The U.N.'s public health agency says it has trained 90 Iraqi medics in "mass casualty management," with a special focus on chemical attacks. The extremist group is believed to have crude chemical weapons capabilities, and Iraqi forces say they are prepared to encounter them on the battlefield.
The World Health Organization said that of the 700,000 people expected to flee Mosul, some 200,000 will require emergency health services, including more than 90,000 children needing vaccinations and 8,000 pregnant women.
The International Organization for Migration says around 9,000 people have fled so far. It's a relatively small number, but until now, the battles have taken place in small farming communities that were mostly abandoned.
A woman prays over a grave of a family member at a graveyard damaged by Islamic State extremists in Qayara, some 31 miles, 50 km, south of Mosul, Iraq, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. When IS overran Qayara more than two years ago, the extremist group began destroying headstones at the local graveyard, telling residents they were forbidden because they did not exist at the time of the prophet.
Photo Credit: Marko Drobnjakovic/AP
The United Nations' refugee agency is shipping tents, blankets and other aid from the United Arab Emirates to northern Iraq to help those affected by the military campaign. Soliman Mohamed Daud, a senior UNHCR supply officer, told The Associated Press that 7,000 units of the relief aid will be sent to northern Iraq starting Thursday.
The Mosul offensive is the largest Iraqi military operation since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and involves more than 25,000 Iraqi soldiers, federal police, Kurdish forces, Sunni tribal fighters and state-sanctioned Shiite militias.
It marks the first time that Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region has allowed federal forces to operate in its territory since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but the two sides remain deeply divided over the boundaries of the Kurdish region and the sharing of the country's oil wealth.
Ammar al-Hakim, the Shiite cleric who leads Iraq's largest parliamentary bloc, visited a staging area near Mosul on Thursday and held a joint news conference with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, hailing their alliance against IS.
"There's no doubt that this great security and military cooperation will be an important beginning and a window to address all the pending issues," al-Hakim said. "The liberation of Mosul will be the beginning of a new Iraqi reality, with more cooperation."
Krauss reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad, Susannah George in Qayara, Iraq, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.