Iraq's special forces fought their way into the outskirts of Mosul on Tuesday, taking its state television building despite resistance by Islamic State group fighters that is only likely to stiffen when combat reaches the inner city, the AP reports. It was the first time Iraqi troops have set foot in the city, Iraq's second-largest, in more than two years. The advance was the start of what is likely to be a grueling and slow operation for the forces as they fend off booby traps and ambushes in difficult, house-to-house fighting expected to take weeks, if not months. Mosul is the last major IS stronghold in Iraq, the city from which it drove out a larger but demoralized Iraqi army in 2014 and declared a "caliphate" that stretched into Syria. Its loss would be a major defeat for the jihadis.
Tuesday's battle opened with Iraqi artillery, tank, and machine gun fire on IS positions on the edge of Gogjali, with the extremists responding with guided anti-tank missiles and small arms in an attempt to block the advance. Airstrikes by the US-led coalition supporting the operation added to the fire hitting the district. Inside the village of Bazwaya, 3 miles east of Mosul, white flags hung from buildings, put up a day earlier by residents eager to show they would not resist the Iraqi forces' advance. Some residents stood outside their homes, and children raised their hands with V-for-victory signs. (Read more Iraq stories.)