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For other meanings see Fallujah .


Fallujah ( ; sometimes transliterated as Falluja, Fallouja, or Falowja, Aramaic: Pumbeidtha) is a city in the Iraqimarker province of Al Anbarmarker, located roughly 69 kilometers (43 miles) west of Baghdadmarker on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries. The city grew from a small town in 1947 to a pre-war population of about 425,774 inhabitants in 2003; however, according to the former regime, there were about 600,000 inhabitants. The current population is unknown but, in 2006 it was estimated at 250,000 - 300,000

, Within Iraq, it is known as the "city of mosques" for the more than 200 mosques found in the city and surrounding villages.

History

The region has been inhabited for many millennia. There is evidence that the area surrounding Fallujah was inhabited in Babylonian times. The etymology of the town's name is in some doubt, but one theory is that its Syriac name, Pallgutha, is derived from the word division or "canal regulator" since it was the location where the water of the Euphrates River divided into a canal. Classical authors cited the name as "Pallacottas". The name in Aramaic is Pumbeditamarker, while the city's name in Arabic means "arable land."

Al Anbar / Nehardea

The region of Fallujah was a part of the Sassanid Persian province of Anbar. The word anbar is Persian and means "warehouse". Known as Firuz Shapur or Perisapora during the Sassanian Era, it was one the main commercial center of the Lakhmid Kingdom. One mile north of Fallujah lie extensive ruins which are identified with the town of Anbar. Anbar was located at the confluence of the Euphrates River with the King's Canal, today the Saqlawiyah Canalmarker, known in Early Islamic times as the Nahr 'Isa and in ancient times as Nahr Malka. Subsequent shifts in the Euphrates River channel have caused it to follow the course of the ancient Pallacottas canal. The town at this site in Jewish sources was known as Nehardeamarker and was the primary center of Babylonian Jewry until its destruction by the Palmyranmarker ruler Odenathus in 259. The Medieval Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela in 1164 visited "el-Anbar which is Pumbedithamarker in Nehardeamarker" and said it had 3000 Jews living there.

Pumbeditha

The region played host for several centuries to one of the most important Jewish academies, the Pumbedita Academy, which from 258 to 1038 along with Sura (ar-Hira) was one of the two most important centers of Jewish learning worldwide.

Modern Era

Under the Ottoman Empire, Fallujah was a minor stop on one of the country's main roads across the desert west from Baghdadmarker.

In the spring of 1920, the British, who had gained control of Iraq after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, sent Lieut.-Colonel Gerard Leachman, a renowned explorer and a senior colonial officer, to meet with local leader Shaykh Dhari, perhaps to waiver a loan given to the sheikh. Exactly what happened depends on the source, but according to the Arab version, Gerard Leachman was betrayed by the sheikh who had his two sons shoot him in the legs, then behead him by the sword.

During the brief Anglo-Iraqi War of 1941, the Iraqi army was defeated by the British in a battle near Fallujah. In 1947 the town had only about 10,000 inhabitants. It grew rapidly into a city after Iraqi independence with the influx of oil wealth into the country. Its position on one of the main roads out of Baghdad made it of central importance.

Under Saddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq from 1979 to 2003, Fallujah came to be an important area of support for the regime, along with the rest of the region labeled by the US military as the "Sunni Triangle". Many residents of the primarily Sunni city were employees and supporters of Saddam's government, and many senior Ba'ath Party officials were natives of the city. Fallujah was heavily industrialised during the Saddam era, with the construction of several large factories, including one closed down by United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in the 1990s that may have been used to create chemical weapons. A new highway system (a part of Saddam's infrastructure initiatives) circumvented Fallujah and gradually caused the city to decline in national importance by the time of the Iraq War.
Fallujah as seen from the west in April 2004


Gulf War, 1991

During the Gulf War, Fallujah suffered one of the highest tolls of civilian casualties. Two separate failed bombing attempts on Fallujah's bridge across the Euphrates River hit crowded markets, killing an estimated 200 civilians.

The first bombing occurred early in the Gulf War. A Britishmarker jet intending to bomb the bridge dropped two laser-guided bombs on the city's main market. Between 50 and 150 civilians died and many more were injured. In the second incident, Coalition forces attacked Fallujah's bridge over the Euphrates with four laser-guided bombs. At least one struck the bridge while one or two bombs fell short in the river. The fourth bomb hit another market elsewhere in the city, reportedly due to failure of its laser guidance system.

Iraq War, 2003

Downtown Fallujah, December 2003
Fallujah was one of the least affected areas of Iraq immediately after the 2003 invasion by the US-led Coalition. Iraqi Army units stationed in the area abandoned their positions and disappeared into the local population, leaving unsecured military equipment behind. Fallujah was also the site of a Ba'athist resort facility called 'Dreamland', located only a few kilometers outside the city proper.

The damage the city had avoided during the initial invasion was negated by damage from looters, who took advantage of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. The looters targeted former government sites, the Dreamland compound, and the nearby military bases. Aggravating this situation was the proximity of Fallujah to the infamous Abu Ghraibmarker prison, from which Saddam, in one of his last acts, had released all prisoners.

The new mayor of the city—Taha Bidaywi Hamed, selected by local tribal leaders—was strongly pro-Americanmarker . When the US Army entered the town in April 2003, they positioned themselves at the vacated Ba'ath Party headquarters. A Fallujah Protection Force composed of local Iraqis was set up by the US-led occupants to help fight the rising resistance.

On the evening of April 28, 2003, a crowd of 200 people defied a curfew imposed by the Americans and gathered outside a secondary school used as a military HQ to demand its reopening. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne stationed on the roof of the building fired upon the crowd, resulting in the deaths of 17 civilians and the wounding of over 70. The events leading up to the event are disputed. American forces claim they were responding to gunfire from the crowd, while the Iraqis involved deny this version, although conceding rocks were thrown at the troops. A protest against the killings two days later was also fired upon by US troops resulting in two more deaths.

On March 31, 2004, Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater USA, who were conducting delivery for food caterers ESS.

The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerry (Jerko) Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, were dragged from their cars, beaten, and set on fire. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. This bridge is unofficially referred to as "Blackwater Bridge" by Coalition Forces operating there. Photographs of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing outrage in the United States, and prompting the announcement of a campaign to reestablish American control over the city.

This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city in Operation Vigilant Resolvemarker, and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury in English and Operation Al Fajr in Arabic. Operation Phantom Fury resulted in the reputed death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 Americanmarker troops were killed, and over 1,000 wounded. After the successful recapture of the city, U.S. forces discovered beheading chambers and bomb-making factories, which were shown to the media as evidence of Fallujah's important role in the insurgency against U.S. forces. They also found two hostages—an Iraqi and a Syrian. The Syrian was the driver for two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who had been missing since August, 2004. The Iraqi's captors were Syrian; he thought he was in Syria until found by the Marines. Chesnot and Malbrunot were released by their captors, the Islamic Army in Iraq, on December 21, 2004.

The U.S. military first denied that it has used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes, human rights abuses, and a massacre by U.S. personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children. This point of view is presented in the 2005 anti-American documentary film, Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre.

Current situation

Residents were allowed to return to the city in mid-December 2004 after undergoing biometric identification, provided they wear their ID cards all the time. US officials report that "more than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged during Operation Phantom Fury, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed" while compensation amounts to 20 percent of the value of damaged houses, with an estimated 32,000 homeowners eligible, according to Marine Lt Col William Brown. According to NBC, 9,000 homes were destroyed, thousands more were damaged and of the 32,000 compensation claims only 2,500 have been paid as of April 14, 2005. According to Mike Marqusee of Iraq Occupation Focus writing in the Guardian, "Fallujah's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines". Reconstruction mainly consists of clearing rubble from heavily-damaged areas and reestablishing basic utility services. Ten per cent of the pre-offensive inhabitants had returned as of mid-January 2005, and 30% as of the end of March 2005. In 2006, some reports say two thirds have now returned and only 15 percent remain displaced on the outskirts of the city.

Pre-offensive inhabitant figures are unreliable; the nominal population was assumed to have been 250,000-350,000. Thus, over 150,000 individuals are still living as IDP in tent cities or with relatives outside Fallujah or elsewhere in Iraq. Current estimates by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Coalition Forces put the city's population at over 350,000, possibly closing in on half a million.

In the aftermath of the offensive, relative calm was restored to Fallujah.

In December 2006, enough control had been exerted over the city to transfer operational control of the city from American forces to the 1st Iraqi Army Division. During the same month, the Fallujah police force began major offensive operations under their new chief. Coalition Forces, as of May 2007, are operating in direct support of the Iraqi Security Forces in the city. The city is one of Anbar province's centers of gravity in a newfound optimism among American and Iraqi leadership about the state of the counterinsurgency in the region.

In June 2007, Regimental Combat Team 6 began Operation Alljah, a security plan modeled on a successful operation in Ramadimarker. After segmenting districts of the city, Iraqi Police and Coalition Forces established police district headquarters in order to further localize the law enforcement capabilities of the Iraqi Police. A similar program had met with success in the city of Ramadi in late 2006 and early 2007 (See Battle of Ramadi ).

See also



References

  1. George Monbiot, "Behind the phosphorus clouds are war crimes within war crimes", The Guardian, November 22, 2005


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