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Crisis in the Middle East: At Least Two Israeli Soldiers Killed by a Palestinian Crowd in RamallahAired October 12, 2000 - 8:01 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: But right now we begin with significant developments in the Middle East. Four Israeli soldiers dressed in civilian clothes were discovered in the West Bank. Deaths are now reported.
We go to Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The situation is, as the facts are known, is that at least two Israeli soldiers have been killed by a Palestinian crowd in the West Bank town of Ramallah, under Palestinian control. Not clear whether they may have been more Israeli soldiers who were taken captive by the Palestinian police there. But the facts, as known, and as detailed by the Israelis, and to some degree by the Palestinian side, that the soldiers went there, according to the Israelis, erroneously. They were reserve soldiers, whether they were in uniform or not clear, were taken by the Palestinian police to this police station you see in the background. And there, a crowd of Palestinians swept into the police station and killed the two men, whose bodies were taken outside, or at least one was paraded through the streets of Ramallah.
The Palestinians say, the bodies were handed back to the Israelis later. The Palestinians say that they were undercover, acting undercover in civilian guise, and were taken for questioning there. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat has expressed regret over the situation, but the tension has ratcheted up, and has been growing all the while since then, with the Israelis continuing to blame Yasser Arafat directly, saying his Palestinian police have not -- were not able to control the crowd, and that this is part of the ongoing -- Mr. Arafat's ongoing strategy in this two week confrontation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NACHMAN SHAI, ISRAELI GOV'T SPOKESMAN: Very significant development in the situation. we have been warning that it will happen. Once Arafat ignited the entire Middle East, now he pours more and more fuel on the situation. He wants the fire to burn and to be as high as possible. He does every effort now to bring the entire Middle East into an armed conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KESSEL: The Palestinian Authority, in a statement issued from Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Gaze, expressed regret for the incident, but continue to say that the responsibility for the ongoing violence was in the hands of Israel because Israel was continuing to fire at Palestinian demonstrators. So the racheting of tension continues and the Palestinians continue to see this incident in the context, say it must be seen in the context of the ongoing violence, where there -- many of their people have been killed in -- almost 100 in last two weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GHASSAN KHATTIB, PALESTINIAN ANALYST: It cannot be a turning point and I hope it's not a turning point, things are extremely bad anyhow without this incident. Unfortunately, there has been the killing of the average of 10 Palestinians on a daily basis by the Israeli army, which is creating a situations of anger and frustration amongst the Palestinians, and suddenly those Palestinians have found Israelis undercover soldiers inside Ramallah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KESSEL: The Israelis calling it no less than a lynch, and Prime Minister Barak has canceled all his other appointments and is considering the situation. And he, when asked what Israel would do, said: We will know what to do. That the Israeli position, and this comes -- this latest development, just after the United Nations under Kofi Annan had succeeded in getting the two sides to agree to a top- level security meeting under the auspices of the CIA chief George Tenet later today. He's arrived in the area. It's not now clear whether such a meeting will be held to try to calm the situation down. The situation, at the moment, is only racheting up in tension, and it looks like going on that way.
I am Jerrold Kessel, CNN, reporting live from Jerusalem.
LIN: Jerrold, before you go, you said that the Palestinian Authority is expressing regret over this incident with the Israeli soldiers. Does this suggest that Yasser Arafat no longer has the authority to stop the violence on the street?
KESSEL: Well, the way they -- when asked about in fact that pointed Israeli accusation of why, if these soldiers were taken under Israeli, under the control of the Palestinian police, to their police headquarters, and were then allowed to be taken out by the mob, or killed by the crowd inside, why that had been allowed happened, a chief aide to Mr. Arafat said that in fact the police had tried to stop it happening and that a number of the policemen had been injured; that the official Palestinian position. it is quite clear, the Palestinians also go on and say that this must be seen in the context of the raging emotions, the seared Palestinian emotions that have occurred after these last two weeks a violence, which have seen nearly 100 Palestinians killed.
And the question I think is also applicable to whether the demonstrations go on. Does Arafat have the control or not, a key point but it certainty is a fact that there are searing emotions -- seething emotions on the Palestinian street. LIN: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Jerrold Kessel reporting live from Jerusalem -- Leon.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this development comes during United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to the region. He was holding a press conference earlier to talk about his efforts to mediate the situation.
CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler has more on that now -- Brent.
BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Thanks, Leon.
It was as Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, was here in Beirut that first reports began to emerge of that serious situation developing in Ramallah with the taking and subsequent death of those two Israeli soldiers. In fact, Mr. Annan was in a top-level meeting here with Lebanon's president, Emile Lahoud, hearing a list of complaints about Israeli actions.
The Lebanese saying that Israeli overflights violate their airspace, this following last weekend's abduction by Hezbollah guerrillas of three Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack. Also, say the Lebanese government, complaints that Israel had again violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 425 by shooting across the border last weekend, killing two Israelis in a confrontation then.
Now, on the issue of the Israeli soldiers, Hezbollah, who holds them, continues to give no information whatsoever, although Hezbollah says it is open to mediation from the secretary-general, although Mr. Annan himself has not, while he has been here in Beirut, engaged in direct conversations with Hezbollah. He is said to leaving that for lower-level officials.
Mr. Annan, however, did meet Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Harazi (ph), a short time ago, and during those discussions, the issue of hostages, of abductees was taken up, not just of the Israelis on the Lebanese side of the border, but also Lebanese detainees, about 19, being held in Israeli jails, which Hezbollah say must be part of any future prisoner exchange.
So it was while these negotiations were going on the Mr. Annan had news about what has happened in Ramallah, those captures, and those subsequent deaths. And Mr. Annan said that seriously complicated a very messy situation.
He is now in the south of this country, getting a briefing from United Nations security officials along a very tense Lebanese-Israeli border.
Back to you, Leon.
HARRIS: All right, thanks, Brent Sadler reporting live this morning from Beirut.
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