Iraqi Forces Launch Operation to Seize Last Daesh Enclave in Mosul

"In the past several weeks, 160,000 civilians have fled, and our expectation is that, because of this order (from the government), we could be seeing a similar number of civilians flee in coming days", Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told AFP.

Iraqi paramilitary troops fire towards Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the ancient city of Hatra, south of Mosul April 27, 2017.

Civilians trapped behind Islamic State lines face a harrowing situation with little food and water, no electricity and limited access to hospitals.

"The joint forces have begun liberating the remaining districts", an Iraqi military statement said, Reuters reported.

The move came a day after the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets telling residents to flee crowded neighborhoods just north of the Old City, where most of the militant forces are clinging on as Iraqi forces encircle the district.

Even though the Islamic State now only controls roughly five square miles of the city, Iraqi and USA commanders have cautioned that the worst fighting is yet to come.

IS fighters captured Mosul in 2014 as they gained wide swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in battles against government troops.

"Fierce fighting is now taking place in the eastern part of the neighborhood", Hassan added.

Iraqi forces launched a major operation to retake Mosul in October 2016, fighting their way to the city and retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.

The United Nations says in a statement Saturday that "as many as 200,000 additional people may try to leave in coming days" and that both Iraqi forces and IS fighters are obligated under global law to protect civilians.

"Special units are working to evacuate the residents and helping them to get out of areas of clashes", Jawdat said Friday.

Iraqi forces have launched a broad assault on parts of battleground second city Mosul still held by the ISIL Takfiri terrorists, the military announced on Saturday.

The operation has taken longer than planned as Takfiri elements are dug in among civilians and are fighting back with auto bombs, booby traps, mortar fire and snipers.

Global aid group Save the Children expressed concern that the call for civilians to leave could expose them to additional danger.

"This is the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II", Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of US forces in Iraq, said in late March.

More than 580,000 civilians have also been displaced by the fighting, among them 419,000 from western Mosul, the Iraqi authorities say.

  • Leroy Wright