War News Headlines -- 2:15pm Thursday, 3/20/2003

by DEBKAfile

IST 20:45 US cruise missiles slam into Baghdad, start fires Thursday night. Heavy anti-aircraft fire lights the skies as city rocked by explosions. Wave of 10 F-15 and F-16 warplanes took off from US military base in Qatar. 1st Marine Expeditionary unit crosses into Iraq from Kuwait.

IST 17:50 Two oil fields south and west of Basra have been torched by Iraq troops. US Marines ordered to advance from Kuwait into southern Iraq at speed to extinguish the blaze. Battles rage as Marines lay down artillery barrage to clear their path while coming under heavy fire themselves

Allied aerial bombardment of Baghdad just resumed. All US units in Kuwaiti bases told to be ready to roll in full combat mode by 16:30 (IST 19:30)

Israel raises missile alert after five Iraqi missiles were fired into Kuwait Thursday. Israeli air defenses and air force on highest alert level.

DEBKAfile’s military sources: Iraq may shoot missiles against Israel, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia Thursday night after big US-UK air offensive begins

Five Iraqi Frog and Scud missiles fired into Kuwait Thursday – one or two of them shot down by US Patriot anti-missile batteries. None apparently delivered unconventional warheads. Alarm sirens in Kuwait City Thursday sent people hurrying into shelters twice.

Earlier, Allied troops in north Kuwait ordered to don bio-chemical protective gear amid artillery exchange with Iraqi forces