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

Iraq says army makes gains in grueling Mosul battle

Dominic Evans and Stephanie Nebehay write for Reuters:

The Iraqi army said it took full control of two more districts of east Mosul on Saturday, pushing back Islamic State militants in a slow and hard-fought advance into the city whose 1 million residents face growing shortages of fuel, water and food.

A military statement said elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) troops took over the neighborhoods of al-Murour and al-Qadisiya al-Oula, expanding their area of control in the east of the city.

Despite the reported advance, the army's progress in Mosul remains painstakingly slow, facing brutal counter attacks from the hugely outnumbered but well prepared and heavily armed jihadists who have controlled the city since mid-2104.

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Iraq police poised to enter Mosul

AFP reports:

Police and interior ministry forces will enter Mosul to help the army defeat the Islamic State group in the east of the city, Iraqi commanders said on Saturday.

Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said federal police forces and the elite Rapid Response forces from the interior ministry would soon move in to assist the army's 9th Armoured Division.

The move comes three days after jihadists ambushed the army in the Al-Salam hospital in southeast Mosul, killing several soldiers and forcing them to pull back.

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A lethal mistake leads to a harrowing ambush in Iraq’s Mosul

Susannah George  writes for AP:

As Iraqi forces advanced toward the al-Salam hospital in Mosul earlier this week, encountering only light resistance from Islamic State fighters, commanders decided to seize the facility instead of sweeping the neighborhoods along the road leading to it.

A few hours later, as the sun set Tuesday evening, the trap was sprung. First came the suicide car bombs, and then the hospital was surrounded by hundreds of militants firing bursts of heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

“We thought we were going to die, all we could think about was saving our lives,” Pvt. Mithad Abdulzahra of the Iraqi army’s 9th Division said later, as he recovered in a hospital bed in the nearby city of Irbil from gunshots that shattered his right arm. The IS fighters eventually fought their way inside the al-Salam hospital. Of the 100 or so Iraqi soldiers trapped there, nearly all were killed or wounded, he said.

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Iraq says it destroys Mosul car bomb factories

Dominic Evans reports for Reuters:

Iraqi forces captured a neighborhood in east Mosul on Friday, pushing deeper to the heart of Islamic State's Iraq stronghold and destroying three sites where it produced car bombs used in waves of suicide attacks, the campaign's commander said.

Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah said Counter Terrorism Service forces spearheading the seven-week operation to retake Mosul seized the Tamim district halfway between the city's eastern edge and the River Tigris running through its center.

The elite troops, part of a U.S.-backed, 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi forces, have been fighting street battles with the militants and now control around half of the city's eastern neighborhoods.

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Voices from Mosul: ‘Hope is fading’

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Salma Abdelaziz write for CNN:

When Iraqi troops launched the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS in late October, many families in the city were hopeful. After two years living under the militant group's draconian rule, they believed they would be freed in a matter of days.

Visions of liberation soon gave way to a much bloodier reality. Seven weeks into the operation, only a small sliver of the city's eastern neighborhoods has been declared cleared and secured.

Coalition forces are now locked into a grueling house-to-house battle for the city, a fight that will take many more months. ISIS has resisted fiercely -- blowing up hundreds of car bombs, placing snipers on the rooftops of homes, and even using civilians as human shields.

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Iraq Prepares for New Fight Against Post-Mosul IS

Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra write for AP:

With the Islamic State group's "caliphate" seemingly nearing its downfall in Iraq, the country's security agencies are preparing for a different fight against the militants, shifting away from ground offensives to a focus on intelligence work, surgical airstrikes and a higher level of cooperation with the West.

The new strategy is designed to counter an expected move by the Islamic State group away from holding territory and back to a more classic role as a dispersed, underground terror organization after it loses Mosul, its last major urban center in Iraq.

The immediate priority for Iraqi officials is to limit the number of militants who escape Mosul to go into hiding, they said. Longer term, they said, the fight against post-Mosul IS can only succeed if the border with Syria is secured and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad addresses longtime grievances by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority that fueled support for the militants.

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IS video shows kidnapped Briton Cantlie alive in Mosul

AFP reports:

The Islamic State group has released a video showing John Cantlie, a British journalist kidnapped in Syria four years ago, alive in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The propaganda video by the IS-affiliated Amaq network shows an emaciated Cantlie speaking in English to the camera in the style of a news report similar to previous videos in which he appeared.

The footage was not dated but the destroyed bridges seen behind Cantlie in the video suggest it was shot in recent weeks.

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Iraqi troops pull out from Mosul hospital after fierce battle

Ahmed Rasheed, Saif Hameed and Isabel Coles report for Reuters:

Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as an Islamic State base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said.

The rapid advance into the Wahda neighborhood where the hospital is located marked a change of tactic after a month of fighting in east Mosul in which the army has sought to capture and clear neighborhoods block by block.

The ferocity of the fighting reflects the importance of the army's push from southeast Mosul towards the center, their deepest advance in a grueling seven-week offensive to crush Islamic State in Iraq's largest northern city.

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Refugee Story: IS Increasingly Desperate as Iraqi Army Moves Forward

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

In Mosul neighborhoods adjacent to areas controlled by Islamic State, the call to prayer from the militants’ mosques can be heard clearly.

So too, can increasingly desperate IS threats, says Ibrahim Inaimy, who was a farmer before the militants took over the city. Since then, like many of the people fleeing IS territories, he has been unemployed.

“Daesh knows this camp,” he says, using the Arabic acronym for IS, an insult to the militant group. “They used mosque microphones to say they plan to kill anyone who flees to this place.”

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Iraq’s parliament speaker demands inquiry into deadly Qaim air strikes

Saif Hameed writes for Reuters:

Iraq's parliament speaker called on Thursday for a government inquiry into air strikes on an Islamic State-held western border town which local politicians said had killed around 60 people, mostly civilians.

Hospital sources and two parliamentarians said the air strikes killed dozens of civilians, including 12 women and 19 children on Wednesday in a market district of the town of Qaim, close to the border with Syria.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, the most senior Sunni Muslim politician in mainly Shi'ite-ruled Iraq, said the air strikes targeted "civilian shopping centers, causing the martyrdom and wounding of dozens", and called for the perpetrators to be punished.

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