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Apr. 05, 2017

Residents in Iraq’s IS-held areas urged to shelter at home

Iraq's military urges residents in west Mosul, other IS-held areas to remain inside houses, stay away from known IS sites.

BAGHDAD - Iraq's military on Wednesday urged residents to shelter in their homes in jihadist-held areas of Mosul, where its bid to oust the Islamic State group has taken a heavy toll on civilians.

Iraqi forces are battling to recapture west Mosul from IS, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians and pushing more than 200,000 to leave their homes.

The government has encouraged residents not to flee during the fighting -- a policy aimed at easing ease the burden of widespread displacement but which can heighten the risk of injury or death for civilians.

"Iraqi air force aircraft dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets... containing procedures and recommendations for citizens" in west Mosul and other IS-held areas, said Iraq's Joint Operations Command.

These included "remaining inside houses and staying away from known (IS) sites such as headquarters, checkpoints, artillery positions and barracks, because they will be targets for our aircraft.

"Aerial bombing will target (IS) gangs and not civilians," it said in a statement.

But irrespective of whether or not they are directly targeted, residents still can be and have been the victims of strikes aimed at IS fighters who are deployed in areas still populated by hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The US-led coalition carrying out strikes against IS -- which has admitted that it "probably" played a role in recent civilian casualties in Mosul -- has said that the militants are surreptitiously forcing civilians into homes and then seeking to encourage air strikes on them.

IS has repeatedly targeted civilians with snipers, bombs and shelling in and around Mosul, and seized them for use as human shields.

The United Nations has said more than 300 civilians have been killed in the fighting during the west Mosul offensive, which began in February.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called on Iraqi and US-led coalition forces "to undertake an urgent review of tactics to ensure that the impact on civilians is reduced to an absolute minimum."

Amnesty International said field research in east Mosul -- which was recaptured from IS in January -- showed "an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside".

"The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces... have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since recaptured much of the territory that was lost to the jihadists.


Middle East Online