Baghdad/Mosul: A full siege is developing in Mosul as poor families struggle to feed themselves after prices rose sharply following the US-backed offensive on the IS-held city in northern Iraq, humanitarian workers said on Tuesday.
Some of the poorest families are finding it hard to feed themselves while others are hoarding and hiding food as they expect prices to rise further as the battle that started six weeks ago takes hold of the city.
"Key informants are telling us that poor families are struggling to put sufficient food on their tables," UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, told Reuters. "This is very worrying."
Iraqi government and Kurdish forces surround the city from the north, east and south, while Popular Mobilisation forces - a coalition of groups - are trying to close in from the west.
Retail prices rose sharply last week, after Popular Mobilisation fighters cut the supply route to Mosul from the Syrian territories.
More than a million people are still believed to live in parts of Mosul under the control of the IS fighters, who seized the largest city in northern Iraq as part of a lightning advance across a third of the country in 2014.
With the last supply route cut off, basic commodity prices in Mosul could double "in the short term", said a humanitarian worker, who declined to be identified.
Some 100,000 Iraqi government troops, Kurdish security forces and mainly militiamen are participating in the assault on Mosul that began on October 17, with air and ground support from a US-led international military coalition.
The capture of Mosul, IS's last major urban stronghold in Iraq, is seen as crucial towards dismantling the the IS territories.
Iraqi forces moving from the east have captured about a quarter of Mosul, trying to advance to the Tigris river that runs through its centre, in the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.
"In a worst case, we envision that families who are already in trouble in Mosul will find themselves in even more acute need." Grande said. "The longer it takes to liberate Mosul, the harder conditions become for families."
IS arrested on Sunday about 30 shop owners accused of raising food prices in the city, to try to suppress discontent, witnesses said on Monday.
The group is relentlessly cracking down on people who could help the offensive in Iraq. Most of the people executed previously in Mosul were former police and army officers, suspected of disloyalty or plotting rebellions against the militants' harsh rule.
The Iraqi military estimates there are 5,000-6,000 insurgents in Mosul, dug in amid civilians to hamper air strikes, resisting the advancing troops with suicide car bombs and sniper and mortar fire that also kill civilians.
An air strike targeting IS fighters hit a clinic south of Mosul on October 18, killing at least eight civilians, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
Iraqi and coalition forces did not confirm the report, which said two militants and the hardline group's transport minister were also killed in the strike.
IS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, believed to be somewhere near the Syrian border, has told his fighters there can be no retreat from the city.
Some 74,000 civilians have fled Mosul so far, and the United Nations is preparing for a worst-case scenario which foresees more than a million people made homeless as winter descends and food shortages set in.
A Reuters correspondent in eastern Mosul saw civilians fleeing the fighting in Aden, a district supposed to be under Iraqi government control, in an indication of the difficulty the troops are encountering in holding terrain.
"Daesh (IS) is still there," said Ehab, a high school student.
"They drive around in cars; the situation is very, very difficult there. I am glad I made it out alive."