Iraqi troops advanced towards Mosul city centre on Sunday, a top Iraq commander said, despite heavy resistance from Islamic State group militants, sniper fire and suicide bombings.
Major General Sami al-Aridi told The Associated Press news agency that his special forces were searching homes in areas retaken from ISIL, looking for fighters and vehicles rigged with explosives.
An Iraqi special forces soldier, foreground, asks Iraqi men to take off their jackets to check that they aren't wearing an explosive belt, as they arrive to receive food supplies, at al-Arbajiyeh neighborhood, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday.
According to the officers, the Iraqi forces aim to take complete control of the city's Tahrir area and from there move into the adjacent Muharabeen district.
Mounting civilian casualties from fighting in eastern Mosul between Iraqi forces and Islamic State are overwhelming the capacity of the government and worldwide aid groups, the United Nations said on Saturday. The arrival of the troops at the neighborhood's fringes prompted hundreds of civilians to emerge from their homes waving white flags.
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The Iraqi military last month began the campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and the last major urban center in Iraq held by the militants.
An Iraqi special forces soldier shouts in front of a burning house after a Daesh suicide vehicle bomb attack against Iraqi special forces during clashes in Mosul, Iraq, November 19, 2016. Most gains thus far have been made by the special forces operating in the section of Mosul east of the Tigris river.
Popular Mobilization Units fighters talk on the radio as they watch Islamic State positions in the airport of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016.
Late on Friday, a group of IS militants attacked the village of Imam Gharbi south of Mosul, controlling most of it for hours before airstrikes from the USA -led global coalition were called in, an officer said. The campaign is being assisted by airstrikes from the US -led military coalition. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
In Baghdad, four separate bomb attacks targeted commercial areas on Sunday, killing at least 10 civilians and wounding 34. The Nov. 19 attack follows up on numerous bombings in recent weeks in Baghdad, Fallujah and Rutba. The attacks have mostly been blamed on IS, its forerunner al-Qaida or extremist Shiite groups.