Reporter's notebook: Fighting fierce amid push into Mosul

It s being called the heaviest fighting since the clash with ISIS in and around Mosul began nearly three weeks ago.  Even the small taste of it that we got today showed how dangerous it is.  

Held up by Iraqi military a few miles away from the Mosul city limits, we watched as ambulance after ambulance rushed the wounded from the battlefield. We heard artillery blasts, watched helicopters overhead and saw a pall of black smoke build over the city hit by terrorist car bombs, rockets and small arms fire.

Iraqi Special Force soldier Mohammed recounted how bullets struck hthe window of his Humvee.

Iraqi Special Force soldier Mohammed recounted how bullets struck hthe window of his Humvee. (Fox News)

“It is a rough fight,” Gen. Sabah Noman, spokesman for the Iraqi Special Forces, the lead unit in the fight, told me. “ It is tough because it is in the streets…because we are in the neighborhoods.”

In fact, Gen. Noman claimed his troops had already secured a quarter of the eastern side of Mosul. That would be a great feat, considering they only crossed into the city Tuesday night.

We also saw a growing presence of American soldiers near this deadly fight. In just two days, we observed six different vehicles with U.S. troops on board, including heavily armored MRAP’s.  Reuters reported the U.S. had opened a base near the Iraqi town of Bartella.

Cars line up at a checkpoint as Iraqis flee Mosul.

Cars line up at a checkpoint as Iraqis flee Mosul. (Fox News)

In an email response to Fox News, U.S. Army Maj. Mike Burns told us they “…don’t discuss locations or dispositions of coalition units.” He went on to say, however, they position themselves “on the battlefield in the best position to support our partner forces.”

A 34-year-old Iraqi Special Force soldier named Mohammed showed me how he knows ISIS is out there and how he stays safe. He pointed out two massive bullet “hits” against the side window of his battered, but armored ex-U.S. Humvee.

He said he was targeted by an ISIS sniper two days ago.

The Iraqi army is going into the heart of the city in heavily armed vehicles.

The Iraqi army is going into the heart of the city in heavily armed vehicles. (Fox News)

The glass repelled the bullets and, as Mohammed noted with a smile, “I made it through.”

It remains to be seen how his colleagues do.