Up to 20,000 Mosul civilians facing ‘extreme danger’ as battle against ISIS continues – UN official

As many as 20,000 civilians are still trapped in the last remaining area of Mosul held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants, a senior UN official has confirmed, adding that they are in "extreme danger."

"Our estimate at this stage is that in the final pockets of the Old City, there could be as many as 15,000 civilians, possibly even as high as 20,000," the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, told AFP.

"The people that are still trapped inside of these pockets are in terrible condition," Grande said, adding that they are facing food shortages.

Civilians fleeing the fighting between the Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants © Alkis Konstantinidis

"They're in extreme danger from bombardment, from artillery crossfire. The (IS) fighters that are still there are still directly targeting civilians if they try and leave."

In the past eight months, IS militants have gone from fully controlling Mosul to holding only a small pocket of territory on the west bank of the Tigris River. That pocket is about 500 sq meters, AP reported.

The battle has decreased the number of IS militants fighting in Mosul from thousands to just a couple of hundred, according to the Iraqi military.

However, those military gains have come at a cost. More than 8,000 civilians have been killed or wounded, according to the UN. That estimate is somewhat rough, as it only counts people transferred to hospitals from frontline clinics.

Of the approximately 915,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes, nearly 700,000 are still displaced.

"We exceeded our worst-case scenario more than a month ago. In our very worst-case scenario, we thought that 750,000 people would flee," Grande said.

Of the 44 residential neighborhoods in the northern Iraqi city, six are nearly completely destroyed, according to Grande. Twenty-two are moderately damaged, while 16 are lightly damaged.

A destroyed mosque is seen in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, June 27, 2017 © Alaa Al-Marjani

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition fighting IS in Mosul has come under international criticism for its use of white phosphorus in the city, which was confirmed by a New Zealand general last month. 

“We have utilized white phosphorus to screen areas within west Mosul to get civilians out safely,” Brig. Gen. Hugh McAslan told US broadcaster NRP.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that the use of white phosphorus can have unintended - and extremely dangerous - effects on civilians.

"Its incidental effects can cause terrible injuries – burns, smoke inhalation,” Mary Wareham, the advocacy director of HRW’s arms division, told RT last month. She urged the US to be “extremely careful and sparing” when it comes to white phosphorus.

The eventual stabilization of Mosul - which was overrun by IS in 2014 - will cost an estimated US$707 million. That figure is nearly double the amount originally estimated, because "the level of damage in western Mosul is far higher than what we feared it would be," Grande said.

  • Published in World

‘Time to sound the alarm bells’ as Mosul plight has ‘escalated to the limit,’ Moscow says

The humanitarian plight of war-torn Mosul has “escalated to the limit,” with the Iraqi president comparing it to a “full-on catastrophe,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

“It’s time to toll the alarm bells,” the official added.

“The Mosul humanitarian situation has escalated to the limit. The Iraqi president has compared it with a full-on catastrophe,” Zakharova said.

© Suhaib Salem

The city “is running out of essential food and medical supplies,” with “experts warning about a threat of mass famine if the assault on the city lasts longer.”

So far, it seems like such a turn of events is highly likely, Zakharova said, saying that the Iraqi forces’ advance has seen little success and become bogged down in intense city battles.

Another frequently-voiced danger for the locals is the US-led coalition’s airstrikes targeting residential areas.

“With such population density, what kind of pinpoint strikes are our Western partners talking about?” Zakharova asked.

According to the latest UN data, 307 people died in western Mosul on March 17-22, and “these are only the deaths that have been confirmed,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson added.

“We still have to fully estimate the real scale of casualties.”

The Russian official’s concerns have been echoed by Katharina Ritz, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq.

“The concern for us is that the highest standard should be maintained when it comes to protecting the civilian population in any conflict, in any area. To have military warfare in densely populated areas in western Mosul, precautions and care need to be the priority,” she told RT.

  • Published in World

Hundreds of Mosul civilians killed by airstrikes were told not to flee by authorities – Amnesty

Hundreds of Mosul residents were killed by airstrikes in their homes following repeated instructions from Iraqi authorities not to leave, Amnesty International says. It adds coalition forces should have known they were likely to result in civilian deaths.

Citing numerous testimonies given by survivors and eyewitnesses, Amnesty said many people did not attempt to flee during the US-backed operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) due to Iraqi authorities’ instructions. 

FILE PHOTO. © Khalid al Mousily

“Evidence gathered on the ground in east Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” said Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser who carried out field investigations in Mosul.

She noted the increasingly high civilian death toll “suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

The fact that the Iraqi authorities repeatedly told civilians not to flee the war-ravaged city in the midst of fighting, “indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties,” the organization said, adding that “disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.”

Wa’ad Ahmad al-Tai, a resident of eastern Mosul, said these instructions were delivered via radio and through leaflets dropped from military aircraft.

“The government … told us [to] stay in our homes and avoid displacement,” he added.

Amnesty has also noted IS resorts to using civilians as human shields, which amounts to a war crime.

READ MORE: Civilian deaths in Mosul are miscalculations & mistakes – Iraqi President

“However, the IS’s use of human shields does not absolve Iraqi and coalition forces from their obligation not to launch disproportionate attacks,” said Rovera.

Amnesty has urged the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition to “immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into the appalling civilian death toll resulting from the Mosul operation.”

The statement comes as the US-led coalition faces allegations that one of their airstrikes on March 17 killed dozens of civilians.

READ MORE: 307 civilians killed, 273 wounded in western Mosul since February 17 – UN human rights chief  

The US declared that its forces are not planning to change the way they conduct airstrikes despite the battle for Mosul entering more densely-populated areas in the western part of the city.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi president told RIA Novosti that “there is coordination between the US coalition and Iraqi security forces, but sometimes it fails,” civilian deaths being the result of “miscalculations” and “unintended mistakes.”

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein made a statement on Tuesday condemning the “massive loss of civilian lives in western Mosul,” where at least 307 people have been killed and 273 wounded in just over a month.

  • Published in World

US troops to stay in Iraq after fight against ISIS ends – Defense Dept. officials

American troops will apparently remain in Iraq even when the fight against Islamic State has ended, according to Pentagon officials, including US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said that keeping soldiers on the ground is in America’s “national interest.”

The US Defense Department’s top officials expressed their desire to keep US troops in Iraq at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Mattis made it clear that US involvement will not end when Mosul is finally captured from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).


“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” he said, as quoted by the Military Times.

The defense secretary went on to say that he does not “see any reason to pull out again and face the same lesson,” adding that the US “needs to remain decisively engaged in Iraq and in the region.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. agreed with Mattis, stating that Iraqi security forces will need US support “for years to come.”

The comments come as the brutal battle continues for Mosul, the self-proclaimed capital of IS in Iraq.

Around 400,000 civilians are stuck in Mosul’s old city, which is currently held by IS militants. They are facing food and electricity shortages, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees believing the “worst is yet to come.” 

US involvement in the military campaign against IS is approaching its third anniversary, evolving from airstrikes in the summer of 2014 to the eventual deployment of around 6,000 ground troops across Iraq and Syria, whom Washington mostly calls “advisors.”

During a Tuesday meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, US President Donald Trump himself said that American troops should have remained in Iraq.

AP video still

“Certainly, we shouldn’t have left. We should never ever have left,” Trump said as quoted by Newsweek, noting that the withdrawal was followed by chaos.

But Abadi appears to have another plan in mind, stating last week that the international military presence in Iraq should be reduced once IS militants are defeated.

“As we are crushing Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS], it is clear that there is a need to reduce the number of our allies who are helping us,” he told Middle East Eye.

Around half a million people died in Iraq from war-related causes during the US-led intervention between 2003 and mid-2011, according to a study published in 2013. That figure was around four times bigger than previous estimates.

A separate 2013 study found that the Iraq War cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion owed to war veterans, noting that the expenses could grow to around $4 trillion over the next four decades, counting interest.

Earlier this week, Abadi reportedly said that rebuilding Mosul and the reconstruction of Anbar province could cost up to $50 billion in the coming years. 

Mattis acknowledged a financial need for re-building, but stressed that the US will not be solely responsible for the bill.

“It’s going to be an international effort, it should not be carried fully by the American taxpayer,” he said on Wednesday. “But we should certainly be part of it.”

  • Published in World

Whether from ISIS shells or US-led coalition bombs, civilians suffering in Mosul

The fight for Mosul, Islamic State’s capital in Iraq, is taking a heavy toll on the city’s civilian population. RT recounts the horrifying stories of some of the victims.

While the US-led coalition claims it does everything possible to avoid “collateral damage” when conducting airstrikes on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), in reality, civilians wounded in their attacks are suffering just the same as those hurt by the shells and snipers of the jihadists.

Here are some of the stories that victims told RT’s sister video agency, Ruptly, about the siege in Mosul.

Iraq: Severely injured 5-yo girl sole survivor of Mosul airstrike

Five-year-old Hawraa was severely injured on March 16, when an airstrike destroyed her family’s home in the Jadeda neighborhood, said her father Ala, who believes the bombs were intended for IS fighters manning a shooting position in a house nearby.

“There were four people in the house, only she survived,” he said. Hawraa’s mother was among those killed in the coalition airstrike.

Iraq: Civilians trapped under rubble after deadly airstrikes destroy Mosul homes *GRAPHIC*

When airstrikes destroyed several houses on Tal Alruman street on March 11, as many as 25 people were left trapped under the debris, and their neighbors and relatives were unable to get them out, Fath Ahmad Abdulla, whose brother was among the victims, told Ruptly.

“ISIS was fighting here, behind the house. They tried to run behind the school. Then the house was bombed by aircraft,” he explained.

Another resident, Abdulhamed Mahmud, said more than 100 houses had been hit by airstrikes in the neighborhood since the siege began.

Ibrahim Rfaee was burying his grandmother Khalas when Ruptly interviewed him on March 12. Khalas was killed by a stray bullet while fleeing Mosul’s Tal Alruman district, which has been subjected to what he called “random bombing” by the coalition.

“Daesh go on the rooftops of the houses and the families don’t know. Then the aircrafts come and bomb it,” he explained, referring to the terrorist group by its Arabic acronym. “We are asking the coalition planes to be specific when they bomb. They were bombing randomly,” he stressed.

Iraq: Victims of Iraqi forces and IS fighters treated at hospital in Kurdistan

On March 7, Ruptly interviewed several patients at West Erbil Emergency Hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, who were being treated for injuries received during the Mosul siege.

“When the army entered our neighborhood, they started fighting with ISIS, and we were in the middle, on the receiving end of both sides,” one Mosul resident said.

“ISIS came and kicked us out of our house. We ran looking for a safe place, and suddenly there was an explosion,” said another. “My father was injured and my brother was killed. My younger brother and sister were hit on the head and I was hit on the shoulder.”

READ MORE: 360° car bomb: Death machine filmed by RT Ruptly in bombed-out Mosul house (VIDEO)

There are an estimated 600,000 civilians caught in the crossfire of the Mosul operation, with tens of thousands fleeing the violence over the past month. The number of civilian deaths is difficult to estimate, and it is even harder to attribute them to either IS attacks or US-coalition airstrikes.

The US has given a conservative figure of 200 for civilian deaths inflicted by coalition airstrikes in Mosul, but a UK-based monitoring group, Airwars, says the true number may be more than ten times higher.

  • Published in World

‘They were bombing randomly’: Mosul civilians doubt coalition’s careful targeting claims

The US-led coalition fighting to retake Mosul says it takes every precaution to assure civilians are not harmed in its airstrikes on Islamic State militants, but those who have lost family members in coalition attacks doubt the veracity of that claim.

“Daesh [Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] go on the rooftops of the houses and the families don’t know, then the aircraft come and bomb it,” Mosul resident Ibrahim Rfaee told RT’s Ruptly, referring to the terrorist group by its derogative Arabic acronym.

Iraq: Civilians trapped under rubble after deadly airstrikes destroy Mosul homes *GRA

Ibrahim’s grandmother, Khalas, was killed last week, apparently by an IS sniper, as she was trying to escape from Mosul’s jihadist-controlled Tal Alruman neighborhood into Mahmoun, which had already been seized by Iraqi special forces. RT’s sister video agency caught up with Ibrahim and his family on Sunday as they were burying Khalas at a local cemetery.



Ibrahim said the coalition is not as precise and careful in targeting its airstrikes as it claims to be in media conferences.

“We are asking for bombing specific targets. There are still families inside the houses and the aircraft keep bombing. We are asking the coalition planes to be specific when they bomb. They were bombing randomly,” he said.

Similar reports have been coming from other media outlets. The Daily Telegraph reported from the Samood neighborhood that an airstrike apparently targeting a single IS fighter had killed a dozen civilians instead, according to witnesses.

“The planes waited until one of the Daesh walked out into the street and then they struck. The fighter was only injured, but 11 members of one family in the house next door were instantly killed,” a resident named Hashem Abdullah told the British newspaper.

“They dropped leaflets over the city telling us not to worry about the strikes, saying that they were extremely precise and would not hurt the civilians,” said Yusuf Ahmed, who lost his brother and his young family to a coalition airstrike. “Now it feels like the coalition is killing more people than [Islamic State],” he said.

Iraq: Coalition planes stop 'bombing randomly' pleads Mosul resident

 The Iraqi army says it has captured about a third of the western part of Mosul. The UN estimates that 5,000 people on average have been fleeing the city every day since the siege intensified in February.

  • Published in World

US-backed Iraqi forces advance on ISIS-held areas of Mosul, as 750,000 civilians remain trapped

US-backed Iraqi troops have retaken Mosul’s airport from Islamic State and stormed a military base in a bid to enter the militant-held western part of the densely-populated city, where up 750,000 civilians are now trapped.

"The Rapid Response Forces and federal police are fully in control of the airport of Mosul," state television said in a flash on its screen on Thursday afternoon, Reuters reported.

Read more RAW: Iraqi army approaching Mosul airport

Attacking from the south, Iraqi forces reached the Ghazlani base near the airport in southwestern Mosul on Thursday morning, two special forces officers told AP, adding that there was fierce fighting going on between the Iraqi military and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near the besieged facility.

Later in the day, Iraqi police officials said the troops had captured the airport’s runway and were attempting to enter nearby buildings. The runway had already been destroyed by IS, but seizing the compound would open the routes leading to western Mosul.  

Iraqi police officers taking part in the offensive told Reuters that the militants were trying to stem the troops’ advance with explosive-laden drones.

Iraqi troops began a major ground offensive to recapture the western part of Mosul earlier this week, following the liberation of the eastern part of the city in January.


The seizure of eastern Mosul came after almost four months of intense fighting in which Iraqi forces met heavy resistance. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority, Iraq’s troops have been advancing slower than expected, as IS militants have been employing diverse tactics, including the use of suicide attacks, booby-traps, and anti-tank weapons. 

Aside from the military difficulties, retaking eastern Mosul has also cost civilian lives. Gruesome reports have come in from several villages outside the city, where Iraqi forces, particularly police units, have allegedly executed, tortured, and abused people accused of siding with IS militants. 

Throughout the past months, rights groups have documented a number of instances when bodies of unarmed civilians, often bearing signs of torture or mistreatment, were found in villages and towns around Mosul. In a recent comment to RT, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the conduct of Iraqi forces in the battle of Mosul may amount to war crimes.  

“Our research demonstrates that Iraqi armed forces that are fighting ISIS to retake a couple of villages and a small town near Mosul – they looted, damaged and destroyed homes. And that was apparently with no military necessity for those demolitions,” HRW’s communications and advocacy director for Middle East & North Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, told RT. 

“[That] means that these acts amount to war crimes,” he added, commenting on allegations that the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were carrying out unnecessary demolitions of buildings in the village of Ashwa outside Mosul. While the PMF said the measure was taken to clear the area from mines and booby-traps planted by IS, HRW stated that “the whole area inside was well enough protected that there would have been no military need for PMF forces to demolish the homes.”

As the operation to retake western Mosul is in full swing, humanitarian agencies fear that hundreds of thousands of civilians might face dangers similar to those weathered by the residents of the city’s eastern half.

@ICRC Over 160,000 people have fled the fighting in . For those remaining, this is what they face.

Renewed fighting in western Mosul – with its narrow and winding streets – may displace up to a quarter of a million people, according to a Tuesday statement from the UN refugee agency. The UN said earlier in a separate statement: “The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble. We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes.” 

Four of the five bridges across the Tigris River have been destroyed in coalition airstrikes or special forces raids, and the last remaining bridge can only be crossed on foot. According to rough estimates, roughly 750,000 people are trapped in the area, with fuel and food supplies shrinking, and fresh water and electricity barely available.

@Oxfam 750,000 civilians trapped in western w no safe means of escape. Oxfam is there, ready to support them: http://oxf.am/ZbWi

Oxfam warned in a report released in mid-February that the narrow, densely-populated streets of western Mosul could turn into “a death trap” for civilians who are unable to leave. 

“This next phase of fighting carries the highest stakes yet for civilians. The idea that families could be trapped amid heavy fighting – particularly in the narrow streets of the Old City – without any safe means of escape is a terrifying prospect,” said Oxfam’s Country Director in Iraq, Andres Gonzalez.

In the meantime, UNHCR spokesman Mathew Saltmarsh told RT on Thursday that ‘humanitarian corridors’ for civilians similar to those established by the Syrian and Russian militaries in the city of Aleppo are non-existent at this point, although the agency is “in discussion with partners about trying to get as close as we can to those who’re in need.”

He also stressed that the humanitarian situation in the besieged part of Mosul is deteriorating, with reports coming in saying that people are burning furniture and plastic due to skyrocketing fuel prices. The UNHCR is ready to take care of people fleeing the city, Saltmarsh stressed, adding that casualties are expected to be high, as the west Mosul is still a densely-populated area.

  • Published in World

More than 82,000 Displaced People During Offensive in Mosul

More than 82,000 people have been internally displaced in the last seven weeks, in the context of the military operations to expel the Islamic State (IS) from Mosul, the United Nations (UN) said today.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the forced displacements have taken place in the northern city and its surrounding areas and the most recent movements have included families going to the eastern areas to reach the refugee camps in Hansansham.

The Iraqi Army and the Kurds began an offensive on October 17, supported by the US-led foreign coalition, to recover Mosul, which has been occupied by the IS since 2014, as part of the plans by the Jihadidts to found a Caliphate in the Middle East.

The progress on the field have unleashed an escalation of crimes by the fundamentalists, who carry out mass executions and use civilians as human shields, according to UN reports.

OCHA specified that in the recovered areas in Mosul, access to drinkable water, food and specialized assistance are urgent, faced with the trauma caused by the terrorists.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed