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Two Bombs Rock Tel Aviv Neighborhood, Killing at Least Six

Aired July 17, 2002 - 15:50   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: More now on these two bombs that went off in Tel Aviv just not long ago. We get word now that there are reports of fatalities.

Our Jerrold Kessel is on the phone in Jerusalem.

Jerrold, what can you tell us?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Kyra, Israeli police are saying at least six people killed in this explosion in Tel Aviv and it could be that among the dead are two suicide bombers. It could be. That's the immediate word from the Israeli police and medical relief services.

There are also many injured, perhaps as many as 30 or more, as the rescue work is still under way at this moment. This is in a southern part of Tel Aviv. It was apparently in a pedestrian walkway, many cafes and restaurants in that area, although this is a religious fast day and many of those premises would have been closed -- but, still, apparently a lot of people around that area that also is one of the poorer sections of Tel Aviv.

Many foreign imported laborers, workers live in that area. It is not clear who the casualties were. But we're getting word that it's -- according to the police and the medical relief services in this explosion and possibly according to reports of eyewitnesses, there were actually two explosions, which would account for the fact that the police are now talking about two suicide bombers possibly in this latest terror attack in the heart of Tel Aviv -- the latest word from the police and the medical relief services of at least six people killed in this attack in the southern part of Tel Aviv -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jerrold, can you tell us more about this area, this street that -- I don't even know if I am saying it correctly -- Neve Show? And it's saying it's a popular area for recent immigrants who have come to Israel. It has a lot of shops and stalls.

KESSEL: Yes.

It is called Neve Shaanan. That is a neighborhood. And that is, in fact, the name of the street where the explosion took place. It's just off one of the busy highways which leads out of Tel Aviv, a lot of market stalls and small shops, although this is late in the evening. It is now quarter to 11:00 in the evening. The explosion took place about 10:20 p.m.

The police, we understand, are still checking the area for another possible explosion, another device which is believed could be a bomb left behind. In the first reports that were coming in, it was not clear whether this was a bomb that had been left on the side or another attack in the form of a suicide bombing. But the latest assumption, the working assumption of the Israeli police is that this is of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up. And the reports we are getting in are of at least six people killed, 30 at least wounded, and police calling this a very serious attack.

This is one of the poorer districts of Tel Aviv -- indeed, many newer immigrants, perhaps from the former Soviet Union, living there, and, as I say, other foreign workers temporarily in Israel, who live in rather crowded apartments and so forth. And this has been a scene where there have been previous attacks. But, really, now Israeli cities are becoming accustomed to attacks spread around all different kinds of areas, wherever perhaps the bombers can get through to strike -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Now, Jerrold, could this be in response to what happened just a couple of hours ago, the IDF confirming that indeed they had sent a warplane into the Gaza Strip, blowing up a factory that the IDF said was a weapons factory?

KESSEL: I don't think that, necessarily, we have that degree of cycle and countercycle of action.

The militant Islamic groups and the other militant Palestinian groups have vowed to attack wherever they can attack. And I think wherever they are successful to get through the array of Israeli defenses, they will do so. We had this attack yesterday in the West Bank on a bus heading towards a Jewish settlement, in which eight people were killed, including young children, indeed and a baby that it just had to be born after his mother was seriously hurt, delivered by caesarean section. And he died earlier this morning.

That was one instance. That was claimed -- the responsibility for that attack was claimed by the militant Islamic group Hamas. But Israel has been battling back, in a way, to try to beat the bombers by taking the battle to the Palestinian areas. The Israeli army, let's not forget, has been in control of nearly all the Palestinian population centers in the West Bank for the last -- almost a full week, where there were not any such bombings.

Many were stopped, the Israelis say, many bombers coming out, many attacks thwarted. But in the last two days, we have now what clearly is two new -- again, two terrorist attacks: one, that attack on the bus in the West Bank and now in the heart of Tel Aviv. The word is six people at least dead, and possibly a double-barreled suicide bombing in south Tel Aviv, and 30 at least people wounded -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jerrold, we continue to look at live pictures now as this story is unfolding. You have been telling us at least six people confirmed dead. Two suicide bombers, is what your sources are telling us, this, of course, happening just one day after two men dressed in Israeli military uniforms opened fire on a bus as it was -- as you were saying, it was near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Here we go again, Jerrold. There was a number of weeks of calm. It seemed that things were settling down, Yasser Arafat coming out and speaking out against terrorism, and the Bush administration feeling like it was making a bit of progress. Now here we go again. We are starting to see action like this on a daily basis, Jerrold.

KESSEL: You know, you could say this really is a question of: What can be done? That really is a question that is coming up over and over again.

The Israeli military chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon, was only yesterday talking to the select security committee of the Israeli Parliament. And he said, when asked about how long the Israeli troops would have to remain in the Palestinian towns, he used quite a colorful expression to depict the situation when he said it's like a major fire that has been in the area. "And we are trying," he said, "to throw a blanket across it to smother the fire out." That is the way he depicted the Israeli forces in the Palestinian towns.

And many were saying: "Well, the fire may be just too big to get it put out by the blanket. As widespread as the Israeli military action is, perhaps they cannot stop all the bombers." But the Israelis will point out that there have been numerous attacks over the last several weeks that were thwarted, that the bombers were either thwarted at source or as they tried to come out of the Palestinian towns.

So, the Israelis will argue they are not winning this war yet, but they have taken it to the Palestinian and they are countering it -- over the last two days certainly a major setback with this attack in the West Bank and now this attack in the heart of Tel Aviv.

The Palestinians will argue: "No, this is not the way. There must be a move get back to the negotiations. And that is the only way to stop things." It is something of a predicament that Israel is in. The arguments go on. What is the best way? What is the most effective way? No one seems to have a real and complete answer at this stage.

We are getting confirmation from the police that there were indeed two blasts, one after the other. And they are on the working assumption, as we see the pictures coming in now from this part of south Tel Aviv, that there were two suicide bombers who blew themselves up. They may be among the six people confirmed dead at this stage -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jerrold, at any point, have you received any word of who is claiming responsibility for this?

KESSEL: No. There hasn't yet been. It is very early, as I say. These explosions took place just under 40 minutes ago.

It's perhaps opportune to point out that, after yesterday's attack in the West Bank against that bus heading to the Jewish settlement, there were three separate claims of responsibility: by Hamas, by the group affiliated to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, and by another radical nationalist Palestinian group. But Hamas seemed to be making the most firm claim. This morning, spokesmen did what they don't normally do in stating it absolutely bluntly that they were responsible for this attack.

The Israeli defense establishment believes that that attack was carried out by Hamas. Incidentally -- and it was very interesting to hear -- while Israel has perhaps routinely condemned the -- blamed Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian authority for not doing anything to turn the tide and to stop the bombers, the Palestinian authority did condemn yesterday's attack, and that was a departure from its previous policy, because that attack was in the West Bank, of course.

Normally the Palestinian Authority does not condemn attacks in the West Bank, but this time, because there were civilians again involved, Palestinians said that they were against and condemning any attacks against any civilians, but -- so I dare say there will be a quick condemnation of this from the Palestinian side as well, but we haven't yet had a claim of responsibility.

We are again, as a confirming the number of wounded of 30 has been taken away to hospital. Normally in such incidents, the casualty figures rise, because many people come in later with less serious injuries, or with from shock and trauma, but at the moment, we have the figures of six dead, possibly including the two suicide bombers, and 30 people wounded -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Jerrold Kessel, live from Jerusalem. Thank you, Jerrold. Once again, if you're just turning in to CNN, you're watching "Breaking News" coverage. Two suicide bombers, at least six people dead right in the heart of Tel Aviv, a southern part of a downtown area, very busy area. It is near the old central bus station, if you are familiar with Tel Aviv.

A number of cafes and shops, night clubs. A busy area at this time of night, and as you can see, as you're watching these live pictures, still looks like dozens and dozens of people out in the area, as police and emergency crews tend to the six people dead, possibly dozens more injured, as two suicide bombers set off explosives in downtown Tel Aviv. We're going to move it over to "INSIDE POLITICS" now and Judy woodruff.

She's going to pick up our "Breaking News" coverage.

Judy, I'm going to let you take it from here.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kyra. We are going to stay with this story. You are looking at live pictures from Tel Aviv. As you've been hearing, six people dead, at least six dead, perhaps as many as 30 injured, in what appears to be a double suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, the southern part of that city, at the entrance of a movie theater, a busy time of night, late at night there in Tel Aviv.

Police are saying it is possible -- earlier they were saying it was possible, it wasn't clear whether there was one suicide bomber who threw a device. Now they are saying it does appear that there were two individuals involved.

As we continue to look at these live pictures coming in from Tel Aviv, obviously a seen of chaos, an all too familiar scene of tragedy coming to us from Israel. We are going to pick up a little with our Chris Burns, who is in Jerusalem now.

Chris, what are you hearing from your perspective at this point?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, police are confirming that there were two suicide bombers who caused these explosions that rocked the central bus station area in Tel Aviv -- that is a Mediterranean port city. Very, very bustling area, night life, very, very festive area, and that those two explosions just shattered this evening, killing at least six people now what we have heard. In addition, hospital sources say there are some 30 people who are injured. Authorities are saying many, many of them are seriously injured, so there could very well be more among the death toll.

This happened just a while ago. The details are sketchy, but of course Tel Aviv is among those cities have -- that has been hit by suicide bombings in -- during this almost two-year-old intifada. This, of course, also comes just after a day after an attack on a bus near the Jewish settlement on the West Bank of Emanuel that killed eight people, including two children, that bringing about an Israeli reaction, trying to track down those people, those Palestinians who carried out that attack.

They say they killed at least one of the attackers, but the pursuit goes on. The Israelis have clamped down further on areas in the West Bank to try to find -- try to track down those Palestinian attackers, but again, this attack here over there in Tel Aviv is likely, quite likely, to bring more Israeli, tough Israeli reaction, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Chris, I think for those of us sitting safe where we are in the United States looking at these terrible pictures coming to us, the question that I think in my mind and the minds of many people has to be how to people even have the courage, the temerity, to go out in public at all when these kinds of incidents keep occurring?

BURNS: Well, absolutely. It really is amazing to a journalist, as myself, who has been to Tel Aviv, who has walked around that area. It is a beautiful festive area, very, very busy and bustling at night, and when you talk to people, they say, well, look, we have to get on with our lives, that if they stayed at home, that if they did not go out in the street and try to carry on with their lives, that would be giving in, that would be defeat. They would be giving in to those who are waging those extremist attacks.

So in a way, it is their way of fighting them by going out there on the street and being on the street, keeping their eyes open of course. In fact, all those bars and cafes, some of those that you see there in some of the pictures there, many if not all of them have hired police guards, hired guards who watch very closely for people who are walking by, what sort of clothes they are wearing, what sort of indications there could be of a possible terrorist attack.

These -- there's a lot more alertness by the merchants, by the cafes, by the people on the street. And apparently, however, this is what happened. This did get through. Two suicide bombers did manage to pull off their attack. However, again, there have been relatively few in the last few weeks. In fact, the first fatal attack against civilians happened -- the first attack in a month happened against those civilians on a bus on the West Bank.

So the Israeli clamp-down, at least in the eyes of many Israelis here, has been relatively effective, as far as that goes. But there -- many people are resigned to believe that there could be more attacks like this one, as long as, of course, this standoff and conflict continues between the Israelis an Palestinians. By the way, those talks are being put off in the meantime, as these attacks continue.

WOODRUFF: All right. Chris Burns talking to us from Jerusalem, as we watch these live pictures, some live pictures, some videotaped just within the last half hour, pictures coming in from Tel Aviv, the scene of double suicide bombing attack there in front of a theater in what is described as the central bus station, the southern part of the city of Tel Aviv.

With us now on the telephone is Gil Kleiman, who's a spokesman for the police -- Israeli police. Mr. Kleiman, are you in Tel Aviv?

GIL KLEIMAN, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESMAN: I will be in -- I will be in Tel Aviv in about 10 minutes, but right now I'm...

WOODRUFF: Tell us -- tell us as much as you know, at this point, about what you believe -- what you believe happened here.

KLEIMAN: All right. Well, the information that we are getting out from Tel Aviv is that it was a probable or a possible double suicide bombing. These things take a while to be actually checked, but right now we're dealing with it as a double suicide bombing. Of course our forensic teams will give us the final answer hopefully very soon. There are wounded on the scene. They have been taken to hospital.

The exact number of wounded has not been come out with yet by us, not to the local press and not to the foreign press, but there are wounded. Like I said, we had a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on that same street on the 25th of January. A suicide bomber approached a bar and blew himself up, wounded and killed.

So this is not the first time Nev Shaanan or on that area that we're seeing a suicide bombing this year alone.

WOODRUFF: What would the security be like on -- at night, at a time like this in that location? What extra precautions were being taken, would you expect?

KLEIMAN: Well, it's not -- you know we've been dealing with a wave of terror for close to two years now. So our status, as far as security is concerned, doesn't change from day-to-day. It's something that we're living with, sort of like a routine of terror.

I don't think there were any special precautions in Tel Aviv tonight specifically. But the whole country, of course, has been, at least as far as police are concerned, on a very high mobilization, even though that the army is in the Judea and Samaria. As far as police are concerned, though, our assumption is that this is going to continue for some time.

We don't have that luxury of being able to back down, because even if we succeed in catching 99 percent of the terrorists, the suicide bombers who come in, one terrorist act can cause a serious amount of damage and death and loss of life. So as far as the country is concerned, as far as Israel police, we have been on a high mobilization for a long period of time. I don't know if there were any special precautions tonight in Tel Aviv.

WOODRUFF: Gil Kleiman is a spokesman for the Israeli police talking to us. He is on his way into Tel Aviv, as we're watch these -- this story developing, this breaking story out of Tel Aviv. Two suicide bombers blowing themselves up, killing, we're told, at least six, and perhaps as many, up to 30 people, taken to the hospital, some of them with serious injuries.

With us now on the phone from Jerusalem, I believe, is Ra'anan Gissin, who is an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mr. Gissin, have you had a chance to speak with the prime minister tonight?

RA'ANAN GISSIN, SHARON ADVISER: Hello.

WOODRUFF: Hello. Mr. Gissin, can you hear me?

GISSIN: Yes. I can hear you, yes.

WOODRUFF: Have you had a chance to speak with the prime minister since this news?

GISSIN: No. The prime minister in those times gets briefed and, you know, constant briefing on what is happening, the debriefing and, of course, all of the reports. And this is not the time, you know, where you contemplate. You just gather the information and you have to act in a cool-headed way. And I think that's the way the prime minister in the past year and a half has been acting, you know, every time there was this kind of a suicide attack.

We're in the middle of a war. In a war, you have to keep your cool and you have to know what you are doing, consult, get all the information, decide on a course of action, and that's exactly what the prime minister is doing at these moments.

WOODRUFF: As far as we know, there's been no group yet that has claimed responsibility for this. But if there is to be a group or more groups just as there were yesterday, there were several groups that took responsibility for that attack on the bus, does this make a difference in your government's attitude?

GISSIN: No, it really doesn't make a difference. After 22 months, and over 570 dead, which is tantamount, you know, in U.S. figures to 36,000 people dead. If this would have happened in the United States, we would have had 36,000 people dead from terrorist attack. It really doesn't matter who the group is.

What really matters is that on the other side, there is the Palestinian Authority that is fully responsibility for actions emanating from its territory. And until there is a different Palestinian Authority, one that will be relentlessly fighting terrorism and stopping the incitement, the incitement which breeds more hatred and more suicide bombing, it will leave us with no other choice but to take exactly the action that we have been taken in the last few months, deploy our forces where we are in the territory in order to defend our citizens.

Every government in the world, and definitely after 9/11, has a paramount responsibility, and the first thing is to defend its citizens against this kind of horrendous, senseless killing of innocent men, women and children.

WOODRUFF: But, Mr. Gissin, you say the Palestinian Authority is responsible. At the same time, we know the Palestinian Authority yesterday condemned the attack on the bus.

GISSIN: Words are of no avail. Words will not bring those people back to life. This man, Yasser Arafat, who continuously on CNN and other Western media proclaims that he wants to return to peace of the brave, has provided us in the past 22 months in a deliberate strategy of terror, only peace of the grave.

And, therefore, it is our responsibility to our citizens, we would very much like to see a different Palestinian Authority. We would very much like the Palestinian people to choose the kind of leadership that would lead them in a different path, that will stop the terrorist activity. But I think there's a very clear message from what happened today and what happened on Tuesday, with all of the efforts that we take, to all those who are speaking today so hopefully about reform for the Palestinian Authority, about changing their political system, the first thing that has to change is not the political system. The first reform that has to be conducted is in the security forces, to have security forces that are not aiding and abetting terrorists, but stopping them. And that is the first responsibility (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the international community to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to do just that.

It is a very simple equation. If they won't do it, we will do it. And believe me, we will continue to do it until we are absolutely certain that terrorism is not going to reign in our streets.

WOODRUFF: Ra'anan Gissin is an adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. We are looking at pictures of -- these are taped pictures coming into us within the last few minutes from Tel Aviv, where a double suicide bombing has taken place outside a movie theater in the southern portion of that city, Tel Aviv, near the central bus station. We are told at least six people are dead, several dozen taken to the hospital. Of those, a number are seriously wounded, seriously injured. And so, it wouldn't be a surprise if the death toll rises.

Talking to me now from the state department, CNN correspondent Andrea Koppel, watching this as I am from the United States. Andrea, some irony here. It seems that just today, yesterday, expressions of optimism from the president that perhaps, you know, the path was a little clearer for moving to peace in the Middle East. We have even heard statements from the secretary of state about a possible role for Yasser Arafat in a new configuration. And yet, the suicide bombings keep coming.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Judy, you had just yesterday a meeting of this international group known as the Quartet, that's the United Nations, the European Union, the Russians and the United States, that took place in New York, all trying to figure out some kind of roadmap to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the peace table.

Yesterday, as you know, there was another attack against Israelis in the West Bank, seven of whom were killed. So you have this second attack in two days against Israeli citizens, terrorist attacks, which is just proof positive the United States and members of the international community say why they have got to get the Israeli -- rather, the Palestinian security forces reformed.

There is the beginnings of a plan in which the U.S. has presented ideas, that they will begin shopping around to the Israelis and the Palestinians, we're told, in the very near future to try to get the security forces in the Palestinian territories more centralized and more responsive. I just spoke with a senior Arab official here in Washington who told me that, in fact, they are going to be working with, and when I say working, I mean talking with, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, other Palestinian resistance groups to try to put pressure on them to stop these terrorist attacks, Judy.

But it is yet another example of just how complicated and how quickly things go from bad to worse in the region, in the territories and in Israel because the entire process right now is at the mercy of terrorists. And so...

WOODRUFF: We're looking at...

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, reminding people, we are looking at these pictures coming in from Tel Aviv, where there's been yet another suicide bombing. Six people dead. Go ahead, Andrea.

KOPPEL: I was just going to say, it is -- what is a bit of a catch-22 is that you have the Arab world and you have many in the European community saying, look, you've got to get a political process going. You have to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories if you are going to give people hope that there is light at end of the tunnel.

But on the other side, you have the Israeli government and you have the Bush administration saying at this point, absolutely not, you can't expect to have a political process until the terrorism ends, until you can guarantee the security of the Israeli people. And so, in the middle of all of this, you have members of this Quartet that are trying to break, trying to figure out, to crack the code on how you bring security at the same time that you have a roadmap to political talks. And that is what they are doing right now, in fact.

Tomorrow at the White House, President Bush, Secretary Powell, will be sitting down with the foreign minister's from Saudi Arabia, from Egypt and from Jordan to talk again how they can bring security, at the same time, leaving some kind of hope that there will be political talks, that a Palestinian state is something that can be achieved perhaps within the next three years.

I do want to address...

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, it does seem hard to imagine though that they can sit there in the White House and not be conscious that there have been in the previous two days two more horrific incidents like this one.

KOPPEL: Absolutely. This is something, as I had mentioned before, that is -- you know, it is the entire process for the last two years has really been held hostage by these random acts of calculated terrorist attacks against Israelis. And so, what you have to figure out, and what the Bush administration is trying to do, is to get reform of every part of the Palestinian Authority that you can imagine. They're trying to draft a constitution. They're trying to rework the judicial system there. They're trying to bring transparency in the Palestinian economics.

They are trying to work on all of this in addition to reforming the security services such that they hope there will be a window of opportunity in the very near future, that they will then have enough of a period of calm that the Israeli government will feel secure and will be able then to sit down and start talking about the creation of a Palestinian state.

But all of this, Judy, every time -- we have seen it time and again, whether it is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sitting in the White House with President Bush, just when you think that you are turning the corner, there is yet another suicide attack.

What I was going to say, you had mentioned earlier about the -- Secretary Powell leaving the door open to the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat playing some role in a future Palestinian government. In point of fact, what Secretary Powell is trying to do is not shut the door. But by the same token, he is continuing to echo the Bush administration's line that the Arab world doesn't want to hear and that the European community doesn't want to hear and that the Russians don't want to hear, that Yasser Arafat should not be the leader of the Palestinian people. But right now, everyone has agreed to disagree on that matter and trying to focus on reforming the Palestinian Authority.

WOODRUFF: All right. Andrea Koppel, our state department correspondent talking us to.

We are watching these pictures. We were seeing live pictures and some pictures on tape coming into us from Tel Aviv, where just about 45 minutes ago, actually almost an hour ago now, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a theater in downtown Tel Aviv, a movie theater in the central -- at the central or near the central bus station in the southern part of this city. Clearly chaos, six people dead at least, up to 30 people sent to the hospital, a number of them with serious injuries.

With us now from Jerusalem, CNN's Mike Hanna, who is our Jerusalem bureau chief. Mike, we have just been listening to Andrea Koppel talk about just how difficult it is to keep any sort of peace process on track when these things keep happening.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Judy, to put it bluntly, it is impossible to keep any process on track or indeed attempt to restart or kickstart any form of process of negotiation whatsoever. The looking at the pictures from Tel Aviv, a twin suicide bombing. Four Israelis dead at this stage, confirmed so by police. According to police too, another two people dead, suicide bombers, Palestinians with explosive devices strapped to their bodies, which they detonated within a very short space of time of each other. The area in which the detonations happened, downtown Tel Aviv, crowded at this time of the night near the central bus station. Once again, Israeli civilians dying.

This coming on the wake of an attack on a Jewish settlement yesterday, in which a number of Israelis were killed there. The death toll in that attack, eight. And this in turn after a lull as regards to attacks on Israeli civilians for nearly a month, during which there was the slightest glimmer of hope of some kind of process getting under way, some kind of context beginning to happen between Israelis and Palestinians. But once again, as evidence from the last 48 hours, that this was false hope, that the acts of the militants, the violence, continues to defy any form of diplomacy that is being attempted.

Latest figures that we're just been receiving now, Judy, 34 people have been admitted to hospital. At least five of these people are said to be in a serious condition. So, the figures we have at the moment and these people killed, injured in a bomb blast in downtown Tel Aviv, a twin suicide bomb attack. Four Israelis dead at this stage, confirmed so by police. Well over 30 are injured, some of them very seriously, Judy.

WOODRUFF: As I'm talking with you, Mike, and listening to you, I'm told that we are getting reports here at CNN of an explosion in Ramallah with perhaps two people dead. We don't have confirmation on this yet. We are trying to get information, a little more information, before we go any further with that right now.

Mike, what about just the attitude of ordinary Israelis. I put this question earlier to a spokesman for the Israeli police. I asked, what is the security like when people know that they could go out, it appears, almost anywhere in public and potentially be a victim?

HANNA: Well, Judy, first of all, just to get back to that report that you are receiving about the explosion in Ramallah, Palestinian sources are telling us that there was an explosion. They are telling us that two people were killed. One of them, a 7-year-old boy.

However, I'm just told that -- from the Israeli Defense Force a categorical statement that it had nothing to do with that explosion in Ramallah. This a very quick denial from the Israeli Defense Force that it had anything to do with that explosion in Ramallah that's occurred within the last few minutes. Two people dead in that explosion, according to Palestinian sources. But an absolute denial from the Israeli Defense Force that it had anything to do with it.

To get back to the question for ordinary Israelis, there is a mixture in a way of an insistence on leading a normal life, to the idea being from many people that we have spoken to throughout this nearly two years of ongoing conflict, to pretend any otherwise is to give in to those intent on carrying out and waging a campaign of terror. It is very much a sense among many Israelis that they will continue to live as normal a life as possible.

This being said though, when these attacks are at their height, little over a month ago, there were a series of suicide bomb attacks. Well over 20 Israelis were killed in a series of attacks. That led to an emptying out of restaurant in areas of Jerusalem, in areas of Tel Aviv, in other major Israeli cities. There was an awareness of the possibility of attack. There was an awareness that one must be more careful, that one must look who steps on to a bus, that one has to be careful driving alongside a bus, that one sits in a restaurant and watches carefully who enters the doors. Security guards out of all the restaurants. So, on that level, the ongoing violence, the ongoing terror attacks have left their mark on Israeli life.

But once again, every time there is that lull in attack on Israeli civilians, then there is the insistence of normality that reasserts itself. People start going out to restaurants. People start perhaps dropping their vigilance a little bit. But it is a continual awareness of the potential of attack. And I keep on talking about this three-month lull with regard to Israeli civilians themselves.

One must mention as well though that there were repeated reports of foiled suicide bomb attacks throughout this period. The Israeli security authorities were saying that they had intercepted would-be bombers, that they detonated a car filled with explosives destined for an Israeli city. So, there is that ever present threat, and everybody who lives in this area is all too well aware of that, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Mike Hanna is our Jerusalem bureau chief, as we continue to look at these pictures coming in from this tragic scene in Tel Aviv. We are now hearing at least seven are dead, 34 -- Mike was including the two suicide bombers and we just heard Mike say as many as 34 in the hospital, five of them with serious injuries.

For some White House reaction, let's good to our Suzanne Malveaux, who has been talking to officials there -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a senior administration officials says they are monitoring the situation at this time. But he says, and I'm quoting here, "it is a despicable act of terror." He goes on to say that "one cannot allow these acts of terror to deter all parties from seeking peace." He also goes on to say that the president has said we'll be resolved in our efforts.

This official also says this will not deter what will be taking place tomorrow here at the White House. Those are meetings among the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan. They'll be meeting with the president tomorrow as well as Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss the peace initiatives. He says that they are trying to get everybody on board, that this will not deter them.

He also wanted to point out the fact that Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, earlier today saying that there was some quiet progress that had been made, at least among the Quartet, those meetings out of New York with the European Union, United Nations as well as Russia, saying that some of those differences that we have been talking about for the last couple of weeks really are not that far apart, that they are looking at really some commonalities among all of the people who are involved in the negotiations.

The president earlier today, when asked whether or not Yasser Arafat again would be part of the negotiations, at the negotiation table, President Bush reiterating the administration's position that he has failed the Palestinian people, that they are looking for a change in leadership and that it's not just about one man, a signal to Arab allies that are really trying to broaden this discussion in terms of who will be at the negotiation table when that actually happens -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Suzanne, we hear the words they are saying, that this kind of an incident is not going to deter in any way their efforts to reach a peace agreement and not going to stop this meeting from going forward, but one has to believe that with two days in a row of this kind of gruesome attack, where you've got completely innocent people blown to bits, others suffering in the hospital, that this doesn't have some bearing on the atmosphere of these talks.

MALVEAUX: Well, clearly, the White House is disappointed. I mean, this really is a blow to the process. They have been trying for weeks now to emphasize the president's plan, to put it forward, to convince Arab allies that they are all on the right track. But clearly, it is a setback to the whole process. They are saying very determinedly, with strong words: "Yes, we're going to move forward. This is not going to affect us in any way."

But you can imagine the mood that is going to be here at the White House with these foreign ministers tomorrow and the kinds of discussions that they're going to have, all turning to each other and asking ourselves: "What do we do now? What is really going to be effective in moving forward?"

WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne Malveaux with us from the White House.

We're continuing to look at pictures coming in from Tel Aviv, an all-too-familiar scene from Israel in the last few days. There was a period of quiet for several weeks -- yesterday, though, an attack on a bus, several people killed, including some children. Just now, we're told at least seven people killed when two suicide bombers stood in front of a movie theater, and within just a short few seconds of one another, blew themselves up, killing several others. At least 30-some people are in the hospital, some of them with very serious injuries.

CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield is with me now talking -- Jeff is in New York.

Jeff, we hear the protest from the administration and others that this is not going have any bearing on their talks, on their efforts to find a peaceful solution. But I guess, as I keep saying over and over again, how can it not have an effect?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: You know, I think there are times when analysis fails and you just look at the situation and you -- the only response that almost seems to make sense is a shake of the head.

A couple of days ago, I got -- I'm holding it in my hand now, and you may want to be looking at these pictures -- this lengthy series of articles or analyses by the International Crisis Group about what a comprehensive Middle East settlement would look like. And it is very detailed. How do you get Syria? How do you get the other rejectionist states? How does Lebanon play?

And I don't know how many times, Judy, you sat here at the desk you're at now and interviewed the Israelis and the Palestinians and interviewed experts about how you would get to a settlement. And I think, then, you experience a day like today, and you could almost be forgiven for saying that there's a part of you -- a part of me, I should say, that almost wants the United States to say, "Look, we're out of this until somebody decides that this kind of tactic is simply unacceptable."

If this is how the reality of the Middle East plays out, then all of these analyses and all of these comprehensive settlement plans and all of the airplanes that our officials take to the Middle East seem to me to be some kind of a shadow play. If this is the fundamental reality, if one side simply refuses to accept the existence of the other, then what's the next step?

And I have to tell you, I haven't a clue. I have been following this story for decades now, before I became a journalist. And it seems to me that we're no further along than we were 30, 40 years ago.

WOODRUFF: Jeff, I'm sure your words are resonating with many, many people this afternoon. Jeff, I want to ask you to stand by.

With me now on the phone from Tel Aviv is the chief of police there, Yossi Sedbon.

Mr. Sedbon, can you tell us everything you know at this point about what happened?

Mr. Sedbon, are you there?

YOSSI SEDBON, TEL AVIV POLICE CHIEF: OK.

Hello. Yes.

You have to hold on a minute. I'm giving an interview on another line.

WOODRUFF: Sure. We know there's a lot going on.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff with CNN. And I'm talking from Washington.

SEDBON: OK, all right.

So, if you can wait on the line, I'll get done with them and I'll do you. I'm doing BBC in my other ear.

WOODRUFF: OK. All right.

That's -- we'll talk to you when you're ready, Mr. Sedbon.

Jeff Greenfield, the points you were making, I think I was saying it resonates with a lot of people, because, try as we might to separate -- what is it? -- the intellect from the emotion at a time like this, we all know that rational people ought to be able to sit down and continue to talk. When you see innocent people blown away in less than the time it takes to take a breath, you do have to suspend, I think, a lot of what's rational about this.

GREENFIELD: I've heard it said -- it has become something of a cliche now -- that it's not that there's no light at the end of the tunnel; there's no tunnel.

Pretty much everybody knows what a real Middle East solution is going to look like: two states, the Jewish state of Israel, a Palestinian state, with various kinds of security provisions and demobilization. The question is: How do you get there when the reality on the ground is that, every so often, somebody goes into Israel and blows people up? And I don't know the answer to that. And I think nobody else does either.

And to pick up the...

WOODRUFF: You know...

GREENFIELD: Go ahead, Judy. I'm sorry.

WOODRUFF: Yes, I was just going to say, the hard thing for me to figure, I think, is what it must be like for people who are determined to live in Israel, to stay in this country that they've made their home, and yet to know that, wherever they go, they are vulnerable.

GREENFIELD: Yes, particularly the fact that this took place in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is one of the most secure cities in Israel. It is not a place of a massive Arab population, where Israelis worry that suicide bombers will somehow swim in the water of their opponents.

And you're quite right. Think of what Americans were like after September 11, when, for a fairly long period of time, we went through, on the basis of one horrific attack, to be sure, a feeling of looking over our shoulders and wondering whether the subways were safe or the airplanes.

Now look at a country that has lived with this, quite literally, from the day it was born as a nation. And when you try to put yourself in that circumstance, I think you begin to see that the kind of goodwill efforts of people for -- oh, "This is the eight-step solution. Here's where we will send American diplomats and get the moderate Arab states to pressure the rejectionist Arab states and put pressure on Israel to dismantle some of the settlements."

It all seems fades into kind of a background noise compared to what we're seeing today and what we have seen yesterday. And...

WOODRUFF: And I -- go ahead.

GREENFIELD: No...

WOODRUFF: I was just going to say that, on the day after the Palestinian Authority condemned this horrible incident on a bus, where you had several children who were killed and wounded, it just -- with graphic descriptions of the survivors of what happened -- it seems to me it makes it a whole lot harder for the Palestinian Authority to be taken seriously.

GREENFIELD: Well, I mean, a lot of Israelis have been saying to you -- they said it to me when I had my show -- the question is: Can Arafat stop it? If he can stop it, he's not. If he can't stop it, where's the relevance?

And it almost is the kind of conversation where -- there's a line I keep remembering from a famous song by John Prine that "all the news repeats itself like some forgotten dream." And I don't know about you, but I do begin to feel like the old days of continuous movies, where you say, "This is where I came in."

How many more years are we going to go through this and see these same kinds of pictures on the air and then watch the diplomats and the officials say: "Well, all right. Let's get back to the bargaining table and have another conversation"? It seems to me that history in a region like this changes when somebody actually decides to change the most fundamental assertion, the way Sadat did in the 1970s, the way De Klerk did in South Africa, to say: "We're just changing everything. We have a fundamental shift of how we think."

Until then, I'm a complete pessimist about where we go.

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, talking to us from New York -- thank you, Jeff.

I think the numbers, in a way, speak for themselves. We had Prime Minister Sharon's spokesman talking to us a short time ago. And he reminded us that, after 22 months, over 570 Israelis have lost their lives in these kinds of suicide incidents.

With us now on the telephone -- I believe he can talk to us now -- is the Tel Aviv police chief, Yossi Sedbon.

Mr. Sedbon, are you there now?

GIL KLEIMAN, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESMAN: It's not Yossi Sedbon. It's Gil Kleiman. I'm the Israel police foreign press spokesman.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Kleiman, again, can you tell us anything more you know at this point about what happened?

KLEIMAN: Yes.

What we know is that is that two suicide bombers evidently blew themselves up in tandem at a distance of about 20, 30 meters, one from the other, at the entrance to a cinema, an old cinema in South Tel Aviv. This street has seen suicide bombings. On the 25th of January, we had a suicide bombing 100 meters from here in which a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to a bar and caused 23 casualties.

Right now, of course, the wounded, we have five dead, five civilians dead, and the two suicide bombers, and over 30 wounded. They have all been taken to the hospital a long time ago. And right now, the forensic teams are gathering up the evidence after the explosion.

WOODRUFF: All right, Gil Kleiman, who is a spokesman for Israeli police.

As we watch these pictures coming to us from Tel Aviv, another tragic picture, tragic scene from Israel, we are going to take a break.

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