Nearly 100,000 displaced since start of western Mosul assault

Nearly 100,000 people have been displaced since the operation to liberate western Mosul began last month, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Migration And Displaced.

The number has continued to grown since the fighting began on February 19.

Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff , Iraqi minister of Migration and Displaced, made the announcement in a statement Sunday.

He said that 10,607 people had arrived at refugee camps Sunday and were being cared for members of field staff. Iraqis have been leaving Mosul in growing numbers since last month’s start of the military operation to take back the western part of the city from ISIS.

Since Mosul’s capture by ISIS fighters in June 2014, it has been a vital stronghold for the terror group.

The largest city under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria, it was the place from which the group first declared the establishment of its so-called caliphate.

Caught in the middle of this battle are as many as 800,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.

The Iraqi Air Force has dropped millions of leaflets on western Mosul, where food and water are scarce and electricity sporadic, warning residents of the ongoing offensive and telling them to remain in their homes if they feel safe. The leaflets also advised residents to hang white flags or sheets outside their homes to indicate civilians are inside.

Iraqi forces have continued their push into Mosul’s old city, an area of narrow streets and alleys.

Observers believe Islamic State militants have dug in deep there, knocking holes between adjoining buildings to allow them maximum mobility with minimum exposure to Iraqi and US drones and aircraft. ISIS has also built a complex system of tunnels and bunkers, and no doubt will unleash even more suicide car bombs as Iraqi forces move in.

US officials believe that around half of the once-5000-strong ISIS fighters in Mosul at the beginning of the overall offensive last October have been killed or severely wounded.

But that still leaves 2,500 militants alive, and clearly many are ready to fight to the death.