Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

‘Worst is yet to come’ with 400,000 trapped in west Mosul: U.N.

Stephanie Nebehay and Patrick Markey write for Reuters:

About 400,000 Iraqi civilians are trapped in the Islamic State-held Old City of western Mosul, short of food and basic needs as the battle between the militants and government forces rages around them, the United Nations refugee agency said on Thursday.

Many fear fleeing because of Islamic State snipers and landmines. But 157,000 have reached a reception and transit center outside Mosul since the government offensive on the city's west side began a month ago, said Bruno Geddo, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq.

"The worst is yet to come. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork-popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions," he said.

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Iraqi prime minister: My country needs more help from the U.S.

Haider al-Abadi writes for The Washington Post:

Two weeks ago, I visited Iraqi troops in western Mosul as they prepared to liberate the last terrorist-controlled neighborhoods in the city. By any standard, they are heroes. I did not ask their religious, regional or ethnic origins. I saw them for what they were: Iraqis standing together against the cruelest killers on Earth.

Some of the soldiers I met may have fallen since then in house-to-house fighting. With their sacrifices, our troops have helped to deal a death blow to ISIS, and the terrorist organization is losing its largest stronghold in Iraq and the aura of invincibility it once claimed.

Having spilled our blood together with the United States to win this war, we want to work together to win the peace.

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Mosul parents sedate children with drugs, fearing discovery by Islamic State: aid groups

Emma Batha writes for Reuters:

Terrified Iraqi families fleeing fierce fighting in Mosul are drugging their children with sedatives or taping their mouths shut to prevent their cries alerting Islamic State militants as they try to escape, aid workers say.

Hala Jaber of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said men caught trying to leave would be shot while women were sometimes tied up and left outside in the cold as a warning. Militants are also using civilians as human shields.

"Families often leave at night and in the early hours of the morning and have to walk with their children. The kids get tired and if they cry it's very difficult," Jaber told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Erbil, east of Mosul.

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An Unexpected Encounter in Mosul’s Ruins

Andrew Katz writes for Time:

Ten minutes had passed before the boy appeared out of nowhere and into the frame. Felipe Dana, an Associated Press photographer shadowing Iraqi forces in western Mosul, was naturally drawn to this surreal scene: the shell of a car somehow perched atop the shell of a house in this shell of a neighborhood. The guts of another vehicle, on ground level, were on full display. Then, the boy on the bike.

The way Dana tells the story, it sounds like he saw a ghost. Judging by the way the boy gazes toward the man behind the camera, it appears he saw one too.

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Thousands Fleeing Western Mosul with Acute Medical Needs

Doctors Without Borders reports:

Tens of thousands of people are fleeing western Mosul, Iraq, amid a military offensive to recapture the area, with many wounded in the crossfire or suffering from other emergency medical needs, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

There is a lack of medical resources to treat the high number of patients in Mosul, and ambulances referring patients outside the city are unable to cope with the number of trauma victims and the long distances needed to transfer patients for further treatment.

MSF medical teams are working in eastern Mosul, in trauma centers and advanced medical posts around the city and in newly established camps for displaced people fleeing Mosul. Teams in and around Mosul have received more than 1,800 patients in need of urgent or lifesaving care in the last two months, 1,500 of whom needed treatment for conflict-related trauma. MSF started providing much-needed maternity services in eastern Mosul in early February, attending 100 births so far.

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Islamic State shells recaptured areas in west Mosul

Hamuda Hassan reports for Reuters:

Islamic State militants shelled areas recaptured by Iraqi forces in western Mosul, hitting civilians fleeing the fighting early on Wednesday as troops edged their way through the narrow, dangerous streets of the Old City.

Heavy mortar fire killed at least five civilians and wounded more than 20 in Mosul Jadida and Rifak districts - areas that the militants had recently lost to Federal Police and Rapid Response brigades, military officials said.

The battle for Mosul, Islamic State's last stronghold in Iraq, is entering its sixth month with Iraq forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition air strikes and advisers now controlling the east of the city and more than half of the west.

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Iraqi forces try to bring civilians out of west Mosul, U.S. pledges more support

Patrick Markey reports for Reuters:

Iraqi government forces attempted to evacuate civilians from Mosul's Islamic State-held Old City on Tuesday so that troops could clear the area, but militant snipers hampered the effort, Iraqi officers said.

They said the insurgents were also using civilians as human shields as government units edged toward the al-Nuri Mosque, the focus of recent fighting in the five-month-long campaign to crush Islamic State in the city that was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.

As many as 600,000 civilians remain in the western sector of Mosul, complicating a battle being fought with artillery and air strikes as well as ground combat. Thousands have escaped in recent days.

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ISIS Dumped Hundreds in Mass Grave

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) executed and dumped the bodies of possibly hundreds of detainees at a site near Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today.

Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the bodies of those killed, including bodies of members of Iraqi security forces, were thrown into a naturally occurring sinkhole at a site known as Khafsa, about eight kilometers south of western Mosul. Local residents said that before pulling out of the area in mid-February, ISIS laid improvised landmines at the site, which are sometimes referred to as improvised explosive devices or booby traps.

“This mass grave is a grotesque symbol of ISIS’s cruel and depraved conduct – a crime of a monumental scale,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Laying landmines in the mass grave is clearly an attempt by ISIS to maximize harm to Iraqis.”

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American medics try to heal Mosul

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for LA Times:

When an elderly man arrived at a front line clinic this week, right leg burned while fleeing an airstrike, an American medic took one look and knew he needed to get the patient to a hospital fast.

As Iraqis face the daily horrors of improvised explosive devices, mortar rounds, snipers’ bullets and airstrikes, nonprofit civilian groups from the U.S. and Europe are attempting to provide critical medical assistance.

The medics said the task is often overwhelming, as they’re called to treat not only injured soldiers and civilians but families living in surrounding neighborhoods who face shortages of medication, food and water.

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ISIS battles U.S.-backed troops to vicious standoff in Mosul

Charlie D'Agata reports for CBS:

We witnessed first-hand just how vicious a street battle the fight for western Mosul has become. Heavy gunfire and explosions rang out from every direction.

It was hard to know where to take cover. Iraqi soldiers dashed across the street, dodging fire from an ISIS sniper. A mortar exploded behind us.

This is what the fight to recapture the Old City of Iraq’s second-largest metropolis has become and, right now, it’s clear ISIS still has the upper hand. Iraqi forces’ armored vehicles can’t get through the labyrinth of alleyways and narrow side streets, so soldiers have to fight this battle on foot.

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