Iraqi military pushes deeper into IS-held Mosul
The Iraqi military drove deeper into Mosul on Wednesday, taking control of more of the Old City's warren of winding medieval alleyways that have been battered by continuous air raids, suicide bombers and shelling.
Mortar fire and bullets rang through the city as Iraq's elite 16th division captured the Hadarat al-Saada and al-Ahmadiyya districts from Islamic State group fighters, Reuters reported.
The two neighbourhoods lie just to the north-west of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, whose distinct tilting minaret was dynamited by the militants last week.
Over 50 percent of the densely-packed Old City has been captured by the Iraqi force so far, but taking the remaining districts from the cornered defenders will not be an easy task.
"Fifty percent of this area has been liberated, al-Mashada and al-Ahmadiyya and al-Saada," said Major General Jabbar al-Darraji, according to Reuters.
Crack units from the federal police and the Counter-Terrorism Service are leading the assault on the Old City, which began ten days ago.
Only around 1.5 square kilometres of the city remain in the hands of the some 350 IS fighters, but trapped among them are tens of thousands of civilians who will likely fall victim in fight.
The Iraqi military say concern for their safety has slowed the advance of their troops, but there is no doubt that many civilians have lost their lives in the shelling.
The last fighters have dug in and hidden among the homes in Mosul, bringing fears of mass civilian deaths in the the coming days.
Although the Iraqi military and Baghdad leadership have claimed Mosul will be completely under its control "in days", the resistance from IS militants remains appears dogged and ferocious.
One Iraqi soldier died after apprehending a militant wearing a suicide bomb vest, as he hid himself in the middle of a crowd of refugees.
Other civilians have been shot dead as they fled the medieval quarter where they have been left without food and water, in the middle of a suicidal last stand by IS.