MOSUL: The UN children’s agency said on Tuesday that about 35,000 children have fled from Mosul since Iraqi forces and a US-led coalition launched a massive operation in mid-October to retake the city from the Daesh group.
Iraqi special forces meanwhile pushed deeper into the city’s eastern part, retaking the Falah neighbourhood late Monday, said Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab Al Saadi.
Fighting raged as a haze of fog and smoke hovered over the city, which was rocked by tank fire and airstrikes.
The children are among some 93,500 people who have fled since the operation began, while hundreds of thousands have remained in their homes.
“Children are the innocent victims of any conflict and in this conflict are the most innocent victims,” Unicef’s representative in Iraq, Peter Hawkins, said on Tuesday.
He said that once Daesh is driven from the city it will be important to “invest in children’s services so this war doesn’t continue.”
He could not provide an exact figure on how many children have been killed since the operation started, but he said some of them have been targeted by snipers.
“We know that children who have been queueing up for water have been targets,” he said.
“I saw a photograph of a child this morning who’s been shot by a sniper queueing up for water.”
Unicef teams are providing the children with water and sanitation supplies as well as vaccinations against measles and polio. In refugee camps, Hawkins said, there are places where children can play, draw and restart their education.
“On day one they can’t look you in the eye, they’re not smiling, they’re sad,” he said. “But day after day when they start to draw, when they start to play with their friends, you see them start to smile, their eyes start to brighten up.”
Two Yazidi women who escaped sexual enslavement by the Daesh group have accepted the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights and said they would continue to be a voice for others suffering a similar fate.
Lamiya Aji Bashar said on Tuesday that the EU’s top human rights prize was one “for every woman and girl who has been sexually enslaved” by Daesh.
With poignant testimony that silenced EU lawmakers, they spoke of their personal fate and escape but centred their calls on the international community to protect their people, a minority of 500,000 living primarily in northern Iraq.
Menwhile. several witnesses described how a woman and her alleged lover were paraded blindfolded through the streets.
The militants summoned everyone they could find to watch.
“’Still not dead,’” Samira Hamid recalled the militant pronouncing after he checked the woman’s pulse, before the lethal blow to her head. The man accused of being her lover was flogged 150 times and forced to go to Syria to fight in Daesh ranks.
Another witness, Sarmad Raad, found recalling the killing nearly unbearable.