Iraqi government forces supported by fighters from the Abbas Brigade, which are part of the Popular Mobilization units, advance towards the city of Tal Afar on August 20, 2017. (Photos by AFP)
TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - The United Nations has called on all parties involved in operations to free the Iraqi city of Tal Afar from its occupying Daesh terrorists to avoid civilian casualties.
"Thousands of people are fleeing Tal Afar for safety. Families are trekking for 10 to 20 hours in extreme heat to reach mustering points. They are arriving exhausted and dehydrated," said the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, in a statement released on Sunday.
The statement was released after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the commencement of a major offensive to retake the city of Tal Afar, located near Mosul. "We announce the launch of an operation to liberate Tal Afar. I say to Daesh either you surrender or die," Abadi said.
Grande described the situation inside the city as being "very tough," due to the lack of food, water and basic necessities.
"More than 30,000 people have already fled the district. We don't know how many civilians are still in the areas where fighting is occurring, but we are preparing for thousands more to flee in coming days and weeks," she added.
Smoke billows as Iraqi government forces supported by fighters from the Abbas Brigade, which are part of the Popular Mobilization units, advance towards the city of Tal Afar, the main remaining stronghold of the Daesh terrorist group, after the government announced the beginning of an operation to retake it from the militants, on August 20, 2017.
She further went on to highlight the UN’s deep concerns over the "extreme risks that families are facing," urging all engaged in the conflict "to avoid civilian casualties and ensure people have the assistance they are entitled to under international humanitarian law."
Tal Afar and the surrounding area are among the last pockets of Daesh-controlled territory in Iraq, after the country's second-largest city of Mosul.
On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which had served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.