Iraqi troops ad­vance in Mo­sul against Is­lamic State

New south­east push af­ter long stand­off


MO­SUL, IRAQ | Af­ter weeks of un­chang­ing front lines, the Iraqi army rolled Tues­day into a south­east­ern Mo­sul neigh­bor­hood held by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, tak­ing a hospi­tal be­fore meet­ing stiff re­sis­tance, the mil­i­tary said.

The push be­gan just af­ter 6 a.m. with a bar­rage of airstrikes that kicked up dark clouds of smoke in the mod­est al-Salam res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood. The bom­bard­ment by Iraqi air sup­port and the U.S.-led coali­tion ap­peared heav­ier than pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tions in the area.

Coali­tion forces pro­vid­ing lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port could be seen about 2.5 miles from the front.

Iraqi troops also re­ported fewer car bombs than in pre­vi­ous as­saults. Af­ter one such at­tack, at least two mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles could be seen car­ry­ing wounded from the front. By evening, Iraqi forces had only se­cured a few hun­dred yards and clashes con­tin­ued.

Thick plumes of smoke bil­lowed from the hospi­tal af­ter the commander of a joint op­er­a­tions cen­ter that over­sees the Mo­sul cam­paign, Lt. Gen. Ab­dul-Amir Yarel­lah, pro­nounced the site re­taken by the army’s 9th Division.

“The hospi­tal was an [Is­lamic State] base,” said Lt. Ahmed Abu Fadl. “They were treat­ing their wounded there,” he added, ex­plain­ing that he hoped re­tak­ing the build­ing would hurt their abil­ity to launch coun­ter­at­tacks.

Units from the 9th Division slowly moved across the main road mark­ing the front line in heav­ily ar­mored per­son­nel car­ri­ers. As the con­voy rolled through nar­row streets on Mo­sul’s edge, chil­dren waved and shouted from the tops of gar­den walls.

As the soldiers pushed deeper into the city, how­ever, only a hand­ful of fam­i­lies peered out at them from gar­den gates.

In a neigh­bor­hood that was de­clared lib­er­ated weeks ago, sniper rounds sent ad­vanc­ing troops duck­ing for cover.

From the rooftop of Fathii Muham­mad Yousef’s two-story house, he pointed to a minaret where an Is­lamic State sniper was fir­ing.

“Start­ing be­fore dawn, we heard more than 20 airstrikes,” said Mr. Yousef, who took cover with his family of 10 in their home just a block from the front.

For the past month, Iraqi forces have clashed with Is­lamic State fight­ers on the streets out­side his home. Mor­tars and tank rounds have scarred its walls and bro­ken its win­dows. Four of his neigh­bors have been wounded by gun­fire and shrap­nel, he said.

Mr. Yousef hopes Iraqi forces will push past his neigh­bor­hood so his family will be able to have ac­cess to food and clean wa­ter. In the past week, he ran out of wa­ter and is now run­ning low on food.

“All we have now is well wa­ter. It’s not clean enough to drink, but what else can we do?” he said, adding that the wa­ter is mak­ing some of his chil­dren sick.

The cam­paign to re­take Mo­sul be­gan Oct. 17. Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city, it is the last ma­jor Is­lamic State ur­ban bas­tion in the coun­try.

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