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Davos protesters face tear gas


4:30pm ET, 4/16










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Israel, Palestinians on brink as Israel retaliates for soldiers' deaths

Diplomatic efforts to negotiate cease-fire uncertain

In this story:

Israel seals Palestinian communities

Israelis, Palestinians blame each other


RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Israel launched air strikes into Ramallah and Gaza on Thursday in retaliation for the killings of two Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinian police and beaten to death by a mob that stormed the police station where the soldiers were taken.

Palestinian radio in Ramallah was knocked off the air by one of the attacks, while ambulances and fire vehicles swarmed around flames rising from near a residential area.

Palestinian officials said the strikes amounted to all-out war, and appealed for immediate international intervention to stop two weeks of clashes between Israeli security forces and rock-throwing Palestinians that have killed nearly 100 people -- all but a few Palestinians or Israeli-Arabs.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright comments on the situation in the Middle East

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CNN's Rula Amin reports on Arafat's reaction to Israel's military attacks

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Israeli Dep. Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh explains Thursday's military actions

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CNN's Ben Wedeman talks to an Israeli brigadier military general about the military operation underway in Ramallah

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CNN producer Sausan Ghoseh reports on the situation in Ramallah

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Watch an attack in Ramallah on the Palestinian Authority headquarters (October 12)

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Video shows the scene outside the police station when the soldiers were inside (October 12)

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Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib talks about the incident with the Israeli soldiers in Palestinian custody (October 12)

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Israeli spokesman Nachman Shai talks about the incident with the Israeli soldiers in Palestinian custody (October 12)

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Helicopters rocketed the residential compound in Gaza of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

"This is a declaration of war," Arafat told reporters in Gaza where he had been scheduled to meet with U.S. Central Intelligence Director George Tenet. Palestinian officials said Tenet had stopped at Erez Crossing but decided to turn back to Israel.

The attacks in Ramallah destroyed the top floor of a police station and badly damaged the bottom floor, said CNN Producer Sausan Ghosheh. At least 16 people were injured. A building near the Palestinian Authority headquarters was also damaged.

Outside the ruined police station, angry Palestinians gathered, many agreeing with Arafat that the attack was a declaration of war, she said.

In Gaza City, CNN's Rula Amin reported that Israeli gunboats were on patrol off the coast of the Palestinian city.

Witnesses said that helicopters fired in the vicinity of Arafat's headquarters there, but the building was not hit.

A Palestinian marine force boat docked at a marina was damaged in the attack.

Israel seals Palestinian communities

Immediately after the air strikes, Israeli officials closed all Palestinian-controlled areas, barring, except in an extreme emergency, Palestinians from traveling outside their communities.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called the situation "grave" and canceled all his appointments for the day.

Israeli Army Col. Raanan Gissin told CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna that the attack on Ramallah was "more than retaliation" for the deaths of the soldiers.

"Our purpose and mission is really to deliver a very stern message that these things cannot be tolerated," Gissin said. "Even in a war there are certain conventions that can't be violated, and this is a violation of the worst way."

The deaths of the two Israeli soldiers, and the Israeli response, put up seemingly insurmountable blocks to efforts to mediate a cessation of violence in the region.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who held meetings with Barak and Arafat over the last two days, said the incident "complicates the issues we are trying to resolve."

Annan spoke following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Emile Lahoud in Beirut, where the U.N. chief was seeking a resolution to the capture of three other Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters near the Lebanon-Israel border.

Annan's diplomacy had secured a commitment from both the Israelis and Palestinians for a high-level security meeting to be chaired by the U.S. CIA chief, but Tenet's plans following Thursday's events were unclear.

Israelis, Palestinians blame each other

Gissin, the Israeli colonel, said that the mob attack that left the two soldiers dead was unwarranted and unprovoked.

"We've been trying to argue with the Palestinians that they should take control of the situation," he said. "But what happened today seems the complete lack of control and unfortunately instigated and supported as we know by some of the Palestinian police."

But the Palestinians said that the soldiers were on an undercover mission, in civilian clothes and driving a civilian car, when they were captured. The Israeli army said the men were reservists trying to reach their post when they took a wrong turn.

Israeli military officials said that two other soldiers were unaccounted for after the attack, but Nabil Abu-Rudeinah, an adviser to Palestinian leader Arafat, said the Palestinians were not aware of any other soldiers.

The dead soldiers' bodies have been turned over to Israeli authorities.

Palestinians and Israelis have been fighting for two weeks, since hawkish Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited a bitterly contested religious site in east Jerusalem.

Sharon, the Likud Party chairman, came to the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Arabs as Haram as-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, on September 28. Arabs considered the visit an insult, and said Sharon "defiled" the sacred site.

CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna, CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel, Ben Wedeman and Rula Amin, and CNN Producer Sausan Ghosheh contributed to this report.

Annan claims breakthrough in Mideast diplomacy
October 11, 2000
U.N. leader improves hopes for resolving Mideast crisis
October 10, 2000
Barak lifts deadline on Palestinians; says he'll attend U.S.-hosted summit if called
October 9, 2000
U.N. secretary-general heads for Mideast meeting with Arafat, Barak
October 8, 2000
Bus shooting caps turbulent day in Middle East
October 7, 2000
Israel closes Palestinian borders anticipating more violence
October 6, 2000
Gaza fighting subsides despite failure at talks
October 5, 2000

Israel Defense Forces
Addameer: Palestinian Human Rights Association
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Official Palestinian National Authority Web site
Government: Palestinian National Authority
The Israeli Government's Official Web site
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U.S. State Department

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