Black smoke was rising from the Qayara oilfelds as the refugees huddled in the shade. They had arrived that morning – from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria -controlled territory a little further west. These were Iraqi Sunni Arabs, who had elected that day to risk an escape from Islamic State territory across the desert – a route ending in certain death if caught by the jihadis. Mosul had the same symbolic significance for the fight against IS in Iraq as Raqqa city did in Syria. The latter was the "capital" of the Caliphate. But Mosul, Iraq's second city was the largest urban prize that the organization had acquired during its lightning advance across the country in 2014. Jbeiri was the commander of Nineveh operations for the Iraqi army and the officer commanding the Mosul operation. Much fighting and dying remained to be done in and around Mosul city.