U.N. says 600.000 fled western Mosul, troops resume cautious advances

Battles between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces struggling to retake western Mosul have forced nearly 600.000 civilians to flee the region since February, according to a United Nations spokesperson who spoke on Tuesday.

Jens Laerka, spokesperson of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was quoted by news reports saying in a press conference in Geneva that those fleeing were still encountering difficult conditions, adding that there were still major humanitarian concerns regarding the protection of 180.000 who are still besieged inside the Old City area and other districts to its north.

Laerke said humanitarian needs and the need or protect was still high, not only for migrating families, but also for citizens at regions that had recently been liberated.

The announced number represents a surge from nearly half a million which the U.N. said earlier this month had fled western Mosul.

Iraqi forces have been approaching IS’s last entrenchment in western Mosul in the Old City since earlier late April. Operations to recapture western Mosul launched on February 19th. Eastern Mosul was liberated in January.

On field, a security source told Shafaaq News website that IS snipers had killed three civilians who were trying to make it to security-held areas in Zanjili district. The source said troops were advancing slowly and cautiously in the neighborhood.

At al-Shefa district, to the northwest, no ground advances were recorded, with air and artillery strikes continuing on residential areas of the neighborhood, while hospitals there remain under militants’ control.

Federal Police forces also repelled an attack by IS near Bab al-Toub, an area inside the Old City, killing five of the attackers.