Iraqi forces have begun an operation to regain control of western Mosul from ISIS militants, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday.
The news came weeks after Iraqi forces recaptured eastern Mosul across the Tigris River.
Abadi described the operation as a “new dawn” in the liberation of Mosul – which is the terrorist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.
“Go forward with my blessing, heroic forces of Iraq,” he said on state TV.
ISIS took control of Mosul in 2014. Iraqi government launched a massive operation to retake the city in October. The Iraqi army was backed by counter-terrorism forces, federal police and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
While the western Mosul has been targeted by airstrikes in the past, no major ground offensive was launched to retake the area from ISIS.
Iraqi forces recaptured the eastern part of the city in January, but the western portion of the city has eluded them since ISIS has dedicated much of its defensive capabilities to that area.
The offensive is expected to be carried out from the south and west as all five bridges connecting the eastern and western parts of the city are heavily damaged.
Iraqi air force on Saturday dropped millions of leaflets over western Mosul, warning residents of the upcoming offensive.