The United Nations announced on Thursday, July 6, that up to 20,000 civilians remain in Islamic State (IS)-held areas of Mosul, including the Old City. Iraqi forces are currently engaged in a fierce battle for the Old City and surrounding areas on the west bank of the Tigris river. Iraqi forces have begun to evacuate civilians where possible, with 500 reportedly reaching safety on Thursday. Officials have noted that those left in IS-held areas are in danger of starvation or attack.
IS captured Mosul in 2014, leading to the displacement of nearly 700,000 civilians. With the assistance of US-led airstrikes, the Iraqi army launched an offensive against IS positions in October 2016. Mosul is a symbolic and strategically important stronghold for IS in Iraq. Iraqi armed forces alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga have made important territorial gains in and around Mosul; Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces entered the easternmost districts of the city on November 1, 2016, and Iraqi forces liberated East Mosul on January 18, 2017. The push has been largely successful; IS territory in northern Iraq has been reduced to the currently-contested areas of western Mosul.
Individuals throughout Iraq are advised to remain vigilant due to the high risk of terrorist attacks and militant activity.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.