Advancing Iraq troops broke through Daesh defense lines in an eastern suburb of Mosul on Monday, taking the battle for the militant stronghold to inside the city limits for the first time, a force commander said.
Commanders had warned earlier that the battle for the city, the hardline militants’ de facto capital in Iraq, could take weeks and possibly months.
Troops of the Iraqi army’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) moved forward on Gogjali, an industrial zone on the eastern outskirts, on Monday after two weeks of fighting to clear surrounding areas of the rebels.
They then reached Karama district, their first advance into the city itself, an officer said.
The fighting ahead is likely to be more difficult as civilians still live there, unlike most villages taken so far by the Iraqi forces which were emptied of their Christian population.
Other Iraqi military statements said five villages were taken north of Mosul, where Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are also deployed, while army units advanced in the south.
Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga fighters started the offensive against Daesh group on Oct. 17, with air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition.
Pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militias joined the fighting on Saturday, aiming to cut the route between Mosul and Raqqa, Islamic State’s main stronghold in Syria.