Iraqi forces punch into western Mosul, launch air strikes in Syria

Daesh is accused of rounding up people from neighbouring areas and forcing them into Mosul to use them as human shields as the government and its USA and Iranian allies advance into the west of Iraq's second biggest city.

But even as it loses ground, ISIS has continued to bomb civilian targets elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, where blasts near the northern town of al-Bab killed at least 50 people on Friday. Gen. Thamer al-Husseini said that the neighbourhoods of al-Tayaran and al-Juseq are located nearby the city's airport, which has been completely liberated.

Several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be still in Mosul, prepared for a fierce standoff amid a remaining civilian population of 750,000.

"Baghdad witnessed terrorist attacks using vehicle bombs in Bayaa and Habibiyah", the statement said, referring to bombings that killed dozens last week in the Iraqi capital.

Earlier, Iraqi military officials said USA -backed forces are facing a stiffer resistance as soldiers push deeper into the western half of the city, the last refuge of IS in Iraq.

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This weekend as many as 2,500 residents of Mosul escaped from the western half of a city that has been under the yoke of so-called Islamic State (IS) for nearly three years.

Iraqi troops have already captured the southern and western accesses to western Mosul, dislodging the militants from the airport, a military base, a power station and one residential district, al-Maamoun, according to military statements.

The Iraqis are taking "deliberate, small bites" out of the densely-packed city, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing battle. The militants also launched mortars.

"They were taken to the sinkhole and shot in the back of the head".

Kurdish journalist Shifa Gardi was killed by a roadside bomb on Saturday while covering the battle.

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Residents and federal police officials said ISIS fighters had rounded up civilians in al-Jawsaq and surrounding areas, and forced them deeper into Mosul.

According to United Nations figures, about 750,000 civilians are thought to still be in western Mosul, about half of them children.

An old man who came with them said about 20 people were sheltering in their house when it was hit by an air strike two days ago in the southwestern Maamoun district.

Though incremental and only the beginning of what is expected to be a long and protracted battle for the rest of Mosul, the latest developments reflect the Iraqi military's determination to liberate the city.

Hassan-Yari noted that government forces and their coalition partners have imposed restrictions on firepower available to retake the western sectors "in order to save the lives of civilians".

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