Baghdad, Iraq – Iraqi troops and allies have retaken the ISIS-held town named Karma, a key place near an important city held by the terrorist groups since 2014. Many civilians are trapped between the fires and in worrying humanitarian conditions.

An offensive to retake Falluja, about 16 kilometers from Karma, had been launched on Monday by the Iraqi government troops,which were backed by Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Units and airs forces from the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, as reported by CNN.

The spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced the victory for its government in a statement on Thursday. The troops advance gives the government the majority of Falluja’s territory.

Iraqi forces take northern edge of ISIS-held town
Iraqi forces take northern edge of ISIS-held town. It’s worth mentioning Iraqi forces have faced heavy resistance in ISIS-held town of Karma. Image Credit: Alalam

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who visited a military field headquarters near the ISIS-held city, congratulated the troops for their victory on a Facebook post, while calling them to move forward with care due to the thousand civilians who are trapped in the city.

“The armed forces and the brave fighters, their duty is to protect civilians from this terrorism, from random killing, from torture,” al-Abadi said. “We are all united to liberate Falluja and save its people from the terror of ISIS,” he later added on a Tweet.

A extremely risky situation

According to a statement from the United Nations, about 50,000 civilians are trapped in Falluja. The organization believes that with the government advance, the civilians may be at extreme risk in the area.

“We are receiving distressing reports of civilians trapped inside Falluja who are desperate to escape to safety, but cannot” said Lise Grande.

Notably, Grande is the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. The government has put available exit routes for those civilians trapped in the city, but just a few have been able to escape through them.

Officials from the city said that many of those people in danger have been killed by shelling from forces outside the city, but the government forces denied those claims, as reported by the Washington Post.

According to some activist still in the city, ISIS is not letting the residents leave and many have died trying to flee the place. Only about 800 people have been able to reach the camping areas outside the city, the UN said.

Those who had made it out had to walked in dangerous quantities to reach the save places, although they as well feared of those who were waiting in the other side. The camps are set up in Amiriyat al-Falluja at about 30 kilometers to the south.

Iraqi troops hold Islamic State flag upside down
As seen above, Iraqi troops hold Islamic State flag upside down as a victory signal after retaking the town of Karma. Image Credit: BBC News

Dire conditions

The civilians who were able to reach the camping sites have described the city as a dire humanitarian place. The government cut supplies routes off since they had retaken Ramadi, one of the nearest towns, in December.

Food supplies are limited and tightly controlled. Medicines are exhausted and many families have no choice to rely on dirty and unsafe water sources, added Grande in the statement. The UN has established humanitarian teams and supplies on the ground to provide people with food, water and shelter.

Source: The Washington Post