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Shelling in Palestinian Cities

Aired March 28, 2001 - 13:08   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A story that we're just now hearing about that we told you a few moments ago, reports that Israeli forces are shelling Palestinian cities following bomb attacks against Israelis. The cities are Ramallah, Gaza City, and Hebron.

We have with us now our Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna, who can tell us what's going on there -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the Israeli Defense Force has confirmed that it's carrying out operations against targets in the West Bank town of Ramallah as well as in Gaza city in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defense Force says it is carrying out attacks against Palestinian Authority targets that it says are linked to the terror attacks that have been taking place in Israel in recent days.

Palestinian sources in Gaza city say that one of the apparent targets is the headquarters of Force 17, this the personal bodyguard of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. So the Israeli Defense Force says that these actions are being taken at present against targets it says have been carefully selected in Ramallah and in Gaza city. The exact nature of these targets not clear at this particular point.

The attacks follow a day in which there was yet another bomb attack in Israel. On this occasion, two Israeli teenagers were killed when suicide bomber detonated an explosive device studded with nails. This happened in central Israel while the teenagers waken for transport to yeshiva, or religious studies institute, in a settlement in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been holding a meeting of security cabinet for the last few hours. And this appears to be the result of that meeting, the decision to strike at what Israel says are selected targets in the Palestinian Authority; in particular at this stage it has been confirmed in Ramallah and Gaza City, Natalie.

ALLEN: And did you say whether these targets, whether the Palestinians were warned that this was going to happen?

HANNA: Well, we had received unconfirmed reports that in Gaza City, Palestinians, certain officers, had received notice that they must evacuate, those particular officers. This had not been confirmed at this particular point. The Israeli Defense Force has not confirmed sending out any prior notification before these attacks took place. What we do understand, though, as I said is that one Palestinian report does say that one of the targets that has come under attack, reports of the helicopter attack, the headquarters of Force 17, the personal bodyguard of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Now, Ariel Sharon has stated repeatedly in recent days that he holds the Palestinian Authority and its leader responsible for the recent wave of bomb attacks. The Israeli government has alleged that there are those very close to Yasser Arafat who have had direct complicity in the planning of these attacks. They've also alleged that the Palestinian Authority must accept responsibility for the attacks in that they released large amounts of prisoners from the militant Hamas organization in recent months and have refused Israeli demands that these prisoner be rearrested.

So the Israeli government has been saying repeatedly that it holds Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat responsible for the bombing attacks in recent days. And it does appear that these attacks are ongoing at present, although we have heard one report on Israeli radio quoting an army spokesman as saying that the attack is nearly over.

However, it has been stressed as well by the IDF that these attacks may be part of an ongoing, long-term strategy. This long-term strategy is something that Ariel Sharon has been speaking about in recent days. He's been saying that he's unwilling to be forced into hasty reaction to the ongoing bombings. But he says that he will continue to maintain a long-term strategy in which those he holds responsible will not go unpunished. Back to you.

ALLEN: Mike Hanna, we thank you live from Israel. We will continue to follow the story today.

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