Fight for Mosul: One month on
Updated 4:41 AM ET, Sat November 19, 2016
(CNN)Suicide bombs and street-to-street fighting, human shields and a humanitarian crisis. The battle to recapture Mosul from ISIS has been raging for a month. So where do things stand?
Are Iraqi-led forces close to victory, or are the militants digging in for a lengthy and dogged war of attrition?
Mosul is ISIS's last major stronghold in Iraq -- and the terror group has shown that it is willing to go to almost any lengths to keep hold of it, using everything from suicide bombs to booby-trapped toys in its desperate fight.
ISIS has had months to prepare for the offensive -- building tunnels, constructing explosives, rigging abandoned houses to detonate and plotting counterattacks; reinforcements were reportedly brought in from Raqqa in Syria to help defend the city.
The conflict is "not a conventional war," according to Iraq's former foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.
And even as areas are swept clean of ISIS fighters, the battle is not over: It will take months to clear the terrorists' former territory of IEDs.
"They put them on the road, in the houses. We liberate a village and they are everywhere -- people come back to their homes, open a door or even a refrigerator and it blows up," says Brig. Gen. Bajat Mzuri of Zeravani Special Forces.
Things are even more complicated in the city itself, where ambushes are common. A CNN team was trapped inside Mosul for more than 24 hours when an Iraqi convoy was attacked and surrounded, leaving them unable to retreat.
An estimated 100,000 troops, including Iraqi soldiers, Peshmerga fighters, Sunni tribal paramilitaries and Christian and Turkmen militias are involved in the offensive, though not all are on the front line. Hundreds of airstrikes have been carried out by the US and others in support of the coalition.
Iraqi-led forces entered Mosul on November 3, after more than two weeks fighting their way across the plains to the east of the city, through nearby towns and suburbs.
They have liberated the ancient Assyrian village of Nimrud -- where historic artifacts were largely destroyed by ISIS militants last year.
And in recent days, the Hashd al Shaabi paramilitary forces have recaptured a key airbase near Tal Afar, 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Mosul.
But it has not all been good news.
Inside Mosul, the coalition is meeting fierce resistance, and an ISIS counterattack on the Mosul suburb of al Zahraa, a week after it was recaptured, left at least two dead.
An audio message, purportedly from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been credited with emboldening the group's fighters, and inspiring them to keep up their resistance.