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Thousands in West Mosul Have Food Today Because of You

Your love crossed into west Mosul yesterday, for the third time in a week.  

A few days earlier, ISIS counterattacks kept us from reaching neighborhoods farther inside the city, where thousands of people are in desperate need of food, water, and medical care. 

Instead of turning back, we dug in. We kept our trucks full of food inside west Mosul—forward positioned, ready to go at the first opportunity to reach families here. 

Yesterday, the opportunity came. 

Throwing Off the Veil of ISIS

Discarded abayas lay on the ground around the military trucks used to evacuate families from west Mosul

As we drove into west Mosul yesterday, we saw thousands of people being evacuated—packed into the backs of government trucks, fleeing their homes and the fighting that has swallowed their city. We stopped at one of the sites where they were letting people off the trucks, finally far enough from the fighting to safely unload, and one of the most striking things was the response of the women.

They were tearing off the heavy black veils that ISIS had forced them to wear for the last three years and throwing them on the ground.

The Strength of Her

From the day we landed in Iraq more than 10 years ago, we knew. Even then, in the middle of the war, at the height of the insurgency—we could see Iraq’s future staring us in the face. Not in the bombs or the sectarian strife or the violence that, some days, feels like it will never end.

It’s in the eyes of the women we meet.

The New Executive Order: Some Positive Steps, Some Persisting Concerns

Yesterday, President Trump unveiled his new “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.”

The new order addresses some of the most controversial aspects of the previous one, signed on January 27.

Inside West Mosul

Over the weekend, your love crossed into west Mosul city limits. According to top generals and government officials, you are the first to show up in these neighborhoods with aid for families who are caught in the crossfire of this offensive to retake their city.

Not miles from the fighting, but meters away.

ISIS Launches Counterattack, Blocking Us From Western Mosul... But Not For Long.

Our trucks on their way to western Mosul earlier today

This morning, we set out for western Mosul, our trucks packed with food for 12,000 people, unsure how the day would go. We planned, prepared, and coordinated with Iraqi government and military officials. We’ve been on many of these high-risk, frontline distributions before, and one thing we’ve learned: 

In a war zone, things change fast. 

ISIS in Denial as Iraqi Forces Advance on Western Mosul

Destruction in eastern Mosul 

On the western side of the city of Mosul, the extremist organization known as ISIS is engaged in a fierce battle. Over the last several months, they've lost the eastern side of the city to Iraqi pro-government forces.

Although many ISIS fighters have been killed or have fled the city, the leaders who remain continue to try and convince the local populace of their invincibility. News has arrived that the eastern side of the city has been cleared of ISIS fighters, but to many still in the western side, it seems the extremist organization doesn’t want to accept reality.

Fighting in Sinjar: Rival Militias Clash Over Territory Once Held by ISIS

Meeting with members of the Yazidi community in Sinjar to discuss building a school together

Fighting has broken out between militia groups vying for control of the Sinjar region in northern Iraq. On Friday, Kurdish Peshmerga troops clashed briefly with members of a Yazidi militia called the Sinjar Resistance Units. According to local media reports, there were casualties on both sides. Officials from the two militias have sat down to discuss the conflict.

They walked 200 miles to escape ISIS... only to be turned away at the refugee camp.

Mohammed walked through the desert with his family for three days, trying to put as much distance between his children and the horrors they had faced in their home city of Mosul.

His friends were killed by ISIS. His friends’ wives were kidnapped. Mohammed’s family was still together, but he knew they had to get out before they met the same fate.

Life Under ISIS: ''We Were Brought 100 Years Backward''

Often it’s not a single tragedy that crushes a life. It’s the everyday indignities—month after month, year after year—that grind you down.

“We were brought 100 years backward, so we don't expect to move forward so fast.”

Qaa’ed’s father spoke the words, and each head in the room nodded in agreement. Qaa’ed, wearing a striped shirt like his dad, was perched on his father’s lap, taking everything in. He spent more than half his young life living under ISIS control. It couldn’t help but form how he understood the world.

What We Know (And Still Don’t Know) About Trump’s New Refugee Order After Last Night's Speech

In his first address to Congress, President Trump addressed the debate over vetting refugees and the effort to stop terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. A new executive order is widely expected in the wake of his speech, but it’s still unclear when it will come or how different it will be from the original.

Here’s what we know after last night’s speech.

Sometimes Hope Is Only a Glimmer

She was blue. Well, she was beyond blue actually—purple. We started the day with a little purple baby thrust into the arms of our medical team.

“She doesn’t look very well.” It was the understatement of the year.

Umalbanen was admitted immediately, and examined to see just what was going on. The verdict? She was hours from death.

Young Ahmed and His Hardworking Hustle

He was coated in a fine layer of flour. It clung to his clothes, to every tiny hair on his face, and to each eyelash. Ahmed was one of the hardest workers at the aid delivery in Mosul. Back and forth between the loaded transport truck and an empty classroom, Ahmed hauled 55-pound bags of flour—nearly three-quarters of his body weight.

When The Medicine Just Isn't There

Under different circumstances, Mohammed’s son Thamer might have been a patient in our heart surgery program. Under different circumstances, the boy might have been celebrating his third birthday.

But Mohammed’s son was born in western Mosul with a congenital heart defect, just as ISIS solidified its grip on the city. ISIS doesn’t employ pediatric heart specialists, and there was no way for Mohammed to get his son out of the city.

Fighting for the Lives of Veterans

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army / CC BY-NC 2.0

I hear the war drums beating. Each news story seems to reverberate their pounding, bringing us one step closer to inevitable violence. Our posture toward each other, toward other nations, and other religions seems to be falling into step as the language of potential war starts slipping into our dialogue. Violence starts with words... but it ends with fists, bombs, and death.

Can you hear them? Can you feel the tension stretched tight? Eyes are locked, fists are up. Each country waiting to see who will twitch first.

It’s Been 3 Years Since ISIS Took His Wife. He’s Never Stopped Searching For Her.

Dear Najla,  

Your husband hasn’t stopped searching since ISIS took you nearly three years ago. After all this time—you are still his world.

What Will It Take to Rebuild Mosul?

“That’s their home.”

Uday pointed at the pile of rubble across the street from the aid delivery site.

“The destroyed one?

“Yes, yes, that one…they lost their house.”

It was hard not to stare, slack-jawed, as we surveyed the gaping void on the street corner. The rest of the street remained lined with family homes, but this property—seized by ISIS and used as a command center—was bombed into oblivion.

The closer we drove toward the heart of Mosul that morning, the more evidence we saw of war lining the roads.

Homeless In An Instant—Two Brothers’ Story

Everything, gone in an instant.

It was loud. No, it redefined the word “loud.” It jolted their entire neighborhood into tears or shocked silence—all in an instant. Mohammad’s face sagged as he and his brother told us about the airstrike.

What We Know And What We Don’t Know About the President’s New Immigration Order

President Trump is expected to issue a new executive order on refugees and immigration this week—perhaps as early as today. Here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and how we’ll respond.

While Others "Stand By," You Load Up the Trucks for Mosul

Near the Grand Mosque in eastern Mosul, just across the river from ISIS-held western Mosul

On Sunday, the Iraqi military launched a new offensive to retake the western portion of Mosul from ISIS.

Iraqi forces have spent the last four months pushing toward Mosul. In recent weeks, they’ve managed to take back the eastern side of the city, which is roughly split in half by the Tigris River.

Officials expect this new offensive to be even more challenging because the west side of Mosul has narrower streets is more densely populated.

The UN estimates that approximately 750,000 civilians still live in Mosul's west, under "siege-like" conditions. Civilians who have fled the region report that food is running out. No one knows what people are going to do once the battle lands on their doorstep.

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