JERUSALEM, JAN. 24 -- Following a night in which Iraqi missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia were thwarted by the U.S. Patriot air defense system, Israeli military officials and analysts cautiously concluded today that the tide may be turning against Iraq in its Scud missile campaign.

Despite four attacks on Israel and several on Saudi Arabia, the Israelis said, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has failed in his apparent objectives of transforming the Persian Gulf War into an Israeli-Arab conflict or weakening Saudi resolve by inflicting heavy losses. Moreover, the success of the Patriot system in Israel Wednesday night suggested that the Scud could be neutralized almost entirely as an Iraqi offensive threat, they said.

Military officials say that even unsuccessful Scud attacks benefit Iraq somewhat by diverting a large part of allied air forces to search for the missile launchers. They also may help Saddam win support in the Arab world by projecting his defiance in the face of the massive Western offensive.

Still, most analysts here say, the threat to Israel and to the U.S.-led alliance that was posed by the first Iraqi missile salvo one week ago has diminished substantially. "Saddam tried with the Scuds to change the political and strategic balance in the war," said Alon Pinkus, a military expert on the newspaper Davar. "So far, it looks like he failed."

Israeli military sources said today that one-quarter to one-third of allied air combat sorties are now being flown over Iraq's western desert in an effort to locate mobile launchers. They said this might explain why Iraq, after launching salvos of five to seven missiles at Israel last Friday and Saturday, took no action on the front for two days and then managed to fire only one missile at Israel in each of the last two nights.

Some experts say that even such sporadic action might serve Saddam's purpose. "It serves what may be his strategy of dragging out the war as long as possible, and conserving his own forces as long as possible," said Joseph Alpher, of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. "He may feel that in order to divert allied forces and appeal to Arab opinion, it's enough to fire one missile a day at the Israelis."

So far, the four Iraqi attacks on Israel have caused three deaths, wounded about 100 people and displaced 1,200 from their homes. Still, there has been no sign of a groundswell of support for Saddam in Arab states allied with the United States.

Within Israel, the attacks have failed to cause widespread public panic, and most Israelis have strongly supported the government's decision to postpone retaliation. "I never thought people would take it this way," said Oded Erez, a former air force general. "Instead of being demoralized, we are being brought together as a nation by these attacks."

As seen here, the decision by the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir over the weekend not to retaliate immediately against Iraq has thwarted Baghdad's objective of drawing the Jewish state into the war, and possibly widening the conflict to Jordan.

Since then, the decisive factor in turning the conflict against Iraq has been the U.S. Patriot missile, which has thwarted all Iraqi Scud attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, and one out of two against Israel since being deployed here.

In the failure Tuesday night, a Patriot battery manned by an Israeli crew reportedly responded belatedly to a Scud because a generator breakdown had prevented response by a U.S.-operated battery that was better positioned. Still, Israeli officials said, one of the Patriots narrowly missed destroying the Scud, hitting its rear end just before the warhead slammed into a suburban Tel Aviv neighborhood.

Gerald Steinberg, an expert on military affairs at Tel Aviv's Bar-Illan University, said Saddam "certainly" did not realize the Patriot's effectiveness before the war began, and it "has changed his calculus. At this point, if he continues his attacks, he runs the risk of looking impotent in what has been his only attempt at offensive action in the war."

The success of the Patriot has prompted considerable second-guessing in Israel about why it was not deployed here before the war began, given Saddam's frequent threats to attack Israel and the eagerness of the United States to keep Israeli forces out of the war.

Some Israeli commentators, such as Zeev Schiff, senior military correspondent of Haaretz newspaper, blame the Pentagon, saying it dragged its feet in meeting repeated Israeli requests for the system. Patriots were promised in September, officials said, but did not arrive until early January. By Schiff's account, those initially sent to Israel were early models not considered effective against Scuds. Washington, he said, agreed to send the newest model only the weekend before the war started, but set delivery for Jan. 19, two days after the war's start.

But other Israeli sources said the government here bears part of the blame. Israel, they said, resisted buying the Patriots when first offered them because of the cost -- $120 million per battery -- and Israel's traditional emphasis on offensive rather than defensive tactics.

Haaretz said this week that Israel also shelved proposals to buy the Patriot last year because it feared that aquiring the system might undermine its own anti-missile project, the Arrow, which is being developed with hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. funding. The Arrow is not due to be deployed before the middle of the decade.

When Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney finally offered Israel two Patriot batteries free of charge in September, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens insisted they be manned by Israeli crews, sources said. That, officials said, may have been the real cause of the delivery delay, since Israelis who traveled to the United States for a training course did not complete their studies until this month.

ESTIMATES BASED ON DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS

Date.......Fired at ...Fired at ......Intercepted

...........Israel......Saudi Arabia..............

Jan. 18........8..............1.......1 Scud fired at Dhahran

Jan. 19........3..............0.......No interceptions

Jan. 20-21.....0.............10.......Nine interceptions. 10th missile

...................................... landed in Persian Gulf.

Jan. 22........1..............6.......2 Scuds fired at Saudi Arabia

...................................... were intercepted. Four fell in

...................................... uninhabited areas.

......................................Scud fired into Tel Aviv caused

...................................... large-scale casualties

Jan. 23........1..............5.......All six were intercepted

Yesterday......0..............0........

TOTAL FIRED...13.............22