Mosul – Iraqi federal police forces have secured four safe passages for civilians who fled their home in the Old City of Mosul on Thursday.
This comes as the Iraqi forces are preparing to launch an offensive to liberate the Old City.
For its part, the UN and human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the lives of civilians, dozens of whom have been killed by both sides in the fighting.
Fierce battles took place between Iraqi forces and ISIS on the outskirts of the city as ISIS’s snipers used civilians as human shields.
Commander of the police Gen. Raid Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Our forces have intensified their field intelligence operations and their aerial surveillance to monitor the movements of the terrorist organization’s leaders, their support weapons and defenses in the Old City.”
In the midst of fighting between the security forces ISIS gunmen in remaining areas of western Mosul that are still under ISIS control, the civilians continue to flee the battles and the siege and move towards the front lines of the Iraqi forces.
This comes within the offensive launched by the Iraqi forces on February 19th with the aid of the US-led coalition to liberate the right bank of Mosul.
In this context, credible reports indicate that at least 231 civilians attempting to flee western Mosul have been killed by ISIS since 26 May, including at least 204 over three days last week alone, the UN reported on Thursday.
“The UN Human Rights Office has been documenting ISIS’s use of civilians as human shields and its slaughter of those attempting to flee since the start of the Mosul operation, but recent reports indicate a significant escalation in such killings,” the UN said in a statement.
“On 26 May, ISIS reportedly shot at civilians trying to flee al-Shifa neighborhood in western Mosul, killing 27 people, including 14 women and five children. Their bodies were reportedly buried two days later by neighbors,” the UN stated.
Moreover, the UN reported other incidents, such us the killing of 163 civilians in the al-Shifa neighborhood on the 1st and 3rd of June; ISIS shot at least 41 civilians in the same location while they were attempting to flee ISIS.
“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families – there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
“I call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those who are responsible for these horrors are held accountable and brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards. The victims of such terrible crimes must not be forgotten.”