Fallujah – The United Nations said on Wednesday as many as 90,000 civilians could be trapped in the besieged area of Fallujah, nearly doubling its earlier estimate of 50,000.
The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, warned that civilians could face a “harrowing” situation in the besieged city 50 kilometers (32 miles) west of Baghdad.
“We have underestimated the number of civilians that are in Fallujah. I think we thought that there would be around 40 to 50,000 civilians who were at grave risk. What we now think based on the stories that people are telling us, that there are probably closer to 90,000 civilians who are still inside Fallujah, trapped, who still can’t reach safety,” said Grande in comments on Wednesday.
She made an urgent call to fund operations to help more than 7 million people in the war-torn country, saying only 30 percent of the U.N.’s $860 million appeal has been met so far.
“The humanitarian agencies have run out of money. Every resource we have has gone here into Fallujah, we don’t have any more funding, and we know that there are 90,000 people that are trying to come to us, and our ability to support them depends upon the generosity of the international community.
It’s just doesn’t make sense for us to invest so much money in militarily defeating Daesh and ISIL, and then not investing in the people who are the victims of ISIL, not supporting the people who have fled here for safety. We hope the international community stands in solidarity with the people of Iraq, steps forward and helps,” said Grande.
The Iraqi army began an offensive to dislodge the insurgents from Fallujah on May 23, but the city has been under a de facto siege, with no supplies getting in, for about six months.
As Iraqi forces pushed deeper into ISIS-held Anbar on Wednesday, the western province saw the emergence of a new political alliance inside the provincial council, with the aim to implement political reforms. The new alliance is seeking to make changes that would include the Council’s chairman and the local government within a comprehensive reform plan.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Member of Anbar Council and head of the Reform Bloc Jasim Mohammed Hamad Halbusi said that due to the tragic situation and administrative corruption, a “reform bloc” was established in the province with the aim to improve the situation of more than one million civilians currently living under harsh conditions. He added that the bloc comprises 17 members of the provincial council and was looking for a radical change in the local government which has so far failed to meet residents’ needs.
Meanwhile, the local government and provincial council of Anbar called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to immediately withdraw Popular Mobilization forces’ militias from outskirts of Fallujah and leave the battle to free the city to the Iraqi armed forces, local police and Anbar tribal fighters.
The militias’ bombarding of residential buildings has led to the killing of hundreds of victims and the kidnapping of thousands. The provincial council and local government, along with some members of Iraqi parliament, held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss aggressions committed against Fallujah residents. Sabah Karhut, Chairman of Anbar Provincial Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Popular Mobilization Forces’ militias have committed hideous crimes of torture against the residents of the area.
Meanwhile, Commander of liberation operations of Fallujah, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahhab Saadi told Asharq Al-Awsat Wednesday that Iraqi forces pushed deeper into ISIS-held Anbar, adding that the forces were only three kilometers away from the city center.
Also in comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ismail Mahlawi, appointed commander of Anbar operations said that security forces were preparing to launch a massive attack the ISIS-held areas in south and west Fallujah. He added that the security forces have cordoned off targeted areas and cut all supply routes used by ISIS.