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Humanitarian Disasters Unfolding In Mosul, Damascus

March 24, 2017 (EIRNS)—UN officials in Iraq warn that the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces assault on western Mosul is setting the conditions for an even larger humanitarian crisis than that which already exists. They estimate that 600,000 people remain in ISIS-controlled parts of the city, including 400,000 trapped under siege-like conditions. "They are desperate for food. They are panicked," Bruno Geddo, UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Iraq, speaking from outside Mosul, told reporters in Geneva, reports Al Jazeera.

"The worst is yet to come, if I can put it this way. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions,"

he said.

Civilians are also trapped by U.S.air strikes, which apparently have killed hundreds in the last few days, including one district of the city where buildings collapsed after a U.S. strike triggered a huge explosion. "Finding survivors is very difficult because the area is completely destroyed," Civil Defence chief Brigadier Mohammed Al-Jawari told reporters, reports Reuters. "It’s a very big disaster, indeed we can describe it as a disaster." Estimates of the death toll range from 137 to more than 200 people. The situation, overall, is so bad, in fact, that the U.K.-based Airwars group, announced in an email this morning, that it is suspending its assessments of Russian air strikes in Syria so as to avoid falling behind on its assessments of coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria. In March alone, Airwars reports, there have been more than 1,000 civilian casualties alleged from coalition air strikes.

As usual, the U.S.-led coalition wouldn’t admit to causing any civilians casualties. "We are aware of reports on airstrikes in Mosul resulting in civilian casualties. The Coalition conducted several strikes near Mosul and we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation," the coalition said in a statement.

In Syria, renewed fighting in the northern and western suburbs of Damascus is threatening a new humanitarian disaster. According to the UN, 300,000 people have been cutoff from humanitarian aid because convoys can't bring supplies into the conflict zones. "They are totally dependent on our supplies. Starvation will be just around the corner unless we get there in the coming weeks," Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian adviser on Syria, told Reuters news agency on Thursday. Both the Syrian government and the Russians have attributed the escalation in fighting over the past week or so to efforts by Hayat Tharir al Sham, the current incarnation of Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, to sabotage the intra-Syrian peace talks, which reopened in Geneva yesterday.