Iraqi army units launched fresh attacks towards the centre of Mosul yesterday in an offensive from the cityâ€™s southeastern edges that could give fresh impetus to the seven-week-old battle for Daeshâ€™s last major Iraqi stronghold.
Campaign commander Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah was quoted by Iraqi television as saying troops had entered the Al-Salam Hospital, less than a mile (1.5 kilometres) from the Tigris River running through the city centre.
If confirmed, that would mark a significant advance by the Ninth Armoured Division, which had been tied up for more than a month in close-quarter combat with Daesh on the southeastern fringes of the city.
Some residents of Daesh-controlled districts of east Mosul said by telephone the army had punched deep into the east bank of the city getting close to the Tigris, while others said that the army was still some distance away.
â€śThe fighting right now is very heavy – Iraqi forces have gone past our neighbourhood without entering it. Our area is now practically surrounded by the river and the Iraqi forces,” said a resident of the Hay Falasteen neighbourhood.
On Sunday, Reuters reported residents inside Mosul as saying that the Intisar neighbourhood, claimed by the Iraqi military as being under their control, was still Daesh-controlled.
â€śDaesh still controls our neighbourhood, and the Iraqi forces have not taken a single step forward in three weeks. Weâ€™re in despair,â€ť a resident living in Intisar told Reuters.
Although still unconfirmed, Daeshâ€™s Amaq news agency said that they had launched three car bomb attacks that struck troops trying to breach Al-Salam hospital. Reuters reporters saw thick black smoke rising from the area around the hospital.
Army struggling to advance in Mosul
The army says it is facing the toughest urban warfare imaginable – hundreds of suicide car bomb attacks, mortar barrages, sniper fire and ambushes launched from a network of tunnels. More than a million civilians are still in the city.
â€śThe quality of the enemy we are facing now is markedly declined from a month ago,â€ť said Brigadier General Scott Efflandt, a coalition deputy commander, adding that the number of militants in the city had probably fallen to around 3,000, from around 5,000 at the start of the campaign.
Mosul is by far the largest city under Daesh control in either Iraq or Syria, and defeat there would roll back the territorial gains the self-styled caliphate managed in 2014.
Some 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and mainly Iran-backed Shia paramilitary forces are participating in the Mosul campaign that began on 17 October with air and ground support from a US-led coalition.