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IS launches 'chlorine gas attacks' in western Mosul

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A member of the Iraqi forces stands next to an armored vehicle in Mosul, April 16 2017.

Almost half a million people have fled their homes since Iraqi forces launched an operation to wrest Mosul back from jihadists exactly six months ago, the United Nations said Monday.

Iraqi forces are fighting to recapture west Mosul from IS after retaking the eastern side earlier this year, while soldiers and pro-government paramilitaries are also operating west of the city as part of the operation.

Iraqi government forces, backed by US advisers, artillery and air support, have cleared the east and half of western Mosul and are now focused on the Old City.

In Iraq, Sudanese migrants are also being displaced in the fight to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh.

Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.

And when civilians from their neighbourhood of west Mosul fled the fighting last month, they left with them.

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"We're reaching families who have fled and families who have stayed [but] Mosul has pushed us to our operational limits", said the Humanitarian Coordinator.

Iraqi Air Force Commander, Lieutenant-General Anwar Hammah said the use of heavy bombs had been totally banned in Mosul, where laser-guided bombs are used to hit targets.

But some senior Isis leaders have remained in the embattled city, despite the extremists controlling just 7% of it.

The Iraqi Directorate of Military Intelligence announced on Friday that a number of key Isis figures had been killed alongside al-Badrani in al-Rifai district.

Iraqi forces have been making significant gains in west Mosul over the past two months but the toughest battles could yet lie ahead, with die-hard jihadists hunkering down in the treacherous streets of the Old City.

The battle for western Mosul is very different from the one in the east and so is the consequent impact on civilians.

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