In this occasional series, the London bureau of The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. First up: The war against the Islamic State.

The biggest story: The cost of the battle against ISIS 

The Islamic State has been pushed out of Mosul, but the city's liberation has come at a high cost. Thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire as Iraqi ground troops – supported by British and U.S. coalition jets – and Islamic State militants pulverized the Old City’s winding maze of streets in the final months of the battle.

View the damage in Mosul through satellite imagery.

Aid groups say that thousands of civilians were killed in the nine-month offensive to retake the city. A final death toll is unlikely to ever be known, robbing families of answers and a grave for their grief.

Read the full story by Louisa Loveluck in Mosul, Iraq.

The war against the Islamic State is far from over

The Islamic State has lost about 60 percent of the territory it controlled at the peak of its expansion, but that leaves a sizable area, mostly in Syria but also Iraq, still to be recaptured.

Among the areas are staunch Islamic State strongholds, in some of the most remote terrain of the war. In some instances, it isn’t yet clear which forces will undertake the battles, and potential local and international flash points lie ahead as competing powers vie for the chance to control territory.

Read the full analysis by Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly.

Iraqi forces struggled to gain control of the country's second-largest city for months. (Sarah Parnass, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

Five other important stories you might have missed

1. Italy offers swimming lessons for refugees traumatized while crossing the Mediterranean

The refugee influx that dominated Europe’s news cycle two years ago is still very much on the minds of many Italians.

As the country staggers under the weight of thousands of new refugee arrivals, the Nautical Technical Institute in the city of Messina is trying to help emotionally scarred teenagers overcome their fear of the water in a region where most jobs are tied to the sea.

Read the full story by Michael Birnbaum in Messina, Italy.

2. Ukrainian separatists claim to have created a new country

Separatists in eastern Ukraine have claimed to have founded a new country — Malorossiya, which means “Little Russia” in English — that will overtake Ukraine. The move seems to undermine the faltering Minsk peace agreement, a 2015 deal reached between Russian-backed rebels and the government in Kiev that sought to end the violence in Ukraine's industrial east. Notably, both Russia and other separatist movements in east Ukraine have distanced themselves from the move.

Read the full analysis by Adam Taylor.

3. As Theresa May is ridiculed abroad, France’s Emmanuel Macron rises 

It wasn’t a good week in British politics: First, a visibly weakened Prime Minister Theresa May had to remind her cabinet not to leak sensitive information to the public. Then, her Brexit secretary of state left European Union negotiations after less than an hour, drawing widespread ridicule in Europe.

Things appear to be going better in France for President Emmanuel Macron. No fewer than five probable presidential candidates in Mexico have been named the “Mexican Macron,” the man who will supposedly unite the country, fend off populism and impose pragmatic, centrist rule.

Read the full dispatch by David Agren in Mexico City.

U.S. President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron discuss Russia, China, the Paris climate agreement and terrorism at a joint news conference (Reuters)

4. Why South Korea’s president wants talks with North Korea

Faced with a North Korea that seems both increasingly unpredictable and increasingly militarily capable, South Korea's new government has made a formal proposal: It's time for talks. Will a policy of dialogue work? Right now, that's impossible to say, but there are three stark reasons for the  push.

Read the full analysis by Adam Taylor.

5. UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials

A feud between Qatar and a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia has worsened. The four nations – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain – severed relations with Qatar earlier last  month, portraying the action as necessary to stem Qatar’s alleged support for extremist groups.

Rather than isolating Qatar, however, the move has deepened Qatari ties with regional powers Turkey and Iran, as Ishaan Tharoor writes.

A report this week added to the awkwardness facing the blockaders. U.S. intelligence officials revealed to The Washington Post that the UAE orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May. The incident sparked the upheaval that  continues to roil relations in the Gulf region.

Read the full story by Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima.

U.S. officials say United Arab Emirates orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites that occurred shortly before four nations broke ties with Qatar. (The Washington Post)

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