Mosul – Dozens of besieged residents were killed and buried in collapsed buildings in Mosul after two air strikes targeted residences where ISIS had hoisted its flag to mislead the coalition air force and Iraqi army.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that “the worst is yet to come”.
Rescue teams in Mosul Jadida and Risala districts were retrieving bodies from under the rubble of houses and buildings that were targeted in the strikes.
Governor of Mosul city center Hussein Ali Hajem told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS had locked residents in certain houses in Mosul’s Jadida and Risala districts, then hoisted its flags on the buildings and fired anti-craft weapons from off the rooftops. This led the coalition to target the buildings.
He called for declaring west Mosul a distressed area and asked for the intervention of the international community and UN.
Hajem added that ISIS is using snipers and mortar shells, as well booby-trapped cars, “which is very dangerous for all civilians trapped inside the neighborhoods.”
Head of Nineveh Youth Team of Fraternity activist Dunia Ammar told Asharq al-Awsat that ISIS gathered residents of three neighborhoods in a four-storey house and locked the men in one room and the women in another. Then the terrorists lifted the ISIS flag over the building and left. She said that the building was soon targeted in air raids.
Ammar said that more than 137 civilians were killed, but only six bodies have been retrieved. The rest are believed to be still buried inside the collapsed homes.
Residents of the neighborhood requested the help of the Mosul civil defense, but some of the rescue teams’ members did not respond due to salary disputes, which prompted an appeal for help to the Baghdad civil defense, according to Ammar. She added that heavy arbitrary ISIS shelling on liberated areas made it difficult for rescue operations to continue.
Ammar also told the newspaper that two similar incidents occurred in the Risala neighborhood where ISIS gathered the residents and left the area. The consequent coalition raid resulted in the destruction of several houses, the death of over 305 civilians and only four injured survivors.
Following the beginning of the operation to liberate Mosul, ISIS had relocated its centers and militant gatherings to alleys and neighborhoods, especially the heavily populated ones, in order to use civilians as human shields.
The Coalition did not give details on any specific air strike or comment on a Jadida district operation.
“We are aware of reports on airstrikes in Mosul resulting in civilian casualties. The Coalition conducted several strikes near Mosul and we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation,” it said in a statement.
About 400,000 Iraqi civilians are trapped in the ISIS-held Old City of western Mosul, short of food and basic needs as the battle between the militants and government forces rages around them, the UNHCR said on Thursday.
Around 157,000 civilians have reached a reception and transit center outside Mosul since the offensive on the city began a month ago, said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR representative in Iraq.
“We also heard stories of people running away under the cover of early morning fog, running away at night, of trying to run away at prayer time when the vigilance at ISIS checkpoints is lower,” he said.
Government forces stopped the fighting on Thursday night due to poor weather that hinders air force support.