The Obama administration is reportedly considering air drops of supplies — and potential military assistance — to help tens of thousands of minority Yazidis surrounded by ISIS on Mount Sinjar.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Washington “strongly condemns” the ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar, adding it is “nearing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Earnest wouldn’t go into specifics, however, about what kind of action is being considered.
The Yazidis, targeted by dozens of genocides over their history for following their ancient religion, in Nineveh Province fled Saturday to the mountain as the Islamic State fighters closed in on the town of Sinjar. Since then, the death toll on the arid mountain, particularly of the elderly and children, has been “rising by the minute,” according to Kurdish media. People have reportedly been eating leaves off trees in a desperate attempt to survive.
The Peshmerga have been trying to save the Yazidis and carve out a corridor to save them, but ISIS has been pushing hard against the lines of the fierce Kurdish fighters.
Turkey took the lead on humanitarian assistance to the Yazidis, according to Hurriyet Daily News:
The Turkish government airdropped humanitarian aid to thousands of members of the Yazidi community on Aug. 7, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey was the sole country conducting humanitarian operations for displaced Iraqis fleeing from ISIL violence.
“Humanitarian aid [provided by Turkey’s disaster agency, AFAD] was delivered by Iraq’s helicopters for members of the Yazidi community trapped in the mountains of the Sinjar region,” Davutoğlu told private broadcaster NTV Aug. 7.
Davutoğlu’s statement came right after he chaired a security meeting with the participation of Land Forces Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar, Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Servet Yörük and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan. The meeting focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) advance into northern Iraq, which presents a security risk for Turkey amid growing concern about an influx of Iraqi minority groups fleeing violence into Turkey.
Until this afternoon, the only member of the Obama administration to publicly talk about the plight of the Yazidis — though not mentioning the ethno-religious minority by name — in recent days has been UN Ambassador Samantha Power, who said in a statement that she condemned “in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) recent attacks on Sinjar and Tal Afar in Ninewa province that have reportedly led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many from vulnerable minority communities, deepening Iraq’s already acute humanitarian crisis.”
“ISIL’s reported abuse, kidnapping, torture and executions of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities and its systematic destruction of religious and cultural sites are appalling,” Power said.
“The United States supports the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga Forces working to defend these areas against ISIL. We urge all parties to the conflict to allow safe access to the United Nations and its partners so they can deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including to those Iraqi families reportedly encircled by ISIL on Mount Sinjar. The United States is committed to helping the people of Iraq as they confront the security and humanitarian challenges in their fight against ISIL. Iraq’s leaders must move swiftly to form a new, fully inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s communities. All Iraqis must come together to ensure that Iraq gets back on the path to a peaceful future and to prevent ISIL from obliterating Iraq’s vibrant diversity.”