Iraqi Special Forces entered the city of Mosul Monday, as hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped inside the city.
Elite counter-terrorism forces reportedly retook the state television building in Mosul, and are advancing further into the city. Islamic State forces remain heavily entrenched within the city, deploying dozens of suicide bombers against Iraqi positions. The U.S. is assisting the Iraqi-led push with precision munitions to ensure minimal civilian loss of life.
Amid the intense military operation, humanitarian activists are pleading with U.S. and Iraqi military planners to establish a humanitarian corridor out of the city. U.S. planners fear that beleaguered ISIS fighters will try and blend in with the nearly 1.5 million civilians left inside the city, and the Iraqi government is instead advising civilians to remain in their homes.
“A mass exodus from that city is not necessarily something that the Iraqis believe will be in the best interest of that population,” Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Monday. “We understand there will be some people who will try to exit that city because they will feel safer. There are steps that will be taken to address that. There’s an effort now to identify locations for displaced people where they can have some shelter and support,” Cook continued.
“The military campaign is going to take off soon, and on the humanitarian side we aren’t yet ready,” The United Nations top humanitarian official told The Washington Post in early October. The U.N. faces a $165 million shortfall to provide even the most basic humanitarian assistance, and is reportedly only going to be able to build four standard refugee camps. The four camps will have a maximum capacity of 280,000, hardly a fourth of the expected refugees spawned by the Mosul operation.
The ISIS tactic of laying explosives throughout Mosul and its surrounding villages, are deepening fears civilians will not be able to return to their homes. “We think it will last for several years to decontaminate the area. The type of contamination and the type of explosive hazard is very new and different from what the de-mining world has known so far,” head of mission in Iraq for Handicap International told US News and World Report.
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