Latest Scud Attack on Israel Accepted Matter-of-Factly
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Iraq fired a missile at Israel on Saturday minutes before the U.S. deadline to leave Kuwait, forcing concert-goers to don gas masks but leaving those inside Benny Lehman’s pizzeria unconcerned.
″I put on my gas mask and kept on making pizzas,″ Lehman said at his shop in Tel Aviv.
Sirens warned of an incoming Iraqi missile as time ran out for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to announce an unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait or face a ground invasion by U.S. forces and their allies.
Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the chief Israeli army spokesman, said the missile caused no casualties. He gave no details on where it landed or whether U.S. Patriot missiles were fired to intercept the Iraqi Scud, the 37th directed at Israel since the Gulf War began.
Witnesses said the missile fell in an open area in central Israel, causing a brush fire but no other damage. Israeli military censors do not permit reports on the precise location of the hit.
Two people have been killed and 230 wounded in previous attacks. About 11,000 homes have been damaged, most of them in crowded neighborhoods in the Tel Aviv area.
When the sirens wailed at 6:51 p.m. (11:51 a.m. EST), maestro Zubin Mehta was conducting the Israeli Philharmonic with violinist Isaac Stern at the Jerusalem Theater. The audience, including Defense Minister Moshe Arens, was asked to don gas masks and remain seated.
The orchestra left the stage, but after a few moments Stern returned and played a solo piece to an audience wearing gas masks. When the all-clear was given, the orchestra returned and the concert resumed.
The attack came minutes before the expiration of the U.S. ultimatum to Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait or risk a ground attack.
In the occupied West Bank and in Arab quarters of Jerusalem, scattered Palestinian violence was reported.
The French cultural center in Nablus was set afire shortly after the deadline passed, and in east Jerusalem, several firebombs were thrown at Israeli border police patrols, Israel Television reported. No injuries were reported.
In a Tel Aviv shopping mall, some people ran into a sealed room when the air raid siren wailed. Others didn’t bother to take shelter.
″When we hear the boom of a landing Scud, we’ll know what to do,″ said Lehman at his pizzeria.
Israelis welcomed the continuation of the war, hoping the allies would destroy Iraq’s war capability for many years to come.
Yaacov Shirani, one of Lehman’s few customers, said he was sure ″something was going to happen tonight.″
Asked why he went out without his gas mask, he said, ″We don’t get excited about it any more.″