Iraq fired a rain of seven Scud missiles into Israel on Friday, and one crashed into a house in Tel Aviv, killing a neighbor next door. But Israel refrained from retaliating, despite complaints that allied Scud-killing in Iraq has been too slow.
A barrage of Patriot interceptors blew apart the other six Iraqi Scuds in the air, scattering debris over greater Tel Aviv and near Haifa. Shutters shattered, windows broke and shingles fell on city streets. None of the Scuds carried poison gas. But 66 Israelis were injured, authorities said--most of them slightly.
At about the same time, Iraq fired another four Scuds into Saudi Arabia. One destroyed a wing of a building near downtown Riyadh. Witnesses said the missile hit with a bright orange flash. One person was killed and another 30 were injured, Interior Ministry officials said. The death was Saudi Arabia’s first Scud fatality.
Two of the other three missiles fired into Saudi Arabia were destroyed by Patriots. One exploded in the air over Riyadh. The other was intercepted over the Dammam-Dhahran area on the Persian Gulf coast. The fourth missile also was aimed at the Dammam-Dhahran area, but witnesses said it apparently went astray.
As the missiles flew, round-the-clock assaults by allied warplanes “hit heavily” at Iraq’s defensive line in Kuwait, allied military officials said. Maj. Gen. Robert B. Johnston, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, cited evidence that the bombing is affecting Iraqi supply lines.
He said allied forces had taken prisoners and encountered defectors who were eating one meal a day and were covered with lice.
There were these additional developments:
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said in Washington that he would not be surprised to learn that President Saddam Hussein’s troops had suffered as many as 10,000 casualties, “given the effort we have mounted against his (Republican) Guard.”
Hussein had his top air force and air-defense commanders shot because of heavy losses, Soviet Defense Ministry sources told an independent Moscow news agency. The Iraqi Embassy in Moscow denied the report. Soviet and U.S. defense officials said they could neither confirm nor deny it.
President Bush told reporters at the White House that he would not alter his activities to avoid terrorist threats. He said he would deliver his State of the Union address next Tuesday as scheduled. The President said: “I am not going to be held a captive in the White House by Saddam Hussein.”
The Scud attack on Israel, the heaviest since last Friday, came only hours after disclosure that Germany had offered to provide Israel with more Patriot interceptors. David Levy, the Israeli foreign minister, would not say whether Israel would accept them. To man the Patriots, Israel also would have to import crews.
Inviting German troops to Israeli soil in order to operate the missiles presents an emotional problem because survivors of the Holocaust, the Nazi slaughter of millions of Jews, might not welcome a German troop presence.
The Scud attack also came as the United States was rushing more Patriots to Israel. The Israeli army said the U.S. missiles would be operational “in a short time.”
The Israeli army would not say how many Patriots it had received.
The Bush Administration has pressured Israel to stay out of the war for fear that an attack on Iraq by the Jewish state would undermine Washington’s anti-Iraq alliance with Arab states. But restraint was eating into Israeli patience. Four Israeli deaths so far have been linked to Iraqi Scud attacks. Almost 200 Israelis, mostly in Tel Aviv, have been injured.
Iraq has launched 20 missiles into Israel’s populous coastal region--nine of them since the United States sent in an initial complement of Patriots. The Patriots have knocked down seven of those nine before they could strike.
While they acknowledged the value of the Patriots, Israeli military men mounted complaints that the U.S. Air Force was not destroying Scud launchers on the ground in Iraq quickly enough. In apparent answer to those complaints, Dan Shomron, the Israeli army chief of staff, cautioned: “Anyone who thinks that Israel would do a quick job and finish it (the threat of the Iraqi Scuds) is mistaken.”
Despite the new Scud attacks, Shomron said, the situation does not warrant immediate retaliation.
“And as far as we can discern, the (allied) goals are not just to remove the Iraqi army from Kuwait . . . (but) are to destroy the Iraqi war machine--which from our point of view is of supreme importance in the long term.”
Tel Aviv Damage
As he spoke, witnesses in the middle-class Tel Aviv neighborhood struck by the latest Iraqi attack said one house took the hit directly. It was flattened into a pile of concrete, they said, and clothing, closets and furniture were blasted into the yard. They said that trees were toppled and scorched and windows broken for blocks around.
The death occurred not in that house, where occupants hid in a specially made shelter, the witnesses said, but in a house next door, where an entire wall collapsed, exposing both the ground and upper floor.
“Papa, Papa!” a woman yelled as she approached the partially demolished house.
As she came upon a group of television cameraman shooting pictures, she cried, “Get away! This is my house. I don’t want anyone walking through it.”
On the other side of the flattened structure, Shimon Zagorsky surveyed the wreckage of a home he had just renovated.
“We never thought the missiles would get this close,” he said.
Windows were blown out of his house, and furniture was in a jumble, but Zagorsky, his wife, two daughters and their husbands survived. They were inside a ground-floor shelter protected by a steel door.
“I guess I will have to patch the house together and wait for the Americans to hit (the Iraqis) harder,” he said.
Like many of the newly homeless, Zagorsky said he would go live with relatives.
It was the second week in a row, several Israelis noted, that President Saddam Hussein had chosen to target them on the Jewish Sabbath.
Attack on Riyadh
In the two attacks on Saudi Arabia, the missiles aimed at Riyadh fell within four hours of the assault on Tel Aviv. Those aimed at Dammam-Dhahran came early today. All carried conventional warheads.
Of the two aimed at Riyadh, one snaked through the sky pursued by a Patriot until the Scud smashed into a six-story government building. An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the person who died in the attack was a Saudi man. The ministry official offered no identification.
But he said the 30 injured included 19 Saudis and 11 foreigners: five Egyptians, two Jordanians, one Sudanese woman and three people from Bangladesh.
Several journalists at the scene of the missile strike had film and videotape confiscated.
French television crews scuffled with police. Witnesses said at least two TV crews and a handful of others were detained.
The Scud that hit Riyadh was the 10th launched against the city since Monday.
The U.S. military command said before the new attacks against Saudi Arabia that Iraq had fired 35 of its long-range Scud missiles since the war began--22 into Saudi Arabia and 13 at targets in Israel.
On the ground, U.S. military officials said, Iraq appeared to be showing signs of damage and casualties.
Defense Secretary Cheney, in his broadcast interview Friday, declared that “I wouldn’t be surprised” if the Iraqis had suffered 10,000 bombing casualties, as some unconfirmed reports have suggested. But he declined to estimate how long the war will last.
Some estimates have ranged up to a year, but Cheney said: “I am inclined to think it will be shorter rather than longer.”
Cheney said the allied coalition against Iraq will not be provoked into a premature ground attack, even though “we are perfectly prepared (to take) ground action.”
It would be foolish, the defense secretary said, “to embark on that course sooner than we have to.”
Baghdad Radio, meanwhile, claimed that Iraq had shot down 14 more allied aircraft. But military commanders said no jets were lost Friday.
So far the allies have reported 22 planes lost--18 in combat--with 26 persons missing in action, including 13 Americans, 10 Britons, two Italians and one Kuwaiti.
The Pentagon has confirmed 43 Iraqi aircraft lost.
Executions in Iraq?
Whatever Iraqi casualties might be, the independent Soviet news agency Interfax reported that they were too heavy for Hussein--and that he had ordered the execution two or three days ago of the commanders of his Iraqi air force and antiaircraft defense system.
Interfax attributed the information to a high-ranking Soviet Defense Ministry official.
It said that Iraq had 100 Scud missile installations--and had suffered the loss of 26 of them.
The report put Iraq’s aircraft losses at about 300 out of an air force of about 750.
There was no independent confirmation of such losses, but an Interfax editor stood by the report. He said the agency had confirmation of the executions “from several sources,” but he did not identify them.
Because it was Iraq’s largest supplier of weapons before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Soviet Union has had access in the past to information about Iraq that has not been generally available. And it still has a functioning embassy in Baghdad.
Asked about the reported executions, Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Kelly, operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Pentagon that he did not know about them.
But, Kelly added, “He (Hussein) does have a fairly dramatic zero-defect program.”
Bush on Terrorism
At his White House meeting with reporters, Bush said his refusal to change his activities in the face of terrorism should be seen as an example.
“We’re going about our business, and the world goes on,” the President said.
Recalling that he had been asked several days back about whether the Super Bowl football game should be played Sunday, he said: “One, the war is a serious business and the nation is focused on it. But two, life goes on. . . .
“The boys and men and women in the gulf--they want to see this game go on, and they’re going to get great instant replays over there. . . .
“We are not going to screech everything to a halt in terms of our domestic agenda; we’re not going to screech everything to a halt in terms of the recreational activities--and I cite the Super Bowl. And I am not going to screech my life to a halt out of some fear about Saddam Hussein,” Bush said. “And I think that’s a good, clear signal for all Americans to send halfway around the world.”
As for the security concerns of assembling the leadership of the nation--the President, the vice president, the Cabinet, the House of Representatives and the Senate in one place at the same time for his State of the Union speech at the Capitol--Bush said:
“I will have total confidence in the security apparatus in this country.”
Filling the War Chest
As the war ground through the second day of its second week, the exiled government of Kuwait announced that it will contribute $13.5 billion during the first three months of this year to help pay for it.
With Secretary of State James A. Baker III at his side, Sheik Saud Nasir al Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, said in Washington that the Kuwaiti cash represents “a small and insignificant contribution” by comparison to the potential contribution in American blood.
At an estimated $500 million a day, the war is expected to cost the allies just under $45 billion by the end of March.
Coupled with Japan’s pledge of $9 billion, announced Thursday, the Kuwaiti money brings to $22.5 billion the total pledged so far for January, February and March--already enough to cover about half of the cost of the allied military operation.
In Bonn, German officials said their contribution so far had risen from $2.2 billion to $3.5 billion in recent weeks. The increase includes $165 million in immediate humanitarian aid pledged to Israel early this week by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Williams reported from Tel Aviv and Kennedy from Riyadh. Times staff writers James Gerstenzang, Melissa Healy and Norman Kempster in Washington and Tyler Marshall in Bonn contributed to this story.
ISRAEL UNDER FIRE
One person was killed and about 60 injured as Iraq fired seven more Scud missiles into Israel in the fifth such attack in eight days.
The Scuds, armed with conventional warheads, were hit or damaged by the U.S. Patriot defense system, but one made it through to Tel Aviv.