Fresh evidence of the threat facing civilians caught in the fight for Mosul emerged today as Oxfam called for genuine safe routes for families fleeing the conflict.
People escaping the village of Hawd, 50km south of Mosul, told Oxfam that a high number of civilians were injured during the offensive to retake the village earlier this week. They were among around 500 people from Hawd who arrived at a screening facility at a school in Qayyarah over two days.
One of the women present told Oxfam that her children were hungry and thirsty from the journey, and that they were suffering from respiratory issues related to the thick black smoke from nearby oil wells. ISIS is setting fire to the oil wells in an apparent effort to provide cover from coalition airstrikes.
Several women said the fighting started so suddenly that they were forced to flee with only one small bag. And another woman told Oxfam that during the rush to escape the fighting she had been separated from her husband, who she had not seen since, and that her daughter had been left behind in the village.
Andres Gonzalez, Oxfam’s Country Director, said: “More needs to be done to protect civilians during the offensive. Every party must uphold International Humanitarian Law, including the coalition and Iraqi forces that must do everything necessary to protect civilians, and ensure that genuine escape routes are provided for those that chose to flee.”