Arrival of U.S. anti-missile Patriots calms Israelis WAR IN THE GULF

January 21, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent Mark Matthews of The Sun's Washington Bureau contributed to this article.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israel's restraint in the face of two Iraqi attacks was bolstered by some welcome sleep and two U.S. anti-missile Patriot batteries set up yesterday.

The country's residents spent a second night in their beds undisturbed by missiles. As of this morning, no missiles had fallen in the night.

[In Washington, a U.S. military official with access to Pentagon intelligence information told the Associated Press that Israeli authorities had recovered an unexploded warhead from one of the missiles launched against Israel last week.

[The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Israeli government planned to show it publicly soon. Israeli officials would not comment on the report.]

Some of the fever to retaliate for the Iraqi missile attacks on Tel Aviv cooled with the arrival of the Patriot systems over the weekend.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger called on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir yesterday to make sure the fever was down.

Israeli officials, including the prime minister, publicly denied there was a deal to refrain from attacking Iraq in exchange for the Patriot systems. But after his meeting with Mr. Eagleburger, Mr. Shamir struck a moderate tone.

Insisting that Israel had not given up its right to defend itself, he said: "Fighting doesn't mean that it has to be done without wisdom, without discretion and without assessing the conditions under which we are working. The enemy is not standing at our borders. Between us and the enemy stands the American Army."

His caution was sharply different from the harsh vows of reprisal made by members of his government after the second Iraqi attack Saturday morning.

There were no missiles Saturday night. Residents who had spent the previous two nights yanking on gas masks and running into sealed rooms at the frequent wail of air raid sirens were thankful for the rest.

Although the Israeli civil defense continued to warn citizens to remain in their homes, many shops and cafes in Tel Aviv opened briefly during the day. Residents poured out of their homes for some shopping or a change of scenery.

"I've been cooped up in my house for three days. I'm going crazy," said Celila Gershin, strolling on Tel Aviv's main boulevard, Dizengoff Street.

"The kids are pretty terrified," said a man walking with his 8-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. Both youngsters looked nervous. "We needed to breathe the air, to go see people walking around and see that people are alive.

"It's the first time in our lives that we have been a target," he said.

Civil Defense authorities told residents of southern Israel, which is out of Iraqi missile range, to return to work. Officials wondered aloud how long the country's economy could afford the shutdown of business necessitated by the Iraqi threat.

"We have to live normal, everyday life so that our enemies don't think that they are weakening us by their attacks," Mr. Shamir said. But schools and non-vital employment remained closed in most of the country today.

"Normal" for Tel Aviv now includes the ever-present gas masks. Many people carry them wherever they go: slung over their shoulder, dangling from belts, or tucked back in their cardboard box, which comes with a handy shoulder strap.

It also includes war-scene sightseeing. The craters of the missiles that landed on Tel Aviv are popular spots for gawkers. The added attraction yesterday was the site of one of the newly arrived Patriot batteries. Although Army censors prohibited publication of the location of the Patriots, people soon found them. A traffic officer had to be posted to shoo away crowds from the supposedly secret site.

"It's not a foolproof, magic solution," a senior Israeli Army officer said yesterday. "But it's an improvement."

The U.S. technicians operating the batteries will train Israelis and eventually turn the weapons over to them. This apparently is the first time U.S. military personnel have been sent to Israel for service. That rankles some here, prideful of Israel's military independence.

But commentators here note that Mr. Shamir is reaping many chits of gratitude from the United States, Britain and other nations. They are anxious that Israel not make a military move that could alienate the Arab partners of the multinational force.

Mr. Eagleburger's quick visit confirmed the special attention now being given by Washington to Israel, and the new harmony in a relationship that had become estranged over Israel's behavior on the Palestinian issue.

A spokesman for Mr. Shamir noted with satisfaction that the second visit in nine days by Mr. Eagleburger demonstrated the "very friendly ties" between the two countries.

The Israeli government is finessing the problem of domestic demands for a military reply to Iraq's missiles by implying that it may come later.

Officials also are denying there was a promise of restraint in exchange for the Patriots. Reports quoting sources here and in the United States said such an understanding had been reached.

"There was no deal," insisted a spokesman for Defense Minister Moshe Arens. Israel "has not given any such assurance," said the defense minister.

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