By Haydar Hadi
BAGHDAD (AA) – At least 20,000 children in Fallujah are at risk due to ongoing fighting in the city between the Iraqi army and its allies and the Daesh terrorist group, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned Wednesday.
In a statement, UNICEF representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins said that food and medicine in Daesh-held Fallujah were running out -- while clean water was "in short supply" -- amid a week-old army operation aimed at retaking the city from the terrorist group.
"As violence continues to escalate in Fallujah and across Iraq, we are concerned about the protection of children in the face of extreme violence," Hawkins said.
"Children face the risk of forced recruitment into the fighting, strict procedures for security screening, and separation from their families," he added.
UNICEF has urged the warring parties to provide safe passage for civilian residents of Fallujah who wish to leave the conflict-battered city.
On Monday, security sources taking part in the fighting said Iraqi army forces and allied Shia militias had "surrounded" most parts of Fallujah while Daesh militants attempted to halt the advance with booby-trapped cars, rockets and land mines.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers west of capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in early 2014 -- is believed to be home to some 90,000 residents.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara.