Most fighting still seems to be on the outskirts. Fox reported that our guys were taking a train depot but I haven't seen any confirmation of that. There was also a story about Marine moving in and then pulling back when they found a booby trapped building that caught fire after they'd moved away from it.
NEAR FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Marines launched a full-scale offensive on Monday night to retake Iraq's rebel-held city of Falluja, a Reuters witness said.
Radio traffic heard at a Marine staging post just outside Falluja showed the offensive was under way. The Marines thrust four blocks into Falluja and were advancing, it showed.
A little earlier the Marines unleashed a barrage of tank and machinegun fire on a nearby railway station, clearing the way for the ground assault.
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) US forces began intense shelling across the city of Fallujah after Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi gave the go-ahead for an all-out assault on the rebel enclave.
The skies above Fallujah burned red as artillery, warplanes and tanks pounded the city, said an AFP journalist embedded with the military.
Heavy gunfire ripped through the outskirts earlier as US and Iraqi troops ventured into the rebel enclave, while warplanes pounded the centre in several hours of bitter fighting that left at least 38 insurgents dead.
Giving the green light for the assault, Allawi said he had authorised the US-led military to wrest the Sunni Muslim bastion from rebel hands.
Black smoke plumed above the western fringe of Fallujah, where US and Iraqi forces had seized the main hospital and two bridges in their first major foray before dawn, which pre-empted a day of violent clashes.
Allawi imposed an indefinite curfew from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Fallujah, saying that it would be lifted on an area-by-area basis as it was brought under government control.
To this end, artillery shells earlier blasted in sporadic bursts, said an AFP correspondent inside, while another reporter embedded with the marines on the northwestern edge said that armoured vehicles drove through the outer streets firing at buildings.
At least 12 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in the bombardments, said an official from a local clinic, where medics complained about a shortage of supplies after the seizure of the general hospital.
The marines and Iraqi special forces met minimal resistance when they took control of the hospital and two bridges. But that changed within hours as they were forced to fight for the territory, using helicopters, planes and tanks, a pool reporter said.
A number of buildings, suspected of being used by insurgents, were destroyed and a several others set ablaze following five hours of clashes that still raged on.
Allawi said that 38 insurgents had been killed in the initial clashes and four foreign fighters detained, including two Moroccans.
Violence also raged in the northwest where at least four 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) bombs were dropped, the AFP reporter with the marines said.
Marines poured into a complex of several buildings, including two apartment blocks, a school, a mosque and a government building, in the northwest sector.
About 230 Iraqis were found still living in the complex, some milling about in their underwear. They would be evacuated from the city, the reporter said, noting that women and children were among the inhabitants.
Marines picked two men out from the crowd, bound their hands together and demanded that they reveal the whereabouts and the Mujahadeen fighters. The pair were unable to give any information, so were released.
Some 20,000 US and Iraqi troops are gathered around Fallujah, a city that has come to symbolise resistance against Allawi's US-backed government.
Allawi told a news conference that he had called on Arab leaders to help negotiate with the rebels, but added, "we have reached the conclusion that we have to take the decision that saves the political process and stability of the country."
One day after declared a state of emergency across most of Iraq, the US-backed premier announced that an emergency measures were being imposed on Fallujah and its sister restive hub on Ramadi.
Clamping down on movement, US troops banned men aged from 15 to 50 from entering or leaving Fallujah, warning they could become a target.
Women and children will be allowed to leave the city but cannot return until "order is restored," the US military said, according to an AFP photographer with the troops.
US commanders estimate that 2,000 to 2,500 fighters, some loyal to Iraq's most wanted man Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are inside the city and its surrounding areas, ready to fight.
The military believes that another 10,000 men could join in the battle.
The US military has conducted an intensifying campaign of aerial bombardments against the city, coupled with artillery fire in recent days as chances of a peaceful resolution faded.
About 80-to-90 percent of Fallujah's 300,000-strong population is thought to have fled to city due to fears of an imminent showdown.
Attempts to broker a peaceful solution between Baghdad and local leaders collapsed last month after Allawi threatened Fallujah with invasion if they did not surrender militants, such as Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda frontman in Iraq.
City leaders insist that the Jordanian-born Zarqawi, wanted for a string of deadly attacks and beheading of hostages, does not reside in Fallujah.
Arab states appealed Monday for both sides to spare civilian lives in the brewing bloody showdown. A previous siege of the city by US marines in April left hundreds dead and ended in a stalemate.