The U.S. has launched a second round of air strikes in Iraq, and as the militants gain more territory, Iraqi civilians are forced to flee their homes, often with nowhere to turn for safety. Experts we spoke with say it's extremely difficult to get out of the country. NY1's Lori Chung filed the following report.
American fighter jets take off from the Persian gulf Friday to carry out airstrikes against the militant group calling themselves the "Islamic State"—the U.S. bolstering an effort to keep the group from gaining any more ground in Iraq.
"If there is a role for the American military to play in supporting the Iraqi people and that inclusive government and an integrated security force that is capable of defending the country, then we'll then—we'll use that American military prowess in pursuit of that goal as well," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Officials say the strikes destroyed Islamic State targets including a seven vehicle convoy near Irbil. President Barack Obama authorized the bombing after the militant group's takeover of territory near the city where there are hundreds of U.S. personnel.
"Right now, ISIS, I believe, controls more land mass than the entire country of Great Britain. That's what we're talking about. Not like prior to 9/11, where we're talking about the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in the mountains of Afghanistan," said Rep. Peter King of Long Island.
Now, concern grows for the tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped in the northern mountains without food or water. Many in the country's minority groups fled there to escape the violence.
"We already have clients that have been waiting several years, several years for us to get to this point and now they're stuck again," says attorney Lara Finkbeiner of the Urban Justice Center.
Aid groups here in New York like the "Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project" at the Urban Justice Center say they've been inundated by calls from desperate Iraqis seeking help, but current U.S. policy is making that help difficult to administer.
"Right after the fall of Mosul, the U.S. suspended the in-country refugee resettlement processing which means that all of these Iraqis are now stuck inside Iraq with no way out. There are tens of thousands of Iraqis in that situation right now, and now that the border's closing, they're essentially trapped," Finkbeiner says.
The president authorized another aid drop for those trapped Iraqis which was carried out Friday.
Obama is promising, though, that the American military action in the country would be targeted with no combat troops on the ground.