MOSUL, IRAQ - Iraqi special forces troops began battling Islamic State militants in two eastern Mosul neighborhoods Monday as they continued their push toward the Tigris River which divides the city, according to Iraqi media reports and field commanders.
Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi said two special forces units began moving into the Shurta and Andalus neighborhoods early Monday morning and were advancing slowly amid IS resistance.
"The pace is medium, we're moving slowly because the forces are worried about bombs," he said.
IS fighters targeted the advancing Iraqi forces with five car bombs Monday morning, but unlike during the first weeks of the Mosul operation, the cars were not armored and could be disabled with artillery.
Since early morning, Iraqiya TV has aired a live feed from the front lines, showing thick grey smoke rising and Humvees passing by burnt-out buildings as explosions and gunfire rattled. The camera also showed the five-star Ninevah International Hotel from a distance, one of the city's iconic buildings located in a nearby neighborhood.
Al-Aridi said his forces expected to reach the last remaining bridges that span the Tigris within days.
As the Mosul operation enters its fourth month Iraqi forces say they control nearly all of the city's eastern half, but another wave of intense IS resistance likely awaits them in Mosul's west.