Rights group calls for aid to Iraq's 'starving' Fallujah

Displaced Iraqis, who fled regions controlled by the Islamic State group near Fallujah, arrive in Jwaibah, on the outskirts of Ramadi, in February 2016 (AFP Photo/Moadh Al-Dulaimi)

Baghdad (AFP) - Human Rights Watch called Thursday for Iraq to allow aid to reach starving residents of the city of Fallujah, and for the Islamic State group to allow civilians to leave.

"The people of Fallujah are besieged by the government, trapped by (IS), and are starving," HRW's deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork, said in a statement.

"The warring parties should make sure that aid reaches the civilian population."

HRW cited Iraqi activists who are in contact with Fallujah residents as saying that people "were reduced to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups made from grass."

Anti-government fighters took control of Fallujah, just 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad, in early 2014 during unrest that broke out after security forces demolished a protest camp farther west, and it later became an IS stronghold.

IS seized more territory in surrounding Anbar province after launching an offensive later that year, but pro-government forces have since regained significant ground from the jihadists.

Iraqi forces have largely cut off access to Fallujah, while IS is preventing residents from leaving the city.

Tribesmen battled IS in Fallujah for several days in February in a sign that its grip was weakening, but the fighting ended after the jihadists detained dozens of residents.

IS has also announced the execution of alleged "spies" in the city.