MOSUL, Iraq — Chaos erupted in eastern Mosul on Sunday when hundreds of civilians overwhelmed aid trucks distributing food and water.
The Iraqi government sent truckloads of food, heating oil and drinking water to residents in areas retaken from the Islamic State group in and around Mosul after aid groups warned of shortages in Iraq's second largest city, which has been the target of a major offensive since October.
"There is no justice," said Abu Ahmed, who asked that his full name not be used out of security concerns. "Some people took so many bags of food and others got nothing."
While the trucks bore banners identifying them as distributing aid on behalf of the local government, there were no government or security officials present during the melee that ensued on the eastern edge of the city.
Men, women and children fought over bags of flour and baskets of apples.
"We are desperate, this is the first time I've seen aid trucks," Abu Ahmed said. He said the food and water residents had stockpiled before the start of the operation had run out.
Iraqi Army soldiers patrol in the newly-liberated Shaimaa neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
Photo Credit: Hadi Mizban/AP
Diaa Sallal, a senior Iraqi relief official, told The Associated Press that the supplies were being delivered to the towns of Bartella and Qayara, near Mosul, as well as two outlying Mosul neighborhoods. Sallal, reached by telephone in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, gave no further details.
Iraq's government called on civilians to remain in their homes during the operation to retake Mosul, fearing a mass exodus from the city, which is still home to hundreds of thousands of people.
But as the battle has ground on, with Iraqi forces making slow progress in street by street battles, supplies of food and water have dwindled.
Heavy clashes flared in eastern Mosul on Sunday, with both sides exchanging heavy gunfire from rooftops in the Shaimaa neighborhood. ISIS militants shelled the district with a heavy barrage of mortar rounds, according to AP reporters at the scene.
Scores of families braved the fighting to flee IS-held districts for the relative safety of neighborhoods retaken by government troops or camps for the displaced outside the city.
Deeper inside Mosul, another aid distribution in the Bakr neighborhood was more organized. Hundreds of men and women lined up along a residential street as Iraqi special forces handed out boxes of aid.
But with the front line just over a hundred meters (yards) away, only a small number of aid trucks could reach the neighborhood.
Soldiers screened the civilians as gunfire echoed nearby. Ambulances and armored vehicles carrying wounded soldiers came screaming past after an IS suicide car bomb struck a nearby army position.
Elsewhere in Iraq, security forces in the northern Kurdish region shot and killed two of four people who resisted arrest in a village near the Iranian border. Nasah Mala Hassan, the mayor of a nearby town, said the other two blew themselves up, and that an armed Kurdish civilian was killed. It was not immediately clear whether the suspects were members of an armed group.
Salaheddin reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Susannah George in Mosul and Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, contributed.