April 12, 2004
Colleagues of Christian Peacemaker Teams, who returned Sunday from an overnight humanitarian mission to Fallujah, report that U.S. Marine snipers are firing at everyone moving. Six international and six Iraqi peace volunteers entered the city on April 10 in a bus loaded with medical supplies from agencies in Baghdad. The city had been under siege for six days.
Hospital workers report 518 Iraqis killed by U.S. fire as of Sunday, including at least 157 women and 146 children. Of the children, one hundred are under age 12 and of those, 46 are under age five. More than 1,200 have been wounded.
U.S. forces bombed and destroyed the main hospital in Fallujah earlier this week. Medical staff opened a makeshift clinic in an area garage, but the volunteers report there are no sanitary facilities there in which to work. Aid is getting through, but the clinic needs more supplies, such as blood donation and testing kits, tracheotomy kits, and Cesarean section tools. There are neither anesthesia nor blankets in the medical center.
Exhausted doctors struggled to respond to the constant streams of wounded. The volunteers saw several older women and two children arrive with numerous gunshot wounds. The two children died. The volunteers saw one man who was burned from head to foot, and another who was bleeding from several wounds. The men reported being injured by a cluster bomb.
One of the volunteers accompanied an ambulance crew to pick up a woman who was going into premature labor. On the way, U.S. snipers began firing at the ambulance. The ambulance turned off its sirens, then its lights, but the soldiers continued firing. The ambulance began backing away from the soldiers, but they continued firing and blew out the vehicle's tire. The crew escaped without injury, but they were unable to reach the woman.
Elsewhere in Fallujah, Marines granted the volunteers permission to evacuate wounded persons, women, children, and the elderly from houses. An officer added, "We're going to begin `clearing' the houses shortly." When the volunteers pressed for details, the officer explained that they would go from house to house to pick up any men of fighting age and any weapons. They described men of fighting age as "anyone under 45." Jo Wilding, one of the volunteers, later said, "not all men are armed and not all want to fight. Still, they are trapped."
The volunteers also retrieved bodies of Iraqis killed. One body of an unarmed man lying face-down in the road had only a small bullet entry hole in his back, but massive abdominal `exit' wounds, indicative of high-velocity bullets. When the volunteers turned the body over to reveal the wound, children in thenearest house began screaming and crying "Baba! Baba! (Daddy! Daddy!)" The volunteers loaded the body into a pickup truck and evacuated the wife and children. The family said their father had just stepped out of house when he was shot. The family had no way to reach the body in the street before the volunteers secured permission from the Marines.
The volunteer team recovered two additional bodies lying near a U.S. checkpoint, but abandoned a completely burnt third body, due to outbursts of gunfire and the Marines' return fire. "We don't know if that is friendly or hostile fire, so we have to respond," the soldiers said.
On Sunday, the volunteers returned to Baghdad with 14 wounded people. As they passed the checkpoint out of Fallujah, they saw long lines of people waiting to flee. The volunteers hope to return, although deteriorating conditions within the city may prevent them from carrying out further work.
"This was a massacre," said Wilding, "and it will get worse."