Air Force Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart told reporters during a briefing at Central Command that coalition forces will fly more than 1,400 combat and support missions over Iraq Tuesday.
Renuart said the flights would pay “particular attention to the Iraqi Republican Guards, while attacking surface-to-surface missiles in a time-sensitive fashion, these missile systems that affect and threaten Kuwait and other neighbors in the region.”
The aerial missions will also focus on “key regime command-and-control facilities,” Renuart said.
Reuters correspondent Nadim Ladki reported hearing some 12 blasts Tuesday evening local time (around 10 a.m. EST) coming from the area where Iraqi forces are believed to be dug in to defend the city from coalition ground forces.
Ladki said blasts rocked the Iraqi capital throughout the morning.
“It’s a really heavy attack,” Ladki said. “Even though the explosions are quite far away, they are shaking buildings in the center of the city.”
“The sandstorm does not seem to have affected the pattern of the air raids,” Ladki added.
Ground troops, meanwhile, have also fought sandstorms as they continued their thrust toward Baghdad. A CNN correspondent embedded with the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division’s 7th Cavalry Regiment reports that navigating through the swirling sand is like fighting a heavy blizzard.
CNN reports that cavalry forces have crossed the Euphrates River and are coming under heavy fire from Iraqi forces along the route they are traveling.
Some members of the 3rd Infantry Division have advanced within 50 miles of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, attacking military installations with howitzers and rockets, the Associated Press reports. Thousands of Marines have advanced north as well, reportedly taking dirt roads to avoid populated areas.
Renuart told reporters the ground assault is proceeding as planned.”
“The bottom line is we’re on track, and we’ll deal with these regular and irregular forces wherever we find them.”
Iraqis have continued to fortify positions south of Baghdad as coalition troops approach, setting up mortar positions and piling sandbags around government buildings and at other strategic locations, the AP reports.
A speech read on Iraqi television Tuesday said to be from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein urged Iraqi tribesmen to enter the battle against coalition forces, describing potential battle techniques Iraqis could use should they engage U.S. and British troops.
“The enemy has violated your lands and now they are violating your tribes and families,” the statement attributed to Saddam said.
“If you cause them any damage, no matter how small, they will flee,” the statement continued. “Don’t wait for our orders. Just fight them. Every one of you is a military leader.”