BAGHDAD – Iraq's health minister Thursday said 36 Iraqi civilians were killed and 215 wounded in coalition air strikes on Baghdad a day earlier, and he accused the United States and Britain of deliberately targeting civilians to break the Iraqi people's will.
"They are targeting the human beings in Iraq to decrease their morale," Omeed Medhat Mubarak said. "They are not discriminating, differentiating."
The U.S. military has denied targeting civilians and said it takes extraordinary measures to avoid hurting noncombatants.
Fourteen people were reported killed in a northern Baghdad neighborhood on Wednesday in a blast that Iraqi officials blamed on cruise missiles.
"So you see, the American and British mercenaries are targeting civilians regardless of their age," Mubarak said. "They targeted shops and small public-sector installations."
Mubarak said the total number of civilian dead and injured since the U.S.-led war on Iraq began a week ago is more than 4,000, including 350 dead.
He accused U.S. and British forces of dropping cluster bombs on civilian targets.
"In Najaf, they destroyed a medical center," he said. "They bombed an ambulance and killed its driver."
The U.S. military has acknowledged using precision-guided weapons to target Iraqi missiles and launchers "placed within a civilian residential area."
Buy Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he could not say whether the missiles that hit the neighborhood were Iraqi weapons or misguided U.S. missiles.
Meanwhile, one of the fiercest sandstorms the people of Baghdad have ever seen gave way to blue skies Thursday, but the clear weather only raised fears among the inhabitants that they were in for a day of intensive bombings.
They worried allied forces would try to make up for two days during which the storm grounded U.S. warplanes and slowed down the advance on the Iraqi capital.
A witness reported that a missile hit an area not far from a television building and the Information Ministry early Thursday. Buildings shook, but there did not appear to be any damage.
Distant explosions, some sounding like artillery shells, could be heard in the city in the morning.
Iraqi TV was still on, but the picture was poor, and it was unclear whether the signal was being received outside Baghdad.
Jomaa al-Qurishi, 29, sold newspapers in Abu Nawas Street, a road famous for its art galleries and fish restaurants, on the east bank of the Tigris River.
"I have been selling newspapers at this spot for 13 years and no bombs are going to stop me," he said. "Death comes to you at any time wherever you may be."
Baghdad residents woke up to find everything from cars to dining tables, windows and books under a coat of fine yellow desert sand.