“The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans. It's a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on,” an unnamed spokesman of the Iraqi federal police force said on Saturday.
The spokesman added, “We need to make sure that taking out Daesh from the Old City will not cost unwanted high casualties among civilians. We need surgical accurate operations to target terrorists without causing collateral damage among residents.”
The remarks came as an army statement published in the official al-Sabaah (The Morning) daily newspaper read that future operations in the embattled western Mosul would be launched by ground troops trained to fight street battles.
“Our heroic forces are committed to the rules of engagement, which ensure protection of civilians,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration says more than 200,000 people have fled their homes ever since Iraqi army troops and Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters launched the battle to recapture densely populated neighborhoods in western Mosul from Daesh extremists.
The ministry announced in a statement that 201,275 civilians had experienced forced displacement.
Aid agencies say as many as 600,000 civilians remain trapped in the western half of Mosul.
There are reports that terrified parents fleeing fighting between Iraqi forces and Daesh in the western side of Mosul drug their children with sedatives or tape their mouths to avoid discovery as they try to escape.
"Families often leave at night and in the early hours of the morning and have to walk with their children. The kids get tired and if they cry it's very difficult," Hala Jaber of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday.
She added, “Families are sometimes putting duct tape on their children's mouths or even giving them Valium or tranquilizers just to keep them quiet so that they are not found out by Daesh and captured or shot.”
Iraqi army soldiers and Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters launched their offensive to retake Mosul last October and since then they have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements.
Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
ISIS terrorists execute 36 Iraqi civilians in western Mosul
Separately, members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group have reportedly executed more than 30 people in western Mosul as the militants continue to suffer losses in their battles against Iraqi army soldiers and allied forces.
The media bureau of Hashd al-Sha’abi said in a statement that Daesh extremists killed 36 people on Saturday after they slapped charges of “attempts to cross to the land of infidels” against the victims.
The executions took place while dozens of people were watching. Nobody could do anything to save them, Press TV reported.