Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Battle on the Syrian Border

Due to problems with my image server, the maps will be down

The Marine Battle on the Syrian border at which nearly 100 enemy have been reported killed now turns out to be a heavily fortified area. The Los Angeles Times has correspondent Solomon Moore approximately 4 km northwest (Rabit) from where fighting is taking place referred to in accounts as the Ramana-Obeidi area. (The first map below from Microsoft Encarta shows variations of the place names) It is in the cultivated zone right on the edge of the Al Jazira desert, about 5 km from the Syrian border. From the LA Times account, the Marines approached on the south side of the river, and took mortar fire from towns on the north side of the Euphrates. The Marines crossed the river, using bridging and assaulted into the town.

In nearby Sabah, New Ubaydi, and Karabilah, insurgents fired mortar rounds at Marine convoys along the river's southern edge. Marines who pursued attackers in those towns took part in house-to-house combat against dozens of well-armed insurgents. One Marine was walking into a house when an insurgent hiding in the basement fired through a floor grate, killing him. Another Marine, who was retrieving a wounded comrade inside a house, suffered shrapnel wounds when an insurgent threw a grenade through a window.

The area is a few kilometers to the south of Qaim/Qusabayah, where a Marine border post has been the subject of repeated attacks. The Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press have more details on the degree of fortification of the towns in which fighting is now taking place.

At the vanguard of the assault, Marines who swept into the Euphrates River town of Obeidi confronted an enemy they had not expected to find — and one that attacked in surprising ways. As they pushed from house to house in early fighting, trying to flush out the insurgents who had attacked their column with mortar fire, they ran into sandbagged emplacements behind garden walls. They found a house where insurgents were crouching in the basement, firing upward through slits hacked at ankle height in the ground-floor walls, aiming at spots that the Marines' body armor did not cover

The situation described by the Los Angeles Times is plotted in the Keyhole map below. The Marines appear to have a blocking force in the desert between the towns and the Syrian border and are conducting operations against enemy in towns on the northern bank of the Euphrates.

(My apologies for having mislabeled Rabit as 'Ribat')


Bill Roggio has many more details. The operation is codenamed Matador. Donald Sensing has some additional stuff.