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Iraqi forces launch operation to seize last Islamic State enclave in Mosul

10 Juin 2017

Clashes have intensified between the US-backed Iraqi forces and ISIS militants in the vicinity of the old city of Mosul over the past few days.

Security forces have launched a large-scale military operation to take the remaining neighborhoods under IS control in western Mosul, the country's Joint Operation Command said.

Mosul's eastern half was declared liberated in January and the push for the city's west began the following month.

"The joint forces have began liberating the remaining districts", an Iraqi military statement said.

Civilians too have been caught in the crossfire, leaving hundreds of thousands displaced and thousands dead.

Iraqi forces, backed by worldwide coalition, have been fighting to drive out IS militant from the western side of Mosul, but several neighborhoods, including the densely-populated old city center, are still under control of the extremist militant.

The slow military approach may be helping Iraqi and coalition forces kill and capture more IS fighters but it has put trapped civilians at greater risk, according to residents who recently fled neighborhoods still in IS hands. Iraq's military has described them as "cautious" and the coalition has warned that the most hard battles in the Mosul operation could be ahead.

The officers, who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, say IS militants have deployed snipers, suicide vehicle bombers and suicide attackers on foot.

The statement did not specify if an attack was being carried out on the Old City itself.

The troops captured Ibn Sina hospital, part of the sprawling medical complex in the Shafaa neighbourhood, the officers added.

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Even though the Islamic State now controls only roughly 5 square miles of the city, Iraqi and U.S. commanders have cautioned that the worst fighting has yet to come.

Smugglers who deliver food into the district told her that months of Iraqi artillery and airstrikes have killed hundreds, she said. 'International laws are not ambiguous.

The Iraqi air force dropped leaflets yesterday urging residents in the enclave to flee, although humanitarian groups fear for the safety of civilians trying to escape.

On Thursday, the U.S. admitted that at least 105 Iraqi civilians were killed in an air strike it carried out in Mosul in March. "The protection of civilian lives is a legal and moral duty that stands above all other objectives", underscored the United Nations aid chief.

The recapture of Mosul will not, however, mark the end of the war against IS: the jihadists hold other territory in three Iraqi provinces and are also able to carry out frequent attacks in government-controlled areas.

Several factors make the remaining battle hard, including difficult terrain, and the large number of civilians.

"Almost all children in this ward are from the embattled city of Mosul". The US-led coalition described the battle for Mosul as "some of the toughest urban fighting in decades".

The fighting is focussed on three western neighbourhoods.

"Our forces are capable of winning the fight of the Old City and regaining the al-Nouri Mosque, and ISIS are losing control of the vital area close by al-Hadba minaret (adjacent to al-Nouri Mosque)".

Iraqi forces launch operation to seize last Islamic State enclave in Mosul