UN says Mosul airstrikes kill civilians

UN says Mosul airstrikes kill civilians
Buildings destroyed during previous clashes are seen as Iraqi forces battle with Daesh militants in Mosul on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 January 2017

UN says Mosul airstrikes kill civilians

UN says Mosul airstrikes kill civilians

BAGHDAD/GENEVA: Iraqi forces on Tuesday retook the last area of Mosul that was still under the control of the Daesh group east of the Tigris River, the military said in a statement.
“Units from the 9th armoured division... completely liberated Al-Rashidiyah,” a statement from the Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against Daesh said.
“The Iraqi flag was raised and the left side (east bank) was thus fully liberated,” said the statement, that also mentioned two other rural areas on the northern edge of Mosul.
Commanders from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service that has done most of the fighting and Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi had already declared east Mosul “liberated” last week.
All central Mosul neighborhoods on the east bank of the Tigris River that divides the city had already been retaken from the militants in recent days, marking the end of an important phase in the fighting.
Top commanders and their foreign partners are now devising a strategy to tackle the Daesh-controlled west bank of Mosul, which is home to the narrow streets of the Old City and some of the militants’ traditional bastions.
Killing civilians
Airstrikes targeting Daesh militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul are killing civilians, although facts and casualty numbers are hard to verify, a UN spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
“We have been receiving quite a lot of reports of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, told a regular news briefing in Geneva.
Although the reports were from Daesh-held areas and may be distorted by propaganda, and UN sources on the ground are diminishing as people flee or are killed, Shamdasani said the reports the UN had received “do seem credible.”
“It is clear that civilians are being killed in airstrikes,” she said.
In one case, airstrikes targeted a local Daesh leader in western Mosul on Jan. 14, but the attack caused the collapse of both the targeted house and the adjacent house, reportedly killing 19 people and wounding 11.
“This one we have been able to get some reasonable corroboration for. But we also understand that ISIL (Daesh) had been gathering relatives of combatants in the houses and that would account in part for the high number of civilian casualties caused by this attack.”
The UN has previously said Daesh has used tens of thousands of men, women and children as “human shields” in Mosul.
Iraqi officials say government forces have taken complete control of the east of the city, which is divided by the Tigris river, 100 days after the start of their US-backed campaign, and are preparing to push into the western side.
Shamdasani stopped short of saying there should be a blanket ban on airstrikes on western Mosul, where the UN estimates 750,000 civilians are still holed up, but military commanders should take all possible steps to avoid civilian casualties, including limiting the scope of the attack as much as possible.
“It needs to be weighed up whether the advantage that can be offered by the military attack outweighs the number of civilian casualties that are likely to be caused,” Shamdasani said.
She added that, in the face of “flagrant” violations of the law by Daesh, it was crucial that Iraqi government forces and their allies ensure scrupulous respect for international law and hold wrongdoers to account.
The UN was sharing its information to try to help military authorities reduce casualty numbers, she said.
Daesh militants have continued to kill civilians with shelling, improvised explosive devices, suicide bombs and snipers, she said. There was no estimate of the numbers killed.