Half a dozen units of Islamic State group fighters holed up in western Mosul began their morning radio checks at just after 4 a.m. It was still dark and Iraqi forces deployed a few blocks away were listening in as they prepared an advance on the city’s al-Rifai neighborhood.
“Thirty, what’s new? ... 120, do you read me? What’s up?” the IS radio operator said, using Iraqi slag.
About 40 minutes later the first U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit as Iraqi forces pushed across a main road and began clearing the neighborhood’s narrow streets.