BAGHDAD – Iraqi special forces paused their advance in an eastern district of Mosul on Wednesday to clear a neighborhood of any remaining Islamic State militants, killing eight while carrying out house-to-house clearances.
Here is a look at the main developments on the 17th day of the Mosul Offensive:
TROOPS CONSOLIDATING GAINS IN EAST MOSUL
Six of the militants were killed inside a tunnel in the newly-recaptured Gogjali neighborhood, while the other two were shot dead as they advanced on troops. Officers arrested a man they described as the area's "emir", and said that one of the two shot in the street had been the man's deputy and was wearing an explosives-laden vest.
Throughout the day, special forces could be seen going house to house, while sappers searched the road for explosives left behind by the jihadis. Gunfire was largely absent, but sporadic rifle cracks could be heard, as well as some army artillery fire on IS positions deeper into the city.
Families from the area stood in their doorways, some holding white flags while children flashed the "V''-for-victory sign in approval to the passing troops. A few women ululated in celebration as columns of vehicles rolled past.
Hundreds of civilians cleared out of the adjacent neighborhood of al-Samah, some carrying white flags. The women were wearing the niqab and the men long beards, although many women removed their face veils and one had already discarded the strict IS-enforced dress code.
IRAQI FORCES ADVANCE SOUTH OF MOSUL
Further to the south, where progress has been much slower, Federal Police forces captured four small villages outside the Hamam al-Alil area, over 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Mosul, the army said. The largest of the four is Min Gar, some 10 km (6 miles) west of Hamam al-Alil, spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said of the Wednesday morning operation.
U.N., WATCHDOGS CONDEMN IS, URGE CARE FOR CIVILIANS
In the latest international condemnation of IS, which has carried out mass killings of perceived opponents in the past and boasted about them in grisly photos and videos circulated online, the United Nations called on authorities to collect evidence of IS abuses of civilians for future use by tribunals.
The Norwegian Refugee Council warned that more than 1 million civilians trapped inside Mosul "are in grave danger" as Iraqi troops advance into the city. The aid group, which works with refugees and internally-displaced people, said that around 18,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the start of the massive Mosul military operation over two weeks ago.
Adama Dieng, special adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, also expressed concern over "the increasing risk" of sectarian violence or revenge attacks during the Mosul campaign, especially where state-sanctioned Iraqi Shiite militias are approaching Sunni communities.
Separately, Amnesty International said government-sanctioned tribal Sunni fighters taking part in the Mosul operation had carried out revenge attacks against men and boys they suspected of being IS militants in newly-liberated areas.
Fighters from the Sabawi tribe, originally from Mosul, unlawfully rounded up civilians, beat them with metal rods, gave them electric shocks and tied some of them to the bonnets of vehicles and paraded them through the streets or placed them in cages, the London-based group said in a report based on interviews with local officials and eyewitnesses.