|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|02/11/04||US to Sweep Fallujah, Ramadi Very Soon: Iraqis By Samir Haddad, IOL Correspondent|
Once voting is over, US forces would fiercely attack Iraqi resistance bastions, Iraqis say
BAGHDAD, November 2 (IslamOnline.net) – Residents of Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are fleeing their homes, in light of continuous US air strikes and preparations for a massive onslaught Iraqi sources and analysts believe would come directly on the heels of Tuesday’s US presidential elections, regardless of who wins.
“A massive onslaught on Fallujah and Ramadi is expected immediately after the US presidential elections. It was put off no to affect the polls,” Mohammed Bashar Al-Faydhi, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars told IslamOnline.net.
He cited the failure of US occupation forces to invade the resistance bastion of Fallujah last April, as a strong reason to wait till after the elections.
“That is why they [US forces] are concerned they might fail once again, negatively affecting the elections.”
In April, at least 700 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were killed and 1,500 others injured in Fallujah when US occupation forces imposed a tight siege on the town and intensified air strikes on its densely-populated areas.
Ramadi Gets Ready
Ramadi, another symbol of Iraqi resistance, is also gripped by a state of cautiousness and anticipation for a battle against US forces expected to be die-hard, to put it mildly.
The western Baghdad city is a usual scene of daily clashes between Iraqi resistance groups and the US occupation forces, most recent of which led to the killing of six Iraqis and the wounding of 15 others Monday.
“The city’s eastern entrances were totally sealed off due to continued clashes and US attacks on the city suburbs,” Mahmoud Al-Delaimi, a Ramadi resident told IOL.
He added the city has become almost deserted, with only the resistance fighters left behind.
Eight US soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in Iraqi resistance attacks on October 30, in the Al-Anbar Province, where both Fallujah and Ramadi belong.
Iraqi resistance fighters in Ramadi have been working on the double to reinforce their positions, getting ready for a battle everyone seems sure it would come.
“The resistance has been stockpiling food supplies and taking fortifications as well as planting mines in all routes leading to the city,” Mohamed Elian, a city resident said.
He added the resistance fighters have also been digging trenches and reinforcing positions, poising for die-hard battles against the occupation forces.
According to observers, Ramadi, known for its tribal relations with Iraq’s main resistance bastion Fallujah, has been coming under daily US attacks because of resistance attacks launched from the restive city against US forces.
Over the expected US offensive, hundreds of Iraqi families have fled the city to a refugee camp in the neighboring Habaniya area.
“The refugee camp only has 250 tents, while displaced Iraqis are over than 700 families,” Elian added.
Negotiations between the US-backed interim government and delegates from the Fallujah collapsed in mid-October after [Iraqi Premier Iyad] Allawi threatened the city with invasion if it did not surrender Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
Fallujah people have repeatedly maintained that they did not harbor the wanted man.
The discussions were resumed Wednesday, after Allawi agreed to a last-ditch bid by the National Council (interim parliament) to reach a peaceful solution to a military standoff.
“Negotiations are continuing,” Nassir Aref, member of the Fallujah delegation told IOL.
“We can not guarantee foreign fighters, if they are in the city, would leave the place as the Iraqi government stipulates.”
A source at the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office has earlier stressed to IOL that talks are continuing but with no solid results.
On the other hand, the humanitarian situation in Fallujah has been deteriorating.
“The humanitarian situation is gravely deteriorating in light of the displacement of thousands of families from the city where large numbers of them are living on the roads to escape the hell of the US imminent offensive,” Ismail Al-Delaimi of the Fallujah general hospital told IOL.
“The approach of the winter season has caused the situation of thousands of people to deteriorate.”
“Dysentery and diseases of children have been on the rise at a time we suffer a shortage of medicines.”
Director of the Fallujah general hospital Rafae Jiyad Al-Esawi was quoted November 1, as saying that grave diseases have been increasing among the Iraqis over the past period, foremost among such diseases are the intensive dysentery, food poisoning and abortion.
On Tuesday, November 2, hundreds of people fled Fallujah after a heavy night of US air strikes, while an Iraqi cameraman working for Reuters was killed during clashes in the nearby hotspot of Ramadi.
“There are a bunch of cars leaving the city right now, about 400 cars backed up,” said US marine gunnery sergeant Brett Turck told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “I don't know if it is a mass exodus or regular traffic flows.”
The movement came after the US military unleashed an air raid on the flashpoint city west of Baghdad in what has become a near daily bombardment.
US ground troops have encircled Fallujah since mid-October, and Allawi issued an ultimatum to the city Sunday to surrender what he insisted were “insurgents holed up inside” or face an all-out military assault.
Violent clashes flared Monday in the sister city of Ramadi, to the west of Fallujah, leaving at least six people dead, including a cameraman working for the London-based Reuters news agency.
Dhia Najim, a 57-year-old freelance video cameraman, was apparently shot dead by a sniper while on assignment for Reuters, one of its reporters in Baghdad said.
It was unclear whether the sniper had been an Iraqi fighter or a US soldier.
The US military is known to have stationed marksmen in Ramadi as it fights to control the city.