President Bush dispatched Patriot missiles and military crews to Israel after a second Iraqi rocket attack Saturday as allied warplanes shifted their focus from military installations to the elite troops of Iraq's Republican Guard.
The attack against the Tel Aviv area, the second in as many days, carried conventional warheads mounted on three Scud missiles. At least 10 civilians were reported injured. Israeli officials said the Jewish state could not stand by for long and turn the other cheek.Bush twice telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to express concern, and administration officials expressed optimism the Jewish state would hold off from any immediate reprisals, barring more missile attacks.
Galaxy A-5 transport planes arrived in Israel carrying Patriot missiles capable of shooting down the Scuds. Israeli officials said it was the largest military airlift since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
The Patriots came with U.S. crews to operate the weapons until Israeli anti-aircraft personnel finish their training, marking the first time American troops have been deployed in Israel.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Pete Williams said Saturday the first Patriots in Israel were operational. The move was widely interpreted to keep the Israelis out of the war and thereby preserve the delicate U.S.-Arab alliance.
In a dispatch from Baghdad, AP correspondent Salah Nasrawi said four hours of pre-dawn bombing runs Saturday had further devastated the capital's previously damaged telecommunications center, although some satellite telephone linkups were still available. Electricity and water remained cut off, he said.
The United States said 10 allied airplanes, including six U.S. aircraft, were lost. The Pentagon said at least nine U.S. servicemen were missing in action.
Two servicemen who had been missing Saturday when their F-4G went down over Saudi Arabia were rescued, Pentagon officials said.
Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed after a meeting with Bush that the focus of the U.S.-led air war was being shifted to elite Iraqi troops on the ground.
"There has begun a shift from the first set of targets, from the Baghdad area as well as the air field and air defense complex, and we'll now begin concentrating on the Republican Guard and some of the forces in theater," he told reporters.
But he refused to say whether that meant ground combat was imminent.
Lt. Gen. Tom Kelly, director of operations with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the allies have flown 4,700 sorties so far, with an 80 percent success rate.
Meanwhile in Jordan, wedged between Israel and Iraq, King Hussein hinted Saturday his country might respond if the Jewish state retaliated by sending its air force planes over Jordan to reach Iraqi targets.
"This is a sovereign country and we will defend our territory and air space from incursion from any side," the king said.
U.S. officials also reported that an estimated 40 of Saddam Hussein's soldiers were killed Friday during a pounding of Iraqi artillery positions along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. The enemy posts had been hitting U.S. Marine targets near the northeastern frontier.
Officers of the 1st Marine Division said U.S. attack planes and helicopters hit enemy positions along the Kuwaiti border Friday after being hit with artillery fire. There were no reported U.S. casualties.
In another development, Iraq Saturday ordered 40 reporters to leave the country immediately, a day after Baghdad imposed censorship on their reports.
State-run Baghdad Radio unleashed a vitriolic attack against anti-Iraqi Arab leaders and vowed that Iraqi forces would defeat the "invaders of the 20th century."
The U.S. Consulate in Dhahran offered Saturday to evacuate any American who wishes to leave Saudi Arabia. All commercial flights out of the country were suspended at the beginning of the war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy warned mariners to enter gulf waters at their own risk after floating mines were spotted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the southern part of the waterway.