"I can say more than 600 have been killed, but the number may not be totally correct as many families have already buried their dead in their gardens", Dr Rafia Hayad al-Issawi, the director of Falluja's hospital, told Aljazeera.

As well as the dead, al-Issawi estimated that about 1200 people had been injured in the fighting, some of the fiercest that Iraq has seen since US-led forces invaded the country to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Aljazeera's correspondent in Falluja reported that 11 people were killed and about 50 others wounded by US gunfire, despite the ceasefire agreed upon between the US occupation forces and the Iraqi resistance.

NGO assessment

An assessment by five international non-governmental organisations on Friday said 470 people had been killed in Falluja.

Of 1200 injured, it said 243 were women and 200 children. The groups warned their estimate might be too low.

US marines maintain a strong
presence in the town

"Bodies are lying in the streets. Ambulances are being shot at by snipers. Medical aid and supplies have been stopped by US occupation forces," a statement from the NGOs said.

The marines conducting the week-long operation in Falluja have been accused of firing indiscriminately on people in the city, killing women and children.

US military spokesmen have strenuously denied those accusations, saying troops are trained to ensure all their actions are extremely precise and only combatants are killed.

Possible withdrawal

On Monday, witnesses on the outskirts of Falluja told Aljazeera they saw US military vehicles moving away from the city. 

A sports field has become a
cemetry in Falluja

Aljazeera's correspondent in Falluja said it could not be confirmed whether a withdrawal of troops had taken place. He reported it might be a tactical move by the military to move to the outskirts of the city, particularly near al-Shuhada area and the northern highway.

The correspondent added that Falluja citizens insisted Iraqi police and defence forces should regain control over the city after the withdrawal of US forces.    

Despite the ceasefire, an exchange of fire was heard in Golan area, the correspondent added. Explosions were also heard. 

The correspondent reported that resistance fighters in Falluja  said they were committed to the ceasefire, but would break it if US snipers continued to target civilians. He said more than 15 civilians had been killed and 70 others wounded by US sniper fire.

The snipers, he stressed, were even targeting ambulances transferring casualties to hospitals. 

US troops killed

Meanwhile, the US military announced on Sunday that eight US soldiers were killed in various attacks in the past two days. 

Four 1st Armored Division soldiers were killed in two separate attacks on 9 April in Baghdad, the statement said, while three 1st Infantry Division soldiers were killed and two wounded in an ambush near Tikrit, north of Baghdad on the same day.

On 10 April, a Marine was killed as a result of fighting in al-Anbar province west of Baghdad. No further details on the incident were provided.

The deaths and attacks had not been reported previously.