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Heavy fighting erupts in east Mosul as Iraqi army drives deeper into city

Columns of armored vehicles wound through open desert to open the new front, pushing through dirt berms, drawing heavy fire and calling in airstrikes to enter the middle class neighborhoods of Tahrir and Zahara. The area was once named after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Timimi told The Associated Press that three militants in separate explosives-laden vehicles tried to attack the troops but were destroyed, including a bulldozer that was hit by an airstrike from the U.S.-led coalition supporting the offensive.

At least one solider was seriously wounded in the first hours of the new advance, which came under heavy fire from mortars, automatic weapons, snipers and anti-tank rockets. Commanders at the scene said his injury to the neck could have been the result of small arms fire or shrapnel from a mortar round.

Earlier, at the direct eastern approach to the city’s urban center, militants holed up in a building fired a rocket at an Abrams tank, disabling it and sending its crew fleeing from the smoking vehicle, seemingly unharmed. The advance in that area then stalled.

The day’s fighting has been the most intense urban combat in Mosul since the Iraqi offensive began over two weeks ago to drive IS from the city, Iraq’s second-largest.

The early morning push began with artillery and mortar strikes on the Aden, Tahrir, and Quds districts, just west of special forces’ footholds in the Gogjali and Karama neighborhoods, al-Timimi said. Both sides opened up with small arms and mortar fire after an artillery barrage by the special forces, ahead of their advance. The Islamic State group is fighting to hold Mosul as Iraqi forces and allied Kurdish troops squeeze in from all directions with U.S.-led coalition support, mostly from airstrikes and reconnaissance.