JERUSALEM, JAN. 17 (THURSDAY) -- Israeli military authorities declared a civil-defense emergency early this morning and ordered citizens to remain in their homes, but they said there was no sign that Israel would be drawn into the Persian Gulf war.

"We are watching what is going on, but nothing has happened so far that involves Israel," army spokesman Col. Moshe Fogel said an hour after U.S. and allied warplanes began bombing Iraqi targets. Iraq repeatedly had threatened to attack Israel at the onset of any conflict.

An hour later, air force Col. Menachem Eynan told army radio: "We're completely out of the picture; we're not involved, and we're not acting." He added, "We can take some satisfaction from the fact that there has not been an automatic prepared action against us {by Iraq} that is already in progress."

The army's deputy chief of operations, Brig. Gen. Zeev Livne, said on television that air strikes were underway at two military bases in western Iraq where intermediate-range missiles capable of reaching Israeli cities had been deployed. Livne said the Israeli military hoped the air strikes would destroy the 30 missile launchers known to be in place at the bases, and thus eliminate the threat of a strike at Israel.

Livne said it was not immediately clear how successful the attacks on the bases had been, but a senior government source said that by 5 a.m. Jerusalem time -- three hours after the strikes began -- there was no discernible activity at the western missile sites, or at any other missile sites in Iraq.

Israeli military officials had stressed in recent days that elimination of the threat to Israel posed by the missiles could be a difficult task that might require repeated air strikes over several days.

At the same time, the army instructed Israelis to open the sealed chemical-warfare kits that have been distributed to more than 4 million persons around the country and said Israeli television would begin broadcasting instructions on how to use the gas masks and other equipment they contain. Army officials said roadblocks were being set up on thoroughfares to steer non-essential traffic off the streets.

Official sources said Israeli military leaders were informed of the planned U.S.-led strike at 11.30 p.m. local time (4.30 p.m. EST), more than two hours before it started. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was told of the attack shortly after midnight by the military attache of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, officials said.

Avi Pazner, a senior adviser to Shamir, said the Israeli premier and other government leaders were not surprised by the outbreak of war. "He said he was expecting it somehow," Pazner said of Shamir, who was monitoring events from his home in Jerusalem early this morning.

The streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities were deserted early today as Israeli radio stations began broadcasting news of the air attack. A government source said minor disturbances broke out in two neighborhoods of Arab East Jerusalem but that there was no sign of major disorder in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Throughout Wednesday, Israel had waited for war in eerie quiet, and Shamir had warned the country that it could come "in the shortest possible time." Authorities canceled primary and secondary school classes Wednesday morning for the rest of the week, and the army declared all of the Gaza Strip and major West Bank towns a closed military zone.

In an interview with Israeli radio Wednesday morning, Shamir also warned Israelis to be prepared for an Iraqi attack. "One can assume that as a result of the different plans that have been prepared in past weeks and as a result of the uncompromising position of Saddam Hussein, war will begin within the shortest possible time between the Iraqi forces and a large coalition force in the gulf," he said.

Israeli officials continued to say that Israel will respond to any Iraqi attack with its own forces, despite urging from the United States that it stay out of the conflict. But government sources indicated Wednesday that Israeli and U.S. military officials had succeeded in working out basic arrangements for coordinating their actions in the event both Israeli and U.S. planes were striking Iraq simultaneously.

"The question of flights and aerial corridors was discussed," said one informed official. He said the arrangements were made in the aftermath of a visit here last weekend by a U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, whose members spent hours discussing Israel's involvement in a gulf war with Shamir and other senior officials.

The army's declaration of a civil-defense emergency will shut down most Israeli businesses and services, with only 200,000 civil-defense and other essential workers allowed to report for work. The army statement said members of civil-defense units should take their gas masks with them to their jobs. Officials said civil-defense information centers would open soon around the country.

Many Israelis decided on their own not to leave home Wednesday. The streets of Jerusalem and normally bustling Tel Aviv were deserted most of the day; traffic was light, and some shops did not open. "Have a lucky war," said one Jerusalem grocer to the few customers who did arrive.

Israeli radio shifted to round-the-clock broadcasts for the emergency, and both radio and television spent much of the day explaining and reviewing the procedures Israelis should follow in the event of an Iraqi attack. Hospitals around the country discharged non-critical patients to free beds and prepared special facilities for treating chemical-warfare victims, such as outdoor decontamination showers.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, army spokesman Gen. Nachman Shai disputed Jordanian reports that Syria was massing forces on the Golan Heights near Israel. Shai said that, while both Syria and Jordan had placed their forces on alert, there had been no change on the Golan Heights, Israel's most exposed frontier.

Shai said only a few thousand of Israel's reserves had been mobilized, mostly for the air force and civil-defense corps. But he said the air force had recalled pilots for active duty, taken almost all its reserve warplanes from storage and hurried to deploy new weapons, such as the Stinger antiaircraft missile.