Thousands of Mosul civilians trapped in Isis territory as Iraqi forces close in

For civilians held as human shields by the extremists, furnishes have run low and drinking water is scarce

Hundreds of civilians fled Mosuls Old City on Friday as Iraqi forces-out slowly squeezed the last pockets of Islamic State resistance, and the UN warned that the intense and concentrated opposing put innocent lives in even greater danger.

People climbed over knolls of rubble and through narrow alleys as gunshots and detonations rang out nearby. The neighborhoods where government forces are fighting have been under siege for months as grueling urban warfare described out the operation to retake Iraqs second-largest city.

For the civilians held as human shields by the radicals, furnishes have run low and drinking water is scarce, according to residents interviewed at screening centres and clinics.

The combats came a day after Iraqi forces induced significant gains against the activists and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared an objective to the groups self-proclaimed caliphate.

After a dawn pushing on Thursday, Iraqi forces retook the symbolic site where the al-Nuri Mosque once stood. It was from the pulpit of the 12 th century mosque, which the activists blew up last week along with its famous leaning minaret, that their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had proclaimed the caliphate in 2014.

During the evening, al-Abadi announced the full liberation of Mosul was near and that Iraqs brave forces-out will bring victory.

Lt Gen Abdul Wahab al-Saadi said by Friday afternoon the special forces were within 700 metres of the Tigris River, which roughly divides Mosul into eastern and western halves.

The operation to retake Mosul, backed closely by the US-led coalition, began in October, with the Iraqi government initially vowing the city would be liberated in 2016.

Iraqi forces-out enter ruined Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul video

Isis now holds a small patch of province in Mosuls Old City along the Tigris that measures less than two square kilometres( 0.8 square miles ). The terrain is dense, and the UN calculates tens of thousands of civilians are trapped there.

We dont feel the end yet, to be honest. Its still full on, said Frederic Cussigh, head of the UNHCR Irbil office. About 1,400 people fleeing the Old City have been registered at screening centres in the past two days, he added.

Regardless of the outcome of the combat, the humanitarian situation will be critical for a lot longer than we anticipated, Cussigh said.

The clashes have displaced more than 850,000 people since the operation to retake Mosul was launched, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

An Isis media outlet, al-Nabaa, on Thursday quoted an unidentified militant commander as saying the battle for Mosul is a fight either to achieve victory or succumb as a martyr.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted his congratulations Friday to the citys residents and the Iraqi people on the breeze of liberty in Mosul after three years of occupation, violence and killing.

Isis also is under increased pressure in Syria, where its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa is encircled by an array of forces, closely backed by the coalition. Despite a series of recent loss in both Iraq and Syria, al-Baghdadis fate remains unknown.

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