Iraqi forces SET for Mosul offensive against IS

Physinews: Iraqi forces say they are on the verge of
launching a major offensive to retake Mosul
from Islamic State.

Preparations for the assault on Iraq's second
city have been going on for months, while the

UN warns it could spark the world's biggest
humanitarian crisis.

The UN also fears that IS will use civilians as
human shields once the battle begins.

Iraqi special forces are being
deployed around Mosul's suburbs, and
the push on the city may come from at
least three different directions, with other
army units deployed south of the city.

Mosul was seized by IS - or Daesh - in June
2014 after Iraq forces fled, and remains the
last major city they hold.

On Saturday night, the Iraqi air force dropped
thousands of leaflets on Mosul warning
residents that the battle was imminent.
"It's victory time," said one of the leaflets.

"Time to celebrate a clean Iraq without
'Daesh' or any dark belief."

Another leaflet said: "We are preparing to
take action to free Mosul and regain security
and stability in the region."

The Islamic State news agency Amaq has
released pictures it says shows
ongoing fighting in the Refaq and al Masarif
neighbourhoods of Mosul.

The offensive will be a joint operation by the
Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga and a Shia
paramilitary force.

It is thought that around 30,000 troops will
be needed to retake the city.
But there have been fears that ethnic and
religious rivalries could undermine a cohesive
military campaign.

Masoud Barzani, the President of the
Kurdistan Regional Government, tweeted:

"The time has come to begin the liberation of
Mosul."

In a statement, he added: "The preparation
for the operation to liberate Mosul (has) been
completed and (has) paved the way to begin
the Mosul operation."

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, fears
more than one million people could flee
Mosul once the military operation gets under
way.

It says it would need $1bn (£820m) to
house and feed that many people - and so
far has just $230m (£188m).

Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian
Coordinator for Iraq, said: "The worst case
scenario in Mosul would look something like
this: you would have mass expulsion of
hundreds of thousands of people.

"You would have hundreds of thousands of
people who are held as human shields.

"You would have a chemical attack that
would put tens of thousands, hundreds of
thousands or maybe even more at grave risk.

"If all that were to happen at the same time it
would be catastrophic,"
The UNHCR has so far built six camps which
could house 50,000 people, and there are
plans to build 11 more.

Three million people have already
been displaced in Iraq because of Islamic
State.

=== SKY NEWS