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Anbar council urges Iraq army to stop shelling civilian areas

Iraqi civilians that are being prevented from leaving Fallujah by IS militants are reportedly being shelled by the army
A displaced Iraqi young woman, who fled Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, stands outside a tent at a makeshift camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ameriyat al-Fallujah, on 6 June (AFP)

Anbar’s provincial council has called on the Iraqi army to refrain from shelling civilian areas of the Islamic State (IS) controlled city of Fallujah, according to a Tuesday statement released by the council.

"Many innocent civilians – especially children, women and elderly people – lost their lives in recent months after security forces shelled [residential areas of] Fallujah," the council asserted.

According to the statement, local residents have been prevented from leaving the city by IS militants.

A medical source told Anadolu Agency that Fallujah General Hospital had received the bodies of seven civilians on Tuesday, along with eight injured, "including women and children".

According to the injured civilians, the casualties were the result of fierce mortar and artillery shelling by the Iraqi army on residential areas of northern, central and eastern Fallujah.

On 1 June, a local tribal chief accused the Iraqi air force of killing at least 12 civilians – and injuring 28 others – in a barrel bomb attack on the strategic city. The casualties were later confirmed by a medical source.

On 4 June, a tribal council in Fallujah and al-Karma declared its allegiance to IS, citing violations against Sunni residents of the Saladin, Diyala and Anbar provinces by the pro-government Shia al-Hashd al-Shaabi militia.

Although IS recently lost several areas of Iraq’s Diyala, Ninawah and Saladin provinces, it remains in fırm control of most of Anbar, including Ramadi, the provincial capital.

More than 3 million displaced in Iraq

More than 3 million Iraqis have been displaced due to conflicts in the country from January 2014 through June 2015, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

"Most of the IDPs [internally displaced person] have been displaced to the Baghdad governorate (45 percent) or within the Anbar governorate (35 percent)," IOM spokesman Joel Millman said in a press conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva.

Millman said the majority of IDPs in Iraq were originally either from the governorate of Anbar (1,162,998 individuals), Nineveh (1,052,016) or Salah al-Din (453,054). 

According to the IOM, 514,562 families (3,087,372 individuals) in Iraq have been internally displaced and are dispersed across all of Iraq's 18 governorates.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution, and nearly 20 million of them are refugees. More than half are children.

The UNHCR said 13.9 million new people had been displaced in 2014 alone.

Iraq has plunged into a security vacuum since June 2014 when IS stormed the northern province of Mosul.