Iraqi special forces were positioned Monday less than a mile from Mosul's eastern border and about 5 miles from the center of Iraq's second largest city. As armored tanks confronted fighters with small arms, the showdown marked the most significant advance so far in the battle to take Mosul from the Islamic State group.
Plumes of smoke dotted the area as ISIS attempted to fight back and a U.S.-led international coalition covered the skies in airstrikes. State TV called the operation as a "battle of honor." "We will enter the city of Mosul soon and liberate it from Daesh," said Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of Iraq's special forces, using an Arabic acronym for the group also known as ISIS.
The operation to take Mosul began on Oct. 17 and brought together Iraqi forces, Sunni tribesmen and Shiite militias against ISIS. It could take months to take back the city considered ISIS' headquarters in Iraq. ISIS has up to 5,000 fighters in Mosul and is greatly outnumbered. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called on the militants in Mosul to surrender, the Associated Press reported.
"We will close in on Daesh from all angles and, God willing, we will cut the snake's head," he said while visiting troops in the town of Shura near Mosul. "Either they die, or surrender."
Various news outletts are live streaming the conflict on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But the decision to broadcast scences that capture the growing death toll and violence have been met with criticism.
"Watching likes and 'wow' faces stream across smoke rising out of the city is a reminder that war as entertainment and spectacle is an awful game for everyone," Fusion wrote about the coverage.
Columbia Journalism Review was also critical of the live stream options. "Seeing graphic imagery when we’re not prepared for it is not the same as watching a television news bulletin we have deliberately chosen to consume," the magazine for U.S. journalists wrote.