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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Israeli Troops Move on Ramallah

Aired September 19, 2002 - 14:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.N. is also focusing on the Middle East, where more blood was shed today. The violence began in Tel Aviv, with the bombing of a bus. And now Israeli troops have moved on a section in Ramallah, where Yasser Arafat is.
We get the latest from our Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna

Mike, what do you know?

HANNA: Well, Kyra, dramatic escalation in the level of conflict in the region. At present, the Israeli cabinet is sitting and discussing the course of events, a course of events that has seen two suicide bombings in Israel within the past 36 hours.

And now a deployment of Israeli forces into the West Bank city of Ramallah. Specifically, in to the compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Now, the bombing in Tel Aviv claimed five Israeli lives. Also killed in that blast: the man who detonated the explosive device. Dozens of Israelis were wounded, a number of them said to be in very serious condition.

The Israeli cabinet met in the wake of this attack, and a significant point here: it was a full Israeli cabinet meeting. This a very rare event, where an unscheduled meeting involves the entire cabinet. What is essentially happening is that the Israeli government, the entire government, is now sitting and discussing what to do next.

While they are discussing, this Israeli military operation under way in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That city has been under Israeli blockade for a long period of time. There has been a curfew in place in the streets of Ramallah for a long period of time, but now Israeli forces have moved into Yasser Arafat's compound in the middle of that city, the furthest they have advanced into Ramallah in a number of months, and the first time they have been in that compound itself since March or June this year.

The situation there, we've received scattered reports in terms of what is happening to hear the latest we're joined now by CNN producer Sausan Ghosheh who is in Ramallah.

Sausan, what is happening there as far as you can judge?

SAUSAN GHOSHEH, CNN PRODUCER: The situation is quiet now. We don't hear any more gunfire, but two Israeli helicopters, are hovering around the compound, are circling the compound. They're flying overhead. And there are APCs and tanks on the -- in the inside the walls of the compound itself, on the helipad where Yasser Arafat's helicopter usually lands as well as visitors.

We are trying to get close to the compound, we're actually being pushed back. We're now less than 200 meters away from the compound, but there is a very, very tight cordon around Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. And we were told by the Israeli army that we can't get close for the next 24 hours. And not to try to get close. And, less than two hours ago, nine (ph) APCs and tanks surrounded the compound and we've heard from the Palestinian Authority headquarters that there were two of Yasser Arafat's security guards who have been wounded, one seriously.

According to Nabal (ph) Rudeiweh (ph), he's the senior aid to Yasser Arafat, he describes this incident as a new Israeli escalation, and he appealed to the quartet -- the international body composed of the United States, the EU, Russia and the U.N., to stop what he calls this new Israeli attack -- Mike.

HANNA: Sausan Ghosheh reporting to us from Ramallah. Nabal (ph) Rudeiweh (ph) among the 200 to 300 people believed to be in that compound, along with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The extent of the Israeli military operation not clear at this stage. All the Israeli defense force will say is that there is an ongoing operation in that particular area. The Israeli cabinet meetings still under way. Full details as to what is emerging from that, we'll know in the next hour or so, it's believed, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Mike Hanna from Jerusalem.

Thanks, Mike

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