Middle East

Iraqi forces push further into Mosul

Islamic State is being squeezed out of its final stronghold in Iraq, with the country's armed forces pushing into their territory.

Iraqi forces have made new advances against Islamic State in eastern Mosul and fought the militants in areas near the Tigris river on Wednesday, military officials say, keeping up the renewed offensive in the jihadists' last major Iraqi stronghold.

Troops have pushed into several neighbourhoods in the east and northeast of the city in the past few days as they try to reach the Tigris River bisecting Mosul before launching an offensive on the west, all of which the militants still hold.

"Operations are ongoing and this district will be liberated very shortly, God willing," Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi said.

Tank shells, machinegun fire and air strikes from a US-led coalition backing the Iraqis targeted Islamic State gunmen holed up in a handful of buildings nearby.

The militants detonated several car bombs and returned gunfire.

During their attack, Iraqi soldiers repeatedly diverted their attention to the sky to fire their machine guns at white commercial drones circling a few hundred metres in the air.

They were unable to down the aircraft, which Islamic State uses for reconnaissance, to record its suicide attacks and to drop grenades behind its enemy's lines.

Securing Hadba, Sadeeq and other nearby districts will allow the CTS to advance further towards the Tigris, control of whose eastern bank will be crucial to launching attacks on western Mosul.

Some residents streamed out of areas where clashes took place, waving white flags and towing suitcases behind them.

But many civilians have stayed in their homes, watching the military's advance from behind curtains and locked doors before walking out cautiously to greet soldiers and offer them tea.

CTS forces also clashed with the militants further south, a military statement said, seeking to build on gains along that part of the river bank, which they reached last week for the first time in the nearly three-month campaign.

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