New US airstrikes on ISIL as Kurds advance
US planes and a drone struck ISIL targets around the Kurdish capital of Irbil on Sunday, while the Peshmerga took back two towns on Irbil's periphery. It marked the third round of air strikes on ISIL by US planes flyiing off the carrier George H.W. Bush.
The US also air dropped more supplies to the Yazidis trapped on a mountain. The UN says that 60 children have died on the mountain and that the humanitarian effort is not enough.
In five hours the military struck five targets, including armed vehicles and a mortar position, U.S. Central Command said.
The strikes began at 9:15 a.m. local time (2:15 a.m. ET), the military said.
"All aircraft exited the strikes areas safely," Central Command said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces recaptured two towns from ISIS, a senior Kurdish official said.
"Mahmour and Gweyr are in Kurdish hands," Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government told CNN on Sunday. The Islamist militant group had seized the towns Wednesday on a march toward Irbil.
ISIS fighters have carried out slaughter in parts of Iraq and Syria, where they claim an Islamic caliphate. The group has driven tens of thousands of Yazidis into nearby mountains.
Iraqi officials said U.S. airstrikes Saturday killed 16 fighters from ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which calls itself the Islamic State.
An Iraqi airstrike in Sinjar killed an additional 45 ISIS fighters and injured 60 Friday, Iraq state media reported.
On Saturday, three U.S. cargo planes, accompanied by U.S. fighter jets, airdropped 3,804 gallons of fresh drinking water and 16,128 ready-to-eat meals to Yazidis stranded in the mountains, the military said.
But the airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops aren't enough to help the estimated 40,000 Yazidis, a United Nations official said.
The group comprises ethnic Kurds who practice a religion that draws from Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism. ISIS considers all who do not practice its strict interpretation of Sunni Islam heretics and executes them.
It has placed the heads of its victims on spikes in cities it has captured and posted videos of savage executions online.
Iraqi security forces have been able to airlift about 100 to 150 people a day off of Sinjar Mountain, said Marizio Babille of UNICEF, the U.N.'s children agency. And time is running out for many who cannot reach the airdropped supplies.
The air drop is a half measure - just like the bombings. Attacking a single mortar position and a small convoy while thousands of ISIL fighters are advancing on Irbil is ridiculous. The Peshmerga is very disciplined and tough, but they are outgunned. They need heavier weapons - artillery, rockets. And while arming the Kurds is "under consideration," the situation grows more dire for them by the hour.
Obama's minimalist response is inadequate to the emergency. The risk to the Yazidis and Irbil demands that more be done.