Iraqi special forces say they have entered more urban neighbourhoods of Mosul from its easternmost district in its latest push to drive Islamic State fighters from the city.
Lt Col Muhanad al-Timimi said the advance began with artillery and mortar strikes on the Aden, Tahrir, and Quds area, just west of special forces footholds in the Gogjali and Karama neighborhoods.
IS is fighting to hold Iraq’s second city as Iraqi forces and allied Kurdish troops advance with US-led coalition support.
On Tuesday, Iraqi troops entered the city limits for the first time in more than two years, gearing up for urban warfare expected to take weeks, if not months.
More than one million civilians are stuck in the city, complicating the military’s efforts to advance without harming innocents.
IS militants have driven thousands of them deeper into the city’s built-up areas, presumably for use as human shields, while hundreds others have fled in the past days toward government-controlled territory despite the uncertainty of resettlement in displacement camps.
Mosul is the last major IS stronghold in Iraq and driving the militant group from the city would be a major blow to the survival of its self-declared “caliphate” that stretches into Syria.
IS seized Mosul and other territory in 2014, routing the much larger Iraqi military which had been neglected and demoralised by corruption.
IS militants defending the city hit an Abrams tank with a rocket, disabling the vehicle and sending the crew fleeing, but seemingly unharmed.
As smoke rose over the city, an IS bulldozer and another car were seen on the move across the battlefield – presumably packed with explosives and preparing for suicide attacks.