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At least three U.S. Marines have been killed as Operation Steel Curtain pushes through a third town near the Iraq-Syria border.

Two of the Marines were killed in separate bomb attacks, officials said, while the third was killed by small-arms fire. The deaths occurred in New Obeidi on Monday and Tuesday, the Marine Corps said, and all of the Marines were assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2.

U.S. officers described the fighting as “some of the heaviest” seen since Steel Curtain began Nov. 5. After sweeping through Husaybah and Karabilah, Marines turned their attention to Obeidi, a city on the banks of the Euphrates River about 15 miles from the Syrian border. The town is separated into Old Obeidi and New Obeidi; Marines and Iraqi soldiers had completed a sweep of the old part of the town by Tuesday, officials said.

“Intelligence reports indicate that the strong resistance … is due in large part to the fact that terrorists believe they are trapped and have nowhere else to go,” a Marine Corps statement read.

U.S. officials estimated at least 80 insurgents have been killed, mainly in airstrikes, since fighting in Obeidi began. Some 150 other suspected insurgents have been arrested, with at least one group stopped while trying to crawl out of the city among a flock of sheep.

“Iraqi and Coalition Forces continue to clear the city house-by-house, occasionally encountering buildings that are rigged with explosives and triggered to detonate upon entering the building,” the Marines said.

Some 36 weapons caches have been found during Operation Steel Curtain. Many of those included suicide bomb vests and bomb-making materials.

In one instance, an M1A1 Abrams tank blasted a suspected car bomb, setting off secondary explosions that threw the car onto a nearby roof. Iraqi forces also discovered a minefield southeast of Husaybah, officials said. More than 100 mines and makeshift bombs have been found during the operation.

Some 1,000 Iraqi army soldiers and 2,500 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors are involved in Operation Steel Curtain, the latest in a series of offensives near the border. This time, American officials have promised U.S. and Iraqi forces will remain in the cities they clear.

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