Iraq presses Mosul assault, calls civilians to flee

A member of the Iraqi forces guards a position in Mosul's western Al-Saha neighbourhood during their ongoing battle to retake the area from Islamic State group fighters on May 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/KARIM SAHIB)

Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi forces pressed forward on Monday with a broad offensive targeting Islamic State group-held areas in west Mosul and called for civilians to leave, the military said.

More than seven months into the massive operation to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces have recaptured the city's east and large parts of its western side, but the jihadists are still putting up tough resistance.

"Our units are continuing to advance... and entered Al-Saha al-Oula and Al-Zinjili and Al-Shifaa neighbourhoods and the Republican Hospital," said Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasool.

IS was using "explosives-rigged vehicles and snipers and suicide bombers" to target Iraqi forces, he told AFP.

The areas mentioned by Rasool -- which are located north of Mosul's Old City, where IS also still holds significant territory -- are the main targets of the offensive, which was announced on Saturday.

The Joint Operations Command also said Monday that Iraqi aircraft had dropped leaflets over Mosul urging residents to leave IS-held areas -- the second time it had done so within the past week.

Overnight, planes dropped "thousands of leaflets on the Old Mosul, Al-Zinjili, Al-Shifaa and Al-Saha areas urging citizens to leave toward our security forces," it said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already been displaced by the battle for Mosul, and that figure is likely to rise as Iraqi forces close in the last IS-held areas of the city.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.