Trapped Civilians – Including 20,000 Children – Stall Fallujah Offensive

IRAQ, Karbala : Iraqi women and children, who fled Fallujah, sit in the back of a truck as they wait at an army checkpoint at Ayn al-Tamer crossing at the entrance to Karbala province on January 6, 2014. Buses and cars carrying families fleeing the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi …

USA Today reports: BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces halted an assault to free Fallujah from Islamic State control Wednesday for fear of causing the deaths of civilians held hostage in the city, including an estimated 20,000 children.

“It would be possible to end the battle quickly if protecting civilians wasn’t among our priorities,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on state television. “Our units are just outside Fallujah — victory is within our reach.”

The announcement comes two days after government forces entered the southern part of the city. They met fierce resistance from militants using civilians as “human shields” on the front lines and threatening to kill anyone who flees.

The United Nations Children’s Fund warned the Iraqi government and Islamic State about an estimated 20,000 children inside the battle zone, saying families should be given safe passage out of the city.

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