Units of the US-backed coalition to retake the city have managed to enter suburbs from the east, but fierce counterattacks from militants have slowed progress amid fears civilians will be used as human shields.
Moving footage of Saad – a soldier originally from the northern city who has been unable to see his family since the Isis takeover – was captured by the BBC, in which he gets wind via text messages and phone calls that members of his family may be on a nearby convoy of civilians being taken to safety.
Saad runs from bus to bus calling their names and asking those on board whether they know his family.
When he is finally reunited with his mother he falls on the floor, hugging her and crying. “Don’t cry my son, my darling,” she says, wrapping her arms around him.
“We’re so happy, we’re all around you,” she says, as other members of Saad’s family clamour for hugs and kisses. “I’d die for you.”
The operation to retake the city of approximately 1.5 million people is currently in its fourth week.
Around 45,000 people have already fled the fighting for displacement camps, the International Organisation for Migration says, and up to 700,000 people in total could be in need of humanitarian assistance.
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