Iraqi forces have cut off the last supply route into Mosul, effectively trapping the militants of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group. Hundreds of thousands of civilians remained trapped in the city.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition said on Sunday that fighters with the Islamist group were "trapped. Just last night, the 9th Iraqi army division ... cut off the last road out of Mosul,"
"Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they're going to die there," McGurk said. "We are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape."
After "fully liberating" the city's east from IS in January, US-backed Iraqi forces moved onto western Mosul, with a renewed push in March.
65,000 people have fled Mosul in the past two weeks alone, according to the International Organisation for Migration
"Mosul's liberation is increasingly in sight albeit with increasingly difficult fighting ahead," McGurk said, adding that Iraqi forces were retaking "some of the most difficult ground that we knew would have to be reclaimed. They're doing this in a dense urban environment facing a suicidal enemy that's using civilians as shields."
A third of west Mosul taken
Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said security forces controlled "more than a third" of west Mosul.
Saadi said CTS forces were battling IS inside Mosul al-Jadida and Al-Aghawat on Sunday, and Iraq's Joint Operations Command said they recaptured the latter area later in the day.
When forces recaptured Mosul Museum they discovered almost everything had either been looted or destroyed
"The enemy has lost its fighting power and its resolve has weakened. It has begun to lose command and control," Saadi said. He said forces had captured 17 out of 40 western districts.
Federal police and Rapid Response units said they entered the Bab al-Tob area of the Old City, and expected tough fighting due to the alleyways being too narrow for armored vehicles.
600,000 civilians trapped
Along with the militants, up to 600,000 civilians are trapped inside the city and more than 200,000 Mosul residents have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October. More than a quarter of the residents fled in the past two weeks alone.
The northern city of Mosul was a key outpost for the so-called "Islamic State" which took control in 2014
Capturing Mosul would strike a major blow against IS, which was the largest city it had held since the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria from a mosque in Mosul in the summer of 2014.
A Shiite paramilitary spokesman said on Sunday a mass grave had been found containing the remains of "hundreds" of mainly Shiite inmates who were killed in Badush prison in June 2014.
aw/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)
You can have a look on the following picture gallery from December 12, 2016.