According to Press TV, the Iraqi military announced the beginning of the operation in a statement released on Saturday one day after the air force dropped leaflets urging residents in Mosul’s Old City center to flee through safe corridors.
The targeted Mosul enclave covers mainly the Old City center and three adjacent districts alongside the western bank of the Tigris River.
On Friday, Stephen O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, estimated that as many as 200,000 Iraqis may flee Mosul in the coming days.
Reports say almost 760,000 people have already escaped the embattled Iraqi city over the past months.
Civilians trapped in Mosul suffer from a dire lack of food, water and fuel while they have limited access to hospitals.
Mosul fell to Daesh in 2014, when the terror outfit began its campaign of death and destruction in Iraq.
Since October 2016, the Iraqi army soldiers and allied volunteer fighters have been leading a major operation to recapture Mosul.
Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west in February.
The operation has taken longer than planned as Takfiri elements are dug in among civilians and are fighting back with car bombs, booby traps, mortar fire and snipers.
The full liberation of Mosul would likely spell the end for the Iraqi half of Daesh’s so-called caliphate.