Nearly half a million civilians face dire conditions in the midst of the Iraqi Security Forces’ advance on the Islamic State-held Mosul, the United Nations warns.
UN officials fear a siege could deprive “hundreds of thousands of people” water and food. “We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict,” the UN humanitarian official in charge of Iraq told Reuters.
Lack of food of water is only one of the problems plaguing civilians in ISIS territory. The terrorist group routinely uses civilians as human shields and have even evolved more sinister tactics. The Iraqi Security Forces require more U.S. air support than ever before due to the narrow streets in western Mosul. The U.S. confirmed that it has dropped more bombs than ever before on ISIS in the first quarter of 2017.
The U.S. military believes ISIS is also herding civilians into positions where they may be vulnerable to airstrikes, in order to cause public relations debacles for the U.S. This tactic was seen on March 17 when a U.S. airstrike collapsed a building, killing 200 civilians.
U.S. officials believe ISIS intentionally placed snipers on the roof of the building, and packed the basement with civilians to cause a PR disaster for U.S. military officials saying they are in the process of declassifying video showing ISIS “smuggling civilians into buildings so we won’t see them, and trying to bait the coalition to attack.”
The massive civilian population within Mosul has posed problems for the Iraqi Security Forces since the beginning of the military campaign in October 2016.
“If there were no civilians, we’d just burn it all,” an Iraqi counter-terrorism commander declared in November. He continued that ISIS floods the streets with civilians when his forces enter, stopping the deployment of heavy munitions. “I couldn’t bomb with artillery or tanks, or heavy weapons. I said, ‘We can’t do anything.”
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