CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Issue of Peace in Middle East Never Too Far Away From War on Terrorism
Aired October 18, 2001 - 05:23 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: Well, the issue of peace in the Middle East is never too far away from this war against terrorism. Just about 24 hours ago from right now we were reporting that there was an assassination of an Israeli cabinet member that was, could possibly have some critical repercussions that could affect negatively this war against terrorism.
Let's check in now with our Jerrold Kessel. He's got the very latest on that for us this morning -- Jerrold, good morning.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.
Very negatively, indeed, it could be, and Israelis are now preparing to buy the assassinated cabinet minister, hard-line politician Rehavam Zeevi, who was gunned down yesterday in a Jerusalem hotel. Claim for that killing taken by the radical Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
And just as the Israelis, as people have been filing past the casket, which has been lying in state in the forecourt of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, before a state funeral this afternoon here, the prospects or really the risks of that truce, that tentative truce which the United States has been so assiduous in trying to bring about in recent days and weeks to get the Palestinian-Israeli conflict called back from violence and back into negotiation is threatening to come apart at the seams literally there.
After a late night security cabinet meeting last night, the Israeli government under Prime Minister Sharon issued a very, very strong statement and demand of Yasser Arafat, saying that unless he was willing to capture and hand over those responsible for the killing of Rehavam Zeevi, then they would bear the consequences.
The statement was very emphatic in trying to put this in the context of the United States' global war on terror, saying that Israel would act against the Palestinian Authority -- this is from the Israeli government statement -- in a way currently accepted by the international community to act against the leadership that supports terror. The government spokesman saying that the Israeli would act against the Palestinian Authority just the same way as the United States is acting against the Taliban for refusing to give up Osama bin Laden. But even as Israel made that very strong statement to underline it, and perhaps to even preempt it, Israel has sent tanks into two Palestinian towns, or at least into the outskirts of two Palestinian towns on the West Bank -- Ramallah in the central part of the West Bank and Jenin in the northern part of the West Bank. And these tanks have gone in and this has trigged off some gun battles, some quite serious gun battles with the Palestinian police and the Palestinian gunmen in those towns. And as a result of that, at least two Palestinians have been killed, one a policeman in Ramallah, and another in the northern town of Jenin there, in the northern part of the West Bank, where Israeli tank shells apparently hit a number -- near a school and a 10-year-old Palestinian school girl was killed and a couple of others wounded there, altogether 10 Palestinians wounded.
So a very volatile situation evolving here as Israel undertakes the stringent action, makes demands and tries to say this is equivalent to the United States' action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. A volatile situation and likely to be a great deal more international pressure to try to save, salvage this very tentative truce that was in existence beforehand -- Leon.
HARRIS: All right, well, Jessel -- I'm sorry, Jerrold. Now that you say that Ariel Sharon has tossed the ball now in Yasser Arafat's court, what are the signals coming from the Palestinian Authority? Are they going to cooperate? Are they going after whoever was responsible for this assassination?
KESSEL: I think we've got a very interesting situation evolving here and it could be that the Israeli prime minister has kind of preempted the pressure that was coming down enormously on Yasser Arafat. Yesterday we had heard from the United Nations special envoy here, who said he was acting really in concert and together with the United States and other -- and European forces -- to tell Yasser Arafat this is the time for action. You have to understand, this is the Palestinian's Rubicon, as one diplomat put it to me, and the Palestinian leader knows he's got to cross it.
Well, knows is perhaps a double entendre. Knows means that's the pressure that's on him. He's got to cooperate and get the people who were responsible for that killing to show he's against terror. But knows could also mean that Yasser Arafat realizes that. That's the big question. But while the pressure was on Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon has been trying to pile it up even further and by making this demand of Mr. Arafat, he's put him in a very, very tight position, indeed.
But at the same time, he's gone ahead with these tanks going into Ramallah and Jenin, and that could mean that the pressure will come back on Ariel Sharon, as well. We do know Colin Powell has been on the phone both to the Palestinian leadership and to the Israelis telling them to keep this truce in place. The question is, how does everybody finesses the other to make sure that the truce does hold? Do they want it to hold? That's a question that could be answered very, very quickly, perhaps as early as today or tomorrow.
HARRIS: That's a heck of a question, Jerrold. We'll have to stand by and see how much pressure this crucible can hold.
Jerrold Kessel reporting from Jerusalem, thank you very much -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, security is very tight today in Manhattan. Just a few hours from now four men will be sentenced for their roles in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa.
As CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports, there are ties from this case to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A short walk from the ruins of the World Trade Center, four convicted terrorists will almost certainly be sentenced to very long prison terms. The men, Saudi born Mohamed al-'Owhali, Jordanian native Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, Tanzanian Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Wadih el Hage, an American citizen born in Lebanon.
A jury, both anonymous and unanimous, found all four guilty in May of plotting to kill Americans and destroy U.S. property. Evidence in the trial laid out Osama bin Laden's conspiracy of worldwide terrorism. That conspiracy spawned the car bombings of two U.S. embassies.
In Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 224 people, including 12 Americans, were killed in the near simultaneous explosions three years ago. At the federal courthouse, security very tight, anxiety high, with even more checkpoints. And a side street closed to cars but open to pedestrians now closed entirely.
The courthouse is the same one used to sentence terrorists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and later to sentence those found guilty of unsuccessfully plotting to blow up New York's bridges, tunnels and the United Nations. The men now being sentenced, Mohamed al-Owhali. He threw stun grenades at the embassy guards in Kenya, trying to get the bomb truck he was riding in closer to do more damage. Also, Khalfan Mohamed. While renting his house, he ground TNT to make the Tanzanian bomb.
(on camera): Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty for the two men. The jury voted no, choosing a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
(voice-over): It's the same sentence facing Mohammed Odeh, found guilty of planning the Nairobi attacks. Odeh, along with al-Owhali and Khalfan Mohamed, trained in al-Qaeda's military camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Odeh admitted being an al Qaeda soldier, but maintained he did not attack the embassy. Only the fourth man, Wadih El-Hage, could receive a somewhat shorter sentence, 30 years to life. More years could be added for lying to the grand jury to cover his role in the conspiracy. Though he was not directly involved in the embassy bombings, prosecutors showed he helped run bin Laden's businesses, thereby enabling the Saudi fugitive to finance his terror campaign.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.
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