Iraqi forces have launched a broad assault on parts of Mosul, closing in on the remaining pockets of territory held by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq’s second city.
Saturday’s offensive to retake three ISI-held neighbourhoods north of Mosul’s Old City is the latest push in the more than seven-month battle to drive ISIS out of Mosul – the group’s stronghold in Iraq.
“Army forces attacked Al-Shifaa neighbourhood and the Republican Hospital, federal police forces Al-Zinjili neighbourhood, and Counter-Terrorism forces attacked Al-Saha al-Oula neighbourhood,” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement, speaking about the locations on the west bank of the River Tigris.
The neighbourhoods have narrow streets and closely spaced buildings that poses significant challenge to Iraqi forces seeking to oust ISIS.
The United Nations on Saturday expressed “deep concern” for the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped behind ISIS lines.
“Although the UN is not present in the areas where fighting is occurring, we have received very disturbing reports of families being shut inside booby-trapped homes and of children being deliberately targeted by snipers,” said Stephen O’Brien, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.
Last week, the UN said that up to 200,000 more people could flee Mosul as fighting moves to the Old City.
About 700,000 people, about a third of the pre-war city’s population, have already fled, seeking refuge either with friends and relatives or in camps.
ISIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost to the group.
Iraqi forces launched a major operation to retake Mosul in October last year, fighting their way to the city and retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.
The battle has taken a heavy toll on civilians, pushing hundreds of thousands to flee, while hundreds more have been killed or wounded.
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