Israel said to have eyed massive attack


WASHINGTON -- When Israel was attacked by Iraqi missiles on Jan. 18, Israeli leaders informed Washington that they planned to retaliate with a large air and land operation into western Iraq to wipe out the missile launchers, administration officials say.

The Israeli plan was kept on hold for weeks and ultimately abandoned as Bush administration officials pressed Israel to stay out of the war.

It called for an Israeli armed sweep through western Iraq by helicopter gunships and "significant ground forces," including commando teams, all protected by Israeli air force planes that would have secured an air "corridor" through Jordan or Saudi Arabia to support the operation, the officials said.

Their account provides the first detailed picture of how Israel planned to retaliate for the missile attacks and led to frantic consultations between American and Israeli leaders.

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