Iraqi forces have advanced to the northern edge of west Mosul, freeing and evacuating dozens of civilians who had been under the control of Islamic State (IS) extremists, military commanders say.
Raed Chaker, chief of the militarized federal police, on May 6 said his forces had pushed into the IS-controlled district of Al-Haramat in northwestern Mosul, taking about 500 meters of territory from the extremists since a new offensive began on May 3.
"The forces evacuated tens of civilians after liberating them in the battlefield of Al-Haramat," he said, adding that about 15 militants had been killed during the day.
The report of the advance comes a day after officials said U.S.-backed Iraqi forces drove IS out of the Musherfa district of western Mosul, sending dozens of civilians fleeing for safer territory in east Mosul.
"So many of my neighbors and friends died,” a man fleeing Musherfa told Reuters. "We were freed, but we are not happy because we lost the people closest to us."
Humanitarian groups report that food supplies are running low for civilians trapped inside areas still held by the militants and in areas recently taken back by Iraqi forces.
The United Nations has said 300,000 to 500,000 people remain trapped in IS-held Mosul districts, with some areas cut off from food supplies for up to six months.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are battling to free Mosul from IS fighters, their last stronghold in Iraq.
East Mosul has been declared liberated. Iraqi forces are gaining ground in bloody fighting in heavily populated west Mosul, but they still are facing fierce resistance from an estimated 1,000 IS extremists in the offensive that began on February 19.
The May 3 offensive started in the northwestern side of Mosul. Previous drives have begun from the east and south.
The offensive is aimed at capturing the crowded Old City of Mosul, which is still controlled by IS fighters, who are believed to be using civilians as human shields.
IS captured wide swaths of territory in 2014 and declared a so-called caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
They are now seeing those gains reversed and are being pressured in their final two strongholds -- Mosul and Raqqa in Syria.
With reporting by dpa, AP, and Reuters