Iraqi army launches fresh assault toward Mosul center
By Ahmed Rasheed and Patrick Markey
BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi army units surged toward the center of Mosul on Tuesday in an attack from the city's southeastern edges that could give fresh impetus to the seven-week-old battle for Islamic State's Iraqi stronghold.
Campaign commander Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah was quoted by Iraqi television as saying troops had entered Salam Hospital, less than a mile (1.5 km) from the Tigris river running through the city center.
If confirmed, that would mark a significant advance by the Ninth Armoured Division, which had been tied up for more than a month in close-quarter combat with Islamic State on the southeastern fringes of the city.
Residents of Islamic State-controlled districts of east Mosul said by telephone the army had punched deep into the east bank of the city, getting close to the Tigris.
"The fighting right now is very heavy - Iraqi forces have gone past our neighborhood without entering it. Our area is now practically surrounded by the river and the Iraqi forces," said a resident of the Palestine neighborhood.
Islamic State's news agency appeared to confirm the advance, saying three car bombers struck the troops near Salam hospital.
A Reuters team saw thick black smoke rising from the area around the hospital. "We made good advances today," said a soldier who identified himself as Abu Ahmed.
Mosul is by far the largest city under Islamic State control and defeat there would roll back the self-styled caliphate it declared in 2014 after seizing large parts of Iraq and Syria. Continued...