Iraqi forces make territorial gains against Daesh around Mosul

Iraqi security forces advance towards western Mosul on Sunday.

Backed by aerial support from a US-led worldwide coalition, Iraqi police and regular army troops launched an offensive on Sunday to retake western Mosul from so-called Islamic State following a 100-day campaign that pushed the militants from the eastern half of the city.

"Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Dr. Haider Al-Abadi announced the start operations to liberate the western part of Mosul", the Media Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister said on Twitter, Sputnik reported.

The offensive to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul, its last major city stronghold in Iraq, started in October.

Ground units pushed into a belt of villages outside the country's second-largest city, and plumes of smoke rose into the sky early in the morning as US -led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul and militarized Iraqi police fired artillery.

According to the United Nations nearly half the casualties in Mosul were civilians.

Popular Mobilisation paramilitary forces also contributed to the advance on Mosul and to the tally of 15 recaptured villages for the day, according to a statement by top army commander Abdulamir Yarallah.

The Iraqi military, backed by the USA and other Western allies, have effectively surrounded the city.

And few parts of Iraq have suffered as much as the city of Mosul under ISIS's wrath.

ISIS jihadists overran Mosul and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014, easily overcoming ill-prepared Iraqi security forces.

But Isis have an advantage in the districts of western Mosul, where streets and alleys are too narrow for the Iraqi army to take tanks and humvees and booby traps - a key tactic of the jihadi group in other battles - are easier to hide.

An estimated 650,000 to 800,000 civilians are mixed with the insurgents in western Mosul.

"This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay - or execution and snipers if they try to run", said Maurizio Crivallero, the charity's Iraq director. Iraq's parliament called for a ban on Americans entering Iraq, a step that, if implemented, would have created chaos for the more than 5,000 US military personnel deployed in the country.

The operation began with hundreds of leaflets being dropped on the IS-held section of the city calling for Iraqi fighters to surrender.

  • Joanne Flowers