Erbil – Civilians living under siege in the remaining ISIS-held neighborhoods of Iraq’s Mosul are under extreme danger, warned the United Nations children’s agency on Monday.
About 100,000 children are trapped in extremely dangerous conditions, warned the UN Children Fund as fierce battles between Iraqi forces and ISIS militants raged on in an attempt to liberate the eastern city.
Children were being used as human shields by the insurgents or were caught in the crossfire of the battle, UNICEF said in a statement.
Some had been forced to take part in the fighting. Hospitals and clinics had come under attack, it said.
“We are receiving alarming reports of civilians including several children being killed in west Mosul,” UNICEF said. “Some were reportedly killed as they desperately tried to flee the fighting which is intensifying by the hour,”
A Reuters TV crew on Saturday saw the bodies of dozens of civilians, including children, lying in a frontline street, apparently killed while fleeing the enclave.
Iraqi government forces retook eastern Mosul in January and began a new push on May 27 to capture the remaining ISIS-held enclave in the city’s western side.
The Mosul offensive started in October with air and ground support from a US-led international coalition. It has taken much longer than expected as the militants are dug in the middle of civilians.
About 700,000 people, about a third of the pre-war population of Mosul, have already fled, seeking refuge either with friends and relatives or in camps.
“Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure including hospitals, clinics, schools, homes and water systems should stop immediately,” UNICEF said.
Human rights committee official in Nineveh Ghazwan Hamed said that upon their arrival in refugee camps, children are enrolled in psychological programs that are run by the government and international organizations.
“The country is passing through extraordinary circumstances. Given the situation, the government cannot offer everything, especially since the area the children are now living in are military zones,” he explained.