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Military Assault on Fallaujah

November 9, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: The Fallujah story: Lindsay Hilsum of Independent Television News is with a company of U.S. Marines who began moving into the city Sunday night. Here is her report on what she has seen since then.

LINDSEY HILSUM: At dawn, more bombing, hitting the eastern side of the city. We learned that other troops had already taken the hospital west of the river Euphrates. The company we’re with is headed for a different sector. Behind me the men of this unit have just been briefed on what happened last night when the first wave went in on the west of the River Euphrates.

I can hear the bombing in Fallujah still in the background, and these men here know that they’ll be going into action there soon. After a few hours, we moved, a company of Marines rolling through the desert. At the roadside, we saw women and children. They’re being forced to flee. The next few days will be immensely dangerous to civilians in Fallujah, so the Americans are trying to get many of them out. Helicopter gunships fly low.

All through the day they’ve been targeting what they say are rebel positions in the town and barriers in the way of the marines and the army; between the marines and Fallujah an obstacle, the railway line which forms the northwest boundary of the town. They blow it once… and then again. Ready for the tanks and armored vehicles to roll through — explosions after dark; some may have been laid by the rebels, but as the company we’re with moves into the northwestern district of Jolan, the bombing continues, supposedly targeting rebel strongholds. (Gunfire)

By torchlight, Marines searched deserted houses. It was clear that they might be rigged with trip wires and explosives. In the event, they were safe. By dawn, the sound of explosions and fire grew louder. We were parked in a cemetery. Helicopter gunships flew overhead. Hoping for lucky shots, the insurgents fired wildly with their AK-47s. That just alerts the Americans to their location so they can target them with a missile or mortar.

We walked out into one of the buildings where the Marines are now stationed. The Marines moved into these buildings in the northwestern strip of the town just after dawn. The insurgents are in these houses in the streets beyond us over there. They are firing back. The plan is to gradually move forward with the helicopter gunships overhead and the weapons they’re using here to clear the town hour by hour, and when necessary, day by day. Jolan was to be one of the parts of Fallujah controlled by the insurgents, but they may now be pushed towards the center. Marines here said the sector that they’re in is now secure.