ISIL fighters have countered the advance of Iraqi troops in Mosul with car bombs and ambushes.
The army’s progress in the group’s northern Iraq stronghold has come under attack.
The concern is that militants are now sheltering among civilians in retaken neighbourhoods, ready to target Iraqi soldiers with urban-style warfare.
The advance on Mosul’s southern front comes days after Iraqi forces fought their way into the eastern side of the city, restoring their first foothold since the army retreated two years ago.
Much fiercer resistance
Iraqi forces are expected to face much fiercer resistance from ISIL in the next phase of the battle for Mosul.
The head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Security Council says Iraqi forces have made prompt progress clearing out ISIL fighters from eastern Mosul.
Kurdish peshmerga units broke through the first lines of defence.
What he said
Top Kurdish security official Masrour Barzani says so far in the three-week operation, ISIL has:
- Deployed drones strapped with explosives
- Fired long-range artillery shells filled with chlorine and mustard gas
- Used highly-effective snipers
Kurdish forces have destroyed more than 50 car bombs, Barzani added.
Western Mosul – “more complex
Barzani warns that western Mosul will be a more complex campaign.
There is a vast number of narrow streets that cannot accommodate large military vehicles.
The enemy will fight to the death to defend the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Will driving ISIL out of Mosul be enough?
Barzani says not.
Mosul might be the group’s main stronghold, but security personnel are unsure about the location of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“He has been surrounded by good advisers, people with military and intelligence backgrounds,” he said.
“They do have some knowledge of how to protect themselves and hide.”
How significant is the Mosul campaign?
It is the most critical land battle in Iraq since the US-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraqi leaders are also under pressure to ensure that the offensive does not inflame sectarian tensions in predominantly Sunni Mosul, and in the country as a whole.
Iraqis were leaving the town of Hammam al-Alil in large numbers on Sunday.
ISIL forces were forced out of the centre of the town on Saturday by Iraqi forces.
The town lies around 15 km south of Mosul.
Fleeing residents recalled their life under ISIL.
“They treated us very poorly. We could not find a single meal to eat, they would stop us from working. We lived through something we have never seen before. Thank God that the forces arrived,” said resident Hassan Abbas.
“God curse Daesh militants, may they never see a good day as long as they live. We have been treated very badly. I have been besieged and imprisoned for 25 days,” said another resident Mwaffaq Abbas.