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Suicide Bomber in Israel Tries to Detonate Bombs

Aired January 17, 2002 - 16:23   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: These reports coming in just in the last few minutes from Israel. This breaking story in northern Israel, near the town or the city of Hadera. A Palestinian suicide bomber reportedly had tried to detonate explosives that were strapped to his body at the entrance to a hall where a wedding party was taking place. He was overcome by security guards, but in the process, threw a grenade into the room. We are told that in the process, about 20 people were injured, five or so of them seriously.

Joining us now on the telephone from Israel, CNN's Jerrold Kessel. Jerrold, what can you add?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, just the early reports coming in, but there are conflicting reports that the police are saying that definitely it's a terror attack. They're describing it as one man coming into the entrance of this wedding hall where a reception was under way. And there were explosives. It seems as if the man threw a hand grenades. There were also reports of shooting and at least 20 people are reported to have been injured or killed.

There are reports that some of the injured are killed, but that's not yet confirmed. The police and rescue services, which were on the scene right away, and there are reports of many, many casualties in the attack. There are reports just coming in now that one man, one of the attackers, where there was more than one -- not yet clear, but that one attacker was killed within the hall. Not yet clear in what precise circumstances.

But this happening in the northern coastal town of Hadera, a site which has been the scene of numerous attacks by Palestinian militants and terrorists in the last several months, suicide bombers. Whether these were in fact -- some of the reports that you referenced were men had come with explosives attached to themselves and intended to blow themselves up. That's not yet clear. But the reports are coming in from the scene, that they had fired and had thrown hand grenades. Those were the initial reports from the scene.

Israel had been bracing for a possibility of an attack of this nature, as the tentative quiet of the last couple of week had been rudely interrupted over the last several days, with a good deal of bloodletting on the West Bank. And there are now reports, I'm just hearing, of five people being killed, and of the men who went into the wedding hall opening automatic fire and then throwing hand grenades, himself being killed. And the police chief, who had just been interviewed on one of the Israeli radio stations, saying definitely that this is a terror attack -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And, Mike, you -- I'm sorry, Jerrold -- you are telling us that this is a place that has experienced other episodes, terror episodes. Is it routine now for people in Israel, when they are having any sort of big event, particularly in this part of the country, to add additional security?

KESSEL: Indeed. Well, perhaps not at wedding parties. This was something quite new that it happened at a wedding party. But even there in public places, at cinemas and shopping malls, there are extra security details, even in outdoor cafes. And security people on duty checking bags, checking any suspicious object that a person might have with them, or what might look to be like a suspicious object. And to ward off the possibility of the kind of suicide bombings, the way that they were back in -- say, six weeks beginning of December and back in November -- a wave of suicide bombings. And this has become indeed, as you say, routine.

And Israelis had been bracing for these kind of attacks. Now, they had fallen off in the last several weeks, as those tentative efforts to get a cease-fire in place had taken hold to some degree. But as I say, over the last few days, with a good deal of bloodletting and a number of people, Israel had in fact -- there was a main Palestinian militant, a local militant in a nearby town to this particular town which has been under attack tonight, was killed. The Palestinians saying it was Israel which did it. Israel has not claimed responsibility and not admitted to killing that militant.

But in the wake of that incident at the beginning of the week, the members of the Al Aksa (ph) brigades, a Palestinian militant group linked to Yasser Arafat's fatah movement, said that they would carry out revenge actions. And indeed, there have been three Israeli civilians killed in different incidents on the West Bank. Even though, I'm bound to say, that the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat has been making strenuous effort to try to stop those reprisals taking place in the last few days.

WOODRUFF: Jerrold, very quickly, can you sum up the number of casualties for us, as we wrap up?

KESSEL: These are tentative figures, but there are dozens of people who have been hurt and the initial reports are talking of five people dead, but that's not absolutely confirmed yet. But these are reports coming in from the police and the medical relief services in the northern Israeli town of Hadera, where at least one man entered the hall where a wedding reception was taking place, again, shooting, throwing hand grenades. He himself is believed to have been killed as well, during the period that the attack was taking place -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Jerrold Kessel reporting from Israel, a country that has grown accustomed, unfortunately, to terror attacks because they have taken place there so frequently.

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