Iraqi Forces Advance Into Mosul's Old City

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ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a Friday sermon in al-Nuri mosque in July 2014 after the extremist group seized nearly a third of Iraq, declaring an Islamic caliphate in the areas under his group's control in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The official said the incident took place as government forces closed in on Islamic State fighters in the Old City and other districts, in an offensive meant to crush the hardline group in what was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.

The city's historic centre is home to the Al-Nuri mosque, where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014 proclaimed an IS "caliphate" in jihadist-controlled territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Reports however indicate that up to 600,000 civilians may be caught inside the city.

Many families said they had hardly eaten in weeks and that water was also scarce.

He said the operation was complicated by the presence of hundreds of thousands of civilians believed to have stayed on under jihadists rule.

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The operation in the city officially began in October a year ago.

Iraqi forces, backed by US air strikes, launched an operation to retake west Mosul in February. In January, its eastern half was declared "fully liberated".

Iraqi forces have recaptured a string of key targets in west Mosul, including the airport, the train station, and the provincial government headquarters. More than 750 civilians have been killed or injured since the battle for west Mosul began over a month ago, Rudaw reported.

The aid operation for western Mosul is "far larger and far more complex" than in the east, she said.

"If the number of people leaving the city increases faster than we can construct new plots, the situation could deteriorate very quickly", she added.

Also on Monday, a auto bombing in a bustling business district in the west of the capital Baghdad killed at least 15 people, an interior ministry official said.