HAIFA, ISRAEL, JAN. 27 -- During the tense buildup to the Persian Gulf War, some Israeli Arabs living in a hillside town a few miles east of this Mediterranean port city would not accept offered gas masks, saying that if the Iraqi army ever launched missiles against Israel they surely would not be intended to hurt Arabs.
But today, after parts of Iraqi Scud missiles fell in or near the Arab town during two nights last week, injuring two people, residents said nearly everyone has a gas mask and is using it during the almost nightly alerts.
"Of course, we are being very careful. The missiles can fall anywhere, as we have seen. They do not know the difference between Jew and Arab," said a resident.
Under Israeli army censorship rules, the town cannot be identified because, the army contends, disclosure of the missiles' points of impact could help the Iraqis target further attacks. Censorship also prohibits the publication of names of residents in neighborhoods hit.
Like many of the 800,000 Arabs who live in Israel, the middle-aged man appeared ambivalent about the war. He said he hoped Israel would not be drawn in.
He admitted being astonished Wednesday night when a 12-foot-long booster section of a Scud missile fell in a field at the edge of the town with a window-rattling explosion after being hit by a U.S.-supplied Patriot antimissile rocket fired from a battery near here. He said he was even more surprised when a Patriot missile intercepted another Scud, showering shrapnel onto his house. Two youths were injured, he said.
Other residents said they had been unconcerned about the missile attacks in the first days of the war but now were alarmed at the possibility of a chemical warhead hitting their town, and said they had prepared sealed, gas-resistant rooms to which they now quickly flee when there is an air-raid alarm.
Three rockets have fallen in or near the city. Haifa Mayor Aryeh Gurel said the most damaging attack occurred on Jan. 17, when a Scud slammed into a shopping mall, causing $10 million in damage. However, since the U.S.-manned Patriot missile battery was deployed, Gurel said, the other Scuds have been destroyed. "We're very grateful" for the Patriot battery, Gurel said.
Haifa is Israel's major port and has industrial, petrochemical and high-technology factories. The mayor recalled a saying that in Jerusalem people pray, in Tel Aviv they play and in Haifa they work.
In the late 1930s, before the founding of Israel, Jews from Haifa under contract to British construction companies helped build the old Iraqi oil pipeline running from Arabian oil fields to this Mediterranean port city. Along the former pipeline route, in the western Iraqi desert, there are map reference points that the Iraqis call H-2 and H-3 -- the "H" being an abbreviation of Haifa. Five air fields were built near there.
It has been said that from those now expanded Iraqi air force bases 25 Scud missiles have been launched against Haifa and Tel Aviv. Gurel said older Haifa residents recalled joy and economic windfall with the building of the pipeline.
Gurel found irony in the targeting of this city, in which he said Jews and Arabs coexist more peacefully than in any other place in Israel. Haifa has been largely unaffected by the three-year Arab uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Gurel said the mayor of the nearby Arab town of Shefar Am, Ibrahim Nimer Husseini, had offered to provide temporary homes in his town to 130 Jewish or Arab familes who would like to leave Haifa during the missile attacks for a less hazardous area.