In Eastern Mosul, Liberated From ISIS, Battle Rages ‘Day and Night’FEB. 14, 2017
New York Times journalists are in the city of Mosul to report on the battle there against the Islamic State.
MOSUL, Iraq — Any sense of normalcy on Saturday afternoon was shredded, again, when Iraqi soldiers began opening fire, their rifle barrels aimed at a white object in the bright blue sky.
“Tayara musaira!” someone shouted — a drone! Residents of eastern Mosul sprinted home, terrified by the latest attack by the Islamic State, and demoralized by the certainty that more would be coming.
Three weeks after Iraq declared the eastern half of this city liberated from the group, parts of the east bank of the Tigris River remain under siege. Residents say they are repeatedly targeted by Islamic State snipers, mortars and grenade-dropping drones that buzz overhead several times a day.
For the tattered Rashidiya neighborhood here, the recent battle never ended. It just shifted course along the river. Rashidiya was the last district in eastern Mosul declared liberated in late January, but army officers say Islamic State sleeper cells remain entrenched.
And those are not the only troubles here. Even as American-backed Iraqi forces prepare an offensive against the Islamic State stronghold in western Mosul, people in Rashidiya are scratching out a primitive existence, deprived of electricity, running water and other essential city services.
Their ordeal stands as a stark reminder that even though major inroads have been made toward ending Islamic State rule in this city, a complete victory for the Iraqi government is still a ways off. Security, services, public support — none of these are sure yet, even in eastern Mosul.
“Everyone’s afraid — there’s fighting day and night. And when the drones come, everyone disappears,” Yassir Hashim, 20, a butcher, said shortly after the hovering drone scattered customers he had hoped would buy beef from a cow he had just butchered.
Rashidiya is menaced on another front, as well. Around the nearby district of Quabba, on the east bank, Islamic State fighters remain entrenched in a stubborn pocket of resistance just outside the city limits. They battle Iraqi security forces dug in at Quabba’s outskirts.
With bridges over the Tigris destroyed by coalition aircraft to cut Islamic State supply lines, the fighters use small boats to ferry men and supplies from western Mosul, residents said.
“There’s fighting in Quabba constantly — it’s the front line,” said Capt. Ibrahim Sabah, an Iraqi Army officer who commands a checkpoint he said was 600 yards from the Tigris and about two miles from Quabba’s edge.