Some 2,000 people will return to Fallujah today and find a ghost town of rubble after six weeks of fighting between the US military and insurgents.
The first wave of displaced persons to make their way home after fleeing the city of 300,000 people on the advent of the US assault on the insurgent stronghold will enter an apocalyptic backdrop of flattened city blocks and bullet-scarred homes.
The flow of residents, who stayed with relatives, squatted in schools and shivered in camps during the devastation of the last two months, marks a stab by the Iraqi government to restore normality in troubled al-Anbar province.
"Tomorrow 2,000 heads of families will enter Fallujah, all of them from al-Andalus neighborhood, to check out their houses to decide on their own whether they want to return," National Security Adviser Qassem Daoud told reporters Wednesday.
People will inspect their homes in southwest Fallujah and decide whether they want to stay in the city, which is still the scene of fighting between US forces and insurgents, Daoud said.
"The clashes from time to time are going on, but that doesn't mean there is a huge amount of resistance. It is just people coming in from neighboring areas to carry out some attacks," he said.
Daoud highlighted the amount of damage in Fallujah. "There are some destroyed houses and some wreckage, with mines and explosives inside and even on the streets," Daoud said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that three of the city's water purification plants had been destroyed and the fourth was badly damaged.
The Iraqi government announced Monday that returning families would receive immediate assistance of 150,000 dinars (US$100) and be eligible for compensation of up to US$10,000 for property damage.