HUNDREDS of men, women and children are being killed in US-led air strikes on the city of Mosul in Iraq, and as the battle against IS intensifies so does the refugee crisis.
The refugee crisis is now in full swing as 433,000 Mosul residents have fled since operations launched in October to retake the city began, according to the Iraqi government. At least 400,000 civilians are still trapped and they are finding it almost impossible to get out.
Reporters on the ground say that there is no secure humanitarian corridor to get out of the neighbourhoods that have been cleared. The Iraqi army yesterday organised a dozen buses to get people out but that simply was not enough for everyone.
‘Those who have just made it out and have arrived in camps, I have to say really seem totally traumatised,’ senior Iraqi researcher Belkis Wille from Human Rights Watch said yesterday, ‘they have talked about the risks they took, knowing that ISIS might fire on them.
‘They saw people dying, getting shot as they left the city and of course people being hit by air strikes, by heavy artillery and by rockets being fired by the Iraqi forces. The humanitarian community did build a lot of camps in the run up to the operation and as the operation has continued… but there has been such a massive spike in numbers of people fleeing west Mosul to the point that the humanitarian community just have not been able to keep up.
‘The camps are largely full so you have families now sort of squatting outside main camp facilities, setting up makeshift tents. At least if they are near camps they have access to some of the facilities like showers, food, basic sanitation inside the camp, but there are others on the side of the road simply trying to find some basic shelter.’
Kurdish Iraqi politician Hoshyar Zebari, who served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq in 2014, said: ‘I am from Mosul so I can give you a very accurate picture. Actually the significant military advances by the Iraqi security forces are not matched by the relief and humanitarean effort or by government response to provide basic services, water, electricity and fix the basic infrastructure, roads and so on.
‘Also unfortunately there is no political perspective for the day after we liberate Mosul and how to govern Mosul itself. Really this is very unfortunate, the number of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) are increasing and people are terrified.
‘They want to get rid of the horror and terror of ISIS but they expect a better thing, a better provision of services and shelter and so on. Honestly the government has to do more, has to be there. The ministry has to be on the spot, like these brave soldiers. The number of refugees have exceeded everyone’s expectations.’
Over the weekend the US admitted to an air strike which resulted in the deaths of 200 civilians.
Commenting Dr Mowaffak Baqer al-Rubaie, member Iraqi Governing Council said: ‘They neutralised the three snipers on the rooftops and after that the American airforce bombed the three buildings and it happens that under these three building there were two hundred civilians, in the basement of these three buildings and they lost their lives.
‘So I think we need to investigate this thoroughly. The rules of engagement, the new rules of engagement of the American Airforce is much more liberal now, they are less careful now in the last few weeks.
‘We need to be very careful because we do not want to alienate the civilians, we want to win the hearts and minds of the civilians in Mosul, this is a densely populated area. There are so many very small alleyways in the inner city of Mosul. We need to work to win the war, not just the battle and the fight.’