Twelve people treated for potential chemical weapons exposure in Mosul

Getty Images

Getty Images

Iraqi forces Sunday edged edging closer to the central parts of western Mosul, while more than 45,000 people are estimated to have been displaced from the area since an offensive to dislodge Islamic State fighters began last month.

The World Health Organization said it has activated "an emergency response plan" with partners and local health authorities to safely treat people who may be exposed to a highly toxic chemical.

"This is awful", Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said.

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

On March 3 the ICRC reported evidence of the use of chemical agents in Mosul, saying they admitted five children and two women who showed symptoms "consistent with an exposure to a blistering chemical agent".

Nazim Hamid, whose family is being treated for possible chemical weapons exposure, told AP a mortar had hit his house while he and his family were inside.

Iraqi forces have recaptured several areas in west Mosul since launching the push to retake it on February 19, but their pace has slowed amid bad weather which muddies streets and makes air support more hard. The eastern side remains within reach of the militants' rockets and mortar shells.

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IHS conflict monitor, a London-based research and intelligence group found that Islamic State has used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria at least 52 times, and that at least 19 of the 52 attacks took place around Mosul.

The International Organization for Migration's Mosul Displacement Tracking Matrix showed the number of people uprooted since the start of the offensive in October exceeded 206,000 on Sunday, up from 164,000 on February 26.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Saturday that 30,000 people had been displaced by the government's offensive on IS.

"Unfortunately, there is a clear shortfall in the work of these (UN) organisations", said Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff, the minister of displacement and migration.

For its part, the United Nations said it is working as fast as possible to help those displaced.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) offered to assist the Iraqi government investigating the use of chemical weapons in Mosul.

Those people, who continue to remain in the sieged Mosul, are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster.

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