May 10, 2001 -- Iraqi defenses have regularly engaged U.S. and British planes patrolling the southern and northern "no-fly zones" established at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
The no-fly zones, which Baghdad does not recognize, were imposed after the war to protect Kurdish communities in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by Iraqi government forces.
At times, targets outside the no-fly zones have been bombed, if the Pentagon believes radar systems there are threatening coalition aircraft and operations in the area.
Since December 1998, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been actively challenging those patrols — resulting in a number of incidents, and a few changes in how U.S. and allied military conducts operations there. President Clinton expanded the rules of what and when to bomb, giving U.S. pilots clearance to attack any part of Iraq's air defense system they feel could be a threat.
Previously, they were permitted to attack only those sites that had directly targeted them.
Under the rules issued in 1998, for example, a pilot whose aircraft is locked onto by one Iraqi radar site can fire at any radar or missile site in the area he believes could pose a threat.
The U.S. Air Force says there have been more than 700 separate incidents of Iraqi surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery fire directed against U.N. coalition aircraft since December 1998.
Iraqi planes have flown over the southern no-fly zone more than 150 times during the same period, according to the Air Force.
The northern no-fly-zone is located at 36 degrees latitude and was established April 7, 1991, six weeks after the end of the Gulf War. The southern no-fly-zone was established at 32 degrees latitude Aug. 27, 1992. NATO extended this zone to 33 degrees latitude when France and several other NATO countries stopped patrolling these zones.
Recent No-Fly Zone Incidents
U.S. and British aircraft have struck Iraqi targets several times this year:
May 1: Coalition aircraft dropped precision-guided ordnance on Iraqi air defenses after coming under anti-aircraft artillery fire from sites in the vicinity of Saddam Dam, according to the U.S. European Command.
April 19: Iraqi forces east of Mosul used radar to actively target coalition planes conducting routine operations there, according to the U.S. European Command. Those planes responded by dropping precision ordnance on Iraqi military targets.
Feb. 28: Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery from sites north of Mosul on U.S. and British aircraft on routine patrol of the no-fly zone. Coalition forces responded by bombing Iraqi air defense targets, according to the U.S. European Command.
Feb. 4: Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery on coalition airplanes from sites northeast of Mosul, according to the U.S. European Command. U.S. and British fighters responded with bombs.