In the most recent development in the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi army has announced that ISIS have been completely encircled in the Old City after taking over an area to the north of the densely populated historic district. The army’s 9th armoured division seized al-Shifaa district, which includes the city’s main hospitals, alongside the western bank of the Tigris river, a military statement said.
The liberation of Shifaa means the Old City in the western half of Mosul is now surrounded by Iraqi Security Forces deployed north, west, south and east, across the river. After surrounding the Old City from all sides, Iraqi forces began storming the Old City, where fighting had been paused for months as the Federal Police were making very little progress in their assault from the south.
Iraqi forces are storming the Old City from three axes. The Rapid Response Forces assaulted Tal Zalat, which is one of the entrances to the Old City. Federal Police reinforcements also arrived outside Bab al-Jadid and in Bab al-Sinjar, the two other ways into the Old City, from the south.
However, as the battle reaches its most intense stage, 100,000 civilians, of whom half are children, trapped in the Old City with little food, water and medicine and no electricity. ISIS are notoriously using these civilians as human shields in order to slow down the advance by the Iraqi forces.
So far, about 2,000 civilians out of a total of 100,000 besieged in the embattled areas have been evacuated, through perilous circumstances.The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday sick and wounded civilians escaping through ISIS lines were dying in “high numbers”.
About 850,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war population of the northern Iraqi city, have fled, seeking refuge with relatives or in camps, according to aid groups. However, many of those displaced from east Mosul have returned to their homes.