The UN on Tuesday warned of rising displacement and safety of civilians in Hawija in northern Iraq, as security forces push to recapture the town from Daesh terrorist group.
"Over the weekend, the number of people who have fled the fighting has increased from 7,000 during the first week of the operation to some 12,500 people as of last night," Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian spokesman, said in a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.
On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of the second phase of the ongoing operation that began on 21 September.
Along with Kirkuk's Hawija district, Daesh's rapidly diminishing presence in the country is now largely confined to the towns of Rawa and Al-Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province near the Syrian border.
"More people are expected to be displaced in the next 24 to 48 hours as fighting pushes into more densely populated areas," Learke warned.
"The exact number of people still in Hawija is unknown but could be as high as 78,000. We remain concerned for the lives and well-being of these vulnerable civilians and remind those doing the fighting that civilians must be protected at all times and allowed to safely leave Hawija," Learke said.
After overrunning vast territories in both Iraq and Syria in mid-2014, Daesh has recently suffered a string of decisive defeats at the hands of the Iraqi army.
Last month, the group was driven from Tal Afar in Iraq's northern Nineveh province. One month earlier, the northern city of Mosul — once the capital of Daesh's self-proclaimed "caliphate" — fell to the army after a nine-month siege.