BAGHDAD - The story of Yusuf Fakri Amash is the story of so much
of Fallujah. The 11-year-old boy just managed to escape from the town with his
family. But not before the U.S. military killed his best friend.
"Ahmed was in my class," he says. "He was younger than me. He was
standing next to the wall of the secondary school and was trying to cross the
street. He was hit by a bullet. The American troops fired the bullet."
So many Fallujahans have been killed by the U.S. marines that residents have
had to dig mass graves. The city's football stadium now holds more than 200
"When you see a child five years old with no head, what can you say?" says a
doctor in Fallujah whose name is being withheld for his safety. "When you see a
child with no brain, just an open cavity, what can you say?"
The doctor says many were buried in the football until it became full. "When
you are burying you cannot stay long because they (the U.S. marines) will just
shoot you," he says. "So we use the shovel. Just dig a big hole and put a whole
family in the hole and leave as soon as possible so we are not shot."
Iraqi girls, from left to right, Gofran Mohammed, 9, and her sisters Khitam, 5, Doha,10, and Wiam, 4, sit in a house they are sharing with dozens of refugees from Fallujah in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 17, 2004. The four girls lost their parents as well as two sisters and one brother when U.S. troops opened fire on their car in Fallujah two weeks ago. (AP Photo/Abdel Kader Saadi)
Filmmaker Julia Guest who traveled to Fallujah in a convoy delivering relief
supplies told IPS that the clinic's ambulance was fired upon twice by U.S.
snipers -- during the ceasefire. The second time it was fired on, it was carrying
U.S. and British citizens who had negotiated an agreement with the marines to
rescue the injured from an area under heavy U.S. sniper fire.
"It has blue sirens," Guest recalls, describing the ambulance. "It's donated by
the Kingdom of Spain. It was carrying oxygen bottles, and the damage to the
ambulance was such that two of the wheels were blown off, so they were left
without an ambulance. And there are bullet holes all over the sides and back
from the second shooting."
The U.S. military does not deny shooting at ambulances. But it blames the
resistance fighters. U.S. marines spokesperson Lt Eric Knapp says his forces
have seen fighters loading weapons into ambulances from mosques in the
"By using ambulances, they are putting Iraqis in harm's way by denying them a
critical component of urgent medical care," he says. "Mosques, ambulances and
hospitals are protected under Geneva Convention agreements and are not
targeted by U.S. marines. However, once they are used for the purpose of
hostile intent toward coalition forces, they lose their protected status and may be
Humanitarian aid workers in Fallujah say the marines have been firing
indiscriminately. Australian aid volunteer Donna Malbun says U.S. forces fired
warning shots over her head Tuesday when she attempted to enter an
ambulance to deliver relief supplies.
"We were accompanying an ambulance from one part of Fallujah to another
area that was controlled by the Americans," she says. "And we went along with
the ambulance, and at one stage got out to indicate to the Americans that we
were coming through with an ambulance with aid for a clinic that had been cut
They then used a loudspeaker to identify themselves, she says. "We were
dressed in bright blue medical outfits, and we had our passports in our hands
with our hands in the air. Then we stepped forward into the street with our hands
in the air. We were walking down away from where the soldiers were stationed.
We didn't realize that. And they ended up shooting toward our backs."
But it was not just the U.S. Army that caused problems for Donna Malbun and
her colleagues. She says that on their way out of Fallujah her group was
stopped by Iraqi Mujahideen fighters who held them for 24 hours.
"They wanted to know who we were at the beginning," Malbun says. "They
investigated and they asked questions and looked at our belongings, and once
they realized what we were doing, they treated us with great respect."
Donna Malbun says that the delegation was held in a large room and fed well
during their detention. British aid worker Beth Ann Jones, who was also taken
captive, says the topic of conversation quickly turned to the U.S. assault on
Fallujah where the two groups found common ground.
"They would be talking and saying my brother's been killed, my father's been
killed," she said. "They were telling us details so that we could understand the
way that they were feeling, and the obvious resentment they were feeling
towards the occupation. That they were now suffering, and a year ago they were
promised freedom and liberation from the Saddam regime, and now they're
living in a situation where they do not have any freedom."
Back in the relative safety of Baghdad, Donna Malbun reflects on her
temporary captivity. She does not hold any anger towards her captors.
"Fallujah was under siege," she says "and even the women and children who
wanted to leave today, and the men, couldn't leave. And the bombardment from
the air was constant, and the sniper activity was constant to the point where they
were so terrified to leave their houses. These people were being kept captive in
their own town and country."
© Copyright IPS-Inter Press Service