Iraqi forces managed to liberate the neighbourhood of Zanjili in Mosul on Tuesday after 18 days of intense clashes with ISIS militants. This has allowed them to storm and gain a foothold over the adjacent Shifaa neighbourhood, located north of the Old City.
The Shifaa neighbourhood, which is the current locus of battle, is the last remaining neighbourhood that ISIS controls in Mosul. This reduces ISIS’ control of Mosul to the Old City, which is now surrounded on all sides by the Iraqi Security Forces.
“There is a complete siege against ISIS militants in the remaining old areas of Mosul,” said Joint Operations Command Spokesman, Yahya Rasool. “They have two options, either to surrender and have a fair trial or to be killed by Iraqi military units.”
The liberation of Zanjili represents a key victory for Iraqi forces. The battle for the neighbourhood has been one of the longest and bloodiest since Mosul operations began last October. According to civilians fleeing the area, 100s of bodies have been left strewn on the ground, with homes and buildings completely destroyed.
Many civilians have also reported being targeted by ISIS snipers as they tried to escape, while others describe being moved from area to area by ISIS militants and used as human shields. “I tried to escape to Oreibi neighbourhood but they brought me back. Then I tried to escape to Rifai neighbourhood and the same thing happened,” said one woman fleeing the conflict. “I have tried to escape 6 times. Last time they shot me in Zanjili neighbourhood, but now I am free.”
The UN has reported that the battle for Zanjili has recorded some of the fiercest fighting against ISIS in over three years since the group took the city of Mosul at the beginning of June 2014 with tens of thousands of people displaced from the neighbourhood. According to UNHCR, 411,600 Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul since military operations to retake the city began on 17 October 2016.
Today, Iraqi forces entered the medical complex in Shifaa whilst fighting back ISIS car bombs and snipers. This comes as other military units prepare for an incursion into the Old City from the western and southern axes.