Iraqi ground forces have made quick advances against ISIS this year, breaking out of a funk at the end of 2016 to retake the eastern half of Mosul during the first weeks of 2017.
The Iraqi government’s campaign against the terror group’s stronghold in Iraq’s second-largest city has been aided by ongoing airstrikes by a US-led coalition.
In the clip below, distributed by the US Defence Department, a coalition airstrike levels a building held by ISIS near Mosul on January 18.
The strike on the building near Mosul was one of six strikes in the country that day.
Elsewhere around the city, coalition aircraft engaged ISIS tactical units and destroyed two other buildings 49 watercraft, three barges, command centres, weapons caches, vehicles, and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device facility.
In Mosul itself, Iraqi forces have secured the eastern half of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris River.
Both sides are now gearing up for the offensive against ISIS in western Mosul, where a dense warren of narrow streets and ancient buildings promises a hard-fought campaign, likely to be especially deadly for the hundreds of thousands of civilians thought to still be in the city.
Accurate accounting of civilian casualities during the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is hard to come by, as propaganda and hard-to-access locations make precise reporting difficult. Estimates by international monitoring group Airwars put the number of civilians dead in Mosul from airstrikes at several hundred.
A recent Military Times investigation also found that the US military has underreported the number of deadly airstrikes for years, suggesting that the civilian toll from such bombings in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan may be much higher.
For now, before operations against western Mosul get started, Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters keep a wary eye on each other across the Tigris.
“They watch us, we watch them,” Mostafa Majeed, a soldier monitoring ISIS activity from a vantage point in eastern Mosul, told Reuters in late January.
In eastern Mosul, freshly liberated from ISIS’ strong-armed rule, signs of normalcy have begun to return, but along with that normalcy comes reminders of the disregard many in the city, which is majority Sunni in a Shia-majority country, felt from the central government in Baghdad.
“If life does not improve, we will not accept this and there will be a revolt against the government,” Ihsan Abdullah, a former traffic policeman who has not worked since ISIS swept into the city in mid-2014 and was forced to sell his clothes for food, told Reuters this month.
“If things don’t change Islamic State will just come back,” he added. “Mosul residents will support whoever can help them.”