ISIS marches through Mosul. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — ISIS fighters executed five civilians in western Mosul who had been attempting to leave the besieged right bank of the war-torn city, the last ISIS stronghold in Iraq, according to an Iraqi army officer.
“Daesh has threatened anyone trying to flee the city with death,” First Lieutenant Nayef al-Zubeidi of the Iraqi army told the Turkish Anadolu Agency on Monday, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS, adding that the civilians had been killed in western Mosul for violating Daesh orders not to flee the city.
The United Nations has warned several times that a siege-like situation is likely in western Mosul, where the organization estimates 750,000 people remain.
“We don’t know what will happen in western Mosul but we cannot rule out the possibility of siege-like conditions or a mass exodus,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande said on Tuesday, detailing that food prices had soared and water and electricity services are intermittent.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on Jan. 24 that the eastern half of Mosul had been fully liberated. However, the full liberation of western Mosul could take at least five or six more months, according to Michael Knights, the Washington Institute’s Lafer Fellow, and Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst who runs the ‘Musings on Iraq’ blog.
“As the war intensifies inside Mosul city and civilians run out of food, medicine, water and power, the number of refugees taking shelter in the Kurdistan Region has doubled over the past 10 days,” Hoshang Mohammed, Director General of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Interior Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC) announced in mid-January.
The coalition had previously struck all five of Mosul’s bridges, disabling but not destroying them in order to prevent ISIS’ free movement across the Tigris river, which divides Iraq’s second-largest city. In November, the coalition's' deputy commander said these terrain denial strikes help reduce the number of deadly car bomb attacks carried out by the militants.