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UN: ISIS killed more than 200 fleeing civilians since May 26

UN: ISIS killed more than 200 fleeing civilians since May 26
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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed more than 200 civilians fleeing west Mosul since the end of May, the United Nations said Thursday.

Citing “credible reports,” the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press release more than 231 civilians have been killed attempting to flee since May 26.

Of that, at least 204 were killed in a three-day span last week, the office added.

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“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families — there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “I call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those who are responsible for these horrors are held accountable and brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards. The victims of such terrible crimes must not be forgotten.”

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition have been working to rout ISIS from their remaining neighborhoods in west Mosul.

Efforts to retake Mosul, ISIS’s last major city in Iraq, started in October. The eastern portion of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris River, was declared fully liberated in January.

The fight for the west portion of Mosul then started in February and has dragged on since, with forces narrowing in on ISIS in the dense streets of the Old City portion of Mosul.

In Thursday’s release, the U.N. office said ISIS has been using human shields and slaughtering fleeing civilians since the start of the Mosul campaign, but that “recent reports indicate a significant escalation in such killings.”

The release details three specific reports. The worst, on June 1, said ISIS shot and killed at least 163 civilians in the al-Shifa neighborhood next to a Pepsi factory.

“The bodies of those who died were reportedly left on the street for several days following the killings,” the release said. “In addition to those who died, an undetermined number of civilians went missing.”

Also in al-Shifa, on May 26, ISIS reportedly killed 27 people, including 14 women and children. The bodies were buried two days later by neighbors, the release said.

On June 3, ISIS reportedly shot and killed at least 41 civilians in the same neighborhood as they attempted to flee towards Iraqi forces, it added.

“The murder of civilians, as well as the intentional directing of an attack against civilians who are not directly taking part in hostilities, are war crimes,” the release said.

The office also knocked the coalition for airstrikes that have reportedly killed civilians, including one on May 31 in the Zanjilly neighborhood that reportedly caused between 50 and 80 civilian deaths.

“The UN Human Rights Office in Iraq is seeking further information about these attacks,” the release said. “The High Commissioner called on the Iraqi Security Forces and their Ccalition partners to ensure that their operations comply fully with international humanitarian law and that all possible measures are taken to avoid the loss of civilian lives.”