US-backed Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul on Saturday, advancing in several populated southern districts after punching through the defences of Islamic State’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq a day earlier.
About 1000 civilians walked across the frontlines, the largest movement since the new offensive launched last week to deal the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group a decisive blow.
In the capital Baghdad, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the first such visit in more than a decade between Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite-led Iraq.
The new push in Mosul comes after government forces finished clearing Islamic State from the east of the city last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector across the Tigris river.
Commanders expect the battle there to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armoured vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts.