Saddam Hussein Orders the Launch of SCUD Missiles Against Israel

If Iraq was to be forced to obey UN resolutions, the Iraqi government made it no secret that it would respond by attacking Israel, a state that was allowed to ignore them without any action from the UN. Before the war started, Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, was asked, “if war starts...will you attack Israel?” His response was, “Yes, absolutely, yes.” The Iraqis hoped that attacking Israel would draw it into the war. It was expected that this would then lead to the US losing the Arab allies, who would be reluctant to fight alongside Israel. Israel did not join the coalition, and all Arab states stayed in the coalition.

The Scud missiles generally caused fairly light damage, although their potency was felt in a Dharan missile attack which killed 28 U.S. soldiers. The Scuds targeting Israel were ineffective due to the fact that increasing the range of the Scud resulted in a dramatic reduction in accuracy and payload. Nevertheless, the total of 39 missiles that landed on Israel caused extensive property damage and two direct deaths, and caused the United States to deploy two Patriot missile battalions in Israel, and the Netherlands to send one Patriot Squadron, in an attempt to deflect the attacks. Allied air forces were also extensively exercised in "Scud hunts" in the Iraqi desert, trying to locate the camouflaged trucks before they fired their missiles at Israel or Saudi Arabia.

Three Scud missiles, along with a coalition Patriot that malfunctioned, hit Ramat Gan in Israel on January 22, 1991, injuring 96 people, and indirectly causing the deaths of three elderly people who died of heart attacks. Israeli policy for the previous forty years had always been retaliation, but at the urging of the US and other commanders, the Israeli government decided that discretion was the better part of valour in this instance. After initial hits by Scud missiles, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reluctantly agreed not to take any retaliatory measures against Iraq, due to increasing pressure from the United States to remain out of the conflict. The US government was concerned that any Israeli action would cost them allies and escalate the conflict, and an air strike by the IAF would have required overflying hostile Jordan or Syria, which could have provoked them to enter the war on Iraq's side or to attack Israel.