Thu Dec 1, 2016 07:18PM
Iraqi forces advance in the village of Arabat, south of Mosul, on December 1, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Iraqi forces advance in the village of Arabat, south of Mosul, on December 1, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that the Iraqi government's operation to liberate the northern flashpoint city of Mosul from the Daesh terrorist group could take weeks or months.

Dominik Stillhart, director of ICRC operations worldwide, said in an interview on Thursday that civilians could suffer from the fight in and around the city of one million, which was captured by Daesh in June 2014.

"What we see now on the ground is indeed that the fight in Mosul is not just going to stop anytime soon because the resistance is very strong," Stillhart said, adding, "It is reasonable to expect that this is going to take weeks if not months."

The official also noted that the ongoing fierce fighting has prompted more and more civilians to try to flee to avoid being trapped between frontlines. 

"It is likely that we will see long, drawn-out fighting with very serious suffering of a population that will once again be caught between two frontlines,” he said.

Dominik Stillhart, director of Operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), gestures during an interview on December 1, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Commenting on the reason behind the slow advances of the Iraqi security forces, the ICRC official said the Iraqi military was seeking to protect the civilian population.

"The original idea of the government as they told me, government officials, is that people should stay in their houses as much as possible,” he said.

Stillhart said the ICRC is focusing on providing food and shelter material to civilians who have fled Mosul and on water and sanitation projects in the area.

After months of preparation, Iraqi army soldiers, backed by popular volunteer forces and Kurdish fighters, launched an operation on October 17 to retake Mosul from the Daesh terrorists.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and Daesh’s last stronghold in the country, will be fully recaptured by the year-end.

About 2,000 members of Iraqi forces killed in November: UN.

The United Nations said in a statement on Thursday that close to 2,000 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in November across the country.

The toll includes members of the army, police forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and pro-government volunteer forces known as Popular Mobilization Units.

The UN statement also said at least 926 civilians were killed, bringing to 2,885 the number of Iraqis killed in the acts of terrorism and violence last month.

"The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims," said Jan Kubis, the top UN envoy in Iraq.