Germany to start airlifting aid to Iraq | News | DW | 14.08.2014

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Germany to start airlifting aid to Iraq

The German military is planning to send four aircraft to northern Iraq to airlift goods to the many Yazidi stranded in the Sinjar mountains. The UN has declared its highest level of emergency for the humanitarian crisis.

Germany plans to send aid to northern Iraq on Friday, according to national media reports. Four German Transall military aircraft are set to take off for Erbil, carrying 36 tons of food and supplies to UN organizations for further distribution, the dpa news agency reported on Thursday.

On Tuesday, amid talks to increase European aid to Iraq, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced Berlin would support Iraq's army in its efforts to fight the Islamic State terror group (IS) by delivering non-lethal military aid such as armored vehicles, helmets, night-vision equipment, booby-trap detectors and medical supplies.

Discussion is ongoing whether Germany - which has a policy of not delivering weapons to war zones - should supply Kurdish fighters, Peshmerga, with arms to fight for the survival of the Yazidi minority.

UN declares 'highest level of emergency'

The UN declared on Wednesday its highest level of emergency for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, however, far fewer Yazidis are stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq than first thought.

The "Level 3 Emergency" has resulted in variouswestern governments vowing to increase the amount of goods, funds and assets being supplied to the thousands of displaced members of Iraq's minority Christian and Yazidi communities.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been driven out of their homes as the Islamic State (IS) group and its Sunni militant allies continue to advance through much of north and west Iraq, leaving the country facing its worst crisis since US troops withdrew in 2011.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) previously reported that tens of thousands of Yazidis had fled the Islamic State group's onslaught in order to seek refuge in the Sinjar mountain range.

However, on Wednesday, an American assessment team found "far fewer" Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar than first expected, with continued access to food and water from air drops.

The US has now delivered a total of 114,000 meals and almost 160,000 liters of drinking water.

The UNHCR said that some 80,000 Yezidis have escaped from the mountain in the last five days, leaving just 1,000 Yezidis stranded on the mountain.

As a result, the Pentagon said that an evacuation mission was "far less likely."

The plight of the stranded refugees was not as bad a previously feared, "in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on IS targets, the efforts of the (Kurdish forces) and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days," said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

The UN Security Council has also urged Iraqi prime minister designate Haidar al-Abadi to work swiftly to form "an inclusive government that represents all segments of the Iraqi population and that contributes to finding a viable and sustainable solution to the country's current challenges."

Abadi now has 30 days to build a team to dissolve sectarian tensions, after his nomination was accepted by President Fuad Masum on Monday.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than half a million Iraqis have fled their homes since the Islamic State group began their offensive in June.

sb/glb/ksb (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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