Obama approves humanitarian aid to besieged Iraqis; reportedly considering airstrikes

Eric Pfeiffer
Yahoo News
President Barack Obama
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President Obama has given the approval for airdrops of humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis under attack from the Islamic State (IS) militants and is said to be considering whether to proceed with airstrikes against the militants.

The reported approval of humanitarian aid came just hours after Kurdish officials claimed that airstrikes against Islamic State militants had already begun in the Northern region of Iraq.

Minutes after several reports surfaced that the United States had conducted airstrikes in Iraq against forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), the Pentagon denied the story.

A spokesman for the Kurdish armed forces said that U.S. aircraft had bombed two targets in Northern Iraq.

"F-16s first entered Iraqi airspace on a reconnaissance mission and are now targeting Daash (ISIL) in Gwer and in the Sinjar region," Holgard Hekmat told AFP.

The New York Times, citing a Kurdish television report, said the U.S. military had bombed at least two targets in northern Iraq, where insurgents had isolated tens of thousands of religious minorities. A McClatchy news report cited a resident in Kalak who said she saw aircraft overhead and heard explosions coming from behind ISIL lines.

Rear Admiral John Kirby quickly used the social media site Twitter to deny the claims. 

Earlier, Reuters and other outlets reported that the United States would use military airdrops to deliver humanitarian supplies to the 40,000 religious minorities in Northern Iraq who are under attack from ISIL militants.

A separate Kurdish religious minority, the Yazidi, received international attention on Thursday when it was reported that several thousand of their members were hiding out in mountains near the Syrian border after being pushed from their villages by ISIL.

NBC News' Richard Engel cited sources claiming that should Obama give the order for airstrikes, military plans were already in place for such an attack to begin immediately.

 

US military source says ISIS targets chosen, "lined up" in #iraq. just awaiting order. "fingers on the trigger."

— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) August 7, 2014

 

Meanwhile, if the humanitarian drops have already begun, it might explain why Kurdish officials assumed the drops were in fact military strikes.

The United Nations condemned the attacks against Iraq's religious minorities on Wednesday, while Iraqi helicopters attempted to deliver humanitarian supplies to the estimated 30,000 families hiding out in the area.

The United Nations was conducting an emergency closed-door session about the crisis in Iraq when the reports of the bombing surfaced.

The White House confirmed on Thursday that Obama met with his national security team on Thursday, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest refused to address rumors that U.S. drones would be deployed to survey ISIL forces before launching any potential attacks.

"I'm not in a position to rule things on the table or off the table in this context," Earnest said.

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