Iraq forces attack four jihadist-held areas in west Mosul

Iraqi forces are battling to retake Mosul from Islamic State

About 14,000 people have fled western Mosul since Iraqi forces started their operation there February 19, said Jassem Mohammad al-Jaff, Iraq's minister of displacement and migration. IS overran almost a third of Iraq - including Mosul the country's second largest city - in the summer of 2014. Islamic State is also fighting off the Russian-backed Syrian army as well as Turkey and allied Syrian rebels.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, seized control of the only major road linking Raqa along the Euphrates valley to Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Isis fighters had "some mortar [teams] and snipers positioned inside homes", said Maj Ali Talib of the Iraqi special forces, explaining that US-led coalition airstrikes had helped destroy some of the Isis defences, but clashes were ongoing.

The IOM figures indicate the number of people who came from west Mosul to sites for the displaced from 25 February, when the arrivals began, through Sunday.

At least 33 former members of Iraqi security forces were killed in a US -led coalition raid in western Mosul on Monday, according to a local police officer.

Defeating ISIS in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate.

More than 40,000 people fled their homes in the past week, bringing the total number of displaced since the start of the offensive to almost 210,000, according to the United Nations.

The Counter-Terrorism Service and Rapid Response are two special forces units that have led operations in the Mosul area, while the federal police are a paramilitary police unit. The battle for this area will be the toughest, because of the many narrow, winding streets and the density of the population trapped within it.

The western Mosul offensive had been delayed for several days because of inclement weather, which prevented American and coalition fighters and surveillance aircraft from providing support to ground forces.

Worldwide aid organizations have warned against the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of civilians from western Mosul. Raqqa is its capital in Syria.

"We came here with only the clothes we had on us", one of the affected woman said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said food and water have been distributed to those fleeing ISIS-held areas.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis would not offer a timeline for Mosul's recapture, but he did note that Iraqi forces had retaken over 1,500 square miles of territory from Islamic State control.

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