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U.S. forces punched into the center of Fallujah on Tuesday
U.S. forces punched into the center of Fallujah on Tuesday, overwhelming bands of guerrillas in the street with heavy barrages of fire and searching house to house in a powerful advance on the second day of a major offensive to retake the insurgent stronghold. At least 16 Americans have been killed in the past two days across Iraq, the military said including three killed in Fallujah combat on Tuesday, two killed by mortars near the northern city of Mosul and 11 others who died Monday, most of them as guerrillas launched a wave of attacks in Baghdad and southwest of Fallujah. The 11 deaths were the highest one-day U.S. toll in more than six months. Anger over the assault on the mainly Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah grew among Iraq's Sunni minority, and voices abroad including the United Nations' refugee agency and the Red Cross expressed fears over civilians' safety, informs ABC News. According to Hinhuanet, the commander of the US-led forces in Iraq on Tuesday predicted more "tough urban fighting" in Fallujah as about 2,000-3,000 insurgents were resisting the massive US offensive started on Sunday. US forces punched into the center of Fallujah and started a house-to-house search on Tuesday. Thousands of US Marines and Army troops as well as Iraqi security forces stormed into the toughest Sunni insurgent stronghold on Monday following an all-out air strike a day earlier. Metz said the insurgents fought the US-led forces in detachments or squads of three to six persons after their outer crust of defense was crushed. A small number of insurgents were captured, he said. The general refused to give an exact number of US casualties in the operation except the general term of "a dozen," saying the number kept changing. Media reports said 10 US troops and two Iraqi troops have been killed since the start of the offensive. Metz said at least half of the Iraqi citizens had left Fallujahand US forces "have seen very, very few civilians on the streets."He said he personally believed that some of the senior insurgent leaders also probably had fled, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. U.S. forces backed by Iraqi troops surged into the heart of Fallujah on Tuesday, taking a grip on Iraq's most rebellious city after a day of intense street-to-street combat. U.S. tanks and armored personnel carriers operating in the northern part of the city came under fierce assault from rebels firing rocket-propelled gren-ades and AK-47 rifles after sunset, but in other areas large-scale fighting died down after dark. There was the occasional blast of mortar fire, and U.S. war planes targeted some buildings, but residents and a Reuters correspondent said heavy bombardments and explosions had eased. Some U.S. tanks were seen pulling back from central areas of the city for the night. Others remained in place. About a dozen US troops have been killed so far in the offensive, U.S. Lieutenant General Thomas Metz said Tuesday, without giving a precise toll. There is no word on the number of civilian casualties. Residents said a U.S. air strike hit a clinic in a central district, killing medical staff and patients, reports the Daily Star.
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