Iraqi troops surround militants in Mosul's Old City
US-backed Iraqi forces were moving to surround Mosul's Old City yesterday, a week after launching a fresh push to drive Isil militants from areas they still hold, according to an Iraqi officer overseeing the operation.
Iraqi special forces Lt Gen Sami al-Arathi said battle plans had changed and a northern advance was launched last week after Iraqi forces struggled to push into the Old City from the south. As Iraqi army and federal police forces push from the north, the country's special forces are moving toward the Old City through Mosul's western industrial neighbourhoods.
"The multi-axis advance... has presented the enemy with more dilemmas than they can react to," US-led coalition spokesman John Dorrian told reporters during a press conference. Mr Dorrian said over the past week Iraqi forces retook more than 30 sq km of terrain from Isil.
Hundreds of civilians could be seen fleeing the fighting yesterday.
A Mosul woman was given a cigarette by an Iraqi soldier, another was handed a cane. A handful of wounded civilians were evacuated from the front line, and a woman who appeared to have lost both her legs was rushed away on the bonnet of an armoured vehicle.
The operation to retake Mosul began in October, and the eastern half of the city was retaken earlier this year. The UN estimated some 350,000 people remain trapped in Isil-held parts of western Mosul. Clashes over the past week have forced more than 11,000 civilians to flee. Mr Dorrian said while Isil defences in Mosul are "degraded" each day, it is still impossible to predict how much longer the operation will take.