Iraq launches new push against IS in west Mosul
Forces from the army, the interior ministry and the police "began breaching the western side from the north," the Joint Operations Command coordinating the war against IS said in a statement.
The targets of the latest push were northwestern neighbourhoods on the edges of Mosul called Musharifah, Kanisah and al-Haramat, the statement confirmed.
The federal police issued a statement confirming the fresh operation, which comes after a relative lull in fighting around the Old City where most remaining militants are believed to be holed up.
Iraqi forces had already captured a small outlying village called Hsunah and a nearby gas factory in the renewed push, the police statement said.
Thursday's operation opens a new front in the effort to wrest back west Mosul from IS which started in mid-February and saw thousands of Iraqi forces retake most southern and western neighbourhoods.
An advance from the north will eventually leave the militants completely trapped in the narrow streets of the Old City, albeit with a large civilian population they have been using as human shields.
Earlier this week, an Iraqi commander said the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State [IS] militants should be completed in May.
The fighting should end "in a maximum of three weeks" the army's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, told state-run newspaper al-Sabah, according to Reuters.
The commander's comments come amid stiff resistance from the extremists in Mosul's Old City, where an estimated 400,000 civilians remain trapped, with limited food, water and medical supplies.
IS militants have dug in among civilians, launching fierce counter-attacks on forces closing in on the Old City's Grand al-Nuri mosque, where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance in July 2014 to declare himself a self-styled "caliphate" in parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Most of the city has been liberated from IS militants since the offensive to recapture Mosul began in October.
The United Nations estimates that more than half a million civilians have fled Mosul since the offensive on the country's second city began.