Third round of air strikes in Iraq as Australia readies aid

A THIRD round of air strikes on Islamic State targets came as Barack Obama declared the United States "can't just look away" on Sunday and Australia prepared to join humanitarian efforts in the region.

The air strike on armoured vehicles in northern Iraq was the third round of US drone and jet attacks on Islamic State militants since last week.

President Obama, vowing to help thousands of marginalised Yazidi Iraqis threatened by jihadists on Mount Sinjar, was joined by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in backing humanitarian efforts.

Mr Abbott on Saturday said Australia was already talking to US officials about potential Australian involvement in humanitarian air drops to help those trapped on the mountain.

Obama, who last week labelled the attacks on the Iraqis as "potential genocide", has since indicated a US operation in Iraq - the first since the official withdrawal of troops three years ago - could be imminent.

He said on Sunday that the US could not "just look away"; "We act, we lead. And that's what we're going to do on that mountain" he told reporters in Washington.

Mr Abbott, who has not declared any intention yet to become involved in a military operation, said Australia already had two Hercules C-130 aircraft in the Arab Emirates, ready for deployment.

"We've been asked to consider participation in humanitarian air drops and I think the Australian people would be pleased to think that Australia might be involved in helping to rescue up to 40,000 people, mostly women and children, exposed on a mountaintop surrounded by people who have been busily beheading and crucifying those that they disagree with," he said.

"President Obama has already said that it has the potential to become genocide and that's why it's important for Australia to join with our international partners in doing what we can to render humanitarian assistance."

France and Britain have already confirmed they plan to send air drops to those trapped on the mountain, and Mr Abbott said he was already "looking to see how quickly we can get crews there".

"If Australia is required to be involved, yes, it will be days, not weeks," he said.

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