Iraq

Hundreds of thousands of lives at risk as Mosul offensive begins

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“The lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians are on the line as Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition commence the battle to re-take west Mosul from ISIS,” the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann warned today.

“The ultimate success of the offensive will be judged not on how many districts and villages are taken back but on how well Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition protect civilians in the coming weeks and months,” Gressmann said. “Civilians’ homes and critical infrastructure in the city must also not become targets during the hostilities. Should this happen civilians will face an even greater struggle to re-build their lives should ISIS be driven from the city. It would be a pyrrhic victory for Iraq if west Mosul is brought back under government control at the expense of the lives of all those who have suffered under ISIS’s horrific rule for nearly three years.”

The UN estimates that up to 800,000 civilians are living in the western districts of Mosul city and that between 250,000 – 400,000 people could be forced from the homes during the offensive. There is particular concern for those trapped in the old city where fighting is expected to be at its fiercest. NRC stands ready to provide life-saving aid and support to those civilians fleeing violence and has already provided assistance to over 158,000 civilians affected by military operations in east Mosul.

NRC has witnessed commendable efforts so far by the Iraqi Government to prioritize civilian protection during military operations and this must continue in west Mosul while also ensuring accountability for the victims of any violations committed by forces under its control.

Note to editors:
- NRC has been working in Iraq since 2010, with programmes in the Anbar province, Baghdad, Erbil, Dohuk, Suleymaniah and Kirkuk.
- Photos with captions and quotes can be downloaded from here:
https://nrc.smugmug.com/Country-Programs/Iraq/2016/For-Media-People-flee...
and here:
https://nrc.smugmug.com/Country-Programs/Iraq/2017/Husseins-Pictures/i-x...
- NRC has spokespeople available for interviews in Iraq.

Press contacts:
Padraic Mccluskey, Advocacy Coordinator, Iraq, padraic.mccluskey@nrc.no
Media hotline Iraq Phone number: +964 751 740 1953 +964 751 171 1752

Alvhild Stromme, Media Adviser, Oslo, alvhild.stromme@nrc.no Media hotline Oslo, info@nrc.no Phone number: +47 971 92 777 +47 905 62 329