Iraqi forces have been trying to oust Isis since October but they must fight among, protect and win over the many thousands of civilians in the city, finds Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in a report made in collaboration with PBSs Frontline
Rasoul, a 26-year-old radio operator, stood in a narrow street in east Mosul a mile from the frontline, peering into the early morning light as the armoured truck packed with explosives crawled towards him.
The other troops around him fired a volley of bullets that ricocheted harmlessly off its thick steel-plated armour before they ran away. But Rasoul, still wrapped in his night-time wool sleeping cloak, stood his ground shouting warnings to anyone who could hear. He darted and hid in a side street when it was just metres away.
The counter-terrorism forces Mosul brigade had made its temporary headquarters in the small residential street just a few days earlier. As the truck bomb exploded it felt as if the ground was lifted into the air and dropped back down again. The force of the blast flattened two houses, damaged several more and incinerated four of the units vehicles.
Across the street from where Rasoul had stood, two officers had been asleep in the back room of a two-storey house as the family who normally lived there rested elsewhere. Suffocating smoke and dust filled the air, the house had largely collapsed, only the back room had weathered the explosion. One of the officers moaned while the other made long wails that mixed his pain with the word Allah.