Iraqi Missiles Strike Israel : Massive Air Attacks by Allies Continuing : Gulf war: Although Jerusalem says it retains the right to retaliate, there is no immediate counterattack.
Iraq fired missiles into the civilian populations of Tel Aviv and Haifa early today in a thunderous retaliation as the United States and its allies bombed Iraq and occupied Kuwait for a second day with relentless fury.
The Iraqi missiles injured six or seven Israelis, none seriously, officials said. Although Israel reserved the right to respond, it mounted no immediate counterattack. President Bush, “outraged” by the Iraqi attack, reportedly promised vengeance. The White House said a fresh wave of bombers was dispatched against the Iraqis.
Eight explosions rocked Israel, said a spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Two shattered buildings in Tel Aviv. At least one of those buildings was a dwelling. At least two other explosions rattled the port city of Haifa. Three more were reported in a rural area. And still another, officials said, exploded at an undisclosed location.
Damage was extensive. According to a televised report, one death was caused indirectly by the Iraqi missile fire when an Israeli died of a heart attack.
The Israeli government urged citizens to put on gas masks and protect themselves against the possibility that some of the missiles carried chemical warheads. But officials said later that all carried conventional explosives.
At least one additional Iraqi Scud missile was fired at the Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran. In Washington, the Pentagon said a U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missile shot down the Scud before it hit its target. This marked the first firing of a Patriot missile in combat. A French television reporter said a second Scud hit the Dhahran airport, but that report could not be immediately confirmed.
By striking at Israel in his first major counterattack of the Persian Gulf war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein clearly intended to provoke an Israeli response, American officials and military experts said. By their reckoning, he hoped that such a retaliation by the Jewish state would shatter the Western-Arab alliance.
Whether Hussein succeeds, they said, now depends on what Israel does--and on Arab reaction.
The Iraqi missiles, apparently all of them Scuds, began falling in Tel Aviv at about 2 a.m. today (4 p.m. PST Thursday). Sirens sounded moments before the attack, and Israelis fled to rooms they had sealed against the possibility of gas warfare. They donned gas masks and heard early reports on TV that the missiles carried chemical weapons.
When that proved false, TV and radio advised the frightened populace that they could remove their inhalators.
Similar messages were broadcast over loudspeakers in most of the nation’s large hotels.
The missiles were an improved and extended version of the Soviet-designed Scud 2, a ground-to-ground ballistic missile for which Israel and most countries have little reliable defense.
The missiles are considered “area” weapons--that is, they are not able to hit pin-point targets but can be used against urban civilian populations.
In Washington, Israeli Ambassador Zelman Shoval would not say if his nation planned a retaliatory attack. But he declared that “Israel reserves the right to respond in any way it would deem fit.”
Informed sources in Jerusalem said the Israeli air force was considering a strike against the Iraqis. Some military sources said an Israeli raid was already under way, but there was no official confirmation.
The nation of Israel, a radio broadcast said, had moved from the condition of emergency to a “war alert.”
Yehuda Avner, a Foreign Ministry official, said consultations were being held “at the ministerial level.” Col. Raanan Gissin, deputy military spokesman, declared: “We are not going to take any hasty decisions.”
But he added: “Clearly we can’t ignore this.
“We are faced with an unprovoked attack against the civilian population in the heart of the land of Israel.”
Nonetheless, Gissin said, Israeli officials would consider U.S. wishes.
During a visit here last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger was said to have urged Israel to be careful in any response to a missile attack for fear of causing rifts in the allied coalition.
Israel Radio reported that Bush promised revenge on Israel’s behalf.
“President Bush promised Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir the U.S. would retaliate against the Iraqis intensively,” the radio report said.
It gave no source for its information.
Bush himself said he was “outraged” by the Iraqi attack. In a statement read by his press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, the President said the Pentagon had confirmed that the Scud missiles were launched from Iraqi territory. He said the United States “condemns this further aggression by Iraq.”
The effort to drag Israel into the Persian Gulf conflict came after nearly 24 hours of relentless U.S., British, Saudi and Kuwaiti bombing raids against scores of strategic targets in Iraq and Kuwait, including carpet bombing by B-52s of troops and tanks entrenched in southern Kuwait.
U.S. military officials said that allied forces had carried out close to 2,000 air sorties by Thursday night, and President Bush vowed that the attacks “are not going to stop” until Iraq withdraws from occupied Kuwait.
The raids knocked out many of Iraq’s fixed Scud missile sites, officials said, but not the mobile launchers apparently used for the strikes against Israel. Earlier, the Iraqi ambassador to Belgium had warned that Iraq was prepared to attack Israel and that “the war is just beginning, and it’s going to be a very long war.”
Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the difficulty of finding Iraq’s mobile Scuds. “You can’t predict where they are liable to be,” he said.
The initial wave of air strikes in the war, which began early Thursday, Persian Gulf time, were led by U.S. F-15E fighter-bombers. In follow-up attacks today, heavier B-52s with their powerful bombs softened Iraq’s occupation forces in Kuwait in anticipation of a possible land and sea assault on the occupied emirate.
Powell emphasized that the air offensive would be “just one part of the total campaign.” U.S. and Saudi military officials said ground forces were moving north and had taken positions closer to the Kuwaiti border.
Among the prime targets of the B-52 strikes were Iraq’s elite Republican Guard units positioned in southern Iraq and northern Kuwait. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, but the carpet-bombing could exact a heavy toll on the 150,000-member Guard.
U.S. officials said they considered the first-stage aerial attack a success, but they cautioned that it was too soon to declare victory because allied forces still could face a long and tough struggle in their effort to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Bush, somber as he met with his Cabinet before the missile attack on Israel, said he is “pleased with the way things have gone so far.” But he, too, tried to dampen expectations of a quick victory.
Declaring that he did not intend to address publicly all the developments in the war, the President told reporters: “I will not be commenting on the ups and downs--and there will be some downs--or the trauma of the moment. There’s a lot of trauma of the moment.”
Speaking to congressional leaders, Bush said, “no one should assume this conflict will be short and easy.”
In Baghdad, a defiant Hussein showed no inclination to negotiate or capitulate.
The Iraqi leader, who reportedly spent the first hours of the fighting in a bunker, announced that war had begun in a letter to the Iraqi people carried by his government’s news agency. He vowed to defeat the “evil” United States, “treacherous” Saudi Arabia and “criminal” Israel.
Initial allied losses were light, considering the extensive nature of the aerial assault. But the allied toll could increase substantially as the military operations expand to include ground and amphibious missions.
The only officially confirmed U.S. loss was a 33-year-old Navy pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Michael S. Speicher, whose F/A-18 fighter attack jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Speicher was listed as missing in action.
Two British planes and a Kuwaiti jet also were downed, and the fate of their crews was unclear. According to an unconfirmed report, a second American plane was also lost.
France said four of its jets were hit by Iraqi fire over Kuwait, but the planes and the pilots all returned.
U.S. officials denied reports by the Iraqi government radio that 55 allied planes had been shot down. In fact, except for heavy anti-aircraft fire in Baghdad, Iraqi resistance was reported to have been relatively light.
There were no official U.S. reports of Iraqi casualties. Baghdad Radio reported that the first wave of the bombing left 23 Iraqis dead and 66 wounded.
Pentagon officials said scores of critical strategic targets had been damaged or destroyed, from chemical weapons plants to nuclear weapons laboratories. Iraq’s air defense network was virtually destroyed, and a number of important command centers leveled, officials said.
In Baghdad, witnesses told reporters that the bombing also destroyed Iraq’s Defense Ministry complex and a telecommunications center on the banks of the Tigris River.
U.S. warplanes also eliminated two ballistic-missile launch sites in western Iraq that military authorities had considered the most likely source of a missile attack on Israel. But an undetermined number of mobile Scud launchers were not hit, officials said.
The massive aerial assault achieved clear control over Kuwaiti and Iraqi airspace, although the extent of damage to Iraqi’s civilian and military command networks remained in question Thursday night, officials said.
“I’m rather pleased that we appear to have achieved tactical surprise,” Powell said at a Pentagon news briefing. “We should not, however, rule out the possibility of Iraqi action either in the air or on the ground, and I can assure you we are on the lookout for it.”
Powell told reporters they “shouldn’t be surprised” to hear reports that allied ground troops were moving closer to the Kuwaiti border, but he said that does “not necessarily mean we’re going to cross the border right away.”
Several military sources said the going could get much rougher for U.S. and allied forces when their ground troops and amphibious forces move in to engage Iraq’s combat-experienced ground troops in Kuwait. Powell, leaving no doubt that ground battles will occur after the Iraqi forces are weakened by the air raids, said military commanders will use “all the tools in the tool box.”
But with 545,000 Iraqi troops, including 150,000 members of the Republican Guard, entrenched in the Kuwait theater of operations, Powell indicated there would be more massive bombings of ground fortifications before the allies invade. The United States has 425,000 ground troops, augmented by about 240,000 allied troops, in Saudi Arabia.
One of the key goals of the initial allied air strike was to knock out Iraq’s Scud missile sites to prevent Hussein from carrying out his threat to drag Israel into the gulf conflict.
“We feel for the solidarity of the coalition that Israel not be brought into this thing,” said Rep. Bill Dickinson (R-Ala.), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and one of eight key lawmakers briefed Thursday by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Powell.
“We’ve gone after every known Scud to make sure Scuds are not used, and we will visit them regularly,” Dickinson said.
Another member of Congress who attended the briefing said that, while the air raids had “inflicted a great deal of damage on their strategic targets,” they had not knocked out Iraq’s feared mobile Scuds.
The legislator, who requested anonymity, said military strategists “have no confidence that they know where they (the mobile missiles) are.”
Shoval, the Israeli ambassador, noted that his country always had taken the threat of an Iraqi attack seriously, but in the interest of supporting U.S. political aims had decided to refrain from a pre-emptive attack.
“So far, the State of Israel has paid the dearest price of any of the countries of the Middle East which have faced Iraqi aggression with the exception of Kuwait itself,” the ambassador said. Reports of the missile attack prompted immediate protests from members of Congress and American Jewish leaders.
Shaking his head from side to side, Sen. J. James Exon (D-Neb.), said: “All hell will break loose now.”
“I’m not shocked by the attack,” said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.). “This gives us a dose of reality. The man (Hussein) has no civil limits. It reinforces the need to stop Saddam and eliminate the threat.”
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that as a result of the missile attack, “it will be very difficult for Israel not to be involved” in the gulf war.
Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he hoped that Israel would retaliate by attacking mobile Scud missile launchers and refrain from inflicting civilian casualties--the strategy pursued by the U.S.-led forces in the initial air strikes.
Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the missile strike was particularly regrettable because the West had failed to heed Israel’s warnings about Hussein for the past decade and had supplied him with the technology to develop chemical and biological weapons.
“Perhaps the world will learn a lesson that you cannot co-opt and you cannot coddle ruthless dictators,” Hoenlein said. “The unfortunate thing is that the price of the lesson may be paid with Jewish lives and with the lives of American service people.”
Members of Congress were quick to express support for Operation Desert Storm. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution endorsing “the efforts and leadership of the President as commander in chief” and praising U.S. troops for their “professional excellence, dedicated patriotism and exemplary bravery.”
The House is expected to adopt the same measure.
Senate Democrats initiated the action partly as a political move designed to offset votes that many of them cast last Saturday against granting the President authority to go to war.
Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) and Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) engaged in a daylong tug-of-war over wording of the measure. Mitchell and a group of liberal Democrats originally proposed to praise only the troops, omitting mention of Bush. Dole countered by demanding that the President be commended both for his “decisive leadership” and his decision to attack Iraq.
One House Republican said he plans to boycott the House vote on the measure. “The Democrats just want to save their backsides because a majority of them failed to support the President last weekend,” said Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.).
There was an air of almost giddy euphoria among lawmakers in the wake of the reported success of the first waves of air attacks. Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) said: “Give up, Saddam. Run up the white flag.”
Bush’s tough talk Thursday and comments by the State Department made it clear that Hussein can expect no “pause for peace” in the war despite an appeal at the United Nations by Algeria and Yemen for a cease-fire that would allow Hussein a chance to negotiate.
The U.N. Security Council, in imposing a Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, effectively provided Hussein with a 45-day window in which to withdraw. Asked whether the United States might provide another pause by halting military attacks, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said, “The time for talking is over.”
Algeria and Yemen abandoned their effort for a cease-fire after the major powers opposed the move.
Even U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar echoed the White House position. Asked whether he saw any prospect for peace, Perez de Cuellar said bluntly, “It depends on Iraq--whether Iraq capitulates.”
The only new peace initiative unveiled Thursday was a letter to the U.N. chief from Iran’s president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, offering to mediate a settlement. But Arab and U.S. diplomats dismissed the Iranian proposal. “It’s not serious,” an Arab diplomat said.
The international coalition of 28 nations assembled by Bush to oppose Iraq after its Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait has remained solid despite fears on the part of some U.S. officials that once war started some countries might withdraw their support.
In Moscow, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev placed the blame for the war squarely on Hussein and renewed his call for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.
Tuohy reported from Jerusalem and Nelson from Washington. Times staff writers Paul Houston, Helene Olen, Alan C. Miller, David G. Savage, Don Shannon, Karen Tumulty and Robin Wright also contributed to this story in Washington.
GULF WAR REPORTS IN OTHER SECTIONS
BLOOD DONATIONS RISE--Hundreds of Los Angeles and Orange County residents answered the Pentagon’s call to donate blood and jammed the region’s American Red Cross centers. B1
PLAYOFFS ON--War in the Persian Gulf means tightened security for the NFL playoffs, but this weekend’s games will go on. And the Super Bowl is on schedule for Jan. 27 at Tampa Stadium. C1
SOMBER SATISFACTION--For the San Diego unit of General Dynamics that made the Tomahawk Cruise missile, there is pride and vindication after their apparent successful performance. D1
INVESTOR ADVICE--What should investors do in the wake of fast-paced market activity? Decide after weighing the risks and your objectives. D1
TIM RUTTEN--The United States is subjecting some Arab Americans to intimidation, the columnist writes in View. There is no order, he says, where people live in fear of one another. E1
TUNING IN TO WAR--Los Angeles viewers turned to their television sets for news of the Persian Gulf war in staggering numbers. F1