Iraq's army has stormed the Christian
town of Qaraqosh, sources say, as an offensive to retake the city of
Mosul from so-called Islamic State continues.
Thousands of Christians fled Qaraqosh, 13km (eight miles) south-east of Mosul, when jihadists seized it two years ago.
Troops also reportedly advanced towards the southern Hamam al-Alil area on Tuesday, capturing several villages.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed to all sides in the battle to show their "humanity".
director of operations for the Middle East, Robert Mardini, told the
BBC that meant not targeting civilians, avoiding the use of heavy
weapons in densely populated areas, and giving safe passage to those who
wanted to leave.
"The world is watching," Mr Mardini warned.
An International Organization for Migration representative said it
feared IS militants would use the estimated 1.5 million civilians in
Mosul as human shields, or even deploy chemical weapons.
also concerns that Shia Muslim paramilitary forces involved in the
offensive may seek revenge on Mosul's predominantly Sunni Arab
Aid agencies are also scrambling to prepare emergency
shelters for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to try to flee
Mosul as the fighting approaches.
A coalition of about 30,000 Iraqi security personnel, Kurdish
fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen, and Shia paramilitary forces launched
the offensive on Mosul early on Monday with the support of US-led
coalition air strikes and special forces.
By nightfall they were "ahead of schedule", a Pentagon spokesman said.
The BBC's Jonathan Beale, who is embedded with Iraqi army units
moving north from the Qayyarah airbase towards Hamam al-Alil, reported
on Tuesday morning that commanders were planning to push forwards
another 4km (2.5 miles).
They recaptured 10 villages on the first
day of the operation, but had another 70 to retake before reaching the
city's outskirts, our correspondent added.
Later on Tuesday, a
source in the Iraqi military's Nineveh Operations Command told the BBC
that the army's 9th division had entered Qaraqosh without meeting any
resistance, and were searching the town for car bombs and booby-traps.
The source said coalition warplanes had also carried out air strikes
in Hamam al-Alil, destroying a water plant and health centre where IS
militants had been based.
A Kurdish commander meanwhile said his
forces were holding their positions after capturing a number of villages
east of Mosul on Monday and seizing some 200 sq km (80 sq miles) of
"The Iraqi army will now advance past our arenas of
control," Col Khathar Sheikhan told the Associated Press news agency.
"We have achieved our objectives."
Sunni tribal fighters also reported that an Iraqi soldier and three
militants had been killed in an IS attack on the village of al-Nasir,
near Qayyarah, involving a suicide car bombing.
IS said it had
carried out 10 suicide attacks against pro-government forces advancing
on Mosul on Monday. Kurdish officials said at least five of their
fighters were killed in one incident.
The Mosul offensive is
expected to take weeks, if not months, with the estimated 3,000 to 5,000
militants left in the city reportedly preparing by digging tunnels,
rigging bridges with explosives, laying booby-traps and recruiting
children as spies.