TEHRAN — Iran vowed Saturday to attack all Iraqi cities except religious centers in retaliation for strikes on civilian areas that it said had killed 500 people in two days.
"The combatants of Islam will begin in a few hours their retaliatory action in order to make the rulers of Baghdad regret their new adventurism," a statement by the Iranian military command carried by the official news agency said.
"All Iraqi cities--except the four holy cities of Karbala, An Najaf, Kazemein and Samarra--will be attacked in retaliation for Iraqi atrocities."
A few hours later, Iranian forces shelled the southern Iraqi port of Basra, the country's second-largest city, for the fifth day.
It was the bloodiest exchange aimed at civilian areas since June, 1984, when both sides agreed to spare civilians. That U.N.-mediated accord broke down Tuesday.
On Saturday, Iran said, Iraqi missiles were fired into the southern city of Dezful and rockets hit the central city of Khorrambad, killing 165. On Friday, according to Tehran radio, 150 were killed in the northern city of Piranshar, 48 in the border town of Sar Pol-e Zahab, 42 in Susangerd and 100 in Khorrambad. A total of 1,200 people were injured in these attacks, Iran added.
The Iraqis did not confirm the new attacks, but a military spokesman in Baghdad had warned Friday that "Iran's shelling of Basra will not pass without punishment."
Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, called Saturday for the continuation of the war and said Iran will deliver a final blow against its enemy.
Referring to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Khomeini said, "The powerful armed forces of Iran have given Saddam such a slap on his black face that he has lost his head and resorted to all sorts of crimes. God willing, he will receive the final slap at the appropriate moment. . . ."
In Kuwait, Crown Prince Saad al Abdullah al Sabah pledged to redouble efforts with other Persian Gulf Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council to end the war.