According to various reports on Monday, Iraqi forces have either entered Mosul or have reached its outskirts, with penetration of the city’s defenses close at hand.
“The soldiers of the Counterterrorism Force are advancing very fast. I wouldn’t say a matter of days but matter of hours before advancing and start cleansing the city of Mosul from terrorism,” said Iraqi General Talib Shegati on state television, as quoted by CNN.
Another report at USA Today puts the Iraqis about three miles outside Mosul, a few days at most from attack. The Iraqi military formally declared that “the operation to liberate the left bank of Mosul has started” in a press statement.
The UK Independent, on the other hand, reports that Iraq’s elite U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service has already entered the Karama district of Mosul, under heavy fire from Islamic State forces, and is now closing in on the industrial zone of Gogjali.
According to the Independent’s report, Bazwaya, “the last village before Mosul itself,” was taken in a dawn offensive. ISIS tried to ram an explosive-laden Humvee into the Iraqi forces, but they opened fire on the vehicle and blew it up before it could reach them.
CNN reports 14 Iraqi soldiers were killed during the fight for Bazwaya, “some of the worst losses sustained by the unit.” Civilians in the town hung white flags from their windows, but advancing forces reportedly had some difficulty identifying these flags before opening fire with long-range weapons.
ISIS has reportedly blocked off roads into the city, both to slow down advancing coalition forces and to trap civilians inside, where they can serve as human shields. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Islamic State fighters were actively “herding” civilians into Mosul from outlying villages by the tens of thousands, to increase their stock of human shields.
“ISIL’s depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilians to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations,” declared Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.