Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


Suicide Bombers Injure at Least 132 in Jerusalem Mall

Aired December 1, 2001 - 17:45   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Before we move on, we would like to update you on the latest information we're getting on the breaking story we have coming out of Jerusalem, the pre-midnight explosion there by a number of suicide bombers. We hear multiple suicide bombing explosions -- suspected suicide bombing explosions taking place.

You're looking at some pictures that we're getting in from Israeli television. The latest word that we're getting on casualties now is 90 people, we understand, have been wounded or injured -- wounded or killed. We understand, at least one death in this case; at least three severe injuries, we're being told by authorities.

Our Jerrold Kessel has been following this for us, and he's been bringing us the latest information.

Let's check in with him now -- Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, well, the latest figures of casualties keep mounting. And from the various Jerusalem hospitals, the number are well over 100 -- perhaps as many as 120, 130 people who have been taken to treatment in Jerusalem hospitals. Several of them in very serious condition. Also reports of at least one death.

But very possibly there are going to be more deaths than that. You can probably hear in the background some of the ambulances rushing away, back to that scene downtown Jerusalem, which is just about a mile and a half away from here. Those explosions coming just before midnight. A crowded area, just on the corner of the busiest intersection, the main -- Jaffa (ph) Road, which is the continuation of this road behind us here at the Syrian Bureau, and the start of a major pedestrian -- an open-air pedestrian mall. A site of many restaurants, more cafes and so forth.

And many casualties, with two -- at least two suicide bombers. And then a few minutes later, a third explosion. And that, the police are saying, may have been a suicide bombing, may have been a car bomb that was set off just as those dozens and dozens of ambulances and rescue services arrived on the spot.

Now joining us here, Avi Pazner, Israeli government spokesman. Thanks very much for joining us. Can you confirm to us, Mr. Pazner, any of those details about who was responsible, what might have happened -- car bombings, suicide bombings, casualty figures?

AVI PAZNER, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: There was apparently a combination of suicide bombings and car bombs. This is the worst attack on Jerusalem which ever happened. We do have more than 150 casualties, wounded and some dead also.

KESSEL: Anybody that you know -- any kind of claim of responsibility or anything that you -- might indicate to you who might have been responsible?

PAZNER: There is not yet a claim, but we don't need a claim for responsibility. We know who is responsible. Responsible is Arafat, who has done nothing to stop terrorism all these years. Who has done nothing but encourage terrorism, incite to violence and to hatred. And today in the street of Jerusalem, you see the sad results.

KESSEL: But even the this evening we heard from Palestinian security officials -- and these are reports that apparently were verified from the other side, from Islamic Jihad -- that at least a dozen members of the Islamic Jihad organization were taken into Palestinian custody. There was even something of a tiff down in Gaza between the gunmen of Jihad and the Palestinian Authority police. Mr. Arafat does seem to have acted on that score. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for two previous attacks in Israeli cities earlier this week.

PAZNER: Arafat is playing the game of the resolving-door policy. He arrests some terrorists, liberates them on the moral (ph). What has happened in the last few months that we have had an activity -- an increasing activity, also, of the own organization of Mr. Arafat. The Fatah organization who has also now indulged in terrorist activity and suicide bombing.

This is Mr. Arafat's organization. Mr. Arafat has been educating those people now for months to hate Israel, to act with violence against us, to bomb us, to kill us. He is directly responsible for all what you see here in the streets of Jerusalem.

KESSEL: But with respect, there has been now Mr. -- Reserve General Anthony Zinni has come from the United States, try to get a cease-fire in place. He's been here less than a week -- five days. And ever since he's come, there's just been an escalation. But that escalation may have started just before, when Israel attacked and assassinated one of the leading Hamas operatives. There is something, perhaps, more than just Yasser Arafat being responsible here.

PAZNER: This is the worst week of terrorism we have seen since General Zinni is here. And this is the welcome that the Palestinian Authority has prepared for General Zinni.

We never had a week like that. And it is obvious that somebody here wants to torpedo General Zinni, and doesn't want General Zinni to succeed in getting a cease-fire. Obviously, those are the Palestinians. And the blood you see here on the street of Jerusalem, it is blood which is caused by the policy of Arafat.

KESSEL: But the Palestinians have charged that that's precisely what Israel was doing, torpedoing Mr. Zinni's mission.

PAZNER: If you listen to what General Zinni said yesterday, he clearly put the blame on the Palestinian. Yesterday he accused the Palestinian organization of torpedoing his mission here. He said that they are doing whatever they can to make it more difficult for him to cease fire. So don't hear it from us, hear it from General Zinni.

KESSEL: What will Israel do now in response to this incident?

PAZNER: We will certainly react. I heard now from New York that the prime minister is weighing his decision whether to pursue his visit to the United States, or maybe to come back to Israel because of the situation. The Cabinet will certainly decide. There will certainly be a reaction. Israel will not remain passive before such a tragedy.

KESSEL: And the action against -- directed against the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat?

PAZNER: I cannot tell you now what the action will be, obviously. There has been no decision. But you will understand that in such a situation, when blood is running here through the streets of Jerusalem, Israel will not remain inactive.

KESSEL: Avi Pazner, thank you very much.

Well there, Leon, you heard uncompromising words from the Israeli spokesman in face of this uncompromising terrorist strike in the heart of Jerusalem. At least two suicide bombers, perhaps a third. Otherwise, a car bomb exploding as rescue services arrived on the scene to treat those people in downtown Jerusalem. A number of people killed, apparently -- at least one confirmed, in addition to the two suicide bombers. And well over 100 people being treated in Jerusalem hospitals.

And you may be able to pick up the sounds of those ambulances still rushing to and from the scene in downtown Jerusalem. The scene of carnage and horror this evening, after those attacks -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well Jerrold, yes, exactly right, we're looking at these pictures and listening to them as well. And we're getting this video, we should tell our audience, from Israeli television.

And we should also advise our audience that we're going to be holding off on getting back to "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" and that interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. We will continue that. You'll see the entire interview with the secretary at 10:30 Eastern.

In the meantime, we're going to stay with Jerrold Kessel here and continue to try to cover this amazing breaking story that we have that began some time just before midnight local time there, which was just about an hour or so ago. And this word that we're getting of a number of suicide bombings -- apparent suicide bombings taking place outside of a very crowded area down in central Jerusalem. And Jerrold, you were telling us, roughly within the last hour or so, that you had been down in that area shortly before this explosion -- these explosions took place. And you witnessed yourself a very large and thick crowd down there, did you not?

KESSEL: Indeed, Leon. We'd just been completing compiling a couple of dispatches from here in the Jerusalem bureau at about 11:00 p.m. local time about both the Palestinian and the Israeli responses to the Zinni mission, and to the way the United States is mapping out its policy vis-a-vis the potential of peacemaking and of getting this 14 months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis stopped; getting a tangible cease-fire on the ground.

And then as I was heading home, just at about -- well, about 11:10, 11:15, I drove right past that center of Jerusalem, and it was humming. Now, it has been, in the wake of various strikes by Palestinian militants, a trailing off of activity in crowded places in Israeli cities. Many Israelis wary of going into crowded shopping malls and downtown, and so forth, and keeping away.

But unusually this evening it was very crowded, I found. There were a lot of young people around. There seemed to be -- the cafes were quite crowded. That walkway -- it is a little chilly. This is, after all, the beginning of December. It is a little chilly, so most of the people seemed to be indoors in the cafes, and that may have, perhaps, meant that there were less casualties, although this was an awesome number.

But there were people there downtown in that crowded area which is the cross -- the intersection between Jaffa (ph) Road and the beginning of this pedestrian mall. It's not the first time that there's been a terror strike right at this place. There has been, at that mall, several times in the past. At least on two occasions there have been lethal strikes by Palestinians -- either bombs or suicide bombers striking at this particular part.

Avi Pazner was saying this probably one of the worst terror strikes that Israeli Jerusalem has sustained in recent years.

HARRIS: And Jerrold, I'm looking at a report that -- from the "New York Times" quoting General Zinni, the U.S. envoy who has been there to try to get this tangible cease-fire, as you've been discussing -- something -- to get something enacted there. And he was just saying, as recently as this morning -- and today he's been quoted as saying that these attacks that have been staged by the Palestinians have been designed to thwart his mission.

And it seems as though -- this report comes out just moments -- or hours after his words to that effect about what he interprets as the intentions of these Palestinian groups. This bombing takes place this evening.

What do you think is going to be the likely response that we're going to be seeing or hearing from the Palestinians Authority, and why have we not heard from them yet? KESSEL: Very, very good question, because Yasser Arafat is really in something of a pickle. You heard Avi Pazner, the Israeli government spokesman, lay it on the Palestinian Authority very thick. And saying that it is all the Palestinian Authority's fault, they're out to torpedo the mission.

Well, that's exactly the same words that Mr. Arafat and some of his chief ministers were saying about the Israeli side when they said Israel had gone and assassinated a Hamas leader a couple of days -- several days just before Mr. Zinni -- retired General Zinni arrived in the area. And that was the Palestinian argument -- that Israel wanted to sabotage his mission.

Well the Israelis, it's clear now, are saying -- and with due justification, you could say, that there have been at least three strikes now, if this is indeed the work of Palestinian militants tonight.

But there were two occasions, the beginning of the week, then on Thursday night a car -- a bomb -- a bus and a bomb -- a suicide bomber. Before that, two militants -- one, indeed, from Yasser Arafat own Fatah movement, the other from the Islamic Jihad who carried out attacks inside the heart of Israel.

And clearly those groups have -- if they doesn't want to torpedo -- if that's not their objective, well, they have no interest in not torpedoing Mr. Zinni's mission. And they're putting the pressure on Yasser Arafat, just as he's in this pincer of pressure from the Israelis and Palestinians to curb the attacks by Palestinian militants.

And whether it's accurate or not, we're in no position to gauge. Whether it's a question, as the Israeli government spokesman was saying, that this is a revolving-door policy of the Palestinians -- arresting people and then letting them out.

But tonight the Palestinian security officials were telling us they detained, just this evening and this afternoon, at least a dozen members of Islamic Jihad, the group that had claimed responsibility for two -- those two previous lethal attack this week, and that one of those occasions even led to a set-to (ph) between the gunmen of Islamic Jihad and the top operative down in Gaza. He managed to get away for a while, and then was captured later in the evening by the Palestinian Authority police.

The Palestinian Authority condemned last Thursday's bus bomb -- the suicide bombing inside Israel aboard a bus. We haven't yet heard the Palestinian Authority responding to tonight's attacks.

HARRIS: Yes, and it would seem that they've got a lot of explaining to do here, Jerrold. And, you know, I have talked with Spokesman Avi Pazner a number of times myself. And it seems as though every time we do speak with him he does make this accusation of the Palestinian Authority conducting some sort of revolving-door jailing system, where they bring in these people suspected of terrorism, and then letting (sic) them right back out. Do we know whether or not the Israeli government right now, at this particular moment, is meeting to go formulate any kind of a response?

KESSEL: Well, there is a complication in that Prime Minister Sharon is actually in the United States. He's -- I believe he was in -- he was certainly in New York over the weekend. This being the end of the Jewish Sabbath, he spent the Saturday -- he arrived yesterday and went down to the site of Ground Zero, the Twin Towers, the debacle of the terrorist strike there.

And he was spending Saturday in New York, was due to fly on Sunday morning to Washington. And he is due to meet with the president -- with President Bush at the White House on Monday.

And now there is some talk -- and we heard that Mr. Sharon was contemplating, should he return, should he not carry through that intention and that meeting -- planned meeting with the president at the White House, and may return home. So we're waiting to hear whether that is his intention.

In the meantime, we haven't heard that, in fact, the Israeli security Cabinet, without Mr. Sharon, would be convening. But we heard those strong words from the Israeli government spokesman, saying that there will be an Israeli reaction, have no doubt about it.

HARRIS: Yes, we've seen that happen before. Jerrold Kessel reporting for us. We sure do appreciate your staying with us at this late hour there in Jerusalem.

Jerrold, in the moments -- I know you've been busy reporting and talking in the last half hour or so -- but have you seen or heard any new information about the numbers of casualties? I'm watching the computer here, and I am seeing a report now of perhaps up to 130 now being reported officially as being (sic) casualties in this case.

KESSEL: One hundred and thirty-two is the number given to us from the various hospitals -- compiled from the various hospitals, including, we've just been told from one of our producers here, 13 in critical condition. And those 132 including a number of dead people, but no absolute numbers yet. Normally, the Israeli very careful about giving the absolute number. They try to get the information, try to inform relatives before there are absolute names or anything given out, or identification of the people who have died. And it's not yet clear.

But from what we heard from people who are on the site as the explosion took place, it was so big, there were so many people hurt, and as I was telling you earlier on, Leon, when the hospitals called for volunteers to come in, these Jerusalem hospitals so practiced in dealing with such emergency situations, you know it's a very harrowing time and the situation is rather dire.

So we do expect there to be more fatalities among the 132 confirmed casualties ... HARRIS: Now, Jerrold, as you're talking right now -- I don't know if you can see one of our monitors, but we are just now getting some videotape and you're seeing the tape that we're seeing for the first time of the actual explosion there as it took place. I don't know if it was the first one or the second one or whenever. I would guess it may have been the one that was suspected to be the third one, or the car bomb explosion. You can just see it behind that one building on the left side of the street.

KESSEL: Indeed. Yes. I saw that a little while ago on Israel Television. That's the first video that we're seeing now on CNN, and that was in fact just a little bit away. That scene, where you saw the people running away was the exact spot where the first suicide bombers had -- the two first suicide bombs that exploded.

And then just around the corner, perhaps a block and a half away, that third explosion and that -- and there you can see the fire from around the corner from where the first two suicide bombers killed themselves and caused all the mayhem, that third explosion, and that is what Israeli police believe was a car bomb. And according to the reports I've been hearing, there were 10 people at least who were injured in that third explosion.

And that was set off just as the people that were treating -- the emergency services come in, and they were treating all the casualties from the first two explosions that were set off apparently by those suicide bombers. So that's just around the corner, the third explosion of this triple explosion in downtown Jerusalem.

HARRIS: Now Jerrold, we're going to try to get that tape rewound so folks who have just -- might have missed it, we're going to roll that in just a second ago, we're going to get a chance to actually see it for themselves. We're going to re-roll that tape here.

And I must tell you that one part of it that I noticed that seemed to me to be particularly damming, if I can say that, is this idea of trying to injure the rescue workers who showed up there on the scene. That strikes quite a cord here in this country, in particular since we have just seen what happened here on September 11 when emergency workers there risked their own lives to go into another city to help others and ended up losing their own lives.

We do have that tape ready to roll. Let's take a look at it now, Jerrold.

And again, this is what we ...

KESSEL: Yes, pretty horrifying stuff. You do see that explosion that's just around the corner, and you saw then the people rushing away. And ever since then, indeed, there have been another couple of incidents where the police have been desperately trying to keep people away from the area, saying even to reporters, "don't come down, don't get in the area." Because first of all, they need to get the rescue people to get the casualties away, but there was they really felt a risk of additional bombs. And there were a couple of other incidents in neighboring streets with suspicious cars were treated. The police broke into the cars to try to make sure there was none -- no other devices laid. And indeed, they came up and so far they have not been thankfully any other devices in the area.

But you're absolutely right, pretty horrifying to see that explosion coming just as the rescue workers are treating people who have been hurt and casualties from the previous two explosions, just about 50 yards or so away from where that third explosion took place. Evidently, according to the Israeli police, a car bomb the third instance.

HARRIS: Jerrold, I've got to ask you to sort of play devil's advocate here and let me pick your brain for a minute, because it's hard to imagine how anyone could believe that pulling off something like this in the wake of this -- in this climate right now where you've got this massive effort to wipe out terrorism around the world that is fully under way. And in that climate, someone could actually pull something like this and expect to gain sympathy for their particular cause.

It strikes me that, you know, when you see more pictures here of firemen and police officers there who are risking their lives and then they get targeted by a third bomb that goes off and takes them out here, you see this happening and it strikes a cord for many who have been watching over and over the scenes that are unfolding after the -- those towers came down in New York City.

Is it clear here, considering the fact that there's no way this is ever going to bring anybody sympathy since -- to their particular corner, is it clear that these factions who are pulling these things off and trying to do what they've done over the past week there in Jerusalem, that they actually are or could be under Yasser Arafat's control?

KESSEL: Well, I think you have to get that word "try to conjure up sympathy" out of your lexicon. That's not their intention. The radical groups, their intention is to either, you could say, to get rid of the Israeli occupation or, as some say, to get rid of more than that and to attack the fundamental heart of the state of Israel, that they do not want Israel.

Now that's an argument that goes down, and the question is the relationship really with the massive Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority and the bulk of -- and the groups that are on the radical side who are continuing to carry out those -- these attacks.

Now is it the Israeli government, as you heard Mr. Pazner saying, Yasser Arafat is playing a double-barrel game here. He is both supporting and trying to curb them at the same time, or that he can't curb them? That's the big question, and those remain the fundamental questions is indeed you could say they have been throughout the 14 months of this ongoing Palestinian intifada. Is it a struggle against Israel? Is it a struggle against the Israeli occupation? And what role does Yasser Arafat have in that struggle? Is his struggle confined to trying to struggle against the occupation, or is he a nod and a wink occasionally for the militant groups when they perform a service that is -- that is of interest to him?

Now, one's bound to say and to repeat that several times in the last couple of weeks Mr. Arafat and Palestinian leaders have been emphatic. They've said that these kinds of acts are detrimental to Palestinian interests, even if they are -- and as they condemn them, even the center of those attacks on civilians, over and beyond those kind of attacks, they are attacks that are detrimental to the Palestinian interests, because Yasser Arafat has told Anthony Zinni, just as he told the president, just as he said from the podium of the United Nations, the Palestinians will make a 100 percent effort to get the terror curbed.

Well, the Israelis doubt that he's doing that, but if he at least says that's his intention and he says that not doing that has countered the Palestinian interest. So you have a battle not just between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or, if you like, between the pressure that the Israelis and the United States are putting on Mr. Arafat, between Mr. Arafat and the others in the Palestinian community -- those that want to struggle against Israel to go on in whatever form, including this kind of horrific attack that you had in Jerusalem tonight.

HARRIS: Well, Jerrold, I don't know if you can answer this, but from you vantage point I'm sure you probably would have a better chance to see or observe any communications or any sense from the wider Arab community in that region of the world, whether or not the moderate voices there are joining the comments that you just mentioned from Yasser Arafat saying that these sort of events are counter to the Palestinian cause.

Now that we've gotten -- we've been hearing more and more lately moderate Arab voices speaking out against terrorism around the world, and this is no doubt a terrorist event here. Any sense about whether or not there is going to be more support coming from the moderate Arab community worldwide or region-wide there to try to put some pressure on these groups to stop this sort of action?

KESSEL: Sorry, Leon, I didn't -- I didn't quite get that. Could you get back to me about that, that question?

HARRIS: Well, again, I'm just wondering whether or not, you know, you said moments ago that Yasser Arafat was saying that these sorts of terrorist acts are definitely against the Palestinians' cause and do not serve the Palestinian interest. Are we hearing more and more talk like that, especially in the events that happened in this past week or so? Are you hearing these comments coming from a wider Arab community outside of just their -- out of Jordan, out of Saudi Arabia?

KESSEL: You have very interesting things, both in the Arab world officially, where you have people saying in Egypt and in Jordan saying, yes, this is damaging. Terror is the worst thing that can possibly be for the Palestinian cause. At the same time, on that side and within the Palestinian community, you say, well, what alternatives do they have? That's the argument. The Israelis are the ones who keep pushing and keep pushing for the -- for the cease-fire to be broken.

That's an argument on the Arab side, but I think it's interesting to hear that we've had polls in the last week or two, which have shown a distinct falloff in support in the Palestinian community for the ongoing intifida uprising, and that's really the first time in several months that that's happened. But along with that falloff, there are other voices.

I heard that down in Gaza last week. Five Palestinian boys were killed in what was clearly an unintentional Israeli action because the Israelis had laid a bomb that they had intended to get against Palestinian militants. Five schoolboys were killed in that incident. The Israelis seemed not only to regret the lie, but regret the kind of action that they took would cause the deaths of those boys.

Now at the funeral, you heard some very interesting chants from people. Now, these might have been Hamas and Islamic militants, but the chants were interesting. What they said was, "Yasser Arafat, look what's happening. You go for a cease-fire, and look what happens to our people. We get killed."

And Yasser Arafat, the other chants that we heard clearly at that funeral for those five Palestinian boys were, "Yasser Arafat, you should know resistance is our choice. It is our only way."

Now, there are those two clear-cut views going on in the Palestinian community. Those who say Israel must be combated one way or another, Israel must be combated even by actions such as this, such as terrorist strikes, such as suicide bombings in the heart of Jerusalem. But there are many in the Palestinian community who, as I say, say this is a counter to Palestinian interest.

Let's bring in Avi Pazner, the Israeli government spokesman again. Well, Avi, listening then to the reactions that you've heard, would you -- we have heard in the past, as I was saying, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority condemning -- they condemned the attack in the bus, the suicide bombing in the bus on Thursday night. Is that -- does that not in any way mitigate the kind of position, the kind of blame that you say Yasser Arafat bears for allowing this terror to go on?

PAZNER: Arafat is clearly speaking from both sides of his mouth. He condemns on one side, encourages on the other. He has been playing this game now for 14 months. We have paid very heavy for it here. We have scores today with more than 150 wounded, with many dead, many seriously wounded, many will die. And this is the result of Arafat's policy.

It is the clear result of not being decisive. He has been playing this game now for months and for months. And we have had just enough of it. And what happened today in Jerusalem is the worst illustration you can dream about, the worst nightmare you can imagine of the result of this policy of Arafat.

KESSEL: Isn't there, though, a case to be made, at least on the surface that Yasser Arafat should be given a fresh chance when Mr. Zinni came to try to get the cease-fire, the United States saying we're stepping into the picture very emphatically the United States has been as firm as anything in saying to the Palestinians you have to give 100 percent effort. We have to see 100 percent effort. Well, there hasn't really been that opportunity for him to demonstrate.

PAZNER: The real problem is that Arafat is not interesting in any cease-fire, and that is not the first time. It's true that General Zinni is here, but you have at least half a dozen serious attempts before, and every time it is the same story. He talks nicely. He smiles for the emissaries, and behind their work, he encourages terror.

He simply is not interested, because it doesn't fall into his strategic design. His strategic design is to try and to put pressure on Israel through violence, trying to get out of past concession, which he wouldn't do in normal conditions.

KESSEL: What's your conclusion then? Yasser Arafat simply is not a partner, even though the United States has said and sent in General Zinni, they're trying their best to get a cease-fire -- you're saying it's a hopeless case.

PAZNER: I said maybe General Zinni will be able to convince him. Nobody else has been able. We had here, if you remember, the German foreign minister who came after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You had the French foreign minister, the Belgian foreign minister -- maybe General Zinni will be more successful.

For the time being, I can only say one thing. Since General Zinni came here, the Palestinians have been doing a major effort to step up terrorism. We have had this week more terrorism than any other week, and the aim is to torpedo General Zinni and to torpedo the American effort.

KESSEL: You know, we've heard you talk about Yasser Arafat being very ambiguous in the way he handles the approach to controlling terror. On the Israeli side, there's also been a lot of talk about two voices -- the Foreign Minister Shimon Peres who said that in advance of the Zinni mission, during the first two days of the Zinni mission, that the imperative is not merely to go for a cease-fire, as Prime Minister Sharon has said. That's the ultimate -- that has to be the first step.

Mr. Peres said there has to be a political dividend, hang up in advance to show the Palestinians that there's an advantage of going toward an absolute cease-fire. So, isn't there two Israeli views as well?

PAZNER: I think both Mr. Sharon and Mr. Peres were -- want first of all to get the cease-fire. If and when we get the cease-fire, so maybe we will have different ideas. For the time being, I can tell you that the two men are united in trying to get a cease-fire. This is a priority. This is Israel policy. We want violence to stop. We do not want anymore bloodshed here.

But this is apparently impossible, because against us you have Palestinian Authority whose interest apparently is a continuation of violence. And what happens now in the streets of Jerusalem is a clear indication that the policy of the Palestinian Authority for the last 14 months is bearing those awful results.

KESSEL: Thanks very much, Avi Pazner.

And Leon, just a point I was making about Shimon Peres and the diversion views of the Israeli Labor Party and others within the government of Mr. Sharon, whereas Mr. Peres has been arguing Ariel Sharon is absolutely right, there's an absolute commitment and a need to get a commitment to a cease-fire in place. But Shimon Peres has been saying, you can't get a cease-fire in place unless you have the prospects of talking about a political settlement down the road.

That's the divergent approach that those two men and indeed probably all of Israel, you could say, united in the fact that there needs to be a combating of terror. And the revulsion that there will be at this attack tonight will certainly spill over into the kind of political responses that have gone through -- to come out of this terror attack in the heart of Jerusalem -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, Jerrold, all of us are waiting to see or hear if there will be any word coming from the Palestinian Authority on this. Do you have any idea, or does the speaker there, Mr. Pazner, have any idea exactly when we could expect to hear something from the Palestinian Authority?

We've been talking quite a bit about what the -- about their responsibility for keeping this sort of activity out of the streets of Jerusalem and for sort of quashing any of these terrorist acts that we've been seeing coming from Palestinian groups. We'd like to know when we're going to hear from them.

KESSEL: Well, you're absolutely right, and I would expect that one way or another we will have -- and somehow producers have indeed been on the phone, and we're trying to get through to senior Palestinian officials to hear if there has -- is a response, what kind of a response. And I dare say, there's a lot of pressure right now on the Palestinian Authority to speak loudly, firmly and uncategorically. And that pressure probably coming not only from the United States, but from the Europeans, from the United Nations envoy who expected in the past the Palestinian Authority to come out in an -- in an uncompromising denunciation of such actions.

And as I say, they did condemn Thursday night's suicide bombing in an Israeli bus in the north of the country. We shall see and we shall let you know just as soon as we do get any kind of response from the Palestinian Authority.

HARRIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Fine work. Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, we thank you very much. We will let you go to get off to your reporting there. As we can see, we'll continue to look at some of these pictures that we're getting from Israeli TV -- Catherine.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We want to keep you up to date on what's going on now. If you're just joining us, there have been -- there has been a massive terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Three explosions in a crowded pedestrian mall in an area called Zion Square.

We know that two suicide bombers detonated their bombs in the crowded area there on a busy Saturday night. They ended the Jewish Sabbath, the area was packed with people. And as rescue workers rushed to the scene to help those -- as you can see there, an apparent car bomb then exploded injuring more people.

We have reports of at least 130 people injured and one fatality. Those numbers no doubt will rise. This coinciding with a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington to meet with President Bush. And now joining us is CNN's Kelly Wallace who is just outside Camp David, where President Bush was planning on spending the weekend.

And Kelly, interesting to know if the administration has reacted to this terrorist attack yet.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Catherine, no reaction just yet, and this is really not a surprise, because in cases like this one U.S. officials certainly wanting to get a sense of the situation on the ground, what is happening, make sure the right people are informed before deciding whether to issue any official reaction at all.

As you noted the president definitely remaining at the presidential retreat at Camp David. He is likely being informed. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington. He, too, likely being informed and you noted this all coming just a day and half before Mr. Bush expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the White House on Monday.

Aides very much were looking forward to this meeting, saying this would be an opportunity for the president to once again do what he can to try to quell tensions, to try to get both sides to somehow agree to a cease-fire and make their way eventually back to the peace table. Again, Catherine, we don't have any official reaction and we don't know. We heard Jerrold Kessel mentioning the possibility of whether the Israeli Prime Minister might decide to cancel that meeting and head back to Israel in light of what is going on.

And Catherine, of course, this also coming as the president had dispatched envoys to the region. In fact, retired Marine Corp General Anthony Zinni remaining in the region. His goal: Trying to stay there until he can put together a cease-fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Ever since General Zinni headed there just days ago, there has been an increase in violence, but General Zinni saying that he will remain there until he can find -- bring about that cease-fire.

So a lot of developments going on. We can expect again that there are U.S. officials watching the situation closely, but again, no reaction just yet. We'll keep you posted and again not clear if there will be any official reaction until U.S. officials have a better sense of ...


WALLACE: ... what's going on there -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: And apparently U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, as you mentioned, just said yesterday that he was accusing the Islamic militants of trying to thwart his mission there. No doubt the president, his administration, on the phone with Zinni over the last few days as violence has ratcheted up there. It'll be interesting to see what the next move will be.

WALLACE: Absolutely, because it was just what a couple of days ago, when there was that bombing on an Israeli bus by an Islamic militant. And, yes, again, I believe General Zinni was quoted as saying that "the intention may be to try to thwart his trip," but that he would remain in the region until he achieved his goal.

He does have wide respect coming from the Israelis and the Palestinians. So again, the situation is obviously very fluid, but U.S. officials hoping he will be able to do this.

And Catherine, as we have seen from this White House after any case like this you have certainly seen the United States condemn any violence and call on both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to do what they can to put an end to it -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: But you know, but Kelly, it's going to be interesting to see what the president has to say, this in light of his adamant statements about the attack on terrorism around the world. Now, this is clearly a terrorist attack. It will be very interesting to hear the president's reaction to this latest move, which no doubt will turn out to be the worst violence that we have seen in Jerusalem in recent years.

WALLACE: Well, you have certainly seen after any cases of violence, and in particular when it's confirmed cases of terrorism, we have seen the president certainly speaking out strongly calling on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to do more. The sense, Catherine, from U.S. officials is that the Palestinian leader is not doing enough, that he needs to -- quote -- "put 100 percent effort into condemning the violence, calling on these terrorist groups to stop what they're doing, to imprison any suspected terrorists, to do more to stop the violence".

So likely to see that message coming from the administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in fact, had been expected to do a round of Sunday morning talk shows. So it will be interesting to see what he has to say.

And it's always been somewhat interesting from the Israeli perspective, because Israeli Prime Minister and other officials in his government have often made the case that Israel is sort of combating terrorism just as the U.S. is fighting terrorism with its military campaign currently under way in Afghanistan.

And so, there has been some sense of Israel in a delicate position, in one sense wanting to try and take some steps to reduce tensions with the Palestinians, but at the same time that it feels its government must do everything it can to combat terrorists -- any terrorists in the region.

CALLAWAY: Kelly, what do you think the possibility of perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon jumping ahead and rushing a meeting with the president in light of this?

WALLACE: Well, excuse me, rushing ahead back to Israel or staying here?

CALLAWAY: Staying here, perhaps, and meeting with the president before he returns to Israel.

WALLACE: Yes it's a very good question. You know, Jerrold Kessel was always the best guidance for us on this one, and he sort of indicated unclear if the Israeli leader would decide to leave the United States and head back to the region.

But again, another message could be that he's not going to be deterred, that he's going to go on and continue with his meetings and meet with the president. He had a range of meetings expected on Tuesday as well with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

So again, unclear, we don't have any reaction, at least from this vantage point, from the Israelis in Washington to know what he might do. Again, maybe get a sense of the situation and make a decision at some point from there -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Kelly, you've covered this a number of times, these types of situations. Do you think the administration will wait until they've heard something from the Palestinians before they make any type of comment?

WALLACE: The -- typically, what we will see is the administration wait to kind of get a sense of the reporting from the ground, do its own reporting to get a sense of what is happening, and then possibly U.S. officials in touch with General Zinni, in touch with the Israelis, maybe in touch with the Palestinians before any reaction. So what is typically the case is we should not expect any formal reaction from this administration probably for some time now.

CALLAWAY: All right, we'll be waiting. CNN's Kelly Wallace near Camp David covering the Bush administration.

And as you're watching the screen right now, three explosions in a crowded pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem tonight on a Saturday night, around midnight. Zion Square packed with pedestrians on the Saturday night, the end of the Jewish Sabbath, and as rescue workers rushed to the scene to try to help those injured by the suicide bombers, an apparent car bomb exploded.

Now we know that at least 130 people have been injured. One person dead. Possibly the worst violence we have seen in Jerusalem in recent years. We will continue to cover this terrorist attack. We're going to take a break. We'll continue our coverage in just a moment.




Back to the top