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Iraq like 'siege warfare of Middle Ages'

CNN's Walter Rodgers: Heat is going to get 'much, much worse.'
CNN's Walter Rodgers: Heat is going to get 'much, much worse.'

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CNN's Walter Rodgers, embedded with the U.S. 3-7th Cavalry, reports that Iraqi soldiers are trying to engage U.S. troops in a street fight. (March 31)
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CENTRAL IRAQ (CNN) -- CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers, traveling with U.S. Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, part of the U.S.-led coalition to topple Saddam Hussein, spoke Monday with CNN anchor Carol Costello about military action south of the Iraqi capital.

RODGERS: Despite news reports of a pause in the fighting, that is certainly not the case in the theater of operations south of Baghdad. The 7th Cavalry is about 50 miles south of the southern suburbs of Baghdad.

Just over the horizon there, we know the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division has been involved in a devil of a fight. There has been artillery pouring out for hours and hours.

The 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division fought their way across a strategic Euphrates River bridge northwards towards the town of Hilla. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry is now outside Hilla. As I say, for hours there have been artillery exchanges there.

Up where we are, where the 7th Cavalry is, another twin city of Hilla somewhat to the east of there, the 7th Calvary has taken up positions in an arc, protecting the flank of the 3rd Infantry Division while it moves on Hilla.

Again, there was some incoming artillery in our position overnight. Some of it landed within about a mile, just a little over a mile from where we are now. It did not injure any members of the 7th Cavalry, not did it hit any of the 7th Cavalry's tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

What we're seeing is a situation out here now where the Iraqi army, with its Republican Guard leaders, has taken up positions of sanctuary inside cities like Hilla and the city which we can't identify, the one we're close to.

But they take up positions of sanctuary and then, according to Army sources, the Iraqis establish their artillery in civilian areas and business districts in the city such that it's not a very good target for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy jets overhead to attack.

Additionally, when the Iraqis do venture outside and establish their artillery in the suburbs of the city, then, of course, they get pounded. We've seen multiple-launch rocket systems going out just within the last half-hour. They've been going out off and on for probably five or six hours now.

But again, the Air Force F-15s and the Navy F-14 Tomcats have been hovering overhead. One Army officer said as soon as the Iraqis hear those jets overhead, they're afraid to stick their heads up. That seems to be the case.

The overall situation is the Iraqis would like to lure the Army units into a bloody street brawl inside the cities. The Army is hoping to lure the Iraqis out. So far, it's a bit of a standoff outside these Iraqi cities just south of Baghdad.

COSTELLO: Yes, Walter, so it's sort of become siege warfare right now, and you have to wonder what could happen to the civilians within those cities and towns.

start quoteAs soon as the Iraqis hear those jets overhead, they're afraid to stick their heads up.end quote
-- Walter Rodgers

RODGERS: Indeed that's a very good analogy. A short while ago, I was trying to think of an analogy in military history, and it's not unlike the siege warfare of the Middle Ages, where the cities become the castles and one army holes up or takes sanctuary inside the castle, while the other army marches around it, fires in the general direction, but doesn't want to hurt the civilian populace. That's progress over the Middle Ages, of course.

But having said that, the U.S. Army is on the outside of these cities. We understand the 101st is moving towards Najaf. As I said, Hilla is now facing the might of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. And we continue on a scout position somewhat to the north of both of those, again, holding the Iraqis by the nose if they come up.

But so far they're not coming up and they're laying low. Because of the jets overhead, the Iraqis are very, very fearful of the destructive might of American air power over their heads.

COSTELLO: Walter, another question. I know it's intensively hot out there today, and you were having a problem with your own equipment. How is the equipment holding up?

RODGERS: The equipment is holding up very well, surprisingly well, much better than I would have expected. The most threatening thing to the television equipment is, of course, the sandstorms, and there's not one of those due for another two to three days. So again, as long as we're not in sandstorms, we're able to function pretty well.

We are in such a fixed position now. You're seeing us on satellite as opposed to the videophone. When we go up on the videophone, it means we're much more mobile -- that is to say, we can fold that up in five minutes and move.

Presently, we're in, as I say, a fairly stationary position with the 7th Cavalry waiting for the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry to do its job down in Hilla.

Again, basically the equipment is holding up if it's well-protected from the dust. Sometimes we do have to let some of the equipment cool down for an hour or so, but not bad. It's going to be much, much worse. I've been in Iraq in the summer before. It goes to 130 degrees, sometimes over by Basra 140 degrees Fahrenheit, every day.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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