CIVILIAN CASUALTIES AND DAMAGE: ISRAEL
According to the Israeli government, there were 18 separate Iraqi missile attacks1 over a 39-day period during Operation Desert Storm, resulting in ground strikes in Israel and the occupied West Bank by 39 missiles.2 In addition, "one or two" missiles reportedly landed in the sea. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told Middle East Watch that "many" of the Iraqi-modified Scud missiles were so poorly constructed that they broke up on re-entry into the atmosphere, resulting in several different "hits."3 This multiplicity of impacts on the ground from a single missile complicates the problem of identifying the causes of damage.
The official Israeli statistics should be treated with caution. Israel-based journalists told MEW that the numbers provided by the authorities changed during the course of the war for no discernible reason. Running totals issued by different bodies -- the IDF, the Government Press Office (GPO) and the government-run Press Communications Center (PCC) set up during the war -- were often at variance with one another, and still cannot be fully reconciled.
This chapter presents a partial view -- not a comprehensive accounting -- of civilian casualties and damage in Israel from Iraq's missile attacks. The information was compiled from various official and unofficial sources, and from eyewitness accounts obtained by Middle East Watch during a fact-finding mission to Israel in June. Middle East Watch's reconstruction and analysis of the Iraqi attacks is based in part on a log kept during the war by a television crew in Israel.
* * *
According to the final official account, 13 Israelis were killed by the Iraqi attacks: one directly by a missile and another 12 from indirect causes, including heart attacks. However, these figures are also contradicted. On February 3, at the height of the conflict, Maj. Gen. Ehud Barak, then IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, spoke of two deaths directly attributable to missiles and 12 indirect deaths, making a total of 14. Other official sources spoke, at different times, of three or even four direct fatalities. Of the 18 attacks listed by official Israeli sources, 12 caused no casualties.
Estimates of injuries varied widely, even among official sources. Three attacks were said to have caused a substantial number of injuries: up to 96 were injured in the attack at 8:37 pm on January 22; up to 67 were injured in an attack at 6:02 pm on January 25; and another 27 or so were injured in an early morning attack on February 9. By MEW's calculation, the total number of injured civilians ranged from a minimum of 165 to a maximum of 334.
Of the 18 Iraqi attacks, official Israeli sources reported that nine caused no property damage. The other nine attacks, however, were reported to have caused substantial destruction. In Tel Aviv alone, according to the Hebrew daily newspaper Maariv, over 3,805 apartments were damaged, including 793 that were badly damaged.4 Maariv also reported that in the city worst hit in the Dan region -- thought to be Ramat Gan -- 1,162 buildings were damaged, including over 3,700 apartments. Some 28 buildings were totally destroyed, including 118apartments, and some 701 apartments in 129 buildings were in need of extensive renovation due to damage.
Col. Raanan Gissin, an IDF spokesman, told MEW that the figure of 39 ground strikes did not include damage caused by Patriots which either misfired or broke up and exploded on the ground after striking incoming missiles.5 He acknowledged that Patriots had been responsible for some damage in the Tel Aviv area, but would not go into details, other than to point out that the weight of the Patriots was only a fraction of that of the Iraqi missiles6 and therefore bore less responsibility for the damage on the ground.
However, not all the damage caused by the Patriots followed mid-air collisions with the Iraqi missiles. On January 25, an ABC television reporter in Tel Aviv witnessed through video playback at least one Patriot rise into the sky from a battery located on open ground by the Yarkon River, between Tel Aviv proper and the northern suburb of Ramat Aviv, fly horizontally, below the level of taller office buildings, and then hit the ground again, exploding on impact.7
The Patriots have a built-in, self-destruct device. But the device apparently failed on at least this one occasion on January 25, raising the issue of the advisability of locating the air defense system so close to a major population center. The direction, and angle, of attack, togetherwith the Patriot's short range,8 meant that interceptions were inevitably often going to take place over heavily built-up Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak and Givatayim -- due east of Tel Aviv -- with likely consequences in terms of civilian damage and casualties. Ironically, one possible conclusion of the evidence gathered is that there would have been less damage on the ground if the Patriots had not been deployed (see Chapter Seven for additional information on this subject).
It can also be argued that, by engaging incoming missiles suspected of carrying chemical warheads over densely populated areas, at an altitude that would generate the maximum dispersal of any chemical or biological agent, the U.S. and Israeli forces used the Patriots at great potential risk to the civilian population. On the other hand, there was no relaxation during the war of government warnings to Israeli citizens to act as if every attack involved a chemical weapon.
The purpose of MEW's fact-finding in Israel was to
document the damage caused by the Iraqi missile attacks and determine the
extent to which this damage was the product of Iraqi violations of the
rules of war.
Private sources included dozens of Israeli citizens -- residents of affected areas and others, such as journalists, who gathered information about the missile attacks as they occurred but have not been at liberty to speak publicly. For obvious reasons, Middle East Watch has chosen to respect their confidentiality.
During MEW's visit to Israel, four months after the end of the war, the disclosure of any information about the missile attacks -- the precise location of impacts, whether military targets were in the vicinity, the amount of damage caused, and whether the Iraqi missiles were intercepted by the Patriot anti-missile system -- remained subject to Israeli military censorship. This constraint inevitably curbed the scope for independent on-the-ground research and complicated the task of reaching firm, reliable conclusions. It made Israeli citizens reluctant to speak in detail to a foreigner about damage in their neighborhoods, and it made the hunt for those missile impact sites about which least was disclosed during the war near impossible.
In the Tel Aviv area, a map of known impact sites was compiled from various sources. Some of these were evidently where entire missiles had landed. Others were caused by falling debris, including warheads, from missiles which had been partially destroyed. Complicating still further the task of assessing Iraq's responsibility was the fact that in some cases Patriot defensive missiles also fell to the ground. These often caused considerable damage, and casualties, but no Israeli official has been willing to admit as much, either at the time or subsequently. With the lapse of time, it was thus very difficult for Middle East Watch to make a precise distinction in each case between damage directly caused by Iraq's missiles and that caused by the Patriots. All the sites examined had been largely cleared up at the time of MEW's visit in June.
Five impact sites in various parts of Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and the northern suburban districts of Ramat HaSharon and Tel Hashomer were selected to be visited. Bystanders, local residents and, where appropriate, shopkeepers and other workers were interviewed. It was explained to them why Middle East Watch was conducting this research. Most interviewees were cooperative, volunteering information about such matters as the extent of warning they had received from air raid sirens, how much damage had been caused and whether there had been any casualties. However, it should be emphasized that the sampling was notscientific and the picture obtained from these eyewitnesses was not necessarily complete. Some respondents were suspicious about the inquiries, preferring not to talk to a foreign human rights worker without official permission.
Interviewees were usually asked whether there were any military installations in the vicinity that could have been a possible target for the missile. Most said they did not know of any. Further information was obtained by driving around the area and by talking to foreign and Israeli journalists. Several interviewees pointed to the Kirya, the sprawling Defense Ministry complex which covers more than a square kilometer in the heart of Tel Aviv, as a likely target, but few doubted that the attacks were anything other than indiscriminate, intended to instill panic into civilians.
The First Attack: Early Morning Hours of January
· tel aviv attacks: civilian damage and possible military targets: According to information collected by MEW, at least four of the six missiles launched at Tel Aviv and its vicinity struck relatively densely populated districts: Ezra, in southeast Tel Aviv; Givatayim, a municipality east of Tel Aviv; Tel Baruch, in north Tel Aviv; and Azor/Shikun Hadash, an industrial municipality south of Tel Aviv.
The fifth missile landed in a small suburban shopping mall, near both the Country Club and a major intelligence headquarters, under a kilometer away, within the Iraqi missile's estimated "circular error probable" of 1,000 meters. The explosion caused moderate damage, but no casualties. Enclosed within a large area of open ground covering several square kilometers, this secret and highly sensitive facility is located between the affluent municipalities of Herzliya-Pituach on the coast, and Ramat HaSharon, further inland.
Middle East Watch visited Ezra, a district in southeast Tel Aviv where one of the missiles landed. Bordered on two sides by the Ayalon Highway, an urban section of the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem highway, and the old main road to Lod, Ezra is located in the southern fringe of Tel Aviv. It is one of the poorest districts in the city, with much illegal, unregistered construction. A district of cheaply built, one and two-story houses with a few small groceries and a bakery, the poor quality of workmanship undoubtedly contributed to the scale of the destruction. Ethnically, the district is made up of Iraqi, Yemeni and Iranian immigrants.
According to Zahava, the 28-year-old headmistress of a local elementary school, the Amiel Rambam School, about 150 meters from the impact site, the missile made a direct hit on the house of an old lady. She was standing at the door of her house to see what was going on, a few seconds after the alarm was sounded. The blast pushed her outside and saved her life, while destroying her house entirely. The exact location has now been cleared of the worst damaged buildings, leaving an open space of about 1000 square meters.
Zahava herself lived two narrow streets away -- she estimates that she was less than 100 meters from the impact site -- and her house was severely damaged. She, and over a hundred others from the district, were temporarily relocated to 12 small hotels. While those whose damage was limited to broken windows and shutters have returned, at the time of MEW's visit in early June many remained in hotels, awaiting the completion of new government-built housing already going up nearby. In the midst of the rubble, reconstruction and new one-story row houses stand scores of freight containers. Each holds the personal contents of one destroyed house.
Considering that "over 100 houses were completely or partially destroyed," according to Zahava, the small number of casualties was remarkable. Both she and another older lady in her fifties, who would not give her name, said most injuries were cuts and bruises caused by the blast, particularly from flying glass. Only eight people were taken to the hospital. The older lady's house was about 300 meters from the impact site. Her windows were blown in.
Asked whether there were any conceivable military targets in the area, Zahava laughed and shook her head. "He made a mistake," she said, referring to Saddam Hussein. On being pressed, she noted that the Defense Ministry complex known as the Kirya was not far away in a straight line (about 1.6 km), but she could not come up with any possible target in the immediate vicinity. The south Tel Aviv railway station is barely 700 meters away on the outskirts of the city, but it is little used and there are no indications that this was the intended target of the missile.
A bakery stands on the edge of the empty lot created by the demolished and destroyed houses. Israel Wenger, an employee in his late60's, was working in the building at the time of the explosion at 2 am. "There was just a second's warning," he said, "then the blast." The flimsy, corrugated iron roof of the bakery flew off, but there was no permanent damage to the equipment or building. He told MEW he was knocked to the ground, but unhurt.
An Iraqi military communique issued by the Armed Forces General Command about the attack used rhetoric that was to characterize Iraq's descriptions of subsequent attacks:
After relying on the all-powerful and almighty God, our struggling missile forces pounded political, economic, and scientific targets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and elsewhere in Israel. Let the United States hear the wailing of its daughter implanted in the heart of the Arab Homeland.13
The Second Attack: January
Civilian property damage was extensive, with a total of approximately 1,400 buildings listed as damaged. A community culturaland sports center was also damaged in the poor Tikva district of south Tel Aviv.
Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the IDF spokesman, said on January 19 that "a number of surface-to-surface missiles fell in the Greater Tel Aviv area (Dan Region) and other parts of central Israel." These terms are quite general, in contrast to later descriptions by the Government Press Office, which are much more specific.
MEW collected information about three missile strikes within Tel Aviv proper at this date and time: in Yarkon Park, opposite the Exhibition Grounds in north Tel Aviv; in Hatikva, in south Tel Aviv; and on Allenby Street, in central Tel Aviv. However, Maariv spoke of a total of five missiles. It is therefore reasonable to infer that there were at least two other strikes outside the city itself, as implied by Gen. Shai, although there is a possibility that one or more missiles may have broken up in the final approach, with the parts landing in widely different locations.
One of the locations outside Tel Aviv hit at this time may have been a restaurant by a gas station in Rishon Le Zion, an upper-middle-class town southwest of Tel Aviv. Col. Gissin, an IDF spokesman, told MEW that a missile had struck this particular site, owned by someone he knew. He noted that Rishon Le Zion marked the southern edge of what he described as the "killing box" created by the Iraqi attacks. How much damage was caused and whether there were any casualties is not known, as MEW did not visit the site.
· the attack in downtown tel aviv: civilian damage and possible military targets: Middle East Watch collected information about the missile that landed on Allenby Street in the heart of Tel Aviv's business district, an area of three-story older buildings dating from the 1930s, with shops below and apartments above, as well as purpose-built office blocks. The headquarters of some of Israel's leading banks are within a few hundred meters of the impact site. The Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv is 100 meters away, on the same side of the road. The Carmel market -- a crowded district of small stallholders during the week -- is less than 800 meters away. The city's main post office, which contains telecommunications equipment, is barely 50 meters away.
The impact site also was 1.3 km in a straight line from the Kirya. One of the previous day's missiles, which landed on the borders of Givatayim and Tel Aviv proper, was likewise 1.3 km away from the Defense Ministry buildings. These two missiles are the two that came closest to landing near the large complex. Two other missiles -- on January 19 in the Hatikva district, and January 26 on the beachfront in central Tel Aviv -- landed 1.6 km and 1.9 km away, respectively.
The January 19 missile landed on a three-story building, the upper-floor apartments of which were empty at the time. It went through two floors and came to rest in the middle level, above a jeweller's and a clothing boutique. In a humorous reference to an attack which did little damage, the jewelry store has erected a model Scud missile outside its window, showing it hitting the bullseye of a giant dartboard.
A salesgirl of Moroccan origin in the boutique told MEW that there had been no casualties when the missile struck, as the apartments were empty at the time. More important, the missile did not explode. Passers-by the day after the attack said the missile could be seen lodged in the upper floors of the building. Damage to the two apartments was extensive, but neither of the adjoining buildings on either side appears uninhabitable. The two shops on the ground floor were functioning normally, having suffered only minor damage.
An Iraqi military communique confirmed the January 19 attacks with the following words:
These missiles poured out of the sky, making Tel Aviv and other targets a crematorium last night, the night of 18 January. The missile attack on Tel Aviv was repeated at 0800 and 0815 (0500 and 0515 GMT) this morning.16
The Third and Most Damaging
Attack: January 22
This was the most damaging single Iraqi missile attack on Israel, both in terms of the amount of destruction caused and civilian deaths. Maariv recorded damage to 357 buildings and 1,726 apartments, of which seven buildings and 61 apartments were completely destroyed. Significantly, it was also the first time the newly installed Patriot defensive missiles were fired at an incoming missile.
A detailed statement on civilian casualties was aired on IDF Radio: "A total of 98 wounded people were taken to five hospitals in the central district, of whom 48 have already been released.... 74 are slightly wounded; three sustained medium injuries; two are critically wounded.... Three women have died. One of them was taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, the second to Tel HaShomer Hospital, and the third to Beilinson Hospital. The dead woman who was taken to Ichilov Hospital died of crushing wounds as a result of the explosion. The two other dead women suffered heart attacks as a result of the missile impact."19
Confusing any speculation about a possible military target of the missile is conflicting reports about whether the missile was intercepted or deflected by a Patriot. IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Shai, in a live studio interview, said, "(t)he missile hit hard, very hard. It was a direct hit on a residential home and its immediate vicinity. All in all, approximately 20 buildings were hit." Asked whether Patriot missiles had been able to intercept the missile(s), Shai responded that two Patriots were launched from one of the batteries in the Tel Aviv area. As the incoming missile achieved a direct hit, he assumed that it had not been successfully intercepted; he therefore speculated that more than one missile was launched, one of which had been hit, while the other had continued unimpeded.20
Brig. Gen. Uri Ram, commander of the Antiaircraft Forces, later claimed that the Patriot had changed the trajectory of the Iraqi missile, and that it did not fall where it had been aimed. "After the collision, it was reported that the Scud was destroyed, but later it became apparent that its rear was hit, while the warhead continued on its trajectory and exploded in Ramat Gan."21 The Israeli army stated later that theengine had been destroyed by a Patriot missile but that it had failed to destroy the warhead.22
The extent of the devastation caused by the impact and explosion of the missile was difficult to reconstruct with accuracy, as much of the rubble had been cleared away at the time of MEW's visit to the site in early June and reconstruction was well advanced. A large area of open ground, perhaps 150 by 150 meters, marks the impact site. Any crater had been filled in already. The missile hit a three-story apartment block on the edge of a small street, and four surrounding blocks -- each about 70 meters long by 25 meters deep -- were badly damaged, requiring extensive reconstruction.
An old woman who lives about 150 meters from the impact site described how the blast had brought a chandelier down on her head. She suffered only minor injuries, and there was superficial damage to her apartment. An Israeli of American origin, Irma Dothan, who works nearby, said the blast was felt for several hundred meters. Windows were blown out in a radius of at least 150 meters, she said.
An Iraqi military communique described the attack with the following words:
For the sake of Palestine, and in implementation of
the will of the heroes of the children of the stones, its strugglers, and
its (word indistinct) and struggling women; for the sake of holy
Jerusalem, and in revenge for the crimes of Zionism, our missiles slammed
against the city of Tel Aviv, the city of vice and usurpation, to disturb
the sleep of the Zionists and blacken their night, after they distorted
the days of the Arabs and filled them with blood and peril, at 2115 last
night. Our missile launchers then withdrew safely.23
According to Israel Radio, an Iraqi missile was launched at the Haifa area and intercepted by two Patriot missiles. There were no injuries, but, in many apartments, windows were shattered.25 An Army spokesman claimed that the missile was successfully intercepted by Patriot missiles and that there were no casualties. There was some damage, however, "because the blast of the explosion and the shards of the missile were dispersed in all directions."
Although the IDF did not specify where over northern Israel the incoming missile had been intercepted, it is believed to have been on the prominent Carmel headland overlooking Haifa. The Carmel is an area of mixed Arab (primarily Druze) and Jewish settlement in small, widely scattered villages and other communities such as kibbutzim. Israel's main oil refinery, petrochemical plants, a shipyard and several other key industries are located around a bay below the headland, close to the city. High-tech defense industries are also nearby.
This was the first successful use of the Patriot during the Gulf war. According to a British businessman who visited the city regularly during the conflict, the Patriot batteries were placed in a location on the top of the hill over which Haifa spreads, commanding an excellent angle of fire at missiles coming in from the east. This defensive location, together with the difficult angle of access to key targets in and around Haifa and the thinly populated Carmel hinterland in front of the Patriot defensive batteries, account for the negligible success encountered by the Iraqis in attacking these targets in northern Israel as well as the ensuing small amount of collateral damage.
If they insist on denying the rights of our people in Iraq and Palestine...then we have no choice but to repel evil in kind and drive it back to those who have started in defense of our territories and dignity. Thus we struck yesterday and we will continue to strike until they stop their aggression....
Our heroic missile force dealt a number of blows against selected targets in occupied Palestine as follows: a blow to selected targets in Haifa port inside the occupied Palestinian territories. Our missiles hit their targets and destroyed them at 2300 yesterday. 26
Wide Collateral Damage in the
Fifth Attack: January 25
Eyewitnesses -- both Tel Aviv residents and foreign journalists --told MEW that "two or three" Patriots appeared to have been fired at each incoming missile. There could therefore have been anywhere from 15 to 20 missiles in combat over the heart of the city at the same time. Heavy collateral damage was inevitable. Eyewitnesses told MEW that debris and unexploded warheads from damaged missiles rained over a wide area that night.
Discussing the attack, Gen. Shai, the IDF spokesman, said it had been similar in scope to the first one: "The attack on our civilian population in the northern and central part of the country caused injuries to approximately 40 people -- most of whom suffered light wounds -- andkilled one man."32 He added that a certain amount of damage was also caused to property on the ground where missile debris fell and was scattered over a wide radius.33
Analysis of the possible military targets that were the objects of this attack is difficult, due to the discrepancy in the estimated number of missiles involved and evidence that Patriot missiles were responsible for a significant amount of damage and casualties. At least one Patriot launched from the battery by the Yarkon river misfired, landing in a built-up area of greater Tel Aviv.
The incoming missiles are likely to have been deflected off course to varying degrees after collision with Patriots. Certain observations can, nonetheless, be made: two of the four known hits -- those in Ramat Gan -- were in densely populated residential neighborhoods, far from any possible military target. A third missile landed on the beachfront within a two-kilometer range of several important government buildings, including the Defense Ministry complex. The fourth missile landed to the north of the city in Tel HaShomer and could have been aimed at either a major military industry complex or the intelligence headquarters nearby, where several highly sensitive installations are located.
A major highway from Ashkelon to Haifa -- the principal artery linking northern and southern Israel -- was 1.7 km away from the Ramat Chen site. The Shechunat Hillel attack was even further from any conceivable legitimate military target -- innocent civilians were the only victims.
Middle East Watch obtained information about the missile that landed in Tel Hashomer. Local residents and a driver who passed by the scene of the explosion, none of whom wanted to be identified, told MEW that the missile landed just east of the main Tel Aviv-Haifa highway, nearthe important Geha junction, in the Tel Hashomer district. It apparently landed in an open area, alarming the few remaining drivers heading out of Tel Aviv at the end of the day for what was regarded as the relative safety of the northern suburban towns. The Jewish Sabbath had already begun, and most people would have already been home. The missile did not explode.
These partial accounts do not make clear, however, whether it was only a section of the missile which landed or the entire missile -- its warhead failing to explode. It also is not clear whether the missile was an Iraqi missile or a Patriot. While Patriots are known to have been fired from the Yarkon river batteries at incoming missiles, it was not possible for MEW to determine whether this particular missile had been intercepted and, if so, with what consequences.
Several potential military targets in the vicinity are worth noting. Less than a kilometer away to the west are the factories of Israel Military Industries (IMI) in Ramat HaSharon, an upper-middle-class town. IMI is responsible, among many other weapons systems, for the production of missiles and ordnance. A successful attack on this facility would almost certainly have resulted in heavy civilian casualties from secondary explosions. Another plausible target could have been the nearby army recruiting center in Tel Hashomer, the largest in the country. Equally possible, though, is that the missile could have landed on or near the large Tel Hashomer general hospital which is also in the immediate vicinity.
Iraq's military communique issued by the Armed Forces General Command provided no information about the military targets of these missiles launched on January 25:
This is in reply to those who stand behind the aggression and encourage it and who directly participate in it with military, political and media efforts. With a spirit of determination and sacrifice, our mighty missile force carried out the following blows . . .
1. A powerful missile blow dealt to the Zionists
in their capital, Tel Aviv.
The Sixth Attack on January
26: Varying Figures, Unknown Targets
Least is known about this attack's targets, other than that they appear to have been widely scattered. The Press Communications Center referred to Tel Aviv and Haifa as the general target areas, while the IDF limited itself to saying, "a number of missiles were fired at Israel from western Iraq. The missiles were launched towards northern and central Israel...in two separate salvos marked by a short interval of time."
Gen. Shai said that a number of Patriots were fired at the incoming Iraqi missiles. There were no reports of casualties.38 Even though all the missiles were said to have been intercepted, there was still, however, some slight damage. An IDF Radio report stated that pieces from an intercepted missile "fell in various areas, including Arab villages. There have been reports of shattered windows in the north."39
Possible targets in central Israel may have been Ben Gurion International Airport and its surrounding military installations, some 15 kilometers due east of Tel Aviv. These include an air base, the testing ground of Israel Aircraft Industries and several other defense factories. These are large, and obvious, military targets well away from civilian residential districts. But, in the absence of information as to the impact sites, no conclusions can be drawn.
An Iraqi military statement issued by the Armed Forces General Command used characteristic rhetoric to describe the attacks:
[T]wo missile strikes were directed at Tel Aviv, which poured fire on the heads of the arrogant Zionists to avenge what their hands have committed. At the same time, and with God's help, a missile was directed at the occupied port of Haifa. After a short time, two missilestrikes were directed at Tel Aviv to pound the positions of the filthy Zionists.40
Two Missiles Land in Occupied
West Bank: January 28 and January 31
On January 28, a missile struck near the village of Deir Ballout, 22 kilometers due east of Tel Aviv and nine kilometers from the nearest major Israeli city, Petah Tikva, in the central Dan region of the country. An Israeli military spokesman said Iraq had fired a missile at "Israel's central sector and that its shrapnel had dispersed over Arab locations on both sides of the Green Line." He stated that no damage or injuries were reported and that no Patriot missiles had been fired.41 The IDF was said to be investigating why Patriots were not fired during this missile attack.
Of all the attacks described in a chronology published
by the Government Press Office, as distributed by the Israeli
Consulate-General in New York, only the description of this attack
specifically names the place hit. It was also the only attack for which
the government-controlled radio announced the exact site of impact. An
explanation for this may be the fact that it fell in the West Bank,
Palestinians having given vocal support to Saddam Hussein.
With God's help, our heroic missile forces launched a missile strike against the dens of the enemy and the desecrators of the dear land of Palestine in the city of Tel Aviv before midnight yesterday.42
In the January 31 attack, a missile landed in, or near, the village of Harbata, five kilometers east of the Green Line. The nearest Israeli town is Lod, 12 kilometers away. Some reports the following day suggested that the missile had deviated from its course because of strong winds. Although there were no reports of casualties or serious damage, "a few window panes were shattered by the blast."43 An Israeli Army spokesman said that the missile landed east of the Green Line, in the occupied West Bank, but he would not specify the exact location.44 An Israeli television correspondent reported from the site of impact that the missile had fallen "near one of the Arab villages in Samaria [the official Israeli designation for the northern West Bank]," and that it struck "an open field."45
With this attack, the army said it would no longer announce whether Patriot missiles had been fired at incoming missiles, on the grounds that launches could tell the Iraqis where Patriot batteries were positioned and, by deduction, where missiles had landed.46 As with theattack of three days earlier, it is believed that Patriots were again not fired on January 31.
An Iraqi military communique said that the attack "pounded Tel Aviv with the giant al-Husayn rockets so that the Islamic, Arab, and Iraqi anger will fall on the heads of the Zionists."47
No Casualties or Damage
Reported: Attacks on Night of February 2-3
In response to the enemy attacks and to avenge the Arab blood in Iraq and Palestine, your heroic missile force last night used al-Husayn missiles to deal a devastating blow to Tel Aviv, the capital of the usurper and occupying Zionist entity.50
Later that night, at 1:37 am on the early morning of February 3, another missile was launched from western Iraq towards Israel. An IDF spokesman said that to the best of his knowledge, "there were no casualties and only minor damage, if at all."51 An Iraqi military spokesmen said, again, that Tel Aviv was the target: "Further to the statement issued this morning, 3 February, our heroic missile force dealt another blow to the city of Tel Aviv with al-Husayn missiles at dawn today."52
Iraq Claims Another Attack:
An alleged fresh Iraqi missile attack on the northern Israeli port of Haifa has apparently turned out to be an act of political propaganda by Baghdad this evening. `Nothing is known of a missile attack here,' a spokesman for the Israeli Army told DPA in response to an inquiry. The sirens did not not sound in the Haifa area or anywhere else in the country.53
MEW has no independent evidence that this attack took place.
Iraq made repeated claims that the port of Haifa was
hit in this attack. For example, an Iraqi military spokesman said that
Extensive Civilian Damage in
the Eleventh Attack: February 9
Civilians injured during this attack were variously reported as 20 (Israeli media), 25 (GPO), 26 (PCC), and 27 (Maariv). There were no fatalities. Civilian damage was extensive, given that only one enemy missile was involved. Maariv said that 287 buildings (with a total of 1,111 apartments) were damaged, and seven buildings were completely destroyed.
The location of the missile strike was the borders of Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak municipalities, east of Tel Aviv city. The impact site is recorded as having been off HaRoen, a major road in central Ramat Gan, but much of the destruction spilled over into Bnei Brak, with which this district merges imperceptibly. Bnei Brak is dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminaries and religious-student homes. The Burmese Embassy in Ramat Gan, 400 meters from the missile's point of impact, was virtually destroyed, according to Israeli eyewitnesses who drove along the main road a few days later.
As MEW was unable to inspect the embassy site, it is unclear whether a separate warhead was responsible for the embassy's destruction or simply a large piece of debris from a mid-air explosion. Breaking apolicy decision announced on January 31, an IDF spokesman said that several Patriot missiles were fired at the incoming Iraqi missile, and the government-controlled media acknowledged that large amounts of debris fell across a wide area of Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan.
No obvious military targets are in the vicinity of the impact sites. If the intended target was further west, in Tel Aviv proper, the only possible target of a military nature would have been the Defense Ministry complex. However, on the evidence of previous attacks, the chances of hitting even this large area with a missile fired from western Iraq were slim.
An Iraqi military spokesman said of the attack:
[O]ur heroic missile force at dawn today launched a destructive strike with al-Husayn missiles at Tel Aviv, the capital of the Zionist entity, to avenge the intifadah and Iraqi martyrs.55
To this, a military communique added:
[O]ur valiant missile force directed a destructive strike at the city of Tel Aviv, the capital of fornication, in implementation of the will of the children of the intifadah and the will of their brothers in Iraq....56
Two Attacks in Rapid
Succession: February 11 and February 12
The IDF Spokesman's office said the missile struck "a non-settled area in the center of the country," as a result of which windows in several buildings were smashed. A statement issued that day did not disclose whether an intercept had been attempted.
Local residents interviewed by MEW saw a missile flying overhead in the general area of Herzliya, but were unable to locate its impact site. They thought that it either ended up offshore -- some believed they saw a missile going into the sea -- or succeeded in striking a sensitive military target which the IDF did not want to reveal. The most important such target in the vicinity, as described in the attacks of January 18 and 25, would have been the intelligence headquarters a few kilometers away.
Gen. Shomron, IDF Chief of Staff, stated only that there were no casualties and no damage in this attack. When asked about the firing of Patriots, he replied, "We do not report on the firing of Patriots...."59
More details were publicly released about the second attack, six and a half hours later, after an inadvertent disclosure by the U.S. State Department in Washington that the missile had landed near the Savyon home of Defense Minister Moshe Arens, then visiting Washington.60 Such was the importance of the neighborhood that top officers rushed to the scene.
IDF Spokesman Gen. Shai reported, "I am now at the site of the attack. The chief of staff and other senior officers are also here. The situation at this moment is that a missile hit a residential area. There are several casualties who sustained light injuries, and one or two who might have medium wounds." Gen. Shomron, who was also at the scene, pointed out that there had been two attacks during a single night, "which is quite unique....There was a hit very close to a house."61 The Army Radio said later that one man who had been completely buried under the rubble of his house was rescued unharmed -- a picture transmitted around the world.62
A wealthy residential suburb due east of Tel Aviv, Savyon is about nine kilometers northeast of Ben Gurion international airport and its surrounding complex of military facilities and factories. If these facilities had been the intended target (and there is no way of gauging the Iraqi intent from the evidence available) the attack was highly inaccurate.
An Iraqi military spokesman said of the two attacks:
So that the Zionists -- the instigators of all evil -- receive their share of just punishment, your heroic missile force used al-Husayn missiles to deal a destructive strike to Tel Aviv last night to sow death and alarm in the hearts of those who have isolated our women and children in the occupied land and who are today trying to commit aggression against Iraq's free women and its children....63 After midnight last night, our heroicmissile force directed a second blow at Tel Aviv, the capital of the Zionist villains.64
A military communique issued by the Armed Forces General Command added:
[O]ur heroic missile force yesterday evening pounded the city of Tel Aviv, the capital of the Zionist entity, with al-Husayn missiles to spread death and terror among those who terrorized our nation, defied its will, and desecrated its holy shrines....[A]fter midnight last night, our heroic missile forces once again pounded the city of Tel Aviv with al-Husayn missiles.65
An Apparently Harmless
Attack: February 16
Asked about Iraq's claim that one of the missiles was fired at the Dimona nuclear research and weapons plant, IDF Spokesman Gen. Shai replied, "I cannot go beyond that point, which is that one of the missiles landed in the southern part of the country." According to an Israeli journalist who asked not to be identified, one missile in fact struck the ground near the central Negev town of Arad, a small town of about 10,000 people 18 km southwest of the Dead Sea. Arad is the location of a major airbase. The Dimona nuclear plant is more than 30 km away, to the southwest. The IDF confirmed Iraq's claim that a modified Soviet Scud, dubbed by Iraq the hijarah al-sijjil, had been responsible for the attack in the south.
Another missile was fired towards Haifa. But, as with previous attacks, it failed to reach its destination. An IDF account spoke of a missile as having "fragmented," suggesting that this one broke up of its own accord prior to hitting the ground.
Baghdad Radio said the following day that Iraq had used a new missile to attack Israel on February 16: "It named the missile as the Hijarah al-Sijjil (shale stone), a reference to a story in the Koran in which God sent giant birds to drop shale stones on invaders who attacked the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine."69 A military communique issued by the Armed Forces General Command stated:
Since the Zionists are behind every crime that is committed against the sons of Iraq and the nation and they stand behind this aggression...our heroic missile force directed the following strikes missiles [sic] at the Zionist entity:
Three destructive strikes on Dimona, in the south of occupied Palestine, where the Israeli reactor dedicated to war purposes is located, yesterday evening with Hijarat al-Sijjil ... missiles. One strike on the port of Haifa, on the Mediterranean, in occupied Palestine, yesterday evening, with al-Husayn missiles.70
The Fifteenth Attack:
[S]ince it is Zionism which stands in the way of the peace opportunities provided by Iraq, in expression of our country's capability, in embodiment of its invincible power by the will of God, and in implementation of our people and nation's determination to take revenge from all criminal tyrants, our heroic missile force has dealt a destructive blow to the city of Tel Aviv, the capital of the Zionists. Our missiles destroyed their targets.71
Sixteenth Attack: February
Information gathered by MEW from reliable Israeli sources is that the missile landed, apparently unimpeded, near the moshav (rural cooperative) of Bareket, in central Israel, four kilometers east of the perimeter of Ben Gurion international airport. This attack marked theclosest known hit to the airport and its surrounding military facilities. (Apart from the Savyon attack on February 12, Israeli censorship of the precise locations hit by the three other missiles said to have landed in "central Israel" makes difficult the task of determining whether there was a pattern of attacks near the airport.)
The official Israeli word was that this missile landed in an unpopulated area in the center of the country, where it caused a fire to break out.72 An Iraqi military spokesman described the attack with the following words:
With the aim of punishing the Zionist scoundrels, who are behind every crime, plot, and aggression committed against this nation and the great people of Iraq, and because the Zionists have conspired through their intrigues and puppets against the chances for peace Iraq called for, our heroic missile force this evening dealt a destructive strike to Tel Aviv, the capital of the Zionist entity, with al-Husayn missiles.73
The Last Missiles: Early
Morning Hours of February 25
Later, however, the IDF claimed that only one missile had fallen in southern Israel and that it had caused no damage or casualties.76 MEW has no independent evidence as to the exact location of these strikes, or explanation as to why the initial reference to a second missile was dropped.
An Iraqi military spokesman said that the intended target was, once again, the Dimona nuclear facility:
[O]ur heroic missile force directed a destructive blow with the al-Husayn, al-Hijarah missiles at the Zionist entity, specifically at the Dimona area, the site of the Zionist nuclear reactor used for military purposes.
Middle East Watch believes that we are aware of the precise or general location of impact of two thirds (26) of the missiles that Iraq fired at Israel during the war. Fourteen, or nearly half, of these 26 were not intercepted by defensive missiles, according to eyewitnesses, Israeli journalists or the government's published account. Assessments of accuracy, or the extent to which the Iraqi military planners may have taken into account the possibility of civilian casualties when aiming missiles at targets in Israel, are therefore drawn from this base of unintercepted attacks.
A further seven of the 26 missiles are known to have been knocked off course to varying degrees by Patriots after mid-air collisions or explosions, negating their significance for interpretative purposes. Confusion exists over whether the remaining five Iraqi missiles were intercepted, and they are thus also excluded from this analysis.
In assessing the intent of Iraq's missile strikes, the quality of information at Saddam Hussein's disposal as to the location of military targets in Israel needs to be taken into account. In this context, the following statement by the Iraqi leader -- made in the spring of 1990 to the visiting PLO chief Yasser Arafat -- is of significance:
Iraq is familiar with every inch of Palestine, every [Israeli] airfield, base, factory and research facility. We have been able to photograph all the targets we need, deep inside Israel. We started to do this when the war with Iran ended. Israel knows, and we know she knows.77
Despite this confident comment, the estimated 39 Iraqi missiles failed, to the best of MEW's knowledge, to strike a single military target.
Attacks on Civilian
Given the apparent targeting of residential areas, Iraq also appeared to select times to launch attacks when most Israelis would be at home, and thus the likelihood that civilian casualties would result from attacks on civilian residences would be greatest. All attacks against Israeltook place during the hours of darkness, between 6:00 pm and 5:30 am, with one exception: the second attack, on January 19, which occurred at 7:15 am. While an obvious reason for these nighttime attacks was the Iraqi desire to avoid allied aerial surveillance in western Iraq, an intention to maximize harm to civilians may also have played a role. A similar rationale may have played a role in the bunching of Iraqi missile attacks (eight of the 17 separate attacks registered by MEW) during the Jewish Sabbath, either Friday evening or Saturday morning. These actions are in violation of the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties (Article 57, Protocol I).
There is also evidence to suggest that Iraq was targeting Jewish civilians in particular. Apart from the obvious effort to avoid sending missiles toward Jerusalem -- which apart from its large Palestinian population also has some of the holiest sites in Islam which the Iraqis would have been loath to hit -- care appears to have been taken not to direct missiles toward exclusively Arab population centers in Israel. While 22 of the 39 missiles struck different parts of Tel Aviv, none came within a kilometer of Yafo (Jaffa), the largely Arab-populated municipality in the southwest of the metropolis. Two Iraqi missiles fell short of Israel and landed in the occupied West Bank on January 28 and 31, while at least one other caused indirect damage to Arab villages in eastern Israel, not far from the Green Line, on January 26. However, technical difficulties or problems of range may have accounted for these deviations from the usual pattern.
The Use of Indiscriminate
However, as noted, the customary-law principle codified in Article 51(4)(b) of Protocol I prohibits attacks as "indiscriminate" which use "method[s] or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective" and thus "are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction." The Iraqi-modified Scud missiles used against Israel and Saudi Arabia had a circular error probable (CEP) of 1000 meters, meaning that 50 percent of the missiles launched could be expected to fall within a 1000 meter radius of the point targeted. While a CEP of this magnitude may be adequate if the military object targeted is either very large or is located in a desolate area without a surrounding civilian population -- such as the possible attacks on the Dimona nuclear facility -- it is wholly inadequate if used against a relatively small target in a populated urban area such as Tel Aviv and its environs, since 50 percent of the missiles would not come within even one kilometer of the target.
In fact, when missiles exploded on the ground without interference from any defensive system, they rarely succeeded, to MEW's knowledge, in getting even within one kilometer of any possible legitimate military target, despite the fact that central Israel is densely packed with military bases and defense factories. None of the attacks investigated by MEW, or studied on the basis of reliable information provided by Israelis, resulted in damage to a military facility.
The condemnation of these attacks as, at best, indiscriminate --and quite possibly direct attacks on civilians -- does not depend on an assessment of Iraq's goals in attacking Israel or Saudi Arabia. Although Iraq might claim in the case of Israel that it sought a military advantage from its missile attacks -- to split the military coalition against it by prompting Israel to attack Iraq -- those objectives do not justify indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Just as it would be illegal for allied forces to harm Iraqi civilians with the aim of encouraging them to overthrow Saddam, as explained in Part Two of this report, so it is improper for Iraq to target civilians in Israel or Saudi Arabia with the aim of furthering Iraq's military or political objectives.
Terrorizing the Civilian
These comments, when coupled with ongoing missile attacks and the ever-present possibility that these missiles might be armed with chemical weapons, appear to have been made deliberately to spread terror among the civilian populations, in violation of the customary-law principle codified in Article 51(2) of Protocol I. This would be a violation regardless of whether any particular attack was aimed at a military or civilian target.
The Role of the
1 The figure is arbitrary, as Israel chose to classify attacks separated by a period of under an hour as one, but those of the night of February 2 to 3 and February 25 as two each. For classification purposes, as the last two attacks were only two hours apart, and may have landed in the same vicinity, MEW has chosen to treat them as one; 17 attacks are thus analyzed in this report.
2 What remains unclear is whether these 39 were all separate missiles, some of which broke up into several parts, spontaneously or after collision with Patriots. A missile that landed between Yona and HaRoen streets in Ramat Gan on February 9, for instance, is also blamed for the complete destruction of the Burmese Embassy 400 meters away. Debris was scattered over a wide section of neighboring Bnei Brak. But only one hit was recorded that night by an Israeli TV crew on the spot.
6 The 17.5-foot-long Patriot surface-to-air missile has a launch weight of 2,200 pounds. (Edward Luttwak and Stuart L. Koehl, The Dictionary of Modern War, Harper Collins:1991 at 451.) The Soviet Scud B, which Iraq modified, has a launch weight of 14,050 pounds. (Id. at 513.)
9 U.S. Patriot batteries were installed after the first two attacks by Iraq. They were first fired against the incoming missiles on January 22 from positions on the northern and southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, near the coast.
12 Many injuries in this attack resulted from panic and near absence of warning. A number of people are known, for instance, to have suffered from an anti-nerve gas agent with which they injected themselves.
17 At a press conference on January 23, the IDF spokesman said, inter alia, "An Iraqi Scud missile was launched on Tuesday evening, January 22, 1991, at 8.30 pm. The missile hit a densely populated residential area in the heart of the greater Tel Aviv area.... Two Patriot missiles were launched towards the Scud missile but did not succeed in downing it." Ricochet, publication of the IDF Spokesman's office, Tel Aviv.
18 The IDF initially said that three deaths resulted from heart attacks suffered by elderly people. However, it later transpired that the woman taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv died of being crushed by debris. This was a direct cause of death, meaning that the total number of direct fatalities from the attack should be increased from one to two.
Accounts vary, possibly due to at least one Patriot having misfired and
landed in a built-up area of Tel Aviv without either striking the enemy
missile or self-destructing. On January 26, the IDF referred explicitly to
seven Iraqi missiles as having been fired. A log kept by an Israeli TV
crew records eight possible missiles, the same number as that given by the
Government Press Office.
28 IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Shai reported on January 26 that all of the Iraqi missiles "were hit in one way or another" by the Patriots. Other reliable press sources, however, insist that no more than four were intercepted. The discrepancies may indicate Israel's reluctance to admit to the likelihood that muchof the heavy damage caused by this attack was due to the use of an anti-missile defensive system over a major metropolitan area.
30 Little information is available about the one missile believed to have been fired in the direction of Haifa. It is thought to have been intercepted by a Patriot, exploding either in the air or on the ground. Maariv reported that 700 apartments and 200 shops were damaged.
Iraqi communique referred to five missiles, while Israeli estimates range
from four to eight. A film crew's log refers to six, four of which were
intercepted. The Government Press Office spoke of four missiles as having
been launched, while Defense Minister Moshe Arens said in a live
television interview that "seven, perhaps eight, Scuds had been fired". He
added that Patriots had intercepted "some of them."
37 The IDF said on January 26 that, to date, the Iraqi missile attacks had resulted in four deaths and 192 injuries. No further explanations were given as to how these figures were reached. Assuming that the criteria for evaluating deaths directly attributable to the enemy attacks had not changed, this infers that two of those injured in previous attacks subsequently died of their wounds. However, on February 3, Maj. Gen. Barak spoke of only two deaths resulting directly from missile hits, adding that there had been 12 deaths from indirect causes.
48 Hey is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In order to expedite civil defense orders while maintaining curbs on the disclosure of potentially valuable information, the country was divided into six regions. In this way, the army could designate generally which area had been hit without revealing where the missile had landed. The alphabetic designations were: Aleph/Tel Aviv; Beth/Jerusalem; Gimmel/Haifa; Dalet/nonurban areas in northern Israel; and Hey/Negev.
54 Statement by military spokesman, Baghdad Domestic Service, February 6, 1991, as reported in FBIS, February 7, 1991 at 11. Also see statement by a military spokesman, Baghdad Domestic Service, February 7, 1991, as reported in FBIS, February 7, 1991 at 12; Communique No. 40, Baghdad Domestic Service, February 7, 1991, as reported in FBIS, February 8, 1991 at 19.
57 The missile fired on the early evening of February 11 was intercepted, but may have landed in the sea. The second missile, a few hours later, apparently aimed at the same vicinity, was not intercepted.
66 Iraq claimed to have launched four: three in the Negev, towards Dimona, and the fourth towards Haifa. Gen. Shai, the IDF spokesman, confused the issue, however, by saying that while Iraq claimed to have fired three, Israel could confirm that only two had landed.