Dr Salim Ibrahim at Falluja General Hospital estimated on Friday that 13 Iraqis were killed in the town west of Baghdad. Ibrahim told the Associated Press he could not give an exact count of the dead, because many of their bodies had been torn apart in the bombings.

Ahmad Abd Allah, a doctor at Falluja general hospital, told Reuters some of the wounded were in a serious condition after the fighting which residents said lasted several hours and destroyed houses and factory buildings.

Another hospital doctor said 10 people had died in the fighting, which largely took place in the industrial zone of the town, according to Aljazeera's correspondent.

A house in the Shuhada'a district of the city was also destroyed when it came under US aerial bombardment, Reuters reported.

US forces have repeatedly used air strikes to hit what they call "terrorist safe houses" allegedly used by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

 

Falluja residents and medical sources say it is Iraqi civilians - including women and children - that are being killed in these strikes.

 

Civilians injured

 

A similar air strike on a courtyard of a house in the southwest part of Falluja on 23 July resulted in injuries to five people, three of them children, according to local hospital sources.

Dr Kamal al-Ani, a doctor at the local hospital, said a US warplane fired a missile that landed in the garden of a house in the Jubail neighbourhood, in southern Falluja. Associated Press Television News footage showed a massive crater beside the house.

"We were sleeping in the morning when a US missile hit our house," Saddam Jasim, the home's owner, said as he and his brother cleared debris.

"We have nothing to do with the resistance or al-Zarqawi. These are pretexts used by the US military to terrorise the people in Falluja because US soldiers are unable to face the insurgents," he said.

Leaflet warning

 

US aircraft have dropped leaflets on Falluja, warning residents they will lose $102 million in rebuilding funds if they do not halt attacks on US troops.

"If the security situation does not improve, you will lose $102 million, which is already allocated and approved. This amount of money will be transferred to peaceful and open towns," the leaflets, which were dropped on Tuesday, said.

"We ask the citizens of Falluja... to make way for multinational forces to start the rebuilding of Falluja, and to make way for American forces to move freely in the city and make real estimates for construction."