Iraqi government forces paused in their push to recapture western Mosul from ISIS militants on Saturday because of the high rate of civilian casualties, Reuters quoted a security forces spokesman as saying.
The halt was called as the United Nations expressed its profound concern over reports of an incident during the battle on March 17 that killed or wounded dozens of people in ISIS -held al-Jadidah district of Mosul, apparently involving air strikes by Iraqi or US-led coalition forces.
"We are stunned by this terrible loss of life," Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement.
Civil defense officials and residents have said many people lay buried in collapsed buildings after air strikes against ISIS insurgents triggered a big explosion.
The exact cause of the collapses was not clear but a local lawmaker and two residents said the air strikes may have detonated an ISIS truck filled with explosives, destroying buildings in the heavily-populated area.
Reports on the numbers of civilian casualties have varied but Civil Defence chief Brigadier Mohammed Al-Jawari told reporters on Thursday that rescue teams had recovered 40 bodies from collapsed buildings.
The coalition is investigating the reports.
Residents escaping besieged western Mosul have told of Iraqi and US-led coalition air strikes demolishing buildings and killing civilians in several cases.
The insurgents have also used civilians as human shields and opened fire on them as they try to escape ISIS-held neighborhoods, fleeing residents said.
"The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans," a Federal Police spokesman said on Saturday. "It's a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on."
"We need to make sure that taking out Daesh (ISIS) from the Old City will not cost unwanted high casualties among civilians. We need surgical accurate operations to target terrorists without causing collateral damage among residents," the Federal Police spokesman said.
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that since the campaign on western Mosul began on Feb. 19, unconfirmed reports said nearly 700 civilians had been killed by government and coalition air strikes or ISIS actions.
The militants have used car bombs, snipers and mortar fire to counter the offensive. They have also stationed themselves in homes belonging to Mosul residents to fire at Iraqi troops, often drawing air or artillery strikes that have killed civilians.
The United Nations’ Grande said civilians were at extreme risk as the fighting in Mosul intensified and all sides must to do their utmost to avoid such casualties.
"International humanitarian law is clear. Parties to the conflict — all parties – are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians. This means that combatants cannot use people as human shields and cannot imperil lives through indiscriminate use of fire-power," she said.Last Modified: 03 25 2017 05:30 PM
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