03/21/2017, 09.31

Mosul government advance continues, over 180 thousand civilians flee the western area

Most of the displaced have found their home in the refugee camps or in shelters set up in recent weeks. Worried about the fate of those trapped in the Old City. UN sources: No food, water, electricity, and medicine. Up to 320 thousand people ready to flee. About 2 thousand jihadists of the Islamic State still operating in the area.

Mosul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the last month over 180 thousand civilians in the area west of Mosul have abandoned homes and possessions, to escape the battle between government forces and Kurdish militias against the Islamic State (IS) jihadists who still control the area. According to Iraqi government reports most of the displaced have found shelter in refugee camps and reception centers set up in recent weeks. Still others have reached the homes of relatives or family members.

Last month, the government had managed to drive out the militants Daesh [Arabic acronym for the IS] from the area east of Mosul, to the right of the Tigris, after months of intense fighting. The offensive began on 17 October and took nearly five months to defeat  jihadi resistance in the area. Now the goal is to take complete control of the second largest city of the country.

The violence between the military and Iraqi jihadists threatens to further undermine the humanitarian situation in the northern metropolis and the surrounding area. And the United Nations warns that up to 320 thousand civilians could flee within the next few weeks.

There is also great concern about the fate of the remaining civilians trapped in the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated area where there is a progressive advance of government troops, in spite of the fierce resistance of the jihadists.

Over the weekend the troops have reached the great mosque of al-Nuri, where the leader of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the birth of the "Caliphate" in July 2014, after the conquest of Mosul and large parts of the plain of Nineveh.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande stresses that humanitarian operations promoted so far in the west of Mosul have been more important and complicated than those under way in the eastern sector. "The main difference -s he explains - is that tens of thousands of families in the east remained in their homes, while tens of thousands are fleeing the west."

The government has launched a "race against time" to build new fields or expand existing ones. If the number of those fleeing "grows faster than new housing," warns the humanitarian coordinator of the United Nations, the situation "could deteriorate in a very rapid manner." There is also concern about the conditions of civilians in the Old City: "The families are likely to be killed if they try to escape - concludes Lisa Grande - and they are in grave danger if they remain.” The lives of "hundreds of thousands" of people are at risk.

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