U.S. Delivers More Aid to Iraq Refugees, More Airstrikes to ISIS
(CNN) — The United States resumed airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq Wednesday, a day after the jihadist militants released a video showing the beheading of an American journalist.
U.S. forces carried out 14 airstrikes on Wednesday, destroying or damaging six ISIS humvees, two armored trucks and other targets, the Defense Department said.
The airstrikes were in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, which Kurdish forces recently recaptured from ISIS with support of U.S. air power.
In the same video that shows the beheading of journalist James Foley, a second American, believed to be journalist Steven Sotloff, appears.
Whether Sotloff lives or dies, the executioner says on the video, depends on what Obama does next.
Humanitarian operation under way
A plane carrying the first load of humanitarian aid as part of a multiday operation to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq has landed in Irbil, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday.
It’s one of the largest aid pushes the agency has ever undertaken. And it’s much needed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes as ISIS militants have advanced.
The first Boeing 747 to land carried 100 tons of aid, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. Three more flights will follow from Jordan into Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, with the last on Saturday.
The airlift will be bolstered by deliveries made by road and sea over the next 10 days, with 175 trucks ferrying cargo from warehouses in Turkey, Jordan and Iran.
The shipments include thousands of tents, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and jerrycans, destined for families who fled with little more than the clothes on their back.
In total, the UNHCR intends to bring 2,410 tons of aid into northern Iraq between now and the start of September.
Many have been sleeping rough where they can, finding shelter in schools, parks or unfinished buildings, the UNHCR said. The agency is working to set up a dozen or more tent cities in Dohuk and Irbil governorates where some 140,000 people can be housed.
“This is a massive logistics operation to bring in relief supplies by air, land and sea to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives, and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions,” said U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.
“It’s the largest single aid push we have mounted in more than a decade.”
The ISIS militants, who are Sunni Muslim extremists, have carried out brutal attacks on towns and villages as they’ve advanced across Iraq, targeting Iraq’s Christians, minority sects such as the Yazidis, centered in the northern Sinjar area, and Shia Muslims.
The UNHCR estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes so far this year, including more than a half-million in the western Anbar province and a similar number in northern Iraq.
As the massive aid operation swings into gear, fierce fighting continues between the militants and Kurdish forces for control of northern Iraq.
On Monday, U.S. airstrikes helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces take control of the key Mosul Dam, fighting back the militants who had seized it.
The stakes were huge for the millions of Iraqis who live downstream from the dam, the largest in the country, amid fears that if it were breached floods would have threatened lives in Mosul and downriver in Baghdad.
Now that the dam is cleared of ISIS militants, Iraqi forces are moving to grow their area of control, the Pentagon said.
The ISIS militants have carried out numerous executions, including beheadings, as part of its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate that stretches from Syria into Iraq. In many cases, ISIS — which refers to itself as the Islamic State — has videotaped the executions and posted them online.