ISIS is preparing for defeat in Mosul. And it will come at the same mosque where it all began.
Almost three years ago, in July 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood on the steps of the Great al-Nuri Mosque in west Mosul and announced the creation of the so-called Islamic caliphate.
Now, on the grounds of the same historic mosque, in the heart of the old city, ISIS is preparing for a final battle and imminent defeat.
This time—unlike previous battles in Fallujah and Ramadi—there is no escape for the remaining ISIS fighters holed up in the city.
While the fall of ISIS in Mosul will mark the formal end of the caliphate in Iraq, they still have a looming presence in the country. They’re still capable of lethal strikes, like the suicide bombings in and around Baghdad earlier this week.
In addition, ISIS still holds territory in neighboring Syria, including its de facto capital city of Raqqa, where the battle with coalition forces is intensifying—a conflict with grave potential to be yet another humanitarian crisis in the country.
Militants in Mosul have shut down the streets around the Great Mosque and are taking up strategic positions in and around it. They’re also forcing families deeper into the old city, toward the mosque, to prevent them from escaping and to slow the advance of Iraqi forces. Essentially, ISIS is using these families as human shields.
Except these human shields—up to 200,000 of them—are also starving and without access clean water or medical care.
The Iraqi military has been dropping leaflets telling families to evacuate. But between mortar fire, suicide bombs, and ISIS snipers, they can’t get out. They’re stuck. Trapped between ISIS and advancing Iraqi forces who are more motivated than ever to retake the deeply symbolic Great Mosque.
In order to minimize civilian deaths, the military is considering formal evacuations, which would mean that up to 180,000 people could arrive on the outskirts of the fighting with dire injuries, illnesses, malnutrition, and dehydration.
We’re working hard to prepare for this possibility by ramping up our regular deliveries of emergency food and water, as well as our medical response on the frontlines.
But it’s also important to keep the big picture in mind. Once ISIS is gone, the cameras will turn away. The world will lose interest in what happens in Mosul. But the real work will only just be starting.
The next few days are going to be extraordinarily important for the future of Mosul. They could mark the end of the formal caliphate in Iraq. But they could also be some of the deadliest days of fighting Mosul has seen.
We need you.
We need you to go further and stay longer for the people of Mosul. It’s not enough to show up once or twice, hand out some food, and leave. We have to keep showing up.
We must help war-torn families rebuild long after the rest of the world loses interest.
The most impactful thing you can do for the people of Mosul is to become a monthly sponsor.
It’s our monthly supporters who help us plan ahead so we are poised and ready to respond at every stage of this unpredictable conflict. So we can serve newly liberated neighborhoods today and for many, many tomorrows—until they have what they need to stand on their own and flourish.
Respond with us. Stay with the families of Mosul throughout this final battle and beyond.
Help families in Mosul today and for many, many tomorrows. Become a monthly sponsor.