Tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians have been saved as U.S. forces continue to attack ISIS targets in Iraq Saturday, and Kurdish forces, who control the northern region where the militants are being fought, say American military is "crucial" to defeating the terrorist group.
On Sunday, the U.S. military carried out a new wave of airstrikes against militant targets in Iraq, successfully striking five targets within five hours.
According to Iraqi officials, airstrikes Saturday killed 16 ISIS fighters, and an Iraqi airstrike in Sinjar killed an additional 45 ISIS fighters, Iraq state media reported.
Airstrikes also targeted Islamic militants near the town of Makhmur near Arbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and home to a U.S. consulate and U.S.-Iraqi joint military operations center.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama allowed targeted attacks on the region not only to protect Iraqi minorities such as Yazidi and Christian, from ISIS' killing rampage, but also Americans stationed in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.
According to CNN, a rescue effort Sunday has freed 20,000 of the Yazidi refugees trapped in the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq and surrounded by ISIS forces. However, thousands remain stranded with limited food and water supplies.
Most of the women taken captive by ISIS are below the age of 35 and are being held in schools in the city of Mosul. About 50,000 other Yazidis, half of them children and who were earlier forced to flee to the north-west region with death threats, also remain trapped in Sinjar.
On Sunday, Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights spokesman Kamil Amin said it was possible that as many as 500 Yazidis had been killed. The ministry had also heard reports that some had possibly been buried alive.
The U.S. military made a fourth airdrop of food and water to Iraqis stranded on Mount Sinjar on Sunday night, according to U.S. Central Command. Thus far, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 74,000 meals and more than 15,000 gallons of fresh drinking water.
Iraqi security forces have been able to airlift about 100 to 150 people a day off Sinjar Mountain, said Marzio Babille of UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency.
According to USA Today, James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the American military involvement will need to be increased, however, as ISIS is a significant threat to stability in Iraq. The Pentagon will need to intensify its airstrikes along with placing military advisors in Iraq.
"That is going to require air power along with competent folks on the ground," he said.
Meanwhile, Karwan Zebari, acting representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the U.S., told Fox News that the ISIS has captured a great deal of American-made military equipment which they seized after Iraq national troops fled Mosul.
"They [ISIS] are better equipped and have a lot of forces helping them," Zebari said.
Military equipment is what is needed, he added. "We have not received any military equipment [from the U.S.] ... and this is where the ISIS has been able to advance."
"Today, ISIS has the American made equipment in their hands ... very sophisticated, very technical and very accurate."
While significant progress has been made in debilitating ISIS, officials say the work is far from over.
"I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks," U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday. "This is going to be a long-term project.