US mission to rescue Yazidis 'far less likely'

A statement from the US Department of Defense says those trapped on the Iraqi mountain "are in better condition than previously believed"

The US may no longer attempt to rescue Iraqis trapped on Mount Sinjar, a statement from the Pentagon has confirmed.

According to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby, "there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days."

Kirby continued: "The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely."

Thousands of refugees have been stranded on the mountain in northern Iraq for over a week now, after being driven from their homes by Islamic State militants.

They have no access to food or water other than that supplied by air drops, and are facing temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius.

The US has undertaken four airstrikes since August 9, specifically targeting IS fighters surrounding the mountain, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said yesterday that Obama would "review" options to help rescue those trapped.

The President has repeatedly stressed that no US troops will fight on the ground in Iraq, but Rhodes said yesterday "there are a variety of ways in which we can support the safe removal" of the Yazidis.

He added that 130 military advisers who have been deployed to Iraq would "make recommendations" for the US' next steps.

Suggestions that a full-scale rescue plan would take place were then fuelled by UK Prime Minister David Cameron's declaration yesterday that "detailed plans are now being put in place and are underway and...Britain will play a role in delivering them."

The UN also yesterday declared the crisis in Iraq to be a "level three emergency" – representing the highest level of humanitarian crisis.

However, though Obama's team have said an evacuation mission is now likely to be unnecessary, the Department of Defense has insisted that the US will "continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed".