As Iraqi and Kurdish forced have continued to press in on Islamic State militants in the city of Mosul for the third day of the offensive one General has called on Isis fighters to defend their positions.

US-backed forces have said they expect a drawn out battle of weeks and months before Mosul is completely liberated. Reports from inhabitants inside the city have claimed the 6,000 Isis fighters inside the city are preparing to make their last stand in their last remaining Iraqi power base.

However, Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati told reporters he was calling on the militant group to surrender its positions and give up the fight.

On the third day of the assault on Mosul, Iraqi forces said they had successfully liberated a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida, to the east of Mosul. However, as the US-backed coalition advances though the villages and hamlets surrounding the city of 1.2 million, Isis has put up fierce opposition.

Over the past day, Isis sent 12 car bombs, all of which were blown up before reaching their targets, the Associated Press reported, adding that Iraqi troops suffered a small number of casualties from the mortar rounds.

The first wave of refugees have started to leave Mosul amid reports that in other areas of the city Isis is keeping civilians as human shields.

The international NGO Save the Children has said that in the last 10 days about 5,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have arrived at the al-Hol camp in eastern Syria from Mosul and its surrounding areas. At least 1,000 more inhabitants are now massing at the Iraqi border waiting to cross into Syria.

According to the NGO, the camp has been littered with waste and faeces, raising the risk of outbreaks of disease as a result. Inside, 9,000 people share just 16 latrines as queues of dehydrated individuals stretch for more than 100 metres waiting for trucks carrying dirty, untreated water.

Mosul offensive
Smoke rises from burning oil wells near the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, during an operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State Bulent Kilic/ AFP