WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) -- President Barack Obama announced Thursday night he has authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq, and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the effort is necessary and has bipartisan support.
In a late evening address from the White House, Obama said he has approved "targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death," CBS News reported.
Obama explained that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in recent days has "continued to move across Iraq and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces to stop the advance on Erbil, CBS News explained.
"I directed our military to take targeted strikes against [ISIS] terrorist convoys should they move toward the city," he added. "We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad."
The president also announced that the U.S. launched air drops of food and water on a mountain in northern Iraq on Thursday where a religious minority group remains trapped by Islamic militants.
"Today America is coming to help," Obama said.
As CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported, Obama said this time, combat troops will not be going.
The U.S. military already dropped humanitarian supplies to thousands of the civilians, safely making it into and out of the region.
The White House spent the week watching and weighing options as humanitarian concerns grew.
The president said with innocent families facing genocide, the U.S. must step up its response.
Reached by phone Thursday night, Rep. King said airstrikes are needed, and Obama's effort should have bipartisan support.
"I support the president. I think that it's essential that America lead airstrikes. ISIS has to be stopped. They can't be allowed to carry out this genocide," King said. "It's in America's interest, and it's also a very important humanitarian effort."
The potential airstrikes would be to help break the siege by ISIS, which has targeted religious minorities including Christians and the Yazidi, a religious group with ties to Zoroastrianism. An estimated 15,000 of them are caught on a mountaintop near Sinjar with no food or water, but afraid to descend into ISIS-held territory where they might be killed, CBS News reported.
The decision to deploy U.S. air power would represent a significant escalation of America's involvement in the bloody civil conflict, CBS News reported.
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