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CNN Today

Crisis in the Middle East: More Rocks, Bullets Fly Outside Jerusalem as Israel's Prime Minister Scrambles to Secure Coalition Government

Aired October 23, 2000 - 2:05 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: He signals a timeout in the peace process and the Israeli prime minister scrambled to hold onto his job today by calling in a hawkish partner. On the streets, more rocks and bullets.

Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna is watching the crisis in the Middle East. And Mike joins us now live.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, once again, there has been an outbreak of firing in the suburbs on the outskirts of Jerusalem. These pictures now received, just shot a few minutes ago in terms of gunfire from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Jala being directed into the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, a disputed territory that Palestinians say should be part of the capital of a Palestinian state, which Israel maintains is part of the united Jerusalem that is the capital of the sovereign Israel.

There have been repeated clashes in this area in recent nights. And once again there is the exchange of gunfire from the Arab neighborhood and the Israelis responding to this fire with machine guns mounted on their tanks.

But overall, there has been an apparent ebb in the level of the violence on this day in the wider picture. In the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, there were less clashes reported, or clashes of a slightly lesser intensity. But the funerals there continued. Among those buried on this day, a Palestinian police officer killed recently in a clash with Israeli security forces, the death toll now more than 130 people, all but nine either Palestinian or Arab-Israeli.

Attention, too, on this day on the political process within Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak holding coalition talks with the opposition Likud Party, a party regarded as a right-wing party. No resolution reached on this particular day. However, both parties have agreed to continue discussions in some 30 hours time. But some within Mr. Barak's cabinet are not impressed with these coalition talks. Among them the justice minister, Yossi Beilin, who spoke to CNN a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YOSSI BEILIN, ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER: I think Prime Minister Barak did so much in order to get to peace and was ready to pay a very high price for peace. It might be erased if Ariel Sharon would join the government and be seen as somebody who is not enthusiastic about the peace process, about the Oslo process, about the achievements in Camp David. I hope that such a government with the Likud will not be established and that there night be another coalition in the same Knesset that we have today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNA: So Ehud Barak facing conflict in the Palestinian territories, he's been facing political criticism from other parties, and now he has dissent within his own cabinet -- Lou.

WATERS: Mike, is there any Palestinian reaction to the political goings on in Israel?

HANNA: There has been some Palestinian reaction to that and that has been very blunt indeed. The word from the Palestinians has there will be no negotiations whatsoever with any government that includes the opposition Likud Party, and in particular the leader of that party, Ariel Sharon. Ariel Sharon is regarded by Palestinians as the man who sparked off the current round of conflict by visiting a shrine that the Muslims regard as the al-Haram al-Sharif that Mr. Sharon referred to as the Temple Mount. It is this visit, say the Palestinians, that led to the current conflict. And they say, given Mr. Sharon's history as what they say is a war-like -- war mongerer, it's unlikely that they could in any way be seen holding negotiations with a government that includes him.

WATERS: More to come. And Mike Hanna will be covering us in Jerusalem.

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