October 18th, 2016 09:22 EST
UN Calls for Protection of Civilians as Iraq Begins Military Operations to Retake Mosul
As a large-scale military offensive gets under way to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da`esh) fighters, senior United Nations officials today are stressing the need to ensure that civilians in the city are protected and able to access to humanitarian assistance.
Families are at extreme risk of being caught in cross-fire or targeted by snipers. Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls, boys, women and men may be under siege or held as human shields, " UN Emergency Relief Coordination Stephen O`Brien said in a statement late yesterday.
As many as one million people may be forced to flee their homes in a worst-case scenario, " he added.
Underscoring that nothing is more important than ensuring the protection of civilians and their access to assistance, he also called on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and to ensure the protection of civilians.
In particular, he emphasized that children, women, the elderly and disabled will be specifically vulnerable.
Mr. O`Brien, who is also the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), further highlighted that humanitarian actors will be doing everything possible " to support the people who may be affected by the military operation.
According to the statement, shelter is currently available for 60,000 people in camps and emergency sites and construction of additional sites, with capacity for 250,000 people, is underway.
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