Over the weekend, your love crossed into west Mosul city limits. According to top generals and government officials, you are the first to show up in these neighborhoods with aid for families who are caught in the crossfire of this offensive to retake their city.
Not miles from the fighting, but meters away.
The ISIS counterattack that began as we arrived on Saturday continued through the night and into Sunday, targeting the very neighborhoods we had come to serve. As we drove into the city, we felt the ground-shaking force of artillery strikes. Black smoke from mortars and suicide attacks billowed just ahead of us. A helicopter directly over our heads launched a missile, destroying a house about half a mile away. The gunfire was even closer and louder than usual.
Overnight Saturday and into Sunday, thousands of families were displaced or forcibly relocated in an effort to clear the front lines. It was just too dangerous for them to stay in an active war zone.
This is both good news and bad news. It’s good news for families who are now out of the line of fire, though their future is still anything but certain. But it also means there’s less of a deterrent to toppling everything in sight as a way of driving ISIS from these neighborhoods. By the time families return, there may be nothing left.
Inside west Mosul, we learned of families hiding in tunnels and basements—some of them desperate to avoid airstrikes and mortar fire, some perhaps fearful of reprisals from advancing forces, and some worried they might be separated from each other if they try to flee. It wouldn’t be the first time. During the battle for Fallujah last summer, all the men and teenage boys were separated from the rest of their families and detained, so they could be screened for any possible connection to ISIS.
As we pressed further into the city, we met a truck carrying several families who were trying to escape. They told us that ISIS snipers were shooting at anyone who tries to flee—including women and children. Those who run toward Iraqi forces are considered traitors to the so-called caliphate.
The fighting on Saturday and Sunday made it impossible to distribute food. We had a choice to make: do we give up and turn back? Or do we dig in and find another way to help?
We chose the latter.
Our trucks and drivers are staying inside west Mosul—waiting for an opportunity to get that aid into the hands of those who need it most. Several hundred thousand of pounds of food are forward positioned, ready to go, as soon as we get the green light from Iraqi security forces.
Thousands are still trapped farther inside west Mosul. In the days and weeks ahead, as Iraqi forces press forward, many families will likely be evacuated to the outer rings of the city, where our aid is waiting for them.
Instead of making families wait days to receive the food they desperately need while we coordinate another delivery, keeping our trucks in the city will allow us to reach them within minutes.
This is only possible because your love crossed into west Mosul. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
First in, last to leave. Thank you for showing up with us inside west Mosul city.
Stay with us and continue to show up for families in west Mosul.