CNN Photojournalist Captures Dramatic First-Person Helicopter Rescue Of Iraqis

Footage of an Iraqi air force rescue mission was released by CNN on Monday, and the images will leave you breathless.

Footage of an Iraqi air force rescue mission at Mount Sinjar was released by CNN on Monday, and the images will leave you speechless.

After tossing cases of water and food out of the chopper, the soldiers lowered themselves to the ground while opening fire on members of ISIS. During their descent, groups of civilians -- who CNN identified as Yazidis -- can be seen sprinting towards the aircraft in hopes of being rescued. On board the aircraft was CNN photojournalist Ivan Watson, who described the mission as 'heroic'.

"We landed on several short occasions, and that's where -- amid this explosion of dust and chaos -- these desperate civilians came racing towards the helicopter, throwing their children on board the aircraft. The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible," Watson told CNN.

Yazidi is what's described as a "close-set" religion, meaning you must be born into it and cannot convert. The people make up a population of nearly 500,000 in the northern mountains of Iraq, but are still considered a minority in the largely Muslim region. Consistently a victim of persecution, the ethnoreligious group was one of the victims of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, a period in which they were forced from their rural homes into the city of Sinjar.

Yazidis have now become a major target for ISIS, who are killing or forcing out those that refuse to convert to Islam. That persecution has led to large swathes of the people migrating to the Kurdistan region. While the video above shows the rescue of a few, it is believed that more than 20,000 still remain trapped atop the mountain.