Those who had an opportunity to do so among Mosul’s large civilian population continue to flee into the uncertain future of a dangerous flight through landmines and an open-ended stay in refugee camps. Those who aren’t able remain in Mosul, hiding in basements as the fighting happens all around in the streets.
In western Mosul, these fights are increasingly desperate, with the ISIS fighters surrounded, no escape possible, and largely no attempted escape even being pondered, as locals describe a growing number of foreign ISIS fighters, far from home and with no local contacts prepare to fight to the end.
This determination to fight to the last further underscores how long, and bloody, this fight is going to be. It took Iraqi forces three months to take over eastern Mosul, and the western half of the city is the more populous, and by far was the more heavily defended by ISIS.
Iraqi forces only just arrived on the city’s western border a few days ago, and have been trying to advance further into the city’s southwestern districts since. Top Iraqi commanders have insisted it is slow going, however, facing snipers and suicide car bombings.