Iraq forces make Mosul gains, but anti-IS war far from over

Islamic State has fired a rocket loaded with chlorine in western Mosul, Iraq, hitting several soldiers with the gas, according to an AP report.

"There's still another significant number of areas within Iraq that will. need to be cleared of Daesh, and. the Iraqi security forces are getting themselves ready for that eventuality - they know that it's coming", he said.

Analysts believe that many senior members of the Islamic State fled in the days and weeks before Iraqi forces, backed by Kurdish and Shi'ite militias, began the major operation to retake the city in October.

An Iraqi command spokesman said Sunday that Western Mosul's Old City district, a strategic ISIS militants' bastion, has become entirely encircled by Iraqi government forces. A caliphate was declared from the city's al-Nuri Mosque.

Drones are being used to locate and direct air strikes on the militants who are dug in the middle of civilians, he said.

A captain in the Federal Police said Sunday's advance had started in the early morning with troops fighting the militants house-to-house.

"The sheer volume of civilians still fleeing Mosul city is staggering", Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement.

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The UN has been expanding the capacity of some of the camps scattered around Mosul but the aid community could yet have to deal with an unprecedented exodus if and when the remaining civilians flee the city.

The Iraqi military is now involved in an offensive in western Mosul, backed by US-led coalition forces.

"Mosul has pushed us to our operational limits", said Grande.

The IS group blazed across large swathes of northern Iraq in 2014, leaving the Iraqi central government reeling.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, using booby traps, sniper and mortar fire against the assailants.

Residents who have managed to escape from the Old City have said there is nearly nothing to eat but flour mixed with water and boiled wheat grain.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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