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At Least 13 Israelis Injured in Three Tel Aviv Explosions

Aired December 28, 2000 - 7:00 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin now with the simmering Middle East, where an attempt to restart peace talks does not even make it to the starting line.

Here is the latest situation. Just within the last hour, at least three explosions in and around a bus in Tel Aviv have injured at least 13 people. That comes after a summit at an Egyptian Red Sea resort is called off for now.

Let's get the details on these explosions and on the called-off summit from CNN's Matthew Chance. He is in Jerusalem -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks. And the latest situation here is very dramatic. Details are very sketchy at this stage about what exactly has happened, but I can tell you there's been an explosion, a series of explosions in and around a bus in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Police tell CNN that at least 13 people who were injured in that explosion, one of them seriously hurt. There are no reports at this stage, though, of any deaths.

Israel Radio is quoting emergency workers on the scene as saying the nature of the injuries amongst those 13 people is mainly burns. It's not clear exactly yet how many people were in the vicinity of the bus, but it's known within the last few minutes that police are saying at least 30 people were on board the bus when the series of explosions were detonated.

The radio -- Israeli Radio is also reporting that police are working with the theory that there may have been some kind of device in the form of a pipe bomb at the cause of the explosions. Bomb disposal specialists in Israel are now searching through the bus trying to make it safe, trying to find out whether there are more devices on board or whether there is a possibility that part of the -- one of the devices on board did not explode. And they say they plan to carry out a controlled explosion within the next few minutes.

Well, as I say, the details are very sketchy, but I can tell you that the Israeli security forces have been on a state of high alert in recent months throughout the weeks of violence and confrontation on the streets between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces. There's been a number of attacks on buses in recent weeks; one in Jerusalem in October in which two people were killed; another one last month in the Israeli town of Hadera. In the past, radical Islamic groups have said they were responsible for carrying out the attacks. I have to stress, though, at this stage there is no confirmation, no word on who might have carried out the attack, if indeed it was one.

This explosion -- these explosions come against fading hopes of peace talks in the Middle East. The latest we have on that from the Israeli officials here in Jerusalem is that Ehud Barak will not now be making his way to a proposed summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat. That summit was to be hosted by the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

It's said now by Israeli officials that the two leaders, President Mubarak and Mr. Barak, will talk on the telephone to try and set up a new time for a further summit if they feel it is appropriate.

In the meantime, though, we'll bring you more details on that explosion in Tel Aviv as and when we have them. And it's back to you.

LIN: Matthew, a quick question for you. And I know it's early in the investigation, but is anyone there really surprised that this would happen given that Yasser Arafat, as we speak, is in a meeting with Hosni Mubarak trying to work out the details for a possible summit that may still happen?

CHANCE: Of course, the backdrop to this summit and in the peace negotiations and the to-ing and fro-ing that's been under way for several weeks now has been tense all along. For several months now we've been seeing very violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters on the streets of Israeli and on the streets of the Palestinian-controlled West Bank and Gaza.

So in that sense, it's not necessarily that surprising. But -- and, as I say, there have been a number of incidents in the past, but I don't think anybody in power here, not in the Palestinian leadership or the Israeli leadership, would have wanted to see this happen.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Matthew Chance, reporting from Jerusalem.

Let's get more on that Egyptian summit that is temporarily on hold. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Cairo and he joins us by telephone with that story -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Carol. Well, after speaking with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa, it would appear that there will be no summit involving the three leaders, the Palestinian, Egyptian and Israeli leaders, in the foreseeable future. Mr. Mubarak met with Arafat for about an hour and a half this morning in Cairo where they discussed the proposals put forward by U.S. President Bill Clinton. And their response was that these proposals need much more clarification, much more details before they can make a decision, before the Palestinians can make a decision on whether to accept, to move forward on these proposals or not.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat pointed out or made the point that the U.S. and Israel are both pressuring the Palestinians to agree to general principles and ideas regarding the peace process and the violence -- the ongoing violence in the Palestinian territories. He said the Palestinians, at this point, don't want to talk about ideas and concepts, they need to agree on concrete details to move the peace process forward, to revive, in fact, the peace process and end the violence.

Back to you.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Ben Wedeman, reporting in from Cairo.



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