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Iraq, coalition officials scramble to prevent another 'Mosul massacre'

According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 civilians have fled west Mosul [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2017

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Leaders from the US-led coalition and the Iraqi military will meet on Thursday to discuss preventing further incidents of mass civilian casualties.

Leaders from the US-led coalition and the Iraqi military will meet on Thursday to discuss preventing further incidents of mass civilian casualties after more than 500 people were killed in probable coalition air raids in Mosul.

The military leaders will talk over ways to evacuate civilians from Islamic State group controlled western Mosul and how to avoid further civilian massacres from taking place, an Iraqi military official told The New Arab.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters, said that the officials will also "seriously" discuss stopping the use of heavy weaponry in the narrow alleyways of western Mosul.

The coalition has recently come under fire over the killing of large numbers of civilians in air raids on the western district of Mosul al-Jadida where US-backed troops are fighting IS.

The number of victims in the Mosul air raids over the past two weeks has risen to 531 people, including 200 children under the age of 15, Iraqi officials told The New Arab on Monday.

The US commander of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq said on Tuesday that coalition forces "probably" played a role in the deaths of numerous civilians during a recent airstrike in west Mosul.

General Stephen Townsend said a general has been appointed to lead an investigation into the March 17 strike in the densely populated area.

UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein called on Iraqi and US-led coalition forces "to undertake an urgent review of tactics to ensure that the impact on civilians is reduced to an absolute minimum."

IS' "strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality," he said.

Amnesty's Donatella Rovera said field research in east Mosul - which was recaptured from IS in January - showed "an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside".

Since US President Trump assumed office, the Pentagon has been enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants - without constantly seeking White House approval on important decisions. The US has denied rules of engament in Iraq have been revised, however.

While many in the US military may appreciate the increased autonomy, critics charge it is rising civilian death rates.

According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 civilians have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake it was launched last month.

Iraqi forces launched a major operation to retake Mosul last October, retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely populated west.

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