The Iraqi army and coalition forces on Wednesday took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in Daesh's hands, trapping the militants in their shrinking stronghold in the city, a general and residents said.
The Iraqi army's 9th Armoured Division was within a kilometre of Mosul's "Syria Gate," the northwestern entrance of the city, a general from the unit said.
We effectively control the road, it is in our sight.
The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Daesh stronghold 60 kilometres to the west, and then to the Syrian border.
Thousands of civilians flee amid clashes
Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff, Iraqi minister of displacement and migration, said on Wednesday that 26,000 civilians have fled the fighting.
He said field teams received "26,000 displaced people from [western] Mosul during the past 10 days."
Many of the fleeing civilians, including children, were injured as they were fired at by Daesh while trying to find a way out of militant-held districts.
According to the United Nations' Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, up to 400,000 people may be displaced as a result of the ongoing offensive by government forces and their allies.
Decisive battle for Mosul
Iraqi forces launched a major push on February 19 to recapture the western Mosul from Daesh, retaking the airport and then advancing north.
The 100,000-strong force is made up of the Iraqi military, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained paramilitary groups.
The troops reached the southernmost of Mosul's five damaged or destroyed bridges across the Tigris River earlier this week.
Coalition forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January, 100 days after the government launched a decisive battle to retake Mosul in October.
Mosul is the last major Daesh bastion in Iraq. It was in Mosul in 2014 that the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
The US commander in Iraq says he believes the US and Iranian-backed government coalition will recapture both Mosul and Raqqa, Daesh's de facto capital in Syria, within six months.