Mosul: The UK charity said thousands of families are forced to live in what it called a “smoke-filled hell” with scant access to clean water in villages and towns around Mosul.
US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been closing in on Mosul since they launched an offensive last month to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city and last IS stronghold in the country. Oxfam said IS set 19 oil wells on fire in the Qayarrah area, south of Mosul, as they were pushed northwards by Iraqi forces.
“The fires have produced clouds of thick black smoke and fumes across an area larger than Greater London,” the charity said.
Oxfam quoted a 67-year-old man as saying the burning of oil wells were making residents sick.
“We need someone to put out the fires. They have been burning for several months now,” he reportedly said.
On Friday morning, Iraqi Special Forces launched an assault deeper into the urban areas of the city, and captured six districts of eastern Mosul, according to a military statement. The assault came under heavy fire from mortars, automatic weapons, snipers and anti-tank rockets.
Three militants in separate explosives-laden vehicles tried to attack the troops but were destroyed, including a bulldozer that was hit by an airstrike, said Lt Col Muhanad al Timimi. The Islamic State is putting up a fierce resistance in the fight for control of Mosul. They deployed two explosives-laden drone aircraft as the fight raged on this week.
They have also deployed car bombs against advancing forces and left booby traps and explosives as they retreated. As the Iraqi forces push closer to the city, they are gearing up for urban warfare expected to take weeks, if not months.
More than one million civilians are still in the city, complicating the military’s efforts to advance without harming innocents. The United Nations has said it fears IS are using civilians as human shields.