In the midst of a US onslaught and hemmed in by a round-the-clock curfew, he said he had little choice but to bury his eldest son, Ghaith, in the garden.

"My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment," said Abbud, a teacher. "We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out. We did not know how long the fighting would last."

Residents say scores of civilians have been killed or wounded in 24 hours of fighting since US-led forces pushed deep into the city on Monday evening.

Doctors said people brought in at least 15 dead civilians at the main clinic in Falluja on Monday. By Tuesday, there were no clinics open, residents said, and no way to count casualties.

Medical supplies low

US and Iraqi forces seized control of the city's main hospital, across the Euphrates river from Falluja proper, hours before the onslaught began.

US forces have been steadily
moving deeper into the city

Overnight US bombardments hit a clinic inside the Sunni Muslim city, killing doctors, nurses and patients, residents said. US military authorities denied the reports.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said troops detained 38 fighters entrenched at Falluja hospital and accused doctors there of exaggerating civilian casualties.

Sami al-Jumaili, a doctor at Falluja hospital, said the city was running out of medical supplies.

"There is not a single surgeon in Falluja. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded. There are scores of injured civilians in their homes who we can't move," he said by telephone from a house where he had gone to help the wounded.

"A 13-year-old child just died in my hands."

ICRC voices concern

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday that it was extremely worried about the fate of people wounded in the battle for control of the Iraqi city of Falluja.

 

"The ICRC urges the belligerents to ensure that all those in need of such care - whether friend or foe - be given access to medical facilities and that medical personnel and vehicles can function without hindrance at all times," a statement said.

 

The organisation said it was "deeply concerned about reports that the injured cannot receive adequate medical care".

Families flee

Weekend air raids destroyed a clinic funded by an Islamic relief organisation in the centre of Falluja and a nearby warehouse used to store medical supplies, witnesses said.

Residents say there is no power
and food supplies are running low 

Many families fled the city of 300,000 long before the offensive began. An official from a Sunni Muslim group with links to some fighters in Falluja said on Monday only about 60,000 people remained.

Residents say they have no power and are using kerosene lamps at night. They say they keep to ground floors for safety. Food shops have been closed for six days.

"My kids are hysterical with fear," said Farhan Salih. "They are traumatised by the sound but there is nowhere to take them."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday he did not foresee large numbers of civilian casualties in the assault, saying US forces were disciplined and precise.

Those words were of little comfort to the Abbud family, sitting in a house damaged by the bomb that killed their child.

"We just bandaged his stomach and gave him water, but he was losing a lot of blood. He died this afternoon," said Abbud.