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Palestinian Authority's Response to Assassination of Israeli Government Minister Uncertain

Aired October 18, 2001 - 13:27   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.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: A major development in the Middle East. After yesterday's assassination of a minister in the government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority has taken some action as demanded by the Israeli government.

Mike Hanna in our Jerusalem bureau joins us now and can give us details.

Mike, good evening to you.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Good evening to you, Aaron.

Well, still no complete clarity as to exactly what the Palestinian Authority is doing. Sources within the Palestinian Authority say that they are investigating the possibility of declaring groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed responsibility for the assassination of the Israeli Cabinet minister yesterday, outlawed.

The Palestinian Authority says it is arresting those who continue to contravene the cease-fire that it says it remains committed to. But within the last hour another incident that has created major problems for attempts to get a cease-fire: Three Palestinian militants have been killed in an explosion in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. They were traveling in a car. Palestinian security sources say all three were members of the military wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Among them was a man who Israel said was wanted for the murder of a Jewish settler last month.

The Palestinian Authority has described this as an Israeli assassination, as an act of state terror. However, the Israeli defense force has declined to comment on what caused the death of the three militants -- Aaron.

BROWN: Now let's go back, Mike, to the beginning here. I just want to clarify something, because what we have been running on the crawl on the screen -- I think, if I read it correctly -- is that the Palestinian Authority had outlawed this group claiming responsibility, the Popular Front. That is not your understanding, is that correct?

HANNA: There's no confirmation that the PFLP has, as a group, been outlawed at this stage. What we are told by Palestinian sources is that an investigation is underway, a process is underway to possibly cast outside the law -- to outlaw the armed wing of that particular group, and also any group or individuals who contravene a cease-fire.

So the movement as a whole may not be outlawed. We have no confirmation that that is, indeed, the case, Aaron.

BROWN: And Mike, even if that were to happen -- even if the Palestinian Authority were to outlaw the military wing or the entire organization, would that likely satisfy the Israeli demand in the aftermath of the assassination of the tourism minister?

HANNA: Well, the Israelis have demanded more than action being taken against the PFLP. It has also demanded that those responsible for the killing be handed over to the Israeli authorities.

Now, the Palestinians have never done this. They are unlikely to do it. And, in fact, today they have been absolutely adamant that they will not, under any circumstances, hand over people they capture to the Israelis.

The question of taking action, of arrests, that may go some way to satisfying Israeli demands, but the Israeli demand is for those guilty to be handed over to them. That is not going to be satisfied, at least according to the Palestinian Authority -- Aaron.

BROWN: Mike, thanks. Obviously this continues to unfold a bit. We'll let you get back and do some reporting on it.

The Palestinian Authority, as best we can now confirm, is talking about -- talking about -- the possibility of banning at least the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has claimed responsibility for the assassination, yesterday, of a minister in the Israeli government, the tourism minister. The Israelis demanded, as Mike said, that the Palestinians hand over those responsible or face the consequences.

There have been this series of killings over there, and Mike mentioned the ones -- or three people who died on the Palestinian side today; this kind of tit-for-tat kind of thing that continues to go on. But when the -- when a minister of the Israeli government was assassinated yesterday, that raised the stakes. That took this to a slightly higher level, or significantly higher level. And that's why these developments are noteworthy now.

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