July 9 (UPI) — After months of fighting, the Iraqi army is making inroads into Mosul, pushing the last pockets of Islamic State resistance from the city.
According to multiple reports, an official declaration of victory in the battle to recapture the city is expected imminently. Only a small group of ISIS fighters remain holed up in small section of Mosul’s Old City.
Over the weekend, the Iraqi army raised the national flag on the bank of the Tigris River in the Old City.
ISIS first seized Mosul in 2014, but Iraqi forces have been chipping away at jihadist control of the city since October of last year. The siege has been backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, but warplanes have dropped fewer bombs in recent days as Iraqi forces inch closer to retaking the Northern Iraq city.
In October, when fighting began, there were roughly 6,000 ISIS militants in the city. An estimated 300 remain.
Since ISIS took over the city in 2014, nearly a million civilians have fled the city. And the fighting over the last several months has left the city severely damaged.
Many of the residents who have remained in the city are being found in desperate conditions.
“We are seeing more civilians coming across the front line,” reported Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford. “Horrific stories are being told. Many of them are malnourished and seriously dehydrated. Very many of them are deeply traumatised by the months they’ve spent hiding in their homes.”
As Iraqi forces take complete control the city, many of the displaced civilians are expected to return, putting pressure on the Iraqi government to begin rebuilding the city in haste.
But for now, gunfire, however sporadic, continues. And when Mosul is officially retaken, Iraqi forces will still have more ISIS strongholds to take on. The Islamic State still controls several towns in Iraq.
“By no means does this seemingly imminent victory by Iraqi forces in Mosul mean the end of ISIL in Iraq,” Stratford said. “There’s still a lot more to do.”