MOSUL, Iraq — As airstrikes pound the last pockets of territory held by the Islamic State group in Mosul Sunday, hundreds of civilians are fleeing, many so badly injured they had to be carried over the mounds of rubble clogging the Old city’s narrow streets.
The civilians — mostly women and children — are fleeing the city in waves of displacement as Iraqi forces push toward the Tigris River, according to Iraqi special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi.
Iraq’s special forces are now some 450 meters from the river’s bank, al-Aridi said. He expects to reach the Tigris within days.
After a strike, groups of civilians appeared covered in dust. Dozens were injured with what appeared to be shrapnel wounds. One woman collapsed trying to climb through a destroyed home, apparently suffering from dehydration.
Civilians trapped inside the under-siege Old City — where temperatures have soared to 45 degrees Celsius and are expected to climb in the days ahead — have suffered water and food shortages for months.
The United Nations estimates that tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped inside the Old City.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the Old City in mid-June. After eight months of grueling battles to retake Mosul, the dense west Mosul neighborhood is IS’ last stand in Iraq’s second-largest city.
Iraq’s Prime Minister declared an end to the IS’ so-called caliphate in June after Iraqi forces retook the landmark al-Nuri mosque in the Old City and pledged victory was “near.”