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Breaking News

Israeli Air Strikes in Gaza in Response to Bus Attack

Aired November 20, 2000 - 11:36 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. We go to the Middle East right now, where we are continuing to follow the story of Israeli helicopters firing missiles in Gaza City. As we understand it, this moment, continuing strikes are going on right now as we are bringing this story to you. We are told that Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at targets in Gaza City. This, we got news of this just about 20 minutes ago. And we're told it's in response to a bomb attack on a Jewish settlers' bus in which two Israelis were killed.

We were also told children were aboard of that bus. We do not know the condition of the injured at this time, and just that we know that two Israelis were killed in that bomb attack.

Now we are told from our Tom Mintier, who we are trying to get on the line right now -- we've been losing our cell signal with him -- that the helicopters fired at least 12 missiles, and the continuing strikes are happening right now. Obviously, more than a dozen missiles at this time. The strikes have been going on in areas near Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's seaside office, and the headquarters of his Fatah faction. The office of one of Arafat's security services was also apparently targeted.

At this point, we know if any immediately reports of casualties or damage in this aerial assault. We do know that the helicopter strike appeared to knock out electricity in parts of Gaza City. The population there, as we understand, is about one million people. Once again, Israeli helicopters firing missiles in Gaza City. The crisis in the Middle East goes on.

As you can see here by our pictures that there, that the strikes are continuing at this moment.

And we hope to bring Tom Mintier to you as soon as we can get him on the line. We are having a hard time of getting him by cell phone, as you can tell.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Back to our breaking story in the Middle East, where Israeli helicopters have been firing missiles in Gaza City. We're going to bring in our Tom Mintier now, who joins us by cell phone.

Tom, can you tell us what's the latest, with regard to possible casualties, what targets? We're looking at a live picture right now.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, we have no idea on the of number of casualties yet from the position we're in. We do what the targets were. The Preventative Security Building Has been hit and totally destroyed according to Palestinian sources. The helicopter is overhead right now. I can hear it. And also, I have seen anti-aircraft trying to shoot down this helicopter. I see a flair off in the distance. There are about three different locations in downtown Gaza City that have been hit in the last half hour. The Fatah headquarters was hit and heavily damaged, and the second Fatah headquarters in the northern part of the of Gaza City has also been hit.

But the helicopters are continuing to hover. They're continuing to fire their missiles. And you can see a red dot glowing across the sky, and then it burns itself out, and then about three seconds later, then you hear the explosion. You can hear in the distance, the rumble of explosions, as other targets being hit by other helicopters, than the one that's hovering right above us in the building we're standing in.

PHILLIPS: Tom, you're in a safe place, though, right? You are not concerned about where you are right now?

MINTIER: No, I am not really concerned where I am right now. I am in an 11th-story building that's probably not on the target list. So I can simply stand here and watch the action 360 degrees around the city.

I was watching from one side of the building when it started, and then it -- they moved tie second target, and put about six or seven missiles on that. That was a Preventative Security Building, which we are -- which we were told completely destroyed, and then they hit a couple of other targets in the center of the city, near Yasser Arafat's office, and then one in the northern part of the city, that's been hit by three missiles just in the last two minutes.

PHILLIPS: And this is in response to the bomb attack on the bus that happened today, where two Israelis were killed?

MINTIER: That's correct. The Israeli cabinet and the security cabinet met earlier this afternoon, and announced they would indeed retaliate against the Palestinians, blaming Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party for this bomb explosion a school bus. That was coming out of a Jewish settlement this morning here in Gaza, and was hit by a roadside bomb.

Now there were two adults killed on this bus. One was a female, a schoolteacher. The other was a man. But there were 10 people injured, including five children. So there are a lot of angry people right now that have been demanding that Ehud Barak take some sort of action, and the action they've been demanding is happening right now.

PHILLIPS: Tom, did Yasser Arafat come right out and say he was not responsible for the bomb attack on the bus? MINTIER: Within about three to four hours after the attack, his spokeswoman did come out and say, that they had nothing to do with it, they weren't responsible for it, didn't know about it. And just before the attack happened on Gaza City, Mr. Arafat's spokesman issuing another statement, calling on the United States to intervene to try to stop this attack that is currently under way.

PHILLIPS: There were a couple of other groups, unknown groups, that are claiming responsibility. Do you know anything about those groups?

MINTIER: No. There were as many as three groups, and for the most part, nobody had heard about these groups at all, that claimed responsibility for bombing the bus.

As you can expect in a situation like this, when somebody hears of something like this happening, they jump forward and claim responsibility, and that may be what happens here. Because one of the groups that claimed responsibility in their note said that, you know, that it wasn't the other group that did it, we did. So that was going on throughout the day today from as far away from Damascus and Beirut. ]

PHILLIPS: Now I am seeing black spots in the live picture here. Are there areas where the strikes have knocked out electricity in parts of the city?

MINTIER: I would say that half of Gaza City right now is without electricity, including the building that I am standing on. As you look through the center of the city to the beach, it is just a sea of darkness where this area of strikes are taking place. Right after the first missile fit hit, a large section of the city went without power. The outlying areas, areas that apparently are not on the target list, still do have lights on. You can see street lights on the city. You can see a few cars moving around, but in the area where the military, the police and the government are located, it is extremely dark right now. The only light The only light you see is from the missile as they make their way down.

PHILLIPS: And, Tom, you said that there is one chopper that is launching these missiles right now, is that correct?

MINTIER: There is more than one. I would there is at least three gunships that are involved in this strike against Gaza City, because I can see -- I don't hear the one that was over atop of me right now. But I saw another one launch a missile right in the northern part of the city, and it was different than the one that was attacking the central part of the city. So there was at least two, if not more than that.

PHILLIPS: What do you know about these gunships, Tom? What do they look like? How big are they? How powerful are they?

MINTIER: Well, I think for anybody who is sitting on the ground where this missile is striking, they're very powerful. We can't see them, but we can only hear them. And you hear now on the roof another missile is making its way down on the city.

PHILLIPS: And who's firing -- do you know -- have you received word of who is firing back on the choppers?

MINTIER: All I could see is the red tracers in at least three different locations of anti-aircraft attempting to shoot down the helicopters with no success. The helicopters have simply been moving at free will around the city. There was only, you know, a token resistance of anti-aircraft, nothing like what was happening that night in Baghdad. I only saw two or three anti-aircraft positions where the red tracers could be seen going up in the air.

PHILLIPS: Now the areas near Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's office is where this is, is that right? And the headquarters of his Fatah faction also?

MINTIER: Well, the building where you are seeing the live picture from is probably eight or nine blocks away from Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

Now the Preventative Security Office, this was an incident that occurred on Saturday morning, where officers from Preventative Security made an attack on the settlement and killed two Israeli soldiers in an attack in the early morning before he was killed. He was a member of the Fatah Hawk faction, a faction that really has not been very active for some time, and only just this past weekend involved in any kind of military operations that we knew of.

PHILLIPS: And right now, you have confirmed that Arafat's security services, that building, has been just completely destroyed by the missile attacks?

MINTIER: Yes, that building, I could see from here, took about half a dozen or seven missiles that were all centered in the same area. And we received telephone confirmation from someone on the grouped that that building, indeed, was completely destroyed. This was the Preventative Security Building.

PHILLIPS: All right, Tom Mintier with the latest, as Israeli helicopters right now firing missiles in the Gaza City area, in response to a bomb attack on a Jewish bus, which happened earlier today, killing two Israelis. We'll check in with more as this breaking news continues.

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