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Patriots Knock Out Israel-Bound Scud : Missiles: Tuesday's deadly attack on Tel Aviv was nearly deflected, the Israeli military says.

January 23, 1991|From Times Wire Services

Two Patriot defense missiles intercepted an Iraqi Scud missile over northern Israel late today, while two Scuds headed for Saudi Arabia were also knocked out by the U.S. missiles. In Jerusalem, there were no casualties and an army spokesman said only one Scud missile was fired.

Air raid sirens wailed throughout Israel about 10:05 p.m. (12:05 p.m. PST). An all-clear sounded 25 minutes later.

Earlier today, an Israeli military commander said a Patriot missile hit an incoming Iraqi Scud rocket over Tel Aviv on Tuesday night but failed to prevent its warhead from striking and causing scores of casualties.

As Israelis demanded that their country retaliate in the wake of the most serious Iraqi attack yet on Israel, key members of Israel's Cabinet met today to consider the situation but made no statement.

An earlier army report said two Patriots had missed the Iraqi Scud fired Tuesday night. But Brig. Gen. Uri Ram, commander of Israel's air defenses, said today that the Patriot batteries rushed to Israel last weekend fired two missiles at the incoming Scud and that one scored a hit.

"For reasons that we still don't know, the target wasn't destroyed completely, and the warhead came down in the Ramat Gan area (of Tel Aviv). . . . The reason is under investigation," Ram told reporters in a tour of a joint U.S.-Israel Patriot battery in the Tel Aviv area.

Asked how the warhead could have reached Tel Aviv, Ram said it is possible that the Patriot "just knocked the Scud around a bit but did not destroy it."

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called today's Cabinet meeting to discuss the most serious of the three Iraqi missile attacks on Israel since the Persian Gulf War began a week ago. Shamir also met today with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, and later spoke by telephone with President Bush, Israel radio said. It gave no details of the conversation.

The army said that three elderly people died of heart attacks as a result of the Iraqi attack Tuesday night and that 70 people were injured.

Israel now has suffered more than 100 casualties in three Iraqi barrages, and pressure on the government to retaliate against Iraq has increased. The United States wants Israel to stay out of the war to avoid upsetting Arab members of the anti-Iraq coalition.

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