Friday, January 18, 2019

The Scud War

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, a region they have historically claimed as theirs. U.S. President George H.W. Bush assembled a vast international coalition to force Iraq’s military out of Kuwait. The Coalition established a January 15th deadline. Saddam Hussein warned that if Coalition forces were to attack, the Iraqi military would launch Scud missiles at Israel. Since Iraq possessed chemical weapons in its arsenal, the threat to Israel’s entire population was very real and terrifying. Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzchak Shamir, the leader of Israel’s right wing Likud party and one of its founding fathers during Israel’s battle for independence, had to suppress every instinct to agree to President Bush’s plea to avoid retaliation against such an offensive attack and to keep Israel’s military grounded.

The United States government sent Patriot anti-ballistic missile batteries to Israel along with troops to man them. The Israeli government provided gas masks to Israel’s population and counseled how “sealed rooms” should be prepared, which would shield people from the potentially noxious weapons. The Israeli people, pawns in this larger international war, felt tremendous anxiety. Images of helpless Jews from fifty years earlier traumatized the Survivor community and beyond.

At 3:00 am on January 18, 1991, sirens wailed through Northern and Central Israel as up to eight Scud missiles rained down upon greater Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, and Haifa, Israel’s chief port. That missile attack became the first time Tel Aviv had been targeted and attacked in Israel’s history. Thank God, the initial reporting that one of the missiles contained a chemical warhead, was erroneous.

After the initial attack, Israel’s security cabinet met to determine Israel’s response to this blatant attack on its sovereignty. They knew a response might break up the Bush anti-Iraq Coalition, which included Arab nations uninterested in allying with Israel. In the end, Israel maintained that it reserved the right at any time to retaliate. Coalition forces dispatched 2,000 sorties a day against Iraqi targets, many of which targeted the Scud missile launchers. The Coalition forces initiated a ground war on February 24th. The overwhelming force of the Coalition forces resulted in a fairly immediate Iraqi retreat. President Bush declared victory on February 28th.

Despite 39 missiles falling upon Israel in 19 missile attacks over a month during what is now known as the First Gulf War, casualties were in the single digits. Many in the religious community noted that Divine intervention is the only plausible explanation for this incredibly low casualty rate in the wake of such an attack, and was nothing short of a Divine miracle.

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