Islamic State (IS) militants launched a counterattack in the Old City of Mosul and in a village south of the city, killing several people, including two Iraqi journalists covering the battle.
An Iraqi military officer on July 7 said an IS attack along a northern edge of the Old City had pushed the Iraqi Army back some 75 meters and that the extremists were threatening to reduce government forces’ gains elsewhere in the crowded neighborhood.
The officer said 50 to 100 IS fighters carried out the counterattack, with a military doctor saying at least a dozen Iraqi soldiers had been wounded.
A day earlier, Iraqi government forces reported they had broken through the IS militants’ last major line of defense, squeezing the remaining 200-300 desperate fighters into a 250-meter strip of land along the Tigers River.
The extremist group also attacked the village of Imam Gharbi, some 70 kilometers south of Mosul, killing several people, including at least two Iraqi television journalists and an unknown number of other civilians, security forces said.
A statement from the United Nations said the fighting forced the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM) to suspend a relief operation that houses about 80,000 people in a village just north of Imam Gharbi.
A Reuters news agency crew reported coalition air strikes and artillery attacks continued to pound the extremists in Mosul.
A Pentagon report, released on July 7, said that U.S.-led coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria have killed a total of 603 civilians since the air campaign against IS was launched in 2014, about half of them in the area around Mosul.
In recent days, Iraqi and coalition officials have expressed optimism that U.S.-backed forces were nearing victory in the battle to liberate Mosul.
But the latest counterattacks appeared to indicate more bloody fighting was likely to occur before Mosul and the surrounding region can be fully liberated.
IS took Mosul in 2014 when the extremists captured large areas of territory from Iraqi and Syrian government forces, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” over land they held.
But U.S.-backed forces in Mosul and Raqqa in Syria have made major gains over IS in recent months.