The UN and humanitarian organisations are concerned over the fate of some 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, a town situated west of Baghdad and the site of an Iraqi army offensive.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Baghdad, the Norwegian Refugee Council's Becky Bakr Abdulla recalled stories told to her by families who managed to escape Fallujah, where the Iraqi army has shelled areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group since Monday. 

"People basically are surviving on dried dates and water from the river," Abdulla said. "The only things these families managed to take with them were the clothes they're wearing and their IDs."

Abdulla explained that the few families who did escape the town in Anbar province had to traverse around 30km by foot and pass numerous checkpoints in order to reach safety.

Although the offensive was launched on Monday, Iraqi government forces have besieged the city and its suburbs for several months now, resulting in shortages of food and medicines.

 At least 15 civilians have been killed so far during the offensive, sources told Al Jazeera.

At least 35 soldiers and allied militiamen have also been reported killed. More than a dozen Shia militias are taking part under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilisation Forces.


On Tuesday local residents reported sporadic shelling around the city centre, but said it was less intense than on the previous day.

The Iraqi military said that overnight it had dislodged ISIL fighters from al-Karma, a village east of the city.

The Iraqi government said it was opening humanitarian corridors for civilians to flee the offensive - to the west, southwest and southeast of Fallujah.

From there, locals were being sent to makeshift camps.

But those being evacuated were asked to travel along this main road, riddled with booby-trapped improvised explosives and full of ISIL fighters.

Fallujah became in January 2014 the first Iraqi city to be captured by ISIL, six months before the group declared its caliphate.

The city on the Euphrates River had a prewar population of about 300,000. Known as the City of Minarets and Mother of Mosques, it was badly damaged in two assaults by the US army against suspected al-Qaeda fighters in 2004.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies