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AP

Despite rising civilian casualties from attacks against ISIS, which U.S. officials have said could have been caused by the U.S., Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee today: "We have not relaxed the rules of engagement."

But there have been changes to the rules, as the AP reported last month. Two directives (one in late 2016 and one in 2017) have made it easier for advisers on the ground to order airstrikes or artillery fire, and "may be the reason why Mosul could be the site of the largest loss of civilian life since the start of the Iraq war in 2003," according to Task & Purpose.

Why it matters: President Trump has long said the rules concerning civilians unnecessarily constrain the US in its fight against ISIS. And Votel said Tuesday that the terror group has been using human shields as a way to fend off U.S. strikes: "I think they do understand our sensitivity to civilian casualties and they are exploiting that." But there are growing concerns about civilian deaths, particularly after a recent Mosul strike — which Votel said appeared to involve the US — killed scores of civilians.

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

5 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.