‘Our houses collapsed on us’: Refugees suffer breakdowns recalling Mosul nightmare

(EXCLUSIVE)

‘Our houses collapsed on us’: Refugees suffer breakdowns recalling Mosul nightmare (EXCLUSIVE)
Those who managed to escape the Mosul crossfire suffer a complete nervous breakdown, recalling how entire families, ill-advised to stay home instead of fleeing, often ended up under the rubble of their homes bombed by the US-led coalition.

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.

READ MORE: US sends 200 more troops to Mosul for ‘advise & assist’ mission – defense officials

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.

‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of siege (EXCLUSIVE) @MuradGazdiev https://on.rt.com/85×8 

Photo published for ‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of Mosul siege (EXCLUSIVE) — RT News

‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of Mosul siege (EXCLUSIVE) — RT News

The battle for Mosul has taken a heavy toll on civilians struggling to escape the crossfire between ISIS and the Iraqi army, survivors have told RT’s Murad Gazdiev. US and Iraqi officials, however,…

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“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.

‘We’re scared both of ISIS & liberators’: RT meets refugees who escaped crossfire (EXCLUSIVE) https://on.rt.com/84r7 

“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.

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US not changing ‘good’ rules of engagement in Iraq following deadly strike in Mosul

The Pentagon said it will not alter the rules of engagement in the war against Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq as the US-led coalition faces allegations of killing dozens of civilians in one of their airstrikes on Mosul.

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, told reporters.

“General Votel is not looking into changing the way we operate other than to say our processes are good and we want to make sure we live by those processes,” Thomas said, referring to the General Joseph Votel who heads US Central Command, as cited by Reuters.

The statement comes as the US-led coalition faces allegations that one of their airstrikes on March 17 killed dozens of civilians. If confirmed, this would be one of the deadliest single incidents involving civilian casualties in a recent conflict in which the US military was actively involved.

Contradictory statements

The alleged airstrike hit western Mosul’s al-Jadida neighborhood destroying a residential building and burying dozens of people under the rubble. The Iraqi military said in a statement that 61 bodies were subsequently pulled out from the ruins, while a municipal official said that the death toll of the attack reached 240. According to Reuters, the rescue teams are still working at the site.

Information about the incident emerged days after it happened. On Friday, March 24, a video appeared showing the aftermath of the attack. Only after that did the US-led coalition and the Iraqi military finally issue official statements commenting on the tragedy.

The Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) admitted that the US-led coalition did carry out an airstrike targeting the area around the time when the incident happened — but said it was conducted at the request of the Iraqi forces and stressed that it is still unclear if it has anything to do with the mentioned civilian casualties.

“An initial review of strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at a location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties,” it said, adding that “a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.”

In the meantime, the Iraqi War Media Cell issued its own statement concerning the incident, in which it said the building was likely blown up by Islamic State terrorists’ booby trap and had not been targeted by a coalition airstrike.

“A team of military experts was formed from field commanders to inspect the house [mentioned in the media reports]. The house was completely destroyed … and all its walls were booby-trapped and there is no hole or indication that it was subjected to an air strike,” the statement says, adding at the same time that remains of a large car bomb and a detonator, which could have potentially triggered the explosion, were found near the house.

The Iraqi forces’ statement about the rubble of a completely destroyed building bearing no signs of an airstrike is somewhat contradictory in itself, Charles Shoebridge, a former security analyst and counter-terrorism expert with the British Army and the Metropolitan Police told RT.

“The Iraqi security forces say that there were booby traps there, they say there was no evidence in terms of holes… in the roof of the building, where an air bomb projectile could have landed. But that seems to be contradicted or at least an element of inconsistency introduced, when they say that the building was totally destroyed, which begs the question – what kind of evidence they were hoping to find?” Shoebridge said.

These statements also contradict the accounts by witnesses and first responders working at the scene who said it was an airstrike that destroyed the building.

“The international coalition air forces dropped bombs on this house, and everyone who was inside died. Children, women, men, the elderly,” a Kurdish journalist from the Rudaw news agency, Hevidar Ahmed, told RT on Friday.

“We felt the earth shaking as if it was an earthquake. It was an air strike that targeted my street. Dust, shattered glass and powder were the only things my wife, myself and three kids were feeling,” a Jadida resident, Abu Ayman, told Reuters on Saturday.

US-led coalition, Iraqi forces trying to block negative media coverage of Mosul operation

In the meantime, 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.

“Going to the more destroyed neighborhoods is all but forbidden. On one occasion, when [we] were filming a destroyed building, an Iraqi officer walked up to us and said that we cannot do that. On another occasion, they gathered all the journalists together and told us bluntly that negative coverage of the operation would see us kicked out,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev, who is reporting from Mosul, said.

Moscow urges ‘responsible’ US action in Mosul, requests UN Security Council briefing on airstrikes https://on.rt.com/874d 

Photo published for Moscow urges ‘responsible’ US action in Mosul, requests UN Security Council briefing on airstrikes...

Moscow urges ‘responsible’ US action in Mosul, requests UN Security Council briefing on airstrikes…

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has criticized the US-led coalition’s Mosul airstrikes, saying the operation is claiming “more and more civilian lives.” Moscow has requested a UN Security…

rt.com

In the meantime, Mosul residents have been telling the RT crew that the devastating — and often indiscriminate — airstrikes are becoming a grim reality of life in the city. One Mosul resident said the bombings “have destroyed everything, they were non-stop.” The actions of the Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition have already raised questions among some of Iraq’s Sunni lawmakers.

“The international community should step in and save Mosul from blind air strikes,” Mosul lawmaker Faris al-Sanjari told Reuters, adding, “You can’t kill dozens of civilians just to kill one Islamic State sniper.”

“There are tiny alleyways [in Mosul], if there is an explosion, it [works] as some sort of a blast chamber, so the impact of the explosion is far greater,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told RT, adding that “if you are a family and you are trying to leave, you are in danger and if you are a family and you are staying, you are in danger.”

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 insists that no more than 200 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes in Mosul, but the UK-based monitoring group, Airwars, says the number may be more than ten times higher.

Earlier, the UN expressed “profound concern” over the reports of civilian casualties in Mosul and called on all parties in the anti-terrorist operation to refrain from “indiscriminate use of firepower.”

The Russian mission to the UN said that “disregard for international humanitarian law while carrying out such operations is unacceptable,” and urged the international community to “lay aside double-standards and cover impartially the situation in Mosul.”

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Saudi self-investigation not sufficient, UN should probe deadly refugee boat attack — HRW to RT

Human Rights Watch has expressed doubts that a Saudi-led investigation into the alleged coalition strike on a refugee boat earlier this month will result in an impartial investigation.

Several dozen people were killed when a boat carrying Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen was fired on from a helicopter on March 16. Women and children were among the victims when the vessel was hit near the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the International Organisation for Migration said earlier of the incident, which was condemned by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) over the weekend.

While all parties to the conflict denied involvement in the attack, HRW pinned the blame for the strike on the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

“Only the Saudi-led coalition has military aircraft. The Houthi-Saleh forces do not. Somalia, which supports the coalition, called on the coalition to investigate,” the HRW statement said, calling on the UN to investigate the deadly boat attack.

“We want the Human Rights Council to take up this matter and conduct an impartial investigation as well, to have the weight of the UN Human Rights Council behind it,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division told RT.

“What we know is not going to be sufficient is to have the Saudi coalition investigate itself, because to date its investigations have not been serious,” the coauthor of HRW report added.

The investigation into the boat attack, as with all alleged war crimes in Yemen, is set to be investigated by Riyadh-led Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) comprising 14 coalition member states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

HRW and other rights groups have repeatedly blamed JIAT’s methodology, including its verification of information and the choice of incidents investigated, for not being transparent enough. Overall, rights group say that JIAT probes appear to be falling short of international standards.

JIAT has released the initial results of its investigations into 14 coalition attacks — about a paragraph on each strike — but refusing to concede fault in the bombings since August 2016.

The coalition says it does not target civilians and accuses the Houthis, who seized much of Yemen in a series of military advances since 2014, of placing military targets in civilian areas.

In two notable incidents, the Saudis failed to acknowledge its fault in the August 15 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in the Yemeni city of Abs, saying the strike which destroyed the facility engaged “legitimate” targets.

The Saudi-led coalition has also not acknowledged responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks which targeted a funeral hall. On October 8, at least two air-dropped munitions penetrated the roof of a hall packed with over 1,000 mourners, killing at least 110 people and wounding 610 during the funeral ceremony of Ali al-Rawishan, the father of the Sana’a-based administration’s interior minister, Jalal al-Rawishan.

While HRW is calling for a UN investigation, any probe conducted by the Human Rights Council may potentially be compromised as long as Saudi Arabia remains a member of the Council. Recent history has shown that the Monarchy will not hesitate to use its influence in the UN to push through its own agenda.

“It is certainly not easy in terms of the willingness of the United Nations to back down to bullying which sadly it proved itself willing to do by removing Saudi from the list of shame,” Whitson told RT.

In June, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted to bowing to Saudi pressure over a report that blasted Saudi Arabia for child casualties in Yemen. The Saudi coalition was removed from the UN blacklist of children’s human rights violators, despite being accused of half the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen.

“We very much hope that the next Secretary General will show greater backbone in identifying those perpetrators of crimes against children in an independent official way that is not politicized,” she added.

In an HRW letter to the Saudi-Led JITA dated January this year, the NGO also urged Riyadh to explain why JIAT does not appear to have examined a single attack involving cluster munitions. Speaking to RT on Monday, Whitson once again urged the UK and the US to stop sending arms to Saudi Arabia.

“The US’ and UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia should stop and we have called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia until such time as they end their laws of war violation,” Whitson stressed.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led an international military coalition whose air operation targets Houthi rebels in Yemen. In February, UN Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said that the death toll in the Yemeni conflict has surpassed 10,000 people.

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