An Iraqi general says government special forces have entered an eastern neighborhood of Mosul and seized the state TV building there.
The advance marks the first time Iraqi government forces have set foot within the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since it was seized by Islamic State (IS) militants in 2014.
Government troops launched the ground assault on Mosul’s industrial eastern Gogjali neighborhood early on November 1 as part of a two-week-old operation to recapture Mosul.
Major General Sami al-Aridi said his troops by noon on November 1 were inside the Gogjali district and were only 800 meters from Mosul’s more built-up Karama district.
He said IS militants had set up concrete blast walls to block off the Karama neighborhood and had laid booby traps and bombs along roads into the city.
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The battle began just before dawn on November 1 with Iraqi artillery, tank, and machine-gun fire against IS positions in the Gogjali district and support from U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
Militants fired back with antitank missiles and small arms.
Iraqi government forces, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iran-backed Shi’ite militia, and Sunni tribesmen have been converging on Mosul from all directions to force out the IS militants who seized the city in 2014.
Mosul is the IS militants’ final urban stronghold in Iraq. Its loss would be a major defeat for the militants.
But Mosul’s city center is still about 10 kilometers from the current position of the government forces now in the city.
Much ground remains to be covered in what is expected to be an intense urban battle lasting weeks or months.
Further complicating the government offensive is the presence of thousands of civilians that the United Nations believes are being used by IS militants as human shields.
The UN's human rights office says it has received fresh reports of mass killings by IS militants in and around Mosul.
UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on November 1 that the office had received field reports that 40 former members of Iraq's security forces were executed on October 29 by IS militants, who threw their bodies into the Tigris River.
Shamdasani said IS also tried to transport about 25,000 civilians from the town of Hammam al-Alil, about 15 kilometers south of Mosul, during the predawn hours of October 31 -- probably for use as human shields in the defense of IS positions.
The announcement came three days after the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Zei Raad al-Hussein, said IS militants had abducted more than 7,000 families to use as human shields against the Iraqi government offensive on Mosul.
Hussein also said last week that 232 civilians, including about 190 former Iraqi security personnel, had been shot by IS militants at Mosul’s al-Ghazlani military base.
In other news, authorities from Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region have detained a Japanese journalist who has been reporting about the battle for Mosul.
Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga confirmed on November 1 that freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka had been detained.
Suga said Japanese authorities were trying to determine why he was being held.
Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported that Tsuneoka was being held by Peshmerga fighters.