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Thousands dead in India; quake toll rapidly rising

Israelis, Palestinians make final push before Israeli election

Davos protesters face tear gas


4:30pm ET, 4/16










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On the scene with Fionnuala Sweeney in Jerusalem

Fionnuala Sweeney
Fionnuala Sweeney  

CNN International anchor Fionnuala Sweeney is in Jerusalem reporting on the most recent developments from the Middle East.

Q: What prompted the latest escalation of violence?

SWEENEY: There have been clashes today in Ramallah, in Hebron in the West Bank, and in Gaza. These followed overnight helicopter gunship attacks by the Israelis against the Al Fatah offices of Yasser Arafat -- that's the political party which he is affiliated. These attacks happened in Rammallah, in Nablus and also in Gaza, where Arafat's 417 command post, his elite bodyguard unit, was also attacked by helicopter gunships. The Israelis said they did that in retaliation for the killing of two Israelis yesterday, one was a security guard for the national insurance office in east Jerusalem, which gives benefits to Palestinians, and another colleague was critically wounded. The other killing the Israelis were retaliating for was an Israeli who was stabbed on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Q: What is the mood like there in the streets, because it seems like everyday the tensions are rising?

SWEENEY: The Israelis have adopted a new military tactic. They are saying they are going to send in small units trained in guerilla warfare to stop Palestinians from firing on them -- that they are going to go on the initiative, rather than wait on the battle to come to them. That's been one development that was announced by Ephraim Sneh, who is the Israeli deputy defense minister.

Then, what you have on the streets is Palestinians demonstrating with Molotov cocktails and rocks. Also in cases like we had in Carni today, there was gunfire. When there's gunfire, there's an exchange of gunfire between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Q: What is Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat saying about the latest outbreak of violence?

SWEENEY: He is condemning very strongly what happened last night and overnight with the helicopter gunship attacks on the Al Fatah office and command post 417. He's saying it will not stop his cause on the road to Jerusalem. He said all of the attacks will not cause the "eyelash to blink of any Palestinian boy from carrying a Palestinian stone to defend Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine."

Q: CNN's Ben Wedeman was shot while covering the news there Tuesday. What happened in that incident?

SWEENEY: Our understanding is that he got caught with a group of journalists in the middle of an exchange of gunfire. The Palestinians were behind him shooting at the Israelis, and the Israelis were on the other side shooting at the Palestinians. And he got caught in the exchange of fire.

Q: How does it affect you as a journalist when a colleague gets wounded?

SWEENEY: When we heard the news, everyone was just shocked. All we heard was that he had been hit. We didn't know how serious the injury was, and it took a short time to establish what exactly happened to him. In the meantime, there was just really silence in the bureau, apart from individuals trying to get in touch with producers and the cover people who were with him when it happened.

People say you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was unlucky, and yet the doctors say he was very lucky because it could have been much worse.

Q: What's the political situation like for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak following his speech Monday to the Knesset, or parliament?

SWEENEY: I think he's breathing a little easier today, because even though he didn't get to form his government of national unity, he did do a deal with the religious Shas party. That party has said over the next month it's not going to do anything to bring down his government. So, while he has not formed the government of national emergency that he was looking for, Barak has at least a month whereby Shas is going to stand by him. He'll have a majority in the Knesset, at least for the next four weeks.

Gunfire in Gaza injures CNN's Ben Wedeman
October 31, 2000
Israel's helicopter attacks raise fears of heightened violence
October 31, 2000

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