Buses carrying west Mosul IDPs arrive at Sewdinan camp in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw video
SEWDINAN CAMP, Kurdistan Region – As many as 6,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) including elderly, children, and women from west Mosul have fled the war and reached the Kurdistan Region’s Sewdinan camp since Friday.
Fifteen busloads carrying 1,000 IDPs have arrived at Sewdinan camp on Saturday. Many of them were barefoot. Upon arriving in the camps, hungry and cold, the women throw off their niqab coverings and the men enjoy a cigarette.
The number is expected to rise as clashes continue on the right bank of the city. The Kurdistan Region’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) reported on Saturday that 7,000 IDPs from west Mosul had arrived in Erbil over the last two days. The “situation is serious, they left everything behind, everything urgently needed,” JCC tweeted.
A huge camp set up in Hamam al-Alil south of Mosul to receive civilians fleeing western Mosul is full, accommodating 24,000 and unable to receive more.
“We have come from Mosul in the Tal Rumman area. The situation was terrible. There was no food or water. I tried all means just to escape leaving everything behind,” an IDP told Rudaw.
Commenting on the number of ISIS militants fighting the advancing Iraqi troops, he explained, “They are not large in number as you may know they are always deployed.”
Another elderly IDP, aged in his 60s, holding a 20 litre container in his hands standing in a queue to receive heating fuel, told Rudaw, “I will shave off my beard. It has been a long time since I was told to grow it.”
Describing life under the fighting in west Mosul, “we were constantly under mortars,” he said.
Civilians continue to be heavily victimized by ISIS in the battle to oust the extremist group from Mosul. At least 12 people have been admitted to hospital with symptoms indicating they were exposed to toxins from chemical weapons, while militants fire a barrage of indiscriminate mortars into east Mosul every day.
Iraqi advances have slowed as the army nears more densely-inhabited centers of the city where ISIS is thought to be using residents as human shields. Around 750,000 people are still estimated to be in the western half of Mosul where ISIS is largely in control.
The military offensive to retake the western part of the city is in its third week with a number of districts and strategic positions in the south of western Mosul reclaimed by the advancing Iraqi troops.