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Israeli Forces Attack Palestinian Targets in Response to Recent Terrorist Attacks

Aired March 28, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of the Middle East this afternoon. Israeli forces have been attacking Palestinian targets in the Middle East. The Israeli military says it hit specific targets in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Ramallah in response to recent terrorist attacks against Israelis. The offenses come amid a week of heavy violence in the region including a suicide bombing today that killed two Israeli teenagers.

For more on the latest violence, we're joined on the phone by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian cabinet.

Mr. (sic) Ashrawi, we thank you for talking with us.

It is quiet in Ramallah now.

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN COUNCIL MEMBER: That now, it is quiet now, except for the gunships sometimes hovering overhead. But the initial shelling and bombing have stopped.

ALLEN: What is your response to this action by Israel?

ASHRAWI: Well, once again, Israel demonstrates that it can only use rude force to terrorize a whole population. That it has a double value on human lives.

While they have been daily killing Palestinians in cold blood, murdering about 110 children and hundreds of adults, men and women, they seem to think that they should be able to get away with it and have full impunity for a seize and a closure imposed by most rude military occupation.

And yet, they decide that whenever an Israeli is injured or hurt or killed, that they have to punish a whole population. In a way which betrays the mentality of domination, militarization, and terrorizing a people.

ALLEN: And then we have a member of Sharon's government who spoke on CNN the past hour, who said, We have said the terrorism, the bombing must stop. They, the Palestinians, have killed our women and children. You're saying the Israeli have killed your children.

Where does this go from here? ASHRAWI: Well, I think the only solution is to end the occupation. This is -- I don't think that Israel is the only remaining military occupation in the world. The longest ending military occupation should be allowed to continue. And it shouldn't demand of its victims that we sit down quietly and we die quietly.

What Israeli is doing is provoking the Palestinians beyond endurance, pushing them into a corner, driving them into desperation. And then it cries foul if any Palestinian does anything in the action.

After all, the root cause is the occupation itself, its measures, its total victimization of the whole nation, and the use of the strongest army in the region in order to deliberately, not only besiege, but actually terrorize a whole population.

So it's not who started or what comes first. It's not a chicken- and-egg situation. It's a very clear situation. And occupying force must not continue. Estates of occupation, subjugation, and enslavement of a whole people must stop. And they cannot continue to claim impunity and to be above accountability and above the law globally.

ALLEN: Now, Ariel Sharon has said that there will be -- nothing will -- positive will come from this until the violence stops. As you know, he believes that people close to Yasser Arafat, even Yasser Arafat can stop this violence. That's why they're targeting a bodyguard for Yasser Arafat in this most recent bombing.

Is Yasser Arafat responsible?

ASHRAWI: Well, if you can hold that the president of any state is responsible or accountable for the behavior of every single individual, then of course he is. Then Clinton would be responsible for the Oklahoma bombing. And so on and so forth.

What's happening is that an Israeli army should be able to take orders from its leader to stop its brutality. But a whole nation cannot be made to be totally acquiescent by orders above.

Two of the people who carried out these two latest bombing raids were actually from Islamic Jihad and Hamas, two organizations that are outside the PNA and the PLO. And they do not belong to Arafat's cabinet.

So I don't know whether this kind of scapegoating, attempting constantly to target an individual and to target -- today they bombed they shelled Force-17, which is Arafat's personal guard. They shelled that political organization, headquarters. They also shelled and bombed an electric generator.

So I don't know how specific these targets are. But it seems to be these are acts of militarization, leading to a very dangerous escalation and turning all the Palestinian people against any type of agreement. We've been trying to legitimize the language of peace. We've been trying to begin a constituency for peaceful existence. Unfortunately, Israel is using nothing but militarization and force. ALLEN: We thank you, Hanan Ashrawi, speaking with us tonight.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And we have Mike Hanna, our Jerusalem bureau chief, keeping watch with us on this major breaking story.

You may have heard Hanan Ashrawi just say this is a dangerous escalation in her view.

What are the Israelis saying about today's events?

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, first of all, the Israeli say that the operation has been completed. The Israeli government says that the operation was carried out against what it says are carefully selected targets, associated, it says, with acts of terror, in particular, says the Israeli defense force, it singled out targets associated with Force-17, the personal body guard of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

In recent days, the Israeli government has been adamant that the Palestinian Authority must accept responsibility for the wave of bombings that have struck various parts of Israel. The latest this morning in which two Israeli teenagers were killed in a suicide bomb attack.

It has been saying -- the prime minister of Israeli has been saying that the Palestinian Authority will be held accountable. And the government now says that it has struck at least what it calls carefully selected targets.

The Palestinian Red Crescent, has confirmed that one person was killed in Ramallah. According to the Red Crescent member of Force-17, at least another four were injured. In the Gaza City as well, a number of injuries have been reported.

The Israeli government saying as well that this, although this operation has been concluded, it is part of a long-term strategy being carried out by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

A government spokesman told CNN that this strategy consists of attempting to list the restrictions on Palestinians not associated with acts over aggression against Israeli targets.

But at the same time, being prepared to strike heavily at targets that the Israeli government decides is associated with what it calls acts of terror perpetrated against Israeli civilians -- Lou.

WATERS: We heard the aide to Sharon telling you earlier that these attacks on Force-17 were made because of evidence that Force-17 Palestinian elite unit assigned to Yasser Arafat has been engaged in terrorist activity in coordinating its efforts with Hamas.

Is there any evidence to support that claim?

HANNA: Well, no evidence has been presented; tangible evidence, that is, apart from the statements of the Israeli government, one of which you did hear from the aide to Ariel Sharon, saying that Israel does have evidence of direct complicity of Force-17 in the bombing attacks in particular.

However none of this evidence has been displayed at this particular point. But the Israel government maintains now and has maintained in recent days that there are direct links between elements of the Palestinian Authority and those who've been carrying out bomb attacks within civilian areas in Israel -- Lou.

WATERS: We know that the Arab summit has been going on in the Middle East while all this violence has been taking place. Is there any correlation between that, between those two events?

HANNA: Well, the Israeli authority has said last week already that they were expecting an upsurge in violence to coincide with the Arab League summit taking place in Amman.

The reasoning for this, the Israeli authority said, was that the desire of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to go to the summit appearing to be the victim of Israeli aggression.

Now the Palestinian Authority has denied this absolutely. They have denied all along that they have any complicity in either of these bombing attacks or indeed in the acts of conflict that have taken place involving Palestinian elements and Israeli security forces, and involving as well Israeli civilians.

The Palestinian Authority has continued to insist that it's the Israeli government that must accept the responsibility for the ongoing conflict, pointing in particular to what they call its ongoing illegal and provocative occupation of Palestinian territories.

So, each side continuing to blame the other for the ongoing round of violence.

WATERS: All right, Mike, we're getting pictures in here. They popped up while you were speaking there, of the aftereffects of the Israeli attack in Ramallah, on buildings occupied by Force-17.

We understand, as you reported, that one person was killed in Ramallah during the attack. Add that to the three people killed in Jerusalem for a third suicide bombing; in as many days, two teenagers killed along with the suicide bomber. Then the retaliation. And now the reaction. And where we go from here is anybody's guess.



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