An aid group says 5,000 people have fled fighting near Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and arrived at a refugee camp in Syria.
Save the Children said Wednesday the refugees have fled to the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria during the past 10 days. The group said about 1,000 more were waiting to cross the border.
Earlier this week, Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants.
Tarik Kadir is head of Save the Children’s Mosul response team. He said families are arriving at the Syrian camp with nothing but the clothes on their backs. He added that the al-Hol camp is not well-equipped to receive new refugees.
Save the Children aid workers report conditions are getting worse around Mosul and thousands more people are expected to flee the area soon.
About 18,000 Iraqi troops and 10,000 Kurdish forces are battling IS fighters around Mosul. More than 100 U.S. forces are taking part in the offensive. U.S. military officials say the U.S. forces are involved in planning and decision-making, instead of direct combat.
The Islamic State group captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in 2014. There are an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 IS fighters around the city.
A U.S.-led coalition is supporting the offensive. A coalition spokesman said Tuesday the operation is so far “on or ahead of schedule.”
In Turkey, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent organization said up to 400,000 people may flee the fighting in Mosul. Kerem Kinik told the Associated Press that coalition forces had not planned well for the humanitarian part of the Mosul offensive.
He warned that officials will not be ready for the large flow of new refugees. He pointed out that Iraq already shelters more than three million displaced people.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said the organization has five camps open in the region to provide shelter to refugees. Currently, these camps can only take in about 45,000 people. But Grandi said a total of 11 camps will be ready in the coming weeks that could shelter 120,000 people.
In Washington Tuesday, President Barack Obama told reporters that recapturing Mosul would be “a difficult fight.” But he expressed hope that IS will be driven from the city in time.
“Perhaps a million civilians are still living there, so in addition to rooting out ISIL, our focus jointly is on the safety and humanitarian aid for civilians who are escaping the fight. That’s going to be a top priority.”
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Words in This Story
response – n. something that is said or written as an answer or reaction to something
combat – n. active fight, especially in war
schedule – n. a plan of things that will be done and the times when they will be done
humanitarian – adj. concerned with seeking to improve people’s lives and reduce suffering
region – n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way
priority – n. something important placed ahead of other things