Thousands of refugees have fled Tikrit as Iraqi troops backed by Shi’ite militia battle to re-take the ISIL strong-hold in Iraq.
Heading into its fifth day, the offensive has displaced an estimated 28,000 people, according to the UN.
ISIL militants have set fire to oil wells outside the city in an effort to conceal targets.
Though progress has been slowed by roadside bombs, the Iraqis are confident they are making headway.
“The battle is ongoing and there is a tangible retreat and collapse amongst ISIL militants,” said the Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed al-Gaban.
The Ministry of Defence issued a statement saying the forces have liberated the villages of Albu Issa, Albu Rayash and Mubarak al-Farhan and Himrin district as well as the al-Zerga bridge.
The offensive, the biggest mounted against Islamic State forces so far, is being seen as a test to determine whether Iraqi forces can push further north to recapture Iraq’s second city, Mosul which was has been under ISIL’s control since last June.