Western media have given plenty of coverage to the loss of life and great damage in Aleppo, as the Syrian government forces aided by Russia drives out rebel fighters. Heart rending pictures of civilian children caught up in the war, of fleeing non combatants and bombed medical facilities has made many ask what can the West do to help bring the violence to an end and to assist with humanitarian aid.
At the same time as we watch this tragedy, we see and hear little of the battle for Mosul in Iraq. There the Iraqi government forces, assisted by Kurdish troops and western planes and intelligence are seeking to recapture this large city from Isil and other rebel forces. It is said that around 6000 ISIL fighters are resisting far larger forces, led by the Iraqi Golden division of 10,000 well trained and armed professionals. The battle has been raging for three months now, and forecasts that the city would be back in government hands by the year end look optimistic. More than a million civilians are still living in the city, with reports of ISIL using some as human shields, and other reports of considerable death and damage being wrought by the war. There are especial problems with water supply leaving people at risk of disease from unclean water.
In October the UN warned that “There are real fears that the offensive to retake Mosul could produce a humanitarian catastrophe resulting in one of the largest man made displacement crises in recent years. ” It is I trust good news that there have been no further such reports, though the limited news from the battlefields implies there is still a lot of destruction and loss of life as a great city is fought over intensely. Could our news organisations bring us up to date? How will the great tensions between Sunni and Shia be contained in the city, as the Iraqi Army aided by Shia forces advances?