#MosulOp: Iraqi forces 'capture 44 percent' of Mosul province

#MosulOp: Iraqi forces 'capture 44 percent' of Mosul province
Iraqi forces make fresh advances against IS militants in Mosul on Saturday as the Iraqi Joint Operations Command confirms the capture of 44 percent of the city.
3 min read
24 December, 2016
Iraqi forces now control 40 districts in eastern Mosul [AFP]
Iraqi forces clashed with Islamic State group militants in northern Mosul on Friday, as Iraqi Joint Operations Command confirmed the capture of 44 percent of the province of Nineveh.

The Iraqi army's 16th and 9th divisions, backed by the elite Counter Terrorism Service, clashed with IS militants in al-Hayakil area on Saturday.

"The Iraqi army and the counter terrorism service made advances on the northern front of the battle for Mosul," a senior source in the military told The New Arab.

"Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are searching areas captured on Friday to clear them of IS militants".

Blood clashes

The Iraqi forces now control 44 percent of the province of Nineveh, spokesperson of the Iraqi joint operations command said on Saturday, as the battle to drive out IS militants from their stronghold in Mosul enters its third month.

Yahia Rasoul said in a statement that the Iraqi forces now control 40 districts in eastern Mosul.

On Friday, Iraqi forces captured four new districts including one hosting a police academy, Operations Commander Abdul Amir Yarallah said on Saturday.

Iraqi air forces destroyed two IS facilities in Tal Zalat, western Mosul, killing at least 23 militants, Yarallah claimed. 

The Mosul operation slowed down over the past week reportedly over bad weather conditions as well as the fear for civilian lives in targeted areas.

Some 100,000 people have fled Mosul since the Iraqi operation against IS began, and aid organisations have said it could result in the displacement of more than a million people.

The government has encouraged civilians in Mosul - where a million or more people may still live - to stay in their homes if possible.

Letters of sympathy

On Thursday, the Iraqi air force dropped four million letters over Mosul aimed at providing "empathy and support" for residents of the IS-held city. 

The air drop comes after the international Institute for War and Peace Reporting started a campaign called "Letters to Mosul" on 17 October, the day Iraqi forces began their operation to recapture Mosul from IS militants. 

"The letters of empathy and support for Mosul residents were written by Iraqis from all over the country," the US-led coalition said in a statement.

"This initiative by the people of Iraq reassures the residents of Mosul, held hostage by ISIL [IS] for more than two years, that they have not been forgotten and that the rest of Iraq is standing with them, waiting to welcome them back in solidarity when ISIL is defeated."

According to the coalition, the letters are based on 2,160 hand-written notes penned in the days since the Mosul offensive began.

"To our dear people... we are with you in everything and our hearts to you, and we feel what you feel of cold, hunger, and the harshness of days and you should be patient and endured that victory is close, God willing," one letter states, according to the coalition.

What began as a rapid push into the city has turned into a hellish block-by-block war with IS inflicting high casualty rates on advancing Iraqis.