Iraqi forces entered a northern neighborhood of Tikrit Wednesday, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said.
"We are now doing combat missions to cleanse the neighborhood of Qadisiyah," a major general told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"We were able to control Tikrit military hospital, which is close to the center of the city," he said.
"But we are engaging in a very delicate battle because we are not facing fighters on the ground, we are facing booby-trapped terrain and sniper fire. Our movement is slow," the senior officer said.
He said the forces that entered Qadisiyah on Wednesday morning included army and police, as well as members of the large volunteer force called Popular Mobilization units.
Iraqi forces have been closing in for days but had largely refrained from entering the city, launching only small-scale operations on the edges of Tikrit and laying siege to it.
Several other military and political sources confirmed that Iraqi forces had retaken control of a significant part of Qadisiyah, a large neighborhood stretching north of the city center.
AFP contributed to this report.