Fight For Mosul Moves Westward And Centers On City's Airport

Smoke rises after an airstrike near Mosul earlier this week

"Yes, that has happened", he said, adding that US troops have "come under fire at different times" and "have returned fire at different times" although he said the intent is for American forces to stay away from the front.

Iraqi forces make further gains against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in western Mosul as tens of thousands of fighters are punching through the defenses of the extremists to expel them from their last major urban stronghold in the country. By afternoon they had entered the Ghazlani military base south of the city, as well as the airport.

In another move to buttress the Iraqis, US advisers have been operating closer to the fighting and at lower levels of the Iraqi chain of command. In addition to JTACs having more ownership of the airstrike process, the approval for the strikes has been pushed to lower levels, meaning that the decision to drop the bombs - once made by senior officers at locations removed from the fighting - are now being made by US and Iraqi officers near the front lines, Dorrian said. "The drones are particularly annoying today", said al-Aridhi.

The International Rescue Committee has distributed blankets, soap, spare clothing and mattresses to more than 50,000 people in displacement camps outside Mosul.

Syrian rebels, heavily supported by Turkey, said they had reached the city's center and wrested control from the terrorists, though the area is reportedly still littered with mines.

"We will eliminate them soon and take control over the two districts", Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) spokesman Sabah al-Numan said.

The offensive to retake Mosul began in October in an extraordinary union of Iraqi troops and militia representing minority ethnic and religious groups that have often stood on opposing sides in Iraq's history.

The spokesperson has previously stated advisers have been pushed deeper into the ISF formations, including such units as the federal police.

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U.S. General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, told reporters traveling with him in the region that the United States could ultimately need more U.S. forces in Syria to accelerate the campaign. About 200 families were evacuated to safe areas in government-controlled areas, he said.

Bab "does appear to be largely liberated", he said, explaining the Turkish military and vetted Syrian opposition forces are conducting operations in the vicinity of the city.

After taking the eastern half of the city, Iraqi forces halted operations for three weeks in order to form a strategy that would retake the city's western half.

Iraqi advances in Mosul comes amid discussion in Washington over increasing the USA military presence in Iraq and Syria.

Aid organizations are concerned about the estimated 750,000 civilians who remain in western Mosul, where Iraqi forces are trying to drive out Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. now relies on 500 special operations troops who are assisting local forces inside Syria. Police officers said the militants deployed bomb-carrying drones at the forces advancing from the south-west.

Another special forces officer said IS targeted the advancing troops with a suicide auto bomb and dozens of bombs dropped from a drone.

Civilians continue to be caught up in it all: some injured, some fleeing, many more trapped.

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