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Crisis in the Middle East: Violence Escalates in Ramallah

Aired October 13, 2000 - 8:59 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan in Atlanta. We have breaking news out of the Middle East. We join sister our sister network CNN International and Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ...protests and demonstrations. There were several thousand Palestinians inside Ramallah who gathered at the main square. And then several hundred who walked down to the junction that is ahead of us where we are in this position right now. We understand that there was an eruption of stone throwing. That was met by tear gas and rubber bullets from the Israeli side and then there was and exchange of automatic weapons fire. And now it has increased somewhat with Israeli tanks, as I say, opening up with their heavy machine guns. You can see the puffs of smoke.

Clearly the Israelis think they have pinpointed something and are, as I say, firing towards what looks like a small brick structure on the hill. And there's firing back, apparently coming from there.

Our colleague Sausan -- Sausan Ghosheh is in Ramallah. There are apparently some injured from earlier this morning.

Sausan, what can you tell us about what happened earlier this morning?

SAUSAN GHOSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, it started out as a regular clash with the demonstrators throwing stones and Israelis firing rubber bullets and tear gas. However, an hour ago, exactly an hour ago, we heard something that sounded like live ammunition from the Israeli army.

We saw a Palestinian, a 23-year-old Palestinian man, lying on the ground with his knee shattered. Bullets infiltrated the bone, opening his knee up. His leg was hanging loose only -- was hanging by the skin from the back of the knee and the bone was scattered on the road.

His fellow demonstrators, later, collected the bone from the ground and started showing it to the people who were standing further back from the site of demonstrations. And immediately afterwards we heard firing coming from Palestinian area A and then an exchange of fire and the Palestinian demonstrators who were there retreated back so they don't get caught in the middle of the fire. We saw the Israeli troops rearranging themselves in a new formation. They came closer together. Before, they were standing separately -- each Jeep standing separately. The three or four Jeeps that were there came closer together. And things were at a standstill until, a minute ago, when they quieted down for a little bit -- now they began, again with firing -- exchange of fire back and forth.

People here are very worried. They are very scared. Everybody's running, trying to find shelter. The road is a long road with a lot of dead ends. So, we've been running into dead ends and coming out of them, trying to find a place to hide -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Now, I understand that the head of chairman Arafat's Fatah group, there in Ramallah, said that he had been told to try to stop marches and demonstrations today.

GHOSHEH: He said that he hoped that there would not be -- only march inside the city of Ramallah itself and will not go to the checkpoint. He said that when the Palestinians go up to the checkpoint the Palestinians, according to him, are the one who get killed and the Palestinians don't need more bloodshed, They don't need, according to him, they don't need more Palestinians dead -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So, what was it, then, that caused them to decide to march to the junction?

GHOSHEH: The youth here, the younger generation is very angry. They see the attacks yesterday, the missile attacks on the police headquarters here in Ramallah and on the Palestine radio as, according to them, as a humiliation of the Palestinians, a humiliation of the Palestinian Authority, a humiliation of the peace process, a declaration of war and, for them, they believe that Israel only understands the language of force and resistance. And they believe that they should use force with Israel for them to end the occupation. Israel, according to them, will never leave the peace process without violence -- Christiane.

And one more thing, they told us for them it's about independence. That they will only stop the Intifada, according to what they are saying, once they get their independence -- Christine.

AMANPOUR: Sausan, well, this clearly comes after a day of unprecedented violence. Thursday saw some of the worst escalation between Israeli forces and Palestinians after, here in Ramallah, two Israeli soldiers were lynched and then the Israelis hit back against Palestinian positions, Palestinian military and military-related positions.

Today it is much lower-level. And we have, as I said, just seen this one incident with the tank opening up here with the heavy machine gun against one particular position here on that hill, just in front of us and we saw fire returned from that position as well.

We're going to go now to CNN's Mike Hanna in Jerusalem. MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Christiane.

Well, once again we see conflict erupting there in Ramallah as we watch -- continue to watch the live pictures of the events unfolding there. This, for the 14th consecutive day, we have conflict at this particular point on the northern border of the West Bank town of Ramallah. This not boding well for attempts to get a summit underway. There have been reports of other incidents of violence in other parts of the West Bank, in particular, from the town of Bethlehem. However, it does appear, generally, there has been a slight lessening in the intensity of the conflict on this day.

We had, yesterday, an attack, as well an Israeli attack on targets in Gaza City and we are joined from Gaza City by CNN's Rula Amin.

Rula, what's the situation there today?

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mike, it was quiet in the morning and then these marches started after their prayers. We have one significant development, which was the creation of the new militia, (inaudible) people who belong to such organization of Mr. Arafat. They say they have formed these new militias to face the state threat from Mr. Barak to further attack Palestinian territory if there was an escalation or no stop to the violence.

These people say that they feel they need to defend themselves and that's why they formed these militias. We saw them in the morning. They were young people with guns. They said they need -- Mr. Barak has said that his attacks were limited and they were anticipating more attacks. So, they were trying to defend themselves and be prepared.

On another front, diplomatic efforts are under way. Mr. Arafat had met this morning with the Norwegian foreign minister. He also met with the British foreign minister. Also, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been in touch with Mr. Arafat. We expect Mr. Annan to come to Gaza later on today, maybe this afternoon, maybe later on in the evening.

We also know that the U.S. is pushing very hard to convene a summit in Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheik, tomorrow evening. That would bring Mr. Clinton with Mr. Barak, Mr. Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Arafat has not said yes, yet. He says there has to be a stop to Israeli violence Palestinians before he goes to this summit.

But there was another development here in Gaza today, just now. The demonstrators, who in the morning and who were very angry and very frustrated, they're letting out their frustration now on a few places where, hotels, there is a bar, there was another store that sold, used to sell liquor. And they have burned down these places. The Palestinian police is around, but they were unable to control the crowd.

Right now, we're looking at a place that is actually in flames. And we have heard the leader of the Hamas organization, Mahmoud (ph) (inaudible) who said Hamas condemns these attacks. That he went there himself trying to prevent the people from going on with their attacks on these houses and these hotels. But, he couldn't do anything, that the crowds were too angry and too frustrated -- Mike.

KAGAN: We've been listening to our coverage from our sister CNN International. An unusual start to our morning but, fair to say, these have been some unusual days recently.



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