Twelve people, including women and children, are being treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents inside eastern Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces are fighting to liberate the city of Daesh, the UN said on Saturday.
The Iraqi forces launched the offensive to retake the Daesh-held western districts of Mosul on February 19. The eastern half of the city was recaptured in January after 100 days of fighting.
At least 12 patients were received for treatment since March 1, which they are undergoing in the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region Erbil.
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.
t said four of the patients were showing "severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent".
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday five children and two women were receiving treatment for exposure to chemical agents. It did not say which side used the chemical agents that caused blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting and coughing.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, called for an investigation.
People who fled the ongoing fight in western Mosul endured wet conditions Saturday morning as they waited for buses or trucks near a checkpoint south of the city.
Civilians have been fleeing as US-backed Iraqi forces continue to advance into the western Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of people are still estimated to be trapped.
The Iraqi military command said the forces on Friday managed to capture Wadi Hajar neighbourhood of western Mosul. Fighting continued place in three other localities.
Daesh carries out over 10 suicide attacks a day
Daesh has intensified suicide attacks on the Iraqi army as the battle for the troubled city enters its third week.
At least 125 suicide bombings have been recorded since the operation was launched last month, many of them with deadly outcomes for the troops, the Iraqi military said.
"More than 10 suicide bombers stage attacks on a daily basis," said Iraqi army officer Hisam Wali.
According to Wali, the army has deactivated 15 bomb-laden cars in Tayran and Josaq neighbourhoods alone over the past two weeks.The military has also blown up some 80 car bombs, 25 motorbikes fitted with explosives, and apprehended 40 bombers.
The army says over 300 Daesh men have been killed in the past two weeks and another around 100 have been captured.
Over 500 Iraqi soldiers have been killed since the operation started.