US to use Israeli-style urban warfare in Baghdad: experts
WASHINGTON (AFP) Apr 05, 2003
US tactics in Baghdad in coming days may be similar to urban warfare used by the Israeli army in Palestinian villages, some experts say.
Images broadcast in the past few days on US television already reveal a similarity between the two: house-to-house searches, roadblocks, arrests, soldiers in flak jackets creeping along walls, fingers on triggers.
And USA Today recently alluded to Israel's secret role in training Marines for urban warfare in the latter half of last year.
"Israel is secretly playing a key role in US preparations for possible war with Iraq, helping to train soldiers and Marines for urban warfare," it said.
The paper said that the Israelis built two fake cities at a secret venue -- complete with mosques, clothes hung out windows, and donkeys wandering down alleys -- for use in the exercises.
Since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, and Palestinian use of automatic arms, Israeli commandos generally take Palestinian towns by advancing in a rapid zig-zag towards the center, backed by F-15 or F-16 airplanes, or Apache or Cobra helicopters.
Control of the town is established in the interior of a city, then spread to its outer limits. To minimize their casualties, troops move under cover, often knocking holes in walls and entering houses, while elite snipers are posted on rooves.
"The technique the Americans are going to use will be a lot like ours. And like us, they will use tanks and rely on air support," Meir Payil, a military historian and reserve colonel with the Israeli army, told AFP.
"You won't see street-to-street fighting. They will go after pockets, and only hit certain areas," said retired Army major general David Grange.
"The Americans will use this tactic for one good reason: to avoid a maximum of losses on their side and to cut Saddam and his circle from the rest of the world," Payil said.
The goal, according to Patrick Garrett of the US military think tank GlobalSecurity.com, is to isolate regular troops and paramilitary forces from civilians "slowly but surely."
"The Israelis have no compunction whatsoever about knocking buildings down to get to whatever it is they need to get to," whereas the Americans will try to conduct "much more of a clean operation," Garrett said.
US military experts say that, like the Israelis, coalition forces will erect barricades at entrypoints into Baghdad in an effort to control movement and to locate soldiers trying to hide among civilians.
In a second stage, military authorities will try to establish contact with city authorities, a practise also used by the Israeli military in Palestinian towns.
In yet another similarity, Americans are hoping to get "collaboration" from civilians, to help locate weapons caches, fedayeen hideouts and Republican Guard units.
"As the population becomes more comfortable with the US military presence, we will get tips from the civilians," Garrett said.
Since the early years of its 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip, the Israeli army has depended on a network of Palestinian "collaborators" who risk their lives by providing information to Israel.