MOSUL, Iraq – Residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul fought each other around trucks delivering humanitarian aid as they jostled for scant supplies on Monday, while government troops fighting to retake the city from Islamic State militants inched closer toward the city center.
The Iraqi government and various humanitarian organizations sent trucks loaded with food and clothes into liberated areas of Mosul, still home to more than 1 million people caught up in the ongoing, six-week-old operation to retake the northern Iraqi city.
The government launched a massive campaign on Oct. 17 to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and the extremist group's last major urban center in the country.
Most gains have been made by the special forces operating in the section of Mosul east of the Tigris river. Other forces are advancing on the city from different directions, and the U.S.-led coalition is providing airstrikes and other support.
However, the campaign has been slowed down because of the presence of civilians inside the city, preventing both the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition from using overwhelming firepower.
A senior commander in the eastern sector of Mosul, Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces said his men on Monday advanced farther in the large and densely populated neighborhood of Zohour. He said about 60 percent of the area was now retaken from IS.
He said the airstrikes destroyed two suicide car bombs in Zohour before they reached their intended targets. Another five suicide car bombs exploded when his men fired at them before they reached their targets, he added.
The special forces also reached the Masarif neighborhood in the northeast of the city. Their patrols, however, were repeatedly targeted by sniper fire and mortars. They responded with machine gun fire.
On Sunday, the main hospital treating trauma victims from the battle for Mosul was overflowing with civilian and military casualties, according to a doctor there.
Dr. Marwan Ghafuri of the West Irbil Hospital, the main triage center for trauma cases from the Mosul battle, said his facility is admitting up to 150 new patients per day
"The problem here is we have not enough beds in the emergency (room)," he said. "We have a lack of medications and the operating rooms are full. We cannot operate immediately on all the patients."
Ghafuri said he expects the influx of wounded to continue at the same level for the next three months as the Mosul operation continues.
The military does not publicize casualties, but medics have noted at least dozens of soldiers have died since the battle began last month.