The United Nations said 435,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the beginning of an offensive to liberate the western side of the city from Islamic State (ISIS) militants. UN Secretary-General Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday (May 9) more than 403,000 Iraqis have currently been displaced from western Mosul. Dujarric added some 31,000 people have been returned to the liberated areas of the city. Iraqi forces opened a new front against the militants in the northwest of Mosul in an effort to push down into the handful of remaining districts held by ISIS, including the Old City. The new push from the northwest began last week after other fronts in the city’s southern districts stalled around the Old City where the iconic mosque from which ISIS leader Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi proclaimed a modern-day caliphate is located. Dujarric said the United Nations humanitarian staff are concern about the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are still living in the area. He added some 360,000 people are believed to be caught between the fighters. “Families continue to arrive at the newly established mustering point at Badoush, northeast of Mosul, along the Syrian highway, where emergency assistance and basic services are being provided by humanitarian partners”, Dujarric said.
Iraqi’s army has built a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris river south of Mosul, after flooding had blocked all crossing points, opening an escape route for families fleeing fighting between government forces and Islamic State. The city’s permanent bridges have been largely destroyed during a six-month military campaign to seize back Mosul from the Sunni Muslim Islamists, which overran it in 2014. “Everything is back to normal”, said a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. Some 20,000 people have escaped from Mosul in the past four days, fewer than before due to the lack of transport, the UNHCR said in a report. Almost 330,000 people have fled Mosul since Iraq started an operation to expel Islamic State in October. They were some of the around 400,000 people still in western Mosul where military forces are trying to dislodge the militants from the Old City. Fighting continued in the Old City where heavy smoke could be seen from the area of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.