Families flee Mosul as Iraqi army advances
Holding babies on their hips and all the possessions they could carry, thousands of tired and hungry residents streamed out of Mosul as the Iraqi army pushed deeper into the Isil-held side of the city.
Heavy rain had transformed the barren landscape outside the north Iraqi city into a sea of mud, and cold gusts of wind lashed the families as they sank, many of them shoeless, ankle deep into the mud. Sons propped up their elderly mothers, grandparents were pushed through the sludge in wheelchairs. Young girls stoically dragged along bags half their size.
Leaving at daybreak, more than 2,000 civilians had made it to a disused bus terminal in the village of Athbah by noon, security officials at the site estimated. More than 30,000 civilians have fled west Mosul, according to figures by the Norwegian Refugee Council released last Friday.
As citizens leave the west, the United Nation's World Health Organisation revealed that 12 people from the east were being treated for suspected exposure to chemical agents. "This is horrible," Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said. "There is never justification - none whatsoever - for the use of chemical weapons."
The alleged attack occurred in eastern Mosul, an area declared fully liberated by Iraqi forces in January. The attack hit a neighbourhood along the Tigris River, which roughly divides the city in two.
Among the injured were five children. Doctors in the nearby Erbil say they began receiving patients showing symptoms of chemical weapons exposure on Thursday.