Yazidi refugees stranded for days atop Iraq's Mount Sinjar by jihadis from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are now swarming helicopters arriving with food and water. The plight of the refugees has propelled President Barack Obama to authorize humanitarian aid drops and airstrikes to protect them.
CNN journalist Ivan Watson was aboard one of the Iraqi air force helicopters as it delivered aid to and evacuated some Yezidis trapped on the mountain after they fled forces loyal to ISIL, also known as ISIS. According to Watson, a gunner went through "belts of ammo" while firing at militant targets during the flight.
Iraqi gunner blasts away at targets below while flying over ISIS front line to deliver aid to people on Mount Sinjar pic.twitter.com/y6LZL3UsCI— Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) August 11, 2014
After chaotic scramble, Iraqi Air Force helicopter picked up 20 traumatized, hungry, dehydrated people from Mt Sinjar pic.twitter.com/slvhEOApMg— Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) August 11, 2014
15 year old Aziza cried whole flight to safety. Her father got separated during ISIS attack 1 week ago. Still missing pic.twitter.com/VSmTbhpHet— Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) August 11, 2014
Rescued Yezidis aboard Iraqi Air Force helicopter that evacuated trapped civilians from Mount Sinjar pic.twitter.com/2m9cJR2d7x— Ivan Watson (@IvanCNN) August 11, 2014
Mark Phillips, a CNN photojournalist, captured dramatic video footage of the rescue of some Yazidis during an Iraqi military humanitarian airdrop.
Jonathan Rugman, a foreign affairs correspondent for U.K.'s Channel 4 News, had a similar experience while riding in one of the Iraqi military helicopters.
Mil helicopter dropping aid over Sinjar mountain came under anti aircraft fire from IS jihadists. We all back safe. pic.twitter.com/tTLBlR5pK8— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
My pic of Yazidis on mt Sinjar range waiting for food drop or helicopter rescue. Scenes like this for miles: pic.twitter.com/d6Pprc6Hf9— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
Desperate Yazidi refugees plucked from Mt Sinjar by Iraqi army helicopter: pic.twitter.com/x4eBY1oaKD— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
Many refugees in tears after 10 days stranded on mt Sinjar with no food, water. 33 degree heat: pic.twitter.com/OHapYJVbKe— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
Refugees mobbed our helicopter. One man was punched back. So desperate to get aboard after 10 days on mountain. pic.twitter.com/RVBNQ86SQg— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
At one point I found myself dragging dehydrated children to the back of the helicopter for safety. Very distressing scenes.— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
Unbelievable scenes on mt Sinjar. Saw small families trapped in middle of nowhere. Many of these people will die if not evacuated ASAP.— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 11, 2014
On Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense released footage of unidentified planes dropping aid to refugees in the Sinjar region.
On Sunday, Rugman tweeted photos of some of the refugees who managed to escape the mountaintop, along with their stories.
Hali stayed on Sinjar mountain 7 days. Walked 9 hours. Believes parents, brothers, sisters dead: pic.twitter.com/XoH4fAyUpm— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 10, 2014
Parkeeza fled with 6 month old baby. Husband missing. Says Yazidis must be free to leave Iraq, cannot trust Arabs: pic.twitter.com/TQADHpiQRb— Jonathan Rugman (@jrug) August 10, 2014