Iraq’s special forces continued to push back Islamic State militants in the eastern sector of Mosul on Friday in intense fighting that forced crowds of people to flee their homes.
The fighting in the Quds neighborhood came a day after Iraqi forces broke a two-week lull in fighting to stage a multi-pronged offensive in eastern Mosul east of the Tigris River.
The latest push, aided by airstrikes and artillery from a U.S.-led coalition, is taking place under clear and sunny skies and, if the weather holds, was expected to continue until all forces in the eastern sector reach the Tigris River.
Iraqi government forces launched a large-scale offensive in mid-October to retake Mosul, the last major urban center held by the extremist group in Iraq. The offensive, however, had stalled about two months later because of the presence inside Mosul of some one million civilians, stiff IS resistance and the lack of urban warfare experience among some Iraqi units.
In the northern sector of Mosul, troops of the 16th Division, bolstered by reinforcements, began their own push, storming the Hadbaa district to dislodge the militants.
The fighting in the eastern Mosul forced scores of residents to flee on foot Friday, making their way through dirt berms, debris and government troops’ firing positions to find relative security elsewhere in the city. In scenes that have become common since the battle began in mid-October, adults carried children and the young helped the elderly as they walked to safety while waving a white flag.
Ambulances with wailing sirens dashed from the battlefield to field hospitals elsewhere in the city. Seriously injured civilians were sent to Irbil, capital of the Kurdish region to the east of Mosul.
The United Nations says some 120,000 people have fled Mosul since the offensive began. Most of them are now in displacement camps in the neighboring, self-ruled Kurdish region and south of Mosul. About one million civilians are known to be inside Mosul, preventing the Iraqi military and their allies in the U.S.-led coalition from using overwhelming firepower.