Held Mosul Old City stormed by Iraqi troops

UN believes up to 150000 civilians are trapped in Mosul

The historic district, and a tiny area to its north, are the only parts of the city still under control of the Islamists.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands army operations in Ninevah province, said Iraqi special forces, the regular army and Federal Police are taking part in the operation to retake the Old City, which began Sunday at dawn. Iraq launched a massive operation to retake the city last October, and has driven the militants from all but a handful of neighborhoods.

Saturday's push by Iraqi troops came almost three weeks after Iraq's paramilitary forces - mostly Shiite fighters with close ties to Iran referred to as the Popular Mobilization Forces - reached the Syrian border in northeastern Iraq.

The International Rescue Committee has called on Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition to "do everything in their power to keep civilians safe during these final stages of the battle for Mosul".

The Old City is a densely-populated warren of narrow alleys where fighting is often done from house to house, according to Reuters.

Al-Waleed, in the far west of Iraq, fell to the Islamic State group in 2015, giving the militants full control of the Iraq-Syria border, which they vowed to erase as part of their ambition to build their caliphate.

She said that "conditions in the Old City are desperate", with very little food and no clean water, and the United Nations expects nearly everyone to try to get out — "probably 120,000 to 150,000 civilians".

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For years, Mosul and Raqqa have stood as the twin pillars of the territory claimed by the Islamic State.

- February 19: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the start of the battle for western Mosul, with Iraqi forces backed by coalition air power and close-in support from coalition advisers.

The offensive follows months of fighting as Iraqi forces attempt to liberate the country's second-largest city.

- March 14: Iraqi forces say they have captured the city's train station after reaching other symbolic sites such as the regional government headquarters and the city's museum.

In recent days, the US -led coalition has also come in for criticism from some human rights organizations for its use of white phosphorous in the city.

USA airstrikes have killed several commanders of the group over the past two years, including Abu Omar al-Shishani, a top military commander, chief propagandist Abu Mohammed al-Adani, and Abu Ali al-Anbari, the former top civilian administrator.

About 800,000 people, more than a third of the pre-war population of the northern Iraqi city, have fled, seeking refuge with friends and relatives or in camps.

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