Two Iranian missiles slammed into Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, on Monday, and Iraq promptly retaliated by firing five missiles at Tehran. It was believed to be the first time that Iraq had used such weapons against Iran.
The attacks with missiles using non-nuclear warheads apparently signal a renewal of the "war of the cities" in the 7-year-old conflict between Iran and Iraq.
Iraq said that "many civilians" were killed when two Iranian missiles, believed to be Soviet-made SCUD-Bs provided by either Libya or Syria, struck Baghdad in the pre-dawn hours Monday. No exact casualty figures were given.
Iran said it fired three missiles at Baghdad, aiming at a radio and television broadcasting complex in the city center. One of the three apparently went astray.
Iraq said the Iranian missiles demolished houses, shops and offices in two districts of Baghdad. For security reasons, the locations were not disclosed.
Within hours, Iraq retaliated. It fired three missiles at Tehran, Iran's capital, about 6 p.m. local time, and two more missiles about two hours later, according to an Iraqi high command communique .
The Iranian news agency IRNA reported that 16 people were killed in an attack Monday on a hospital in Tehran, but it blamed the deaths on Iraqi air raids, making no mention of a missile attack.
Before Monday's exchange, Iraq was not known to have missiles capable of reaching Tehran, which lies about 200 miles from the border with Iraq. The official Iraqi News Agency, quoting a military spokesman, said the missiles sent into Tehran were made in Iraq.
The latest round of attacks began Saturday when Iraqi warplanes hit an oil refinery near Tehran and other economic targets. Iran responded by leveling heavy artillery fire on Basra, a port in southern Iraq that has been under intense Iranian pressure for several years.
On Sunday, Iraq said that its warplanes hit the southwestern Iranian town of Dezful and the western town of Hamadan, hitting "the nests of the Khomeinis, punishing them and demolishing their nests over their heads." The reference was to Iran's leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
After Monday's missile attacks, Iraq warned that "all Iranian cities are targets for our heroic air force and gigantic missile force."
In Tehran, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati called on U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to intervene to stop Iraqi air attacks against Iranian cities. He said that Iranian forces will have no choice but to continue hitting Iraq if the attacks continue.
"In that case," Velayati was quoted by Tehran Radio as saying, "the responsibility for endangering peace and security in the region and the world would rest directly on the Iraqi regime and its mentor and instigator, the United States."
Iraq has been trying to refocus attention on the war as efforts to impose an arms embargo against Iran have gained momentum in the U.N. Security Council. The embargo has won increased attention since Iran's failure to accept a Security Council resolution last July calling for a truce. Iraq has accepted the resolution, contingent on Iran also accepting it.