‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of Mosul siege (EXCLUSIVE)
A hospital in Erbil has received as many as 120 wounded every day since the beginning of the operation to retake western Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists. Injured civilians, who managed to escape the ongoing bloodshed are being treated in the hospital, but many others have died trying to do so. The RT crew visited the busy facility and heard the chilling tales of survival and daring escapes from the city.
Civilians are suffering at the hands of the both warring sides — as IS terrorists deliberately hide among them in order to attract US-backed coalition strikes and thus inflict as many casualties as possible among the population.
“We were five families together when ISIS fighters came to our house and went on the roof. We asked to be allowed to leave– we knew a jet would bomb the house, but they said no,” an injured man told RT. “The Iraqi army came and shot at our house with an Abrams tank. Seven civilians were killed and their bodies are still there. Everyone else fled —children, women, people with injuries — everyone ran where they could.”
“If ISIS has one great talent – it is their ability to kill people. If they take an area with a population of a thousand, in six months there will only be 500 left,” the man added. “Ask anyone in this hospital — and every single one will tell you that we were ISIS’s human shield.”
Iraqi military actions inevitably inflict heavy civilian casualties as the army intensifies its attempts to crush IS within the war-torn city, some of the Erbil hospital patients told RT’s Gazdiev.
“The Iraqi soldiers didn’t know people were in the house. When they get shot at — they respond with fire. So when ISIS started shooting at them, they shoot back,” an Iraqi man said.
Many of those who managed to escape the carnage have paid a heavy price.
“We ran out of our home, and the army came to drive us away. When we got out of the cars, the shells started falling,” a girl in a wheelchair told RT.
Her legs were sprayed by shrapnel, but she got off lightly, compared to her mother. The woman has lost her eye, an arm and the ability to walk after being hit in an IS shelling, but the loss of relatives pains her the most.
“All I remember is everyone laying on the ground, covered in blood. I think my brother and his son were killed. They tell me they’re OK… but I’m his sister. I can feel it,” she said. “Perhaps I committed some sin to deserve this. But I don’t know what I did, I just don’t know…”
Besides the IS mortar and artillery shelling, US-led coalition airstrikes also cause heavy suffering among Mosul's civilians, according to survivors.
“We heard regularly of airstrikes hitting civilians. We ourselves spent two weeks on the floor, with the windows covered, so that no one would see us,” the maimed woman added.
The exodus from Mosul might accelerate rapidly as the Iraqi army pushes deeper into densely populated western neighborhoods where some 700,000 people are still trapped. Almost 100,000 Iraqis have been displaced by the battle in the 19 days since February 25, according to the latest estimates by the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM).
A prominent Iraqi politician, Khamis Khanjar, warned the US-backed coalition on Monday that attempts to accelerate the battle would lead only to a surge in civilian deaths.
At least 3,500 civilians have already perished in west Mosul since the beginning of the latest offensive, according to Khanjar, who noted that most of the casualties have been inflicted by incessant coalition airstrikes and shelling.
“There were heavy casualties due to speeding up of military operations and we see this as a big mistake and residents who we are in touch with have much more fear than in the past of the ongoing military operations,” Reuters quoted Khanjar as saying. “We hope the US-led coalition doesn’t hurry up in this way without taking into consideration the human lives.”
US officials, however, could neither verify nor debunk these shocking figures, voiced by the Iraqi politician. The spokesman for the US State Department, Mark Toner, admitted that Washington has little data on what is really happening in Mosul.
“I just don’t have any kind of visibility on these exact allegations,” Toner told RT’s correspondent Gayane Chichakyan.
A lack of verified accounts, however, never prevented US officials from condemning reports of civilian sufferings and casualties during the Aleppo liberation. As many human rights advocates have noted, western mainstream media has also followed a similar pattern, citing all kinds of questionable sources to report casualties allegedly skyrocketing among eastern Aleppo residents.
The Mosul operation gets completely different coverage in the media than the Aleppo liberation did, as civilian losses and hardships are muffled, Bolivian documentary filmmaker and director of the “The Voice of Syria” Carla Ortiz told RT.
“Whatever the media was covering 24/7 was basically on every wrong move that the Syrian Army, or Russia, or Iran were making. Of course, there were many casualties as well because that’s why it’s a war,” Ortiz said. “But I think about Mosul we don’t have much information about what is really happening. There’s a lot of silence about it, and if you want to find out you have to really go deep in.”