A tank of the Iraqi army takes part in an operation against Daesh in Mosul, Iraq, February 20, 2017.
A tank of the Iraqi army takes part in an operation against Daesh in Mosul, Iraq, February 20, 2017.

Iraqi forces backed by the US military have fought their way close to Mosul's airport on the second day of a ground offensive on Daesh's remaining stronghold in the western side of the city.

The forces dislodged Daesh from the hilltop village of Abu Saif, which overlooks the airport and reached its "vicinity," an Iraqi military statement said.

The militants are under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 750,000 civilians, after they were forced out of the eastern part of the city.

The operation is part of a major offensive kicked off on October 17 with an aim to drive Daesh out of Mosul, the group's last major stronghold in Iraq.

The US, which has deployed more than 5,000 troops in the fighting, leads an international coalition providing air and ground support to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

TRT World's Oliver Whitfield-Miocic reports.

Greater risk to civilians

Elite Counter-Terrorism Service units headed to front lines around the western side of Mosul, a city divided in two by the Tigris River.

"They are striking and engaging our forces and pulling back towards Mosul," Major Mortada Ali Abd of the Rapid Response units said. "Praise to God, Albu Saif has been fully liberated today."

The Iraqi forces have been advancing so far in sparsely populated areas and there were no families seen escaping.

The fighting will get tougher as they get nearer to the city itself, and the risk is greater for civilians.

Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive as residents of western Mosul suffer food and fuel shortages and markets are closed, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters on Saturday.

TRT World's Ammar Karim has more on the latest developments.

Fight in western Mosul more difficult

Commanders expect the battle to be more difficult than in the east of the city, as tanks and armoured vehicles cannot pass through its narrow alleyways.

The militants have developed a network of passageways and tunnels to enable them to hide and fight among civilians, disappear after hit-and-run operations and track government troop movements, according to residents.

Western Mosul contains the old city centre, with its ancient souks, government administrative buildings, and the mosque from which Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his self-styled caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

The city is the largest urban centre captured by Daesh in both countries.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies