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Engulfed in Battle, Mosul Civilians Run for Their Lives

The photojournalist Ivor Prickett spent three weeks documenting the battlefront and humanitarian crisis in west Mosul.

The war to drive the Islamic State from its last strongholds in western Mosul has come to this: With every advance by Iraqi forces, every missile rained down by coalition aircraft, a flood of Iraqi civilians hits the streets.

It is no longer a question of waiting between salvos — there are few, if any, breaks that make it obvious when to run, so the people of Mosul are simply running whenever they can.

As we traveled with Iraqi special forces deep in western Mosul last week, in the mostly residential Mosul Jidideh neighborhood, we saw desperate families start out right at daybreak. Families carried their young children and propped up their aging relatives, and they all moved as quickly as they could along streets where the sounds of battle were all too close: a cacophony of gunfire, the dull thud of mortar rounds, the deafening roar of Islamic State car bombs and American airstrikes.

Nearly everyone frantically asked which way was safe for them to flee. One route forced people to file past a destroyed building on the corner of the square where fighters with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had been targeted the night before. One of the militants lay visible in the rubble near the crowd of silent refugees, his crumpled body almost camouflaged among the stone and twisted metal.

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