Intensive bombardment and air raids by the Iraqi authorities and their foreign backers has led to mass civilian fatalities, the extensive destruction of infrastructure and hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the ongoing battle between the Iraqi regime and Daesh extremists in Mosul.
The Iraqi immigration ministry announced that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons, or IDPs as they are more commonly known as, who are fleeing Mosul has reached 300,000 people since the Mosul operation began on 17 October.
Al Jazeera cited the Iraqi ministry as saying that the daily number of refugees fleeing the violence has now reached a daily figure of 10,000 people. This is a marked increase in numbers, demonstrating that the violence in Mosul is getting worse and indicating that Iraqi civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the operation.
Iraqi refugees and IDPs suffer from dire conditions in government and internationally-backed camps, with some Iraqi men and boys abducted from apparently safe areas by Iran-backed Shia jihadists working with the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a now-official part of the Iraqi armed forces.
The United Nation’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said that their camps east of Mosul had rapidly been filled, forcing them to open a new camp. Meanwhile, UNHCR camps to the south of the war-torn city were already full to capacity before the campaign went into full swing.
The city of Mosul has also been subjected to increasing destruction of its infrastructure, as well as historical sites, by both Daesh militants and Iraqi government forces. Earlier this week, Mosul’s main government buildings and its museum were recaptured by Iraqi forces.
A special Rapid Response team stormed the Ninawa governorate’s main administrative building and the surrounding government complex in an overnight raid that lasted about an hour, he said. “They killed tens from Daesh,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Abdelamir Al-Mohammedawi said.
Read: Wild West Mosul
Seizing the government complex would help Iraqi forces attack the militants in the nearby old city centre and mark a symbolic step towards restoring state authority over Mosul, even though the buildings were destroyed by Baghdad’s forces and are not being used by Daesh.
Video footage obtained and aired by Al Jazeera yesterday demonstrate the massive destruction inflicted upon governmental buildings. The footage shows the provincial council building in the Dawasa neighbourhood as being almost totally destroyed by Iraqi military units.
The museum itself has been thoroughly pillaged and destroyed by Daesh fighters, who have inflicted likely lasting damage on ancient Iraqi artefacts and heritage.
‘Surrender or be killed’
Showing increasing confidence in Baghdad, Daesh also received threats from senior officials who are confident that Mosul will be liberated in the coming months or even weeks, as Daesh steadily lose manpower and their leadership, possibly including Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, flees into the desert.
“During an inspection of Iraqi military units south of Mosul yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said “Daesh fighters have the choice to surrender whereupon they will receive fair trials, or else they will be killed.”
“Despite the tough fighting… we are moving ahead in persistence to finish the battle for the western side within a month,” Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati told Reuters at a conference in Sulaimaniya, a Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq.
The few thousand militants still fighting in west Mosul are overwhelmingly outnumbered by a 100,000-strong array of Iraqi forces, but their tactics east of the Tigris River late last year enabled them to hold out much longer than the government’s initial optimistic predictions, and to even kill over 7,000 Iraqi soldiers.