Mosul, Iraq, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants pushed into four neighborhoods on Sunday amid heavy clashes in the northwestern edge of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The special forces of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) initiated a progress at dawn in the two neighborhoods of al-Uraybi and Rifai, and managed to defeat the IS defensive lines and fierce street-to-street clashes are underway during the day, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
At the same time, the army's 9th Armored Division and the elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, pushed deeper into the battleground neighborhood of al-Iqtisadiyn as well as the southern part of the adjacent 17th July neighborhood, which is one of the main IS redoubts in Mosul, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the army's 9th Armored Division also pushed into the northern part of 17th July neighborhood and the troops manage to destroy the defensive lines of IS militants after hours of fierce clashes, according to the statement.
On May 4, the Iraqi army and Rapid Response special forces pushed on the new front from the northwestern edge of Mosul toward the areas of Mushairfah, Kanisah and Harmat in the northern part of the western side of the city.
The new push was aimed at helping the special forces of the CTS and federal police of the interior ministry, who are making slow progress in the southern part of Mosul's western side because of the stiff resistance of the militants in the densely-populated areas of the old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.
The troops are now pushing to seize the remaining neighborhoods in north and northwest of the city center to tighten noose around the IS redoubt in the city center in the western side of Mosul, including old areas around the historical al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul's old city center.
Late in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting IS militants.
On Feb. 19, Abadi announced the start of an offensive to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the city.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraqi 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.