By Idris Okuducu
Civilians are fleeing western Mosul in the run-up to renewed operations by the Iraqi army to purge the northern city of Daesh terrorists.
Iraqi Army Captain Jabar Hassan told Anadolu Agency on Friday that dozens of local residents had fled Mosul’s Daesh-held Old City after calls by the army urging civilians to “leave the area immediately”.
According to Hassan, a number of “safe exits” have been set up to allow civilians in Daesh-held parts of the city to leave their homes for nearby “safe zones”.
“With a view to decisively purging western Mosul of Daesh, Iraqi forces are now gearing up for a large-scale offensive,” he said.
“According to civilian residents who have already managed to escape, the militants are forcing local families to remain in their homes," Hassan added.
In a Thursday statement broadcast on state television, Rashid Yarullah, a lieutenant-general in the army’s Joint Mosul Operations Command, reiterated calls for the “immediate departure” of civilians from Daesh-held parts of western Mosul.
Once Iraq’s second largest urban center in terms of population, the northern city of Mosul was overrun by Daesh -- along with additional territories in northern and western Iraq -- in mid-2014.
Last October, the Iraqi army launched a wide-ranging operation to eject Daesh from Mosul, eventually capturing the eastern half of the city in January.
The following month, the army launched a fresh offensive aimed at liberating the city’s western half.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara.