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U.S. Airdrops Supplies to Yezidi Refugees in Iraq; Airstrikes Authorized

President Obama authorizes airstrikes

Last night, U.S. Air Force aircraft conducted a successful airdrop of food and water to thousands of Iraqi citizens threatened by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) near Sinjar, Iraq, according to a DoD statement. Yezidi refugees are fleeing ISIL terrorists in northern Iraq. The Yezidis follow an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism and have historically been persecuted as “devil worshipers” by fundamentalist Sunni muslims, among others. ISIL has vowed to eliminate the Yezidis, said the DoD.

The mission was flown from several airbases within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and included one C-17 and two C-130 aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies. They were escorted by two F/A-18s; the supply mission did not require any U.S. ground forces.

“The U.S. military will also remain ready to conduct targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect Iraqi civilians trapped there.”

The C-17 dropped 40 Container Delivery System bundles of fresh drinking water. One C-130 airdropped an additional 16 bundles, totaling 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water. Another C-130 aircraft dropped 16 bundles containing 8,000 meals ready to eat. The aircraft were over the drop area for less than fifteen minutes flying at a low altitude.

“This evening, at the president’s direction, and at the request of the government of Iraq, the U.S. military conducted a humanitarian assistance operation near Sinjar in northern Iraq, providing food and water for thousands of Iraqi civilians whose lives have been threatened by armed groups associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel added in a statement.

President Barack Obama informed the nation of the operation in an address from the White House. “In recent days, the Yezidi women, men, and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives, and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, are now hiding high up on the mountain with little but the clothes on their backs,” Obama said. “They are without food, they are without water. People are starving, and children are dying of thirst.”

“The U.S. military will also remain ready to conduct targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect Iraqi civilians trapped there,” said Hagel. “In addition, we are prepared to conduct airstrikes to protect American personnel against ISIL terrorist convoys should they approach Irbil.”