VIDEO: fighting in Mosul on Saturday between Iraqi forces and ISIS militants.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi forces are approaching Mosul’s 4th bridge over the Tigris River that bisects the city, a bridge that ISIS severely damaged in a “desperate act” on Saturday.
Reports coming out of Mosul indicate the militants are losing numbers and, increasingly, morale as they are trapped in the city, cut off from supply and reinforcement routes, and facing Iraqi forces advancing on three sides.
On Saturday, Iraq’s joint command released a statement declaring that they are in control of Furqan neighbourhood, putting them one kilometer from the Tigris River and in control of the intersection leading to the 4th bridge.
ISIS caused “severe damage” to this bridge on Saturday, coalition spokesperson Col. John Dorrian tweeted, describing it as a “Desperate act as they continue losing ground.”
The Iraqi Counter-Terror Services (ICTS) are also largely in control of the districts of Atibaa 1 and 2, and Rifaq in northeastern Mosul, next to Muthana district which they took control of on Friday after crossing the Khosr River, according to the military’s statement.
Fighting was ongoing in Muthana on Saturday, Rudaw’s correspondent at the scene reported.
The federal police announced the liberation of al-Salam hospital, in southern Mosul, on Saturday. Iraqi forces pushed to liberate the hospital in early December, but came under heavy fire from ISIS militants, subsequently withdrawing under the cover of coalition fighter jets.
Hashd al-Shaabi also reported they liberated three villages southwest of the strategic town of Tal Abta, some 73 kilometres southwest of Mosul. The Shiite force had not reported any gains in territory for at least one week.
Since the relaunch of the military offensive in Mosul on December 29, Iraqi forces have progressed on three axes – from the north, the east, and the southeast – a tactic that spreads ISIS thin on the ground.
"We are proceeding side by side... and advancing at the same level. This is a very important factor, thanks to which Daesh [ISIS] has not been able to move its fighters. It has to support one axis at the expense of another,” the ICTS spokesperson Sabah al-Numan told reporters, according to Reuters. He reported that ICTS forces were just 500 metres from the 4th bridge.
"We have worn down the terrorist organization with this type of advance," al-Numan said.
Reports coming out of the city confirm that the group is worn down.
Militants wounded in the fighting are no longer receiving health care, the Mosul Eye, a historian and blogger from the city who has been detailing ISIS’ rule in Mosul, reported. “ISIL decided to let them die of their wounds,” he stated using an alternate acronym for the group, adding that 36 militants have died without medical treatment.
The Mosul Eye also reported that militants in the western half of the city number about 2,000 but detailed that some on the western bank were trying to smuggle their families to areas under Iraqi army control and escape themselves.
One militant swore in front of other fighters that “he will not fight anymore, and escaped afterwards,” the Mosul Eye reported. Another fighter “shot himself in the foot to avoid fighting.”
The ICTS spokesperson said they are not seeing a lot of defections from ISIS but stated that the group is directionless. “There is no main source for command, there is no one direction for giving command,” al-Numan told Rudaw English on Friday evening, adding that the local fighters left behind in the city are afraid and not receiving support from the leadership.
“The main leaders, they are foreign leaders, they withdrew before and kept the local fighters. And those they are very afraid and they don’t have money because ISIS leaders stopped paying their monthly salary.”