A medic peeled blood-soaked bandages from the arm of a boy in the emergency room of a hospital in northern Iraq, revealing the full extent of the damage inflicted by an Islamic State mortar attack.
“Is something wrong with my hand?” the boy asked his father, who stood over the stretcher covering his son’s eyes to prevent him seeing the wound.
“It’s nothing, just a small wound,” replied the father, Abu Nidal, as the medic inspected the mangled remains of the boy’s hand, maimed beyond repair.
Around them were dozens of other civilians who have been wounded in areas of Mosul since they were retaken from Islamic State by Iraqi forces trying to dislodge the militants from their largest urban stronghold in Iraq.
The civilians say are not accidental victims caught in the crossfire and that Islamic State has been targeting them.
“In any area liberated by the army, Daesh (Islamic State)considers us apostates, so it is permissible to kill us,” said the boy’s father, who asked not to be identified.
His son had insisted on accompanying him to buy flour at a market in the Zahra neighbourhood of Mosul when a mortar bomb hit them, nearly three weeks after Iraqi forces entered the district.
As Iraqi forces edge forward in Mosul’s eastern districts, taking pains to avoid harming civilians, Islamic State mortar and sniper fire is hitting the people it ruled harshly for more than two years.
With more than 100,000 men backed by an international coalition arrayed against an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 insurgents inside the city, there is little doubt Iraqi forces will eventually prevail. The question is at what cost.