Over 180,000 people have fled west Mosul as government forces battle to recapture Iraq's second largest city from Daesh, senior Iraqi officials say.

Humanitarian agencies are bracing for the possibility that around 320,000 civilians may flee in coming weeks.
Humanitarian agencies are bracing for the possibility that around 320,000 civilians may flee in coming weeks.

Over 180,000 people have fled west Mosul as Iraqi forces continue to battle Daesh to reclaim the city, senior Iraqi officials said on Monday.

About half of them have sought shelter in nearby camps, Iraq's immigration minister Jassim Mohammed said.

Iraqi authorities launched the offensive to retake Mosul on October 17 last year, with the support of the US-led coalition that has been carrying out strikes against Deash in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

Iraqi forces launched the drive to retake west Mosul on February 19, after seizing the city's eastern side the previous month, forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

On Monday the immigration minister said that the number of displaced people from both sides of Mosul, since the start of the offensive, has reached 355,000.

Some 181,000 have poured out of western Mosul since the start of the operations to retake that side a month ago, Mohammed said.

The government said that it can accommodate another 100,000 people, but they expect those numbers to be much higher.

Desperate times

Those displaced said that severe fighting forced them to leave their homes, but they are struggling to find shelter at relief camps.

"We tried at Hammam al-Alil camp. It was full," 50-year-old Mohammad Ali said. He was flanked by 20 relatives, including sons and grandchildren, and had been on the road for 18 hours since fleeing their home in a Daesh-held area of Mosul.

A bus had brought them to the camp about 35 km south of Mosul and unloaded them a few hundred metres (yards) from a Kurdish peshmerga checkpoint east of Mosul and on the way to the sprawling Khazer and Hasan Sham camps, which are also crowded.

"Hopefully we can get to Khazer. We just need to get through the checkpoint," Ali said.

Ali's story is becoming a familiar one.

"People fleeing are telling us that it's very difficult to enter or leave the Old City," the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Lise Grande said in a statement.

"Families are at risk of being shot if they leave, and they are at risk if they stay."

It's horrible. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped and they are in terrible danger — Lise Grande

Aid agencies pushed to the limit

Humanitarian agencies are bracing for the possibility that an additional 300,000-320,000 civilians may flee in coming weeks.

They have been providing life-saving support to more than 1.3 million people from eastern and western Mosul including families who have stayed in their homes and those who have fled.

"We've been planning and preparing for the Mosul operation for months. But the truth is that the crisis is pushing all of us to our limits. We're going to be doing the best we can to ensure the people who need assistance receive it," Grande said.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi met US President Donald Trump at the White House on the 14th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and two days before a major Washington ministerial meeting regarding the war against Daesh.

"I think this administration wants to be more engaged in fighting terrorism. I sense a difference in terms of being head-to-head with terrorism," Abadi said.

Trump, meanwhile, questioned whether the US under Obama should have pulled US combat troops out of Iraq.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies