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Israel Troops Strike Palestinian Security Compound

Aired April 2, 2002 - 09:33   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to quickly go to Ramallah where we are joined by Michael Holmes, our correspondent on the ground there. He joins us from what is considered a Palestinian security compound. Michael, who is with you, and describe to us what you are doing right now.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are actually on our own. There are Israeli troops and tanks and armored personnel carriers all around us. I'll just give you a sense of where we are. We are at the headquarters of Palestinian Preventative Security. It is the home of the Palestinian security apparatus. There is a prison in this compound for Palestinian prisoners. There is the office of the head of Palestinian security, Jabril Rajoub, and it was here last night that there was a ferocious assault by Israeli tanks, troops, armored vehicles, and helicopter gunships. We were listening to it all night.

We saw helicopter gunships, Apache helicopters, firing missiles into this complex. We've been trying for much of the morning to get here to see what happened. There was 400 people in this place. They have now all gone. This place is deserted. We're told that several hundred people were taken into custody by Israeli forces after a -- I guess it has to be called a cease-fire of sorts at this place, was negotiated -- brokered by Americans. That's our information. And so the people that were in here were allowed to leave.

Paula, I have got to tell you, this place is all but destroyed. It is a large compound of several buildings. I've just come out of the office of Jabril Rajoub, the head of preventative security. His building has been gutted on the third and fourth floors of the four story building. There is rubble everywhere. There are burnt-out cars. There are tank shell holes through the walls. I can also see rockets -- where rockets have gone into the building. There has been an intense fire in Jabril Rajoub's office. Elsewhere, it just destruction. I'm standing inside at the moment, as I am just walking through broken glass and rubble here -- burnt out cars.

Just stepping inside, where prisoners here, Palestinian prisoners, arrested by Palestinian security were held and interrogated. Just stepped passed a metal door that is essentially shredded by small-arms fire, probably M-16 fire. The damage here is enormous, Paula.

Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator went on record today saying he believes that Israel's action was intended to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority. This is certainly a key part of that infrastructure, and it is unusable. As I look around the area, it is just a scene of devastation, and certainly from our position about a mile away last night, the noise of tank shells and rockets and heavy machine gun fire was intense, and now we see the result of that -- Paula.

ZAHN: And Michael, while we talk, we are going to stay on that picture of what appear to be two Israeli tanks on the perimeter area of this security compound. It is very difficult for us to make out from the shot exactly what is going on. I'm a little bit confused by the numbers here, because the Palestinians were reporting, as you said at beginning of your report that there were 400 people in the place. You believe that a couple hundred of them have been taken into custody. Now, what is happening to the secretaries some of the children that Palestinians say were inside here? Where have they gone?

HOLMES: Yes, that is very hard to tell. This evacuation or surrender of people in here took place in the last couple of hours, and it was exceedingly difficult for us to get here. We've been trying to get here for the best part of an hour and a half, and have been turned away by Israeli troops and armored personnel carriers at four different points.

It has been a very foggy morning here, raining and mist and fog, and as we were driving on another route to try to get close to the compound, we actually shocked ourselves by finding ourselves driving into the compound, and all of a sudden found ourselves inside the perimeter walls. And we drove around, came across a couple of very surprised Israeli troops on an armored personnel carrier.

They did not try to stop us from getting out of our armored vehicle and filming. It is impossible at this stage to know where those -- what Palestinians say was 300 to 400 people have gone, but this place, I can tell you, is completely deserted and severely damaged -- Paula.

ZAHN: How long are you going to be able to stay there?

HOLMES: At the moment, incredibly, given our experience driving around the streets here, the Israeli troops here on -- I can see three, four tanks in front of me now, and armored personnel carriers. Incredibly, they have not prevented us from essentially walking in the front door of this compound.

And the compound of numerous buildings, probably half a dozen buildings, large buildings. Modern-looking buildings. Sandstone construction. And they have not stopped us from filming, so at the moment, I feel like we could stay here as long as we like. There is no people inside. The destruction is enormous. I'm looking right now at a hole on an interior wall of this compound, and it has obviously been caused by a rocket from one of the helicopters.

Every window in the place has been completely shattered. And as I say, we're talking about half a dozen buildings, and four-story buildings and the like, I'm just stepping around a burned out shell of a car now. There's has been, obviously, and we were not surprised, really, by the sounds we were hearing last night a mile away, a very, very (AUDIO GAP) assault on this place.

ZAHN: All right. Michael Holmes, we appreciate that update. Stay safe. Once again, there were reports that ambulances tried to get in there and were stopped as Israeli troops.

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