According to conservative estimates, hundreds of buildings have been been partially or totally destroyed by US forces during the assault, which began on 8 November, using warplanes, tanks and artillery. The insurgents also destroyed many homes and booby-trapped others. The assault, launched to rid the city of insurgents who had made Fallujah one of their principal strongholds, was declared a success more than a month ago although clashes continue in certain districts. US warplanes have again bombarded a neighborhood in the west of the city.
An Iraqi Health Ministry official says he is concerned about the probable resentment felt by Fallujah's residents once they see the devastation inflicted on their homes. There was nothing reassuring about atmosphere reigning there this weekend. Many of the fleeing residents had nothing to do with the rebels, who had turned their city into an insurgent bastion. But the offensive has transformed many of them into angry militants. Does Allah want us to return to a city where not even animals can live?, questions Yassir Sator, in front of his ruined home. Even animals, who have no human emotions or reason, can't live here, he added in tears. What do they want of Fallujah. This is the crime of the century. They want to destroy Islam and all Moslems. Our anger and our defiance is growing.
According to humanitarian organizations, 200 000 fled the city before the assault and have spent the last seven weeks in towns and villages in the area or in refugee camps nearby. Fallujah had a population of 250 000 before the offensive. It is not known how many stayed behind but the number may be as high as 50,000. The city center is a ghost town.
The Iraqi caretaker government and the US military announced last week that approximately 2000 heads of household would be permitted back in the al-Andalus district, considered one of the most secure. Some 900 persons, mostly men, accepted the offer and underwent several security checks before being admitted into the sector. The US military observed that the results of the effort were encouraging and expected to see more returning refugees to al-Andalus in the coming days. Other districts will be opened soon, but there will be no running water, power or other essential utilities. The Iraqi government will offer a $2000 indemnity for partially destroyed homes, $4000 for severe damage and $10000 for total destruction. Shopowners will receive between 1500 and 3000 depending on the size of the premises and the merchandize sold.
Fadil al-Badrani (Reuters), L'Orient Le Jour