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750,000 people trapped in Mosul await their fate





750,000 people trapped in Mosul await their fate 750,000 people trapped in Mosul await their fate
  • Iraqi forces have reached southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a new push to drive ISIS militants from the western half of the city
  • Fresh push has sparked fears for 750,000 civilians who are trapped inside city
  • SAS troops, along with US Green Beret and Delta Force commandos, are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish fighters in western Mosul
  • On the second day of the renewed offensive to liberate Iraq's last remaining city under ISIS control, they pushed northwards towards Mosul airport

Iraqi forces backed by jets and helicopters have battled their way to Mosul airport today on the second day of a new push to drive ISIS from the western half of the city. 

The fresh push in the four-month-old operation to retake Mosul has sparked fears for 750,000 trapped civilians who risk getting killed trying to flee and face starvation if they stay. 

UN warned that civilians trapped inside their houses were at 'extreme risk', with dwindling fuel and food supplies and scarce drinking water and electricity. 

Maurizio Crivallero, Save the Children's Iraq director, said: 'This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay - or execution and snipers if they try to run.' 

 Iraqi forces have reached the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a new push to drive Islamic State militants from the western half of the city

Iraqi forces have reached the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a new push to drive Islamic State militants from the western half of the city

 The first day of the rekindled offensive saw forces advance in sparsely populated areas just south of the city itself. Elite units trained for urban warfare are expected to move into west Mosul at a later stage

The first day of the rekindled offensive saw forces advance in sparsely populated areas just south of the city itself. Elite units trained for urban warfare are expected to move into west Mosul at a later stage

SAS troops, along with US Green Beret and Delta Force commandos, are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish fighters in western Mosul.

Elite soldiers from Britain and the US are supposed to be limited to advisory roles, but have been dragged into the battle, which is expected to last several months.

On the second day of the renewed offensive to liberate Iraq's last remaining city under ISIS control, they pushed northwards towards Mosul airport. 

The airport lies on the southern approach to the city, on the east bank of the Tigris. 

Federal police chief Raed Shaker Jawdat said in a statement: 'The federal police has resumed its advance...our cannons are targeting Daesh defence lines with heavy fire.'

 Police forces in armoured vehicles were moving towards the sprawling Ghazlani military base on the south-western outskirts of the city

Police forces in armoured vehicles were moving towards the sprawling Ghazlani military base on the south-western outskirts of the city

The assault marks a new phase in the broad operation launched on October 17 to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city.

The recapture of Mosul would deal a death blow to the 'caliphate' which ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in the city in June 2014 but has been shrinking steadily for two years as anti-IS forces advanced.

But it took the Iraq's most seasoned forces, the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, two months to retake east Mosul, where ISIS put up stiffer than expected resistance. 

Commanders and experts believe the city's west bank could prove even harder to retake, with the narrow streets of the Old City forcing Iraqi forces to undertake perilous dismounted raids.

ISIS also 'likely has stronger support within western Mosul, and the ISF (Iraqi security forces) are more likely to encounter populations that are wary or hostile,' said Patrick Martin, Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

Yet after a lull in the four-month-old operation, optimism was high on the front lines.

Hakem Gassem Mohammed, an officer with the interior ministry's Rapid Response force told AFP: ''I don't expect a very difficult fight: their end has arrived.'

 Iraqi helicopters were seen firing rockets at the village of Abu Saif, mainly at a hill that overlooks the city's airport and provides the militants with a natural defence line on the southern approaches to Mosul

Iraqi helicopters were seen firing rockets at the village of Abu Saif, mainly at a hill that overlooks the city's airport and provides the militants with a natural defence line on the southern approaches to Mosul

The first day of the rekindled offensive saw forces advance in sparsely populated areas just south of the city itself. 

According to a top army commander coordinating the operation, Abdulamir Yarallah, Iraqi forces yesterday retook 15 villages on three different fronts converging towards the airport.

The jihadists defending Mosul's west bank have no choice but to defend their bastion. 

 Iraqi forces pass the body of an ISIS militant fighter next to the road on a hill outside Abu Saif

Iraqi forces pass the body of an ISIS militant fighter next to the road on a hill outside Abu Saif

MATTIS: US DOES NOT WANT IRAQ'S OIL 

The new Pentagon chief, James Mattis, arrived in Baghdad on Monday to show support for the Iraqi security forces, more than 80,000 of whom have also received training from the coalition since 2014.

Before landing in the Iraqi capital, he insisted the US was not about to plunder Iraq's oil reserves.

US President Donald Trump repeatedly said both while campaigning and since his election that America, whose troops occupied Iraqi for years, should have 'taken' the oil.

But Mattis, a retired Marine general who commanded troops during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, appeared to nix the idea.

He said: 'All of us in America have generally paid for gas and oil all along, and I am sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We are not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.' 

Bridges across the Tigris in the city have been destroyed and Iraqi forces have cut off escape routes.

The forces were receiving support from a US-led coalition that has delivered more than 10,000 munitions on ISIS targets since the start of the Mosul operation.

As Iraqi forces advanced on besieged jihadists in Mosul, fears grew for the 750,000 civilian trapped with dwindling food supplies. 

More than half a million residents stayed home when Iraqi forces entered east Mosul to battle ISIS there, leading to smaller displacement than initially feared.

But the aid community said the assault on west Mosul could cause a bigger exodus.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said: 'We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes. We are racing against the clock to prepare emergency sites south of Mosul to receive displaced families.' 

The UN said nearly half of all food shops were closed and bakeries had shut down.

Peter Hawkins, of the UN agency for children, said: 'Three out of five people depend on untreated water for cooking and drinking.' 

 An Iraqi army helicopter fires at Islamic State militant positions outside the town of Abu Saif

An Iraqi army helicopter fires at Islamic State militant positions outside the town of Abu Saif


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