By Eric Preisler
Iraqi security forces recaptured Mosul’s airport from ISIS as part of a long-standing operation, CNN reported.
While ISIS forces destroyed the airport’s runway to prevent it from being used, having control of the land will help Iraqi forces obtain southern routes to western Mosul, BBC reported.
“We were happy for the victory, but sad for the level of destruction of such an important airport,” said Abdulhadi Ahmed, captain of Iraq’s counterterrorism unit, according to The New York Times.
U.S. troops also helped to retake the village of Tel al-Rayan and the Ghazlani military camp, according to BBC.
The ensuing warfare left Tel al-Rayan severely damaged and with scores of people seeking medical attention, Los Angeles times reported.
Airstrikes led by the U.S. have also damaged the five bridges connecting the eastern and western sides of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris River, in order to contain ISIS militants in the west, CNN reported.
The retaking of Mosul from ISIS began in October when Iraqi troops and militia of minority religious and ethnic groups, which have had conflicts in Iraq’s history, aligned to retake the city, according to CNN.
Once Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul is the last stronghold of jihadists in the country, Yahoo News reported.
Recapturing the western half of the city is anticipated to be more challenging than gaining control over the eastern half. Even though western Mosul is smaller than the eastern half, it may be more difficult to gain control of because of its narrower streets and densely populated neighborhoods, according to Los Angeles Times.
An estimated 650,000 civilians remain in the western half of the city, and human rights organizations fear that using heavy weaponry would result in high civilian casualties, CNN reported.
The U.N. is setting up displacement camps around the city in anticipation of as many as 250,000 civilians fleeing their homes on the west bank, according to Yahoo News.
Civilians of eastern Mosul have written letters of solidarity to the civilians of the western half, CNN reported. However, ISIS tried to confiscate these letters, the same source reported.
“The children of ISIS went out into the streets and collected these letters early in the morning hours so no one could read them,” said Ghassan Mohammed Saadoun, a resident of the east, according to CNN.
According to Yahoo News, one of the letters read, “Be patient and help each other. … The end of injustice is near.”