MOSUL, -- Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as a Daesh base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said.
The rapid advance into the Wahda neighbourhood where the hospital is located marked a change of tactic after a month of fighting in east Mosul in which the army has sought to capture and clear neighbourhoods block by block.
The ferocity of the fighting reflects the importance of the army's push from southeast Mosul towards the centre, their deepest advance in a gruelling seven-week offensive to crush Daesh in Iraq's largest northern city.
The soldiers seized Salam hospital, less than a mile (just over 1 km) from the Tigris river running through central Mosul, on Tuesday but pulled back the next day after they were attacked by six suicide car bombs and "heavy enemy fire", according to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces.
Coalition warplanes, at Iraq's request, also struck a building inside the hospital complex from which the militants were firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said.
The soldiers involved in the action are at the spearhead of a U.S.-backed, 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi forces including the army, federal police, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and mainly Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation forces battling to crush Daesh in Mosul.
In another part of Mosul already recaptured by government troops, Iraqi police fired shots in the air and threatened to whip crowds with a hose as residents tried to overrun the first distribution of aid by UN agencies inside the city.
The distribution aimed to reach 45,000 people in total at several locations. As word of the aid spread, residents of the Zuhour neighbourhood flocked to a boys' primary school chosen as a distribution point.
Hundreds surged forward against just a handful of men pushing to close the gate. They burst through, and began climbing over the walls and pushing in through the exit until the police, firing shots in the air and wielding long sticks, managed to regain control.
Defeating the militants in their Iraq stronghold would mark a major step in rolling back the caliphate declared by the jihadists in parts of Syria and Iraq when they took over Mosul in mid-2014.
Around 280 km southwest of Mosul dozens of people, mainly civilians, were killed on Wednesday in air strikes which hit a western Iraqi town close to the border with Syria, local parliamentarians and hospital sources said.
They said the strikes hit a busy market area in the Daesh-held town of Qaim, in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim province of Anbar. Among the victims were 12 women and 19 children.
An Iraqi military statement said Iraqi air force planes conducted air strikes "on a terrorist hideout" in the area shortly after noon on Wednesday, as well as a second attack on an unspecified location.
It said at least 50 terrorists were targeted in the air strikes. It gave no details of civilian casualties, but said that the region - and all information coming out of it - was controlled by Daesh. �
Source: Nam News Network