Iraq forces poised for first push into Mosul

Iraq forces poised for first push into Mosul
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warns Islamic State group fighters to 'surrender or die' as coalition forces continue their advance on to Mosul city.
2 min read
01 November, 2016
Iraqi special forces were reportedly on the outskirts of Mosul on Tuesday morning [AFP]
Elite Iraqi forces were poised on Tuesday for a first push into Mosul, as an Iraqi general said his troops had entered the eastern outskirts of the Islamic state group-held city and were advancing as fighting continues.

The report comes just hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared on state television urging the Islamic State group to "surrender or die".

"We will close in on Daesh [IS] from all angles and God willing we will cut the snake's head. They will have no way out and no way to escape," al-Abadi said while dressed in combat fatigues.

Early on Monday morning, Iraqi Special Forces were reported to have been around one kilometre from the eastern edge of the IS group's 'capital' in Iraq.

At the same time, government forces were also advancing on the city from the south.

Mosul was captured by the IS group in June 2014, after which the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his 'caliphate' from a mosque in the city.

The coalition offensive on Mosul began on October 17 and is expected to be a long and difficult battle to unseat the extremist group from their Iraqi stronghold.

According to the US military, IS has 3,000 to 5,000 fighters inside Mosul and another 1,500 to 2,500 in the city's outer defensive belt. The total number includes around 1,000 foreign fighters. 

While many IS fighters have stayed behind, over 17,000 of Mosul's residents have fled so far, with this number expected to rise dramatically as fighting intensifies.

Read more here: Mosul displacement could become a 'humanitarian disaster'

Last week, displaced civilians from Mosul began arriving in United Nations camps. The international body and aid agencies are now stepping up efforts to cater to those fleeing the conflict.

The UN's refugee agency has announced that it will be bringing in some 7,200 tents, as part of an effort to secure 50,000 tents and the same number of emergency shelter kits for displaced families.

"These airlifts are vital and will allow us to respond as soon as displaced Iraqis reach our camps and need shelter," said UNHCR's Representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo said in a statement.

With around 1.5 million civilians still remaining in Mosul, the UN's refugee agency said last week it will soon be ready to accommodate 150,000 people.