Iraq announced on Tuesday that its forces had entered militant-held Mosul for the first time since ISIS overran the city more than two years ago.
Iraqi army forces had entered areas within “the left bank of the city of Mosul,” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said.
Mosul is split down the middle by the Tigris River. Iraqis refer to the eastern half of the city as the left bank and the western side as the right bank.
Elite Iraqi forces have also recaptured a village and a television station on the edge of Mosul Tuesday, commanders said, as they pressed forward with the operation to retake the militant-held city.
“We finished clearing Gogjali and took control of the Mosul television station building,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi told AFP.
Another senior commander also confirmed in a statement that the village and the TV station had been recaptured.
Fighting raged as Iraq’s special forces began their assault on Mosul’s eastern outskirts on Tuesday, part of operations to drive ISIS militants from the country’s second largest city.
Troops opened up with artillery, tank and machine gun fire on ISIS positions on the edge of the Gogjali neighborhood, with the extremists responding with guided anti-tank missiles and small arms to block the advance. Airstrikes by the US-led coalition supporting the operation added to the fire hitting the district.
The advance of Iraqi troops marks the first time the battle has broken into city limits, a force commander said.
For two weeks, Iraqi forces and their Kurdish allies, Sunni tribesmen and Shiite militias have been converging on Mosul from all directions to drive ISIS from Iraq’s second largest city. The operation is expected to take weeks, if not months.
The US military estimates ISIS has 3,000 to 5,000 fighters inside Mosul and another 1,500-2,500 in the city’s outer defensive belt. The total number includes around 1,000 foreign fighters.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on his website on Monday that he would be visiting troops near the front line.