Iraqi forces battled jihadists deep inside Mosul yesterday, edging closer to the River Tigris that divides the city and looking for a breakthrough in the seven-week-old offensive.
The fighting to retake the Islamic State group's last major stronghold in Iraq has prompted a steady trickle of people to leave their homes, many taking refuge in camps where nighttime temperatures have dipped below zero.
The army's 9th Armoured Division said it had retaken Al-Salam hospital in a push on Tuesday, the farthest the army has penetrated into east Mosul since the start of a broad offensive launched on October 17.
The five-storey building towers above the neighbourhood and the jihadists had been using the upper floors and roof as sniper positions for some time, Mosul residents said.
The elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) has spearheaded the drive into Mosul over the past month, retaking several neighbourhoods in the east of the city.
The army also punched into Mosul in November but its progress has been slower and Iraqi forces barely control half of the eastern side of the city.
A senior CTS officer said the fighting in Al-Salam was fierce and the army had asked for backup.
The IS-affiliated Amaq news agency said the jihadists had carried out five suicide car bomb attacks in the area over the past 24 hours.
Officers and analysts had expected the eastern side of Mosul to offer less resistance but the going has been tough and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's promise to retake Mosul by year's end has looked increasingly in question.