Middle East

Mosul battle: New Iraqi push on IS-held city centre

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Media captionThousands of civilians are fleeing from the besieged city of Mosul as Iraqi and coalition forces try to defeat IS

Iraqi forces have launched a new push in their battle to capture western Mosul from so-called Islamic State.

Several neighbourhoods have been captured since the US-backed operation began on 19 February, but bad weather has slowed the advance in recent days.

But more than 45,000 people have been forced to flee the city in the last two weeks, the International Organisation for Migration says.

Eastern Mosul was recaptured in January after several months of fighting.

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IS overran the city, Iraq's second largest, as they spread across large parts of the north and west of the country in a major offensive in 2014.

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Image caption A car bomb explodes during Sunday's clashes

Joint operations command (JOC) spokesman Brig-Gen Yahya Rasool told state TV on Sunday that Iraqi forces were advancing towards the old centre of the city from the south and south-west.

JOC statements quoted by AFP news agency said security forces were attacking the neighbourhoods of al-Dindan, al-Sumood, Tal al-Raman and al-Dawasa, where the provincial governor's offices are located.

'We are starving to death'

The IOM, the UN migration agency, says more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since October last year, with a new exodus beginning on 25 February.

Up to 700,000 people are believed to remain in the city.

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Media captionThe children injured in what appears to be the first chemical weapon attack in the battle for Mosul

Centres for the displaced have been filling up quickly, with 7,619 families (45,714 individuals) arriving in the last nine days, it said.

One injured man, named Ibrahim, who fled the western al-Jadida district, told reporters that people had been driven out by hunger.

"We are starving to death. We have no food, we didn't even have any rice," he said.

"Hunger and bombings forced us to flee our homes. We are fed up and we are really exhausted. Children didn't have anything to eat."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Wrecked cars abandoned in the streets of Mosul

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