Irbil- Amid battles launched by Iraqi forces to retake control over ISIS-held Old City of Mosul, reports said that an Iranian top Revolutionary Guard general was killed in battles near Syrian borders.
Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah made a statement saying that army troops had raided neighborhoods in the vicinity of Mosul’s Old City, so did federal police members.
The fall of the city would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the so-called “caliphate” declared nearly three years ago by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which also covers parts of Syria.
The enclave includes the Old City center and three adjacent districts along the western bank of the Tigris river.
Later on, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander was reported killed in an explosion during clashes west of Mosul, an Iraqi official said.
General Shaaban Nasiiri was an adviser to Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Being a special forces unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for their extraterritorial operations, the Quds Force reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.
A number of Iranian soldiers and offices are expected to have been killed during clashes, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
For their part, residents in the Old City sounded desperate in telephone interviews over the past few days.
“We’re waiting for death at any moment, either by bombing or starving,” one said, asking not to be identified. “Adults eat one meal a day, either flour or lentil soup.”
The United Nations expressed deep concern for the hundreds of thousands of civilians behind ISIS lines, in a statement on Saturday from the organization’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien.
“Although the UN is not present in the areas where fighting is occurring, we have received very disturbing reports of families being shut inside booby-trapped homes and of children being deliberately targeted by snipers,” he said.
Residents said millet, usually used as bird feed, is being cooked like rice as food prices increased ten-fold. People were seen collecting wild mallow plants in abandoned lots and also eating mulberry leaves and other plants.
About 700,000 people, about a third of the pre-war city’s population, have already fled, seeking refuge either with friends and relatives or in camps.