Do not miscalculate Falluja?

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, January 5, 2014

Reuters News Agency quoted the other day a senior Iraqi security official as saying that government troops would not enter Falluja because there are still civilians in the city.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, added that he hoped the civilians would flee Falluja as a result heavy shelling and then the troops would try to enter the town.

The government has not denied the remarks but the official and the Ministry of Defense declines comment.

A strategic town of about 300,000 people cannot be bombed indiscriminately and shelled heavily until all civilians leave. In military terms this borders on a crime against humanity.

It shows that the government and the regular army treat both the civilians and the armed groups on the same level of playing field.

Does the government realize that there are many in the town who do not want to leave simply because they have nowhere to go?

This shows that the government like the al-Qaeda-linked militants currently in control of Falluja is using civilians as hostages and human shields.

There are children, women, the elderly, the sick and many other vulnerable groups who cannot leave the town.

It is not always easy to flee and turn into a refugee into your own country, when you know there is no place to offer you any form of shelter.

How could you empty a city of its 300,000 inhabitants at a time there are armed men who are preventing them from leaving?

The militants might be using the civilians as human shields to prevent an attack by the army.

Conditions inside Falluja as far as the armed groups are concerned are murky. No one knows for sure who is in charge.

ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq the Levant, claims it is in control. Claims to the contrary are made by other al-Qaeda-linked groups and factions still loyal to the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

There are voices from inside the occupied Falluja making hallow claims that the will turn the town into a new Stalingrad.

The claim by ISIS that it has some Sunni Arab tribes on its side cannot be substantiated.

The government is called upon to tread carefully because any miscalculation might backfire.

To say the situation will be solved through heavy shelling that will force the civilians to leave and that will let the armed forces to flush out the militants is by itself a big miscalculation.