Iraqi government troops are advancing into Mosul, the first time in the three-week offensive forces will have pressed across city lines. Iraqi special forces are closing in on the city limits from the east and will push into the major Iraqi city — which has been under ISIS control since 2014 — in a “matter of hours,” a military official told CNN. Some reports, including those from Reuters, suggest that some forces have already crossed into Mosul’s eastern Karama district.
Troops are closing in on Mosul from all sides. Iraqi forces breached ISIS’s defenses in an eastern suburb Monday, reports Reuters — the last militant-held town standing between Mosul and government forces on the city’s eastern flank. Kurdish Peshmerga troops are moving in from the north, and more Iraqi troops are bearing down from the south, though progress has been slowest on that front. Iranian-backed Shiite militias also converged on Mosul, trying to block off the city from the west.
The advance has not stopped ISIS from putting up a vicious resistance. The militants have deployed suicide bombers and cars laden with explosives and built up concrete barriers at the city’s edges. ISIS is greatly outnumbered — about 6,000 fighters versus 100,000 Iraqi troops. But militants may regain something of an edge in the streets of Mosul because of their familiarity over a two-year reign with the terrain, which they’ve had ample time to booby trap. The Iraqi government is also deeply concerned for the more than one million people who are still within Mosul. ISIS’s complete disregard for the rules of engagement, and their willingness to use innocents in their war strategy — most disturbingly, their reliance on civilians as human shields — will draw out a bloody, brutal, but imperative battle.