02/23/2017, 09.49
IRAQ
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Assault for Mosul airport begins

The goal is to tear control of the airport and a nearby military base from Islamic State. Later attack to be launched on southwest sector. Increasingly critical humanitarian situation in the west. Children dying from malnutrition, at least 160 thousand people have fled the city.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Iraqi security forces this morning launched a dawn assault on the international airport in Mosul and the nearby military base of Al Ghazlani, controlled by militias of the Islamic State (IS). Iraqi state television reports that "rapid reaction forces, federal police and anti-terrorist forces are engaged in the attack".

The Sunni majority northern metropolis of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, was the first great center to fall into the hands of the jihadists in the summer of 2014. The airport and military base is located in the southern suburbs; the attack is part of the operation launched by Baghdad to also regain the western sector.

Supported by international coalition air strikes, under US command, yesterday the Iraqi troops consolidated their positions four days after the beginning of the operation of west Mosul.

Analysts and experts point out that control of the city airport and the Al Ghazlani base would pave the way for an assault on the southwestern outskirts, near the Tigris River that bisects Mosul. According to a US command official there would still be "about 2 thousand" jihadists entrenched in the west.

Last month, the government had managed to drive out Daesh militants [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 last year and has taken nearly five months to overcome the jihadi resistance in the area.

UN sources report that half of recorded victims are civilians: 1096 people have been killed, nearly 700 wounded on the Nineveh plain since October.

Meanwhile, activists and humanitarian associations have launched a series of dramatic appeals on the fate of the civilian population. Up to 650 thousand people are likely to be caught in the fighting, among them over 300 thousand are children.

Specialized agencies are preparing aid and setting up centers to accommodate up to 400 thousand people fleeing the fighting. According to the United Nations there are between 750 thousand and 800 thousand civilians who still live in the western districts of the city controlled by jihadists.

So far at least 160 thousand people would have fled their homes in the city and in the suburbs. And those who stayed behind face malnutrition, premature infant deaths, lack of medicine. The health situation in Mosul west is worsening day by day, particularly after the closure of two hospitals by Daesh militias.

A hospital employee of al-Jamhour confirmed the death of three children between three and six years of age "because of malnutrition and lack of medicine." Other deaths adds the source speaking anonymously, are likely "in the coming days". A resident of the Annajar district said that "some pregnant women are doing everything possible to induce labor" before the fighting reaches the heart of the western sector, making the situation "more complicated."

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