In Iraq, elite counterterrorism forces have pushed into the southern edges of Fallujah, an Islamic State stronghold in the volatile western Anbar province.
Their advance stalled by Wednesday amid fierce resistance from Islamic State militants and concerns over protecting tens of thousands of civilians still trapped inside the strategic city.
With the operation to retake Fallujah now in its second week, convoys of special forces could only inch forward on the dusty southern outskirts of the city as a handful of airstrikes sent up plumes of white smoke above clusters of low buildings on the fringes of the city's dense urban terrain.
More than 50,000 people are believed to be still inside Fallujah, and the U.N. estimated that 20,000 of them are children, warning that they face a dire humanitarian situation in addition to the risk of forced recruitment by the extremists.
The few families who have managed to escape had to cross the Euphrates River, a scene eerily similar to the refugees risking their lives at sea.
This gallery was curated by Associated Press Middle East Regional Photo Editor Maya Alleruzzo in Baghdad. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mayaalleruzzo
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