Residents of the Mosul neighborhood known as Mosul Jidideh say scores of residents have been killed by coalition airstrikes.
Residents of the Mosul neighborhood known as Mosul Jidideh say scores of residents have been killed by coalition airstrikes. Felipe Dana

Civilian death toll in Mosul 'catastrophic'

IRAQI forces have been forced to pause the offensive on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul because of the "catastrophic” rate of civilian casualties reported in the city.

The US military has confirmed coalition air strikes on a location in Mosul, where residents and officials say dozens of civilians died as a result of the bombing.

US Central Command said Iraqi security forces requested the strike and that it struck IS fighters and equipment. Australia is one of the coalition partners that conducts air strikes in Mosul.

Local residents said at least 137 civilians had been killed in a cluster of homes hit on March 13 and 17. The location had reportedly been previously used as a sniper position by IS.

Journalists saw children and a pregnant woman among at least 50 bodies recovered from the rubble, with limbs and shoes protruding from destroyed houses.

Iraqi Government forces suspended their six-month advance on Saturday amid growing international pressure over the incident and numerous other allegations of civilian deaths.

"The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans,” a Federal Police spokesman said.

"It's a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics.”

A spokesman for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve said an investigation had been opened to determine the "validity” of claims over its strikes and insisted they corresponded with international law.

"The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from ISIS brutality,” he added.

"Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties, but the coalition will not abandon our commitment to our Iraqi partners because of ISIS's inhuman tactics terrorising civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighbourhoods.”

The US's official civilian death toll from the air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq stands at 220, although monitors say the real total is far higher.

Not-for-profit group Airwars warned this week of "record” deaths as bombing reached unprecedented intensity. It said the number of reported civilian casualties in coalition strikes had hit 1000 and suggested "possible key changes in the US rules of engagement” were placing civilians at greater risk.

After being sworn in, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order demanding a new plan from his military to defeat IS. It arrived on his desk last month but has not been detailed in public.

The UN said it was "profoundly concerned” by the reports emerging from al-Jadida, which it described as "densely populated”.

IS has been fortifying its Mosul stronghold.



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