U.S. and British warplanes yesterday attacked Iraqi military command-and-control facilities after Iraqi aircraft violated the southern "no-fly" zone, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the region, said Western warplanes used precision-guided weapons to target the Iraqi facilities near Tallil, about 175 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The airstrikes were the first in the southern "no-fly" zone since Dec. 20, and they occurred at around midnight EST, Central Command said in a statement. It said coalition forces were still assessing the attack damage.

"The coalition executed today's strike after Iraqi military aircraft violated the Southern No-Fly zone," the statement said.

On Dec. 20, warplanes targeted two Iraqi air defense communication facilities near Nasiriyah and Basra in southern Iraq.

The warplanes are part of a U.S.-British operation patrolling no-fly zones set up in northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from the Iraqi military. Iraq does not recognize the zones.

Attacks have increased in recent weeks as the United States boosts its military presence in the region in case of war against Iraq to eliminate banned weapons programs.

The Iraqi government has said the jets frequently strike civilian sites and kill innocent people. U.S. officials say the jets never intentionally target civilians.