U.S. warplanes struck at Iraqi missile launchers Friday, acting in the stead of an Israeli government that was still considering vengeance for the attack that rained rockets on Tel Aviv and Haifa.
A meeting of top Israeli officials adjourned without a decision on how to proceed in response to the night attack. Foreign Minister David Levy said that Israel was still deliberating its response."But Israel maintains the right to react, in the scope, the means and the time it finds necessary. That's the elementary right of every state."
The Bush administration had assured Israel that it could be relied upon to eliminate the threat - without an Israeli intervention that threatened to splinter the anti-Iraq alliance or widen the war.
As Operation Desert Storm thundered into its second full day Friday, waves of U.S. warplanes took to the skies before dawn. However, two squadrons of F-16A fighter-bombers returned to the largest U.S. air base in Saudi Arabia Friday morning without having dropped any bombs.
"The weather was bad in the target area so they were not able to expend" their bombs, said Lt. Col. Tom Webster, maintenance officer for the 138th Air National Guard Tactical Fighter Squadron from Syracuse, N.Y.
But the commander of U.S. forces stationed in the gulf, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, said other air attacks were successful. He said that allied planes were now attacking Iraq and occupied Kuwait at a rate of 2,000 missions a day.
At a briefing in Saudi Arabia, he said U.S. planes located 11 mobile missile launchers during Friday's raids, destroying at least half a dozen of them, including some aimed at Saudi Arabia.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Information Minister Latif Nassif al-Jassem told journalists that Iraq has captured some U.S. pilots and said the men would be shown to journalists, CNN reported Friday. Before war erupted Thursday, Iraq vowed to tear apart captured U.S. airmen.
Elsewhere, a dozen French fighters hit an Iraqi munitions depot in Kuwait Friday, French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said.
Iraq confirmed Friday it had hit Israel before dawn, claiming its missiles targeted "political, economic and scientific targets."
"Let the United States hear the wailing of its daughter implanted in the heart of the Arab homeland," said Iraqi radio, referring to Israel.
No one was reported killed by the missile strikes on residential neighborhoods of Haifa and Tel Aviv, but officials said a 3-year-old Arab girl suffocated in a gas mask, and Israel radio reported at least four elderly people died of heart attacks or suffocation while wearing gas masks.
The missiles were not armed with chemical warheads, but during the attack, Israelis were told to don gas masks. A dozen people suffered injuries, described as minor, during the attack.
If Israel entered the Persian Gulf war, U.S. officials worry it would splinter the anti-Iraq coalition and widen the conflict. But Israel's army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, said Israel must hit back.
An attack on Israeli civilians "is very serious. As we have said in the past and repeated it, and all the leaders of Israel have said it, such a case obliges a response," he said.
Jordan, fearing Israeli retaliation against Iraq, went on its highest alert since the 1967 war, a senior Jordanian military official said Friday. Jordan, which lies between Israel and Iraq, has said it would defend its airspace against Israeli planes.
Saudi Arabian media made no mention of the attack - an indication of the sensitive nature of any suggestion that Israel and the Arab states were together in the fight against Iraq.
The Iraqis were claiming they inflicted huge casualties on the allies. An Iraqi military communique read over Baghdad radio Friday claimed 72 allied planes have been shot down so far, but the allied count is seven.
The Pentagon said that two U.S. planes and their four crewmen were missing, bringing U.S. losses to three aircraft. It said the two planes - a Navy A-6 Intruder and an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle - had disappeared Thursday.
Italy's air force said a Tornado fighter-bomber was missing after taking part in an allied mission against Iraq. It said there was no word on the two crewmen.
On the first day of air strikes, a Kuwaiti plane and two British planes were lost.
After the Iraqi strike against Israel, Secretary of State James A. Baker III quickly phoned the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, partners in the U.S.-led coalition.
Baker also telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and the White House said he "assured the prime minister that the United States is continuing its efforts to eliminate this threat."
Iraq also fired a single Scud missile toward allied forces in Saudi Arabia Friday, the U.S. military said, but the missile was intercepted and destroyed by a Patriot missile, the first fired in combat.
In Turkey, U.S warplanes took off from the Incirlik air base, but the foreign ministry said they were merely on a night training mission. Use of air bases in Turkey for U.S. attacks on Iraq had been authorized a day earlier by the Turkish parliament.
Allied ground forces in Saudi Arabia were moving into final positions to be ready for immediate deployment when the joint command decides Iraqi resistance has been softened enough by the air strikes, pool reporters said Friday. American B-52s have pounded Iraqi troop placements.
The pool reporters, whose dispatches are reviewed by the U.S. military, also said the 1st Marine Division came close to ground combat Thursday near the abandoned town of Khafji just inside of the Kuwait border. U.S. Cobra gunship helicopters and combat support fighters strafed Iraqi artillery positions after shells ignited oil refinery tanks.
Later, sporadic shelling wounded several Marines and paramedical corpsmen who were evacuated by helicopter to the rear. Officers described their injuries as slight, the pool report said.