Daesh attacks civilians, including children fleeing Mosul
By Cathy Otten
Through a cloud of dust, Esme Jasim, 30 and her two children are carried from a black humvee and laid out on stretchers to be treated in a field clinic on Mosul’s eastern edge.
Esme, a biologist from Mosul, can hear her 4-year-old daughter, Shahd screaming as her neck wound is cleaned and bandaged, but she can’t go to her: her own legs are too badly injured by shrapnel from the same blast.
But her daughter’s screams mean that she is alive. When the dead are brought to the clinic on the dusty outskirts of the city, which Iraqi forces are battling to retake from Daesh, they are accompanied only by a shocked silence.
So far, more than 70,000 Iraqis have fled from Mosul—fewer than expected out of an estimated 1 million people trapped inside the city; including at least 600,000 children.
Staying at home comes with extreme risks as Daesh fires indiscriminately on civilian as well as military targets.
“We tell the civilians through the media to stay in their homes,” says Major Hazem from the Iraqi Special Forces, speaking inside Mosul, adding that they have the choice to flee but most chose to stay.
In the space of two days alone in mid-November, Daesh hit his men with seven suicide car bombs, showing the extreme level of danger in the urban battle.
In the first month of the offensive, around 50 civilians were killed, said a medic with the Iraqi Special Forces, who admitted that this was a low estimate and that the toll is rising, leading to a delay in the military operation because of the sheer number of civilians inside the city.
Medics hold down Shahd’s small head as she wails with all her might. She is covered in dust and blood. Next to her is her brother Yasin, 6, who sobs softly as the holes in his small, splayed legs are cleaned and bandaged.
“Today we fled to the Iraqi forces but Daesh was at the end of our street and they attacked us with mortars,” Esme says as she lies shivering on the stretcher.
“How is my girl?” Esme asks repeatedly with tears streaming down her face.
“How is she?”
The medics tell her that the ambulance is coming to take them to the hospital in Erbil, 70km east, because of Shahd’s neck wound.
Thuds and cracks sound in the distance from the front lines as families continue to file past; some walking, some limping; some on foot or donkey carts, carrying large bags and suitcases away from their homes, stuck in the battle between the Iraqi army and Daesh to retake the group’s stronghold of Mosul in Iraq.
In the field clinic, the injured are growing cold and space blankets are wrapped around some of the shivering children.
The sky is clear but the civilians here are still within mortar range, and must either walk to safety or wait for army trucks or ambulances to take them east to newly constructed camps or hospitals.
On the second day that Newsweek Middle East visited the field hospital, five people were killed, including a 5-year-old boy who was hit in the stomach by shrapnel.
A few hours later, another boy was carried in by his older brother and pronounced dead. He was killed by an IED explosion in Samah neighborhood minutes earlier.
“She was the only one in my life”
In a small room in the Erbil West hospital, Diane Qassim’s aunt cries quietly by her bed as the 13-year-old falls in and out of consciousness.
Diane is losing blood rapidly after a Daesh mortar hit her family’s kitchen in Mosul’s Al Zahra neighborhood on November 12.
Her 7-year-old brother Muhammed and 8-year-old sister Zeina are also being treated in an upstairs ward. “She has shrapnel in her back and spine, and we are really worried,” said her aunt, Monera Faisal, 40.
Diane’s father Qassim Muhammed, 46, sits by her bed wearing a brown dishdasha and grey stubble.
“My kids and wife, we were sitting in the kitchen trying to eat and we got hit by a mortar. Daesh terrified people; they destroyed us.”
Qassim was unconscious as his neighbors carried him in a blanket to a waiting humvee. When he woke up, he learned that his wife had been killed instantly by a wound to her neck. She had no funeral and was buried in the front yard of their house by their neighbors.
Qassim sobs into his hands.
“I always imagine she is in front of me—she was the only one in my life.”
Then he turned to his unconscious daughter saying, “There was no reason for her to get injured, she is innocent.”
Earlier, Diane had called out for her mother. No one wanted to tell her that she was already dead.