Sun May 28, 2017 8:25PM
Popular Mobilization Units fire towards Daesh terrorists during a battle on the outskirts of Al-Ba'aj, west of Mosul in Iraq on May 26, 2017. (Photos by Reuters)
Popular Mobilization Units fire towards Daesh terrorists during a battle on the outskirts of Al-Ba'aj, west of Mosul in Iraq on May 26, 2017. (Photos by Reuters)

The United Nations has warned that Daesh terrorists are directly targeting civilians trying to flee from Iraq’s west Mosul.

On Sunday, the UN’s humanitarian relief coordinator, Lise Grande, stressed that the Takfiri terrorists were killing families as Iraqi forces entered the final stages of their operations to liberate the city.

"We know that Daesh is directly targeting families as they try to escape, we know that there are very limited stocks of food and medicines, we know that there are severe shortages of water and electricity,” she said.

“Civilians are going to be at the most extreme risk they have been during the entire campaign…All of the evidence points to the fact that the civilians who are trapped in these neighborhoods and districts are in grave danger," she added.   

Meanwhile, at least 20 Iraqi civilians were killed in airstrikes conducted by the so-called US-led coalition in the northern parts of Mosul's Old City.

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US: Civilian casualties a fact of life

During a Sunday interview, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that they were doing “everything humanly possible" to avoid civilian casualties, but in this kind of asymmetrical conflict civilian deaths are "a fact of life."

“We have not changed the rules of engagement…There is no relaxation of our intention to protect the innocent," he said.

He noted that the US was not directly responsible for the latest deaths as Daesh had placed explosives in a structure full of civilians, a move which he said showed their “callous disregard that is characterized by every operation they have run."        

Other reports coming out of Mosul also said that Daesh terrorists had executed at least 12 civilians at a hospital in the war-wracked city. According to army officials, Daesh then torched the medical center after it was besieged by Iraqi troops.

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On Saturday, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake the last enclave controlled by Daesh in the northern city of Mosul.

The operation was announced one day after the air force dropped leaflets urging residents in Mosul’s Old City center to flee through safe corridors.

Reports say almost 760,000 people have already escaped the embattled Iraqi city over the past months.

Mosul fell to Daesh in 2014, when the terror outfit began its campaign of death and destruction in Iraq.

Popular Mobilization Units fire towards Daesh terrorists during a battle on the outskirts of Al-Ba'aj, west of Mosul in Iraq on May 26, 2017. (Photos by Reuters)

Since October 2016, the Iraqi army soldiers and allied volunteer fighters have been leading a major operation to recapture Mosul.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west in February.

The operation has taken longer than planned as Takfiri elements are dug in among civilians and are fighting back with car bombs, booby traps, mortar fire and snipers.

The full liberation of Mosul would likely spell the end for the Iraqi half of Daesh's so-called caliphate.