It's been nearly seven months of constant fighting in Mosul between the U.S.-led coalition with Iraqi forces and the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant (ISIL). The coalition has been trying to liberate Iraq's second largest city from tyrannical and violent rule by ISIL militants.
In 2014, the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant managed to overwhelm most parts of northern Iraq, proceeding to declare the territory a caliphate.
The Coalition is currently focusing on the western half of Mosul, attempting to expel the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant militants from their final stronghold in the ancient city. Since the start of the Mosul offensive, roughly 630,000 residents have been displaced, according to Andrej Mahecic, a senior official at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
"This includes more than 434,000 displaced from western Mosul since mid-February. Six months into the Mosul offensive, the UNHCR remains concerned about the continuing massive displacement. Despite enormous risks, the number of people fleeing west Mosul shows no sign of slowing down."Moreover, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reported that the final offensive against the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant, who now only occupy an area amounting to roughly 10 percent of the city, has resulted in "possibly the largest wave of displacement since the beginning of the year."
The Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant militants executed more than 145 civilians who were trying to escape from the al-Zanjili neighborhood in western Mosul. The Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant extremists hung the bodies of the civilians from streetlamp poles as a warning to "apostates" who are trying to escape from "the land of the caliphate."
An estimated 250,000 Mosul residents are still hiding in the western part of the city, desperately waiting for Iraqi forces to arrive and liberate them.
Relentless bombings have made the area extremely unsafe. Mahecic pointed out that "the risk to people fleeing Mosul is now very great, with people having to move despite being in grave danger. People speak of conditions that are desperate and worsening."
To the south of Mosul, the town of Hammam Al-Alil has become an important refugee camp for liberated Mosul residents. The camp has seen a significant spike in numbers - nearly 20,000 - over the last few days. The NRC's Iraq director, Heidi Diedrich, said that the situation is very dire.
"Everyone who is fleeing the city Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant in an extremely fragile state. Infants and children appear malnourished and it is clear that people are suffering from hunger and trauma."Although Iraqi forces have regained control over the largest portion of Mosul, the few hundred Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant militants remaining have taken to using civilians as human shields to protect themselves as they defend their stronghold and maintain control over the city's supplies.
The Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant director, Abi al-Bara al-Qahtani, has fled the city carrying millions of dollars in stolen cash. It is currently unknown where al-Bara al-Qahtani and some of his henchmen have fled.
Yesterday, an Iraqi air force helicopter that was providing protection for Shiite forces in the desert west of Mosul was brought down by the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant fighters. There were no fatalities reported.
Meanwhile, the United States Pentagon has lashed out at its Syrian ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), for clandestinely allowing some Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant militants to escape from the strategic area around Tabqa dam, more commonly known as the Euphrates dam. Taqba dam is situated next to the major Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant stronghold of Raqqa.
In response, the U.S. launched an airstrike on the traveling militants who killed at least 70 of them, as reported by Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis.
"This was an agreement for them to leave the Tabqa dam and to leave the remaining portions of the city that Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant held. It doesn't change the fact that when we see Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant fighters on the battlefield and have a clean shot at them, we will continue to take it."It has been published by the American military-Iraqi coalition that since 2014, the U.S.-led strikes targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have "unintentionally" killed at least 352 civilians. However, the number could be higher as it does not include findings of a current investigation on a March 17 airstrikes against the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant fighters in Mosul.
"The strike blast set off a secondary explosion of an Islamic State VBIED parked next to a house down the street from the target location resulting in the unintentional death of 14 civilians."The statement issued by the coalition also confirmed that airstrikes between November 2016 to March 2017 had resulted in the deaths of at least 45 civilians. The coalition is also investigating a further 18 reports of civilian casualties since March.
For those civilians who have been fortunate enough to escape the brutal Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant rule, much celebration has been had. Mickey Waitoa, a New Zealand native based in Iraq, ruminated on a happy scene, describing a 4-year-old girl leaning from the window of a bus, joyful tears running down her cheeks.
"After two years under Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant, I saw her smile... and breathe freedom."According to Waitoa, he also sensed a deep trauma in the little girl's eyes that had seen "evil beyond evil, evil beyond comprehension."
"She escaped thanks to the valour and courage of the Iraqi soldiers who got the busload out of a neighbourhood in the Rashidiya district in East Mosul."
Mickey Waitoa has been working completely alone in East Mosul, a part of the city now completely abandoned and "devastated by evil, fashioned into a festering septic hell on earth."
"There's no limit to the brutality of Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant — they have even been known to gut children while still alive, in front of their parents. It's evil beyond evil. There are no other words I can use to describe such destruction of flesh and bone, concrete and mortar... but Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant can't destroy the soul and the spirit!"Waitoa described how he sat with elders of the majority Christian cities of Bartella and Qara Qoush who "with trembling but dignified voices" told of their continuous battle to survive in this area terrorized by Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant.
The old leaders told Mickey that "as long as someone cares then there is hope."
[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]