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Israelis Enjoy a Day of Calm After 2 Days of Missile Attacks

January 21, 1991
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After undergoing two harrowing days of missile attacks and air raid alerts, Israelis breathed a bit easier Sunday, and life in some parts of the country returned to a semblance of normality.

Except for a five-minute alert in the morning, which proved to be a false alarm, Sunday turned out to be a relatively uneventful day, the first since the first Iraqi SCUD missile slammed into a poor neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv at about 2:30 a.m. local time Friday.

Israelis have been assessing physical injuries and damage from that and the subsequent attacks. But the traumatic effects may not be known for some time.

Israel Defense Force and civil defense officials stressed that the respite from SCUD attacks did not necessarily mean Saddam Hussein had run out of missiles.

Although many of his fixed and mobile batteries are believed to have been destroyed by U.S. pounding from the air, an undetermined number are “alive” and remain to be found and destroyed, the officials said.

They warned that further attacks were possible and that chemical warfare could not yet be ruled out.

Over the weekend, two salvos totaling about a dozen SCUDs landed in Tel Aviv and Haifa, according to the official account.

Eight of the first salvo exploded early Friday morning, two in the Tel Aviv area, two in Haifa, three in unpopulated rural areas and one in an undetermined location.

Tel Aviv was hit by another three or four SCUDs around 7 a.m. Saturday.

The military censor forbade the broadcast or publication of details that could pinpoint where a missile landed. The censor explained such information could be of help to the Iraqis.


All told, about 30 people were injured in the two attacks, most of them by glass splinters or blast concussions.

Larger numbers were treated for attack-related problems, including shock and hysteria. Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv reported treating 62 patients for missile-related ailments, including hysteria, and heart and respiratory problems.

Among those treated were some new immigrants from the Soviet Union who panicked and prematurely injected themselves with atrophine, an antidote to nerve gas. The drug is for use only after exposure to nerve gas. Otherwise it can produce nasty side-effects. By Sunday, all of those hospitalized had been released.

Israelis were relieved that no one was killed in the missile attacks. But there were related fatalities.

Three elderly women were found dead Friday morning wearing gas masks inside rooms sealed against chemical weapons attack. They are believed to have died of heart attacks.

In the Israeli Arab village of Taiba, a 3-year-old girl was asphyxiated, apparently because she struggled while her parents tried to put on her gas mask.

In addition to the injuries, there was extensive property damage. About 20 buildings were damaged, some of them demolished, and numerous vehicles were damaged or destroyed.

A giant crater, some 26 feet across and 10 feet deep, in the corner of an empty lot in an economically depressed area of southern Tel Aviv was what was left after the first SCUD attack early Friday morning.

Three two-story houses nearby were badly damaged when the missile, with a conventional high-explosive warhead, came down.

Dozens of other houses and scores of cars around the lot, and in streets further away from the impact point, were damaged by the blast. Windows were smashed, doors hung from their hinges and broken glass littered the roadways for up to 320 feet away from the crater.


Civil defense personnel and municipal employees worked Friday to fill the crater hole and cart away rubble from the damaged houses.

Neighbors had plenty of tales to tell to inquisitive journalists who crowded the scene. All agreed that it was “a miracle” nobody had been killed in the blast and that only 12 people sustained slight to medium injuries, mainly from flying glass or the effects of the explosion.

Mazal Levy, standing outside her slightly damaged house, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency when the air raid siren awoke her that she just had time to take her three children into the safety of the gas-sealed room in the middle of the building before the missile landed seconds later.

Her sister-in-law, who lives across a courtyard, also was saved from injury by quickly getting her family into their sealed room. The facade of her house was badly damaged, apparently more from blast suction in the narrow space than the explosion itself.

Both women appeared resigned to their loss. They praised the Almighty for keeping the casualties low.

The surrounding streets were crowded Friday morning with neighbors, sightseers and youngsters collecting missile fragments for mementos.

A municipal truck drove around slowly, ordering people off the streets and into their houses immediately, with the grim addition that “you should have your gas masks ready.”

The citizens obeyed, and the journalists stayed on to interview each other.

The Bezek telephone company asked subscribers to keep their local and overseas calls as short as possible. The sudden surge of phone calls to relatives and friends at home and abroad was taxing the lines, spokespersons said.

Pedestrian and vehicular traffic in Tel Aviv was at a minimum Friday morning as citizens were asked to remain at home unless they had to go outside — with their gas masks — to carry out vital duties or make essential purchases.

By Sunday morning, the situation was much calmer, especially in southern Israel, nearly all rural, which returned almost to normal. Schools remained closed, but citizens did not have to wear their gas masks, though they were instructed to carry them.

North of a line from Ashdod on the coast to Kiryat Gat, regulations were tighter. The public was advised to stay at home, except for brief shopping trips to stock up on necessities.


The stay-at-home orders did not apply to people employed in essential services and manufacturing.

Supermarkets, food shops and designated banks were open and staffed. Those instructed to report to work included laborers at factories producing essential products, bus drivers, hospital personnel, and employees of electricity and water plants, telephone and postal services.

Judges hearing urgent cases held court Sunday.

El Al, Israel’s international airline, and Arkia, its domestic carrier, continued to operate almost on normal schedules. El Al planes arrived full, bringing home thousands of overseas Israelis, non-Israeli volunteers and new immigrants from the Soviet Union.

The immigrants fresh off the planes seemed bewildered to be handed gas masks and instructed to “stay in a gas-sealed room and listen to the radio,” neither of which they yet possessed.

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