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Israeli Helicopters Strike Building Next to Arafat Headquarters

Aired December 4, 2001 - 06:25   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the other side of this conflict, the side of the Palestinians.

We're going to go now to Ramallah were Rula Amin is standing by. She was the first on the scene right there next to the building where I understand Yasser Arafat is and an air strike did take place right there next to where Rula is.

And, Rula, I'm told that you were the first one to get in there and talk to Yasser Arafat and are going to bring us an exclusive interview.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is correct. What you are seeing behind me is the building where Israeli helicopters about two hours and a half from before had struck. Now for the Palestinians, this is a building where they come to get their birth and death certificates, they come here for their passports and for different civilian (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The Israeli military are saying that they have struck in Ramallah a police station. This building behind me is what was struck today by the Israeli helicopters. There were other incidents today in Salfit and in Khan Yunis where the Israeli army is saying that they have struck security installations.

Now we have spoken to Yasser Arafat who is sitting in the building right next to this building you see behind me. It's his headquarters. He was here this morning when the missile struck this building, and we spoke to him in an exclusive interview. And we asked him what was his reaction? And he basically said that the Israeli government is escalating, and he accused Mr. Sharon of escalating in order not to reach a stage where Palestinians and Israelis can sit and talk at the peace negotiating table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YASSER ARAFAT, PALESTINIAN LEADER: He don't want me to succeed. And for this he is escalating his military activities against our people, against our towns, against our cities, against our establishments.

AMIN: What do you mean they don't want you to succeed?

ARAFAT: And then the complete siege --

AMIN: Succeed in what?

ARAFAT: In what we had decided in the placemen (ph) to face these terrorist activities.

AMIN: You're saying he doesn't want you to succeed...

ARAFAT: Yes, because he don't want -- he don't want the peace process to occur -- to start. What he is insisting the hell plan (ph) which they had decided many -- and declared many times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMIN: Now of course this fight, this skepticism that Yasser Arafat has in the intentions of Mr. Sharon, he says he will continue his efforts in order to clamp down on Islamic militants. But Mr. Arafat said he will continue to do 100 percent effort but he's not sure that there will be 100 percent results.

We asked him when he can he tell the Israelis they can feel safe and secure? And he said peace, we have to sit at the peace table and we have to reach a peace agreement and only then that both sides will be safe and secure.

Mr. Arafat also complained that there is on part of the international community and even the United States he said, some kind of not evenhandedness. He said when Palestinians are killed, when Palestinians are attacked, he doesn't see the same kind of response and the same kind of reaction on part of the international community.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Rula, did Yasser Arafat at any point tell you he feels that he is losing power or that he is weakening in any way?

AMIN: Can you repeat that question?

PHILLIPS: Yes, talking about Yasser Arafat. The -- on the side of -- on the Israeli side there's been lots of talk that they -- analysts and representatives within the Israeli government say that they are weakening Yasser Arafat and that he is losing power. Do you agree with that? Does he feel that way at all?

AMIN: Well he was -- we understood from him as he feels that the Israeli government is trying to undermine his authority. Palestinian officials are telling us that the targets that the Israeli security have been choosing to strike are actually Palestinian infrastructure targets and that, in a way, weakens the authority. And Yasser Arafat did acknowledge that all these attacks actually does -- do hamper his efforts in order to crack down.

And we have talked to people, Palestinians on the street, this morning a lot of people came to have a look at this building that was struck, and many are wondering what is Yasser Arafat doing? Why is he not confronting Israel as Israelis are attacking him? So he's in a difficult position because, on one hand, in front of his people he seems weak because the Israelis are attacking him and he cannot do anything about it. At the same time, he is being asked to crack down and to tell people that you should not confront Israel because we have to sit at the peace table. It's an -- it's an argument that sounds weak to the Palestinians who will feel that they are being pressured and actually harassed by the Israeli army here in the West Bank.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Rula, if indeed he believes he still has control and does have power, specifically over the Palestinian militants, why doesn't he just come out and say let's stop the chaos and stop these bombings and seriously get down and negotiate, sit down at the table? You can't negotiate, obviously, with -- well while the situation is happening like this with terrorists at hand.

AMIN: Well he is saying -- he's -- publicly Mr. Arafat says he is committed to the peace process. He is committed to a cease-fire. And he says that he has called on his people and on the Islamic militants not to attack Israel.

Today he told us that he had succeeded in doing that, especially after September 11. There was a lull in the Palestinian attacks against Israel, according to Yasser Arafat. But he accused Mr. Sharon of provoking a response from the Palestinians by continuing his policy of assassination of Palestinian militants and Palestinian activists. He says that by the Israeli government's actions of going into Palestinian towns, demolishing houses, that hampers his efforts and arguments to convince people that they should not attack Israel.

He also made another point, he was very adamant to say that there is no way to stop violence 100 percent without a peace agreement. He says a political agreement needs to be in hand in order to stop violence period. And he says nobody, not Israel, not the United States, no one else had been able to stop the violence or terrorist attacks totally. And he said, you know Palestinian officials are telling us even when Israel was in full control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, they were never able to stop attacks against Israelis 100 percent. But he says he is committed to put 100 percent effort, but he acknowledges only peace can bring 100 percent results.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: CNN's Rula Amin live in Ramallah, just an hour ago speaking exclusively with PLO President Yasser Arafat.

Rula, great job, thank you so much.

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