Iraqi forces on Saturday, (7 January) moved closer to the Tigris river which runs through central Mosul, making rapid gains along with other troops to oust Islamic State (Isis) from their last stronghold in Iraq.

IS (Daesh) militants have been evicted from more than half the areas east of the Tigris which were held previously by the hardline group. Once the Iraqi forces reach the river it would be reportedly difficult for the jihadists to defend Mosul.

Counter-terrorism forces moved to within several hundred yards of the river, the closest they have been following an unprecedented night time attack in a nearby district the day before, a spokesperson told Reuters, as anti-IS forces continue their push in the battle for Mosul, reports suggest.

In addition, many jihadists have been ousted from the areas east of the river. A spokesperson for Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), Sabah al-Numan, said: "Counter-terrorism forces have been sent about 500 metres from the fourth bridge." He added that the forces captured Ghufran district, which is also known as al-Baath, and entered the adjacent Wahda.

A spokesperson for the coalition tweeted saying that Isis destroyed the fourth Mosul bridge out of desperation.

The Iraqi government police in a separate statement said they have retaken a hospital complex in Wahda in southeastern Mosul, which is believed to be a significant development as forces backed by the US were forced to withdraw from that area after they came under heavy fire from the jihadists.

Numan said the federal police and the CTS "are now moving in parallel on both axes" in southeastern Mosul. "We are proceeding side by side ... and advancing at the same level. This is a very important factor, thanks to which Daesh (Islamic State) has not been able to move its fighters. It has to support one axis (front) at the expense of another."

"We have worn down the terrorist organisation with this type of advance."

Meanwhile, Iraq and Turkey have reached an agreement to withdraw Turkish forces from an area close to Mosul as the two regional powers tried to improve relations after a dispute over Turkey's military deployment in northern Iraq.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim , during a visit to Iraq, did not reveal details of the deal but said: "We discussed the issue of Bashiqa."

"We see that significant progress is being made in cleansing Daesh from the region. In line with this, we will solve this (Bashiqa) subject somehow in a friendly way."

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Members of the Iraqi forces take position as they advance in Mosul's eastern Al-Intisar neighbourhood [file photo]Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP