HoustonChronicle.com - U.S. hunts rebels near Syrian border: "U.S. hunts rebels near Syrian border
100 insurgents reportedly killed in Iraq in largest assault in months
By HANNAH ALLAM
Knight Ridder Tribune News
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - U.S. Marines are fighting house-to-house through a town near Iraq's border with Syria in an effort to cleanse the area of foreign terrorists, the U.S. military announced Monday.
At least 100 suspected insurgents have been killed. Three Marines also were killed in the region, the U.S. military said.
'This is ground combat,' said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a military spokesman in Baghdad. 'It's house-to-house operations.'
The fighting was taking place near the border town of Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad. U.S. officials said the offensive had been a long time coming but was spurred by a fresh batch of intelligence gleaned from Iraqis who live in the area as well as interrogations of newly captured aides to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to the New York Times.
But the attack, which appears to be the largest combat offensive in Iraq since the Marines invaded Fallujah six months ago, comes as senior U.S. commanders have increasingly blamed the porous border with Syria for allowing a stream of armed jihadists to enter Iraq, the Times reported.
The operation, which involves more than 1,000 Marines supported by helicopter gunships, fighter jets, tanks and light armored vehicles, reflects the increasing concern that insurgents have had a free rein in the heavily Sunni area in and around Qaim, in the Al Jazirah Desert near where the Euphrates River crosses from Syria to Iraq."