MOSUL, Iraq, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces freed most of al-Saha neighborhood from Islamic State (IS) militants in north of the old city center amid heavy clashes against the extremist militants, an Iraqi commander told Xinhua on Monday.
"The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) are fighting fierce clashes in al-Saha neighborhood and now they are in control of about 70 percent of the neighborhood," Staff Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, commander of CTS' special operations, told Xinhua reporters in the western side of Mosul.
The CTS forces managed to kill some 70 IS militants, most of them were foreigners and non-Iraqi Arabs, in the battles during the past two days in the IS stronghold of al-Saha, Saadi said.
"The CTS troops are pushing further into the neighborhood and will recapture the whole neighborhood within one day," according to Saadi.
On Friday, Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) announced a new push into three neighborhoods of al-Saha, al-Zanjili and al-Shifaa, in north of the edge of the old city center.
Iraqi forces, backed by international coalition, have been fighting to drive out IS militant from the western side of Mosul, but several neighborhoods, including the densely-populated old city center, are still under control of the extremist militants.
Earlier on Monday, the Iraqi aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets on the IS-held areas of old city and the neighborhoods of al-Shifaa, al-Zanjili and al-Saha, urging the civilians to leave their homes in the IS-controlled neighborhoods through safe corridors, according to a JOC statement.
On May 25, the Iraqi military issued a statement urging the residents of the remaining IS-held neighborhoods to leave their homes through safe corridors.
"We ask all of you to leave and move immediately to the safe corridors that we will set up for you. You will find guides, protection and vehicles to transfer you to safe areas," the JOC said in a statement on Thursday.
The government wants to avoid civilian casualties, who have been used by the extremist IS militant as human shields, and in order to pave the way for the security forces to free the rest of the western side of Mosul, according to the statement.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of civilians remaining in the old city and surrounding neighborhoods cannot be known exactly, but the office estimated 200,000 may leave their homes in the coming days of battles.
"We don't know for sure how many civilians are still in IS-held districts, but as many as 200,000 additional people may try to leave in coming days," an OCHA report said on Friday.
According to the Iraqi military, over 90 percent of the city has been retaken from IS in the ongoing major offensive launched in October last year.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.