Iraqi forces pushed Islamic State fighters back further in Mosul on Tuesday in a renewed effort to seize the northern city and deal a decisive blow to the militant group, though progress was slow in some districts, the army said.
Iraqi forces and their allies have captured villages and towns surrounding Mosul and seized at least two-thirds of its eastern districts, military officials say, reaching the eastern bank of the Tigris river for the first time on Sunday.
The government had initially hoped to retake Mosul by the end of 2016 but three months into the U.S.-backed campaign, the militants control the territory to the west of the Tigris that bisects the city from north to south.
|Iraqi army members run during a battle against Islamic State militants, in the Wahda district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in December it would now take another three months to drive the militants out of Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State control in Iraq or Syria.
Civilians wounded in the fighting streamed into nearby hospitals and Iraqi forces blamed Islamic State for shooting at fleeing residents and shelling populated areas after losing control of them.
United Nations humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said nearly 700 people had been taken to hospitals in Kurdish-controlled areas outside Mosul in the last week and more than 817 had required hospital treatment a week earlier.
"Trauma casualties remain extremely high, particularly near frontlines," he told reporters in Geneva.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said about 50 wounded patients a day had come into emergency wards in Erbil over the past two weeks, up from 32 a day previously.