U.S. plans rescue operation in Iraq as France says it will supply arms to Kurds

Time is running out for thousands of Iraqis trapped by jihadists, with the U.S. saying it is assessing rescue options and the UN warning of “potential genocide”. The U.S. has carried out air strikes against members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in the area of Mount Sinjar, where the UN refugee agency says up 20,000 to 30,000 people are besieged. On Wednesday, President Francois Hollande announced that France would supply arms to Iraq’s Kurds “in the coming hours”.

We will make a very rapid and critical assessment because we understand it is urgent to try to move those people off the mountains.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

But there are still large numbers on the mountain, said 45-year-old Mahmud Bakr. “Many of them are elderly; they cannot walk this distance,” Bakr told AFP. “My father Khalaf is 70 years old—he cannot make this journey. But up there, there is very little food and no medicine,” he said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Washington is looking at options to bring the trapped civilians out. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States has sent 130 more military advisors to northern Iraq to assess the scope of the humanitarian crisis. A U.S. defense official said the temporary additional personnel would also develop humanitarian assistance options beyond the current airdrop effort in support of the displaced civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

[Those still trapped on Mount Sinjar face] a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours.

Rita Izsak, UN minority rights expert