Iraqis expect grueling fight in next stage of Mosul war
Battle to retake Old City from ISIS likely to go alley to alley, house to house
Iraqi soldiers pushed into the Old City on Sunday in what was likely to be a bitter battle to retake Mosul’s neighborhoods from ISIS fighters.
The Islamic State captured Mosul three years ago, declaring Iraq’s second-largest city the capital of its caliphate.
Iraqi government forces have been pushing ISIS out of Mosul for the past nine months, and the new offensive may end with the Islamic State’s last stand there.
“Iraqi forces early this morning breach into old #Mosul, the final #ISIS-held district in the city. We are proud to stand with them,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, posted on Twitter.
A U.S.-led international coalition provides air and ground support to the campaign. Several airstrikes during the day hit a medical complex just north of the Old City along the western bank of the Tigris River, Reuters TV reported.
Videos and photos taken by journalists accompanying Iraqi units depict a painstaking effort to advance through the densely populated Old City, which has winding streets and narrow alleys.
The United Nations said about 100,000 people are trapped in the area and are at risk from the expected house-to-house fighting necessary to dislodge the militants.
“This will be a terrifying time for around 100,000 people still trapped in Mosul’s Old City ... now at risk of getting caught up in the fierce street fighting to come,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.
Iraqi state television aired live footage showing thick black smoke rising from the Old City as gunfire rattled inside.
Leaflets were distributed urging civilians to leave through five “safe corridors,” Reuters reported.
Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, head of Iraq’s special forces, told state TV he expected the extremists to put up a “vicious and tough fight.” Al-Asadi said the troops “will be very careful” to protect the civilians in the densely populated area, Reuters reported.
“This will be a terrifying time for around 100,000 people still trapped in Mosul’s Old City ... now at risk of getting caught up in the fierce street fighting to come.” International Rescue Committee
Iraqi troops advance on Mosul’s Old City on Sunday in what is expected to be fierce fighting in densely populated neighborhoods.