Iraqi Army Opens Exit Routes In Mosul For Desperate Civilians
Iraqi forces opened exit routes for hundreds of civilians to flee the Old City of Mosul on Saturday (June 24) as they battled to retake the ancient quarter from Islamic State (ISIS) militants mounting a last stand in what was the largest city in their self-declared "caliphate."
U.S.-trained urban warfare units were channeling their onslaught along two perpendicular streets that converge in the heart of the Old City, aiming to isolate the jihadist insurgents in four pockets.
Iraqi authorities are hoping to declare victory in the northern Iraqi city in the Muslim Eid holiday, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, during the next few days.
Helicopter gunships were assisting the ground thrust, firing at insurgent emplacements in the Old City, a Reuters correspondent reported from a location near the front lines. The government advance was carving out escape corridors for civilians marooned behind ISIS lines.
There was a steady trickle of fleeing families on Saturday, some with injured and malnourished children.
“The house was bombed and collapsed as she [referring to an injured child] was inside. We were neighbors. She came out running and yelling and she said that her mom was buried under the rubble. I took her and washed her face and I went out carrying white banner, but no one came to my help. We were exhausted, hungry and thirsty,” Fatima Mohammed, a fleeing civilian from the Old City said after reaching government lines.
At least 100 civilians reached the safety of a government-held area west of the Old City in one 20-minute period, tired, scared and hungry. Soldiers gave them food and water.
More than 100,000 civilians, of whom half are believed to be children, remain trapped in the crumbling old houses of the Old City, with little food, water or medical treatment.
The urban-warfare forces were leading the campaign to clear the Sunni Islamist militants from the maze of Old City alleyways, moving on foot house-to-house in locations too cramped for the use of armored combat vehicles.