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Israel Hits Palestinian Targets in Retaliation for Suicide Bombing

Aired May 18, 2001 - 13:53   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.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Violence continues to erupt in the Middle East. First, a Hamas suicide bomber killed several people and himself outside of a mall in Netanya, Israel. Israel retaliated with F-16 fighter jets for the first time against Palestinian targets, and now we're hearing of continued attacks in Gaza.

Let's go to CNN's Mike Hanna, who's on phone with us from Jerusalem.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, reports from Gaza City indicate that an Israeli air attack is under way in that area as well. Eyewitnesses say that once again F-16 fighter aircraft have been used in those attacks. The apparent targets of the Israeli action, offices of Palestinian security organs, in particular offices associated with 417, an elite Palestinian police unit.

This attack follows Israeli strikes at targets in the West Bank, in the city of Nablus, where a police station and prison came under missile attack from fighter aircraft. A number of people were killed. At least seven people killed in Nablus. Also in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a police building was attacked by aircraft: one person reported killed there.

In total, as many as 40 Palestinians have been injured in these ongoing attacks. No indication yet of the -- whether there have been any fatalities or the amount of wounded in the strikes against targets in Gaza City currently under way.

These attacks, say Israel, in retaliation for a suicide bombing earlier in the day that left at least six people dead, including the suicide bomber. This bomber -- elements of Hamas, a militant movement. He was a member of Hamas. The Hamas spokesman said he came from the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

Within the last few minutes, reports indicate that there is an Israeli strike under way in that West Bank town of Tulkarem as well. But a day which has seen the worst of violence in more, nearly eight months of conflict.

As many as 16 people, Israeli and Palestinians, killed in the course of this day.

Back to you. ALLEN: And Mike, any word on whether the Palestinian officials were warned tonight about what the targets would be in Gaza City.

HANNA: No indication yet whatsoever that any prior notice was given by the Israelis of the impending attacks. This has not been the case normally in the past. However, Palestinians have been well aware on many an occasion that bombing or an attack against a civilian target, there will be a response, and the response in the past has been at Palestinian police stations, at prisons, at facilities of the various security organizations.

So it's possible that in some cases police officers, et cetera, would have evacuated those particular places. However, the death toll in Nablus, for example, where seven people have reportedly been killed, in Ramallah, where one person is reported to have been killed, indicate that on these occasions many people were still inside the buildings when the Israeli strike occurred.

ALLEN: And as far as this Hamas suicide bomber who attacked just outside a mall, who reportedly tried to get inside this mall and was stopped at the door, is anyone saying how much more deadly this attack perhaps could have been if this suicide bomber could have gotten inside this huge mall?

HANNA: Yes, police do say that the tragedy would have been even greater if the suicide bomber had succeeded in getting inside the mall proper. The whole mall was intensely crowded, mid-morning on a Friday, a peak shopping time: people carrying out last-minute shopping before the beginning of Shabbat at sundown on the Friday. So the mall was absolutely thronged with people. And police say that if the suicide bomber had managed to get inside, even more people would have been killed than the number that died in the incident.

ALLEN: Mike Hanna, thank you, on the phone with us tonight there in Jerusalem. More shelling under way in Gaza City, and we'll continue to stay on top of the situation and bring you more developments.

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