“What we’re seeing is terrifying,” said Lise Grande, the top United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. “ISIL is intentionally targeting civilians, firing directly at them. Scores of people, including young children and women, are arriving daily in hospitals. Their injuries are horrific. The wounded are traveling for hours to reach proper care.”
She said that if the Iraqi security forces start using heavy artillery, “there is no doubt civilian casualties will increase exponentially.”
“We cannot rule out that Daesh will push people into the firing zone,” she added, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “The result would be catastrophic.”
Many are questioning the wisdom of the Iraqi government’s decision, before the battle began, to drop millions of leaflets over the city imploring civilians to remain in their homes. The objective was to avert a humanitarian crisis set off by hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing, but instead civilians are increasingly dying as they are caught in the crossfire while soldiers make their way, house by house, through densely populated neighborhoods.