WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Thousands of members of a small, ancient religious sect known as Yezidis are stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq surrounded by ISIS militants who are threatening to kill them unless they convert to Islam. But many of their family members who gathered Thursday outside the White House say even if they did convert, the militants would still kill them. They call what's happening a genocide.

"We need help and it needs to be done immediately. As we speak, there are kids dying, mother's crying, mother's being raped," said Souad Kawal, a Yezidi who has family trapped on that mountain.

"These people helped the U.S. be successful in Iraq. The U.S. has a responsibility to save those people who were affected by this war," said another protester.

About 150 Yezidi protesters arrived at the White House Thursday from all over the country. They dropped everything, some even quit their jobs, because they say there's nothing worth living for here in America while their families are dying in Iraq.

"We're not leaving. There's no way. I can sleep on the ground," said Kawal.

"We'll be out here as long as it takes, as long as it takes for something to change," said Haedar Kasem, another Yezidi protester.

Thursday night, they finally got the change they'd been hoping for.

"When we face a situation like we do on that mountain -- with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help -- in this case, a request from the Iraqi government -- and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye," said President Obama in a public address from the White House. "We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That's what we're doing on that mountain."

President Obama announced that air drops of food and water are already underway. He also authorized air strikes, if necessary, to stop what even he now calls a potential act of genocide.

"Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well today, America is coming to help," said Obama.

America may be coming to help, but that will not include the return of U.S. combat troops. The president made it clear he will not allow the U.S. to be dragged into another war in Iraq.

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