Iraq forces announce gains in west Mosul

AFP , Friday 2 Jun 2017

Iraqi soldiers stand at attention in western Mosul's Zanjili neighbourhood on June 1, 2017 during ongoing battles between Iraqi forces to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters (Photo: AFP)

Iraqi forces have recaptured around half of two neighbourhoods in west Mosul that are among the targets of a broad offensive against Islamist militants launched last week, officers said on Friday.

Iraqi security forces are more than seven months into a massive operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which overran the city and swathes of other territory nearly three years ago.

Now, IS's grip on Mosul has been reduced to the Old City and several nearby areas, but IS is still putting up significant resistance and up to 200,000 civilians may be caught in the fighting.

"Our units are now present in Al-Saha neighbourhood and completed (recapturing) 60 percent of it and are still advancing," Staff Brigadier General Haidar al-Obeidi, a commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP.

And Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, said in a statement that his forces "continue to advance cautiously, and have imposed their control over 40 percent of Al-Zinjili neighbourhood."

Those are two of the three neighbourhoods that are the target of the current assault by Iraqi forces, with the third being the nearby Al-Shifaa area.

All three are located north of the Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely-spaced buildings that has posed a major challenge for security forces.

The United Nations said earlier this week that up to 200,000 civilians were estimated to still be trapped in IS-held areas, most of them in the Old City.

"Because of the tightness of the area and the presence of a number of residents and fear of injuries and damage... to civilians and buildings, we have avoided entering at the present time," Obeidi said of the Old City.

Instead, security forces have blocked it off from three sides while the Tigris River does the same on the fourth -- keeping IS bottled up inside but also exposing civilians to shortages of food, water and medicine. 

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