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Iraqi federal police forces attach an Iraqi flag to a humvee before going to battle against the Islamic State, in Hamam al-Alil, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 2017. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation to dislodge Islamic State militants from the western half of Mosul city on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

Iraq launched a new offensive to drive ISIS out of western Mosul


Proceed with courage to liberate the other side of Mosul and to liberate its peoples from Daesh [ISIS] oppression forever.
Haider al-Abadi said on state television

Iraq launched a new offensive aimed at driving the Islamic State (ISIS) out of western Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Sunday. 

He also called on humanitarian organizations to provide support for the already liberated areas of Mosul. 

CNN reports that the Iraqi air force dropped leaflets over western Mosul Saturday, warning residents that ground forces would soon begin their offensive. 

Driving ISIS out of western Mosul will be a feat because the city is divided by the Tigris River and all five bridges connecting the two sides have been heavily damaged. A police spokesman told reporters the offensive will focus first on taking the villages along the southern outskirts of Mosul's airport. 

Sunday morning, U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul, sending plumes of smoke into the air. Police were able to quickly move into the village of Athba, which is located just 3 miles southwest of the airport. 

The United Nations warned that the tens of thousands of civilians still living in western Mosul are at "extreme risk." The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that food and fuel supplies are low and running water and electricity are scarce. 

"The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble," Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said in a statement. "We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes."

Sources within the city tell the U.N. that nearly half of all the food shops and bakeries have closed because they've either run out of fuel or can no longer afford flour. 

"Three out of five people now depend on untreated water from wells for cooking and drinking as water systems and treatment plants have been damaged by fighting or run out of chlorine," said Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Iraq.

Humanitarian groups are only prepared to aid 250,000 to 400,000 civilians, but according to U.N., between 750,000 and 800,00 civilians are still living in western Mosul. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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