This timeline contains chronological reports of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) occupation of Fallujah, with a focus on humanitarian concerns, food insecurity, and civilian resistance to occupying ISIS forces. While the majority of these reports come from our weekly Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor publication, several supplementary reports have been added as an addendum to ensure the timeline is as comprehensive as possible.
——————– 2016 ———————
On April 9, 2016 the United Nations reported that humanitarian conditions in Fallujah are worsening and human suffering increasing. Civilians are at extreme risk under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and with the siege of Fallujah tightening, supplies are not reaching civilians. In late March, the Iraqi government informed the United Nations that it has plans to open safe corridors to allow civilians to exit the city. Lise Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, revealed that the UN has received reports that ISIS has killed civilians attempting to leave and controls potential escape routes. Grande added that, “we are profoundly worried about Fallujah. There are reports of widespread food shortages and lack of medicines”, while stating that “all parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and respect their right to receive life-saving humanitarian support”. The United Nations currently does not have access to Fallujah.
While there are accounts of limited food reaching the city through smuggling, very few families who remain can afford the exorbitant prices. One woman in Fallujah said: “I have eight kids and there is nothing to feed them. No rice, no flour, not even dates.” She also added “We are not Daesh… we are victims who have no power.”
On April 7, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch (HRW) Joe Stork stated, “The people of Fallujah are besieged by the government, trapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and are starving.” Stork added, “The warring parties should make sure that aid reaches the civilian population.” Since the recapture of the nearby provincial capital Ramadi in Anbar province by government forces in late December 2015, and the al-Jazira desert north of Fallujah in March 2016, supply routes have been cut off from the city. Tens of thousands of civilians from an original population of more than 300,000 remain inside Fallujah. Iraqi activists have reported that people have been reduced to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups made from grass, and the little food that remains is being sold at very high prices. In late March 2016, a Fallujah medical source told HRW that starving children arrive at the local hospital each day and that most foodstuffs are no longer available at any price. While the laws of war do not prohibit sieges of a belligerent’s military forces, they do prohibit starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare, which is a war crime. HRW also reported that civilians in Fallujah have suffered considerable harm from fighting, with an unconfirmed medical source saying that 5,769 combatants and civilians have been injured and 3,455 killed since January 2014. Approximately one-fourth of them were women and children. While the siege of Fallujah has stalled, PMUs have been focusing on rescuing civilians who attempt to escape starvation in the city.
On March 30, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 35 civilians attempting to escape the city of Fallujah, 57 kilometers west of Baghdad. Popular Mobilization Unit forces reported that ISIS threatened to “cut off the heads and destroy the homes” of anyone who attempts to leave the city.
In Fallujah, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that supply lines have been cut and the city remains under an ongoing siege. There are reports of critical shortages of fuel, food, clean water and medicine, with civilians also being subjected to shelling and airstrikes that have resulted in many casualties.
On March 23, the head of the security committee of Anbar’s Provincial Council, Sheikh Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, reported that “10,000 innocent families can not leave the city of Fallujah because of ISIS and the siege.” As a result, civilians are starving and committing suicide at alarming rates, he said. The Sheikh appealed for a swift end to the siege and an airlift of emergency relief for the innocent civilians trapped there, who have largely been without contact with the outside world since January 2014.
On March 24, governor of Anbar, Suhaib al-Rawi, demanded that aid be air delivered to the city of Fallujah until its liberation, urging the international community to do its part in ending the humanitarian crisis. Al-Rawi added that the local government, in coordination with security forces, are working to achieve Fallujah’s liberation.
On March 5, aircraft of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) dropped hundreds of leaflets on the city of Fallujah, 58 kilometers west of Baghdad. The leaflets were directed at civilians, urging them to prepare for the imminent invasion of the ISIS-controlled city by the ISF and other anti-ISIS factions.
On February 27, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) destroyed nine underground tunnels in the city of Fallujah. Colonel Mahmud Mourdi al-Jumaili of the ISF reported that outside activity in Fallujah is almost non-existent as the vast majority of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) activity has moved underground to avoid bombardment by Iraqi and international forces.
On February 29, a World Food Program report revealed that the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating in Anbar province due to the continuing conflict and limited access to provide assistance to the affected population. In Fallujah a number of commodities were reported at “no availability” including gas and cooking fuel, lentils, rice, sugar, vegetable oil, and wheat. From December 2015-January 2016, prices of these items increased in Fallujah by 500% to 800%.
On February 19, Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) fighters from the Jeraisat tribe killed 10 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in al-Naziza market in Fallujah. In retaliation, ISIS captured five of the tribe’s fighters.
On February 23, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) executed 12 civilians, accusing them of trying to escape Fallujah. The civilians were killed by firing squad in the al-Jumhūrīyah neighborhood of central Fallujah.
——————– 2015 ———————
On November 28, 2015 ISIS executed two civilian men in Fallujah by throwing them off of a building in the center of the city for unknown reasons.
On August 5, a source from the military media cell stated that the PMUs cut off ISIS supplies travelling between Khalidiya and Fallujah, 5 km east of Ramadi.
On July 24, an anonymous source from the Anbar Provincial Council announced that ISIS prevented more than 4,000 families from leaving Fallujah amidst these violent clashes and clearing operations. A spokesman for the PMUs confirmed that ISIS only allows families to exit the city if they have a sponsor and can pay a large sum of money in exchange for their release.
On April 7, albu Nimr tribal leader, Naim al-Gaud, stated that ISIS has 8 secret prisons in “Fallujah, Qaim, Hit, Rawa, Ana, and elsewhere in the province.” Gaud stated that these prisons are holding 900 prisoners and that these prisoners are used for extortion or as human shields. On April 8, PM Abadi visited Anbar province’s Habaniyah airbase to inspect the Iraqi Security Forces and anti-ISIS tribal forces that are gearing up to clear ISIS from the province. On the same day, clashes between ISIS and anti-ISIS forces continued in areas east of Ramadi.
On March 25, the head of the culture and information committee in Anbar province, Ayyad Amash, stated that the central government needed to joint arm security forces and anti-ISIS tribal forces and protect civilians in future operations. In addition, Sheikh Gaood Nimrawi of the Albu Nimr tribe suggested that ISIS had planted over 1000 IEDs throughout areas that it controls in Anbar province, including in Fallujah, Karma, Qaim, Hit, and Rawa.
The following reports were not originally published in ISHM:
On July 14, 2015 Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights member Fadel al-Gharawi reported that ISIS has not been allowing civilians to leave Fallujah for the three months since the group captured the city. He added that the group has been using civilians as human shields and has been booby-trapping houses, mosques, and roads.
On January 31, 2015 the blockade of Fallujah resulted in at least 10 deaths due to the Iraqi blockade on the city of Fallujah. The ISF and Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have prevented most food, medicine, and fuel from entering the city.
On February 20, 2016 Sunni tribesman rebelled against ISIS control in the city of Fallujah. ISIS has quelled the insurrection and has conducted mass arrests across the city.
On April 5, 2016 the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) burned 15 civilians for trying to escape the city of Fallujah.
On April 18, 2016 Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights member Fadel al-Gharawi claimed that ISIS has been using civilians as human shields in the city of Fallujah. He further added that ISIS has kidnapped 100 children from Fallujah for use in terror plots.