Iraqi forces on Thursday (February 23rd) thrust into Mosul airport on the southern edge of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) stronghold for the first time since the group overran the region in 2014.
Backed by jets, gunships and drones, forces blitzed their way across open areas south of Mosul and entered the airport compound, apparently meeting limited resistance but strafing the area for suspected snipers.
"Right now thank God we are inside Mosul airport and in front of its terminal. Our troops are liberating it," Hisham Abdul Kadhem, a commander in the interior ministry's Rapid Response units, told AFP inside the airport.
Little was left standing inside the perimeter and what used to be the runway was littered with dirt and rubble. Most buildings were completely leveled with the ground.
As Iraqi forces approached the airport, attack helicopters fired rockets at an old sugar factory that stands next to the perimeter wall, sending a cloud of ash floating across the area.
The push on the airport was launched at dawn and Iraqi forces stormed it within hours from the south-west.
Elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism Service were simultaneously attacking the neighbouring Ghazlani military base.
Iraqi forces also liberated the villages of al-Toma and al-Hajar, and parts of al-Sahaji village, in western and south-western Mosul, Ninawa operation commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Ameer Rashid Yarallah told Diyaruna.
An army plane late Wednesday dropped thousands of letters written by residents of the retaken east bank to their fellow citizens across the river.
"Be patient and help each other... the end of injustice is near," read one of them which was signed "People from the east side".
"Stay in your homes and co-operate with the security forces. They are your brothers, they came to liberate you," read another.