NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) Thousands of U.S. Marines and Army troops punched their way on Monday into two Fallujah neighborhoods where insurgents are considered the strongest, kicking off a massive assault that seeks to put an end to half a year of insurgent control of the Sunni Muslim city.
The troops, backed by the 1st Cavalry Division's tanks and armor, swarmed into the city's northwestern Jolan district, the warren-like historic heart of Fallujah.
At the same time, some 4,000 troops, backed by the 1st Cavalry Division's tanks and armor, went into the northeastern Askari district.
The prelude to the assault was a crushing air and artillery bombardment of the city that rose to a crescendo by Monday evening, with U.S. jets dropping bombs around the clock and big guns pounding the city every few minutes with high-explosive shells.
The first punch came from just north of the city, where Marine Regimental Combat Team 1 more than 4,000 Marines and Army troops, along with Iraqi allies had been massed Sunday night.