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Iraqi forces gear up for western Mosul liberation operation

Iraqi army troops walk in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, January 24, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Iraqi forces have begun preparations for an offensive to purge the Daesh Takfiri terrorists from the western part of Mosul after wresting full control over the eastern part of the strategic city.

Iraq’s Mosuliya TV quoted the commander of Nineveh Liberation Operation, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, as making the announcement on Tuesday.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, are “preparing an operation in the next two, three days, to back up the operation to retake the right bank" of the city, he said.

Mosul is split by the Tigris River, with its eastern half known as the left bank and the western side as the right bank. The city is considered as Daesh’s last urban stronghold in Iraq.

On Monday, Iraqi officials said that Mosul’s eastern part had been completely retaken from Daesh after more than three months of fighting.

Since October 2016, a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi army troops and allied fighters has been leading the Mosul operation, the second phase of which began late last month. Advances have gathered pace over the past few days.

‘750,000 civilians living in militant-held western Mosul’

Separately on Tuesday, the United Nations and several international and local aid organizations said in a statement that an estimated 750,000 civilians are still living in the Daesh-controlled western Mosul.

Displaced Iraqis, who fled the Daesh stronghold, wait to receive humanitarian aid supplies at al-Khazer camp, Iraq, January 22, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande expressed concern about the living condition of the civilians amid soaring prices of basic goods and intermittent water and electricity supply, saying the locals "are at extreme risk and we fear for their lives."

"We don't know what will happen in western Mosul, but we cannot rule out the possibility of siege-like conditions or a mass exodus," Grande said.

She further expressed hope that "everything is done to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who are across the river in the west."

Most of the Iraqis, who are trapped in Mosul, are believed to have been prevented from leaving the city by Daesh, which has routinely used civilians as human shields.

Defeating Daesh in Mosul would deal a crushing blow to the Takfiri outfit, which launched its campaign of terror in northern and western Iraq in 2014.

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