Sinan Salaheddin / Associated Press – 2017-06-28 14:31:19
Battle for Key Iraqi City Endangers Children
Sinan Salaheddin / Associated Press
BAGHDAD (June 5, 2017) — Mosul’s children are bearing the brunt of the intensified fight between US-backed government forces and the Islamic State group in the city’s western half, the UN children’s agency warned Monday.
Iraqi forces are in their last push to drive militants from the remaining pockets of territory they still hold in the Old City, where narrow streets and a dense civilian population are complicating the fight.
The UNICEF representative in Iraq, Peter Hawkins, said the agency is receiving “alarming reports” of civilians being killed, including children, with some caught in the crossfire while trying to flee. Hawkins didn’t give a specific number for killed children.
He estimated that 100,000 girls and boys are still in the Old City neighborhood and other areas, living under extremely dangerous conditions. He called on the warring parties to “protect the children and keep them out of harm’s way at all times, in line with their obligations under humanitarian law.”
“Children’s lives are on the line. Children are being killed, injured and used as human shields. Children are experiencing and witnessing terrible violence that no human being should ever witness,” he said in a statement. “In some cases, they have been forced to participate in the fighting and violence.”
Backed by the US-led international coalition, Iraq in October began a military offensive to recapture Mosul and the surrounding areas, with various Iraqi military, police and paramilitary forces taking part in the operation. The city’s eastern half was declared liberated in January, and the push for the city’s western section, separated from the east by the Tigris River, began the following month.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, an international rights group, reported Monday that at least 26 bodies of “blindfolded and handcuffed” men were found in government-controlled areas and around Mosul since the operation started.
Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul fell to the Islamic State in the summer of 2014 as the militants swept over much of the country’s north and central areas.
Sinan Salaheddin is an Associated Press writer.
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