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British planes to drop aid in Iraq

British forces will be involved in the operation to take vital supplies to members of religious minorities including Christians who are on top of Mount Sinjar.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK would support US forces in their air strikes with 'surveillance and refuelling' but Downing Street has ruled out any military action.

He said: "Our focus is on assisting that humanitarian mission.

"Using our military in support of the Americans, in terms of refuelling and surveillance to underpin their mission and to add to it with food drops of our own."

Last night the United States President Barack Obama authorised air strikes against Islamic militants that are taking over several parts of Iraq.

The first strike has hit Islamic State artillery according to the Pentagon.

He said: "As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.

 Yesterday the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS, stormed the country's biggest Christian town.

CSW/Open Doors

Thousands of people had to flee Qaraqosh in the middle of the night to escape the jihadists.

The President said American troops would not be sent back to Iraq and any involvement would be to protect American interests.

US aircrafts have already made humanitarian air drops to provide support for religious minorities stuck up a mountain.

Each pack contains:

2,200 Calories worth of food

Lentil stew or beans with rice

Snacks like crackers or flat bread

Raisins fruit bar & pastry

Alcohol-free wipe & spoon

Source: US Department of Defense

Following the UK government announcing its intention to drop aid Christian MP Meg Munn and Chair of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq All-Party Parliamentary Group said: "I think it's right that there is intervention now.

"I don't have a problem about that being the US but we should stand ready to be involved if necessary and not rule it out in the future".

Iraqi Archbishop Athansios Dawood from the Syrian Orthodox Church in west London told Premier's News Hour: "The situation is very bad and very dangerous.

"They're lacking any humanitarian aid - they don't have food, they don't have water, they don't have medicine for the elderly."

Pope Francis has also tweeted about the crisis: "I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has issued a statement on the 'horrific' situation.

He said: "What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people's right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom's doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.

"The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.

"With the world's attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith.

"We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time."

Listen to Christian MP Meg Munn and Chair of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq All-Party Parliamentary Group tell Premier's News Hour Britain should have got involved a long time ago:

Iraqi Archbishop Athansios Dawood from the Syrian Orthodox Church in west London spoke to Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour:

You can listen back to our full coverage of the crisis in Iraq here.

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