Baghdad-Irbil- Paris- The France-held meeting on Mosul delved into recent details brought in on developments concerning the counter-terror offensive aiming to free the ISIS stronghold in Iraq.
Refugees and displaced Iraqis were the highlight of discussions, as the fate of hundreds of thousands Mosul Iraqis has been left in the dark.
The meeting, which was opened by French President Francois Hollande, and attended by representatives of 23 countries and three regional and international organizations, highlighted the importance of providing humanitarian aid to the city of Mosul, as well as protecting civilians.
Civilians have reportedly been used as human shields by ISIS, and now have an international appeal in their support urging the provision of secured zones for Mosul civilians.
Mr. Hollande said that all efforts must be directed to protecting civilians, also labeled the Mosul offensive as a decisive one as it targets the terror group ISIS’ stronghold in the region.
Despite the advances in Mosul, Hollande voiced fears that fighting off ISIS in Iraq may not be enough and that in order for the offensive to be successful it must be pushed through to Syria’s Raqqa.
ISIS holds large parts of neighboring Syria, but Mosul is by far the largest city under control of the ultra-hardline militants in either country.
Penetrating the eastern border has been the most significant breakthrough in the offensive, which was launched two weeks ago to free Mosul from the militant group’s brutal rule. Troops combing the neighborhood have detonated at least six car bombs
More so, Peshmerga forces backed by the U.S.-led international coalition recaptured six districts of eastern Mosul on Friday, a military statement said, expanding the army’s foothold in the ISIS stronghold a day after its leader told his extremist followers there could be no retreat.
Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahsin Ibrahim told CNN that units of the 9th Armored Division had entered the key city and that troops had stormed the neighborhood of al Intisar in the east.
An officer in the elite Counter Terrorism Service said CTS troops had launched a major operation against the armed extremists, who are now almost surrounded in their last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
One special forces officer told Reuters on Thursday the CTS units may try to push all the way to the Tigris river, which runs through the center of Mosul.
Iraqi television footage from the east of the city showed heavy palls of grey smoke rising into the sky.
Iraqi regular troops and special forces, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and other groups backed by U.S.-led air strikes launched a campaign nearly three weeks ago to retake Mosul. Iran-backed Shi’ite militias have also been partaking in the Mosul offensive despite a major objection of the people of Mosul and international rejection.
Winning back the city would crush the Iraqi half of a crossborder caliphate declared by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a Mosul mosque two years ago.
Mosul residents, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said ISIS fighters were deploying artillery and rocket launchers in and near residential areas.
Some were hidden in trees near the Wahda district in the south, while others were deployed on the rooftops of houses taken over by the militants in the Ghizlani district close to Mosul airport, they said.
“We saw Daesh (ISIS) fighters installing a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun alongside a rocket launchpad, and mortars as well,” one Mosul resident said.
People in the southern and eastern neighborhoods reported on Thursday night that barrages of artillery shells and rockets being launched from their districts towards the advancing troops had shaken their houses.