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

Residents Report Continued Illnesses After Suspected Chemical Attacks in Iraq

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

What looks like yellow sulphur powder covers everything in the home, and the smell is rancid. Covering their noses with cloth, local boys trudge up the stairs to the roof, being careful not to touch anything.

They examine the hole where an Islamic State bomb fell into the small house about a week ago with a woman and five children inside. It is the home of Natham Hamad, and as of Sunday his two sons, 11 and 12, were still hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly everyone in the area has had symptoms like watery eyes and breathing difficulties, residents say, many growing angry as they describe illnesses and feelings of abandonment and neglect. At least 15 people were hospitalized after this and at least four other similar attacks in recent weeks, but most people have very little access to health care.

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Iraq to continue striking Islamic State targets in Syria, Abadi says

Reuters reports:

Iraq will continue to hit Islamic State targets in Syria, as well as in neighboring countries if they give their approval, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday.

"I respect the sovereignty of states, and I have secured the approval of Syria to strike positions (on its territory)," he told a conference in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

Abadi on Feb. 24 announced the first Iraqi air strike inside Syrian territory, targeting Islamic State positions in retaliation for bomb attacks in Baghdad.

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ISIS leaves Mosul museum in ruins as Iraq forces advance

AP reports:

The antiquities museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul is in ruins. Piles of rubble fill exhibition halls and a massive fire in the building’s basement has reduced hundreds of rare books and manuscripts to ankle-deep drifts of ash.

Associated Press reporters were granted rare access to the museum on Wednesday after Iraqi forces retook it from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the day before.

Brig. Gen. Abbas al-Jabouri can smell victory against ISIS, CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports. On Monday, he estimated there were only around 2,000 ISIS fighters left in the city.

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In Mosul, desperate families dodge bullets to reach safety: ‘There’s a sniper here’

Nabih Bulos writes for LA Times:

The smoke subsided, revealing some furtive movement behind the jumble of masonry that had once been a building in this ravaged west Mosul district. It was a man. He peeked around the rubble, paused a beat, then raced to the line of crumpled sedans a few yards away.

He turned, gestured to those behind him to follow, then vaulted himself over the hood of a car and ran toward the group of Iraqi troops stationed up the street.

Behind the man more desperate people appeared, and what had been a fitful trickle became a flood of terrified Mosul residents fleeing a neighborhood that had become a battleground. Such scenes play out day after day in Mosul — scenes marked by chaos and suspicion, but also tenderness and compassion.

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Mosul IS battle: Iraqi forces retake Badoush prison

BBC News reports:

Iraqi forces have recaptured a prison north-west of Mosul that was reportedly the scene of a massacre by Islamic State militants, the military says.

Units of the army's 9th Armoured Division and allied militiamen raised the Iraqi flag over Badoush prison on Wednesday, a statement said.

The Sunni extremist group is alleged to have killed up to 600 inmates there, most of them Shia Muslims, in 2014.

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Iraqi forces see off Islamic State attack, seize road out of Mosul

Isabel Coles and Ahmed Rasheed write for Reuters:

Iraqi forces saw off an overnight Islamic State counter-attack near Mosul's main government buildings and took full control on Wednesday of the last major road leading west to the militant-held town of Tal Afar, the military said.

Troops also captured the Badush prison, northwest of Mosul near the road, where Islamic State reportedly executed hundreds of inmates in 2014, another military statement reported by state TV said.

Inside Mosul, troops battled the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters, who hid among the remaining civilian population and deployed snipers and suicide car bombs to defend their last major Iraq stronghold.

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Iraqi Forces Enter Western Mosul, in Fierce Battle Against ISIS

Omar al-Jawoshy and Sewell Chan write for The New York Times:

Iraqi forces trying to reclaim Mosul penetrated the western part of the city on Tuesday, retaking a bridge and several public buildings during heavy clashes with the Islamic State militants, officials said.

Civilians reported that the bombardment and gunfire were the heaviest since Feb. 19, the beginning of the operation to retake the western part of the city — the country’s second-largest, where roughly a million people are trapped and living in desperate conditions.

Soldiers recaptured a branch of the central bank, an archaeological museum that jihadists ransacked after taking the city in 2014, and the Hurriya Bridge, which crosses the Tigris River in the center of the city, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a military spokesman, said by phone.

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The teachers are unpaid and danger is ever present, but Mosul’s schools are reopening

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for LA Times:

Maysoon Maher knew it was a good day when she saw scores of little girls run, giggling, through the courtyard of her school on Mosul’s east side.

Rarely are her students, ages 6 to 15, allowed outside, Maher said as she crossed the dusty courtyard Monday toward several classrooms.

Schools and businesses have reopened since Islamic State was driven out of east Mosul in January, but with the militants still entrenched on the west side of the city, the area’s future remains uncertain.

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Iraqi troops fighting ISIS storm Mosul government complex, then pull back

AP reports:

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces fought their way Tuesday into the heart of western Mosul, storming the government complex in this part of the city but quickly pulled back in the face of heavy fire from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Earlier in the morning, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said the troops hoisted an Iraqi flag on the complex of buildings in the Dawasa neighborhood, hailing as heroes the federal police units behind the taking of the area.

But by noon, troops on the ground said the complex had not yet been secured and that they were facing a wave of intense ISIS counterattacks.

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Iraqi forces seize key Mosul sites from Isis

Martin Chulov writes for The Guardian:

Iraqi forces have moved deeper into western Mosul, overrunning a district and edging closer to the most symbolic site of Islamic State’s rule, the Great Mosque of al-Nuri where the “caliphate” was proclaimed more than two years ago.

In a push along the western bank of the Tigris river, federal police units seized an administration building, the Central Bank and the Mosul museum, a site previously used as a meeting point for senior Isis leaders. The assault initially met fierce resistance, but that had ended by dawn on Tuesday.

The prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who has staked much on reclaiming Mosul, flew to the city to congratulate troops, whose progress near the river has eclipsed the expectations of battle planners.

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