Striker Brigade

Battle of Haifa Street

The Battle of Haifa Street was a battle fought over three days for the control of Haifa Street, a two-mile-long street in downtown Baghdad, Iraq, pitting American and Iraqi Army forces against various insurgent forces between January 6 and January 9 2007. There was also a second battle two weeks later on January 24 when US forces launched a new attempt to capture Haifa Street.

Background

Haifa Street runs through a majority-Sunni area, although there is an area of Shi'ite dominated neighborhoods to the west, making the Haifa Street area a sectarian fault line between Shi'ite and Sunni neighborhoods. As a result, brutal killings by both sides drove the residents of the high-rise buildings out of the area, enabling insurgents to take over abandoned apartments.

In January 2007, the commander of Multi National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I), General Odierno, ordered a full scale offensive to dislodge al Qaida from what one US commander dubbed "the most dangerous street in Iraq".

The Battle

On 6th January, 2007, Iraqi forces on patrol along Haifa Street discovered a fake checkpoint manned by Sunni insurgents. In the ensuing gun battle, 30 insurgents were killed. In retaliation, insurgents dumped the bodies of 27 executed Shi'ites that night. The next day, insurgent sniper fire killed two Iraqi security guards near a neighborhood mosque. On the 8th of January, Iraqi forces attempted to remove insurgent forces from Haifa Street but were repulsed after two of their number were killed. US forces were then called in to help the Iraqis clear out Haifa street.

On the January 9, 2007, the 1st Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Regiment linked up with Iraqi forces on the north end of Haifa street and began occupying buildings and arresting suspects. At 7.00am hundreds of insurgents started to shoot from the high-rises (the Holland Apartments) at the Americans. Heavy incoming fire pinned down the American soldiers trapping them on a rooftop for at least two hours. Some soldiers who were not on the rooftop couldn't move on the street because of insurgent sniper and machine-gun fire. The fighting became so intense that U.S. Apache helicopters, F-15s, more than a dozen Iraqi gun trucks, Stryker combat vehicles and about 1,000 Iraqi Army soldiers were called in.

The U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents in the heart of Baghdad in some of the fiercest fighting the Iraqi capital had seen in months since Operation Together Forward. U.S. helicopters fired Hellfire missiles at insurgent positions while fighter jets provided additional cover. Thunderous explosions were heard through out Baghdad from U.S. missile and insurgent mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were having running battles with insurgents up and down Haifa Street. The fighting lasted for over three days. By the end of the battle some 20 Iraqi Army soldiers and 103 insurgents were reported dead.

January 24th Battle

Two weeks later on January 24 the American and Iraqi forces made a new attempt to capture Haifa Street. The battle began when American forces of the 1-23 Battalion (3/2 Striker Brigade) entered the area from the south in the early morning on the 24th and linked up with Iraqi forces from 1st Battalion 1st Brigade 6th Iraqi Division, and US forces from 4/9 Cav of the 2nd BCT of the 1st Cavalry Division. Using infantry, Strykers and Bradleys, American forces moved from building to building, taking sniper and mortar fire. During the 8-hour battle, 30 insurgents were killed and a further 35 captured. One American soldier, SSG Hector Leija was also killed.

Aftermath

About 500 Iraqi soldiers and 400 U.S. troops took part in the battle along a two-mile stretch of Haifa Street. The images of the fighting were shown across the world on various news media which coincided with President George W. Bush's speech about committing more than 21,000 extra U.S. troops to Iraq. The U.S. president argued that the additional soldiers will help to secure Baghdad, but on the ground there were signs that problems were yet to come.

Within 24 hours of the start of the fight in Haifa Street, Gen. Razzak Hamza, a Sunni Iraqi Army commander of the Fifth Brigade, Sixth Iraqi Army Division, was relieved of duty by the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. He was promptly replaced by a Shiite commander. It was reported that the prime minister blamed Hamza for the violence on Haifa Street, and said he wasn’t doing enough to stop it. It was actually believed that the meddling from the prime minister's office was driven by sectarian motives, in part because Razzak had been putting pressure on the Shiite militias. The interference by the Maliki administration raised questions about whether government leaders are truly willing to put Iraq’s sectarian differences aside.

Also the operation in Haifa Street gave a glimpse of what could await the 17,500 troops heading for Baghdad. Just a week later there were already reports that American military planners on the ground were arguing with their Iraqi counterparts about the plans for the coming security operation slated for Baghdad. This was one of the few battles where the insurgents and the coalition troops have fought each other 'face-to-face'.

References

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