CNN’s Ivan Watson has been sending harrowing dispatches back to the United States from the areas of Iraq where Islamic State fighters have encircled minority Yazidis. His reports, and the footage he and his crew have been broadcasting, are positively heartbreaking.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces have been operating helicopter rescue flights in and out of the mountain where the Yazidis remain trapped. In missions Watson described as “heroic,” the local forces airlift supplies in and refugees out of the area.
The images coming out of those rescue flights are wrenching:
“We landed on several short occasions, and that’s where — amid this explosion of dust and chaos — these desperate civilians came racing towards the helicopter, throwing their children on board the aircraft,” Watson reported. “The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible.”
The crowd on board burst into tears as the chopper took off. Young and old, women and men, civilians and servicemen — all cried with the intensity of the moment.
Gunners had to open fire at the ground in order to make it away from ISIS.
“They flew in shooting; they flew out shooting,” Watson reported.
“There was not a dry eye on the aircraft.”
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
Each flight is able to rescue approximately 20 of what is estimated to be up to 25,000 Yazidis who have been trapped on Mt. Sinjar in Western Iraq for weeks. Many of the desperate refugees are turned away.
On Tuesday, one such flight operated by Iraqi forces reportedly crashed on Sinjar after dropping off supplies and picking up refugees. Legal Insurrection’s Bruce Carol reported that abroad that helicopter was Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament whose emotional speech in Baghdad drew international attention to the crisis in Iraq. Preliminary reports indicate that she and her son survived the crash.