Islamic State fighters defended their remaining stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, moving stealthily along narrow back alleys and slipping from house to house through holes in walls as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces slowly advanced.
The intensity of fighting was lower than on Sunday, when Iraqi forces announced the start of the assault on the Old City, a Reuter’s visuals team reported from near the frontlines.
The historic district, and a tiny area to its north, are the only parts of the city still under the militants’ control. Mosul used to be the Iraqi capital of the group, also known as ISIS.
“This is the final chapter” of the offensive to take Mosul, said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior commander in Mosul of Counter Terrorism Service.
The militants are moving house to house through holes knocked through inner walls, to avoid air surveillance, said Major-General Sami al-Arithi of the Counter Terrorism Service, the elite units spearheading the fighting north of the Old City.
“Now the fighting is going on from house to house inside narrow alleys and this is not an easy task,” he told state TV.
The Iraqi army estimates the number of Islamic State fighters at no more than 300, down from nearly 6,000 in the city when the battle of Mosul started on October 17.
More than 100,000 civilians are trapped in the densely-populated maze of narrow alleyways making up the Old City, with little food, water or medical treatment.
“An estimated 50,000 children are in grave danger as the fighting in Mosul enters what is likely to be its deadliest phase yet,” Save the Children said Sunday night in a statement.