CNN reported that an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people remain on Mount Sinjar, as of yesterday as “a few thousand” more are reportedly moving toward the mountain from their villages.
Thanks to the help of Syrian Kurdish fighters, thousands who have been able to escape the mountain into Kurdish held territory in Syria and eventually back to now safe Kurdistan in Iraq. CNN calls the Yazidi displacement an “exodus of almost biblical proportions,” as thousands of refuges trudge across a river to escape killers belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
One Yazidi man told CNN that after ISIS arrived in his town, his Muslim neighbors actually ratted them out – and helped ISIS kill members of the various minorities.
Entire families carry nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some are barefoot.
Jamal Jamir, a 23-year-old university student from Sinjar, told CNN his family fled to the barren and windswept Mount Sinjar more than a week ago after ISIS captured their town. The group, which calls itself the Islamic State, has been on a rampage, killing members of various minorities, including Yazidis.
Jamir said after ISIS arrived in his town, Arab neighbors of his turned on the minorities and helped ISIS kill. “They join them, and actually they kill us.”
“People you know?” CNN asked.
“Yes,” he responded. “People — our neighbors!”
Jamir’s family was among tens of thousands who flocked to the mountain and desperately waited for airdrops of food and water.
His family escaped to Mount Sinjar on foot and made a marathon 15-hour journey to Syria. After traveling northeast along the border, many families have been crossing a bridge in Faysh Khabur, back into Kurdish-controlled Iraq.
Jamir said two of his young brothers didn’t make it. “What we do?” he said. “Not enough water and dusty. … They died.
“We are poor people. We don’t have any problem with anybody. We need someone (to) help us.”
The Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi air force have orchestrated helicopter flights to bring necessities to the mountain and lift some people out. One flight crashed Tuesday, killing the pilot and injuring some others on board.
Now, the United States is considering a possible air evacuation, a U.S. official said Wednesday. No decision has yet been made.
Well, take your time, there, Obama. Enjoy your vacation at Martha’s Vineyard while all those people die of thirst and exposure up on the mountain where it gets to 100 degrees or higher. God forbid he take any time off partying and golfing to actually make a decision.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said late Wednesday “only a few thousand of the refugees remained stranded — far fewer than first thought — and they appeared to be in relatively good shape, reducing the likelihood of a U.S. rescue mission.”
The optimistic report came after 12 to 20 U.S. military personnel landed on the mountain to assess the situation and evaluate how to best conduct a military evacuation.
Their report is somewhat at odds with the CNN’s 10,000-20,000 number of refuges still up on the mountain.
CNN: An uncertain future:
Descendants of Kurds and followers of an ancient pre-Islamic religion, Yazidis are one of Iraq’s smallest minorities. They have faced persecution for centuries and have a strong sense of community.
When the refugees crossed a river and stepped into Syria, their suffering did not end.
Relief workers provided two plates of chicken to a family of 12. People slept in the open, perhaps using scraps of cardboard for a bed.
Many were too sick and exhausted to walk any farther.
It’s unclear what lies ahead for those who managed to escape ISIS and Mount Sinjar. Some aid groups have teams helping, and the United States is working to help Iraqi leaders organize humanitarian relief. But for now, some Yazidis tell CNN as they re-enter Iraqi territory, they play plan to camp out by the river.
CNN’s Nick Walsh reported yesterday, that ISIS has captured approximately 100 Yazidi women and children. Most likely, he says, they’ve been given a time frame in which to convert to Islam. If they choose not to convert, Walsh says, “it is likely they’ll suffer what most infidels in the eyes of ISIS tend to suffer – and that is often some type of brutal punishment, indeed.”
Obama seems to be taking most of the credit for allowing the Yazidis to escape.
President Obama announced Thursday that U.S.-led airstrikes have broken the siege by Islamic militants against religious minorities who were trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq — but made clear the U.S. mission in the region is not over yet.
The president, in brief remarks from Martha’s Vineyard where his family is on vacation, said he expects the specific operation at Mount Sinjar to wind down. He said military planners will be leaving in the coming days, aid drops will stop and a U.S.-led evacuation is likely no longer needed.
“The situation on the mountain has greatly improved,” Obama said. “We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar. We helped vulnerable people reach safety.”
But Obama said U.S. involvement will not come to an end, as militants with the Islamic State — also known as ISIS, or ISIL — continue to brutalize the civilian population in the region, especially minorities like Iraqi Christians and Yazidis.
Obama said “we will continue airstrikes” where necessary to protect American personnel and facilities in Iraq.
Only a few days ago, a senior Pentagon official said the US air strikes would have minimal impact on stopping ISIS.
Via The Guardian:
A senior Pentagon planning officer expects the current US air strikes in Iraq to have minimal and fleeting impact on the forces of the Islamic State (Isis) that have overrun much of the country.
“In the immediate areas where we have focused our strikes, we’ve had a very temporary effect and we may have blunted some tactical decisions to move in those directions, further east to Irbil,” Army Lt Gen William Mayville told reporters on Monday, providing a dour view of the “limited strikes” president Barack Obama authorized on Thursday.
“What I expect Isil to do is to look for other things to do, to pick up and move elsewhere. So I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by Isil.” Isil is the acronym for Isis favored by the US government.
The air strikes, now in their fourth day and still something less than a concerted air campaign, have bought US-backed Kurdish irregular forces, known as Peshmerga, “time to fortify their defensive positions” outside the regional capital of Irbil, said Mayville, the director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and have slowed Isis’ advance toward the crucial city.
Beyond that, said Mayville, who commanded a brigade during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the strikes “are unlikely to affect Isil’s overall abilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria”.