The U.S. is weighing options ranging from military strikes to the delivery of humanitarian aid in response to tens of thousands of ethnic minorities being driven from their homes by Islamist militants in Iraq. reported:

President Obama discussed the crisis with his national security team Thursday morning as the Islamic State (IS), the militant group formerly known as ISIS, made further gains. Airstrikes in particular would mark a significant shift in the U.S. strategy in Iraq.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, though, would not confirm the reports at Thursday's press briefing and would not say what would trigger a military response.

He said the situation is nearing a "humanitarian catastrophe" and is one "we are deeply concerned about and closely monitoring." Earnest claimed Obama has demonstrated a willingness to use military force to protect America's core interests.

But when asked repeatedly by Fox News whether preventing a genocide -- as some have warned could happen in northern Iraq -- counts as being in America's core interests, Earnest did not answer directly.

"The reason that is an important question is that we have seen a couple of different situations where there have been urgent conditions where innocent civilians were under extreme duress and at a heightened risk of slaughter," Earnest said.


Most recently, IS militants seized control Thursday of the country's largest Christian city, Qaraqoush -- reportedly telling its residents to leave, convert or die and sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing from the area, according to several priests in northern Iraq.

The capture of Qaraqoush, Iraq's biggest Christian city, and at least four other nearby hamlets, brings the group to the very edge of the Iraqi Kurdish territory and its regional capital, Irbil.

Last week, the Islamic State also seized the northwestern town of Sinjar, forcing tens of thousands of people from the ancient Yazidi minority to flee into the mountains and the Kurdish region.

According to the U.N., between 35,000 and 50,000 fled to nearby Mount Sinjar and other areas, "reportedly surrounded by ISIS armed elements" and lacking water and other aid. 

On Shepard Smith Reporting today, William Taylor, vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, said this could be a threat not just to Iraq, but to the whole region and, eventually, whole world.

"It's a danger when you have to deal with people who are motivated by thoughts and ideologies that we don't understand," he said.

He added, however, that we should still take action to stop radical militants from controlling an actual state, as they have the resources and motivation to become a global threat, and they will not listen to reason.

“These are not people that you can deal with,” Taylor concluded.

Watch the video above.

More from Fox News Channel:

Rep. Wolf: Obama Admin Doing 'Almost Nothing' About 'Genocide Against Christian Community' in Iraq

ISIS to Christians in Mosul: Leave, Convert to Islam or Die