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CNN Today

Jerusalem Suburb the Target of Intense Gunfire From Adjacent West Bank Village

Aired October 18, 2000 - 2:30 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Israeli tanks and concrete walls surround a residential neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, a new front line in the current conflict. The Jewish enclave has been the target of intense gunfire from an adjacent West Bank village. And Israeli forces warn they will retaliate unless the shooting stops.

Here's CNN's Jerrold Kessel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Heron (ph) Street, giant concrete slabs are being put up as protection from bullets, fortification for people in this Israeli residential neighborhood on Jerusalem's southeastern outskirts. For people here, this is now the front.

Tuesday, there was a real gun battle here. From the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla, right across the valley, came a series of bursts of automatic gunfire. An Israeli policeman was seriously wounded. Israeli tanks, already stationed in the neighborhood during the past two weeks, fired their machine guns back into the Palestinians town.

"Our children didn't sleep at all last night," Rachel (ph) and Meirav (ph) tell us. "I want everything to be all right," Rachel says, "for there to be peace and, God willing, for the tanks to go away from here."

"But not," Meirav chimes in, "until they've really used them."

"Yes," adds Rachel, "not until they've hammered, all the terrorists wiped out so there's not a single one left in the houses over there."

A place on edge, suddenly a bustle of extra concern, unexplained, but police slip into flak jackets, hustle bystanders away from the open area above where the Israeli tanks are now digging in further.

Unlike other areas of the West Bank, where Israel says its removing its heavy guns that have been pointed at Palestinian towns, these two tanks will remain for the present.

This man, hit in the arm in Tuesday's firing, wants more.

"I want fire to be returned," he says. "In a war, you have to behave like you're in a war."

The suburb of Gilo was built by Israel on a hilltop after the 1967 war. Palestinians consider it part of occupied East Jerusalem. It sits atop a nearby tunnel road which connects Jerusalem with Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

(on camera): If the Sharm el-Sheikh commitments don't hold, there's a fear that this may become just one of many front lines, wherever Palestinians and Israelis are in close proximity.

(voice-over): Across the valley in the streets of Beit Jalla, where Israel says Tuesday's firing originated, it hardly looks like the front line, but the anguish is deep, too.

"We all slept on the floor," says this woman. "My grandchildren cried all night. How can this happen, to live in such fear?"

Israeli generals had warned any further firing into Gilo and not only the tanks' machine guns would be used...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're saying that they have an agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh. I don't think so. The agreement exists only on paper. On the ground, it's like war.

KESSEL: Manar (ph) is picking olives opposite the family home. He's an accountant. But because of the Israeli blockade, he's been unable to travel out for the past two and a half weeks to his job. He reckons the confrontation is going to be a long haul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is nothing called Gilo. This is Beit Jalla. Gilo is built on our land, that's why the resistance shooting at Gilo.

KESSEL: On the outskirts of Beit Jalla, almost like a relic from a far-distant past, the district coordination office of the Palestinian and Israeli forces. The two flags still fly, but there's precious little other coordination now, two communities united in fear, hatred and an appetite to punish the other, divided only by a valley.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, on Jerusalem's southeastern outskirts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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