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Fallujah Students Bear Brunt Of U.S. Siege
BAGHDAD, April 23 (IslamOnline.net) - With the U.S. military siege of Fallujah now into its 18th day, students in the western Baghdad town fear for their school future as much as for their own lives.
"As the countdown to final exams starts, will students miss one academic year, the same as their parents lost their jobs and businesses since the occupation forces sealed off the town," said Sakina Abdel-Hadi, a teacher who had fled the area, told IslamOnline.net.
The U.S. military officials claim the crippling U.S. siege , slapped down since April 5, was to hunt down killers of "civil contractors" whose bodies were lynched in public last month.
However, teachers and students complain they bear most of the brunt along with the 300,000 inhabitants of the town.
"Children are facing a genocide, and schools no longer have pupils," Abdel-Hadi said.
The American military offensive on Fallujah claimed at least 700 lives, mostly women and children , and injured more than 1500 others.
A physician working in the besieged town described in a press interview on April 13 the situation in Fallujah as appalling with scenes of mass graves and corpses lettered on the streets.
"When you see a child with no brain just an open cavity what can you say? When you see a mother just hold her infant with no head and the shells are all over her body," the doctor said in his account .
Abdel-Ghani Shuman, the headmaster of Al-Farouq school in Fallujah, told IOL the school was shelled by the U.S. forces twice.
"A number of its classes and external wall are all demolished. Fortunately, students were not there at the time of the bombing," he said.
"Otherwise, a disaster would have occurred."
The headmaster seemed pessimistic over the return of school life to normal as long as the siege draws on.
"Stability could not come back to Fallujah as long as occupation forces impose a tight siege and relentlessly kill civilians."
Lack of Trust
Although a ceasefire was agreed in a bid to end the standoff, tension still looms larger in Fallujah.
"We could not trust American occupation troops. They have not complied with any agreements," said teacher Abdel-Hadi.
"They are holding a grudge against us. They killed a large number of our families under the eyes of the Arab and Muslim countries," she added.
Harith Al-Dari, a member of the Muslim Scholars Association, which has been involved in truce negotiations accused the occupation forces of breaching the ceasefire on Monday, April 19.
After just 90 minutes of declaring a ceasefire in the town on April 9, TV air images showed U.S. forces rocking Fallujah, much to the consternation of the traumatized residents.
On April 13, U.S. occupation troops breached an interim ceasefire reached days before, killing at least nine Iraqis and wounding up to 38 others.
The Fallujah inhabitants who managed to escape from the town hoped the crisis would end in order for them to return and resume a normal life there.
The return of the families who fled the fighting - a main reason for declaring the Monday ceasefire, was suspended on Thursday because of the reported clashes.
"Our situation escalates every day. We are concerned over our family members held inside the town," said Mohamed Mahgoub El-Saadani, 58.
He said the children fleeing the town also feel the pinch.
"What did those children do for them to be cut off from their own schools," he said.
"We hope for a safe atmosphere conducive to our return and resuming daily business," El-Saadani said, gripped by fears of the fate of those suffering under the watertight American siege.
Human rights groups and several leading Iraqi politicians have denounced the U.S. action in Fallujah, calling it a collective punishment measure.