Middle East War and Diplomatic Recap
22 March 2003
Seven British crewmen killed in collision between two British naval helicopters over Gulf early Saturday, described by British naval command as accident.
Baghdad awoke Saturday to thunder of fresh US missile explosions two at one of Saddams palace compounds. US planes continued to strike Kirkuk and Mosul. Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam enclave in northern Iraq struck for first time by 70 US missiles
Devastating blitz Friday night brought 1000 cruise missiles plus 2000 other missiles slamming into Iraqi cities while 1000 US and British warplanes carried out 1000 bombing sorties. Iraq claims 250 civilians injured in overnight bombardment of Baghdad
DEBKAfile's military sources: Four Iraqi divisions defending Baghdad pull back from positions 50km outside city to 30km-line after sustaining heavy casualties in nights massive bombardment on military and government targets. Civilian casualties among 6 million population relatively light.
Two allied columns advance steadily north towards Baghdad. One force peeled off, engaged in stiff all-night fighting for control of Nasariyehs strategic airfield
Major battle begins for southern oil port of Basra. US Marine and British tanks engage Iraqi troops on western outskirts Saturday. City defenses weakened by surrender of Iraqi 51st Division commanders and 8000 men with 200 tanks.
Sporadic fighting reported in Umm Qasr after its capture Friday US and British troops capture key facilities in south Iraqi oil fields, find eight wells ablaze, far fewer than feared
US officials continue surrender talks with senior Iraqi military commanders
Israel, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia watch anxiously lest Saddam retaliate with missile salvos against their cities
Battle flares at Nassariyah outskirts where coalitions northward advance Friday afternoon faces first serious Iraqi armed resistance. Main allied force presses on leaving unit behind to engage Iraqi force.
More Turkish-American trouble over incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan of several hundred Turkish troops. Action after Turkish airspace opened to US warplanes angers Americans and Kurdish leaders.
American forces capture west Iraqi H-2 and H-3 air base complexes from which Scuds missiles fired at Tel Aviv in 1991
In the south, US Marines take key port of Umm Qasr. One Marine is killed in battle. The Faw Peninsula on the Gulf has fallen to British Marines. Both were launching sites for Iraqi missiles that hit Kuwait Thursday. Friday, Kuwait army units enter Umm Qasr and hoist flag. Sooner after, siren alert sounds in Kuwait City.
Eight Britons and 4 American troops were lost in CH46 helicopter crash over Kuwait Thursday.
Friday, American-British armored infantry column that crossed in from Kuwait pushed north past big southern port of Basra towards Euphrates crossing and road to Baghdad.
Several oil wells are still blazing at Rumailah south of Basra. British defense minister Hoon says Iraqis set up to 30 wells alight.
Eight giant US air force B-52 bombers, capable of carrying 30 tons of bombs, reach Gulf region Friday from British RAF Fairford air base
In the north, Kurdistani Bamerni airfield passes from Turkish to US control. American forces landing there Friday are driving towards Kirkuk and Mosul.
Some US units are linking up with Kurdish PUK and KDP militias in Kurdish town of Kalak for joint assault to capture Kirkuk and its oil fields.
In central Cairo, violent pro-Saddam demonstrators clashed with police after Friday prayers, finally dispersed by water cannon
Pro-Saddam demonstrators across Gaza Strip and West Bank hold aloft placards depicting Iraqi ruler and Bin Laden, denounce Arab rulers as traitors. More checks signed by Saddam to be handed out to families of Palestinian suicide terrorists Friday
Israeli undercover troops round up two senior Hamas operatives on West Bank: Qalqilya commander Raed Hateiri and Majed Hassem in Ramallah.
Israel turns down French Middle East peace conference proposal in favor of retaining Washingtons lead in peace process with Palestinians.