Thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped in ISIL bastion of Fallujah face a “humanitarian disaster” under fire and nearing starvation, a prominent aid group said on Thursday.
Tens of thousands who managed to flee the city during an assault by Iraqi forces had also found little relief on their way out, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“We have a humanitarian disaster inside Fallujah and another unfolding disaster in the camps,” NRC chief Jan Egeland said.
“Thousands fleeing the cross-fire after months of besiegement and near starvation deserve relief and care, but our relief supplies will soon be exhausted.”
For three weeks, Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition air strikes have alternated barrages of artillery fire with an attempt to move forward in street battles against IS fighters.
Progress has been hampered however by ISIL’s systematic use of civilians as human shields.
“Make no mistake: There is absolutely nothing safe for civilians fleeing Fallujah. No safe exits, no safe passage, no safe haven without risking their lives,” Egeland said.
“They risk being shot at, killed by explosive devices on the roads, or drowning while crossing the river.”