Iraqi men, women and children are fleeing the violence and atrocities of the intense combat occurring in Anbar province's cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in numbers not seen since that country’s insurgency six years ago, according to reports from United Nations aid workers on Friday.
According to U.S. news outlets on Friday, in the past week alone, at least 65,000 people fled the two cities which have become a battlefield in which the Shiite-led government and the Sunni al Qaeda-linked groups are literally fighting in the streets.
“Many of the displaced… are still in desperate need of food, medical care and other aid,” the U.N. said. “As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again.”
Since al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies invaded the two cities in late December 2013, well over 140,000 Iraqis become homeless due to intense fighting, according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
This is the largest evacuation by Iraqi civilians the world has seen since the sectarian violence of 2006-2008 while the U.S. and coalition forces were still in that country. The 140,000 displaced people are on top of the 1.13 million people already displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) statement on Friday.
According to reports from UNHCR staff, many of the Iraqis find it difficult, if not out-and-out dangerous, to flee from war-torn neighborhoods where there is a shortage of food and medicine.
"The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. In recent weeks several bridges leading into the conflict area and communities hosting displaced people have been destroyed, making access difficult. Currently it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq," according to UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards.
"Meanwhile, other areas of Iraq -- including Baghdad, Erbil, Kerbala, Salah-al-Din and Ninewa -- have witnessed the arrival of thousands of displaced persons. People are reportedly without money for food and lack suitable clothing for the rainy conditions. Children are not in school and sanitary conditions, particularly for women, are inadequate," Edwards noted.
The gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a/k/a al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQII), who invaded the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah are refusing to withdraw despite President Bashar al-Assad's military onslaughts and threats from local tribal leaders.
The ISIL is now firmly entrenched in the cities that were the scenes of the bloodiest battles for the U.S. military during the war in Iraq, with their attacks appearing to be well planned, coordinated and designed to spread terror.