Peshmerga forces hand out water bottles and show the way to displaced Iraqi families from the Yazidi community as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on Aug. 11. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP)
LONDON — Britain will be part of an international mission to rescue Yazidi refugees stranded in northern Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.
“Detailed plans” were being pieced together to get the operation underway, Cameron said after chairing a meeting of the British Government’s Cobra crisis committee meeting.
“We need a plan to get these people off that mountain and get them to a place of safety, and I can confirm that detailed plans are now being put in place and are underway, and that Britain will play a role in delivering that,” he said.
News an international effort was being organized to rescue thousands of Yazidis trapped by Islamic State (IS) jihadists comes as French President Francois Hollande announced they would start supplying arms within hours to Iraqi Kurds fighting the militants.
“For several days, France has had the necessary measures in place to support the operational capabilities of the forces fighting IS,” the statement from Hollande’s office said.
France had already been delivering humanitarian aid for several days.
The US is conducting airstrikes against Islamic State militants in the region as well as supplying arms to Kurdish forces and aid to refugees.
Tuesday Washington announced it was sending 130 military advisers to northern Iraq.
Britain has been ramping up its basing of military assets in the region over the last few hours but continues to stress that the helicopters, strike aircraft and transport aircraft involved remain part of a humanitarian mission.
The Royal Air Force is already conducting airdrops of water and other essentials from Hercules C-130s based in the region.
A small number of Tornado GR4 strike aircraft equipped with Rafael Litening III reconnaissance and targeting pods has also deployed to the British base at Akrotiri, Cyprus, to aid the RAF airdrop mission with surveillance capabilities.
The British have also announced they are forward-basing a small number of Boeing Chinook helicopters in the region. Media reports here say four of the heavy-lift helicopters have been dispatched.
The MoD has not detailed what role the helicopters will play. The aircraft departed their base at Odiham, southern England, Wednesday, enroute to the region. ■