Iraq’s top Shi’ite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has issued a statement today cautioning the Iraqi military and allied Shi’ite militias to act with restraint in the offensive against Fallujah, saying it is vital that they protect the civilians within.
“Don’t be extreme, don’t be treacherous. Don’t kill an old man, nor a boy, not a woman. Don’t cut a tree unless you have to,” Sistani said, quoting sayings of the Prophet Mohammed. There have been growing concerns about the risks the offensive pose to the civilian population.
Sistani’s comments followed a statement of concern from the UN about the offensive, which has seen heavy shelling of parts of the densely populated city. Iraqi PM Hayder Abadi ordered the civilians out of the city, but they’ve largely been unable to leave.
A major Sunni city, Fallujah has been under ISIS control since January of 2014. Some 100,000 civilians are believed to still be in the city at this point, with only small numbers able to get out every day, and several reported killed by the shellings.
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