Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition advanced deeper into western Mosul on Sunday, (26 February) to gain control of a bridge across the Tigris river that links the eastern bank of Mosul to the western side.

Colonel Falah al-Wabdan of the Rapid Response, an elite unit of the interior ministry, said: "The bridge is very important. The bridge is about 400 metres away. By the end of the day you will hear that our forces have arrived (there)."

Army engineers will repair the bridge, which will allow Iraqi forces to carry supplies from the eastern part of the city, al-Wabdan told Reuters.

All of the bridges spanning Tigris were damaged in air raids led by the US coalition and later on by Isis jihadists trying to close off the western bank.

Meanwhile, at least 1,200 people from west Mosul fled the fighting on Sunday and hundreds of others fled since Thursday to government controlled areas, an officer from Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said.

"We want to return to our home in Mafraq al-Qayyara," which is located in south of Mosul, Mohammad Allawi Zeidan said.

Iraqi police, army and CTS along with the Rapid Response units launched an offensive against Isis militants in western Mosul, with ground and air support from US-led coalition. According to aid agencies, at least 750,000 civilians are stuck in Mosul as the battle rages.

Iraqi forces have been successful in capturing the Mosul International Airport, a military base nearby, a power plant and a residential district so far. Commanders estimate that they could soon control two other residential districts Hawi al-Josaq and al-Tayyaran.

They are now about 3km away from the main government buildings and the old city centre, but commanders say it would be a long battle to reach the old city centre as tanks and other armoured vehicles cannot pass through the narrow streets.

The Isis jihadists have a network of pssageways and tunnels to let them hide and fight amidst civilians, disappear after operations and monitor government troops movements.

The United Nations estimates at least 400,000 civilians will have to flee their homes during the course of the battle as food and other supplies run out in western Mosul.