USA changes rules of engagement for Mosul fight in Iraq

Iraqi forces retake runway from ISIS at Mosul International AirportMore

IS has lost most of their urban bastions in the vast western province of Anbar since Iraqi forces started mounting a counter-offensive following the capture by IS of about a third of the country in 2014.

Iraqi security forces members pose with a seized ISIS flag after driving its militants out of Mosul's airport, southwest Mosul, Iraq, February 23, 2017.

"Our troops are liberating it", Hisham Abdul Kadhem, a commander in the interior ministry's Rapid Response units, told AFP inside the airport.

The Iraqi government and its United States and Iran-back allies launched an operation in December 2016 to retake the city, the country's second biggest and the last major Daesh bastion in Iraq. There are now 450 conventional soldiers and a classified number of special operators embedded with elite Iraqi forces around Mosul, calling in airstrikes, training troops, and helping with battle tactics.

Islamic State fighters spent the day "attempting to respond to the Iraqi maneuver but it hasn't been effective", said New Zealand Brig Gen. Hugh McAslan, the deputy commanding general of the USA -led ground effort in Iraq and Syria.

"This will be a terrifying moment for the 750,000 people still in the west of the city, and there is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come", said Jason Kajer, the Iraq acting country director for the humanitarian group. Western Mosul remains under ISIS control, and was the more populous and more heavily defended side of the city.

Despite an announcement by a senior US Army official this week that US servicemen would be embedded closer to the theater of operations, Dorrian said that US troops were still staying out of danger. Gen. Khalifa. "When a threat comes in like this, we take it just as seriously as if we are under threat".

Abadi's comments came as Iraqi forces on Friday entered a west Mosul district for the first time since the October launch of their offensive to retake the city from the Islamic State group.

ISIS originated in the Sunni jihadist group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which waged a sectarian campaign of bombing against Shiites and US forces in the wake of Washington's 2003 invasion and overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. Police officers said the militants deployed bomb-carrying drones at the forces advancing from the south-west. On Thursday, U.S. forces were seen in the front lines of the attack.

American and French air support has helped the Iraqi forces push into western Mosul. It includes the Old City and its narrow streets, which will make for a hard terrain when Iraqi forces reach it because they will be impassable for some military vehicles.

On Wednesday, an army plane dropped thousands of letters from residents of the retaken eastern side into the western area.