UN Concerns over Civilians in IS-Controlled Mosul Areas

An Iraqi special forces commander Maj. Ihab Jalil al-Aboudi assists a child fleeing to safety as his soldiers battle ISIS militants in Mosul on May 11

"It's a disaster", he said, adding that even before the battle, the residents of the Old City were among Mosul's poorest. "We don't know for sure how many civilians are still in ISIL-held districts, but as many as 200,000 additional people may try to leave in coming days", he explained.

Al-Jadida was one of the hardest hit Mosul neighborhoods during the first weeks of the operation to retake the city's west.

The Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary force, known as Popular Mobilisation, is theoretically under Abadi's command.

The United Nations says in a statement Saturday that "as many as 200,000 additional people may try to leave in coming days" and that both Iraqi forces and IS fighters are obligated under global law to protect civilians.

UN Concerns over Civilians in IS-Controlled Mosul Areas
UN Concerns over Civilians in IS-Controlled Mosul Areas

The Islamic State is putting women on the front line in an effort to hold back Iraqi forces from taking the group's last major stronghold in western Mosul.

On Sunday, two Iraqi military officers reported serious obstacles, with militants deploying snipers, suicide vehicle bombers and suicide attackers on foot.

They began a new offensive to recapture Mosul's Old City from three directions.

The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate" declared almost three years ago by IS.

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A member of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) walks at the site after an air strike attack against Islamic State triggered a massive explosion in Mosul, Iraq.

Iraqi government armed forces are focusing their effort on dislodging insurgents from the city of Mosul, the Daesh group's de-facto capital in Iraq.

The Pentagon said recently that ISIS has lost 55,000 square kilometers of territory and regained none of it.

The U.S. -led coalition has repeatedly praised Iraqi forces for showing respect for human life in the Mosul fight, but there have been instances of high civilian casualties due to the use of artillery and airstrikes.

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The enclave includes the Old City center and three adjacent districts along the western bank of the Tigris river.

The Iraqi air force dropped leaflets on Friday urging residents to flee but humanitarian groups say they fear for the safety of those trying to escape. The move is an abrupt shift from past instructions that have mostly told civilians to stay in place until the fighting is over.

Ayad Sayyid, a doctor working at a clinic treating civilians fleeing Mosul said as the battle has ground on he is seeing more children and elderly patients suffering from malnutrition. Aid groups have warned that a mass exodus of thousands of residents would likely be chaotic and deadly as the area lacks safe passageways - forcing those who flee to cross front-line clashes.

Earlier this month, coalition officials estimated the number of militants in Mosul to be fewer than 1,000 - compared with 3,500 to 6,000 militants in and around the city before the offensive began last October.

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