by Sonali Kamboj
US President Barack Obama has ordered targeted air strikes on ISIS militants in Iraq.
The operation was sanctioned to ensure the safety of Americans in Erbil and Baghdad as well as a humanitarian effort to bring relief to thousands of Yazidi refugees trapped atop a mountain.
Yazidi refugees, a religious minority group, have been forced to survive without food or water. Fearing for their lives, the Yazidis fled their homes and took shelter on Mount Sinjar in the northwest of Iraq.
Addressing the world in a late night press conference from the White House on Thursday, Obama said, “When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help – in this case a request from the Iraqi government – and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye.”
However, Obama clearly stated that these air strikes aren’t a full-scale re-engagement in Iraq but an operation to prevent ISIS militants from targeting American diplomats, military advisers and other citizens who are in Erbil.
Describing the situation of religious minorities in Iraq as the ‘potential for genocide’, Obama also said that the US military aircrafts have already started dropping food and water to the civilians hiding on the mountain.
According to Pentagon officials, one C-17 and two C-130 aircrafts dropped5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 meals ready to eat on Mount Sinjar.
As per the reports by the UNICEF, the dire conditions on the mountain already took the lives of 40 children as they succumbed to heat and dehydration. It is also believed that nearly 40,000 people have taken refuge on the mountain without access to food, water or other essential supplies.