Arafat office building under fire, official says
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Fresh explosions and heavy machine gun fire erupted at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound late Friday as Israelis continued to besiege the area. A Palestinian official inside Arafat's main office building said that building was among those under fire.
"The Israelis are shelling and rocketing the main building right now," Nabil abu Rudeineh, an Arafat aide inside Arafat's office, told CNN.
Israeli forces also erected a barbed wire fence encircling Arafat's office building, CNN Producer Sausan Ghosheh reported.
Ghosheh said explosions went off in the Palestinian presidential information center and the building where Arafat holds news conferences and town hall meetings.
Israeli forces were calling on Palestinians inside the two buildings to surrender. Ghosheh said the Israeli forces were using the explosions to make a clearance to enter. The Israeli forces are combing the two buildings.
Earlier Friday, the army began demolishing a connecting bridge between the Palestinian leader's office and another building in his Ramallah compound. Palestinian officials feared it could cause the collapse of the building housing their president.
"The situation is very grave and serious ... We urge the United States to interfere immediately to stop this catastrophe," said Rudeineh.
A short time afterward, a group of men walked out of the compound with their hands in the air. It is not known whether the men were wanted by Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed an operation. Ra'anan Gissin, an Israeli government official, said Arafat will not be personally harmed in the operation.
The military operation aimed at isolating Arafat began after a bomb attack on a bus in Tel Aviv Thursday left six dead. The IDF said it has demolished 10 buildings at Arafat's compound.
The IDF said it was looking for four Palestinians whom Israel accuses of financing and aiding terrorists. The suspects have not surrendered. Earlier, about 20 wanted Palestinians gave themselves up. Rudeineh said there are no terrorists holed up there.
A leaflet faxed to news organizations Friday said Izzedine al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
The U.S. State Department has labeled Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, a terrorist organization. Izzedine al Qassam has admitted responsibility for previous terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a list of the bombing victims who were killed: Solomon Honig, 79, of Tel Aviv; Yossi Mamistavlov, 39, of Or Yehuda, the bus driver; Yaffa Shemtov Hanoun, 49, of Tel Aviv and Rosanna Siso, 63, of Gan Yavneh Ofer Zinger, 29, of Moshav Pazael.
On Friday, hospital sources reported the death of a sixth victim, a teenage tourist identified by the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz as Jonathan (Yoni) Jesner from Glasgow, Scotland. He had been hospitalized after the attack with serious head injuries. (More on the bomb scene)
The bombing occurred at lunchtime Thursday when a man with an explosive device tried to board a bus in the center of downtown Tel Aviv. Israeli police said 60 people were wounded.
Just hours later, Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into Arafat's compound in Ramallah.
The Palestinians who surrendered were transferred to security forces for questioning, the IDF said.
Ghosheh reported that "Israeli forces have blown up the building that houses the Personal Security Guard for Yasser Arafat. This was where they slept, ate and went about their daily lives. The National Security building was blown up shortly before."
According to an IDF statement, "The IDF is surrounding the compound and operating inside in order to isolate wanted Palestinians responsible for terrorist activity who are taking cover inside."
Israeli forces were also active overnight in the Sajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City.
During the operation, IDF destroyed seven buildings it claims were used as workshops for making weapons and Qassam rockets. Ammunition was also found, the IDF said.
The IDF also said it detonated a large explosives lab.
At one point, the IDF said, armed Palestinians opened fire on the Israeli forces and also set off an explosive device. Three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured, it said. Two of them were transferred to the hospital.
Palestinian sources said a man and a woman were killed by Israeli gunfire Friday. Both were civilians.