Iraqi forces take key village south of Mosul airport

They claimed to have captured a power distribution station along the way and killed several jihadists, including snipers.

The immediate objective was to take the villages on the southern outskirts of Mosul airport, a police spokesman told The Associated Press.

"The intelligence showed that its sole function was as a military command and control facility for ISIS to oversee its operations against the people of Iraq", the coalition said.

Save the Children urged all parties to protect the estimated 350,000 children now trapped in west Mosul. However, following the seizure of 17 nearby villages by the Iraqi army on Sunday, the IS contingent in Mosul is now surrounded on all sides by government security forces.

Speaking to journalists in the UAE, James Mattis, the USA defense secretary, declined to give details about U.S. battle plans.

"Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh", Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for the group that took over the northern city in June 2014.

It said that civilians trying to escape Mosul are being tortured, detained and executed by Iraqi forces.

Commanders expect the battle to be more hard than it was in the east because tanks and armoured vehicles can not pass through western Mosul's narrow alleyways.

Coalition aircraft have already bombed jihadist positions near the city's IS-held airport, with Iraqi police and government forces expected to try to retake the facility.

"An estimated 350,000 children are trapped in western Mosul, and the impact and other explosive weaponry in those narrow, densely-populated streets is likely to be more deadly and indiscriminate than anything we have seen in the conflict so far", Maurizio Crivallero, Save the Children's Iraq Country Director said in a statement.

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.

"West Mosul had the potential certainly of being more hard, with house-to-house fighting on a larger and more bloody scale", Patrick Skinner, from the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy, told the AFP news agency. 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 USA military personnel deployed in the country.

Recent incidents in the recaptured east point to the difficulty of ensuring IS remnants have not blended in with the civilian population.

Their continued presence prevented both sides from resorting to deadlier weaponry, which may have slowed down the battle but averted greater displacement and destruction. "We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes", Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement. We are trying to reach more than six million people across Iraq who need help.

  • Zachary Reyes