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Prioritise safety of Mosul civilians
Extreme care should be taken to protect civilians as Iraqi forces push deeper into Western Mosul.

Indications are that more than 200 civilians have been killed or wounded in the last three days alone and this is a matter of concern.

Western Mosul is the last significant urban area Daesh holds in Iraq. The area is densely populated, with many narrow streets, and the fighting is expected to be street by street.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that armed groups have built a network of tunnels.

Iraqi authorities declared the city’s eastern half fully liberated from the terrorist group in January, three months after launching the operation to take back Mosul.

With the predicted exodus of up to a quarter of a million people, Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, indicated recently that it would be impossible to accommodate such large numbers on existing land.

Almost 217,000 people fled from the eastern sections of Mosul since the military offensive to oust Daesh terrorists began on Oct.17, 2016.

About 160,000 remain displaced while others have returned to their homes in the now government-controlled areas.

According to reports, conditions in the densely-populated west of the city are worsening, and hence concerns are mounting for the well-being of civilians.

There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine. Half of all food shops have closed and most people can only access untreated water.

Food prices are skyrocketing and there are reports of families burning furniture, clothing and plastic to stay warm.

The increasing number of armed drones being used by terrorists is another cause for worry. It is said that on a single day drones dropped more than 70 munitions on Iraqi forces. The bombs mostly caused only light injuries but disrupted operations.

The route civilians are using to flee Mosul’s west on foot is still within mortar range of Daesh fighters inside the city and largely out in the open, leaving people more vulnerable than those who fled the city’s eastern side.

Civilians have been the biggest victims in Mosul. Daesh has been ruthlessly targeting them. They are being shot as they try and leave the city and they are being shot as they try and secure food and other resources.

The safety, security and protection of civilians, especially women and children, in Mosul are of paramount concern. There should be no laxity on this front.

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