The joint operation to retake Mosul by the Iraqi army and the US-led coalition forces has entered the final fierce phase.
The lives of more than 1 million civilians stranded in the city are seriously threatened. The UN has warned of a tragic humanitarian crisis in Mosul.
The operation to retake Mosul, the last Iraq stronghold of the Islamic State (IS), began on October 17 with the involvement of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish militants backed by US-led coalition forces. It’s the biggest military operation in Iraq since the US military intervention in 2003.
|US soldiers gather in the town of Gwer, northern Iraq August 31, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
Over the past 10 days Iraqi forces have carried out repeated assaults to tighten their stranglehold on Mosul. So far 90 villages have been freed from the IS. Iraqi forces have taken control of the area 5 to 6 km east of Mosul. Kurdish fighters have been advancing from the northeast, and Shiite para-militias have blocked the western side to prevent IS fighters from fleeing to Syria. An estimated 4,000 to 8,000 IS fighters are embedded in Mosul.
To retake Mosul is a high priority in the US’s anti-IS strategy. A victory by the government troops and the Kurds will strengthen Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has encountered opposition from the Sunnis in parliament and from the Shiite factions.
Victims are civilians
Mosul has been an IS stronghold for the past 2 years. If IS loses its last stronghold in Iraq, the dream of an Islamic State will fade. IS has spared no savagery or cruelty in its resistance, including using civilians as human shields.
The UN Commission on Refugees said about 7.500 people have fled Mosul and adjacent areas and over 1 million people are stranded in Mosul’s narrow, ancient streets which government vehicles cannot enter. Those trapped in damaged houses in Mosul have no way to escape their misery or the repeated bombings. IS has warned them not to try to escape from the city. A maze of combat trenches and traps has thwarted all humanitarian efforts.
The UN has received alarming reports of the IS executing civilians in Mosul. The Iraqi army recently found 70 bodies in Tuloul Naser village, about 35 km south of Mosul.
Humanitarian crisis in Mosul
International humanitarian organizations are frustrated. The UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has prepared tents, water, food, and medicines, but it’s been impossible to reach the people. The advance of the Iraqi forces has nearly wiped out IS, but final victory is still days away.VOV5