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Suicide Bombers Target Pedestrian Mall in Jerusalem, Injure Over 130

Aired December 1, 2001 - 19:29   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back, folks. As you can tell, we are scrambling here.

I'll bring you the latest developments that we have coming out from two spots right now, the Middle East, and also in Afghanistan, the war is under way still, although we haven't had time to talk about it for the last two and a half hours or so, because we had the breaking news coming out of Israel of a multiple attack, of multiple bombings there happening in the Zion Square area in Jerusalem. We understand there were at least two suicide bombers, and we also have word of a car bomb that also was detonated. This, after the emergency officials arrived on the scene to help people who were injured in the first two explosions.

Right now, the numbers that we're getting about casualties are in the hundreds. We understand there are about 130 or so casualties, and we have gotten an updated figure of, I believe, it was eight dead we have at this particular point. We still don't have any more information -- any more clear information about the extent of the other injuries that may have been sustained in that area.

This is an area, we understand, that was very popular with young people, who were hanging out there on a late Sabbath day, and we understand that it was quite crowded. Our Jerrold Kessel has bee reporting throughout the evening. He was actually there before the bombs went off, and he says that the area was quite crowded.

We also saw some reports coming in from the Reuters News Service that many of those who were injured are -- appear to be either in their teens or in their 20s.

As you see here, this is the pictures -- these are pictures, rather, that we got in from Israeli Television, and that is the third explosion. Now, you see there the scene that had assembled there with the emergency workers and those -- and the onlookers who had arrived there in the wake of the first two explosions. And then, that one went off behind the building, and I believe if we keep this video rolling, you will be able to see the fireball that actually comes out of that alley where that car bomb was detonated.

We understand that the Israeli hospital is there, who have been calling in for volunteers to come in, because they had reached their capacity to handle patients. We don't know if that situation has abated at this particular hour now. We're about two-and-a-half hours or more, perhaps, into this story.

We have gotten condemnations both from Israeli government, as well as from the Palestinian Authority, of this event as a terrorist act. And we are still waiting to see what exactly is going to happen when the other shoe drops on this event. We are keeping our eye on the story. Again, you're looking at pictures that we're bringing in from Israeli Television that shows you some of the devastation.

This happened just outside of what we heard described as a cafe in an open mall, if you can imagine sort of an open square, then it has stores lined around it, and you've got sort of an overhang around portions of it. And we understand that this was near or very near an ice cream shop. This happened, again, we have no idea about how many people were truly injured. As you can see, there were numbers of people there -- scores of people. We haven't -- we understand there were many, many people there in the streets when this thing happened around just before midnight local time.

And again, we will continue to cover this story and bring you reaction as we get it. We are trying to drum up some reaction from the White House on this, and we will have more of that. And we'll also try to get to some other stories about what's happening in Afghanistan as well. We have some significant developments there to report as well. But we'll take a break and come back with more of that in just a moment, so please, please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Welcome back, as we now take time to check on the war in Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials are denying reports that its warplanes caused dozens of civilian deaths in two eastern Afghanistan villages. Local leaders are saying that the civilians were killed by U.S. bombs that missed their targets. Pentagon officials, however, say those villages were not anywhere near the targets.

Well, those U.S. airstrikes have been hammering away at one town in particular, hoping to flush several al Qaeda leaders out of hiding there. U.S. officials describe Tora Bora, which is near the Pakistan border, as a town or an area that's a maze of caverns and tunnels, where Osama bin Laden could be hiding. One Northern Alliance official, however, says that he believes that bin Laden is not there, and they believe that he is in southern Afghanistan.

While we're in that region, U.S. ground forces are digging in, waiting on their orders. At least 1,000 Marines, members of the 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit, have set up camp at a desert airstrip. Now, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says that their mission is going to be to tighten the noose around the Taliban.

Another 80 Taliban fighters emerged today from their hiding spots inside a prisoner of war camp near Mazar-e-Sharif. Northern Alliance forces literally flushed the Taliban troops out in the open by flooding the basement of the compound. Now, earlier this week, that fortress was the site of a bloody prison uprising, and when that was over, hundreds were dead, including one CIA officer.

After seven days in captivity, Canadian journalist, Ken Hechtman, has been freed by the Taliban. This 33-year-old freelance writer was released today and is now in Quetta, Pakistan, and we believe perhaps on his way home.

Now, we're going to get the latest coming up. We will have the latest on reports of civilian causalities and of the bombings that are under way right now in Jerusalem, as well as in Afghanistan. We'll have that for you in just -- as a matter of fact, we are joined now on the telephone -- I believe we're getting some other response right now from -- we're going back to our story of the bombing -- the terrorist bombings that we've seen three explosions in Jerusalem. And we are joined, I understand, now by Raanan Gissin, who is a spokesman for Ariel Sharon, and who is, by the way, in the U.S. currently and is set to have some meetings tomorrow morning with President Bush.

Mr. Gissin, what can you tell us?

RAANAN GISSIN, PRIME MINISTER ARIEL SHARON'S SPOKESMAN: Well, no doubt that Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority would have condemned terrorist attacks, and have taken -- made all of the declaration condemning the ground zero attack are trying to send us back to ground zero. He bears full responsibility of the actions that were taken today. He did not arrest, did not prevent, did not stop and continued with his unmitigated incitement that brought about this horrendous attack.

HARRIS: Well, what is it you are calling on him to do specifically?

GISSIN: Well, the problem is that he has done nothing. That is the problem. Not that he has done anything, but he has done nothing. Nothing of the declaration that he made and the promises that he made to implement the cease-fire ever materialized.

And not only that, in the current situation, he was trying to sabotage and derail General Zinni's mission, which is really to try and bring about a cease-fire. If he was really intent on bringing a cease-fire, if he would have taken the steps to arrest those people, and he got the names and addresses and places who are responsible for sending the suicide bombers. And the name -- the list was provided to him several times. And since they are not taking those actions, then we have to take the necessary action to stop those terrorists.

HARRIS: Well...

GISSIN: And I'm telling you, you know, he has only one choice, and he has to follow the choice which is so clearly enunciated by President Bush. Either he brings justice to those people, or we will bring justice to them.

HARRIS: Now, I don't know if you heard moments ago, but our Jerrold Kessel has been reporting it throughout the evening, that the Palestinian Authority has been making arrests. As a matter of fact, I believe he said they have made at least a dozen today alone. GISSIN: Yes, they arrested people who are already on the retirement list of Islamic Jihad and the Hamas. They are not arresting the people who are perpetrating, planning and sending those human suicide bombers. You've got to disband this human assembly line, you know, in order to stop the terrorist activity. And look at the pictures. You see the pictures on CNN. The pictures speak for themselves. Who is the victim here, and who is the aggressor? And there is no way in the world that he can exonerate himself, not after September 11.

HARRIS: Well, can you give us a heads up on what you expect to have Prime Minister Sharon ask or talk to President Bush about when they do meet tomorrow morning?

GISSIN: Well, first of all, you know, we are very grateful for the president for changing his schedule, and you know, cutting short his vacation in Camp David and agreeing to meet with the prime minister, understanding very clearly, the gravity of this situation. They will meet at noon, and after that, of course, we will be heading back home.

The meeting will deal with all of the issues that have to do with bilateral relations with two countries, the war against terrorism, which we support fully and that stand and back the United States, but also, no doubt, the current situation, the impasse that was brought about by the attempt by the Palestinian Authority deliberately to sabotage the cease-fire.

HARRIS: Well, what are you going to be asking President Bush to do about this impasse?

GISSIN: Well, no doubt that there will be consultations of what -- we are continuing to be committed to peace, but at the same time, there will be no doubt that after such an attack, we have the full right -- and believe me, we will -- to exercise our right for self- defense and take the necessary measures to prevent these kind of terrorist activities.

As the prime minister will return back to Israel, there will be consultations with the security cabinet, and I can assure you that there will be a response. And this time, a response that will be commensurate with the severity of this hideous crime, and the fact that the Palestinian Authority and Mr. Arafat is doing nothing about it. The time of declaration has ended. Now is the time for deeds. If they don't do, we will.

HARRIS: You said something about your response will be commensurate with the level of devastation we have seen here. Earlier this evening, the Israeli spokesman, Ari Pazner, said that what we have seen here is the worst ever. What does that tell us about what to expect?

GISSIN: Well, listen, you know, when you see, you know, innocent children, men, women, who are out there in the city to have some fun, to be killed by suicide bombers, you know, that have no compunction for nothing. That tells you something about terrorism. There is no good or bad terrorism. There is only bad terrorism, and believe me, after September 11, all forms of terrorism should come under the same category as the terrorism of the Taliban and the terrorism of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. There is no good or bad terrorism, and we will fight our terrorism in the best way we know, and the best way that we can defend our citizens.

HARRIS: Raanan Gissin, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman -- we thank you very much, and of course, we will be looking with an eye and an ear cocked toward those talks you'll be having tomorrow morning with President Bush here in the United States.

HARRIS: In the meantime, let's get a check of what may be some other -- I guess, now in view of what may be taking place in those talks tomorrow morning, our Kelly Wallace is standing by. She joins us. She is just outside of the Camp David -- the enclosure where President Bush is right now.

Kelly, what have you been hearing from there?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, we have a statement from the president. This statement should be issued very shortly, a White House official giving it to us. Let me read it exactly.

This coming from the President of the United States: He says -- quote: "I was horrified and saddened to learn of the bombings that took place tonight in Jerusalem. I strongly condemn them as acts of murder that no person of conscious can tolerate and no cause can ever justify. On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, to my friend, Prime Minister Sharon, and to all of the people of Israel."

The statement goes on to say: "Chairman Arafat the Palestinian Authority must immediately find and arrest those responsible for these hideous murders. They must also act swiftly and decisively against the organizations that support them. Now, more than ever, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate, through their actions and not merely their words, their commitment to fight terror." Again, Leon, this statement coming from the President of the United States to be issued now.

The president was informed of these developments going on in Jerusalem this evening. He is remaining at the presidential retreat at Camp David.

At this point in time, Leon, White House officials are not confirming this meeting that the Israelis say will take place tomorrow, on Sunday, between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon. Again, officials will confirm that to us as soon as they can. They're not confirming it just yet. We do know, of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken with Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and was to speak as well with the Israeli prime minister.

But, Leon, as you see in this statement, the president calling these -- quote -- "hideous murders," condemning these acts of terror, and again, strongly calling on the Palestinian Authority to do more, saying they must act swiftly and decisively to find those responsible. And again, you heard the president say that the must demonstrate, through their actions and not merely their words, their commitment to fight terror.

Leon, you know from this administration, we have heard time and time again President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell say that they think that the Palestinian leader could do more. That he must -- quote -- "put 100 percent effort into imprisoning any suspected terrorists, and to taking steps to fight terrorism in the region."

So again, strong words coming from the Bush administration as it watches this obviously very serious situation in Jerusalem -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, Kelly, did you get any tip off at all about what transpired in that conversation that Secretary of State Powell had with Yasser Arafat? I don't know if you got a chance to listen to the conversation we had here with moments ago with Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. He basically wouldn't come forth and tell us what they actually talked about. Any idea what transpired on that call?

WALLACE: No, and officials only confirming that, yes, that call took place. We're clearly learning a little bit more from Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, about the fact that that call took place. But again, officials not telling us exactly what was said.

You can expect the same message, which was coming publicly from President Bush this evening, likely to be the same message delivered by Secretary of State Powell, calling on the Palestinian leader to publicly condemn these acts of violence. We have heard Saeb Erakat do that, to do more, again, to go after these groups, these terrorist organizations. And also again, you know, to do more, not just through words, but through actions to take steps.

Obviously, you have General Anthony Zinni in the region, a retired Marine Corp general. He is there to try and get the two sides to a cease-fire. Our understanding, Leon, is he is in Jerusalem at this time, that he will remain there. But again, the strong message coming from the Bush administration, calling on the Palestinians to do more -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. Kelly Wallace keeping late hours for us at Camp David -- we thank you very much. We sure do appreciate it, and we'll talk to you later on.

We are going to take a break right now. We'll have more for you in just a moment. Please don't go away -- much breaking news to talk about this evening.

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