Vatican City, Aug 8, 2014 / 10:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Late Thursday night the Obama administration announced that it has launched a military and humanitarian operation to protect both U.S. personnel and Iraqi civilians against ISIS attacks.
“At the request of the Iraqi government we have begun efforts to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain,” President Obama stated in an Aug. 7 address to the nation.
“As ISIS has marched across Iraq it has launched a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis,” he continued, noting that “These terrorists have been especially barbaric toward religious minorities, including Christians and Yizidis, an ancient religious sect.”
“Countless Iraqis have been displaced, and chilling reports describe ISIL forces rounding up families, conducting mass executions and enslaving Yazidi women.”
In light of this, “We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a possible act of genocide,” the president affirmed. “I’ve therefore authorized targeted airstrikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mt. Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.”
The Yazidi population is one of Iraq's smallest minorities. Of Kurdish descent, their religion is considered to be a pre-Islamic sect branching from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
President Obama’s address comes just a day after forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – known as ISIS – took over the city of Qaraqosh Wednesday night. The city was one of Iraq’s largest Christian towns until the Kurdish military forces known as the Peshmerga withdrew from it.
Following ISIS’ storming of Sinjar, many of the Yazidi population seeking to escape the attacks fled to the surrounding mountains. Facing the possibility of death if they retreat down the mountain, they have been stranded for days without access to food or water.
Some, including children, have begun to die of dehydration due to the desert’s high temperatures.
Before President Obama’s address, two U.S. military cargo planes airdropped 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 meals onto Mount Sinjar, CNN reports. U.S. forces continue to stand by with plenty more food and water.
The Islamic State has been carrying out executions of those who don't share their radical interpretation of Sunni Islam, and gave a June 18 ultimatum to citizens of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, demanding they convert, pay the jizya tax or be killed.
Many fled to Qaraqosh, and are now seeking refuge in surrounding cities, including Erbil. Media reports have revealed that ISIS has beheaded their victims, placing their heads on spikes to in order to instill terror in the population.
CNN reports that before the Islamic State launched it’s deadly campaign the Nineveh region had been the most stable in Iraq, and a cooperative ally of the United States.
With numerous U.S. military advisers and consular personnel stationed in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, President Obama has also authorized military to strike should ISIS forces “move toward the city.”
According to CNN, pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday on Twitter that U.S. military aircraft have already conducted a strike on ISIS artillery that had been used near Irbil, Iraq.