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Israelis Hit Palestinian Targets After Mob Kills Two Soldiers; Jonathan Alterman Discusses Escalating Mideast Tensions

Aired October 12, 2000 - 10:28 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And once again we want to rejoin our coverage along with CNN International.

Our Ben Wedeman on the ground in Ramallah. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do my best to control the area and to get ready for whatever option we come to in the future.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sir, how long is this operation going to go on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. We'll have to see. Thank you very much.

WEDEMAN: All right, thank you very much.

OK, that was brigadier general Benny Gantz (ph) of the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, head of forces in the West Bank. Clearly, the operation that they're undertaking at the moment is something they don't want to talk about too much. Obviously, military details they don't want to give away.

But, clearly, the situation, as far as the Israeli defense forces are concerned, warranted this sort of action.

Back to you.

KAGAN: All right, we dropped him there on our CNN International coverage. That was Ben Wedeman on the ground in Ramallah talking to an Israeli soldier.

Once again, to recap what we've been following today out of the Mideast: Earlier today, four Israeli soldiers were captured. Two were killed, two are still unaccounted for.

And, in the hours following that attack in Ramallah, the Israeli military has opened fire by helicopter and ship on Ramallah and also on Gaza City. In those attacks, Palestinians say 16 of their people have been killed.

Let's bring in Jonathan Alterman, we talked with him yesterday; we've been talking to him throughout this coverage. He is with the U.S. Institute of Peace, a Mideast analyst.

Mr. Alterman, thank you for joining us once again.


KAGAN: Just a few minutes ago here I had the chance to talk to the Palestinian observer to the United Nations. He described this as an act of war -- these attacks on Ramallah and Gaza City, these attacks by the Israelis.

Do you think it has, indeed, escalated to that point?

ALTERMAN: We have mob violence that's always at the edge of causing a war.

KAGAN: Jon, hold on one second. I think we have some other video feeding in.

What's the video? OK, this is video -- I need more information. You have to tell me what we're looking at here.

This is video -- the Israelis have been attacking both Ramallah and Gaza City. OK, this isn't Gaza. As we understood it earlier, the Israeli military had been targeting Gaza City areas right near the headquarters for Yasser Arafat both in Gaza City and also in Ramallah. Not sure if that's what that is, but these are pictures we're just getting in.

Let's make a deal here. We'll continue to show you those pictures. Jon Alterman, you stay with us and we'll continue to talk to you, bring you pictures, continue our discussions as we go.

Now, do you see this as escalation to the status of war?

ALTERMAN: I think we're getting very close to war. And certainly the killing of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinian mobs, to the Israeli side, makes it feel like a war. I think the problem with it being a war is what do you do if you're Israel? I mean, can you reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza? Can you reinforce the checkpoints. It's very unclear what they can do, but I think that they will have a feeling that they want to hit and they want to hit hart. I think the Israelis have been feeling like Gulliver being tied down by the Lilliputians for a while. And I think that, for about the next week or so, they're likely to strike back with as much force as they can.

KAGAN: OK, what can you do if you're the Palestinians?

ALTERMAN: Well, there's not much you can do if you're the Palestinians, especially in you're Yasser Arafat. I think his idea was that he could use low-level violence, he could use stone-throwing attacks on the Israelis and try to win some international support. I think what the incident in Ramallah showed today is that he's clearly lost control of the situation. When you have mobs of 1,000 people scaling police stations and throwing bodies out of second-floor windows, you're no longer in control of the situation. It's a dangerous game he's been playing. I think he thought he could win it. I think now he's really losing it.

KAGAN: OK, once again, we want to remind our viewers what we're looking at here. These are live pictures from the hills just outside of Ramallah. The Israeli military has been firing on this town from both the hills outside with tanks and also with helicopter gunships at the same time.

There has been evidence that we've shown you throughout the morning that they've hit a number of targets, including, we understand, a police station where, earlier, the two -- this is the police station -- two Israeli soldiers were captured. Two Israelis soldiers were captured and killed at this site earlier today. The Israeli army we also had on earlier saying this is not an act of retaliation, but clearly the Israelis are going to have to do something.

Jonathan Alterman, bringing you back in here as we continue to look at these pictures, to take it the next step, beyond the Palestinians, beyond the Israelis, the greater Arab world, how does their involvement play in here and what do they need to do?

ALTERMAN: Well, they've been supporting the so-called Al-Aqsa Insifada (ph). They've been supporting the Palestinian turning-away from a negotiated solution, at least temporarily, and taking to the streets. I think clearly we've had a very serious escalation in the level of violence.

The incident in Aden in Yemen is also extraordinarily worrying in terms of what's happening in the region. There was a hope in the U.S. for years that, when push came to shove, the moderate Arab regimes would help give cover to Arafat to make a peace deal. I don't think we're seeing very much in terms of moderate Arab regimes right now, certainly not people who feel they can stand up and support a call for calm. I think we're going to likely see a period of serious violence.

KAGAN: Jon Alterman, U.S. Institute of Peace, thanks for stopping by again. Appreciate your time.

ALTERMAN: Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Daryn. While all this is happening on the outside, in Wall Street, stocks are taking a pretty sizable hit right now. About 20 minutes ago, the Dow Jones Industrial average down well over 300 points. It has come back slightly about 232 to the lower 10000 mark, right around 10180.

Two issues at work here: The falling stock market; in addition to that, we're also seeing the price of oil increase rather dramatically in just a short time.

Let's go to Bill Tucker up in New York and check in there.

Bill, what's happening. BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Bill. Well, we have a combination of a couple of factors. The market was poised to go down at the open anyway. We had Home Depot come out this morning and say it would not be meeting third-quarter expectations. The Street unnerved by that. Bausch & Lomb followed it up with an earnings report where they met expectations, lowered expectations, and then warned that fourth quarter was not going to be good.

So you had an unsettled environment going into the start of trading and the situation in the Middle East began to spiral, what seemed to be an out-of-control pace. Oil rocketed up. At the moment, we have November delivery, West Texas sweet light trading up 60 -- $3.40 a barrel at $36.65 a barrel.

So you've got sharply higher oil prices coming in combination with those earnings warnings and bad fourth-quarter outlooks. And, Bill, the market has just come undone.

The Nasdaq is lower. It is not feeling investor unsettlement as much as the Dow at the moment. As you noted, the Dow is down about 2 1/3 percent.

HEMMER: All right, Bill. Bill Tucker live in New York. Thanks, Bill. We'll track it.

Again, we should remind folks, it is early, just about an hour and five minutes into today's day of trading on Wall Street. More throughout the day here.



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