Scud attack ends Israel's anxious week WAR IN THE GULF

February 10, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

TEL AVIV -- The Scud attack yesterday morning ended what had been an unsettling and foreboding week for Israel.

Even as cautious officials reopened kindergartens and movie theaters in Tel Aviv, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir talked with surprising confidence about a nearing end to the war, there were fresh signs of trouble for the Jewish state.

The Scud missile warhead that ripped into a residential neighborhood of Tel Aviv at 2:40 a.m. yesterday affirmed the Army's repeated warnings that Iraq's weakened reach could still harm.

The missile's toll of injuries rose to 26 yesterday. Ever-curious Israelis gawking at the damage to more than 150 apartments marveled once again that no one was killed.

"There is no basis for worry that the danger has increased," Mr. Shamir said in an interview on Israeli radio. "The danger did not increase during the night or [will] during the coming days. The opposite -- the danger is waning."

More worrisome than the dwindling missile threat -- this was the first to injure in two weeks -- were problems on Israel's borders.

Jordan's tighter embrace of Iraq stabbed at the heart of Israel's long-term security plans, which count on a neutral Jordan as a buffer between Israel and its more hostile neighbors.

Indicating how gravely they view the threat, Israel's leaders were unusually cautious and circumspect in reacting to the emotional pro-Iraqi speech that Jordan's King Hussein delivered Wednesday, and to an attack by infiltrators from the Jordan border Friday morning.

That attack, in which four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded and three terrorists were killed, was similar to ones on the Lebanon border that routinely draw bellicose threats and military retaliation from Israel.

But Defense Minister Moshe Arens offered only a mild observation that Jordan was trying to curb such incursions, which are "a cause of concern for us."

Israel is trying not to further aggravate King Hussein's drift zTC toward Iraq. But as an apparent precaution, a stream of Israeli troops and equipment rumbled toward the Jordanian border through old Biblical villages like Jericho at week's end.

Those villages remained under curfew for the third week, though Israel is being forced by economic realities to ease some of the restrictions. Even Israeli authorities were conceding last week that the economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are devastated by the house arrest of 1.7 million people and every wage-earner in the Palestinian territories.

United Nations agencies are trying to organize a massive distribution of 47,000 tons of food this week to all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the first time such an extensive relief effort has been needed.

Israeli authorities say they welcomed the food donation, most of which will come from the European Community, though they deny there is hunger. UN officials complain they have not received enough curfew passes to organize the food effort.

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