Thousands Flee Mosul as Fighting Continues in City's West

On Sunday, there were reports of heavy clashes in western Mosul between US -backed Iraqi forces and the ISIS militants they are trying to drive out of the city.

"This is frightful. If the alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed, this is a serious violation of worldwide humanitarian law and a war crime, regardless of who the targets or the victims of the attacks are", she said in a statement.

He said ISIS were using snipers, mortars and bombs planted in streets and houses.

Many civilians were able to use the cover of battle to flee the Isis-controlled areas towards Iraqi special forces.

"The use of chemical weapons is absolutely prohibited under global humanitarian law".

Anticipating the battle, 45,714 individuals or 7,619 families fled western Mosul over the past two weeks, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Sunday.

Federal police officer Sabhan al-Shuweili, for his part, said Iraqi forces were attempting to advance into the Nabi Sheth and al-Dandan districts in Mosul's western side.

The IOM said 206,520 people were now displaced, less than the exodus of a million anticipated.

The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries, are hunkered down among the remaining civilian population, which aid agencies estimated to number 750,000 in western Mosul at the start of the latest offensive.

Iraqi forces are fighting inside west Mosul, but have also moved through the surrounding desert to cut the area off from the IS-held town of Tal Afar to its west.

Col. Emad al-Bayati said the US -backed forces now control police stations and military sites in the area. "They slaughtered us", Hafifa Muhammad Saleh said.

The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) has activated with partners and local health authorities "an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemical", the agency said in a statement. The family was being treated in the Irbil hospital.

In neighbouring Syria, more than 26,000 people have been forced to flee fighting in the country's north in the same period from February 25, United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said.

Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched on October 17, involving an array of sometimes rival security forces and paramilitary groups.

At the time, the area was declared by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to be the Iraqi wing of a caliphate spanning adjourning regions of Iraq and Syria.

  • Leroy Wright