Mosul offensive restarts despite airstrike massacres

Mosul offensive restarts despite airstrike massacres
Huge civilians casualties have not stopped an Iraqi offensive on IS-held neighbourhoods in Mosul, but activists warned that massacres will continue if forces use heavy weaponry.
2 min read
27 March, 2017
Iraqi forces are continuing their offensive of west Mosul [Anadolu]

Iraqi forces launched a new offensives on the Islamic State group-held Old City district of Mosul, days after alleged US air strikes killed hundreds of civilians causing a freeze in air operations.

"Federal Police and Rapid Response Division units began to advance today on the south-western axis of the Old City," Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, said in a statement.

Iraqi forces are advancing towards al-Nuri mosque where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance.

Around 400,000 people are "trapped" in areas occupied by IS, with fighters said to be using civilians as human shields to slow down the offensive, according to Mosul Eye monitoring group.

Other groups have also called for an end to the use of heavy weaponry in the densely populated city.

Iraqi forces have been battling into the Old City in west Mosul, but progress has been slower.

The area is densely packed and has been fortified by IS forces who have been using vehicle suicide bombings, snipers and booby traps to slow the advance.

Read also: The Iraq Report, a weekly digest of events in Iraq

The Iraqi army said it had "reduced" its firepower in its offensive on the heavily populated Old City, after US-led airstrikes are on the al-Jadida area were believed to have killed as many as 500 people last week.

Airstrikes and shelling on the area have been suspended in residential areas of west Mosul, according to the Iraqi ministry of defence.

However, a senior Iraqi officer told The New Arab that shelling has continued.

Civilians have been deliberately packed into areas where IS forces have launched rocket attacks or where snipers have been based, leading to high civilian death toll, Mosul Eye has said on its Facebook page.

These deaths have been used for propaganda purposes by the group, while also delibately using this plan to create further difficulties for Iraqi forces attacking west Mosul.

Agencies contributed to this story.