BAGHDAD: The Iraqi army has established a safe corridor that has allowed 4,000 Fallujah residents to flee the jihadist-held city in 24 hours, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Sunday.
The safe passage leads to the southwest of Fallujah, along a road where the Islamic State group killed at least 18 members of two families trying to flee on Friday.
“The army opened a safe corridor for families fleeing from Fallujah through Al-Salam intersection,” an officer with the Joint Operations Command supervising the fight against IS said.
Around 24,000 people have fled IS rule since Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Fallujah on May 22-23, but very few have been able to leave central Fallujah where the jihadists are using civilians as human shields.
“The latest figure we have is that 4,000 individuals have managed to get out over the past 24 hours,” the NRC’s regional media adviser Karl Schembri said.
“We are of course relieved, but it also means we are completely overwhelmed as a humanitarian community,” he told Agence France-Presse, warning that the available resources of safe drinking water would not meet the needs of all the displaced for much longer.
The NRC’s Schembri said that the general aid effort in Iraq was massively underfunded, hampering the delivery of urgent relief.
In the short term, he said, the response to the Fallujah operation would require $10 million (8.9 million euros) over the next six months if another 35,000 people were displaced.