Iraq on Saturday launched its 11th aerial attack against Israel, lobbing a Scud missile that caused at least 20 injuries and sent Israelis scrambling for gas masks for the first time in nearly a week, officials said.
One missile carrying a conventional warhead was launched from western Iraq at the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv, Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai said over government-controlled radio.Debris from the assault landed well before dawn near the central Israel city.
Reporters who reached a stricken middle-class neighborhood saw broken glass and shutters torn off porch windows. On one street, a row of four or five apartment buildings was heavily damaged, with windows blown out and walls collapsed. The area was in darkness because power lines were damaged.
"The missile hit a road, but the damage to houses around was not small," said Israeli Police Commissioner Yaacov Terner. "There were some collapses. There was a fire in one house."
There was no immediate confirmation whether U.S. Patriot air defense missiles were fired to intercept the Iraqi weapon.
Cheney promises ground war
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney praised U.S. pilots Friday as the "heart and soul" of history's most successful air attack - an attack he wants to make more effective with ground assaults.
Cheney and Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell, who flew to the gulf area for a weekend of strategy talks with top-level U.S. military commanders, told American pilots that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his troops would continue to suffer from air strikes "in the days and weeks ahead."
However, he rejected the idea that the war might be won by extended bombing alone, arguing that ground and amphibious forces will be required to flush Iraqi troops from dug-in defenses in Kuwait.
"It's all one campaign," Cheney told reporters on the overnight trip from Washington. "We're thinking in terms of the situation which clearly would continue the air campaign and add to that other capabilities. . . . You add the amphibious element or the ground forces in the fashion that forces him to move out of his prepared positions, and it's moving out of those positions that makes him vulnerable once again to the air force."
Bush to decide on invasion
Cheney and Powell are to return to Washington Sunday to report to President Bush on the military situation and prospects for unleashing a ground war.
Air Force commanders are expected to ask for at least two more weeks to pound Iraqi positions in Kuwait and southern Iraq before a ground campaign starts, informed sources say.
That time frame would enable at least one key ground unit to ready itself for action. The 3rd Armored Division, which shipped in from Germany, still doesn't have all its tanks and helicopters.
"We're the last division to come into the country, so we just aren't ready yet," said division commander Maj. Gen. Paul Funk, but he added that he's "prepared to go to war with what I've got."
The timing of any ground war will ultimately be decided by Bush. "It could start today; it could start in a month," said Saudi Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, commander of the Joint Arab Forces.
Arabs won't invade Iraq
But Bin Sultan told a briefing in the Saudi capital Riyadh that Arab troops would only go so far on the ground.
"I can assure you it will end in Kuwait," he said.
Air attacks on supplies, tanks
In order to weaken Iraqi troops, allied planes have been concentrating on attacking supply routes to make sure that needed food, ammunition and fuel cannot be moved to front-line troops.
Maj. Gen. Robert Johnston, chief of staff for the U.S. Central Command, estimated that 90 percent of the supply lines had been cut.
"Over one-half of Iraqi bridges on main military supply routes have been destroyed," Group Capt. Niall Irving of the British Royal Air Force told a Riyadh briefing. "Some bridges have alternate routes, but it causes major disruption and the the overall impact has been extraordinarily successful."
"We don't have perfect visibility of every vehicle that goes everywhere, but we see very compelling evidence that we have eroded his ability to supply his troops in the KTO (Kuwaiti theater of operation) very significantly," Johnston said.
Battleship shells Kuwaiti coastline
The USS Wisconsin pounded the Kuwaiti coast with 1,900-pound shells Thursday night to create a diversion for a U.S. Marine reconnaisance team that crept into the occupied country, said Capt. David S. Bill, the ship's skipper.
The Wisconsin dropped some 50 shells, destroying a radar site, a marina and more than 15 boats believed used by Iraqi forces, officers said.
The attack Thursday followed an 11-shell barrage Wednesday evening upon an artillery site along the gulf coast, which produced secondary explosions indicating a successful hit, USS Wisconsin Capt. David S. Bill said.
Bill, in a Pentagon-organized media pool report cleared early Friday by U.S. military censors, said gunners afterward reported little Iraqi activity on shore, due largely to the allied air campaign and more recent shelling by the Wisconsin and the USS Missouri.
Civilian-death claim disputed
The director of the U.N. Children's Fund, James Grant, an American, expressed skepticism about Baghdad's claims that more than 4,000 Iraqi children died because a trade embargo and the air war depleted Iraqi supplies of medicine and infant formula.
Grant, speaking in New York, said a similar number of children would die of such causes in Iraq in normal times.