Iraqi forces faced heavy resistance on Tuesday as they pushed toward the center of a town held by Islamic State militants in western Anbar province, commanders at the scene said.

The small town of Hit – which lies along the Euphrates River in a valley in Anbar’s sprawling desert – is strategically important as it sits along an IS supply line that links territory controlled by the extremist Sunni group in Iraq and in Syria. Through the line, IS ferries fighters and supplies from Syria into Iraq.

Iraqi troops entered Hit on Monday, under cover of heavy airstrikes and a week after launching the operation to retake the town. Their advance has been stalled as tens of thousands of civilians got trapped in the fighting. A political crisis in Baghdad as well as poor weather conditions further slowed the push. […]