UN Readies for Mass Civilian Exodus as Troops Near ISIS-Held Mosul | NBC Bay Area
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UN Readies for Mass Civilian Exodus as Troops Near ISIS-Held Mosul

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    Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance toward the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on Oct. 17, 2016. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier in the day that the long-awaited operation to recapture Mosul was under way.

    Iraqi and Kurdish forces directed by U.S. advisers advanced toward Mosul Monday, launching an offensive to drive ISIS out of the city after its two-year occupation, NBC News reported.

    Brigadier Helgord Hekmat, a spokesman for the Kurdish forces, said 4,000 Peshmerga forces had retaken a cluster of villages.

    Onlookers cheered and danced as tanks rolled toward Mosul early Monday. Morale was high and troops flashed victory signs as they moved on the city.

    Still, the United Nations warned that up to one million civilians may be planning to evacuate their homes in Mosul in anticipation of the military action. 

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    "Already, the operation is so large [that] we're struggling to reach people who need help," said Lise Grande, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

    The complex military operation will be the largest in Iraq since American troops left in 2011 and, if successful, the biggest blow yet to ISIS.