Iraqi Army forces continue to comb and sweep former ISIS-held locations in eastern Mosul, Iraq. The clearing was announced shortly after eastern Mosul was declared liberated and that the offensive has moved to phase two, the western terrain of the ISIS stronghold.
ISIS’ western Mosul enclave is expected to witness long and vicious battles.
All the more, most ISIS commanders in Mosul have been reportedly killed in battles with Iraqi government forces that raged over the past three months in the eastern side of the city, an Iraqi general said on Thursday.
The fight to take the western side of Mosul, which remains under ISIS’ control, should not be more difficult than the one on the eastern side, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi told Reuters before embarking on a tour of areas newly retaken.
Assadi’s Counter-Terrorism Service announced on Wednesday that almost the city’s entire eastern half had been brought under government control.
“God willing, there will be a meeting in the next few days attended by all the commanders concerned with liberation operations,” he said, replying to a question on when he expects a thrust into the western side of Mosul to begin.
“It will not be harder than what we have seen. The majority of ISIS commanders have been killed in the eastern side.” He did not give further details.
Since late 2015, government forces backed by U.S.-led coalition air power have wrested back large amounts of northern and western territory overrun by ISIS in a shock 2014 offensive.
On Thursday, regular Iraqi army troops captured the Nineveh Oberoy hotel, the so-called “palaces” area on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and Tel Kef, a small town just to the north according to military statements in Baghdad.
The army is still battling militants in al-Arabi, the last district which remains under their control east of the river, said one of the statements.
Over 50 watercraft and barges used by ISIS to supply their units east of the river were destroyed in air strikes, the U.S. envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurty, tweeted.
Mogul’s five bridges across the Tigris had already been partially damaged by U.S.-led air strikes to slow the militants’ movement, before terror group ISIS blew up two of them.
“God willing, there will be an announcement in the next few days that all the eastern bank is under control,” Assai said.
A Reuters correspondent saw army troops deploying in an area by the river as mortar and gun fire rang out further north.
On one of the streets newly recaptured from ISIS, men were reassembling breeze blocks into a wall that was blown up by a suicide car bomb several days ago.
Several thousand civilians have been killed or wounded in the Mosul fighting since October.