(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Terrified civilians were fleeing Mosul on Tuesday (February 28) as US-backed Iraqi forces battled their way towards the city's main government buildings in their effort to dislodge Islamic State militants.
Some civilians fled toward government lines, often under militant fire. Others were forced to head deeper into Islamic State-held parts of the city, straining scarce food and water supplies there.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on February 19.
The US commander in Iraq has said he believes US-backed forces will recapture both Mosul and Raqqa - Islamic State's Syria stronghold - within six months.
US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) units battled Islamic State sniper and mortar fire as they moved eastwards through Wadi al-Hajar district to link up with Rapid Response and Federal Police deployed by the riverside, in a move that would seal off all southern access to the city.
The militants set ablaze homes, shops and cars to hide their movement and positions from air surveillance. Satellite pictures also showed a fabric cover set up over a street in the old city center.
Residents in districts held by the militants said they were forced to take their cars out of garages onto the street to obstruct the advance of military vehicles.