Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul as civilians flee
00:43, Feb 28, 2017
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The residents of eastern Mosul are, ironically, getting a brief respite from the drone attacks because IS militants have diverted their attention to the new front line to the south and west of the city.
USA -led airstrikes disabled all of Mosul's bridges spanning the Tigris River previous year in a bid to isolate the militants in the western half of the city.
It resulted in the Iraqi forces liberating the city's eastern part, but its western districts remain under the terrorists' control.
US -backed Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul on Sunday, aiming to capture a bridge across the Tigris which would link the city's government-held eastern bank with the ongoing offensive against remaining militants in the west.
Tehran's Shiite militias could push to replace US forces in the fight for Mosul; or more likely, Iran's clients could demand that all American forces leave Iraq immediately after the battle.
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This weekend as many as 2,500 residents of Mosul escaped from the western half of a city that has been under the yoke of so-called Islamic State (IS) for nearly three years. Intelligence officials at the site said after documents were checked families would either be moved into nearby abandoned houses or newly erected camps for the displaced.
The jihadists also lost Al-Bab, their last bastion in Syria's northern Aleppo province but struck back on Friday with a deadly suicide bombing just north of the town, in Susian, killing 51 people.
"That's dense urban terrain, more dense than what we saw in east Mosul in a place where they are well-dug in", the captain said.
One U.S. military official in Iraq said that fighting over the weekend has been "rough", and on Saturday alone, four Iraqi soldiers were killed and 53 others wounded.
All of them were damaged in strikes by the USA -led air coalition, and later by Islamic State fighters trying to seal off the western bank still under their control.
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Police including rapid response forces have liberated the Hawi al-Jawsaq area, an open agricultural expanse, and are now advancing into al-Jawsaq neighborhood, which sits next to the Tigris River. Iraq has thrown several elite units into the fight for Mosul, including the 9th Army division and all 14 battalions of USA -trained counterterrorism troops, but they need plenty of logistical support.
"This will be a terrifying moment for the 750,000 people still in the west of the city, and there is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come", said Jason Kajer, the Iraq acting country director for the humanitarian group.
The United Nations says up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive as food and fuel runs out in western Mosul.
Rasool said that the interior ministry's Rapid Response force had now fully retaken two neighbourhoods on the west bank, while forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service have retaken another further west.
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