Iraqi forces receive fruits on a road near in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016, during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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Even that small foothold is proving hard to maintain, however, with waves of counterattacks by militant units including snipers and suicide bombers who use a network of tunnels stretching for kilometers under the city.Mosul, whose capture is a crucial step toward dismantling the "caliphate" Daesh declared two years ago across large areas of Iraq and Syria, is too big for specialist forces alone.Hashemi said government forces were only in full control of two of the districts they entered last week.The army says it has captured five other districts, but fighting continues in all of them and Hashemi said in some neighborhoods the army had been driven back three or four times – often at night – before reclaiming territory the next day.With its tanks unable to navigate narrow city streets, the Iraqi army has called on U.S. Apache helicopters to target car bombers. The advancing forces have only breached eastern Mosul. Hashemi said two infantry divisions which have advanced close to its northern and southern limits were preparing to open two new fronts in the city, possibly as soon as Friday.
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