BAGHDAD, Iraq — The war against shipping in the Persian Gulf flared again Tuesday after a monthlong lull that had given rise to hope for a more lasting truce.
Iraq announced that its aircraft scored a direct hit on a "large naval target" near the Iranian coast, the customary Iraqi description for a tanker shuttling oil south from Iran's Kharg Island terminal.
Iraq's last confirmed attack on an Iranian ship in the gulf took place Feb. 9, and the ensuing lull led many observers to believe that Iraq might have abandoned its effort to hinder Iran's oil exports.
A government official in Syria was quoted recently as saying the Damascus government had persuaded Iran to halt its attacks on Arab shipping in the Persian Gulf. But that was at a time when Iraqi aircraft were not flying missions against Iranian ships.
23 Attacks This Year
Iraq has reported 23 attacks this year on Iranian shipping, nine of which have been confirmed by salvage companies in the gulf region. The figure represents a decline in the level of hostilities at the end of 1987.
Since last summer, the United States has maintained a substantial naval force in the gulf, in part to protect 11 Kuwaiti tankers re-registered in the United States.
Iraq also announced Tuesday that it fired more surface-to-surface missiles at three Iranian cities, hitting Tehran, the central city of Esfahan and the shrine city of Qom southeast of Tehran.
Iran retaliated by firing a missile into the northern Iraqi town of Mosul, where Iraqi officials reported a number of civilians killed and wounded.
An Iranian missile hit Baghdad early Tuesday, rousing people from their beds. Heavy artillery shelling of the southern Iraqi city of Basra and surrounding villages was also reported.
The Iranian news agency said that Revolutionary Guards fired the missile at a military target in Baghdad in retaliation for Iraqi attacks "on civilian quarters in Iran and the massacre of innocent children, women and old men."
The so-called war of the cities, which began in 1985, was renewed nine days ago, after a yearlong lull. Since then, Iraq has fired about 40 missiles at Iranian civilian centers, killing more than 300 people, and Iran has launched 20 missiles at Iraqi targets.
'A Grave Mistake'
"The aggressive clique in Iran must understand that its attacks on purely residential areas and the ignition of the war of the cities was a grave mistake that will cost it a higher price," an Iraqi military spokesman said.
In Tehran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, said that remnants of Iraqi missiles found in Tehran indicate that they were Soviet-made Scud-B rockets altered to reduce the weight of the warhead by half in order to double the range.
Rafsanjani appeared to be softening earlier criticism of the Soviet Union for supplying Iraq with the missiles. He said that although the Scud-B is a Soviet weapon, it is available in many countries of the East Bloc.
Last week, angry mobs demonstrated outside the Soviet Embassy in Tehran and the Soviet Consulate in Esfahan to protest the sale of Scud-B missiles to Iraq. Iran has also fired Scud-Bs at Baghdad, but they are believed to have come from Syria and Libya.
Soviets Deny Role
The Soviets have denied supplying the missiles used by Iraq against Tehran. The Iraqis maintain that their missiles are locally produced.
After the Iranian protest, the Soviets urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for an end to the war of the cities.
The resolution, proposed by Soviet Ambassador Alexander M. Belonogov, calls on U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and Security Council President Dragoslav Pejic "in the most energetic terms to exert the influence of their high offices in order to ensure restraint by the belligerents and the immediate cessation of the war of the cities."
U.S. officials expressed bewilderment that the Soviets would make such a proposal at a time when the Reagan Administration is pressing in the United Nations for a total arms embargo against Iran.
The Iranians have refused to accept the Security Council call for a cease-fire issued last July 20. The Iraqis agreed to the truce, on the condition that Iran agree as well.