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American-backed forces in Iraq have been keen to champion their imminent capture of the eastern half of ISIS stronghold Mosul.
But humanitarian groups warned Tuesday that there are still hundreds of thousands of people in the besieged area facing severe food, water, fuel and medical shortages.
Around 750,000 people — larger than the population of Seattle — are currently in the western half of the Iraqi city, according to a joint statement by United Nations agencies and others.
"Water and electricity are intermittent in neighborhoods and many families without income are eating only once a day," said Lise Grande, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. "Others are being forced to burn furniture to stay warm."
The Iraqi military, backed by the U.S. and other Western allies, have effectively surrounded the city. The coalition is expected to retake the remaining areas of the eastern half in the coming days, after which they will cross the river Tigris and began what's expected to be a bloody and hard-fought battle for the western half.
"We don't know what will happen in western Mosul but we cannot rule out the possibility of siege-like conditions or a mass exodus," Grande said in the statement. "It's terrifying to think of the risks families are facing. They can be killed by booby traps and in crossfire and could be used as human shields."
The joint statement welcomed what it said was a humanitarian battle plan adopted by the Iraqi special forces, which the military says puts civilian welfare at the center of its operations in Mosul.
In the eastern side of the city, it said 180,000 people had fled their homes while more than 550,000 had stayed.
Much of Iraq was overrun by ISIS in 2014 and some 3 million people across the country remain displaced from their homes.