Number of civilians fleeing Mosul swells: Aid group

AFP , Saturday 13 May 2017

The number of people fleeing the fighting in the Iraqi city of Mosul is reaching new highs and the condition of the displaced civilians is deteriorating, an aid group said Saturday.

Iraq forces are battling the Islamic State group in the western half of Mosul and nearing a final push to root out the militants from their last redoubts in its Old City.

A large number of civilians -- around 250,000, according to some estimates -- are still trapped in west Mosul and can only flee once the security forces enter their neighbourhoods.

"The final push by the Iraqi security forces to retake Mosul from (IS) has caused possibly the largest wave of displacement since the beginning of the year," the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

More than 20,000 fleeing civilians were brought to a camp for displaced people in Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, on Thursday, NRC said, describing that figure as "a six-fold increase from the previous day".

"Everyone who is fleeing the city is in an extremely fragile state," said NRC's Iraq director, Heidi Diedrich.

"Infants and children appear malnourished and it is clear that people are suffering from hunger and trauma," she said in a statement.

NRC said that the trauma hospital in Hammam al-Alil treated more trauma wounds on Friday than on any other day since it opened six weeks ago.

The few hundred IS fighters left inside the city are increasingly using civilians as human shields to defend their last pockets and hoarding the city's dwindling food and medical supplies.

Around half a million people are currently displaced as a result of the offensive launched by the security forces in mid-October to retake Mosul, which was the militants' last major bastion in Iraq.

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