U.S. bombers and warships are scouring the Persian Gulf looking for Iraqi patrol boats that they fear may be carrying French-made Exocet missiles that could do serious damage to the large allied fleet in and around the gulf. So far, the allies have sunk 18 Iraqi vessels, the U.S. command announced yesterday. In the skies, two American F-15s engaged and destroyed four Iraqi MiG-23s in the most dramatic dogfight of the war so far.

The Israeli cabinet yesterday reaffirmed its policy of postponing any retaliation for continuing Scud attacks on Israeli territory. Israelis are now concerned that Saddam Hussein may seek to extend his "unconventional warfare" -- typified by the oil slick Iraq apparently created in the Persian Gulf -- to Israel as well. Residents of Tel Aviv are leaving the city at night in increasing numbers to find a safer place to sleep elsewhere in the country.

The huge oil slick will not endanger Saudi drinking water, Saudi officials said yesterday. The country draws salt water out of the Persian Gulf and desalinates it for human consumption, but the intakes to the desalination plants have been well protected, officials said. The spilled oil will do great damage to fish and wildlife in the gulf, experts predicted. The growing spill now threatens the coastline of Iran.

Reporters permitted to spend time with U.S. Marines near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border reported that the sound of fighter-bombers overhead, bombs dropping nearby and the stench of burning oil blowing in from Kuwait have convinced the Marines that their days of training and waiting are coming to an end.