The Iraqi military has halted operations near Mosul’s Old City to allow safe passage for civilians fleeing from ISIS.

“Currently, there is a delay, to open safe passageways for families and residents towards the safe areas and camps,” said Lieutenant Colonel Emad Khalas on Sunday.

The fight against ISIS militants in the city has been mostly focused around the vicinity of the al-Nuri mosque where the terrorist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the forming of the group’s so-called caliphate in 2014.

Nearly 355,000 civilians have managed to flee the city since the operations to liberate it from ISIS began in October, and some 400,000 still remain trapped by the terrorists, who are using them as human shields, according to government sources.

At least 13 civilians were killed by ISIS militants while they were attempting to escape Mosul, a federal police source said earlier.

“Thirteen civilians were killed while trying to escape Tamouz region heading to Bab al-Sham, western Mosul,” said Colonel Khodeir Saleh.

Since the beginning of the operations in the Old City area several weeks ago, the Iraqi forces have been facing tough resistance from ISIS and their progress has been slow.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces managed to drive ISIS militants out of the eastern part of Mosul, Iraqi second-largest city.