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2 Die as Scuds Hit Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia : Iraq: Patriots shoot down all but one of seven missiles fired at Israel. The Jewish state holds its fire despite internal pressure to retaliate.

January 27, 1991|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

TEL AVIV — 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 midair, 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.

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.

Kuwait, meanwhile, was being "hit heavily" by round-the-clock air assaults, the allies said. It cited evidence--Iraqi soldiers short on food and ridden with lice--that the bombing has cut off supplies and made conditions grim among the dug-in Iraqis.

But Iraq's military punch kept the allies wary too. The British sent in higher-flying bombers to put their crews farther from deadly Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.

Clear skies allowed the allies to step up their relentless battering of targets across Kuwait and Iraq.

Baghdad's latest military communique claimed that most allied attacks on Iraq were directed at civilian targets. CNN's Peter Arnett, the last foreign correspondent in Baghdad, said the Iraqis took him to a small town where almost two dozen homes were destroyed in what he was told was an air attack. The Iraqis said 24 civilians were killed in the attack, he reported.

The Pentagon later said the town is near a chemical-weapons facility and other strategic sites.

The allied command says it is targeting strictly military and other strategic sites. But officers acknowledge that unintended civilian casualties are inevitable in the wide-scale bombardment of Operation Desert Storm, the 9-day-old U.S.-led offensive to drive Iraq from occupied Kuwait.

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 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.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is trying to draw Israel into the gulf war in hopes of driving some Arab states out of the anti-Iraq alliance and onto Iraq's side in a war against their traditional enemy, the Jewish state.

Baghdad radio Friday night appealed to Arab officers and soldiers to defect. "Do you not feel proud," the radio said, "to see us stand up against all the Arabs' enemies, not scared or frightened? . . . Then why do you not join us?"

It wasn't clear if the often-jammed and static-filled radio, which was monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus, could be heard in the Saudi desert where Syrian and Egyptian troops are camped.

The Bush Administration has pressured Israel to stay out of the war for fear that an Israeli attack on Iraq 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.

Although they acknowledged the value of the Patriots, Israeli military men complained 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."

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