By Mark Ellis —
In the ferocious battle to re-take the second-largest city in Iraq from the clutches of ISIS, snipers were indiscriminately mowing down civilians trying to escape their suffocating embrace.
The battle to free Mosul featured Iraqi, Kurdish, American and French forces. It also included some unlikely volunteers like the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), headed by American missionary David Eubank.
Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer, began helping oppressed ethnic minorities in Burma. But in 2015, FBR’s focus shifted to northern Iraq.
On June 2, 2017, Eubank spotted a group of civilians in Mosul pinned down behind a concrete wall. They had attempted to escape from ISIS, but didn’t get very far.
Eubank led the daring rescue effort to free them, which was captured on video by film-maker Bernard Genier working with Jonathan Miller, Asia correspondent for the U.K.’s Channel 4 news. (The photos attached to this story are screengrabs from the video)
On Eubank’s team, he happened to have two brothers from Milwaukee, Zeb and Ephraim. Ephraim is a former U.S. Navy Seal who had experienced firefights in Afghanistan and Iraq, but nothing quite like this day.
“At the end of the road was a hospital controlled by ISIS,” Zeb notes, “and they were (in there) shooting at anything and everything that moved.”
“Civilians trapped on the ISIS side were trying to escape over to the Iraqi army side where it was safe. Men, women, and children and the elderly in wheel chairs were all trying to escape. ISIS would shoot them in the back. There were corpses of dead men and women, little children shot in the back of the head, as they tried to flee ISIS.”
When the FBR team slowly approached the civilians, they discovered a small head moving next to a larger figure on the ground. “A little girl had been trapped in the street for several days,” Zeb recounts. “Her mother had been shot in the back.”
The little girl was in hiding, protecting herself underneath her mother’s hijab. Sadly, the mother had been pregnant when she passed away – only one week away from delivery. “She had died two or three days previously,” Zeb says.
There were others alive — some wounded.
As Ephraim and another American volunteer provided cover, Dave Eubank ran in to rescue the little girl. Then Ephraim and the other American went in to rescue the others.
As they turned to leave, Ephraim was shot in the calf, fell down behind their tank, but got up and limped forward. He knew if he didn’t get up and move, the tank would crush him and other members of their team could be shot.
“Ephraim has the heart of a warrior. He went to Irbil to the hospital and he has fully recovered,” brother Zeb says.
Due to the trauma she endured, the rescued girl did not speak for several days, then it was learned her name is Damaeah, which in Arabic means ‘tear’.
She received medical treatment and has been under the care and protection of All Things Possible Ministries (ATP).
Interestingly, her companionship with a dog helped her recovery. “The most effective healing tool thus far for processing this trauma has been her growing relationship with our trained K9, Scout.,” says Victor Marx, with ATP. “We are so humbled by how much this amazing animal has served this girl’s healing process and grateful to BadenK9.com for providing us with our amazing furry companion.”
“God has this little girl’s destiny safely in his hands, as stated in Psalms:
Psalms 56:8 (NLT):
You keep track of all my sorrows,
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
“The Father captures every tear. Damaeah has a long road ahead of her and a lot of healing in store, but she is sacredly loved and cared for by God.
“We have found her family, her mother’s sister, and we are in the process of investigating proper housing, DNA testing, and addressing additional safety measures. Once we have everything in place, she will be able to reunite with her family and continue the healing process with her loved ones there to assist her, in a way only family can,” Marx says.
In his role as an ambulance driver in Mosul, Zeb came under fire several times as he transported civilians to the hospital or to a processing location set up by the authorities.
One day he was transporting more than 10 women and children in the back of his ambulance. “The Iraqi Army told me to stop,” Zeb recalls. “They said there was a sniper shooting at anything going down this road,” he says.
Zeb knew he had a decision to make, with several lives under his care. He began to pray: “Tell me Lord when is it a good time to go? I have to get these people to safety.”
Suddenly, he felt the Lord say, Go now.
“It was just after an Iraqi armored Humvee came screeching around the corner and you could see the bullets fly off that vehicle.”
He put the ambulance in gear, gunned the engine, and went as fast as he could. At the end of the road there was a metal fence, and Zeb saw sparks coming off from bullets missing his ambulance and hitting the metal gate.
“I pulled around the corner just in time. We were not hit. As soon as I stopped I took a breath. Everybody started cheering and thanking God they were protected. I prayed a blessing over them and released them to the processing center.”
On another morning Zeb was in a convoy led by Abram tanks in front, armored Humvees and the ambulances taking up the rear. He drove the last vehicle in the convoy.
“We came into a section of the city liberated from ISIS only two days before,” he says. “As we awaited the call to advance further, everyone was parked behind buildings, but my vehicle was parked in the road,” exposed to sniper fire.
While there was no electricity in that section of Mosul at the time, there was cell phone service. He decided to place a call to his mother in Wisconsin.
Shortly after he said hello to his mother he heard a thump and his vehicle rocked to the side.
“Sniper!” someone yelled. Then the ambulance was hit a second time.
“The sun was rising and you couldn’t see where the person was shooting from. They were up a hill a ways.”
Zeb slammed his door shut as another round slammed into the vehicle. He put the vehicle in reverse and moved behind some buildings.
During the entire attack he was still on the phone with his mother!
“I thought if this is my last moment, I want to be able to say my last words to my mom. By God’s grace He protected me,” Zeb recounts, with some emotion.
“I don’t know how he didn’t hit us. One bullet hit the front blinker. The second hit above the tire. The third bullet was dead center in the middle of my car. If my door had not been armored, my leg would have been hit or blown off.
“The engine and tires were fine. There was only cosmetic damage to the vehicle. We had been sitting there. The sniper had perfect visibility. The sun was shining behind him, directly on us. He had plenty of time to train his sights on us. They were trained to shoot sniper rifles.
“I said, ‘Thank you Lord for protecting us.’”
For more about the Free Burma Rangers, go here
Zeb and Ephraim started a media company called Fireside Journal, telling stories, sharing videos about people they encounter. In November they travel to Calcutta, India, to shoot a pilot video for their project. For more go here