Iraqi forces battled to wrestle control of a key Mosul bridge from Islamic State (ISIS) militants on Tuesday (March 14) as the offensive to liberate the city from the jihadist group continues.
Bad weather conditions had slowed progress by Iraqi Rapid Response Units on Monday, but heavy fighting resumed on Tuesday as weather conditions improved.
The fighting brought a steady stream of displaced families fleeing the west of the city due to early morning heavy shelling.
Mosul’s Iron Bridge is now within Iraqi forces’ sights, but despite getting within 100m of the strategic site, progress has been halted by ISIS snipers.
“Our forces managed to resume advancing inside the old city center after weather improved and succeeded in retaking the Korneesh Street which runs by the riverside. It’s very key for our forces to secure the riverside and prevent Daesh militants from turning around our advancing forces,” a Rapid Response media officer told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Iraqi forces hope the bridge will be captured by the end of Tuesday, allowing eastern Mosul to be linked to the Old City. The capture of the bridge would bring the total number of bridges in the city that are under Iraqi forces control to three, leaving just two others in ISIS hands.
“Seizing the bridge will help further tighten the noose around Daesh fighters entrenched inside the old city,” the Rapid Response official added.
The offensive to recapture west Mosul started three weeks ago.
Their operation to retake the eastern bank of the city, launched in mid-October with support from a U.S.-led coalition, took more than three months.
As Iraqi forces advance deeper into west Mosul, they are facing increasingly stiff resistance from ISIS militants using suicide car bombs and snipers to defend their last major stronghold in Iraq.
About 40,000 people have fled the fighting and hardship in the past ten days, bringing the total displaced from Mosul to 215,000 since the campaign to drive out the jihadists began in October, according to United Nations estimates.