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Israelis Hit Palestinian Targets After Mob Kills Two Soldiers; Saeb Erakat Discusses Escalation

Aired October 12, 2000 - 10:39 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And as we're handling the USS Cole story, also, of course, keeping our eyes on the Middle East.

To recap, for those of you who are just joining us, this situation has definitely escalated in tension as the day has gone on. Earlier today, four Israeli soldiers were captured in the town of Ramallah. Two of those soldiers were killed; two are still unaccounted for. Earlier reports say that the two who were killed were killed by a mob of Palestinians who ran on a police station in the town of Ramallah.

In the hours following that, the Israeli military has attacked the town of Ramallah and Gaza City, both by air with helicopter gunships and also by ships by sea from the coast just outside of Gaza.

The pictures we're show you, we believe these are attacks on the Palestinian police station where those two Israeli soldiers were taken after they were captured and where the mob, as we understand it, allegedly ran on the police station and killed those two Israeli soldiers.

The Palestinians say that in the hours following, from the attacks from air and by sea, that they believe that 16 people, 16 Palestinians, have been killed in those attacks.

We continue to monitor that situation, talking to our correspondents on the ground, both in Ramallah, also in Gaza and also expect to hear more out of Washington just ahead.

With more, here is Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Daryn, one of the CNN folks on the ground in Ramallah is a CNN producer, Sausan Ghosheh, who we spoke with last hour and at the time, we could hear a number of Palestinians chanting in the streets. The estimates we had, was upwards of a thousand Palestinians have converged on that police station in central Ramallah.

Sausan, if you can hear me, bring us up to date since the last time we spoke here, about 60 minutes ago.

SAUSAN GHOSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm standing outside another police station that was hit today. It's on the northwestern part of Ramallah. It's an area called Lisudah (ph). Actually, the police station itself was not hit but three cars belonging to the police station were hit. The smoke is still coming out of them. I can see the fire, and five people trying to clear the smoke away. The police here is on high alert. They're not letting many people come by. Journalists are only allowed in and out because helicopters are still hovering in the air, as we are speaking now, and they're expecting another attack on the police station itself -- Bill.

HEMMER: Sausan, has there been much movement in the streets, not only of Palestinian protesters, who have been there chanting, but also either police or military personnel on the streets of Ramallah?

GHOSHEH: Well, today, there has been extra heightened security. Coming into Ramallah today, I was stopped by Israeli army first and then the Palestinian army and you find gunmen, both in uniform and not in uniform, walking the streets of Ramallah. Very extreme high alert and, in addition, after the bombing took place, you find everybody coming down to the streets, especially the youth. The elderly are watching TV -- watching up-to-date, either CNN or a similar channel in Arabic. It's called (INAUDIBLE). The others -- the youth are in the street, either with guns. They're not chanting. For the first time in years, we see something quite new. Again, coming back, Palestinian flags being raised as a way to reassert Palestinian identity, calling on this attack as a humiliation against the Palestinian people and a declaration of war -- Bill.

HEMMER: Sausan, I know you are in the center part of the town, but what are we seeing and showing our viewers back here in the U.S. are a number of Israeli tanks perched just outside of Ramallah. I don't know if you can see them from your location and if you cannot see them, do you have any indication about their distance from where you are located, there, in the center part of town?

GHOSHEH: I am at the northwestern part of Ramallah in area A under Palestinian control. They are actually in the north part of Ramallah. So, they are less than, 10 minutes by car, actually.


GHOSHEH: But I can't see them from where I am because I am in the middle of a residential area. This police station, unlike the other one, was in mainly in a business area. This police station -- I just heard another bomb. I see two helicopters now. I just heard another bomb as we are speaking. Another one as well, now, two, so far. I don't know, everybody is running, taking cover.

HEMMER: Sausan, do those appear to be bombs on the ground, or do they appear to be explosions caused by firing of either a tank or a helicopter?

GHOSHEH: No, helicopters, once we see the helicopters and we hear a bang in the area and everybody takes cover. There's another one now as we are speaking, Bill. I am seeing smoke now. I am seeing smoke coming from a distance here. And now another one, I heard a fourth bang. HEMMER: How far away are you, Sausan, from what we are seeing here? Because, we can see the smoke and the explosion that just occurred as well, back here in the U.S.

GHOSHEH: I don't know. It's right in front of me, actually. It's less than two kilometers or three kilometers away from me, but it's up a hill.

HEMMER: Do you know the buildings in that area? Are you familiar with the buildings? And if so, what may have been targeted?

GHOSHEH: It could be the government. Arafat's office is also the office where the government, the governor of Ramallah also resides. It seems like it's somewhere in that area, because there is a big antenna, which belongs -- it's right next to the big antenna that belongs to Arafat's office, headquarters here in Ramallah.

HEMMER: We should make it clear to our viewers, that Yasser Arafat is not in Ramallah. It is our understanding that he is actually in Gaza City, along the Gaza Strip.

Sausan, as we continue our discussion, the camera that we are using right now is panning, now, up toward the sky. We saw two helicopters previously. Now we have it trained on one. About an hour ago, you reported that three or four Israeli helicopters were in the area. Can you clarify that number?

GHOSHEH: At the beginning, when I was in the first police station -- there, I am hearing ambulances now. You can hear them drive right by me. But, when I was in the first police station, there were three helicopters. Now I am seeing just two. We can hear the ambulances coming. And they're going towards the smoke that we are seeing on TV.

HEMMER: The protesters, who were in the streets, Sausan, again, about an hour ago, said to number upwards of a thousand, are they still in the streets there, of Ramallah?

GHOSHEH: I am in a different area, now, but every time you hear a bomb, you hear -- the older people, as I said people before, stay at home. But the younger ones are coming more and more into the streets with anger, with signs of asserting national unity as well as national beliefs and feelings.

HEMMER: And as far as we know, right now, based on your location, based on the information you are gathering, the only Israeli troops in that area, are the helicopters overhead, and the tanks just outside, on the northern edge of town, correct?

GHOSHEH: And of course, the regular army checkpoints that have been -- have been here before, for the past 10 days and they are usually around every once in a while, since this process began.

HEMMER: OK, Sausan, also, you mentioned the Palestinian flags.

GHOSHEH: There is another -- there is another bomb that happened now. I can see only one helicopter. And another one now, from a different place. I see two helicopters now. And I can see it now, it's going, and I see actually the bomb coming out of the helicopter. It's going towards the police station, where I am standing.


HEMMER: Yes, Sausan. I can hear you and, indeed, we want to make sure that you are OK and you are in a safe location. If you still feel comfortable speaking with us, we would like you to continue our conversation. Otherwise, we want you to take cover.

GHOSHEH: So far, I mean they are right over my head, the helicopters. They hit, I think, the same police station. Let me just ask in Arabic. They hit the same police station again.

HEMMER: OK, how big is that building, Sausan? Earlier you reported two floors. Is it more than two?

GHOSHEH: This is a two story building.

HEMMER: OK, can you describe it to us? Would we be seeing it in our live picture here now?

GHOSHEH: I don't think you'll be seeing it. It's beyond the hill from where your live picture is.

HEMMER: OK, very clear, Sausan, again, I want to make it very clear to you. Do you feel safe and comfortable where you are?

GHOSHEH: Again, there is another bomb now. Everybody, the police is clearing the area. So, maybe I should -- I'll go and I'll call you from the next location.

HEMMER: Indeed, please do that and please be safe.

Rather intrepid work by Sausan Ghosheh, our CNN producer on the ground there in Ramallah. We have been speaking with her for the past few hours and, indeed the scene is still tenuous and rather precarious at this point. Also, you can see from the sunlight, it is coming up on dusk in the Middle East. We expect the sun to go down within the hour. Normally, about noon, Eastern time, with the Middle East, right now, six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. We should see dusk fully settle in right about noon Eastern time. At nightfall, we will see what happens and unfolds in the situation then.

In the meantime, here is Daryn for more.

KAGAN: Hard to believe we are just some weeks away from when the Palestinians and Israelis sat down at the table at Camp David. Some thought they were close to a peace agreement.

We have, on the phone with us, right now, Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in those talks.

Mr. Erakat, we are going to respect your wishes and say that you are simply in the region, although, you don't want to do say your exact whereabouts, but, thank you for joining us.


KAGAN: Are you able, can you tell us what word of damage and casualties you have received from these latest attacks that took place today?

ERAKAT: Well, I know that at least six locations were bombarded in Ramallah and three in the Gaza Strip. And at this hour of darkness, we are a civilian population, the Palestinians, totally under siege. I am afraid that the worst did not happen yet. I am afraid that the tanks patrolling may enter the towns, massacres will be committed.

And once again, I urge President Clinton, I urge the international community, to interfere immediately in order to put an end to this craziness and to this mad train without breaks. It is war. It's uncalled for. We have been witnessing killing fields in the last two weeks and at a time when President Arafat was meeting with Mr. George Tenet, the CIA director in Gaza, preparing for the trilateral security meeting to bring this situation down, we see the helicopters and the tanks and the language of force and might. It's not a war because we don't have anything to respond to these tanks and these helicopters. We really, at this hour of darkness, call upon the international community to help us and to stop the massacres that will be committed against our people.

KAGAN: And when you call upon these world leaders and you call upon President Clinton, what, in practical matters, do you want them to do.

ERAKAT: I know that Mr. Barak is refusing to taken any calls from the White House. I know that he's refusing to take any calls from anybody else. I believe the international community must interfere to help the Palestinian population before it's too late.

KAGAN: Why have we not heard from Yasser Arafat during all this?

ERAKAT: Well, three of the places where the headquarters in Gaza were bombarded. I don't know about the president's whereabouts, right now. But we are witnessing a war, an all-out war being engaged on all. We are people with no tanks, no guns...

KAGAN: Apparently, we lost the line there. We were talking with Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator during the Camp David talks which, as we mentioned, were just some weeks ago, when it seemed that Israelis and the Palestinians were a lot closer with getting a peace agreement.



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