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Fallujah battle continues -

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Fallujah battle continues

Reporter: Norman Hermant

TONY JONES: But first to Iraq, where American artillery has once again pounded the insurgent
stronghold of Fallujah, softening up the city for an all-out assault.

US and Iraqi forces took the city's main hospital yesterday, facing little resistance.

Iraq's interim government appears to have set the stage for a final push in Fallujah, declaring a
state of emergency on a weekend that saw more violence in the Sunni triangle and Baghdad - where
Australian forces opened fire on a car.

Norman Hermant reports.

NORMAN HERMANT: After months of build-up and barrages from the air and from the ground, this was
the beginning of the battle for Fallujah.

US and Iraqi forces stormed the city's main hospital and seized two key bridges, facing almost no
resistance.

Fighting age men were rounded up - most later released.

There are no illusions taking the rest of Fallujah will be this easy.

American commanders have told their troops it is time to fight.

GENERAL JOHN SATTLER, US MARINE CORPS: This town is being held hostage by mugs, thugs, murderers
and intimidators.

All they need is for us to give them the opportunity to break the back of that intimidation.

Go out and stomp it out where it needs to be stomped.

NORMAN HERMANT: But this pep talk may be more important.

These are troops from the new Iraqi army.

The interim government has a lot riding on their performance.

Will they wilt or will they fight?

REPORTER: Are you confident that the Iraqi forces will fight well?

HAZIM AL-SHAALAN, IRAQI DEFENCE MINISTER: Yes they are.

They will fight like they fought in Najaf as well.

They will fight.

NORMAN HERMANT: The Americans, too, are determined to show these Iraqi soldiers will prove
themselves and not crumble.

It's far from clear how many insurgents remain in Fallujah to take on as many as 20,000 US and
Iraqi troops.

Estimates of their numbers range anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000.

Many may have slipped away during the months of constant American bombardment.

Much of the city's population of 300,000 is believed to have fled.

But for those left behind, death is constant.

So many bodies - they're being buried in graves half a football field long.

One day after the interim government declared a state of emergency the attacks go on.

Insurgents have released this video purportedly showing the suicide bombing last Thursday that
killed three British soldiers.

In this environment Australian troops opened fire on a car in Baghdad on the weekend.

One person was shot - it's not certain whether they died.

The Defence Force says it is investigating initial reports the car refused to stop and one soldier
opened fire fearing for his life.

GENERAL PETER COSGROVE, CHIEF OF THE AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE: You can imagine that anyone
perceiving am immediate threat to his or her life is entitled to take action to prevent their own
life from being taken.

REPORTER: So you're confident that soldier, that officer acted appropriately?

GENERAL PETER COSGROVE: No, I'm just saying that the initial report suggests that the soldier felt
that way.

NORMAN HERMANT: But tonight all eyes are on the Fallujah as the city awaits the final battle there.

Norman Hermant, Lateline.