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It is a densely-populated maze of narrow alleyways where fighting is often conducted house by house.
About 100,000 civilians remain trapped there in harrowing conditions, with little food, water and medicine and limited access to hospitals, according to the United Nations.
Iraqi forces began storming the Isis-held Old City of Mosul, an assault they hope will be the last in the eight-month campaign to seize the militants' stronghold.
The historic district is the last still under control of the militants in the city which used to be their capital in Iraq.
Isis, which seized the ancient city in June 2014, still controls around eight square kilometres of western Mosul, including the densely populated Old City where some of the fiercest and most gruelling final battles are expected to play out in the narrow streets that are impassable for tanks.
Special forces spokesman Sabah al-Numan said his troops had completed their initial mission, but stood ready “to support any other forces if we are ordered to by the Prime Minister".
"This will be a terrifying time for around 100,000 people still trapped in Mosul's Old City ...
Despite the announcement, battles are still raging in a handful of neighbourhoods, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee each day.“These families should not be forcibly returned to unsafe areas and areas that lack adequate water, food, electricity, or health facilities,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.Elsewhere in central and southern Iraq, a series of bombings in the past few days have left at least 27 people dead.A suicide bombing near the oil-rich city of Basra killed at least eight people and wounded 41 others, according to a military commander.Five civilians and three troops were killed when the bomber blew up his explosives-laden car at a checkpoint north of Basra just behind a bus waiting to be cleared, said chief of the Basra Operations Command, Lieutenant General Jamil al-Shimmari.