Iraq’s minister for human rights has announced that 500 Yazidi civilians have been killed so far in the ISIS offensive against the Yazidi ethnic minority. Early reports indicate that they may have been buried alive.
Tens of thousands of the Kurdish-speaking refugees have been trapped in the Sinjar mountain range at the point of starvation.
The bodies of the 500 civilians were reportedly found in a mass grave in the wake of ISIS' push towards the mountain range.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani indicated that his government had evidence that some of the civilians had been buried alive. He also noted that 300 additional Yazidi women have been kidnapped as slaves.
The United Nations estimates that at least 56 children have died of dehydration alone in the Sinjar mountain camps.
On Saturday, Barack Obama said that action was needed to prevent more deaths and to provide humanitarian aid to the area.
Also on Saturday, U.S. Central Command said that it carried out four air strikes over Iraq, targeting ISIS militants even as the militants fired upon civilians.
Britain has also now intervened, making its first airdrop of humanitarian aid to the refugees in the mountain range.
A Downing Street spokesman said that British and American forces “agreed that the immediate priority is to get vital supplies to those trapped on Mount Sinjar and the U.K. will join the U.S. in delivering aid drops.”
“Both leaders also agreed that aid drops are not a long term solution, and that a way must be found to get these people to safety and to avert a genocide,” the spokesman continued.
As The Independent reports, the ISIS offensive against the Yazidi people has been described as “genocide in [both] the literal and legalistic sense.”
Yazidis are amongst Iraq’s smallest minorities and one of the oldest religious communities in the world. They have long suffered persecution; many Muslims refer to them as devil worshippers.