The US Federal Aviation Administration on Friday banned all American airlines from flying over Iraq due to a "potentially hazardous situation."
In the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), the FAA cited the “hazardous situation created by the armed conflict” between militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL; also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) and Iraqi security forces and their allies. The ban applies to "all US carriers and commercial operators."
Flights are prohibited in the Baghdad Flight Information Region until further advised, the FAA statement said.
There is an exception for emergencies: “In an emergency that requires immediate decision and action for the safety of the flight, the pilot in command of an aircraft may deviate from this NOTAM to the extent required by that emergency.”
— The FAA (@FAANews) August 8, 2014
The flight agency said they will reevaluate the prohibition by the end of the year.
The ban on flights over Iraq was announced hours after US jets bombed ISIS positions in the northern part of the country. Rear Admiral John Kirby said the attack took place to help defend Kurdish forces near Erbil, Iraq.
Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near the city of Erbil. US personnel are based in the city.
"The decision to strike was made by the US Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief," Rear Admiral John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said.
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) August 9, 2014
US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he had authorized the use of force against ISIS to help protect Christians and Yazidis, an ethnic Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.
“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said, noting that although the United States “cannot and should not” intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world, it must act when innocent people are facing violence on a horrific scale.
"I therefore authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege at Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there," Obama said. "We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide."
The US has also begun dropping relief supplies to the refugees. Around 40,000 Yazidis - members of the Kurdish community whose religious beliefs are a mix of ancient Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Christianity - sought refuge on Mount Sinjar last weekend after Islamic State fighters continued their march toward the Kurdish power center of Erbil.