Scores of civilians hide under rubble as western Mosul battles heighten

An Iraqi man walks past a destroyed tomb of the Prophet Jonah (Nabi Younes) in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem


Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Scores of civilians are sheltering under debris of houses at a district in western Mosul as battles between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants.

Anadoly Agency quoted Maj. Feras al-Rasafi, from the Federal Police service, saying Monday that tens of civilians remain alive but under the debris of a house destroyed by battles in central Mosul’s Old City.

“Five civilian families, including children, women, men and elders, have been sheltering inside a basement at a residential house in al-Maydan,” Anadolu quoted the officer saying.

“The house has, however, collapsed completely when the area became under aerial and artillery bombardment targeting the group’s militants, leading the basement’s exit to be blocked and them stranded inside,” Rasafi added.

“The troops, for 30 hours, have been hearing calls for help by those stranded under the debris, but they cannot reach them as they do not have the means to lift the wreckage and rescue the families. That is a civil defense job,” he said.

According to Rasafi, IS snipers were still deployed in the area and preventing forces from advancing. “Battles are so difficult, and advances are made on foot from one alley to another since the streets are too narrow and ramified.”

The Iraqi security command and the allied U.S.-led coalition have reiterated that preserving civilians lives was a top priority during the battles for Mosul. They accuse IS militants of using civilians as human shields, and have slowed down offensives at several stages due to anxiety not to cause civilian casualties.

Iraqi government troops recaptured eastern Mosul in January and launched another campaign in February to retake the west. The conflict at Iraq’s second largest city has displaced at least 355.000 since October, according to the Iraqi government.


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