Missile hits Tel Aviv 3 die KUWAITI OIL FIELDS ABLAZE

2 MORE POWs HELD Patriot defenses fail to intercept Scud from Iraq WAR IN THE GULF

January 23, 1991|By Paul West | Paul West,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON CHARLES W. CORDDRY AND ROMAN S. PONOS OF THE SUN'S WASHINGTON BUREAU CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — WASHINGTON -- As the U.S.-led air offensive intensified yesterday, Iraq delivered its most lethal Scud missile attack of the war against Israel.

Three people died of heart attacks and at least 98 were injured when an Iraqi rocket eluded U.S. anti-missile defenses last night and struck a residential neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city, authorities said.

The Israeli Cabinet was to meet today to consider a response, but there was no indication that a retaliatory strike was imminent.

Unconfirmed reports said the Patriot missiles fired at the incoming rockets were from the less-advanced batteries sold earlier to Israel, not the state-of-the-art systems provided over the weekend. Both sets of missiles are manned by U.S. crews.

Earlier, Iraq set oil fields ablaze in occupied Kuwait and in an adjoining neutral zone shared with Saudi Arabia. Storage tanks at two of Kuwait's three oil refineries were flaming, along with several oil wells, officials said.

Heavy smoke from the fires, which could burn indefinitely, could impede allied operations against Iraqi ground forces in Kuwait, a U.S. spokesman said.

No new casualty figures were released yesterday, but two additional U.S. fliers were shown by Iraqi television, bringing the total of Americans confirmed to be captured to five.

The U.S. government, which has protested what it calls Iraq's failure to abide by international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, lists 13 Americans missing in action.

Iraqi civilian casualties total 41 dead and 191 wounded, according to the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. At least 23 Iraqis have been taken prisoner by coalition forces.

There was conflicting information yesterday on how many U.S. aircraft had been shot down in the first week of the war. Pentagon officials, who acknowledge that they plan to delay announcements of downed aircraft until rescue operations have been exhausted, list the total at nine. But a report filed Monday by a combat correspondent with the Red Sea battle group put the number of planes lost at 16.

At least 16 allied planes have been lost in combat, including at least four British Tornado jets, whose dangerous, low-flying mission to destroy Iraqi airfields has left them vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. U.S. officials say 19 Iraqi aircraft have been destroyed.

Military officials continued to keep extraordinarily tight control on information. At a U.S. Central Command headquarters news briefing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Lt. Col. Greg Pepin refused even to describe weather conditions over the battle zone for the day just ended.

In Washington, Pentagon officials, under mounting pressure to release more facts about the bombing, announced that a detailed report would be made public today, the one-week mark in the round-the-clock aerial campaign.

After several days of heavy clouds and ground fog, skies cleared at least briefly over much of Iraq, in particular the western desert, which was the launch site for the latest Scud attack on Israel.

At least 10 Scuds were fired into Saudi Arabia yesterday. All were intercepted by Patriot anti-missile batteries or fell harmlessly into the desert or the sea, according to military officials.

The first firing of a Patriot missile near the NATO base at Incirlik, Turkey, turned out to be a false alarm. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Syria was allowing U.S. jets to cross its territory on missions from the base to targets in western Iraq, Newsday reported, confirming an earlier Turkish newspaper account.

Heavy attacks by B-52 bombers continued in southern Iraq and Kuwait, where most of Iraq's 550,000-plus troops are dug in.

The southern Iraqi town of Basra, a vital link on the supply line to Kuwait, was again attacked, as was Baghdad. Officials said an Iraqi minesweeper was bombed by Navy aircraft and might be sinking in the northern gulf. The T-43-class vessel is capable of laying 20 mines at a time, they said.

Baghdad radio, in a fresh appeal for support from the Islamic world, said that U.S. planes had bombed Najaf and Karbala, holy sites to Shiite Muslims. The radio broadcast also vowed "suicide operations" against the allied invaders.

Iraqi air forces continued to avoid air combat with allied aircraft, which have yet to lose a plane in dogfights with the Iraqis, U.S. officials said. But they confirmed that Iraq had managed to put some of its airfields back into operation by repairing runways damaged in the first wave of the allied campaign.

At a Pentagon briefing, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Kelly took issue with those who suggest that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might be holding back his forces for an expected ground campaign against allied troops.

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