Iraq gains ground in Mosul’s Old City as it presses assault on IS

MOSUL: Special forces have recaptured more of Mosul’s historic heart as they press the final stages of an assault to drive the IS group from Iraq’s second city, the military said on Sunday.
More than eight months since the country’s forces launched a gruelling operation to retake Mosul, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a few neighbourhoods on its western side.
Counter-terrorism forces liberated the Makawi area of the Old City, the joint operations command announced on Sunday, in a further blow to the IS.
Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight.
Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the militants, before launching an assault inside the Old City on June 18. They have since made significant progress.
On Saturday, officers announced the recapture of a hospital and its surroundings north of the Old City, removing a nearby but unconnected pocket of IS resistance.
Interior ministry forces recaptured the Ibn Sina hospital along with other medical facilities including a blood bank and a clinic, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement.
Some security personnel have complained that restrictions on using heavy weapons against hospitals, intended to protect the facilities, have made operations riskier and more time-consuming.
Federal police chief Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said the area around the hospital, Al Shifaa, had been completely retaken, limiting IS’s presence in Mosul to the Old City.
“Our forces are advancing from three sides and are pursuing the terrorist groups in the few remaining areas of the Old City,” Jawdat said.
Last Thursday, Iraqi forces retook the remains of the Grand Mosque of Al Nuri in their greatest symbolic victory since the battle began.
IS chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi gave a triumphal sermon at the mosque after the IS captured Mosul in 2014.
The mosque thus became a symbol of Baghdadi’s rule and IS’s self-declared cross-border “caliphate.”
The militants made sure that the Nuri mosque was not captured intact, blowing it up along with its famed leaning minaret — known affectionately as “Al Hadba” — as Iraqi forces closed in. — Reuters