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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Israeli Cabinet Minister Assassinated This Morning

Aired October 17, 2001 - 06:17   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: For right now, we want to get back to a story that we reported throughout this morning.

About two hours ago, CNN was able to confirm the death of an Israeli cabinet minister. This is Rechavam Zeevi, who was considered to be a rather controversial leader of the ultra-nationalist party, which is part of Ariel Sharon's unity government in Israel.

The word is this morning that he was assassinated at a Jerusalem hotel. And a group calling itself the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or the PFLP, has, we heard, claimed responsibility for this assassination.

And we are joined right now by Rabah Mihanna, who is with the PFLP. He is on the phone with us from Gaza.

And, Mr. Mihanna, can you give us the final -- the confirmation from you, as a representative of the PFLP, that your group is responsible for the assassination of Rechavam Zeevi?

RABAH MIHANNA, PFLP: Well, yes, of course, the official (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Palestine. The PFLP is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the PFLP is responsible for the killing of Mr. Zeevi, who is the head of the Moledet Party. You must know that the Moledet Party is the most political extreme right wing in the Israel community. Also Mr. Zeevi is one of the members of the Israeli cabinet, who decided to do a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of actions against Palestinians, killing children, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and killing one of the most prominent people of the Palestinian community -- a political leader, who was Abu Ali Mustafa, since about 45 days.

HARRIS: But, sir, we had an Israeli government spokesman on with us last hour, Abu Posner (ph), who says that that assassination, that you must mentioned of the death at the hands of Israel back in August -- of that leader you must mentioned was a strike against a known and confirmed terrorist. Therefore, it was an act in self defense in Israel's eyes.

How is it, then, that you can have this assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister in response to that?

MIHANNA: Well, if you have to (ph) to speak about (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I think that it is one of the most famous racist and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He believes in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all of the time he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Palestinian and others inside Israel. And he is one of those who has extremist ideas in the Israel community. And if there (ph) has been it's killing of innocent people, you know, Israeli cabinet who Mr. Zeevi is a member of it and a most political (ph) member -- extremist member, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they are committing crimes against innocent Palestinian people.

And you know, we in the PFLP, as most of the Palestinian people (UNINTELLIGIBLE), believe in consideration of our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for freedom by all means. But when Israel goes away from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and is killing the prominent political leaders, they must expect (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Palestinian fighters.

HARRIS: But...

MIHANNA: And that is just the start, and I hope that the Israeli government will learn the lesson and stop killing innocent people and killing leaders -- political leaders of the Palestinian people.

HARRIS: Mr. Mihanna, I have to ask you this question: The PFLP must understand that right now, there is a coalition effort being led by the U.S. to go after Osama bin Laden, and the cooperation of the Arab and Islamic world has been critical to that effort. And many have said that if there is escalating violence there in your territories -- and that is Israel and in the West Bank -- that that could further cause some sort of a crippling of that coalition.

Does the PFLP have a stance on trying to hamper the coalition effort to go after Osama bin Laden right now? Is that any part of the reason why you went after this assassination today?

MIHANNA: I hope the American government will be telling the truth and ask the Israelis to stop everyday harassment against Palestinians. Just yesterday -- just yesterday, the Israeli government killed a Palestinian leader in West Bank. And every day they are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) houses (ph) and making (ph) life is very, very difficult for every Palestinian in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) territory.

So I agree that Americans want (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) must stop from stoppage of the Israeli harassment of the Palestinians. Otherwise, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Palestinian (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just to pray for the American wishes and to leave (ph) the Israeli (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Palestinian people every day, every minute and every hour.

HARRIS: Mr. Rabah Mihanna, thank you very much for your time...

MIHANNA: Thank you.

HARRIS: ... this morning and for your insight and your side of the story. And for further evidence, Kyra, of exactly just how critical this coalition is going to be in looking at what's happening there in the Middle East and finding a solution there in Israel between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- how that's going to play on this world of terrorism war.

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