Iraq: disaster feared as Mosul campaign launched

UN humanitarian agencies operating in Iraq are bracing for what could be a displacement catastrophe of massive proportions as the US-led offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS is launched. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that up to one million people may be forced from their homes in the operation, which is expected to last months. (UN News Centre) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fillippo Grandi arrived in Erbil Oct. 17 to discuss preparations for the anticipated deluge. (Rudaw) With fighting now underway on the outskirts of the city, at least 2,000 residents have massed on the border with Syrian Kurdistan, hoping to cross over to safety. Another estimated 3,000 Mosul residents have arrived at an IDP camp near Hasakah in northern Syria. (BasNews)

Amnesty International has again raised concerns that Sunni residents of Mosul could face reprisals at the hands of Shi'ite militias participating in the offensive—as at Fallujah earlier this year. A new report, "Punished for Daesh's crimes," documents these abuses in the Fallujah campaign (using the popular pejorative for ISIS in the Middle East). Amnesty states: "Every effort must be made to protect civilians from the onslaught of war and potential revenge attacks in Mosul…. Iraqi authorities must take concrete steps to ensure there is no repeat of the gross violations witnessed in Falluja and other parts of Iraq during confrontations between government forces and the Islamic State armed group."