Posted by Sadie from ? (22.214.171.124) on Thursday, April 10, 2003 at 5:06PM :
Regime Collapses, Reports of Mass Casualties
Baghdad, a city of more than 5 million, remains a combat zone. On Sunday a U.S. 3rd Infantry armored division rolled through the capital city, leaving thousands of Iraqi defenders dying in its wake (Reuters 4/7/03). On Monday, a column of 130 U.S. tanks and armored vehicles pushed again into the heart of Baghdad. Heavy fighting engulfed the al-Rashid hotel, nearby military parade grounds, and Iraq’s Ministry of Information. Upon reaching the west banks of the Tigris river, U.S. 3rd Infantry captured the Sijood and Republican Palaces (NYT 4/8/03).
Yesterday, in another day of bloody urban warfare, 3rd Infantry fought to take control of central Baghdad. Backed by strafing A-10 Warthogs, 3rd Infantry repelled a counterattack by Iraqi defenders. The pitched battle lasted for over 6 hours. U.S. warplanes, artillery and tanks pounded government ministries and other official buildings (NYT 4/8/03).
From the east, units of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force crossed the Diyala River, captured the Rashid air base, and fought to take control of the east banks of the Tigris River (Wa Post 4/8/03).
Civilian casualties have increased dramatically since U.S. ground forces arrived in the capital last week. NPR’s Anne Garrels reports: “The emergency room at Baghdad’s al-Kindi hospital was covered in blood. A father carried in his four-year-old son. He was pronounced dead on arrival. His 12 year old daughter was also killed when a bomb hit the modest carpentry shop the family called home. His wife lay in a gurney. Her beige sun dress drenched in blood from the waist down. A doctor said she too would die and left to treat someone else. The hospital is understaffed as doctors and nurses can’t make it to work through the fighting (NPR’s All Things Considered 4/8/03).”
Taleb Saadi, a doctor at Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital, said 30 to 35 bodies arrived yesterday at the hospital and as many as 300 wounded were treated at its emergency ward (AP 4/8/03). Due to a shortage of medical supplies, some surgeries and amputations are being performed without adequate anesthetics. Other hospitals report a similar flood of casualties (ICRC 4/8/03). According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there is now a permanent wave of mass casualties.
Over the past 48 hours, five foreign journalists covering the battle have also been killed and at least 4 others wounded. On Tuesday, a U.S. M1 Abrams tank fired a shell into the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel, killing two cameramen with Reuters and Spanish television (BBC 4/8/03). Later that same day, a correspondent with al-Jazeera, was killed when U.S. missiles hit the station’s Baghdad bureau. Abu Dhabi television said its bureau was also hit. Consequently, some journalists are asking to be safely evacuated, reducing the presence of foreign journalists in Baghdad.
Much of Baghdad has had either no, or only intermittent, power and running water since last Thursday (Reuters 4/3/03). Water supplies are in further jeopardy following the failure of the Qanat raw water pumping station in the north of the city (ICRC 4/8/03). Severe water shortages plague Basra and other cities in Southern Iraq as well.
U.S. military officials say Baghdad is now free (LA Times 4/9/03). There are reports of widespread looting and celebrations in Baghdad and Basra (NPR 4/9/03). U.S. and British forces appear unable and unwilling to restore order.
Read Defiance Gives Way to Despair
Red Cross Tells Horror of War
On Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said about 100 wounded patients were arriving at the Al Yarmouk hospital in central Baghdad every hour. But as the numbers rose sharply, the authorities lost count. According to the ICRC, “[O]ne emergency arrival follows the other…Ambulances are picking up the wounded and running them to the triage areas and on to hospitals. Some of the wounded try to reach the nearest hospitals by foot (AP 4/6/03).”
ICRC Spokesman Roland Huguenen-Benjamin said he and his staff have also been shocked by the number of dead and injured in a hospital in al-Hilla, a farming community 50 miles south of Baghdad. “That hospital where we had a chance of traveling with our own surgeon was utterly overwhelmed by hundreds of civilian casualties brought in, in just over 48 hours,” he said. “And there were lots and lots of dead bodies that were practically dismembered by the violence of the explosion they had been subjected to" (ABC News 4/3/03).
With the dead and wounded flooding hospitals in Baghdad and nearby towns, vital medical supplies are running short, including anesthetics and surgical equipment. Frequent failures of water and electricity are aggravating the situation. Baghdad’s largest hospital, the Medical City complex (650 beds), has no power or water and only 6 out of 27 operating theatres could still be used.
To make matters worse, the World Health Organization ordered a halt to its convoys of medical equipment today (AP 4/8/03). The road between Amman, Jordan and Baghdad is no longer considered safe. There is widespread looting and chaos in Basra and throughout Iraq (Denver Post 4/8/03). As the government collapses, law and order seems to have no meaning.
Both directly and indirectly, physically and psychologically, the war is taking its toll on Baghdad’s civilian population. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Iraq representative Ghulam Popal fears “a very severe outbreak” of diarrhoeal diseases like cholera, typhoid and measles (New Scientist 4/7/03). Popal is also concerned that pregnant women and hundreds of thousands of civilians who suffer chronic illnesses such as diabetes are not receiving the healthcare they need.
The combination of overcrowding, displaced populations, lack of vaccinations and mass casualties could lead to an epidemic of disease. As temperatures rise, the likelihood of waterborne diseases and outbreaks of food poisoning increase.
Read Red Cross Daily Bulletins
U.S. and UK Forces Fail to Protect Civilians
Despite repeated assurances from U.S. and UK officials that they would do everything possible to protect Iraqi civilians and noncombatants, over 1,200 civilians have been directly killed in the conflict (Wa Post 4/8/03).
Amnesty International (AI) has confirmed that U.S. forces used cluster bombs to attack al-Hilla, Iraq on April 1. EPIC joins AI in condemning the use of cluster bombs and other inherently indiscriminate weapons in heavily populated areas. At al-Hilla’s hospital, 33 civilians including many children were killed and around 300 injured. Survivors told reporters how the explosives dropped “like grapes” from the sky, and how bomblets bounced through the windows and doors of their homes before exploding.
The type of cluster bombs used at al-Hilla, type BLU97 A, can spray over 200 bomblets over an area the size of two football fields. At least 5% of the bomblets do not explode on impact, turning them into de facto anti-personnel mines. U.S. and UK forces have acknowledged using cluster bombs in other attacks.
Identical in color to the bright yellow Humanitarian Daily Rations being handed out by coalition forces, UNICEF has expressed concern that Iraqi civilians – particularly children – may confuse type ‘BLU97 A’ cluster bombs for food rations or toys. The same problem occurred during the U.S. war on Afghanistan (UNICEF 4/2/03).
Despite Pentagon denials, precision-guided bombs are also causing mass civilian casualties. According to a report from Independent (UK) correspondent Robert Fisk, an American missile, identified from the remains of its serial number, was pinpointed as the cause of the market explosion in Shu'ale district of Baghdad over a week ago. At least 62 Iraqis were killed. The discovery refutes previous Pentagon claims that the market bombing could have been the result of an Iraqi anti-aircraft missile (Independent 4/2/03)
Read Amnesty International’s Report “Iraq: Civilians Under Fire”
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