How Mosul’s identity is reconstituted will help determine whether Iraqi leaders can pacify a country dogged by jihadists and sectarian bloodshed for the past decade.
Mosul’s basic infrastruture will cost more than $1 billion to repair after the US-backed Iraqi offensive to retake the city from Islamic State.
The leaning minaret of Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque lies in ruins after three years of Islamic State rule and the oppositions’ battle to reclaim it.
Iraqi forces started their push into the Old City of Mosul, which is the de facto capital of the ISIS ‘caliphate’, engaging militants dug in among civilians.
The collapsed bridge has become a lifeline for civilians who take suitcases to escape east to Zuhur, while those who come back bring supplies.
Although the militants are vastly outnumbered, they have embedded themselves among Mosul residents, hindering Iraqi forces who are trying to avoid civilian casualties.
Iraqi soldiers have retaken a quarter of Mosul, but their advance has been slow and punishing.
ISIS, which is putting up fierce resistance to a US-backed offensive to retake Mosul, the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, has been accused of massacre, enslavement and rape since it swept across large swathes of the country’s north and west in 2014.
Many residents fled to the safety of camps outside the city as it was being “liberated”, but a growing number of civilians are being dragged back into violence.
The jihadists at the Mar Behnam monastery burned a collection of books about Christian theology, scraped off inscriptions written in Syriac and demolished sculptures of the Virgin Mary and the monastery’s patron saint.
Soldiers make tough calls about whether to risk their own lives by giving residents the benefit of the doubt or to shoot potentially innocent civilians.
Three millennia old heritage has been reduced to a pile of dirt in the last two months before ISIS was driven out of the site by Iraqi forces on Sunday.
Births in ISIS-controlled areas were registered with authorities that are not considered valid outside that shrinking territory – or not registered at all.
No humanitarian assistance has reached Baybukh in the past week and the people there have been barred from moving further from the combat zone.
ISIS announced Shishani’s death in a new report on July 13, but some US officials and human rights leaders deny the group’s claim.
The operation has led to thousands of civilians seeking shelter in government camps and at least 1,800 ISIS militant deaths.
The prediction of such a vast humanitarian emergency creates additional complications for the Iraqi government and its US allies.
Thousands of displaced citizens have had to delay their return because of explosives planted in the streets and buildings of Ramadi.