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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Israeli Plane, Hotel Targeted in Kenya

Aired November 28, 2002 - 06:02   ET

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

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We want to continue to bring this developing story to everyone. I do want to update it, though, here at the top of the hour to tell everyone what is going on.
You're looking now at live pictures from Tel Aviv as Arkia Flight 582 has landed safely in Tel Aviv after at least two missiles were fired upon this plane as it was taking off from the airport in Mombasa, Kenya. And this missile attack on this plane was unsuccessful. As you can see, these people have landed safely.

They did not stop after the missiles were fired. They continued to fly toward Tel Aviv, but everyone is in good hands, landed safely.

We have some reports, Matthew said, that there was some slight damage to the aircraft. You're looking now at pictures of that Arkia airliner landing in Tel Aviv.

Now, the attacks on this airliner occurred at the same time that a car bomb blew up at the Mombasa Paradise hotel, which is Israeli- owned. We have reports that at least 11 people are dead, two of them are apparently children.

The Kenya ambassador to Israel is now blaming these attacks on al Qaeda.

Matthew Chance is in Tel Aviv talking with some of these passengers, who say they were unaware of not only the attack at the hotel, but the attack on the plane that they were riding in. They were only told about the attack about 30 minutes before they landed.

Matthew is now standing by with another passenger, I believe -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I see there's a lot of confusion here in the airport. We're being sort of jostled around, people so anxious to hear from these passengers about what experience they've gone through.

I have with me Alana (ph), who has just come from Mombasa.

Alana (ph), you must be feeling a great sense of relief about escaping this missile attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, but we didn't know anything. Just when we -- the airplane started to leave, we heard a boom. We didn't know anything. The staff didn't tell us anything until about 10 or 15 minutes before we came to Israel. Then we saw that what happened. And about a few minutes after that, we saw the airplane, a military airplane, going with us, checking that everything was OK with the plane. And they saw that we were safe, so we...

CHANCE: So, you actually -- when you left, when you got airborne, a military aircraft joined the flight. You could see a military...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, not during all of the flight, only about 10 minutes before we came to Israel.

CHANCE: An Israeli military aircraft escorted you into the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, escort us, yes, yes.

CHANCE: I see. Do you think the airline, the flight crew, handled this situation in the best possible way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Best possible.

CHANCE: I see you have...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were so calm. This is when we get off the plane, but the staff was so calm. It was so good for us, and they didn't tell us anything, any hint, because otherwise I think it was total (ph).

CHANCE: Did you stay in the Paradise hotel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we just went (ph) there for a visit, and then we went to another hotel. I don't want to say its name.

CHANCE: All right, well, Alana (ph), thank you very much for your experiences (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Catherine, you can see a lot of people here getting off the plane, the 260 passengers or so have now disembarked the aircraft. They're making their way through this passable (ph) control (ph), and are just about to collect their luggage and bags before finally greeting their relatives, the ones that aren't actually inside the terminal building here, and making their way home.

The crew, by the way, will be debriefed, we're told, by airline officials, by the Israeli Security Forces before they are -- before they move out.

CALLAWAY: You know, Matthew, a number of these passengers have told you that they were staying at the Paradise hotel.

CHANCE: That's right. A number of the passengers say, although not all of them, but a number of them, perhaps the majority of them were indeed staying at the Paradise hotel. It's a very popular, luxurious hotel, we are told by the people who have stayed there -- very, well run, we're told, by the Israeli owner of the Paradise just outside Mombasa. People there are saying that they didn't feel there was any security threat coming from Kenya at all. They felt totally secure, as Israelis have been (ph) in Kenya indeed. As I say, they engaged a great deal with the people outside of the hotel and didn't feel that their security was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) security. They didn't feel that security was needed. Indeed we're told, the security at the hotel was not very tough.

CALLAWAY: All right, and if you want to feel free to grab someone else to speak with, do, while I'm speaking to you, Matthew, that's fine. We want to try to stay with this and bring this incredible story to everyone.

You know, there was some concern, as you brought out a moment ago, Matthew, about attacks outside of Israel unexpected, especially there in Kenya, where Israelis felt quite safe. But now that this has occurred, they say that they are a little bit concerned now, at least one of the passengers that you spoke with, but not while they were there. They were moving freely among people in Mombasa.

CHANCE: Yes, and Israelis are very sensitive to the idea that they are being targeted by militant groups, both inside Israel and, of course, inside the occupied territories -- the Palestinian-occupied territories -- the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But they've also, of course, experienced over the past decades a number of very bloody attacks outside of their borders and within the international community.

But of course, this was something that tourists, Israeli tourists going to a place like Kenya did not believe that they would have to confront, and they believed they were escaping the tension, the violence, the bloodshed of Israel. They're going on holiday to relax, to escape the tensions that exist here in the Middle East. Unfortunately, of course, the group that carried out this attack -- and there has been no claim of responsibility at this stage. But the group that carried out this attack was bringing that violence and bloodshed to them.

CALLAWAY: We have been told that the flights leaving -- going toward Israel from El Al had been canceled, but we understand that they are now back up in the air. Everything else appear to be going -- all of the other flights appear to be normal there in Tel Aviv?

CHANCE: Well, they appear to be. I mean, the first reports we were getting is that the El Al -- that the Israeli Airport Authority had stopped all incoming flights into Israel, although I think the veracity of that report was pretty uncertain. We're not sure at this stage that that was just in the confusion of the early moments of what happened when these were coming out.

It's certainly not the case now. The airport is operating as normally, although, as you can see, how can it be normal with so many journalists here...

CALLAWAY: Right. CHANCE: ... gathered to meet these people? That's been blocking up the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thing. But at the moment, apart from that, everything seems to be going as normal here at Tel Aviv Airport.

CALLAWAY: Yes, and I'm sure the passengers are wanting to know more about exactly what happened to them. People at home knew more about what was happening to them than they did themselves.

Just to recap here on what is going on -- Matthew, stay with us and feel free to talk with some more passengers, and we'll come right back to you as soon as you're able to get someone who can speak with you.

Just to recap what we're telling you about this morning. You are looking at pictures -- live pictures from the airport in Tel Aviv as an Arkia chartered jet was taking off from Mombasa airport. A couple of missiles were fired at that jet, missed the jet. We have some reports of smile -- rather, we have some reports of small damage to the jet, but the passengers were uninjured. They landed safely, 260 of them, there at Tel Aviv Airport.

And as that attack on the airliner was taking place, a car bomb blew up at the Mombasa Paradise hotel, which is Israeli-owned, and we know that there are at least 11 people dead there, two of them children. A number of people injured, at least 80 people injured. That number expected to go up -- or could go higher, rather.

Kenya's ambassador to Israel, meanwhile, saying that he is blaming al Qaeda for these attacks.

Let's listen now to what the ambassador had to say to us earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MALAN SAWE, KENYAN AMB. TO ISRAEL: It must be al Qaeda, and unless the air (ph) of denial, regrettable denial, one would still feel that this is al Qaeda, no doubt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALLAWAY: Also, Benjamin Netanyahu going on television in Israel, talking about what happened. Let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If it was indeed missiles shot against civil aviation, this is a very dangerous escalation of terror. It means that terror organizations and those regimes who stand behind them are capable of acquiring weapons which can bring about mass casualties in every place in the world. Today they fired missiles at Israeli planes, tomorrow they're fire missiles at U.S. planes, British planes, and planes from every state and state.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: As we said, 260 passengers on board that jet that was fired upon have now landed safely in Tel Aviv. They landed just a short time ago, apparently unaware of what had happened to them until about 30 minutes before they landed there at the airport. They were escorted.

Matthew Chance is standing by now with a couple of those passengers to tell us more about this.

Matthew, we understand that they were escorted to the airport. Can you tell us more about that?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed that's what we've been hearing from at least one passenger that Israeli military aircraft escorted that flight, that Israeli charter jet into Israeli airspace as they landed here in Tel Aviv.

Maybe we can get some more details from that -- about that from Rommy (ph) and Moddy (ph) who have just come off that flight and are safely on the ground here in Tel Aviv.

Welcome to Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

CHANCE: Did you see these Israeli military aircraft escort the plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they were throwing (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard a bomb. They told us at first that they think a bird stuck in the engine, but they didn't -- they knew from the start what was going on and they didn't tell us the whole (ph) flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all -- they all involved the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the crew -- all the crew in the plane was dealing just everything as usual and...

CHANCE: So there was a thump that you heard when...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we heard something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw something -- we saw something the confused about the food and the drink in the...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... beginning of the flight. The...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sensed something going on, that's not really...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gathered (ph) the food. First they didn't...

CHANCE: Let me just get this clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

CHANCE: And so the plane took off...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CHANCE: ... you heard something unusual?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CHANCE: And the crew told you that a bird hit...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, hit the engine. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And after it they -- the crew was dealing just as usual...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But everybody getting funny on...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no, at first -- at first we didn't know anything was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After it, like half an hour before we land, they start telling us about what happened and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pilot (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tell us in the radio that what was going on and he apologized (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHANCE: What did they tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tell us there was a bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know in the plane what was the bomb. We heard -- hear that was a call (ph), a bomb and...

CHANCE: Let's talk about when you went to Israeli airspace and they were telling you what had happened. Did you see Israeli military aircraft escort the airliner?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we did see.

CHANCE: Well how many did you see? How many?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see one on the right and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we sit near the exits and other...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sit near the window and the emergency exit...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... so we saw the airplane that was there to escort us.

CHANCE: Now I understand that you were obviously in Mombasa, but did you stay in the Paradise Hotel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we was in Lefalay (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... we in Lefalay. It's near...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to Paradise, but we have a lot of friends that...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was in Paradise, Mombasa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... was in Paradise, Mombasa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CHANCE: But a lot of Israelis are in that area. It's a very popular destination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, and...

CHANCE: What made you choose Mombasa?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What make us choose Mombasa?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What -- it...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to see the Africa and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... the nature,...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's a lovely country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... safari.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) gets...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gets everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CHANCE: Now when you choose a holiday destination,...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CHANCE: ... do you consider the security implications? What made you think that Kenya would be safe? There was an attack there against the American Embassy two years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because if you -- if you go to Kenya, everything simple, everything...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we did process (ph)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... very simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... there would be something unusual. We thought (ph) it OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the old people -- the old Kenya people, very love the Israeli guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And because we have a lot of business with them, we buy a lot of things through them. Everything was good (ph). If you can see the all Israeli have a lot of package and...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of presents to bring home.

CHANCE: I see. All right, Moddy and Danny (ph), thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Moddy and Rommy.

CHANCE: Rommy. Rommy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CHANCE: Thank you very much for speaking to us here live on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, thank you.

CHANCE: Catherine, they have it again a lot of relief, a lot of stories coming from these passengers as they disembark from that aircraft in and out (ph) for them at least very safe back here or safer than they were in Mombasa back here in Israel -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, thank you. That's CNN's Matthew Chance at the airport there in Tel Aviv.

Now we're going to go to a member of Arial Sharon's government, Israeli Foreign -- the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ron Prosor. He's joining us now from our bureau.

Hello and good day to you. And first your reaction to the incidents that have happened there in Kenya.

RON PROSOR, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: Good morning.

We can't say the same thing about -- the same about civilians that have been injured, wounded and like we know, also dead in Kenya, Mombasa. But this is very clearly an escalation of international terrorism by a direct attack on civilian aviation. We've seen -- we've seen that done in the past with hijacking planes, but this is impossible for the free world, for citizens who go out to a sea resort in Kenya, in Mombasa, to not be able to quietly go with their lives, with their (ph) and this is if we don't fight terrorism together, if we don't want (ph) -- if we don't join hands, we will -- we have to -- we will suffer very severely. We have to make sure that we fight terrorism together and bring it down before it brings us down.

CALLAWAY: Mr. Prosor, Kenya's ambassador to Israel is blaming al Qaeda for this. Your thoughts on that.

PROSOR: No, we are not into the blame game at this stage. It's very important to state and emphasize that this is terror and terror organizations are trying to really terrorize us all around the world. Today it's Mombasa, tomorrow it can be somewhere else. Today it's an Israeli aircraft, a charter aircraft out of Kenya, tomorrow it can be TWA, British Airways and anywhere around the world people will not be safe if we don't join together and fight international terrorism. This is a real escalation international terrorism and we have to hold together in order to bring it down.

CALLAWAY: What are you hearing about...

PROSOR: There's no other way.

CALLAWAY: Excuse me, sir, I didn't mean to interrupt. What are you hearing about the number of people that have been killed and injured in these -- in this incident this morning?

PROSOR: I think Mr. Hanna (ph) stated the amount of injured and dead. We can confirm as the Israeli government that three Israeli citizens have died and we have more injured in different hospitals.

CALLAWAY: A number of...

PROSOR: But it's important to say that many, many of the casualties are from Kenya, innocent civilians working in the hotel which was burned down. It was made from bamboo (ph), and this explosion in the lobby of the hotel caused the injuries and the deaths, again, of civilian and innocent people.

CALLAWAY: Sir, a number of the passengers that we spoke to coming off of that flight, that Arkia flight said that they felt rather safe or rather safe traveling in Kenya. Will you discourage Israelis from traveling outside of Israel?

PROSOR: Look, again, if we don't fight international terrorism, there won't be a place safe to travel around the world. This is a wonderful sea resort in Mombasa. At this stage the state of Israel and I think everyone around the world should make sure that we use every opportunity and effort in order to uproot international terrorism and bring it down. If we don't do that, it would bring us down. We can't every day think about restaurants, schools, work and hotels, that we can't move anywhere in the world and we have to make sure that we really uproot terrorism so every part of the world will be safe for people to travel in.

CALLAWAY: Ron Prosor, Israeli Foreign Ministry, thank you very much for joining us today.

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