Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) At least 40 civilians were killed and scores were wounded in bombardments of liberated areas of Mosul as battles continue between Islamic State militants and Iraqi security forces since the dawn of Wednesday, according to local and medical sources.
The shelling was concentrated on the districts of al-Nour, al-Falah and al-Quds, east of Mosul, according to London-based The New Arab newspaper.
ISIS has reportedly bombarded areas it had lost to Iraqi troops since a major security campaign launched in October to retake Iraq’s second largest city. The newspaper said, however, it was still premature to decide whether Iraqi forces were involved in the civilian deaths.
It quoted sources as saying that the majority of victims were still under debris, and that it remains difficult to reach them as fighting intensifies.
A doctor working at a Mosul hospital told the newspaper on Wednesday they had been informed of no less than 40 deaths under wreckage caused by the overnight artillery and aerial bombardment. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the estimates were drawn from local residents who, he said, were best familiar with the numbers of fellow residents whose houses were destroyed.
A source within the Iraqi army told the newspaper that the 73th brigade of the 16th division carried out shelling at those regions too, but said it was premature to implicate it in the civilian deaths.
A Mosul source said ISIS managed to fend off an offensive by Iraqi forces from the eastern route of operations relying on suicide bombings and ambushes that led to fatalities and injuries among Iraqi troops.
Iraqi government troops, backed by popular mobilization militias and US-led air forces, continue to advance in the eastern section of Mosul against a fierce resistance from ISIS. Iraqi commanders have said they became in control over most of eastern Mosul, and that only a few districts remain to declare the whole region free from ISIS. But the extremist group has reportedly made it a difficult endeavor for the Iraqi troops by relying on street-to-street fights, booby-traps and suicide bombings. The existence of civilians in the battlefield had also slowed down progress, according to Iraqi field commanders.
Iraqi security forces hope to reach the eastern shore of Tigris River as soon as possible so as to proceed towards the western section, where ISIS strongholds have been cut off from group-held territories in Syria, according to popular militias fighting ISIS in that region.