By Kristina Wong - 08/07/14 06:45 PM EDT
The U.S. military airdropped food and water to thousands of Iraqi minorities stranded atop a desolate mountain Thursday evening, a senior defense official confirmed.
"I can confirm that tonight, at the direction of the Commander in Chief, the U.S. military conducted a humanitarian assistance operation in Northern Iraq to air drop critical meals and water for thousands of Iraqi citizens threatened by ISIL near Sinjar," the official said.
The aircraft that dropped the humanitarian supplies have now safely exited the immediate airspace over the drop area, the official said.
President Obama is expected to make an announcement Thursday evening on the U.S. effort. He has met with his national security team throughout the day.
An offensive by ISIS in Iraq’s north has pushed tens of thousands of Iraqi minorities to Mount Sinjar and raised concerns about a humanitarian disaster. The refugees are believed to be lacking food and water.
The White House was reportedly considering airstrikes on ISIS, but such action doesn’t appear to be in play for now. The U.S. has been wary of re-engaging militarily in Iraq.
It also has been reluctant to prop up the Shiite government in Baghdad without receiving commitments of a more inclusive democracy in return.
The emergency aid will be targeted at Yazidi refugees who fled to the mountains.
The estimated 40,000 minorities have seen food and medical supplies dwindle, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest said earlier Thursday that the situation was “nearing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
—Justin Sink contributed.
This story was updated at 9:25 p.m.