‘Our houses collapsed on us’: Refugees suffer breakdowns recalling Mosul nightmare (EXCLUSIVE)
Unable to handle the psychological pressure of serving as the terrorists' human shields amid the daily US-led coalition bombings of Iraq's second largest city, those lucky enough to escape the crosshairs often suffer meltdown once they reach the relative safety of the outer city.
Finding themselves inside the overcrowded refugee camps, the escapees are haunted by the merciless reality of war they witnessed in Mosul. Many remain worried about friends and relatives trapped in Mosul as fighting to liberate the western portion of the city continues despite mounting civilian casualties.
“She had a nervous breakdown. Imagine the stress – being here with half your family, and with the other half left under ISIS in Mosul. Contrary to what it may look like — the people you see here — are the lucky ones. They made it out alive,” an elderly man told RT’s Murad Gazdiev after his companion collapsed.
“We did not expect to survive. There were 9 families in a single room, and ISIS were shooting from our roof,” said a man with a child in his arms, explaining that in Mosul that amounts to a death sentence.
Ever since the start of the operation to free Mosul from jihadists in October, reports on the civilian plight inside the besieged city were scarce. After months of indiscriminate shelling by the US-coordinated coalition force, Amnesty International on Monday confirmed the reports using their own sources on the ground.
“Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside. The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International, who carried out field investigations in Mosul.
“The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties. Disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes,” Rovera added.
People who fled the carnage have been telling RT that the bulk of the casualties indeed come from the airstrikes targeting terrorists but ignoring the civilian presence in the area.
“If a pilot sees an ISIS fighter on a roof, of course, he’ll fire — it’s a target. He doesn’t see the civilians inside,” one refugee explained.
Meanwhile, an RT crew on the ground has learned that Iraqi forces are barring journalists from visiting certain areas of Mosul, which have been severely bombed to avoid the negative coverage of their actions in the media.
“We ran away this morning. There was shelling, airstrikes — our houses collapsed on us. They fell on our heads,” another woman told RT. “The army should stop shooting for a while so that people can leave their homes. They have to help the people, so let them leave.”
But Washington is adamant that it will continue its operations in Mosul and so far has not announced any humanitarian pauses that would allow civilians to leave the city.
The US forces are not planning to change the way they conduct airstrikes despite the battle for Mosul entering more densely populated areas in the western part of the city, the spokesman of the US Central Command, Colonel John Thomas, confirmed on Monday.
Furthermore, the US military is reportedly deploying an additional 200 troops to Mosul to “advise and assist” Iraqi forces in their final push to retake the city.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, criticized the US-led coalition’s rules of engagement in Mosul, saying the operation is claiming “more and more civilian lives.” He went on to cite humanitarian pauses and corridors set up during the liberation of eastern Aleppo in Syria, as an example of a more responsible approach.
“A corridor was organized for all the militants, including the members of the terrorist groups [to leave eastern Aleppo]. Many seized this opportunity, thus reducing the need for the use of military force for the liberation of that part of the city,” Lavrov said, emphasizing that “we did it with the sole purpose of saving lives.”
Some 400,000 civilians are still trapped in the Old City part of Mosul held by IS militants, facing food and electricity shortages, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iraq earlier told Reuters, adding that between 8,000 and 12,000 people are fleeing the city daily.
The US officially insists that only around 220 civilians were unintentionally killed in coalition airstrikes over the entire course of anti-IS operations in both Iraq and Syria, but human rights organizations, including the UK-based monitoring group Airwars, believe the number may be more than ten times higher.