Photo: UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, reported today on the conditions in Mosul, a city witnessing one of the largest urban military operations since the Second World War, warning that a proper humanitarian response, conditions that created the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) could remain.

When the military operation to oust terrorists from the area began on 17 October 2016, 1.5 million civilians were living in Mosul. In the eastern part of the city, some 400,000 are now free of control by the ISIL.

However, the western part of the city, an area that is much more densely populated and home to 750,000, remains under ISIL control. Military operations to retake that part of the city are expected to begin in late February or early March.

“One of the exceptional aspects of the Mosul military operation was the decision by the Iraqi security forces to adopt a humanitarian concept of operations when they were developing their battle plans,” said Ms. Grande.

The plan, she explained, prohibits artillery strikes, requires civilians to remain in their homes, and provides humanitarian exit corridors wherever necessary. Civilians in Mosul are at an extremely high risk – they represent 47 per cent of all casualties in the military operation so far.

“You would expect in a conflict like this that the number of civilian casualties would be around 15 per cent, a high of 20 per cent. What we’re seeing in Mosul is that nearly 50 per cent of all casualties are in fact civilians,” Ms. Grande said.