Civilians Will Pay For The Battle Of Mosul With Their Blood

Human rights groups predict Mosul's civilians may face death, torture and displacement.

The battle for Mosul is in full swing, yielding better than expected results, if all the news is to be believed.

Around 20 villages on the outskirts of the city were secured from ISIS in just the first 24 hours of the operation.

"The forces are pushing toward the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed," said Iraq Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Though the success of the mission so far must be hailed, the impact on civilian lives needs to be talked about as well.

fighting around Mosul

fighting around Mosul

fighting around Mosul

The fighting around Mosul has forced 5,640 people to flee their homes. According to the United Nations, an estimated 1 million Iraqis may flee their homes in a matter of weeks. The number is an addition to the almost 3.3 million Iraqis already  been displaced since the beginning of the crisis in January 2014 and the one million plus who fled between 2006 and 2008 because of the sectarian war in the country following the U.S.-led invasion and occupation in 2003.

Incidentally, the sought-for fall of Mosul would most likely lead to land grabs and sectarian bloodletting between groups that fought one another post-2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The battle is expected to create the biggest and most complex humanitarian crisis in the world this year.

fighting around Mosul

The U.N. refugee agency has built five camps to house 45,000 people and plans to have an additional six in the coming weeks with a capacity for 120,000, which would still not be enough to cope if the exodus is as big as feared.

Then there are about 1.5 million residents who are still believed to be inside the city living in fear and desperation. 

"They are being held there against their will," says Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. "We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing."

Residents told Reuters news agency the Islamic State terrorists were preventing people fleeing the city and making them stay in buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.

"There is no way out for us as families. Even if we think about fleeing the city, that is not possible at the time being. We are being held hostages; ISIL took the whole city of Mosul as hostage," a father of three, who wished to remain anonymous, told Aljazeera.

The only way out is into neighboring Syria through the desert. "I have three children, the youngest is 4, and the eldest is 11. I will never risk their lives and cross the desert with them. We might be targeted, we might die of thirst, or even lose our way," said the desperate father.

fighting around Mosul

Although much of the threat comes from ISIL fighters, human rights organizations have found civilians are also vulnerable to mistreatment by the Iraqi army and the state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Units.

"It is imperative that all the forces involved — Iraqi, Kurdish, and the US-led coalition - do not target civilians and spare no efforts to avoid disproportionate attacks in civilian residential areas, that they ensure that civilians wanting to flee have safe routes to flee," Donatella Rovera, the senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International said.

However, the militias have been accused of abducting, killing, and torturing civilians in past operations against ISIS as well.

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