With the full liberation of Mosul in sight, Iraqis celebrated on Sunday.
Troops tied white banners and Iraqi flags to lamp posts and damaged buildings including the Hadba minaret, which ISIL jihadists blew up in June along with the adjoining Grand al-Nuri Mosque, as air strikes and mortars rained down nearby.
It was from al-Nuri’s pulpit that the so-called Islamic State group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate three years ago.
Scenes of jubilation are the prelude to a week of nationwide festivities once ISIL’s final fighters in the city are defeated.
When that happens, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to visit Mosul to formally declare victory.
For civilians, it is the light at the end of a tunnel after months of conflict and years of rule by the extremists.
Those who have managed to flee, however, say that thousands of residents remain trapped in the Old City with little food, water and medicine.
That is where the final battle is being played out.
Iraqi forces announced they had recaptured another district on Sunday.
Mosul’s fall would mark the effective end of the Iraqi half of the caliphate which so-called Islamic State declared three years ago in parts of Iraq and Syria. The group still controls territory west and south of Mosul, where tens of thousands of civilians live.