YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Missile Hits Tel Aviv; 3 Killed : 70 Injured as a Scud Demolishes Apartment House : Gulf War: Two more men identified as American POWs are displayed on Iraqi TV. Allied aerial sorties pass 10,000 mark.


TEL AVIV — A deadly Iraqi Scud missile slipped through U.S.-manned Patriot interceptor batteries Tuesday and thundered into a densely populated neighborhood of Tel Aviv, killing three residents and injuring 70 others.

It was the third and gravest attack on Israel since the Persian Gulf War began six days ago. The high number of casualties raised anew the question of whether the Jewish state would retaliate--and risk splintering the U.S.-Arab coalition against Iraq.

The Scud missile hit apartments. The three dead were elderly residents who apparently suffered heart attacks. Three of the wounded, including a baby girl, were critically injured. The rest received light to moderate wounds. The warhead carried a conventional explosive, and government spokesmen said there was no trace of poison gas.

A short time earlier, Iraqi forces had fired four Scud missiles into eastern Saudi Arabia. They were aimed at Dhahran, site of a major allied air base. But all were destroyed by Patriot missiles before they reached their targets.

The missile attacks came as allied warplanes streaked over mist and drizzle along the northern Saudi front lines and passed a new mark in air power--10,000 sorties in six days since the war began, surpassing what is often cited as history's greatest concentration of air power: the 6,151 sorties flown against Nazi Germany during six days of 1944.

In the Persian Gulf itself, U.S. Navy planes sank an Iraqi mine-layer and another ship and chased away two other boats. And on the ground, Iraqi tanks shuttled from one hardened concrete bunker to another. Iraqi gunners fired sporadically at allied troops. Allied engineers cleared new roads to the front, in preparation for a bitter ground war.

There were these other developments:

* The Iraqis displayed on television two more men whom they identified as American prisoners of war. They were identified by the Iraqis as U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Scott Tice and Capt. Harry Michael Roberts. The allies expressed concern that they would be sent to join other POWs as human shields at strategic Iraqi facilities.

* The Iraqis torched oil facilities in occupied Kuwait, sending thick, black smoke over the desert and hampering allied pilots. In all, three facilities were burned, military and oil company executives said. The fires brought a rise in world oil prices and fears of ecological damage.

* President Bush's spokesman said the commander in chief would like to receive better damage assessments from his commanders. A Pentagon spokesman conceded that "we don't have a fully accurate picture" of U.S. and allied progress. Bush's spokesman called the President "pensive and fairly preoccupied."

One of Bush's biggest concerns was whether Israel would retaliate against the Iraqis for their latest missile attack on Tel Aviv. Israeli Health Minister Ehud Olmert, a confidant of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, seemed to suggest that such retaliation is only a matter of time.

"It is not whether Israel will react or not," Olmert said, "but when."

Air raid sirens wailed just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday Israel time. Moments later, two explosions were heard in the coastal Tel Aviv region. The pair of booms raised speculation that one Scud was shot out of the air while the other crashed into Tel Aviv.

At least two Patriot antimissile rockets were fired, but it was not immediately clear how many Scuds were heading for Israel and whether the Patriots actually downed any of them. The Scud that hit demolished a two-story apartment building. The missile ripped down walls in two others.

It damaged dozens of neighboring two- and three-story apartment houses.

Residents of the neighborhood said they had time to retreat into plastic-sealed rooms and put on gas masks. "We all huddled in a room. Then, boom, and the windows exploded," said Saguy Goldberg, a 14-year-old who was visiting his grandmother and eight friends and relatives.

Despite the attack, government spokesmen indicated that workers will be asked to go to their jobs today. "Life will go on as normal," pledged Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the chief army spokesman. "We must by all means maintain a regular and normal life."

Whether or not the Patriots knocked down a Scud, Israeli officials warned that they are not a cure-all for missile attacks.

"We appreciate the excellent work of the Patriot crews," said Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "But that only gives part of the answer." Danny Naveh, a spokesman for Defense Minister Moshe Arens, said, "The Patriot improves our defense. But it is not the full answer to removing the threat."

Outbursts of public anger could pressure Shamir's government to order Israel's air force into action. Shamir was scheduled to meet with his Cabinet and top military officers this morning.

Los Angeles Times Articles