Progress in Mosul as Iraqi forces retake another neighbourhood
Iraqi forces continue to make progress in Mosul as they battle to retake the city from Islamic State group militants, supported by a US-led coalition of international states.
Speaking to The Associated Press on Friday, Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Tamimi, a member of an Iraqi Special Forces unit in the city, said that his men had taken full control of the Zohour neighbourhood of Mosul, more than a week after first entering the area.
The statement comes after Iraqi forces announced on Wednesday that they had retaken 19 neighbourhoods, and were poised around 4.5 km from the Tigris river which bisects the city.
As Iraqi troops move further into the city, progress is expected to slow with IS gunmen entrenched in positions, and advancing units wary of snipers, booby trapped explosives and keen to prevent civilian casualties.
This week the ability of coalition warplanes has additionally been compromised by heavy rain obscuring targets, with the efficacy of airstrikes likely to decrease as Iraqi troops engage in street to street combat in close proximity to IS frontlines.
Speaking to The New Arab on Thursday, Caroline Gluck, a UNHCR representative in Iraq, said that aid organisations had expected as many as 200,000 people could be displaced from Mosul in the first six weeks of current operations which began in late October
However, to date, said Gluck, only 77,000 people had fled Mosul. Such realities, have increased concerns that civilians in Mosul may have been forcibly prevented from leaving, and used as human shields.
Before operations began in Mosul Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had expressed hope that the city could be recaptured by the end of the year, with the Obama administration also keen to see victory claimed before Barack Obama steps down from office on the 20th January.
However, the battle is now expected to stretch into the new year.
Around 100,000 Iraqi army forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Shia militia members are taking part in current assaults on Mosul. Approximately 4,500 foreign troops are said to have been involved in training Iraqi troops and planning for the operation.