Iraqi special forces have begun a new push deeper into the northern city of Mosul, backed by airstrikes but under attack by rockets and suicide bombers from the Islamic State group.

Troops have established a foothold in the city's east, and drove northward Wednesday into the Tahrir neighborhood, where families left their houses to flee the fighting.

Artillery and airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition supported the advance, sending plumes of smoke into the air over the city.

Iraqi troops are converging from several fronts on Mosul, the country's second largest city and the last major IS holdout in Iraq. The special forces have been the tip of the spear, driving the furthest into the city itself, but they are still fighting over neighborhoods in the city's far east.