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Israeli Troops Siege Palestinian Authority Compound

Aired March 29, 2002 - 11:30   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: Violence on several fronts to report this morning in the Middle East as we continue our breaking coverage of that as it unfolds there.

Moments ago we got word that there has been more action at the Palestinian Authority compound where Israeli troops have taken it under siege. They arrested some 60 persons, we understand, just moments ago; no word on who they were and why they were arrested.

This, however, follows yet another suicide bombing in Jerusalem. A girl who may be as young as 16 now believed to be the one who detonated herself at a supermarket seen there -- as you see it right here. That was shortly after the explosion ripped apart that building there in Jerusalem this morning.

Continued activity there at the compound there where Yasser Arafat, we understand, is still holed up in the Palestinian Authority compound. We have had a chance this morning -- not to speak with him yet. We're still trying to work that out. But we did get a chance to talk with his mother-in-law who was at a position some 400 or 500 meters away who witnessed everything that happened there at the compound.

And this is what she told us moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMONDA TAWIL, ARAFAT'S MOTHER-IN-LAW: Yes, Arafat is in the compound. And shooting from one room to the other.

HARRIS: So he is still inside the compound right now?

TAWIL: He is still inside the compound.

HARRIS: Have you talked with him?

TAWIL: Yes, in the morning. He's in very, very high morale.

HARRIS: Can you tell us what he told you?

TAWIL: Well, he said, you know, we are strong. We will go from here to Jerusalem. The road is -- you know, I have -- you know a martyr for Jerusalem. And we are strong, and nobody can break our will. HARRIS: Is he saying, then, that he is going to stay in that compound until he is killed?

TAWIL: Well, he is a revolutionary. He is fighting for independence. This is -- you know, he's a lover of peace. He is fighting for freedom for his people. You know, he is fighting for independence in the end. So he will not surrender.

HARRIS: I'm sorry, where is your daughter right now?

TAWIL: Well, my daughter is outside the country.

HARRIS: She is outside the country, so she is not in any danger right now?

TAWIL: Yes, she is not here.

HARRIS: All right, well what are you going to be doing today?

TAWIL: Today we are just sitting and hiding from the tanks and from the shooting and from the snipers. And I can't go and see my son-in-law, 500 meters. I can't go in to see because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the window.

Our neighbor has been shot this night, 22 years old. You know, just -- she was near the window.

HARRIS: Ms. Tawil, can you tell us if you expect there to be more bombings by terrorists?

TAWIL: Well, I mean, of course. If the situation is going to continue like this, who can stop this humiliation? I mean, this is a way of expressing themselves. This is a way of resistance.

How can you expect a whole, I mean, population -- the whole people to be humiliated and, you know, I mean, and oppressed and under occupation for how many years? How many people we are losing every day? We are living every day with funerals and killed people and hospitals. And we don't -- we want freedom.

HARRIS: We have been watching that process as it has been unfolding, Mrs. Tawil. And I want to ask you, is it possible that we can talk with Yasser Arafat?

TAWIL: Well, I mean, we can't reach him now. You know, the fighting is going from one room to the other.

HARRIS: How many people are inside fighting? Can you guess? Did he tell you?

TAWIL: No. In fact, we don't know how much. But it seems as, you know, as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Saeb Erakat also, that he simply -- he told them to go to their positions, not to stay in the headquarters with him. So not many people are with him at the headquarters.

HARRIS: And he is going to stay there; he is not going to leave? TAWIL: No, he is staying. And this is what he told today, that -- in an interview with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) television of Lebanon, he told them this is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and it's going to stay on my table. And he made a very moving speech for the whole -- you know, the world.

And in the speech he said, this is a way that -- I am giving you a legacy. The legacy to continue. In case -- when I die, I a martyr, this is a legacy for the future generation.

I am hearing the shooting now. I am hearing the bombardment while I am talking to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And that conversation happened within the past hour or so. And while we were talking about whether or not Yasser Arafat was being targeted himself, personally, we also heard moments after that conversation from our Rula Amin reporting from Beirut that the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was in conversation with U.S. officials who assured him that Yasser Arafat is going to be safe, and that he is not a target in this operation.

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