Iraqi civilians, escorted by Iraqi soldiers, reach the Bab Sinjar neighborhood at the entrance of old city in western Mosul, Iraq, on June 25, 2017. Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Sunday continued heavy clashes and pushed deeper toward the heart of the heavily populated old city in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
MOSUL, Iraq, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Sunday continued heavy clashes and pushed deeper toward the heart of the heavily populated old city in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
"There is only about one percent of the city of Mosul left in the hands of Daesh (IS group) militants, and the Iraqi security forces are continuing their advance from several directions into of the old city center," Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
The army's 9th Armored Division freed the southern part of al-Shifaa neighborhood, the last battleground with IS militants outside the old city center, Rasoul said.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry elite forces, known as Rapid Response, are still fighting in the northern part of al-Shifaa neighborhood, Rasoul said, adding that the Rapid Response commandos are surrounding the main hospital in al-Shifaa neighborhood where many IS militants holed up inside.
The army troops who are fighting in northwestern part of the old city pushed further in al-Farouq neighborhood after days of back and forth battles and recaptured part of the adjacent al-Mashahda neighborhood, Rasoul said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces made progress during the battles of the past few days in the western part of the old city center, he said.
The federal police in the southern part of the old city continued their slow advance in the areas of Ra's al-Jadda, Bab al-Jadid and Bab al-Beidh, and are approaching the IS redoubt in al-Khazraj area in the heart of the old city, Rasoul added.
During the past few weeks, the CTS forces, federal police and army soldiers made slow progress due to the stiff resistance of IS militants and a large number of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, in addition to IS snipers who took positions in the buildings of heavily-populated neighborhoods.
According to UN reports, some 100,000 civilians are still trapped in the IS-held areas in the old city center and the adjacent al-Shifaa neighborhood. The extremist group is using the civilians as human shields.
Iraqi forces, backed by international coalition, launched their final push on June 18 to drive out IS militants from al-Shifaa neighborhood and most of the densely-populated old city center in the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River.
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.