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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Israeli Government Official Assassinated

Aired October 17, 2001 - 05:25   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Back now to our developing story coming out of Jerusalem there. A government official there has been assassinated this morning.

Let's check in now with Avi Pazner. He is a spokesman for the government and he is joining us this morning to give us perspective on exactly what is going to happen next.

Thank you very much for coming in to talk with us about this today.

I want to first read to you a comment that we've just seen reported in the wires from Reuters, this coming from Ali Jaradad (ph), who is with the PFLP. He is saying -- which has claimed responsibility for this killing of Rehavam Zeevi -- he says that, the Israeli government, by killing Abu Ali Mustafa, a PFLP official, earlier has opened the gates of hell on itself and now the fire is approaching Israel.

Your comment? Your response to that?

AVI PAZNER, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We have witnessed today a very serious terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem, our capital, a terrorist act perpetrated by the PFLP, the Palestinian terrorist organization which is roving freely in the West Bank and in Gaza. This is an extremely serious development because whilst we in Israel target known terrorists, trying to intercept them before they can perpetuate their attacks in Israel, like in the case of Ali Abu Mustafa, who was a well known terrorist and who was about preparing now attacks on schoolchildren in Jerusalem, the Palestinians have now opened a new page of their terrorist activity by targeting Israeli ministers.

This is an extremely serious development which may have wide repercussions on all what is going on here.

HARRIS: Well, then, can you give us an idea of how you think these repercussions are going to play out? Is Ariel Sharon going to resume this policy of these targeted assassinations, to which the PFLP is saying that their actions this morning were a response? The U.S. has been pressuring Mr. Sharon to back off on some of these assassinations and the heavy-handedness with the military. Is this going to provoke Mr. Sharon to do even more? PAZNER: I would like to stress that Israel has no policy of assassination. There is no such thing. We are targeting terrorists like you in the United States are targeting Osama bin Laden. We are targeting known terrorists and we are trying to prevent further terrorist attacks this way.

I think that this is a policy which can be well understood. Here you have something completely different. Here you have an escalation of terrorism against Israeli senior official.

And I must say that we are very disappointed that Arafat who was touring the West and being received like a local hero in some countries, has done absolutely nothing here to stop terrorism and he has refused repeatedly to arrest the known terrorists, a list of whom was given to him by Shimon Peres three weeks ago when it was decided on a cease-fire.

So these terrorist activities by the Palestinians render a very difficult situation here even harder and that was just as at the moment when Israel was making steps, easing up on the closures of the Palestinians, easing up on the restrictions, when yesterday Prime Minister Sharon declared his intention to renew the political process.

And here we have a Palestinian response, another act of terrible terrorism.

HARRIS: Well, Mr. Pazner, let me ask you, then, about those restrictions. You were saying that the Israeli government had been beginning the process of easing those restrictions. Does this mean now that that is not going to happen, that you will not be easing up on the restrictions that had been placed on the Palestinians in the West Bank and other areas, and as also does this mean, again, that there is going to be a resumption of this, the policy of targeting whom you are, people you are calling terrorists? Does this mean you are not going to be backing off on that despite the U.S. requesting that you do so?

PAZNER: We will now examine very carefully the situation. Our cabinet is meeting right now to review the situation and assess the consequences of this terrible act of terrorism in the heart of our capital, Jerusalem. It is still too early to say exactly what Israel will do. Obviously, Israel will take all measures to protect its citizens, to protect its ministers, to protect the life of our country. We are here under terrorist attack and you will understand maybe in the United States better than everywhere else that we have to defend ourselves against terrorism. And we will do it, I assure you, in the best possible way.

HARRIS: Yes, sir. One final question, if I may, please. We understand that Mr. Zeevi was about to resignation from the coalition government there in Israel, perhaps breaking apart Ariel Sharon's coalition there, his national unity government. What exactly does this now mean for that particular move and for the government?

PAZNER: You know that even if Mr. Zeevi would have resigned, it would not affect basically the possibilities of Ariel Sharon to continue to lead the government in Israel because even after the resignation of the National Party, Ariel Sharon still had 76 members of the Knesset out of 120, which is a large majority.

Now, I do not know whether the assassination of Mr. Zeevi will also have political ramifications within Israel. But what I can assure you, that the government of Prime Minister Sharon is stable and will continue to function with or without the National Party.

HARRIS: Mr. Avi Pazner, we thank you very much for your coming out and talking with us in what is a very pressurized moment right now. We appreciate you joining us and sharing your insights and we will continue to follow this story.

We also want to apologize to you for the slight technical mix-up that had some other pictures over your name. We apologize for that whether or not you could see it.

Thank you very much for your time today.

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