(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) The Iraqi army broke through the southern borders of the city of Falluja on Monday under air cover from an international coalition to retake the city from the Islamic State (IS).
The Iraqi forces, which includes Shia troops, began its operation to reclaim the besieged city located 50 km west of Baghdadon 23 May.
The city was seized in January 2014 by IS, which at the time controlled a wide area of northern Iraq and declared it a Caliphate along with land it had seized in Syria.
An army statement said troops entered from the southern part of the city, and 'kept moving forward'.
The Shia troops controlled the village of Al-Saklawiya in northern Falluja with support from the air force.
Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi, the commander of the operation, said: “Iraqi forces entered Fallujah under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation, and supported by artillery and tanks.”
'Counter-terrorism service (CTS) forces, the Anbar (provincial) police and the Iraqi army, at around 4.00am, started moving into Falluja from three directions,” he said, adding that IS members are still resisting.
The battle puts 50,000 inhabitants of the city under risk.
Falluja is the second largest city under IS-control following Mousel.
Iraqi PM Haidar Al Abadi hopes to restore Mousel later this year in a wide-scale effort to undermine the terrorist organisation.
Al Abadi launched this operation after a series of bomb attacks in the capital Baghdad killed 150, the worst series of attacks in 2016.
The battle of Falluja is expected to be difficult for the Iraqi army; however, IS has grown weaker in recent months.
The group controls 14% of Iraqi territory, down from 40% in 2014.