quick initial advances, the operation stalled for several weeks but last Thursday Iraqi forces renewed their push from Mosul's east towards the Tigris River on three fronts.

Elite interior ministry troops were clearing the Mithaq district on Wednesday, after entering it on Tuesday when counterterrorism forces also retook an industrial zone.

Federal police advanced in the Wahda district, the military said on Wednesday, in the 12th week of Iraq's largest military campaign since the US-led invasion of 2003.

‘Dire’ humanitarian situation

As they advanced, many more civilian casualties were also being recorded, the UN said.

The humanitarian situation was "dire", with food stockpiles dwindling and the price of staples spiralling, boreholes drying up or turning brackish from over-use and camps and emergency sites to the south and east reaching maximum capacity, it said.

Most of the fleeing civilians are from the eastern districts but people from the besieged west, still under the militants' control, are increasingly attempting to escape, scaling bridges bombed by the coalition and crossing the Tigris by boat.

TRTWorld and agencies