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AMERICAN MORNING

Tel Aviv Blast

Aired December 11, 2003 - 07:01   ET

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get right to that explosion on a major Tel Aviv thoroughfare. The blast took place near a foreign currency exchange shop, leading to some speculation that it might have been criminal in nature.
For the latest on this, we go to John Vause. He joins us live from Jerusalem this morning.

Good morning to you -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Well, Israeli authorities haven't ruled out that this may have been a terrorist attack. Police tell CNN that they now are leaning towards the fact that this was a criminal act, and they say a number of reasons for that.

The most -- or the biggest reason, rather, is because witnesses say a major underworld crime figure, Ze'ev Rusensteen (ph) -- or Rosenstein, rather, was seen entering that money exchange booth just moments before that blast. Now, he's been targeted by police in Israel for almost 15 years now. He had just returned from overseas on Sunday. Police had picked him up on Monday, accusing him of trying to organize hits on other rival gang members. They also said that he was at risk of just this kind of thing himself.

Now, according to witnesses, Rosenstein was among the injured in this blast. Israeli Radio reporting as many as 19 people were hurt. Israeli police telling CNN that, in fact, two people were killed.

If this was, in fact, a criminal act -- an underworld crime hit, if you like -- it would be the most deadly of its kind in Israel's history -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John Vause for us this morning. John Vause from Jerusalem. Thanks a lot for that update.

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