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Coalition planes hit Iraq sites in no-fly zone

Leaflets warning Iraqis dropped in southern area

Leaflets warning Iraqis dropped in southern area

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (CNN) -- U.S.-British coalition aircraft bombed Iraqi air-defense sites in the northern no-fly zone Thursday in response to anti-aircraft fire, officials said.

Meanwhile, coalition planes dropped leaflets in the southern no-fly zone warning the Iraqis not to repair damaged air defense sites.

In the northern zone, coalition patrols attacked sites south of Tall Afar after the Iraqis fired at the planes, said Capt. Sarah Kerwin of the coalition's Combined Task Force. All aircraft returned safely to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Kerwin said.

In the southern no-fly zone, 360,000 leaflets fluttered to the ground between Al Kut and Al Basrah, 100 to 150 miles southwest of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, according to Maj. Pete Mitchell at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

The leaflets were dropped in the area of unmanned communication facilities that were hit by coalition airstrikes Friday, Mitchell said.

Some leaflets, written in Arabic, warned the Iraqi military not to repair the facilities, which were used to track and engage coalition no-fly zone patrols. Other fliers said that the no-fly zone enforcement protects Iraqis and warned that airstrikes could follow any threats on coalition aircraft.

The leaflet drop was the fifth in the southern no-fly zone in the past two months.

The no-fly zones, designed to protect Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the southern part of the country from the Iraqi regime, have been a bone of contention between the U.S.-British coalition and Iraq since they were established after the Persian Gulf War in 1991 -- without a specific U.N. resolution.

Iraqi officials insist that the zones violate the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and they refuse to recognize them.

U.S. officials have cited U.N. Resolution 1441 -- the latest disarmament resolution -- to back up the no-fly zones and coalition response to hostile activity from the Iraqis.

The resolution says in part, "Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations ... [or] any member state taking action to uphold any [U.N. Security Council] resolution."

White House officials have said continued attempts by Iraq to target coalition aircraft amount to a "material breach" of the resolution that the U.N. Security Council passed November 8 calling for Iraq to disarm.

But U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the attacks did not constitute a material breach.

Beginning in December 1998, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein began challenging the coalition enforcement by firing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, and targeting them with radar, according to the U.S. European Command.

Central Command said that the Iraqis have fired on coalition aircraft more than 130 times so far this year.

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