On the second day of Iraq’s military offensive against Fallujah, troops continued to shell the center of the ISIS-held city, with the UN refugees agency warning that a number of civilians are being killed in the strikes, and more killed in failed attempts to escape the city.
Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi took to national TV to order all civilians out of Fallujah, and over the weekend airplanes dropped cards that are supposed to give residents passage through Iraqi military checkpoints. A city of 100,000 people, getting out is easier said than done.
“No one can leave. It’s dangerous. There are snipers everywhere along the exit routes,” one resident was quoted as telling Reuters. Locals were also saying that ISIS is killing anybody that tries to leave or is seen raising white flags on their homes, as ordered by Abadi so their homes wouldn’t get bombed.
Just outside of the Anbar Province capital of Ramadi, which Iraqi troops “liberated” and mostly destroyed earlier this year, Fallujah has been under ISIS control since early 2014. Closer to Baghdad than most ISIS territory, it was inevitable it would be an early target in the counter-offensive, but its long time under ISIS control is likely to make it a tricky city to fully conquer, particularly since ISIS came in after local protesters had already effectively chased the government out.