Mosul (Iraq), June 18 (IANS) Iraqi forces on Sunday began their offensive in the besieged Mosul city, the last enclave of the Islamic State in Iraq’s most important city to fall into the hands of the terror group.
The last stage of the military campaign includes personnel from Iraq’s anti-terrorist forces, the Federal Police and the army, with support from the international coalition, the joint operations commander, Abdel Amir Rashid Yarallah, was quoted as saying by Efe news agency.
Troops raided the Old City after Iraqi artillery and aircraft belonging to the US-led coalition attacked the al-Farouq area, the operations statement said.
The Old City is the most populated part of Mosul and 100,000 civilians are still trapped inside, according to estimates from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
For several months there have been no food or medical supplies in the area due to the siege imposed on the IS.
The neighbourhood is characterised by narrow streets, which armoured cars, used in other areas of the city already freed by Iraqi forces, cannot enter.
The area is home to the Al-Nuri Mosque, an iconic spot for the IS, as it was the site where group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in June 2014 the caliphate he imposed on territories that the group had conquered in Iraq and Syria.
The offensive against the IS in Mosul began in October. It lasted until January in the neighbourhoods east of the Tigris River, and a month later, troops began their assault on the western half of the city.
Since the beginning of military operations, at least 819,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fighting, according to calculations by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
According to statistics from the International Organization for Migration, 192,174 people have already returned to their homes in the eastern half of the city and in the localities close to Mosul.