In the buildup to the offensive against the ISIS-held city of Fallujah, Iraqi officials quickly got out the narrative of 50,000 civilians still being inside the city, while promising efforts to help the civilians flee the city before the offensive began in earnest.
Very few of the civilians have managed to escape, and the problem may be larger than anyone was admitting, with the UN now saying they believe some 90,000 civilians are trapped within the sieged city, surrounded by Iraqi troops and militia and with no real humanitarian supplies being allowed in.
The UN estimated more than 20,000 have fled Fallujah since the planned offensive was announced, but in recent weeks reports have suggested that no more than a few hundred are still trickling out, with them facing threats of violence by ISIS for leaving, and risking torture from Shi’ite militias if they get caught after escaping.
There is considerable confusion over the status of the offensive, with Iraqi PM Hayder Abadi declaring the operation halted a week ago, and Iraqi troops continuing to claim “major progress” in the offensive and predicting an outright military victory in a matter of days, despite no reports of significant fighting ongoing.
Iraq’s political leadership continues to say they believe the offensive will take quite some time to totally capture the city, US officials have talked up a very long fight, but the military continues to insist they’re on the brink of outright victory. Whatever happens, the fate of a lot of Fallujans hangs in the balance.
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