Civilians are fleeing Mosul ahead for the battle with ISIS

Hundreds of terrified and exhausted civilians, some barefoot or covered in mud, fled Mosul in the rain and cold on March 4.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are pressing on with their assault to drive Islamic State out of its remaining stronghold in the west of the city.

More than 1,000 people walked across the frontline to reach a sector held by Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service south of Mosul.

There, they were given temporary shelter and food and basic medical treatment in an abandoned fuel station before boarding buses and military trucks.

They will be taken to join some 8,000 others in a refugee camp in Hammam al-Alil, about 25 km (15 miles) to the south.

While men waited to be screened by Iraqi soldiers to make sure they were not Islamic State militants, mothers queued outside a mobile field clinic provided by the World Health Organization to have their children examined and treated.

Abu Akram, a doctor from the town of Hamadaniya, north of Mosul, described the situation as “very tragic”.

“It is disastrous, disastrous, disastrous due to lack of services,” he said.

Shi’ite fighters belonging to the Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation forces cooked food for the refugees in huge cauldrons.

The offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants started in October.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris River on February 19.

The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants are hiding in Mosul among the remaining civilian population.