Nearly Half Million Iraqis Flee Mosul Fighting

Since October 2016 US-led Iraqi coalition forces, backed by significant air power, have struggled to retake the city and its surroundings from Isis in Operation Inherent Resolve.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas.

Islamic State group fighters are losing large numbers of men along with their grip on Mosul, the Iraqi city they once completely controlled.

Noting that almost half a million people have fled Mosul since the start of military operations to retake the city from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorists, a senior United Nations humanitarian official in Iraq warned that the scale of the displacement has stretched relief efforts to their "operational limits".

The statement said that the forces attacked were part of the massive operation aimed at recapturing the city of Mosul from Daesh, but did not specify if the attack took place in or outside the city. "We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict".

Aid shipments also resumed to the Hammam al-Alil camp, southwest of Mosul, the main arrival point for people fleeing the fighting.

'Everything is back to normal, ' said a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, said on Tuesday that military forces continue to gain ground against Daesh militants, and are steadily liberating the remaining militant-held areas in western Mosul, Arabic-language and official al-Sabaah (The Morning) daily newspaper reported. What little food remains is too expensive for most residents to afford, or kept for Islamic State members and their supporters.

Iraqi Federal Police forces "are engaged in hard, house-to-house clashes with Daesh fighters inside the Old City", a media officer from these units told Reuters.

"Australian forces did provide assistance following the attack", he said.

In recent weeks Isis fighters have fallen back from both Mosul and Raqqa to Deir Ez Zour in northern Syria - the group's last stronghold. "There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri", Allawi told Reuters, adding that it is now unclear how exactly the two groups may operate together.

  • Salvatore Jensen