Allied warplanes blasted an Iraqi convoy in central Kuwait overnight and demolished a government ministry in Baghdad Tuesday that is led by Saddam Hussein's cousin.

American pilots on "Scud patrol" said they destroyed up to four Iraqi missile launchers in western Iraq, U.S. officials said Tuesday. Nevertheless, Israel was hit with one missile early Tuesday launched from that region.In an unusual step, Iraq also disclosed nearly 100 air raids on military targets in southern Iraq and Kuwait. Normally, such attacks are not mentioned in the daily military communiques read on Baghdad radio.

Four explosions rocked the center of Baghdad during the night, jolting people from their beds and shattering windows in residential areas, AP correspondent Salah Nasrawi reported from the Iraqi capital.

Rockets from allied aircraft ripped through the ministry building, which is in charge of governing Kuwait, killing six people, including one child, and wounding 17 people, Iraqi civil defense officials said. Reporters taken to the site six hours later saw flames rising from the wreckage.

The Local Government Ministry is headed by Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin and close aide to Saddam. Al-Majid did not appear to be in the complex.

The Baghdad government said that civilian targets including a maternity hospital and nursery were hit in the latest round of allied raids.

Peace activist Ramsey Clark, a former attorney general who visited Iraq last week, says allied bombs have killed an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Iraqi civilians. He told a New York news conference Monday that his figures came from the head of Iraq's Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross.

Iraq has said thousands of civilians have been killed. Allied commanders have provided no casualty estimates.

U.S. aircraft inflicted heavy damage on the Iraqi convoy of 25 to 50 vehicles it blasted overnight in central Kuwait, American military officials in Riyadh said on condition of anonymity. They also said an Iraqi helicopter was shot down overnight near Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Allied bombing missions have been zeroing in on Iraqi ground forces and their supply routes, and the hardships of war are apparently driving more and more seasoned Iraqi troops to desert.

Tuesday, eight Iraqi soldiers from the same unit surrendered to an Egyptian armored division after crossing the border from Kuwait - and braving a journey through their own minefields.

"Fighting, fighting, fighting, and for what? Nothing," said one.

Meanwhile, Soviet envoy Yev-geny Primakov, was to meet with Saddam in Baghdad on Tuesday about a Kremlin initiative to end the war.

The four mobile Scud missile launchers believed destroyedwere hit by U.S. pilots overnight in western Iraq, U.S. officials said. The pilots reported seeing what appeared to be one Scud blowing up as it was being launched.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir hinted Tuesday the Jewish state might not hold its fire indefinitely in the face of Iraqi missile attacks.

But he said Israel was mindful of the interests of the United States - which has discouraged Israeli involvement in the gulf war because it could alienate Arab nations in the allied coalition.

An urban neighborhood in Israel was hit by a Scud early Tuesday, and Israel's army reported six injuries. Another Scud aimed at Israel hit an uninhabited area Monday night, the authorities said. For security reasons, the Israelis refuse to specify where missiles hit.

U.S.-supplied Patriot missiles destroyed an incoming Scud near the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Monday night, but falling debris injured two people.

With clear weather as an ally, the coalition's stepped-up air war caused a skyborne traffic jam on Monday. "It's like a freeway," one U.S. officer said as U.S. pilots all but competed for targets.

Tuesday, low clouds hung over northern Saudi Arabia, but bomb-laden Saudi Tornado air-to-ground-fighters took off into the hazy skies, heading north to Iraq and occupied Kuwait. France said its Jaguar fighters hit two Iraqi artillery positions in southern Kuwait on Tuesday. Italian Tornado fighters also flew another mission against Iraq.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iraq's Republican Guard and the strategic southern city of Basra remained key targets.

Saddam met with his inner circle Tuesday for a second time since Sunday. Iraqi radio did not say what was discussed.

Iraq's parliament speaker, Saadi Mehdi Saleh, said Tuesday that Iraq "had managed to maintain its lethal developed weapons" despite the allied bombardment. He also urged allied forces to pull out of Saudi Arabia.

The pace of allied ground preparations for an expected ground assault on Kuwait and southern Iraq quickened Tuesday.

Marines and Army forces already stationed in northern Saudi Arabia broke camp and headed to the northernmost desert frontier. C-130 transport planes shuttled from rear bases for new airstrips near the border, and roads from Saudi Arabia's gulf ports were clogged with supply trucks.

The foward troops traveled light, shedding comforts like cots and tents.

"The closer you get, the leaner you get," said Chief Warrant Officer Charles Rowe. "When you move your combat power, you do it with the minimum of equipment."