ARBIL, Iraq : (Parliament Times) Â More than 68,000 people have fled their homes since Iraqi forces launched a huge offensive against the Islamic State group in and around Mosul last month, the UN said Tuesday.
The figure increased significantly over the past week as forces battled deep into the densely populated city, but it falls short of pre-offensive predictions.
“68,550 people are currently displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance,” the United Nationsâ€™ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
OCHA said the aid response to the offensive launched against the jihadists on October 17 was growing in complexity, with varying needs for different categories of civilians.
“Humanitarian needs are severe among displaced families in and out of camps, vulnerable residents of retaken communities, and people fleeing the intense fighting in Mosul city,” it said.
A million-plus civilians were thought to still live inside Mosul, the countryâ€™s second city and the jihadistsâ€™ last major bastion in Iraq, before the operation was launched.
The number of people displaced since the start of the offensive “is less than we expected — we should be able to handle this relatively small number easily”, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told reporters after a meeting in Budapest.
The UN had initially predicted that 200,000 civilians could be forced from their homes in the first few weeks of the offensive, Iraqâ€™s biggest military operation in years.