Christian peacemakers in Iraq have reported harrowing scenes including the killing of women and children by US forces following an overnight humanitarian mission to Fallujah.
Iraqi doctors and international volunteers assisting Doctors Without Borders entered the city on Saturday, April 10 in a bus loaded with medical supplies from agencies in Baghdad. The city had been under siege by US troops for six days following the lynching of four U.S. security agents.
Volunteers assisting Doctors Without Borders in Fallujah reported that U.S. Marine snipers were "shooting at anyone who moves".
Hospital workers reported that 518 Iraqis had been killed by U.S. fire by Sunday, including at least 157 women and 146 children. Of the children, one hundred were under age twelve and of those, 46 were under age five. More than 1,200
had been wounded.
Christian Peacemaker Teams, who have maintained an almost continuous presence in Iraq from October 25, 2002, report that U.S. bombs 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. A second hospital was taken over as a military base.
Aid is getting through, but the clinic needs more supplies, such as kits for blood testing and donations, tracheotomy kits, and Caesarean section tools. The makeshift medical centre has no blankets or anaesthesia.
Exhausted doctors struggled to respond to the constant streams of wounded people. The volunteers saw several older women and two children arrive with numerous gunshot wounds. The two children died. The volunteers saw one man who burned from head to foot, and another who was bleeding from several wounds.
The men said a cluster bomb had caused their injuries.
One of the volunteers accompanied an ambulance crew to pick up a woman going into premature labour. On the way, U.S. snipers reportedly 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 told the team, "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 the nearest house began screaming and crying "Baba! Baba!
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 fourteen 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."
At least a third of Fallujah's mainly Sunni 200,000 inhabitants have already fled this month's fighting in the city, west of Baghdad. Many have flooded to the capital or its outskirts, angry at the U.S. assault and desperate for food and medicine.
Christian Peacemaker Teams say that excessive use of force by U.S. military at this time is inflaming Iraqi militia groups and leading to a rapid destabilization in Iraq. According to Iraqis and the international aid community in Iraq, a greater explosion of violence is imminent. Hundreds of Iraqis and humanitarian workers are leaving the country.