On Wednesday, as poor weather bogged down forces advancing on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, an aid agency warned that civilians there are in great danger as the battle for the city intensifies.
«We are now bracing ourselves for the worst,» said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Wolfgang Gressmann. «The lives of 1.2 million civilians are in grave danger, and the future of all of Iraq is now in the balance.»
The group said thousands of civilians have fled the city, and many have been killed by snipers and explosives. Those still in the city are in need of food, water and medical supplies, and those shortages will intensify as the fighting makes it more difficult for supplies and other humanitarian aid to get through.
Iraqi special forces reached the outskirts of the city Tuesday, two weeks after the offensive to retake Iraq’s second-largest city began, and more than two years after Mosul was captured by the Islamic State group.
This is a «very important milestone,» but there remains «much more work to be done,» according to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
According to the Pentagon, U.S. forces accompanying Iraqi forces and the Kurdish peshmerga might be within just a couple of kilometers of Mosul front lines. Islamic State resistance to the forces have varied greatly in the surrounding villages, Davis said.
Davis said a maximum of 5,000 Islamic State fighters are still in Mosul.
An Iraqi general said troops captured a television station Tuesday before a sandstorm blew in and ended combat operations for the day.
On Wednesday, troops were holding their positions on the city’s eastern border as high humidity and clouds limited visibility for drones and other aircraft.
Iraqi Brigadier General Haider Fadhil says no advances are planned for Wednesday due to the weather, the Associated Press reported.
National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report