Iraq takes another major district in western Mosul

The Iraqi takeover of the airport gives its troops access to Mosul from the southwest and for the first time control of an area along the west bank of the Tigris River.

East and west Mosul are divided by the Tigris, and US-led coalition airstrikes have damaged all five bridges connecting the two sides in an effort to contain the militants in the west.

"Our forces are only 1 kilometer from al-Dawasa neighborhood", Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jaudat of the Iraqi Federal Police told CNN.

The Iraqi army launches a rocket toward Islamic State militants during a battle near Ghozlani military complex, south of Mosul, Iraq.

Another commander, Hisham Abdul Kadhem, said, "Right now, thank God, we're inside Mosul airport and in front of its terminal". The fighters took smaller vehicles to block roads against advancing Iraqi forces, while using larger SUV-type ones for themselves, residents said. It took three months for Iraqi forces to seize control of the eastern part of the city.

In Western Mosul, Iraqi forces are making real, if slow, progress.

The campaign involves a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Shi'ite militias and Sunni tribal fighters.

"Comparing this situation to the recent battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo, Syrian government forces and their Russian allies directly attacked civilians (as they retook the city last November and December)", said Hassan-Yari on VOA Persian's NewsHour program.

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Damascus and Moscow have denied targeting civilians in Aleppo. During the advances on Thursday, the U.S.

The American forces are not supposed to be engaged in the fighting under Washington's terms of the USA involvement in Iraq.

On February 19, Iraqi soldiers and Hashd al-Sha'abi fighters mounted a new offensive to liberate western Mosul. Rows of heavily armored vehicles dot the base as hundreds of USA troops, part of the 5,000 in Iraq and Syria, construct new buildings and ferry in supplies for themselves and their Iraqi allies, all calling to mind the massive forward operating bases during the height of the American involvement in Iraq.

Once repaired, the bridge could help bring reinforcements and supplies from the eastern side, piling pressure on the militants dug in the western side among 750,000 civilians.

Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Iraq and vowed that the U.S. will support Iraq in its fight against Islamic State jihadists.

The United Nations says up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive as food and fuel runs out in western Mosul. The terrorist organization is trying to hold onto its last major urban stronghold in Iraq.

At the nearby American Qayyara West airfield - long known as Q-West from when it was a much larger US base several years ago - the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division has settled in behind acres of new blast walls to protect its Apaches and RQ-7 Shadow surveillance drones, which buzz constantly over Mosul and its surrounding villages.

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