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Interview of Ron Kitrey, Israeli Defense Force Spokesperson

Aired December 4, 2001 - 06:14   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.
Now, on the phone, we are going to go to Brigadier General Ron Kitrey. He's the Israeli Defense IDF spokesperson. He's in Tel Aviv. He joins us by telephone right now. General, can you hear me OK?

BRIG. GEN. RON KITREY, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE SPOKESMAN: Fine. Hello.

PHILLIPS: Hello, sir. Thank you for being with us. Can you bring us up to date on these airstrikes, first of all -- a general update?

KITREY: Yes. We have tried -- since Israel time 9:00 o'clock this morning, we tried to hit, and apparently succeeded, in hitting some of the Palestinian Authority security apparatus headquarters. We have hit Sheik Radwan (ph) in the Gaza Strip. We have hit in Khan Yunis. We have targeted the police station in Ramallah, not too far from the Chairman Arafat's office. And we've hit several more in Judea-Sumeria (ph) of the West Bank area.

PHILLIPS: Sir, as we evaluate all of these targets, and are keeping track of ones that have been confirmed and the ones that, of course, you tell us about, we can't help but ask the question: What is keeping Israel from targeting Arafat directly?

KITREY: We don't see Chairman Arafat as a target. If we would have seen him as target, we would probably hit him or try to hit him sooner, much sooner. The target is not the man. The target is the apparatuses, and the -- we are signaling, very clearly I hope, that we are not -- we are not happy with the taking care of responsibility -- taking responsibility by the Palestinian Authority. They have committed to prevent terrorism. They are not doing that. On the contrary, what they do is to actually plan and execute terrorist activity themselves.

I can tell you that one-third, more than 70 Israelis deaths in the last month were actually killed directly by Palestinian Authority people belonging to those security -- so-called security apparatuses.

PHILLIPS: General Kitrey, Ariel Sharon has come out and said this is an all-out war on terror. Is the United States -- taking a look at the United States and its war against terrorism in Afghanistan right now, are you being influenced at all by the United States actions in Afghanistan? Is it contributing to the aggressive airstrikes that are taking place right now? KITREY: I must correct you. These are not aggressive airstrikes at all. It's really pinpointed attacks by several attack helicopters and aircraft. We don't have F-18's, of course, as I've heard before -- I came after the conversation -- but only F-16's. But on the other hand, what we see from the United States side is really is an encouragement for taking serious, professional steps against terrorism and whoever supports terror. That's exactly what we try to do.

PHILLIPS: And, sir, you said these are not aggressive airstrikes, but yet, Ariel Sharon is saying this is an all-out war on terror. War is a very strong word. Are you saying this is not an aggressive attack?

KITREY: I was referring for this morning's attacks, and of course, we could use much more force than we use now. What we try to do is really pinpoint our efforts to those who are responsible for terrorism, this time inside the Palestinian Authority security apparatus.

PHILLIPS: How long do you plan on continuing these airstrikes?

KITREY: As far as -- we'll see what's needed. I mean, we don't have a timetable for continuing actions or ending line, you know, a line at the end. But we'll see how it develops, and we'll see what kind of reaction we'll have from the Palestinian Authority.

PHILLIPS: Is the peace process a reality at all in your mind right now -- negotiations and a peace process?

KITREY: I wear a uniform. That's not my game, I'm afraid. What we do have here is hopes that the Palestinian Authority leaders with the Chairman Arafat in their top would take serious steps and actually end terrorism and go back to the negotiating table, where we were just before they opened their -- what they call intifada.

PHILLIPS: Finally, sir, before we let you go, do you feel that you are weakening the power of Yasser Arafat?

KITREY: I don't think it's a question of his personal power. He does have the capabilities and the influence on his people, on the various organizations. And as we have seen in the last 48 hours, a significant decline in the numbers of shootings, sniping and, I think, charges, you know, explosive devices along the accesses. Because he decided he wants to make face of a peaceful partner, especially because of the American pressure on him -- American, European, et cetera. So when he wants, he can, and what we do hope is that he will actually take serious steps.

PHILLIPS: Brigadier General Ron Kitrey, spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Force in Tel Aviv -- thank you so much, sir.

Coming up, an exclusive interview with Yasser Arafat -- we're going to have that right after this break.

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