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Crisis in the Middle East: Israel Conducts Missile Strikes on Palestinian Authority Targets Following Bus Attack

Aired November 20, 2000 - 12:22 p.m. ET

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

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: After just a brief weekend lull, there is more violence between Israelis and Palestinians. At this hour, Israel is conducting missile strikes at Palestinian Authority targets. This in response to a deadly attack on a bus carrying Jewish children to school in Gaza. Two adults were killed and several children injured in that bombing.

CNN's Tom Mintier is in Gaza now with the very latest -- Tom.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frank, this attack has been going on for well over an hour now. There haven't been any missiles launched probably in the last four to five minutes, but well over two dozen missiles hitting their targets here in Gaza City.

The first target was a seven-story building, the Preventive Security building. We were told that building was completely destroyed. There have been several other targets, including Mr. Arafat's Fatah headquarters. That was also hit repeatedly by the helicopter gunships.

No idea how many gunships were on the mission over Gaza City. We heard at least two helicopters operating in different areas. We also saw antiaircraft fire coming up from the ground on at least two occasions, trying to shoot down the helicopters. They apparently missed. We have not seen any antiaircraft fire for the last 30 minutes, I would say. We have not seen any more missiles for the past five minutes.

Half of this city is plunged into darkness. Moments after the first missile hit, the lights went out on a wide strip from the sea into the inner part of Gaza City. Those lights have not come back on. You do see a few traffic lights on behind me in an area of the city that has not been hit. has not been targeted and still has electricity. But I would say the majority of this city from north to south has been plunged into darkness as this attack has gone on.

As you said, this was in response to an attack on a bus earlier today. This bus attack killed two Israelis, it wounded 10 others, including five schoolchildren. So late in the afternoon, the Israeli cabinet, the Security Council met and blamed Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party. So there was a clear indication that that party was -- headquarters was probably on the target list. Early in the afternoon here in Gaza City, people started moving out of these office buildings. Half of the town basically cleared out, as has been the case previously. Word went out that buildings were going to be hit and people moved out.

I'm sorry, Frank, I can't hear you because we've lost the IFB, but I can tell you I can hear, as you always hear in Gaza City, the sounds of sirens across the city. We have no idea about casualties from these attacks. On the first target, I saw at least seven or eight missiles hit that target. No idea if anyone was in the building or any of the debris hit into other buildings in the area.

This is a very closely packed city so if a missile goes astray, not hitting its intended target, it's quite likely there will be some casualties. Be we have -- we've heard sirens probably for the last hour zigzagging across the city, going to the areas where the strikes have taken place.

Now, it's not all just here in Gaza City. Communis (ph), an area outside of Gaza City, was also hit; also in Rafa on the border with Egypt, another report of a helicopter airstrike with missiles.

So at least two dozen missiles rained down on Gaza City for the last hour, hour and 15 minutes. There is apparently a lull going on right now. For the longest time, you could hear the helicopters hovering over the city. You could here the whack, whack, whack of their blades as they were whipping into the wind here. But now that sound has gone. The only sound you hear are sirens on the ground.

I'm Tom Mintier, CNN, reporting live from Gaza City.

SESNO: And we want to tell you that we will continue to follow Tom Mintier's reporting and the situation -- the very delicate and dangerous situation -- in the Middle East throughout this day, even as we're following the dramatic day as far as the recount in the presidential election in the United States through the Florida state Supreme Court.

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