Iraqi troops have advanced against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters towards the centre of Mosul after more than a month of hard-fought street battles.
As Iraqi forces pushed into the city on Sunday, they were again slowed down by sniper fire and suicide bombings, as well as concern over the safety of civilians in a city that is home to more than one million people.
A few hundred civilians emerged from rubble-strewn frontline neighbourhoods in search of safer ground, including women and children, some of them carrying bags or small suitcases.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, local resident Abu Ammar said Mosul inhabitants were gripped with fear. “We have no water and no food and we are frightened. Children are frightened, too,” he said.
“We are psychologically tired. We do not know what to do. We do not know if we should go to the camps or stay here. We are besieged here.”
Major-General Sami al-Aridi told The Associated Press news agency his special forces were searching homes in areas retaken from ISIL, looking for fighters and vehicles rigged with explosives. Troops in those areas continue to be hit by mortar and sniper fire, he said.
Another Iraqi army commander, Brigadier-General Haider Fadhil, said four civilians were killed and another four wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded before it could reach the troops it was targeting late on Saturday.
The troops laid siege on Sunday to the al-Zohour neighbourhood, about 8km from the city centre. The arrival of the troops at the neighbourhood’s fringes prompted hundreds of civilians to emerge from their homes waving white flags.
“The biggest hindrance to us is the civilians, whose presence is slowing us down,” Aridi said. “We are soldiers who are not trained to carry out humanitarian tasks.”