The United Nations (UN) Security Council on Tuesday condemned the attacks in northern Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), warning that those responsible must be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
"The members of the Security Council note that the large-scale offensive carried out by ISIL in Iraq and Syria has a trans-border nature and affirm that ISIL poses a threat not only to these countries but to regional peace, security, and stability," British Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant, this month's president of the Security Council, said in a statement.
Council members expressed their deep concern about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- many of whom from vulnerable minority communities such as the Yezidi community -- displaced by ISIL's attacks and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, Grant said.
Two days ago, the Islamic State militants captured the town of Sinjar, a district of Ninewa in northwest Iraq, forcing thousands of families, mostly from the Yazidi minority, to leave their homes and take refuge near the nearby Sinjar mountain as well as the city of Zakho in the semi- autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Earlier on Tuesday, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said up to 40 displaced Yazidi families who had fled to the nearby mountain are reported to have died.
The minority communities have lived for hundreds of years in Sinjar and elsewhere in Ninewa Province, Grant pointed out, adding that the Security Council strongly condemns the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations.
"The members of the Security Council further recall that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian population because of their ethnic background, religion or belief, may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable," he noted.
The 15-member council called upon all of Iraq's communities to "unite to respond, with the support of the international community, to this violent and senseless threat to Iraq's unity, identity and future."
Over the past few weeks, minority communities in the Ninewa province have come under direct attack and persecution by ISIL and associated armed groups. Tens of thousands of members of these ethnic and religious minority groups have been displaced or forced to flee and seek refuge, while many others have been executed and kidnapped.