AMMAN, JORDAN, JAN. 19 -- The Iraqi government announced today it would give cash rewards to anyone who captures allied pilots shot down during air raids on the country, and a military communique called Iraqi missile attacks against Israel "the beginning of the path" toward the liberation of Palestine.
In its first acknowledgement of military casualties in the war, Iraq said 31 of its soldiers were killed and 51 wounded during allied air strikes on Iraq today. In all, a military communique said, 70 people have been killed in air raids against Iraq over the past three days.
Travelers arriving in Jordan from Iraq, meanwhile, reported having seen on television captured airmen in the custody of Iraqi authorities. The nationalities of the pilots could not be determined, and travelers who spoke to reporters at the Jordanian border town of Ruweished gave conflicting reports.
One report said French and Kuwaiti pilots were among the captured airmen. Another said two captured airmen appeared to be British or American, while a third appeared to be Arab, possibly a Kuwaiti. None of the travelers' reports could be confirmed, but the alleged sighting of a captured French pilot appeared to be dubious, as no French warplanes have been reported downed thus far in the fighting.
A radio appeal in Baghdad, issued by the ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party, urged Moslems to attack the "interests, facilities, symbols and figures" of multinational force members. It singled out the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, as well as followers of the exiled emir of Kuwait.
"There is no longer any room for delay because the great duel, the mother of battles, has begun," the radio said.
Iraqi national television, meanwhile, showed President Saddam Hussein making a public appearance -- and being almost totally ignored. Saddam was shown speaking in an air raid shelter packed with 120 people, not one of whom paid him any attention, Reuter reported.
Baghdad radio said today that President Bush's "weak coalition will be wiped out and melted by the Iraqi missiles and their burning fires." It said of Iraq's missile strikes against Israel, "Yesterday was a day of God and history when Iraq's missile power hit the nest of vice and terrorism and the origin of evil and expansion in our age."
A separate Iraqi military communique said of the attacks, "What happened is the beginning of the path. Tomorrow is near. Palestine will be liberated."
Baghdad radio also said military authorities have offered rewards of up to $32,000 for people who capture pilots of the multinational force shot down over Iraq.
Jordan's King Hussein sought to isolate his country today from the missile attacks. "We regret very much indeed that things have deteriorated to the point that they have," he told reporters.
At a news conference, Hussein said Jordan is limited in its ability to exercise control over its skies, despite his country's earlier warnings that it would repulse any side, be it Israel or Iraq, attempting to exploit Jordanian territory or airspace to widen the scale of hostilities.
When pressed to say how he felt about Iraq's missile attacks on Israel, Hussein responded, "For someone who has been involved trying to seek a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian problem all his political life, I am certainly displeased."