Iraqi forces invade Mosul’s Islamic State-held Old City  through 3 districts


Members of Iraqi rapid response forces are pictured during clashes with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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Mosul ( Iraqi government forces invaded Islamic State’s last bastion in western Mosul’s Old City Saturday through three districts as operation near the elimination of the extremist group from its proclaimed capital.

The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell, quoting the Joint Operations Command, said joint forces invaded “the remaining non-liberated districts in western Mosul, invading al-Shefa, al-Jamhouri Hospital, Zanjili and al-Sihha al-Oula.

Federal Police chief, Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat, said his forces passed the third of Mosul’s five main bridges linking the western side with the east above the Tigris River towards the Old City.

Jawdat said he was confident his forces were able to win the battle as IS starts to lose control over areas near the Hadbaa (leaning) Minaret, referring to the mosque where IS supreme leader declared in 2014 the establishment of the group’s “caliphate” in Iraq.

Zanjili district, western Mosul (google maps)

A few hours earlier, Iraqi warplanes dropped leaflets on the area urging civilians to exit, signalling the approach of the final encounter.

Iraqi commanders had predicted the battle against IS in Mosul to end before the holy month of Ramadan, which started Saturday.

Earlier this month, the Iraqi command said it moved towards the Old City from the northwest, having besieged the area for weeks from the south.

The United Nations warned last week that 200,000 more civilians could flee Mosul as the battles reach the Old City.

Federal Police said Thursday they opened safe exits for civilians from the ancient area.