Iraq: mass exodus from embattled Mosul

Three thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) are fleeing the embattled city of Mosul on a daily basis since the second phase of military operations to liberate the ISIS stronghold began in late December, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). "As the war intensifies inside Mosul city and civilians run out of food, medicine, water and power, the number of refugees taking shelter in the Kurdistan Region has doubled over the past 10 days," Hoshang Mohammed, director of the KRG's Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC), announced on Jan. 15, "Three thousand have been displaced on a daily basis, 70 percent of whom have come to the Kurdistan Region."

The second phase of Mosul operations started on Dec. 29 with Iraqi forces making significant ground advances into the eastern part of the city.

According to UN figures, an estimated 450,000 civilians are living in eastern Mosul, 400,000 of whom are in liberated districts as the Iraqi forces have retaken some 80% of the eastern half of the city. An estimated 750,000 are still trapped in western Mosul, living under the full control of ISIS. Already facing an existing burden of refugees, the Kurdistan Region has become increasingly strained by the influx of more than one million IDPs, Mohammed stated, adding that the region could only bear at most 12,000 additional families.

“There has been a lack of assistance or direct support from the Iraqi government and the international community,” Mohammed said. He warned of worsening conditions for the displaced people due to the cold weather, as well as hospitals being overwhelmed by direct and indirect battle causalities. "Due to the fight inside Mosul, the number of civilians wounded has considerably increased," he stated. "So far, more than 3,000 wounded have been treated in Erbil and Duhok hospitals."

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told reporters that civilians are taking the brunt of the military operation to retake Mosul, making up nearly half of the casualties as ISIS continues to directly target them and fears of a siege grow in western Mosul.

Since the launch of the Mosul offensive three months ago, about 25,000 families–numbering 90,000 people–have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region, according to the JCC figures. (Rudaw, Jan. 14)