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Operation Desert Strike
Part of the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War
Operation Desert Strike - Tomahawk cruise missiles launch.jpg
Tomahawk cruise missiles launches from the bow of the USS Laboon (DDG 58) to attack selected air defense targets in Iraq, September 3, 1996.
Date September 3, 1996
Location Iraq
Result U.S. victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United States.svg
US-led Coalition
Flag of Iraq, 1991-2004.svg
Republic of Iraq
Commanders
Flag of the United States.svg Anthony Zinni Flag of Iraq, 1991-2004.svg Saddam Hussein

The 1996 cruise missile strikes on Iraq occurred in September 1996 during the Kurdish Civil War. On August 31, 1996, the Iraqi military launched its biggest offensive since 1991 against the city of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. This attack stoked American fears that Saddam intended to launch a genocidal campaign against the Kurds similar to the campaigns of 1988 and 1991. It also placed Saddam in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 forbidding repression of Iraq's ethnic minorities.

On September 3, the USS Laboon (DDG-58) and the USS Shiloh (CG-67), in conjunction with B-52 bombers, launched 27 cruise missiles against Iraqi air defense targets in southern Iraq.[1] A second wave of 17 missiles was launched later that day.[2] The missiles hit targets in and around Kut, Iskandariyah, Nasiriyah, and Tallil.[3]

The attacks did not have a substantial effect on Iraq's northern campaign, however. Once it installed the KDP in control of Irbil, Iraqi troops withdrew from the Kurdish region back to their initial positions. The KDP drove the PUK from its other strongholds, and with additional Iraqi help captured Sulaymaniyah. Jalal Talabani and the PUK retreated to the Iranian border, and American forces evacuated 700 Iraqi National Congress personnel and 6,000 pro-Western Kurds out of northern Iraq.[4]

In response to Iraq's moves in the north, the US and UK expanded Operation Southern Watch and the Iraqi no-fly zones from the 32nd parallel to the 33rd parallel.[1]

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