26,000 Iraqis flee west Mosul fighting in 10 days

Mosul: At least 26,000 people have fled in the 10 days since Iraqi forces launched a push to retake west Mosul, where extremists put up “fierce” resistance on Wednesday.
West Mosul is the IS group’s last urban bastion in Iraq, and its recapture would mark the effective end of the cross-border “caliphate” its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced from a mosque in the city more than two years ago.
Iraqi forces have yet to advance deep into western areas, but the fighting combined with privation and harsh IS rule has already pushed a growing number of civilians to flee.
Field teams received “26,000 displaced people from (west) Mosul during the past 10 days,” Jassem Mohammed al Jaff, the minister of displacement and migration, said in a statement.
The number who have fled is only a fraction of the 750,000 people who are believed to have stayed on in west Mosul under IS rule but it is expected to rise sharply in the coming days.
A commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service said on Wednesday that IS put up tough resistance in the Maamun Flats area of southwest Mosul, which he said is considered “important for the control of the surrounding neighbourhoods”.
“The resistance is violent and fierce because they’re defending this line and this line, in our opinion, is the main line for them,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al Assadi said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced later in the day that CTS had recaptured Maamun Flats.
The damage in the Maamun area is heavy, with homes destroyed, roads cratered and rows of crumpled cars, some of them piled one on top of another.
Fleeing residents spoke of dire conditions inside the city. “We’re so hungry, we haven’t eaten almost anything in four days,” said Widaa, a 20-year-old who fled Maamun.
“There was firing all around our house, it was being destroyed bit by bit,” she said. — AFP

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