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‘We’re scared both of ISIS & liberators’: RT meets refugees who escaped Mosul crossfire (EXCLUSIVE)

Civilians are fleeing the horrors of besieged Mosul in increasing numbers since the Iraqi army restarted its anti-ISIS operation. RT’s Murad Gazdiev met inhabitants of a refugee camp, who shared chilling stories of their survival and perilous escape from the war-torn city.

Camp Khazir, visited by RT crew, is located in Iraqi Kurdistan. The facility houses some 37 thousand refugees – Sunnis, Shias, Yazidis and Christians living together for several months already. Many others, however, have arrived there over the past few days as a result of the Iraqi army's massive offensive to recapture the terrorist-held western part of the city.

“Hunger forced us to run – to try and get away from the horror there. They – Daesh – made us eat animal feces,” one refugee woman told RT.

“The bombing was so intense. Entire families were killed together. And ISIS hid amongst us. When they died – we died.”

People said that although Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists hide among civilians and organize their positions inside their homes, it doesn’t stop coalition forces from bombing.

“It was hard. Everything I had built over 70 years I lost in there. ISIS was amongst us – among the civilians. Nobody made any distinction when bombing us. There were so many casualties,” a man said.

The refugees believe the terrorists do it on purpose; to cause destruction; as many civilian casualties as possible.

“When ISIS knew the jets were going to start bombing – they would mingle with civilians. We were killed together,” another woman said.

The intense bombing has obliterated houses, burning entire families inside. A refugee woman told Gazdiev that a coalition airstrike wiped out an entire family of seven right before her eyes.

“ISIS would lurk near people’s homes, and show themselves on purpose to bait, to invite airstrikes. They did it so more civilians would be killed,” she said.

“So many people are killed… There was one family of seven – all seven people were killed at once when a bomb hit their house.”

“It was awful, and the children were terrified. A house just twenty meters from us was destroyed by an airstrike – and we ran,” another refugee woman said.

Civilians are not only fleeing from the cruelty and depravities of IS, thirst, and hunger – but also from the coalition airstrikes, they told RT.

There’s no safe passage from the besieged city and people risk their lives to get out as staying at their homes is no longer an option. When asked who they were most scared of, ISIS or the coalition, some replied: “Both. Both Daesh and the liberation.”

The battle for Mosul has killed and wounded several thousand people since the Iraqi government started the operation to liberate the city on October 17. After 100 days of fighting the US-supported coalition managed to capture the eastern side of the city and paused before launching an offensive on February 19 against the districts to the west of the Tigris river.

As the battle rages on, an increasing number of civilians desperately attempt to leave the besieged city, with an estimated 750,000 residents still trapped in the IS stronghold at the start of the latest phase of the battle.

“We have noted a significant increase in displacement in last week, 30,000 in west Mosul, 4,000 a day or so,” Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency, told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Some 15,000 children fled the western part of Mosul over roughly a week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Friday. In total, some 100,000 children have been “displaced” from the city since October, according to Bastien Vigneau, UNICEF’s emergency director for Mosul operations.