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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 18:01 GMT
Eyewitness: Waiting for the bombs
Baghdad under air strikes
City residents are expecting intensive strikes tonight
Subhy Haddad, a BBC World Service reporter and Baghdad resident, describes the tense days of waiting for the night-time raids to begin.

People are expecting more US attacks to start.

In Baghdad at the moment, as soon as the sun sets, those who are living in apartments or on high floors come straight down and find somewhere to spend the night on the ground floor.

Sorry - my wife is shouting, the bombardment has started. This time the raid has started before the air-raid siren. The windows are shaking. I have to go
Some people have cellars and spend the night there.

Those who can afford to leave Baghdad try to find a place on the outskirts of the city - they just jump in their cars and leave the city for the night.

I was speaking to some people in the city today, and they were expecting tonight's raids to be more intensive than those so far.

Some people have satellite television, others listen to the BBC Arabic service - so some people have heard about the B52 bombers leaving England on their way to Baghdad.

They know what that means.

Nightmares

Children - especially those who witnessed the 1998 bombings - are so scared.

Women queue for food
During the day some people venture out to the food distribution centres
My own eldest child is 11 years old. She is scared to death.

In 1998 one of the missiles passed by the entrance of our house - a small villa in northern Baghdad.

It fell about half a kilometre away and the blast was very strong. It broke some of the windows.

From that day on she has been in such a condition you cannot imagine it. When she is asleep and hears a door banging she wakes up shouting.

This is my own daughter, but other children are the same. She also watches the news all the time. We try to keep her away from it, but it is very difficult.

Silent streets

Now the streets are deserted. You cannot hear cars, or people - they are all in their houses waiting for the missiles to begin.

Van leaving the city
A van laden with furniture leave the city during daylight hours
Over the past two days people have started napping in the daytime. At night they stay awake and watch or listen to the news. They are like night shift workers.

I have walked the streets of Baghdad. They were practically deserted.

It is like there is a curfew - but there is no curfew. Ninety percent of the shops and restaurants are closed.

People have sort of got used to bombardment. The Iraqis went through it in 1998, during the 1991 Gulf War and during the Iran-Iraq war when Iranian missiles were falling on Baghdad.

This time it is not that different, but the Iraqis are more worried.

The attack seems to be bigger. The national mass media have concentrated on it more than previous years. People are expecting hard days to come.

The windows are shaking

We are also seeing something we have never seen before in Iraq - people have begun to build brick walls across their shops.

Friday prayers
Friday prayers in the capital were well attended despite the war
I went to a friend's shop to buy some toys for the kids, and I was surprised to find a large cement wall instead of the normal shop front.

They are afraid that if things get worse they might get robbed.

They have already taken their most expensive and precious things out of the shop.

Sorry - my wife is shouting, the bombardment has started.

This time the raid has started before the air-raid siren. The windows are shaking. I have to go.


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