BAGHDAD – Heavy fighting erupted in the eastern neighborhoods of Mosul on Friday as Iraqi special forces launched an assault deeper into the urban areas of the city and swung round to attack Islamic State militants from a second entry point, to the northeast.
Here is a look at the main developments on the 19th day of the Mosul Offensive:
NEW ASSAULT IN NORTHEAST
Columns of armored vehicles wound through open desert to open the new front, pushing through dirt berms, drawing heavy fire and calling in airstrikes to enter the middle-class neighborhoods of Tahrir and Zahara. The area was once named after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Several explosives-laden vehicles tried to attack the troops but were destroyed, including a bulldozer that was hit by an airstrike from the U.S.-led coalition supporting the offensive. Two vehicles, however, managed to detonate close the advancing forces. An officer and two soldiers were wounded, the army said.
At least one of the soldiers was wounded seriously in the first hours of the new advance, which came under heavy fire from mortars, automatic weapons, snipers and anti-tank rockets. Commanders at the scene said his injury to the neck could have been the result of small arms fire or shrapnel from a mortar round.
HEAVY FIGHTING IN EAST
Earlier, at the direct eastern approach to the city's urban center, militants holed up in a building fired a rocket at an Abrams tank, disabling it and sending its crew fleeing from the smoking vehicle, seemingly unharmed. The advance in that area then stalled, although later the regular army's ninth division moved forward into nearby neighborhoods.
The push had begun early in the morning with artillery and mortar strikes on the Aden, Tahrir, and Quds districts, just west of the special forces' footholds in the Gogjali and Karama neighborhoods. Both sides opened up with small arms and mortar fire after an artillery barrage by the special forces, ahead of their advance.
As Iraqi forces move westward into Mosul, thousands of people have been displaced and are moving further east for shelter. At a road junction in the town of Bartella, convoys of cars queued up to go through checkpoints that led to displaced persons camps.
More than 1 million civilians are stuck in the city, complicating the military's efforts to advance without harming innocents. IS militants have driven thousands of them deeper into the city's more built-up areas, presumably for use as human shields, while hundreds of others have fled in the past days toward government-controlled territory despite the uncertainty of resettlement in displacement camps.
U.N. CITES REPORTS OF IS KILLING FOR ALLEGED 'DESERTION'
Meanwhile in Geneva, recent accounts of IS abuses were revealed by the United Nations, which said it has new reports that the Islamic State group has been carrying out mass killings in Mosul. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the reports to the group's rights office alleged that IS killed 50 of its own militants on Monday at the Ghazlani military base for alleged "desertion."
Shamdasani told reporters that her office also has reports indicating that four women were killed and 17 other civilians wounded in airstrikes on Wednesday in Mosul's Quds neighborhood. She says it was not the first time that her office had received reports of civilian deaths. She also cited reports that IS has been holding nearly 400 women captive in the town of Tal Afar, near Mosul.