November 19, 1994
: United Nations Security Council grants NATO new powers to hit targets in Croatia used by Serb nationalists for attacks on the Bosnian town of Bihac.
November 20, 1994: NATO launches raid on the Udbina airfield in Serb-held Croatia but calls it off because of bad weather.
November 21, 1994: NATO launches major attack on Udbina airfield.
Admiral Leighton W. Smith, USN, Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, said the objective of the strike was to deter further attacks by aircraft flying from the airfield in Serb-held Croatia.
The decision to attack the airfield was made jointly by NATO and UNPROFOR commanders, and the mission was flown by about 30 aircraft of four NATO nations, in addition to about 20 other supporting aircraft.
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Source: Bosnews, Nov 21 1994, By: Davor Wagner

U.S., NATO Warplanes Blast Serb Airfield; No Serb Planes Hit
SARAJEVO, Bosnia (Reuter): Thirty NATO warplanes attacked a rebel Serb-held airfield in Croatia Monday but the alliance said it avoided hitting Serb planes on the ground and had probably not crippled the base for long.

British, Dutch, U.S. and French fighters took part in the four-hour attack on the Udbina airfield, while 20 other alliance aircraft flew reconnaissance and refueling missions, NATO said. It was the biggest such raid in the alliance's 45-year history.

The United Nations described the action as a ``necessary response" to Serb air raids into Bosnia last week and the Serbs said a number a civilians were wounded near Udbina.

All the NATO aircraft made it back safely to their bases.

The commander of the NATO southern region, U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, said the raid was successful, hitting a runway and destroying anti-aircraft installations and a missile site.

``It was our assessment that the aircraft at Udbina continued to pose a threat to the UNPROFOR (U.N. Protection Force) forces operating in Bihac," Smith said.

The attacking NATO jets encountered some anti-aircraft fire, but all of them returned to base, he added.

The raid was not of sufficient magnitude to put the runway at Udbina completely out of action, Smith said. ``It's fairly easy to fill up a hole in an airfield so I don't expect this airfield to be out of commission for an awfully long time."

Smith initially told reporters 39 aircraft took part in the attack, but NATO military officials said 30 took part in the strike with another 20 involved in support roles such as reconnaissance and refueling.

Heavy fighting was reported in Bihac Monday, with U.N. peacekeeping troops there coming under fire on three occasions.

The NATO raid, launched across the Adriatic Sea from bases in Italy, followed Serb air attacks on targets in the Bihac enclave of northwestern Bosnia Friday and Saturday, which included the use of napalm and cluster bombs.

Serb media said villages around the Udbina airport were hit in Monday's NATO raid and that a general alert had been sounded in nearby parts of Bosnian Serb territory.
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Source: Reuter

Owen calls Bihac attacks deliberate provocation
LONDON, Nov 21 1994 (Reuter) - EU peace envoy Lord Owen said on Monday that Croatian Serb attacks on the Bosnian Moslem enclave of Bihac were a deliberate provocation of NATO and he feared a ``dangerous'' new alliance between Croatian and Bosnian Serbs.

'"'I'm very worried that the Bosnian Serbs and the Croatian Serbs may now come together and I think that would be very dangerous indeed,'' Owen, a former British foreign secretary, told Britain's Channel Four television news.

The European Union's peace envoy to the former Yugoslavia also said he was worried that the Serbs were intent on capturing Bihac town despite its status as a U.N.-protected area.

Owen was speaking after NATO warplanes attacked Udbina airfield in Serb-held Croatia. Serb aircraft used the airfield to launch attacks on the Bihac area of northwestern Bosnia.

He said the Croatian Serbs had ignored his warning last week that NATO would hit Udbina if the attacks did not stop.

``I told the so-called prime minister of Serbs in Croatia that if they went on flying attacks to Bihac they would be hit at Udbina,'' Owen said. ``They have provoked it quite deliberately....and I think they are intent...on trying to take Bihac town -- the actual (U.N.) safe area.''

But Owen said he did not believe Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would be provoked by the NATO air attacks into intervening on behalf of the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs.

"I'd be very surprised...I do not think he will be provoked by this attack,'' he said.

Milosevic withdrew support from the Bosnian Serb leadership after it repeatedly rejected an international peace plan to end the war in the former Yugoslav republic.
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Source: N.Y. Times News Service

November 22, 1994, N.Y. Times News Service

ZAGREB, Croatia - NATO warplanes bombed a Serbian-controlled air base in Croatia on Monday, destroying its runway and its antiaircraft defenses and taking the Western alliance's political involvement in the Bosnian war to a new level.

Adm. Leighton W. Smith, the American who commands NATO forces in Southern Europe, said that 39 aircraft from the United States, Britain, France, and the Netherlands had taken part in the attack against the Udbina airfield in Croatia.

The base was used three times in the last two weeks by nationalist Serbs to send aircraft - some carrying napalm and cluster bombs - against the Muslim-held Bihac area of Bosnia, 22 miles away.

The NATO bombing was the largest air raid in Europe since the end of World War II and the biggest mounted by the alliance since it was established in 1949 to counter Soviet military power. With it came a warning to the Serbs that the United Nations and NATO were prepared to use force again if provoked.

Michael Williams, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeepers here, said that "in a raid of this size there must certainly have been casualties." There was no immediate estimate of their number.

At the request of U.N. military commanders, the raid did not hit Serbian planes at the airfield. This gesture of restraint reportedly gave some NATO officials misgivings.

But Smith said the commander of U.N. forces in the former Yugoslavia, Lt. Gen. Bertrand de Lapresle of France, had insisted that aircraft not be hit.

"This is a limited strike," the admiral said. "We clearly could have taken those aircraft had we chosen to, but we have a dual United Nations-NATO key."

The French Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that "after neutralization of the ground-to-air defenses, the runway, which was the raid's main objective, was put out of action."

The Clinton administration's repeated calls for big NATO air strikes against the Serbs, combined with its refusal to put American troops on the ground, have caused persistent tension with British and French officers in the U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

Yasushi Akashi, the top U.N. official in the former Yugoslavia, and de Lapresle justified their request for the NATO air strike on Monday on two main grounds: the threat to civilians within the Bihac "safe area" from the Serbian air raids, and the plight of more than 1,000 newly arrived U.N.
troops from Bangladesh trapped in the area and fast running out of food.

All allied planes returned safely to their bases, despite what officials described as initially intense antiaircraft fire. NATO officials said that American F-18 fighter-bombers, F-16 fighter-bombers, F-15 fighters, and F-111 bombers had been used in the raid. They were accompanied by British Jaguar bombers, French Jaguars and Mirages, and Dutch F-16s.

The raid amounted to a declaration that NATO will now act with more resolve, and a calculated gamble that the Serbs can be bombed to the negotiating table. Four pinprick air strikes this year against Serbian ground targets appeared to achieve little except to irritate the Pentagon by their tentative nature.

The attack on Monday also papered over, at least temporarily, the sharp differences that have emerged within NATO over the Clinton administration's decision to stop enforcing a U.N. arms embargo against the Bosnian government. The move has been criticized by France, Britain, and Spain.

But the risks of the bombing are high. The raid did nothing in itself to break the Serbian encirclement of the Bihac pocket, which remains acutely vulnerable and short of food. And more than 10,000 U.N. personnel are working in the Serbian-held parts of Croatia, all of whom are now potential targets for reprisals.

Milan Martic, the leader of the ethnic Serbs who have occupied close to a third of Croatia since they went to war in 1991 to resist becoming part of an independent Croatia, issued a defiant statement: "Bombing of the Udbina airfield is an insolent and vandalous act, which we have not provoked at all. This will certainly not contribute to the establishment of peace in this region."

Akashi, the U.N. official, said that he had spoken to Martic on Monday and tried to explain that the raid had been a "necessary and proportionate response" to the Serbian attacks on Bihac.

But Akashi added that "it was implicit in my remarks that force could be used again" if the Croatian Serbs did not cease their active support for attacks on Bihac.

In general, Western officials were at pains to emphasize the limited scope of the raid, saying that only runways, antiaircraft artillery, and surface-to-air missiles had been destroyed and that no attempt had been made to hit Serbian planes.

"Our intention was to try to limit collateral damage," Smith said. "We did not want to go outside of the airfield area, and we wanted to limit the number of the people on the ground who might be casualties as a result of the strike."

Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary, said that the raid was a justified response to the threat to Bihac, but did not represent any taking of sides. "We don't see a military victory for one side or another in this war," he said, "and we are not involved in helping one side or another to a
military victory, as we think that is impossible."

With U.N. peacekeepers vulnerable on the ground, the aim of such statements is clearly to convince the Serbs that reprisals are unjustified and negotiation the only solution to the war.

But in the past, the Serbs have proved deaf to such appeals, responding to much smaller NATO actions with harassment, hostage-taking, and general obstruction of U.N. operations in Bosnia.

"I hope that today's NATO air attack will deter any further attack on the Bihac safe area and its surroundings or on United Nations personnel within Bihac," Akashi said.

He received authority on Saturday from the U.N. Security Council to use NATO air power on Croatian territory. Previously such authority was confined to Bosnia.

The current Serbian assault on Bihac came in response to a successful offensive late last month by the V Corps of the Muslim-led Bosnian army. The Bosnian soldiers, in their most successful advance of the 31-month-old war, seized at least 75 square miles of land east of Bihac, but have since lost almost all of it to a Serbian counterattack.

Initially, U.N. officials were hesitant as to how to respond to the Serbs' counterattack, because it could be argued that it was a reasonable response to a military setback in a war.

But the use of napalm and cluster bombs against civilians and the relentless tightening of the Serbian noose around Bihac eventually tipped Akashi toward calling for NATO action.

Still, he acknowledged on Monday that the U.N. position as peacekeeper in a war remained awkward. "We are in a very sensitive and delicate situation," he said. "If we did not act, we would be viewed as incompetent and spineless. But if we acted too vigorously, we could provoke an escalation leading to tragic consequences. We try to tread this narrow path."

In the past, treading this path had led to conflict between U.N. officers preoccupied by their soldiers' security on the ground and American-led efforts to use NATO air power decisively to help bring peace to Bosnia. At Udbina on Monday, these tensions were partly overcome, but the basic tension remains.

The Bosnian government welcomed the raid and called for more NATO action to halt the attacks on the Bihac area, where about 180,000 Muslims live.

"All we ask from the United Nations and NATO is to protect our borders," the Bosnian prime minister, Haris Silajdzic, said. "The Serbs are attacking across the Croatian border from a United Nations protected area. Their tanks are effectively enjoying United Nations protection while Bosnia still has an arms embargo imposed on it. This is completely absurd."

Renegade Muslim forces loyal to a businessman named Fikret Abdic have joined Serbian nationalist troops in the attack on the V Corps, advancing from the north toward their former stronghold of Velika Kladusa while other Serbian units have attacked from the east and south.

("None of the problems around Bihac have been resolved by today's air strike," said one U.N. official in Sarajevo, who spoke on condition that he remain unnamed. "The military assessment is that the attacks on the Bihac enclave will continue."

(The official said that U.N. military analysts expected the Serbs and rebel Muslims fighting in their ranks to try to cut the Bihac enclave into three pieces and bottle up the Bosnian army's V Corps inside the Bihac "safe area."

(There was no talk of NATO air strikes to stop the ground and or artillery attacks on Bihac, he said.)

The NATO warplanes used on Monday flew from bases in Italy and on the British, aircraft carrier Invincible in the Adriatic. They were supported by air-to-air refueling aircraft, American airborne command and control aircraft known as Awacs and reconnaissance planes.

It is notable that because the air raid on Monday did not take place in Bosnia, it did not involve Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, the commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia. Of late, Rose has been a persistent opponent of the use of NATO air power against the Serbs.

The NATO raid came as the war throughout Bosnia intensified, with a Bosnian, Serb missile attack on the city government building in the capital, Sarajevo, heavy sniper fire throughout that city, and Bosnian Serb shelling of the northern city of Tuzla.