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Path to safety from besieged Mosul leads through hole in wall

An Iraqi soldier from the 9th Armoured Division gives drops of water to a dehydrated child rescued earlier by soldiers at the frontline, during the ongoing fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants near the Old City in western Mosul, Iraq, June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro


(Reuters) We arrived at the frontline with the 9th Iraqi army division and went up on a rooftop to take pictures of the Grand al-Nuri mosque and its landmark minaret, still in the hands of Islamic State in western Mosul.

That’s when we spotted civilians fleeing the tightening noose around the Islamic State militants by scrambling through a hole in a wall of a school across the road.

The day was blazing hot, with temperatures reaching 40 Celsius and no breeze, and the people emerging from western Mosul into the relative safety of government-held territory were suffering from heat exhaustion.

Hamuda, my TV colleague, Tim, our security adviser, and myself hurried across a wide street pocked with shell holes to the gap in the wall through which the displaced people were streaming.

With mortar shells exploding all around, an Iraqi soldier passed one small boy of probably no more than seven through the hole unconscious, his head lolling back, his gaunt-looking body unnaturally hot.

Tim, our security adviser, received him and, fearing the boy was suffering from dangerous heat stroke, carried him across the broken ground to find shade.

The boy came round and started crying, and soldiers came to pour water on his head, chest and feet to cool him down.

He gulped at the sips they gave him to drink as they found him a blue-colored rug to lie on.

An infant in similar condition was then handed through the hole in the wall and placed beside the boy on the rug.

Soon afterwards, the mother of the boy made it through the hole.

I kept shooting pictures of fleeing civilians, many scared of being shot by Islamic State like others before them. About 100 emerged through the hole while we were there.

We don’t know what eventually happened to the infant.


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