HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Phone: (813) 827-5894; FAX: (813) 827-2211; DSN 651-5894
August 12, 2003
Release Number: 03-08-29
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PALESTINE HOTEL INVESTIGATION CONCLUDES
MACDILL AFB, Tampa: The investigation of the incident at the Palestine Hotel, Baghdad, Iraq on April 8th, 2003 is complete. The investigation was directed by the Land Component Commander, U.S. Central Command, and concludes that a tank from A Company, 4-64 Armor properly fired upon a suspected enemy hunter/killer team in a proportionate and justifiably measured response. The action was fully in accordance with the Rules of Engagement.
The following summary provides background and details of the event.
By 7 April, Coalition forces had begun to encircle Baghdad and had initiated thrusts into the city. On 8 April, Coalition forces were pushing into Baghdad and being met with fierce enemy resistance. The enemy was operating throughout the civilian areas of the city, firing a spectrum of weapons at Coalition forces from the roofs and windows of surrounding buildings. The enemy was fighting without any regard to civilians or civilian structures. Coalition forces continued to fight their way toward the Tigris River, just across from the Palestine Hotel, an area of significant enemy contact.
The eighth of April was a day of very intense fighting for A Company, 4-64 Armor. Their immediate mission was to secure an intersection and deny the enemy the use of the Jamurohora Bridge. On A Company's first attempt to secure the intersection they were met with heavy enemy direct and indirect fire from Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), mortars and small arms originating from prepared defensive positions (bunkers) and from within and atop surrounding buildings. As they approached the intersection, they suffered two Wounded in Action (WIA). The intersection was defended by almost a battalion of Iraqi Republican Guards. Fire was so intense that A Company pulled back and requested Close Air Support (CAS) and additional fire support. An A-1O aircraft dropped a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and strafed the enemy. A Company reattacked. The enemy continued to resist with much of their fire coming from the opposite bank of the Tigris River.
Spot reports were continually arriving at A Company concerning increasing enemy movements and activities along the opposite side of the Tigris River. Additional reports disclosed the discovery of potent Anti-Tank missiles. At this point, A Company had been in heavy fighting for several hours. The Company Commander was then advised by his Task Force Headquarters that an enemy radio had been recovered and that enemy transmissions were being monitored. Those transmissions indicated that A Company was being observed by an enemy spotter who was located across the Tigris River and was directing enemy forces and fires in their direction. While still under heavy mortar, RPG, and missile fire, the A Company Commander directed his people to scan the surrounding buildings to try to find the enemy observer. A Company personnel observed what they believed to be a enemy hunter/killer team on the balcony of a room on the upper floors of a large tan colored building. They also witnessed flashes of light, consistent with enemy fire, coming from the same general location as the building.
One 120mm tank round was fired at the suspected enemy observer position. Immediately following that, monitored transmissions indicated that the enemy observer was taking fire and coordinated enemy fire directed at A Company ceased. It was only some time after the incident that A Company became aware of the fact that the building they fired on was the Palestine Hotel and that journalists at the hotel had been killed or injured as a result. However, intelligence reports also indicated that the enemy used portions of the hotel as a base of operations and that heavy enemy activity was occurring in those areas in and immediately around the hotel.
Conclusions: A Company was under heavy enemy attack. The company had positive intelligence that they were under direct observation from an enemy hunter/killer team. The activities on the balcony of the Palestine Hotel were consistent with that of an enemy combatant. They fired a single round in self-defense in full accordance with the Rules of Engagement. The enemy had repeatedly chosen to conduct its combat activities from throughout the civilian areas of Baghdad.
These actions included utilizing the Palestine Hotel and the areas immediately around it as a platform for military operations. Baghdad was a high intensity combat area and some journalists had elected to remain there despite repeated warnings of the extreme danger of doing so. The journalists' death at the Palestine Hotel was a tragedy and the United States has the deepest sympathies for the families of those who were killed.
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