MANAMA, BAHRAIN, AUG. 9 -- The eerie silence is often broken by the sound of gunshots in the deserted streets of Kuwait city, where soldiers of the Iraqi invasion army sleep on the sidewalks, travelers reported today.

After reaching Manama, the travelers told of beatings, humiliations and looting they said were committed by Iraqi soldiers. They said the Iraqis often knock on doors and ask frightened Kuwaitis for cold water. Sometimes they ask for food, mainly beef and fruit.

Kuwaiti refugee Youssef Rashidi, 26, said in an interview at the plush Diplomat Hotel that in the sweltering summer heat, "profusely sweating Iraqis soldiers look tired and, I would say, ashamed of themselves.

"A number of Iraqi soldiers came to us and tried to calm us down, saying, 'We will do you no harm. . . . We have nothing against you. . . . We only carry out orders,' " he said. "But my companions here have different things to tell you about. Not all Iraqi soldiers are good. Some of them are sons of disgrace."

He pointed to four other young Kuwaiti men, who quickly nodded approval. One charged that Iraqi soldiers were "not begging for, but forcing local residents to give them bottles of cold water and fruit."

"I saw Iraqi soldiers heap into trucks sacks of money and bits of furniture stolen from the Gulf Bank," said another. "My brother, Essa, saw Iraqi soldiers loot . . . car showrooms."

Another Kuwaiti refugee, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed he saw jewelry shops being looted.

"I saw Iraqi soldiers armed with rifles stop uniformed Kuwaiti soldiers, force them to remove their uniforms and order them to return home in their underwear," he said.

Kuwaiti businessman Mohsen Ajmi, 28, said he took part in garbage removal and maintenance operations to help housewives whose husbands were stranded outside Kuwait when the Iraqis struck.

"We supplied these families with food and gas cylinders" for cooking, Ajmi said. "We also took part in minor resistance operations, knocked down two Iraqi soldiers with our speeding car and distributed anti-Saddam leaflets," a reference to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I saw a number of Palestinians take part in street patrols alongside the Iraqis. These must be Palestinians loyal to {Palestinian leader Yasser} Arafat," the businessman said. "But there are other Palestinians who curse Saddam and Arafat and fight alongside Kuwaiti resistance."

Ajmi said Iraqi soldiers at an intersection stopped him and others two days ago for questioning. "They did not search us. In fact, they apologized and cursed Saddam. One said, 'Why are we here? We have been hurting Kuwaitis and drinking warm water in this heat while Saddam sits there in his air-conditioned palace?' " he said.

Ajmi said the Iraqis spotted two Egyptian workers passing nearby, called them, asked them to show identity cards and then said: "Egyptians? You don't deserve to live."

"They beat the two Egyptians so savagely that we implored them to stop. They let the Egyptians go. They were hurt quite badly."

Most expatriate workers have left Kuwait, a shipping company executive said. He said he communicated with contacts in Kuwait by radio earlier today. "I was told that probably more than 70 percent of the Kuwaitis have left the country," he said.

Even before the invasion, Kuwaitis were a minority in their own country -- making up about 27 percent of the total population of 1.9 million. The rest are expatriate workers -- mostly Palestinians, Egyptians, Iranians, Indians and Pakistanis.

Ajmi said Kuwaiti resistance was "getting weaker."

The New China News Agency distributed this dispatch from its correspondent in Kuwait:

The people of Kuwait city simultaneously chanted "Allah the Greatest, Allah Bless Us" from balconies during midnight prayers Tuesday night in the first large-scale protest against the Iraqi occupation.

The well-organized protest lasted for half an hour, taking place during a curfew imposed Aug. 2. Smaller protests have been taking place ever since the occupation that day.

In one case, men and women drove to a gathering place, where the women stepped out and marched down the street chanting slogans and holding up portraits of the emir and the Kuwaiti national flag. One of the slogans read: "Kuwait Belongs to Kuwaiti People."

The men driving the cars waited nearby while the protest by the women went on for an hour. The women then got back into the cars, which quickly drove away.

Wednesday afternoon, gunfire was exchanged near a police station not long after the Baghdad TV station had announced Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. It was not known who had confronted the Iraqi troops that occupied the station.