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Deadly Explosion Set Off by Suicide Bomber at Israeli Shopping Mall

Aired May 18, 2001 - 06:33   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JASON CARROLL, CNN ANCHOR: There has been more violence in the Middle East today: a deadly explosion at an Israeli shopping mall.

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Israeli radio says a suicide bomber set off the blast in Netanya. That's a city about six miles from the West Bank.

CNN's Mike Hanna is standing by for us. He is live in Jerusalem with an update on all of this.

Mike, hello. What do you have?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Linda, police say that four people have been killed in the explosion. The official list of wounded at present is 57 people, according to police, although this may increase. It's not clear whether the suicide bomber is among that list of four people killed.

The man attempted to gain entry to a crowded shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya. He was refused entrance by a security guard. And then, say eye witnesses, he detonated explosives that were strapped to his body -- the shopping mall, exceedingly crowded at this time on a Friday, many shoppers doing last-minute purchases before the onset of the Shabbat later on in the course of the day -- so, according to police, four people killed in the bomb blast, more than 50 people injured with a possibility that that list of injured could increase as more details become available.

The Israeli government is meeting at any moment -- a emergency meeting being convened by the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to discuss the bombing and to discuss what happens next. An Israeli government spokesman says the government holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for this bomb attack, saying that it's a direct result of the Authority's decision to release known militants from Palestinian prisons, Linda.

STOUFFER: And, Mike, I have a quick question for you for those of us who don't know the country as well as you do. Can you tell us a little bit more about the city? It's so close to the West Bank. How does that affect the character of the town?

HANNA: Well, police spokesmen have said in the past there have been a number of bomb attacks in that region, in Netanya and that central coastal region -- some 15 attacks, some of which were averted, the explosive devices diffused.

But Netanya itself is just north of Tel Aviv. It is a coastal town, a mixture -- parts industrial, but also a resort town for many Israelis. It's proximity to the West Bank, say police, is one of the reasons why there have been a number of bomb attacks: some six miles, 11 kilometers to the Green Line from Netanya itself, which means, say police, that there is less ground for those wishing to carry out attacks to travel -- the supposition from police that the attack, and this attack, carried out by somebody who had come across from the West Bank in the course of the day, Linda.

STOUFFER: And, Mike, can you tell us a little bit about what's happened in recent days, recent weeks there leading up to this? I know some five Palestinians police officers were killed recently. How does this all play into this situation?

HANNA: Well, it's one pattern of ongoing violence, of ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The whole of Israel has been on high alert for a long period of time, with police warning about the possibility of bomb attacks against civilian targets, this part of a pattern of violence that has been ongoing.

Israel has made several incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory, it says with the intention of safe guarding the lives of its civilians and of its soldiers. Palestinians contend that the Israeli incursions are part of what they say is a pattern of Israeli aggression. Each side continues to hold the other responsible for this ongoing conflict. Each side says it's up to the other to take the necessary concrete steps to end the violence, but no sign whatsoever that such violence is ending, as confirmed by yet another bombing attack on a civilian target in Israel.

STOUFFER: That's confirmed by all that debris in the streets in those pictures we're looking at.

Jerusalem bureau chief, Mike Hanna, thank you very much for the latest from Jerusalem.

And just to give you a quick recap, word that we have now: at least four people killed, at least 50 injured from a suicide bomb attack at a shopping mall in Israel. We'll keep you up to date on all the developments in this story.

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