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[casi] REBUILDING IRAQ: GIs raze alleged fighters' homes

.... ALLEDGED fighters ...

Posted on Tue, Nov. 18, 2003

REBUILDING IRAQ: GIs raze alleged fighters' homes

Knight Ridder Foreign Service

TIKRIT, Iraq - In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West
Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected
guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children,
then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.

At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been
dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone II, including four leveled on Sunday by tanks
and Apache helicopters. Those four houses allegedly belonged to suspects in
the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter, in which six Americans died.

Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al-Haweda, said they
were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.

The destruction of the homes is part of a sharp crackdown on insurgents in
the so-called Sunni Triangle, where guerrillas have downed at least two U.S.
helicopters: one a Chinook in Fallujah on Nov. 2, killing 16 U.S. soldiers,
and the other the Nov. 7 downing of the Black Hawk. On Saturday, two more
helicopters crashed, after one of them may have been fired upon, killing 17.
U.S. forces struck dozens of targets on Monday, killing six guerrillas and
arresting 21 others, the military said. The operation is expected to
continue through Wednesday, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the 1st
Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.
Hickey said the four homes were destroyed on Sunday because enemy fighters
lived and met there. Leveling the homes will force the fighters to find
other meeting places, he said.

"Those four people used those houses as sanctuary, and we're not allowing
them to have sanctuary," Hickey said.

"We're going to turn the heat up and complicate their battlefield," driving
them into the desert, he said. "There they will be exposed and we will have

It was unclear whether the decision to destroy the houses was part of an
overall strategy approved in Washington. White House spokesman Scott
McClellan declined to comment specifically, referring questions about the
razings to the Defense Department, but he praised the military's efforts to
get tough with Iraqi insurgents.

"There are terrorists who are seeking to spread fear and chaos in Iraq, and
we are on the offensive and taking the fight to the enemy," McClellan said.
"Our coalition forces are doing an outstanding job working with Iraqis to
bring these terrorists to justice."
Officials at the Department of Defense referred questions to Central Command
in Tampa, which oversees all military operations in Iraq. Spokesmen there
declined to comment.

On Monday, angry residents of al-Haweda, where three of the destroyed homes
were, said the tactic will spawn more guerrilla fighters and perhaps spark
an Iraqi uprising similar to the Palestinian intifada in the West Bank and

"This is something Sharon would do," said 41-year-old farmer Jamel Shahab,
referring to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

"What's happening in Iraq is just like Palestine."

Shahab stood amid the rubble of the former home of 55-year-old farmer Omar
Khalil, who was arrested shortly before the home was destroyed. The military
said Khalil's son, who escaped, is one of the suspects in the downing of the
Black Hawk.
Khalil's wife, Kafey, sat wailing near her wrecked house. "I have no son. I
have no husband. I have no home. I will be a beggar."
Kafey Khalil said military officials first visited the house two days ago,
demanding that her husband turn in her son. He refused.
Then at about 10 p.m. Sunday, the military returned, she said.

"They started shouting at us, 'Get up! Get out!' " she said. "They brought a
big truck for us. It was so cold we felt like we were dying. After five
minutes they started shooting. We didn't have time to get anything but
blankets. They brought in the tanks and the helicopters and started

After the shooting stopped, the women and children were released and were
left at the scene, they said. They were sifting through the wreckage Monday,
attempting to salvage what few items remained.

Two other homes nearby were also in shambles. What walls remained were
pierced by tank rounds. A small boy held up what was left of the family's TV

In the back yard of one home, a cow lay dead, its stomach split open by a
large caliber round, its unborn calf half-exposed. A dog limped nearby, a
piece of shrapnel protruding from its body.

Tank tracks had churned up the sandy earth. Spent 5-inch-long shell casings
littered the ground. Boys collected them and displayed handfuls to

The Israeli military's practice of demolishing the homes of families of
convicted or suspected terrorists has brought widespread condemnation from
human rights and other governments - including the United States.

The State Department's 2002 human rights report, released in March, said
such policies "left hundreds of Palestinians not involved in terror attacks
homeless." In September, department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized
Israel for destroying a seven-story apartment building in Gaza during a raid
on a suspected Hamas militant.

There was no official reaction in Washington.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested
Monday that the tactic was not sanctioned in Washington. "I can't wait to
see al-Jazeera's presentation of it," the official said, referring to a
satellite TV network viewed widely throughout the Middle East.

A request for comment from the White House went unanswered.

The military had promised a tough crackdown in response to the recent surge
in American military deaths and has launched two operations, Operation Iron
Hammer around Baghdad and Ivy Cyclone in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.

Hickey said counterstrikes against fighters around Tikrit have been
continuous, but that Ivy Cyclone II represents a higher level of
coordination using more advanced weapons.

For example, Sunday night's action included the launching of a missile from
Baghdad, 55 miles away, at the abandoned home of former Saddam henchman
Izzat Ibrahim al Duri, who is No. 6 on the coalition's most-wanted list. A
reporter and photographer from Knight Ridder were allowed to witness the
destruction, which was completed by laser-guided artillery fire.

Hickey said al Duri's house was destroyed to deny guerrillas a meeting
place, though it was unclear that such high-tech weaponry was needed to
destroy the structure, which appeared completely looted.

Hickey said soldiers had been instructed to make sure to evacuate innocent
civilians nearby. Near al Duri's house, two men, four children and two
babies were shivering in near-freezing temperatures in the back of a truck,
given just a few minutes to flee their neighboring farm.

"We know exactly what we're shooting at and why we're shooting it," Hickey
said. "Collateral damage won't be a problem."
Military officials said the targets around Tikrit and Kirkuk also have
included enemy mortar sites and a suspected insurgent training camp. The
camp, on an island in the Little Zab River west of Kirkuk, was hit Sunday
morning by a satellite-guided missile with a 500-pound warhead fired 130
miles from a Baghdad launch site.

Hickey promised no letup in the campaign. He also promised to deal harshly
with weapons violations. "If we see someone with a weapon," he said, "he
becomes a ballistics test," meaning the man is shot.

"You won't see guns in Tikrit," he said.

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