Middle East

Rights group: IS in Mosul targets civilians as it retreats

A street vendor pulls his cart in front of a house damaged by the fight in Mishraq district in Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Advancing into Mosul has become a painful slog for Iraqi forces. Islamic State group militants have fortified each neighborhood, unlike past battles where they concentrated their defenses in one part of the city. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

A street vendor pulls his cart in front of a house damaged by the fight in Mishraq district in Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Advancing into Mosul has become a painful slog for Iraqi forces. Islamic State group militants have fortified each neighborhood, unlike past battles where they concentrated their defenses in one part of the city. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)  (The Associated Press)

An international watchdog says Islamic State militants in Mosul are deliberately targeting civilians who refuse to join them as they retreat ahead of advancing Iraqi forces.

Human Rights Watch also says that Mosul civilians are increasingly being caught in the crossfire, and that at least 19 have been killed and dozens wounded in the period from the third week of November into the first week of December.

It says the fatalities incurred from IS militants' mortar or sniper fire, car bombs and roadside bombings, as well as in airstrikes by the Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition.

Wednesday's statement says HRW findings are based on interviews with more than 50 residents who had fled eastern Mosul.

HRW warns targeting civilians or using them as human shields is a war crime.