MOSUL, Iraq, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 04th Nov, 2016 ) - Elite Iraqi forces in tanks and bulldozers thrust into Mosul Friday but faced intense gunfire and bombs from jihadists defending the city where their "caliphate" was born. Soldiers of the Counter-Terrorism Service pushed into the eastern neighbourhood of Al-Karamah, the first significant incursion into the city since a broad offensive to retake it began on October 17. The CTS's "Mosul regiment", which was the last to leave the city when the jihadists overran it in June 2014, faced "tough resistance", commander Muntadhar Salem told an AFP reporter on the edge of the city.
The gunfire was almost uninterrupted and reports from the front crackling into CTS radios said IS had set up barriers and laid bombs along the streets to slow the advance. Air strikes by the US-led coalition have intensified over the past two days to prepare for the advance, despite the smoke from burning tyres set on fire by IS in a bid to provide cover. The resistance in Al-Karamah came despite widespread reports in recent weeks that top IS commanders had left the eastern side of the city and crossed the Tigris river to regroup on its west bank. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 IS fighters are scattered across the sprawling city, Iraq's second largest, where a million-plus civilians are believed to be trapped. There has been an exodus of civilians from outlying villages this week but few managed to find a safe way out of the city itself.