Frightened civilians flee as Iraq forces battle Daesh in Mosul

Displaced Iraqi civilians, who fled the Daesh stronghold of Mosul, walk with children in the Intisar district of eastern Mosul, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 02 January 2017
0

Frightened civilians flee as Iraq forces battle Daesh in Mosul

MOSUL: Frightened Iraqi civilians hurry down a muddy street in Mosul as gunshots echo through the neighborhood and a helicopter wheels overhead, firing a barrage of bullets toward militants below.
Others choose to stay, hanging white flags from their homes and periodically peering out as Iraqi forces battle the Daesh group for control of the country’s second city.
Children, some of them carrying plastic bags of belongings slung over their shoulders, are among those fleeing, as is a woman who weeps as she walks along the street.
Dozens more people move along the road leading away from the southeastern edge of the city, heading to a place where they pile into buses painted in police camouflage to be driven to safety.
“There was more movement of families (Friday),” says Lt. Col. Hisham Abdulkadhim of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division, a special forces unit that directed civilians to shelter as it advanced.
While the worst-case scenario of a million-plus people fleeing their homes during the battle to retake Mosul has yet to materialize, more than 120,000 people have been displaced since the operation was launched on Oct. 17.
Mosul crackles with gunfire and explosions as the Rapid Response forces fight their way north alongside contingents from other units.
The advance is quick but careful, with an Iraqi army Humvee mounted with an anti-tank missile launcher on hand to target car bombs and a bulldozer that erects dirt barricades to block their approach.
Humvees provide cover for those on foot, who move alongside, weapons at the ready.
Helicopters prowl over the city firing bursts of gunfire and rockets, while the militants take aim at their aerial tormentors with small arms.
Some civilians open their doors to see what is happening, but the warning from Iraqi forces is always the same: Go inside, close the door.
There are myriad dangers: A running infantry battle, militants with no qualms about endangering civilians, and air strikes, artillery fire and large, unguided rockets targeting Daesh.
Some of those who stayed in their homes in Mosul assist the advancing Iraqi forces.
“A car bomb is behind the mosque,” a federal policeman says, attributing the information to residents.
A mosque is visible over the rooftops less than 200 meter away.
A soldier looks for the car bomb through the sight of the Humvee-mounted missile launcher, but it does not appear, and a bulldozer builds a dirt berm across the street.
More civilians pour out of a nearby area, most on foot, though an old woman and several young children ride on a cart.
Daesh “forced us out,” says Karama Attiyah, a distraught, black-robed woman carrying a blanket.
“They are hiding in front of us in our houses,” she says.
Members of the Rapid Response forces direct the civilians into a building that has a white flag hanging from a wooden pole over its entrance.
After the quick advance and near-constant gunfire, the end seems to come suddenly as Iraqi forces reach their objective at the northern edge of the neighborhood.
For civilians, hours if not days of fear turn to relief, and they begin to emerge from their homes without being told to remain inside.
Some boys jump up and down while flashing the victory sign, possibly imitating nearby security forces.
One little girl wearing a pink coat holds up a hand-drawn Iraqi flag, though it does bear the since-eliminated stars of the Baathist era of Saddam Hussein.
Mosul’s inhabitants still reside in a broken, battleground city, and investigation into possible Daesh ties likely lies ahead for some of the men, but in this area, the immediate danger is over.
“This is the first time we went out in three days,” says Hasna Yassin, a woman standing at the gate of one house.
Asked how she feels, Yassin says: “I was just reborn.”


Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

Updated 25 April 2018
0

Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

  • Lebanon's independent Sabaa party talks about exploitation of positions and money.
  • Several young men from the Sabaa party demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior.

BEIRUT: Sectarian and partisan polarization resulting from fierce competition for parliamentary seats in Lebanon has led to the first armed clash between two rival Druze parties.
Machine guns were used in the clash between the Progressive Socialist Party, led by MP Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Democratic Party, led by Talal Arslan, which took place on Sunday evening in the city of Choueifat, about 5 km south of Beirut.
The two parties’ leaders acted quickly to calm their supporters.
“When politicians plant seeds of hatred and grudges among people, they commit a crime against citizens who have been breaking bread together for centuries,” Jumblatt said in a tweet.
In a joint statement, the two parties stressed “the need to avoid any steps that could provoke anger among supporters or disturb citizens who look forward to freely exercising their right to vote in an atmosphere of democratic competition.”
The two parties, alongside other parties with supporters in Choueifat, such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Amal Movement, have agreed on “disowning anyone who breaches security, requesting that the security forces intensify their presence in Choueifat, identifying fixed locations until the elections are over, and restraining from carrying out provocative processions.”
Campaigning lasts 24 hours before polling and has seen various kinds of violations of the electoral law.
Several young men from the Sabaa party — a group of independent activists — demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior, carrying banners questioning the ministry’s role in election-related issues.
“Serious violations are taking place because the country is out of control; many are exploiting their positions and pouring (in) their money, and conflicts are happening at grassroots level — people are tearing down photos of candidates and individuals are fighting with one another,” said Gilbert Hobeish on behalf of the demonstrators.
He added: “This is unacceptable, and the minister of interior must take responsibility.”
Hobeish criticized the Electoral Supervisory Commission, saying “it only oversees the civil society or change candidates.”
“We reject this in toto,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a candidate on the Shbaana Haki electoral list (who was assaulted last Sunday by Hezbollah supporters in the town of Shaqra because he hung his photo outside his house), held a press conference in the town of Nabatiyah Al-Fawqa and renewed his protest against “the tyranny that silences voices, oppresses liberties and acts on its own will and temperaments, making us feel as if we were in the law of the jungle era.”
He said that “resistance isn’t anyone’s property nor is it one party’s ownership.”
He also called on “the free people of the south to decide which life they wanted and to which homeland and identity they belonged.”
Campaign fever is rising in Lebanon 48 hours before the elections are held for the first time for Lebanese communities in several Arab countries. These elections are to be held 11 days before parliamentary elections take place inside Lebanon.