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Israeli Warplanes Strike in Gaza City

Aired July 22, 2002 - 19:27   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.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Aaron Brown in New York. Israeli warplanes have struck in the heart of Gaza City. An Israeli F-16 has launched a missile that has killed at first report, first report, 10 people. Perhaps as many as 90 people have been injured as well. Among the dead, according to reports coming from Palestinian sources, a top Hamas official, military official with Hamas.

Matthew Chance is in our Jerusalem bureau. Matthew, what more can you tell us now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the region plunged once again into violence and bloodshed. This time, the Israeli F-16 warplanes carrying out air strikes on a location inside Gaza. As you mentioned there, the apparent target, although there has been no word yet from the Israeli Defense Forces here, the apparent target, the house of a very senior leader of the militant group Hamas. His name: Sheikh Salah Shehada, the leader of the Hamas military wing, the Izzadine al-Qassam brigade, the brigade that is responsible for carrying out Hamas' suicide attacks and shooting attacks against Israeli citizens.

As you can see, though, Aaron, from these scenes of chaos inside Gaza, from inside the hospital and in the streets outside, if this was intended to be a pinpoint strike to take out an individual, it has failed in that respect. All the indications are is that this senior Hamas figure is dead, but also we're hearing from Palestinian hospital sources and officials down there that at least 10 other people have also been killed, as well as now 150 people injured in this attack.

So a significant attack, one which appears to be a continuation of the Israeli policy of carrying out assassinations, targeting killings against wanted individuals, and indeed this individual was one of the most wanted on Israel's list. It's also an indication of just how quickly these events can turn into something much bigger, perhaps, than they were intended.

Sort of as a footnote to this, Aaron, we're also being told that at least three of the Hamas leaders children, as well as his wife, have also been killed, according to Palestinian officials, Aaron.

BROWN: Just looking, Matthew, at the pictures, seeing the numbers of children, women who were hit, these are the kinds of pictures that inflame the region, tend to lead to -- you know, you get an attack and then you get a reaction to the attack and then a reaction to that, and it goes on and on. Is the Israeli government saying anything at this hour?

CHANCE: At this stage, they've been very quiet. They are preparing a statement. We're expecting to hear from them in the next few minutes or so.

But you're absolutely right, Aaron. There have already, in fact, been calls for revenge on the streets of Gaza, for Palestinian militants to carry out attacks to try and avenge the deaths of all these Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom, of course, are likely to have been innocent and caught up in this attack, which apparently, as I mentioned, is targeting this -- this Hamas leader.

Just to give you an indication, though, how significant this leader is, how significant Hamas is, when it comes to this and the kind of response the Israeli people might come to expect -- back in 1996, the Israelis carried out a very similar kind of assassination, except not using warplanes that time, against the Hamas military leader, managed to kill him, his nickname was The Engineer. His real name: Yahya Ayash. The repercussions of that back in 1996, 63 Israelis dead in revenge suicide attacks -- Aaron.

BROWN: Matthew, thank you. Again, at least 10 people have been killed, including a top Hamas military official. Upward of 150 people have been injured in an F-16 air strike by the Israeli government in the heart of Gaza. The story continues to develop. We continue to follow it. We'll have the latest on "NEWSNIGHT" at 10:00 Eastern time. We hope you'll join us for that.

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