with Ali Al-Fadhily
FALLUJAH (IPS) People living in areas where resistance to U.S.-led occupation
is mounting are facing increased levels of collective punishment from the occupation
forces, residents say.
Siniyah town 200 km north of Baghdad with a population of 25,000 has been under
siege by the U.S. military for two weeks.
IPS had earlier reported unrest in Siniyah Jan. 20 when the US military constructed
a six-mile sand wall in a failed attempt to check resistance attacks.
Located near Beji in the volatile but oil-rich Salahedin province, Siniyah
has become a vivid example of harsh tactics used by occupation forces, who have
lost control over most of the country.
"Thirteen children died during the two-week siege due to US troops' disallowance
for doctors to open their private clinics as well as closure of the general
medical center there," a doctor from the city reported to IPS via satellite
The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from the US military.
IPS had to reach him by phone since the military blockade has cut the city off
from the outside world.
"This is not the first time US troops have conducted such a siege here,
but this time it represents murder," the doctor said.
A US military public relations officer in Baghdad told IPS on phone that the
military was doing "what it had to do to fight the terrorists in and around
Siniyah" and that "no medical aid is being interfered with."
When IPS told him it had received contradictory information from a doctor in
that city, he replied, "that is just not true."
The siege has generated resentment against the Shia-dominated Iraqi government
led by Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki, who has failed to comment on the deaths.
Sunnis have not missed the sharp contrast to his order to US troops to lift
their checkpoints around the Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad.
Sectarian conflict has been rising between Shias and Sunnis, two differing
followings within Islam. Sunnis are the majority worldwide, but Shias are said
to be the majority within Iraq.
Abdul Kareem al-Samarrai'i, a leading member of the Islamic Party that participates
in the Maliki government, stated on Baghdad Space Channel that the 13 children
died in Siniyah "because of the siege and the US army orders to deprive
the town of any medical care."
Duluiyah, another small town roughly 60 km north of Baghdad has been under
siege by the US military for the last three weeks.
"They (US military) applied the siege upon Duluiyah (close to Samarra)
many times, the last of which partially ended last week," Samir Muhammad
of the Samarra municipality council told IPS.
The Geneva Conventions forbid use of collective punishment. International law
says the occupying power in a country is responsible for safeguarding the civilian
Fallujah in al-Anbar province to the west of Baghdad continues to face attacks
and harassment by the US military, according to local residents.
"Why don't those people admit their failure and leave," 55-year-old
Khalaf Dawood from Fallujah told IPS. "They are being hit and their soldiers
are getting killed all over the city. All they are doing is killing civilians
and suffocating the city economically as revenge."
Electricity supply in Fallujah was recently cut off for three days after resistance
snipers launched attacks on US soldiers. US military vehicles are attacked regularly
around the city.
Several local people told IPS that on average one civilian a day is killed
by US gunfire in Fallujah, while raids on houses have been stepped up heavily.
The US military commander in Fallujah admitted to local media last month that
at least five attacks on average were being conducted everyday against his troops
and Iraqi army units. The vast majority of the population of Fallujah continues
to demand unconditional withdrawal of US troops from their city.
Meanwhile, the situation in Ramadi, the capital city of al-Anbar province where
Fallujah is also located, has deteriorated further. Residents told IPS that
bombardment from US warplanes and helicopters has killed many civilians.
IPS reported Nov. 17 that US military had shelled several houses in Ramadi,
killing 35 civilians.
A partial siege of the city continues, and residents are complaining that a
new militia formed by Maliki's government in the name of "fighting terror"
has been rounding up young men from the city.
The militia recently took control of the University of Anbar in Ramadi and
started harassing students. US soldiers blocked the main road to the university
before the militia entered the campus.
"They even harassed the president (principal) of the university and accused
him of being an al-Qaeda leader," a university professor speaking on condition
of anonymity told IPS. "The principal is a professor in chemistry and a
very peaceful man who has dedicated his life to science and supervising PHD
and MSC graduates."
(Inter Press Service)