Iraqi forces halt Mosul operation over concern for civilian casualties – report
Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017 © Youssef Boudlal / Reuters
Over 130 people trying to take shelter from the fighting in Mosul have been buried under the rubble of a building hit by a coalition airstrike, witnesses say in a video released by AP.
“The entire neighborhood was fleeing because of missiles that hit, so people had taken refuge here. I didn’t know if it was a shelter, I didn’t know we couldn’t go there. My entire family is inside, 27 people. We pulled only one of them out and don’t know about the rest. Yes, he was dead,” a resident of western Mosul, Ahmed Ahmed, told AP. He added that over 137 people were inside the compound.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is in fact going to new lengths to make sure that civilians are killed, Kurdish journalist Hevidar Ahmed from Rudaw agency told RT.
“The terrorists have used a new tactic. They climb on the rooftops of apartment blocks. There are 10, sometimes 15 families living in such houses. Thus, the number of people is at least 100. The terrorists don’t let them leave their homes, while climbing on the rooftop and firing at Iraqi forces, trying to prevent their advance. The Iraqi troops and international coalition forces don’t know that civilians are inside, and they fire back. Then, it becomes clear that there were entire families there.”
“In one of the homes, there were 135 civilians. The international coalition air forces dropped bombs on this house, and everyone who was inside died. Children, women, men, the elderly.”
Hevidar Ahmed said that “in another attack, 20 people were killed, while 43 people died in a separate incident, when a car-bomb went off near civilians. Everyone died. All these incidents happened in the ‘new Mosul’ neighborhood.”
In an email to RT, the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) for Operation Inherent Resolve said it is currently "analyzing conflicting allegations and all possible strikes" in the area.
It noted, however, that such a process "takes time...especially when the date of the alleged strike is in question," stating that there are reports placing a strike in the area sometime between March 17 and 23.
The email from the CJTF's press office goes on to state that the coalition "respects human life."
The office said the goal has always been for "zero civilian casualties," but that the coalition will not abandon its mission, citing Islamic State's "brutal tactics" such as "terrorizing civilians" and using human shields, as well as fighting from facilities including schools, hospitals, and religious sites.
"ISIS has shown a complete disregard for civilians. They frequently use human shields and expose civilians to harm by fighting from protected sites like mosques, hospitals, and schools. Unfortunately, this can contribute to civilian casualties," the email concludes.
There are still about 700,000 people trapped in the densely populated western part of Mosul, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing the war-torn city in the past month, according to figures from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Up to 300,000 more people may flee western Mosul, the spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency, Matthew Saltmarsh, told RT.
AP news agency has filmed the destruction and damage done to the embattled Mosul, following a fortnight of near silence from the mainstream media. Earlier, RT asked former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford why the situations in Aleppo and Mosul are being treated differently.
“The Western media shows total understanding for the operations carried out, with all the so-called collateral damage in Iraq, but showed zero understanding for the need of the Syrian Armed Forces and the Russians in a very similar case in Aleppo. The only difference is that the Syrians and the Russians are cast as the ‘bad guys’ while in Mosul, the West and the Iraqi government forces are the ‘good guys,’” he said.
“It’s a case of double standards, very simply,” Ford added.
RT has been covering the Mosul operation and the mounting civilian casualties under the hashtag #MosulSOS.
(c) RT 2017