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Three Bombings in Jerusalem Kill 8, Injure at Least 180

Aired December 1, 2001 - 20:33   ET


DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We're updating you once again on this breaking news out of the Middle East; in central Jerusalem, three explosions, two suicide bombers and a third, according to a witness, a car bombing that now in these updated numbers we have for you killed eight, plus the two suicide bombers, and now injured 180. Nineteen of those at this point we know are critical.

It happened jut before midnight. A very powerful explosion. And President Bush, who is at Camp David this weekend, has issued a statement saying he was horrified and saddened and strongly condemning those bombings, saying no cause can ever justify what's happened.

Saeb Erakat earlier on CNN, who is a Palestinian negotiator, said that Palestinians have been trying their best to sustain the cease fire, and says that they did not condone the attacks or the killing of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian, and condemned them.

Let's talk with Gil Kleimaan. He is an Israeli police spokesman with us. Mr. Kleimaan, can you update those numbers for us, please?

GIL KLEIMAAN, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESPERSON: Well, the numbers change. Our numbers were at 170 wounded and eight dead, but as you understand this is four hours into the event and the situation changed. People come in and get the situation critical and serious is changing a lot.

But that's about right, 170. We came out with 170 wounded and eight dead.

KELLEY: OK. If you can, tell us what it's like on the streets where this has happened right now. Are things cleared? Have you been able to get all of the injured to the hospital? Are things under control or is it still very much ongoing?

KLEIMAAN: Well, unfortunately the ambulance corp and the Israeli police are very trained in how to do this. The wounded are evacuated almost immediately. Unfortunately, in this incident, we had two suicide bombers that blew themselves off at a distance of about 200 meters, one from the other, and while we were dealing with that first event, those first two suicide bombers, and dealing with the wounded, another car bomb did blow up across the street.

So, that hampered our ability to evacuate the wounded. But ambulance corps did come in from other cities to assist.

Right now, what is basically is going on is the city is trying to get the streets back in order. It is a pedestrian mall with restaurants and bars, Saturday night, crowded with people. What they're trying to do is get some semblance of order into that street, fix what damage has been done and clean it up so we can go on with our lives tomorrow morning.

KELLEY: Yeah, we understand that it is a crowded pedestrian mall and that it was very crowded this evening because a lot of young folks were there celebrating the end of the Sabbath.

Tell us what security is ordinarily like there and what it was like tonight, if you can, please.

KLEIMAAN: OK. Security has been very tight in Israeli in the last 13 months. There has never been a situation where there has been no security. We've been on high alert for the last 13 months and especially since Thursday. We had another suicide bombing up in the north. The police commissioner has ordered all the districts to be on high alert.

So, right now we're at the highest alert we can be, which means that peripheries of the city are being checked. Policemen are stationed in any place where there are a large amount of people, crowded areas, bus stations and things like that, and pedestrian malls. There are policemen on the pedestrian mall and they were of course first on the scene. They were there when it happened. Unfortunately, that did not stop the suicide bombers from doing what they wanted.

The situation here, as we say, we're going into the next week and we are working at full mobilization and hopefully we won't have a repercussion, a repercussion of what happened tonight.

KELLEY: Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleimaan, thanks very much for your update with us. And let's go to our Jerrold Kessel. He is in Jerusalem and he can bring us the latest on what's happening there right now -- Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donna, well, as the police spokesman saying, in Jerusalem trying to come to terms with the devastation, the carnage of tonight, and those figures that we have to confirm from hospital sources and medical relief sources. Indeed, eight killed in addition to the two suicide bombers who let off the first two explosions, followed by that what seems to have been a car bomb, and 180 people; of the 180 people reported wounded from the hospitals, 19 in serious to critical condition and another 28 in fairly serious condition, as it is defined by the doctors.

Well, after the carnage of tonight and this double barrelled attack and then the following-up of the further explosion as the rescue workers moved in, two big questions now on the table: will the onus be on Yasser Arafat and what does Israel do.

And to perhaps address those two issues, we're joined here by a close confidant of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a member of the Israeli cabinet, Dan Meridor. Thanks very much, Mr. Meridor, for staying up with us to talk via CNN here and we had General Zinni, the U.S. mediator who has been in the region just five days, coming up with a very, very strong statement in the wake of the strike in Jerusalem this evening, and General Zinni saying that only a comprehensive and sustained effort by the Palestinian Authority against the individuals responsible and, he adds, against the infrastructure of those groups that support them, can perhaps bring an end to such acts.

That a strong enough position taken by the United States for Israel?

DAN MERIDOR, ISRAELI CABINET MEMBER: Yes, very much. General Zinni has not been well acquainted with us for many years. He came here, and he got a very quick lesson within three or four days. And he saw tonight what all of us saw in Jerusalem, this massacre by the Palestinian terrorists, again, day after day.

Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians say he doesn't want us to be the arbiters. All right, here's the Americans. An American Marine general for an arbiter, telling him stop it now by comprehensive action, sustained action. It's all in the hands of Mr. Arafat.

KESSEL: The onus on Yasser Arafat. Do you believe he can do it?

MERIDOR: If he cannot do it, he is not a partner to negotiations. The logic of him being a partner is that he is the leader. If he cannot control the weapons, the use of arms, why should we talk to him?

KESSEL: So, what will be the immediate test of Yasser Arafat?

MERIDOR: The immediate test of Yasser Arafat is to put back in jail off those hundreds of people that he and his people put out of jail and know that they are the terrorists. They have the names. They know the organizations. It's their own people. The people who say Arafat is our leader are the people who carry out those attacks.

If he tells them unequivocally, immediately stop all of it, and if he puts in jail and arrests them and uses force against them, then they will stop it.

KESSEL: Now, Israel -- will Israel act? Israel has acted in the past in the wake of terror attacks. Israel has sometimes held back. What can Israel do that's different from the past that can perhaps bring an end to such acts, other than wait for Yasser Arafat to act?

MERIDOR: We cannot wait for Yasser Arafat to act. We want him to act -- he will act only if there is very heavy and tough international pressure on him. If the Europeans and, of course, the Americans, tell him unequivocally, you are losing everything, we will not talk to you, you will be a pariah in the world, nobody will talk to you. You will not be received by anybody if you don't stop those killings. And if he hears this again and again, he may act. He has done so in the past. If not, we will have to defend our people. It's difficult, it's not an easy job, but we will have to take all steps necessary in order to put an end to this attack of terror which takes more than a year now, and the carnage in Jerusalem. Targeting civilians, youngsters again, is something we cannot tolerate.

KESSEL: You say the pressure is on Yasser Arafat. You say he must act, and if not Israel will act. Will Israel wait, or will Israel act before Yasser Arafat can prove that he wants to act, or will act, nonetheless?

MERIDOR: Mr. Arafat has had all the time in the world. He could have this night, and arrest those people tonight. He has too many forces with too many rifles, he can use them to bring his own people to order if he doesn't want the terror attack to continue. I'm afraid he likes it. I'm afraid this is the way he conducts his own campaign, with terror accompanying negotiations. He is wrong. Dead wrong.

KESSEL: Thank you very much, Dan Meridor. Well, you have it there, Donna, comprehensive, uncompromising remarks from the Israeli side, even as the Palestinian Authority condemns this terror carnage in the heart of Jerusalem tonight. That the demand of Yasser Arafat is for action, both from Israel, both from the United States, and to some degree, from Palestinians who say this kind of action is contrary to their own interest. It could be a developing situation, to say the least. Donna.

KELLEY: Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, thanks very much. And joining us on the phone, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. Mr. Erakat, we're glad you could join us and talk with us once again here on CNN.

Earlier, Mr. Meridor, who is an Israeli cabinet member, said if Mr. Arafat is not a suitable peace partner, maybe he's not if he cannot control the violence. Can he control the violence?

SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: I think it's just simplistic. We have the, Mr. Zinni here, and I don't think President Arafat needs any pressure. We have an overloaded wagon. And I think what needs to be done now, immediately, with no further delay, and maybe as of tomorrow, we hope that Mr. Zinni and the American delegation will introduce at the table mechanisms to implement a timeline for the Mitchell recommendations, for the Tenet plan, all the security obligations emanating from agreements signed and President Arafat said we are committed to.

And Mr. Sharon said we are committed to it. These two reports, we don't need to reinvent the wheel -- these two reports, the Mitchell recommendations and the Tenet's understanding, have all the ingredients to make it work. What is delaying the introduction of mechanisms to implement and a timeline to say to Sharon, you're in your corner, Arafat, you're in your corner, and this is what needs to be done. And the Americans will monitor every step of the way.

KELLEY: You talk about that Mr. Arafat doesn't need any extra pressure, but he is under an incredible amount of pressure, including from General Zinni, you talk about being in the area. He issued a statement saying that he had talked to Mr. Arafat, condemning these latest terrorist acts and saying no delay, no excuses for not acting right away to get these people under control and root out terrorism.

ERAKAT: I think President Arafat also condemned these attacks tonight, and President Arafat is committed to exert 100 percent effort. But what we need to do now is not just merely words or statements here and there. What we need to save the lives of those innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike is action. Action on the ground. And the action requires an immediate implementation of the Mitchell recommendations and the Tenet plan, which have all the ingredients to make it work.

And when I say we have an overloaded wagon, we are under occupation. We are under total Israeli siege. We have our people being killed. We have more settlements being built, but what I'm saying is that the only way to stop this violence and counter-violence is coming back to the negotiating table. It's to draw a road map for both sides, with the monitoring, the Americans being the monitors, the judges, to say that's what will happen today. This is what will happen next week. And let's move together in order to sustain the cease fire. This is the only way out and I really urge the American administration to exert every possible effort in order to produce a timeline and the mechanism to immediately begin the implementation of the Mitchell recommendation and the Tenet plan.

KELLEY: Mr. Erakat, you talk about wanting to get back to the political track, but how do you plead that case when you've had three terrorist bombings tonight?

ERAKAT: Well, as we said, President Arafat condemned it, the Palestinian Authority condemn it. We are exerting every possible effort. But if, with all these closures and siege, every Palestinian village, town, refugee camp is sieged by tanks, and these things happen, why can't we say, and I'm not saying, you know, politics. Politics cannot be separate from security. Security cannot be separate from politics. I'm saying the Tenet plan and the Mitchell report has all the security ingredients, has all the political ingredients of both sides.

Both sides have said openly they have accepted unconditionally the Mitchell report and the Tenet plan. It's time for deeds and not words. Let us produce mechanisms of implementation and time lines to begin the implementation immediately. That is not simple. That's not easy. But that's the only way out.

KELLEY: And I don't know if you were able to hear President Bush's statement earlier, Mr. Erakat, but he is also talking about actions, the same as you are talking about wanting action. President Bush says now more than ever Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate through their actions and not merely their words their commitment to fight terror.

ERAKAT: That's exactly what I mean. I think it's time for action, and I think we have General Zinni here...

KELLEY: What will Chairman Arafat do differently to show that he is taking action, then?

ERAKAT: Donna, what I'm saying is that General Zinni is here. We have the Mitchell report. We have the Tenet plan. Let's put it to the test. Let's put it to action. What is delaying the implementation of the Mitchell report? The Mitchell report has been issued since last May. The Tenet plan was introduced in June.

Both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, have said we accept unconditionally these two reports. What we need is to see the immediate implementation of these reports immediately. When we talk about a cease fire, a cease fire over -- we have people at the end of the day with no army, with no navy, with no air force. They're under occupation. And I'm saying to you, Donna, that I don't think finger pointing and assigning blame, like Mr. Meridor now saying that Arafat has all the blame. This is wrong.

KELLEY: And what can -- what else can the Israelis do, then, to help get back to the negotiating table, in your opinion?

ERAKAT: I think now that General Zinni is here, the American delegation is here, I think the trust level between us and the Israelis is below zero. We need the help of a third party. The third party is here. And I think every action must be taken in order to put the Mitchell report in its entirety and the Tenet plan in its entirety. And I said both, they have the political ingredients and the security ingredients, immediately to action and into implementation without any further delays.

KELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Erakat. Saeb Erakat, who is the chief Palestinian negotiator. We appreciate your time in talking with us very much.

Quick break, and then we'll come back with more of this story.


KELLEY: Once again, our breaking news that we're following for you and updating you, the terrorist attacks that happened at central Jerusalem. A crowded pedestrian mall filled with young folks and now the latest numbers we have for you after these suicide bombings, three of them, eight people are dead, the two suicide bombers are dead, and 180 people have been injured.

It happened just before midnight local time, and we are going to check in with Anan Gissin, who is Israel's prime minister spokesperson. Mr. Gissin, you're in New York, I understand? I'm just being told.


KELLEY: Thank you. We just talked to Saeb Erakat, whose the chief Palestinian negotiator. He said what's needed is a timeline and let's get the Mitchell plan implemented. What's holding that up from the Israeli side?

GISSIN: Well, I'm telling you he's making declarations time and again, and we haven't seen one action, even one percent of effort on the part of Arafat to stop terrorists. He said he has a loaded wagon. His wagon is loaded with terrorists. He has to unload them. He has to bring them to justice, to use, to paraphrase what President Bush has said, either he brings them to justice, or we will have to bring justice to them.

And there is no escaping this. After September 11th the world is divided into two camps, those who support terrorism and those who fight against terrorism. And if Arafat wants to be on the right side, he's got to start doing something and start immediately.

And this attack today, a brutal murder of innocent civilians, while Arafat at the same time talks all the time that he condemns ground zero, and at the same time he is sending us to ground zero. In the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in the Sbarro restaurant attack, and today in this horrendous, brutal murder of innocent young children.

KELLEY: Saeb Erakat says that the Palestinians have been trying their best to sustain the cease fire.

GISSIN: Well, you know, it seems to me that he's negotiating and trying to establish a cease fire with CNN. But he has to establish a cease fire with us, and he has responsibility for what happens in his territory.

I mean, these terrorists are cranked and are part of the assembly line of human bombs that are continuously being produced by Arafat's incitement. And he never stopped the incitement. Not on television, not in text books. So, he has a direct responsibility for that.

You know what? He may not be an Osama bin Laden, but he's definitely acquiring the definition of a Taliban regime. What difference is between his regime and the Taliban? He's supporting terrorist activity. He has the largest terrorist coalition from here to Afghanistan, with Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, all of which are organizations which have tentacles around the world.

Isn't it time to stop these terrorist activity right here and now so we don't have a September 11th in Israel?

KELLEY: The former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on CNN earlier as well, and he said that Arafat should, that the United States should tell him that he should either surrender terror, or surrender power. Do you think that Arafat could be under a great deal of pressure and lose power?

GISSIN: Well, I don't think so. I think, you know, he has all the power in the world to stop terrorism. More than anyone else. He has more than 50,00...

KELLEY: But what can he do that he's not been doing? What can he do that he has not been doing?

GISSIN: Oh, just simply go and arrest the people that we gave him them names and addresses. Just arrest those people who are...

KELLEY: There were 12 arrested today, we understand.

GISSIN: ... continuously perpetrating and planning these terrorist attacks.

KELLEY: There were 12 arrests today, we understand.

GISSIN: These suicide bombers can be stopped. What?

KELLEY: There were 12 arrests today, we understand.

GISSIN: These are all retired terrorists, you know. He arrests the retired terrorists, he leaves the active ones to continue. It's same like the Taliban. He's acting in the same manner as the Taliban is acting in Afghanistan, and therefore he will have to bear the consequences of what he's doing.

KELLEY: Saeb Erakat says that assassination gets assassination, and that they are occupied and under Israeli occupation and that this just continues, that the cycle of violence continues. What can be done to stop it?

GISSIN: There's no cycle of violence. There's no symmetry here. A basic asymmetry exists because we are defending ourselves. We are defending the life of our children, like the United States is doing so for the rest of the world in Afghanistan. And the other side is conducting, perpetrating, cold blooded murder. That's the only definition that I can give you for that.

So, it's about time that the Palestinians wake up and realize that they have to make a choice, and they have to assume responsibility. You can't throw it on our doorstep every now and then. It's their responsibility to stop terrorism if they want to really live in peace with us. And we're willing to go to the peace talks, we're committed to the Mitchell report. We committed to the Tenet proposal. We're trying to help Zinni, he's trying to scuttle his mission.

KELLEY: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, we now have confirmation that his meeting that was with President Bush, scheduled for Monday, will now be moved back and the president will meet with him tomorrow around noon and then he will hustle back to Israel.

An Israeli government spokesman said earlier that Israel will certainly react. Can you give us an indication of what the thinking might be from your prime minister?

GISSIN: Look, the prime minister up until now has conducted himself in a way that wanted to prevent escalation, to restore stability, and to bring about a cease fire, and we will continue with this policy. But there is no doubt that in light of this horrendous attack there has to be a complete reassessment of the overall policy that we took towards the Palestinians, and to assess what other measures that we must take in order to protect the life and security of our citizens. It's our prime responsibility, and there's no escaping of that.

And Arafat would do better if he brings these people to justice. Because if he doesn't, we will bring justice to them.

KELLEY: Anan Gissin, who is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesperson. We thank you very much, appreciate your time in talking with us tonight, very much.

GISSIN: Thank you.

KELLEY: A break here.




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