3 February 2017 - 3:00 PM EST
Like many other [cell phone] calls coming from scared residents, it revealed a world beyond the front lines that is rapidly descending into a living hell. Militants have become more brutal, turning trapped families into virtual prisoners. Bombs from both sides rain down while residents run out of food, fuel and water.
Residents say problems inside their homes eclipse even the bombs and aerial bombardments. The prices of food and fuel have climbed, the water is bad and the people are out of money.
Some items, like eggs and sugar, cost as much as 30 times their normal price, if you can find them. Most families are reduced to one meal a day, and many say they have only potatoes and onions to eat, even at hefty costs. Many families now burn their furniture to cook and heat their homes, according to their relatives in areas controlled by the Iraqi armed forces.
And the longer the war goes on, the worse it gets, said Ahmed, 20, a former student in an area of eastern Mosul taken by Iraqi forces about two weeks ago.
"The other side is surrounded on all sides, so there's no way to sneak in anything," he said, after a late-night call with a friend. "The militants are under siege."
The people, however, are bearing the brunt of the pain, he added.
Many have been unemployed since the day IS took over Mosul in 2014, or have been working city service jobs, like teaching or fighting fires, without a salary for 2½ years. Families say people are already dying for lack of food, but whispered phone calls are not enough to create a clear picture of the depth of the crisis.
"A month ago, we could take a boat to the other side to bring help," said Thiaa, a day worker in Mosul. "Instead of coalition planes dropping bombs, why can't they drop food?"