Mosul – A person walking in the liberated streets of western Mosul does not miss the smell of fire and death.
The first smell emanates from the ruins of a shooting between Iraqi forces and ISIS militants in the Old City.
The second smell comes from the bodies of Iraqi and foreign militants that fill the narrow streets next to the still wet spots of blood covering the roads and walls of western Mosul.
During several visits made to the frontlines of the newly liberated areas of western Mosul, Asharq Al-Awsat saw firsthand the suffering of scared and hungry residents after ISIS militants confiscated their food and had used them as human shields.
In the Dawassah neighborhood, which includes the government complex, a man told soldiers as tears filled his eyes: “Thank God, you saved us from ISIS… For days, we have been living on dry bread and water. My kids will die from famine.”
Similar scenes could be found in the majority of liberated areas: one sees destroyed or booby-trapped buildings filled with explosive devices and can still hear the sound of sporadic shooting and car bomb explosions sent by ISIS to halt the advance of Iraqi forces.
In the opposite direction, long queues of dozens of families cross the frontlines, their only alternative to escape the war and ISIS. But the majority of routes used by civilians are filled with explosive devices that have been planted by ISIS before it left the area.
When they reach the areas controlled by Iraqi forces, civilians receive aid while vehicles carry them to safe refugee camps in the Hamam al-Alil.
The liberated areas however will now face an immense challenge to rebuild what was destroyed by the war. ISIS damaged the majority of Mosul’s buildings and infrastructure, leaving ruins in almost every one of its neighborhoods.
Still, the biggest damage touches the residents of the Iraqi city, now rapped with fear, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion.