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More than 2,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops launched an offensive near the Euphrates River city of Hit, hoping to clear an area “not typically patrolled by Iraqi and U.S. forces,” officials said Wednesday.

Operation Iron Hammer — or Matraqa Hadidia in Arabic — is focused on the Hai Al Becker region east of Hit, one of a string of Euphrates River Valley cities with a strong insurgent presence.

“The Hai Al Becker region is suspected to be an al-Qaida in Iraq safe area and base of operations for the manufacture of vehicle car bombs and roadside bombs,” according to a U.S. Marine Corps statement from Camp Blue Diamond in western Iraq.

In an effort to bring some measure of security before the Dec. 15 elections, U.S. forces have embarked on a series of operations in Anbar province in the past month. The largest was a sweep through the cities of Husaybah and Obeidi along the Syrian border.

A series of smaller operations has also been taken in Ramadi, east of Hit.

Operation Iron Hammer involves some 500 Iraqi army soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division; 1,500 U.S. Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit; and 500 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment.

In July, U.S. forces had entered Hit as part of Operation Saif. They established a “long-term security presence” there, but did not find many insurgents among the weapons caches they discovered, officials said.

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