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Chance: Israel sends military message to Arafat

Matthew Chance
Matthew Chance  

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- In the wake of weekend bombing attacks that killed 28 people, Israel pounded Palestinian targets in Gaza and the West Bank Monday.

Israeli F-16s Monday night attacked the civil police headquarters and the offices of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Jenin, Israeli Defense Forces said.

Earlier, Arafat's guards' residences in Gaza City were destroyed in Israeli air attacks shortly before sunset Monday

CNN's Matthew Chance filed this report from Gaza City.

CHANCE: In the last few hours, this is the scene of some quite ferocious attacks by Israeli helicopter gunships, an early retaliation by the Israeli government to those waves of suicide bomb attacks across Jerusalem and the coastal town of Haifa that left 28 people dead over the weekend.

It's quiet in Gaza City right now, but when the attacks came they were ferocious. Eyewitnesses say at least nine missiles were fired by four Israeli helicopter gunships at a compound of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority presidential headquarters on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Mr. Arafat was not in the building; he's currently in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

What did suffer were the helicopters on the ground. At least two were badly damaged, according to Palestinian officials, as well as the helipad next to the presidential compound itself. We've also been watching those pictures of ambulances screaming through the streets of Gaza City.

It's still unclear if there have been any deaths as a result of those airstrikes. What we do know is that Israeli tanks have moved on to seal off a junction here which effectively cuts the Gaza Strip to north and south.

Obviously, there is concern that there will be more attacks throughout the night. But also, residents are very angry that these attacks by Israeli helicopter gunships took place at a time when they say Yasser Arafat has been doing exactly what Israel says; he's been arresting members of militant Palestinian groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

So, for many Palestinians here in Gaza City, these attacks by Israel are particularly unjustified.

CNN: You described these attacks as "ferocious." The Israelis are saying they were very targeted, that they just hit these helicopters and the helicopter-landing pad, and that was it.

CHANCE: They also fired nine missiles at the presidential compound, which according to locals, is many more than they've fired in the past. They accompanied those missiles with heavy machine-gun fire, four helicopter gunships really strafing that compound, badly damaging if not destroying at least two helicopters on the ground.

At the same time, there's no indication that these attacks weren't targeted. Certainly, there's a great deal of intelligence-gathering capability from the Israelis here on the Gaza Strip and in Gaza City. Certainly, they appeared to know what they were striking and the targets were very targeted indeed.

CNN: We're just learning that there has been an Israeli attack in the West Bank town of Jenin, on the police headquarters there. If you put that together with the attack on the Arafat security area, what does that tell you?

Clearly, the Israeli government is sending a very powerful military message to Yasser Arafat, that he will be held accountable. It was his headquarters that was attacked.

In the reports from Jenin -- a Palestinian police post has been attacked by Israeli forces, again sending a message that it's the security forces of the Palestinian Authority that will be held responsible for these waves of suicide bomb attacks that left 28 people dead over the weekend.


• Israeli jets strike West Bank town
December 3, 2001

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