Exhausted and mourning, families emerge from Mosul ruins

A member of Iraqi police kisses an old woman in Mosul on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2017
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Exhausted and mourning, families emerge from Mosul ruins

MOSUL: With the battle to retake Iraq’s Mosul from Daesh drawing to an end, dozens of women and their children emerge exhausted and grief-stricken from the ruins.
Around 15 women and children huddle on a shaded pavement out of the scorching sun at the edge of the Old City, as automatic weapons fire and mortar rounds resound inside.
Iraqi forces fighting Daesh have brought them from the Al-Maidan area inside the city’s historic center, where militants are making a last stand ahead of an imminently expected defeat.
A young mother in her 20s crouches silently against a wall, dressed in a black robe and light blue scarf. Suddenly, she doubles up on the pavement, begging the nearest soldier to listen to her distress.
Only an hour earlier, she lost her seven-year-old son in a bombardment, just as she and her family prepared to leave the Old City after months of hiding from terrorists.
“There was nothing I could do,” she says, her face distorted with grief as her eldest daughter tries to wipe away her tears.
“Don’t cry, Mummy,” says the 10-year-old, whose burgundy dress is drenched in her little brother’s blood.
Fatima, a woman in her 50s, bursts into tears recounting her and her family’s ordeal over the past four months.
They hid “almost without food or water” in a basement watched by terrorists, she says, praying not to be hit in the fighting.
They emerged when their street seemed to have been retaken by Iraqi forces, seeing the sky for the first time in weeks as they hurried out of the area toward freedom.
But a sniper hit Fatima’s brother as they fled, and she has had no news of him since he was taken away in an ambulance.
Beside her, another woman cries, eyes lifted toward the sky and desperately chanting a man’s name.
Liqaa was forced to leave her brother’s body behind after he too was shot down by a Daesh sniper.
Iraqi forces are fighting the last Daesh fighters inside Mosul, on the verge of retaking the city after three years of militant rule.
Around 250 displaced people arrive from the Old City on Saturday alone, an employee of a local non-governmental organization says, asking to remain anonymous.
“A quarter are wounded, mostly by mortar rounds or sniper fire from jihadists targeting fleeing civilians,” the employee says.
Among the women, some watch out for their men, several of whom are being screened by Iraqi fighters tasked with making sure no terrorist escapes among the fleeing civilians.
But others, already widows, no longer have anyone to wait for.
Soldiers and first aid workers hand out biscuits, water and orange juice to the children, who often arrive dehydrated.
On the pavement, a tiny girl of around three years old, brown hair tousled and wearing a turquoise dress, stands alone, clutching a half empty plastic water bottle.
“Whose child is this?” shouts a soldier. But around her, the women are too distraught to reply.
Among the women who have fled their homes, those without relatives to stay with will be directed toward one of the camps for the displaced around the city.
Around 915,000 residents have run from their homes since the start of the battle for Mosul in October, the UN said two days before, including 700,000 who have yet to return.
Not far off, Samira, a mother in her 20s, holds close her two daughters, terrified and covered in dirt.
She cradles her last born, a motionless baby with a grey complexion.
Daesh “would beat us as soon as we tried to leave. And outside, there was bombardment. It was terrifying,” Samira says.
Her infant suddenly starts crying, much to the relief of onlooking aid workers.
Aside from Mosul, across the border in Syria a battle is raging to dislodge Daesh from Raqqa, the second capital of its self-declared caliphate. Fighting will push down the Euphrates valley to Deir Ezzor, Daesh’s last big urban stronghold.
But the fall of Mosul also exposes ethnic and sectarian fractures that have plagued Iraq for more than a decade.


Oman to open embassy in Palestinian territories’ West Bank: foreign ministry

Updated 1 min 19 sec ago
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Oman to open embassy in Palestinian territories’ West Bank: foreign ministry

  • A delegation from Oman’s foreign ministry will be going to Ramallah for the purpose

Oman said on Wednesday that it has decided to open an embassy in the Palestinian territories in support of the Palestinian people, in a first for a Gulf Arab state.

The announcement coincides with a US-led economic workshop in Bahrain to unveil a Middle East peace plan which is not expected to recognize an independent Palestinian state.

“In continuation of Oman’s support for the Palestinian people, the Sultanate of Oman has decided to open a diplomatic mission at the level of embassy in the State of Palestine,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

A delegation from the foreign ministry will travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, to take the necessary measures to open the embassy, the statement said.

 

Oman was also the first Gulf state to receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October 2018.

Oman is not participating in the Bahrain workshop where US President Donald Trump’s administration hopes to raise $50 billion of investments to improve the economic conditions of Palestinians.

The conference is boycotted by the Palestinian Authority which fears the US administration is dangling money to impose pro-Israeli political solutions.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is leading the “Peace to Prosperity” initiative which he called the “Opportunity of the Century” for the Palestinians.

Last year Oman’s state minister for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, held talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.

He also made a rare visit by an Arab official to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.