US-backed Iraqi forces are within reach of the main government complex in Mosul as they continue their push to dislodge ISIL militants from the city.
But their progress has been met with heavy sniper and mortar fire.
Among the civilian casualties at least 12 people are being treated for exposure to chemical agents according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The organisation said it did not know which side used the chemicals:
“Since 1st March, the hospital that our medical team and surgeons are currently working at received 15 people that showed that they some sort of exposure to chemical agents. There are blisters. A lot of them came coughing, vomiting, (or had) redness in the eye,” said Sara al-Zewqari of the ICRC.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 people have been displaced from Mosul in the last week during the fresh push, but that number exceeds 200,000 since the start of the offensive back in October. That number may still rise sharply. The United Nations last month warned that more than 400,00 people, more than half the remaining population in western Mosul, could be displaced. Fears of more chemical attacks are driving some people out.
One man said the army had told them that Daesh (ISIL) would attack with chemical rockets. “Based upon this, we left everything behind.”
The UN has called for an investigation into the use of chemical weapons in the city and The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has offered to assist the Iraqi government in the matter.