MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces fought fierce clashes on Monday to dislodge the Islamic State (IS) militants from their last stronghold on the northern outskirts of the eastern side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The army soldiers, backed by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft, advanced to the neighborhood of Rashidiyah and took control of its northern part after heavy clashes, Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
The troops will continue their advance in the neighborhood and the adjacent Baysan area until eliminating IS militants from Mosul's eastern side, locally known as the left bank of Tigris River which bisects the city, according to Yarallah.
The latest progress made the Iraqi forces completely in control of the eastern bank of Mosul, with only part of the northern outskirts of Rashidiyah and Baysan left under control of the IS.
Experts say once the troops recapture the whole eastern side of Mosul, they will begin a new phase of the anti-IS major offensive on the western part of the city.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a recent report that the military operations in Mosul have pushed up to 160,000 civilians to flee their homes in the city and its adjacent areas since the military offensive in Oct. 2016 to reclaim the IS largest stronghold in Iraq.
On Oct. 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
The second phase of the offensive to free the eastern bank of Mosul began on Dec. 29.
Battles in Mosul slowed down in December when extremist militants started using civilians as human shields, resorted to suicide car bombings and made mortar and sniper attacks.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.