The operation to retake Mosul has now reached the city itself. Special forces and other Iraqi army units breached its eastern outskirts just under a week ago, and have now pushed into a number of districts.
Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have been putting up stiff resistance, forcing Iraqi troops into grinding urban warfare and making devastating use of suicide car bombs, improvised explosive devices and snipers.
Meanwhile, thousands of civilians have made their way out of the city towards newly built camps for the internally displaced to the east. Some travelled in cars or lorries, while others made their way on foot, some herding their livestock before them.
ISIL fighters have controlled Mosul since June 2014. Despite being displaced, many civilians were overjoyed to have escaped the group’s ruthless rule. Women lifted their niqabs to feel sun on their faces for the first time in more than two years, while men shaved off their beards and enjoyed a cigarette without fear of arrest.