Mosul Old City residents spend hungry, fearful Ramadan under Daesh rule

Displaced Iraqi family from Mosul bake bread for their Iftar, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a refugee camp Al-Khazir in the outskirts of Erbil, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 15 June 2017
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Mosul Old City residents spend hungry, fearful Ramadan under Daesh rule

BAGHDAD: For Salam, a resident in the Daesh-held Old City of Mosul, the holy fasting month of Ramadan this year is the worst he has seen in a lifetime marked by wars and deprivations.
“We are slowly dying from hunger, boiling moldy wheat as soup” to break the fast at sunset, the 47 year-old father of three said by phone from the district besieged by Iraqi forces, asking to withhold his name fearing the militants’ retribution.
The only wish he makes in his prayers is for his family to survive the final days of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” declared three years ago by Daesh’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi from a nearby mosque.
The eight-month old US-backed campaign to capture Mosul, Daesh’s de-facto capital in Iraq, reached its deadliest phase just as the holy month started at the end of May, when militants became squeezed in and around the densely populated Old City.
Up to 200,000 people are trapped behind their lines, half of them children, according to the UN.
Hundreds have been killed while trying to escape to government-held lines, caught in the crossfire or gunned down by Daesh snipers. The militants want civilians to remain in areas under their control to use them as human shields.
Many bodies of the dead remain in the street near the frontlines. Four of them are relatives of Khalil, a former civil servant who quit his job after Daesh took over Mosul.
“Daesh warned us not to bury them to make them an example for others who try to flee,” he said.
Those who decide not to run the risk of fleeing are living in fear of getting killed or wounded in their homes, with little food and water and limited access to health care.
“Seeing my kids hungry is real torture,” said Salam, who closed his home appliances shop shortly after the start of the offensive as sales came to a complete stop.
“I wish the security forces would eliminate all Daesh fighters in a flash; I want my family to have normal life again.”
Where food can be found, the price has risen more than 20-fold. A kilo of rice is selling for more than $40. A kilo of flour or lentils is $20 or more.
The sellers are mainly households who stockpiled enough food and medicine to dare sell some, but only to trusted neighbors or relatives, or in return for items they need. If militants find food they take it.
Residents fill water from a few wells dug in the soil. The wait is long and dangerous as shelling is frequent.
“The well-water has a bitter taste and we can smell sewage sometimes, but we have to drink to stay alive,” said Umm Saad, a widow and mother of four, complaining that the militants are often seen with bottled water and canned food.
“We have been under compulsory fasting even before the start of Ramadan,” she said. “No real food to eat, just hardened old bread and moldy grains.”
About 800,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war city’s population, have already fled, seeking refuge either with friends and relatives or in camps. But in areas, still held by the militants, escape has become harder than ever.
“Fleeing is like committing suicide,” said Khalil, who lives near the medieval Grand Al-Nuri Mosque, the offensive’s symbolic focus.
Daesh’s black flag has been flying over its landmark leaning minaret since June 2014, when the Iraqi Army fled in the face of the militants, giving them their biggest prize, a city at least four times bigger than any other they came to control in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.


Daesh attacks kill 27 Syria pro-regime fighters in 48 hours: monitor

Updated 4 min 21 sec ago
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Daesh attacks kill 27 Syria pro-regime fighters in 48 hours: monitor

  • The monitor said the dead included four senior Syrian army officer
  • The Amaq propaganda arm of Daesh took responsibility of the operation

BEIRUT: Attacks by Daesh group fighters deep in the Syrian Desert killed 27 Damascus troops and allied fighters over the past 48 hours, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead included four senior Syrian army officer.
The Amaq propaganda arm of Daesh, which lost the last vestige of its “caliphate” to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria last month but retains desert and mountain hideouts in both Syria and Iraq, said its fighters carried out the operation.