Hundreds More Flee Eastern Suburbs Of Mosul Amid Missile Attacks
Hundreds of residents continue to flee Mosul's eastern neighborhoods on Sunday (January 8), as the Iraqi army carried on with the second phase of the offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) militants.
Mosul is the biggest city held by the ultra-hardline Sunni Islamist group in Iraq and Syria and the Iraqi government hopes its recapture would mark the end of ISIS in Iraq.
Men, women and children were leaving the recently recaptured Mosul's Zuhoor neighborhood hoping to find safety in camps.
Others, like Abu Ahmad, were hoping to stay with relatives living in safer places.
For Ahmad, the decision to leave his neighborhood of Muthanna was not easy.
"We lived through all the air strikes and shelling to end up in a tent? We'd rather stay in our homes. Why would you leave your belongings and property and go to the camps?" he said.
After his neighborhood was captured by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service Forces, Ahmad said he was thinking of taking his family to stay with relatives in the nearby village of Bawiza.
"I will go and see the area first, then come back for my family and take them to Bawiza. God willing the area will be fine."
The interview was interrupted by the sound of a nearby missile attack and Ahmad ducked onto the ground.
More than 125,000 people have been displaced out of a population of roughly 1.5 million, the U.N. refugee agency said. The numbers of those fleeing have increased by 50 percent over the last few days and is now about 2,300 a day, the agency also said.
The humanitarian situation was "dire", with food stockpiles dwindling and the price of staples spiralling, boreholes drying up or turning brackish from over-use and camps and emergency sites to the south and east reaching maximum capacity, it said.
The battle for Mosul is the largest military operation in Iraq in a decade of turmoil unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein.
On Sunday, Iraqi special forces reached the eastern bank of the Tigris in Mosul for the first time since the beginning of the U.S.-backed operation to drive ISIS militants out of the city that started nearly 12 weeks ago.