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10 Killed, 40 Injured in Haifa Terrorist Bombing

Aired December 2, 2001 - 07:00   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We begin now with a terrorist bombing in the Middle East. About two hours ago, a powerful bomb exploded on a bus in the Israeli port city of Haifa. Police say at least seven people were killed. That blast came just hours after two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowded mall in downtown Jerusalem.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel has been following these developments and he joins us now live from Jerusalem.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest police figures of the casualties of the second strike, apparently also a suicide bombing, 10 confirmed dead in the northern Israeli town of Haifa. But that casualty toll, fatality toll could well double to more than 20. That after the horrendous explosion in the bus. A man apparently boarded the bus coolly, according to people who saw this happen, paid the driver his fare and then seconds later, ignited the explosion, which rocked the bus, sent it careening across the road into another bus and left, as I say, at least 10 people killed, possibly as many people fighting for their lives. Among the 40 wounded, others who are in absolutely critical condition.

And this is the second such attack within just 12 hours after in Jerusalem, 10 young Israelis aged between 14 and 20 were killed in a double-barrel suicide bombing last night.

This has led to enormous pressure, condemnation on the Palestinian Authority, demand from Yasser Arafat for action. And perhaps the situation expressed best by the man who had shepherded in the peace process in the early '90s now has been trying to salvage it. The special U.N. envoy, Terry Larson, speaking to him on the telephone a little while ago. He had this to say about the situation.

He said: "It is either a civil war among Palestinian or a war between Israeli and the Palestinians within the next 12 hours. There seems to be no other alternative."

A very bleak assessment from the U.N. envoy, saying that there has been a uniformed message to the Palestinian leader saying you must act now neither Europe nor the United States nor the United Nations, the Europe - the world community will not bail you out unless you act now. That's the message to Yasser Arafat. The pressure on Mr. Arafat as the Israelis say they will act too even if there is action by the Palestinian Authority. Back to you now.


EPHRAIM SNEH, ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER: More should be said and more should be done. And a clear choice would be good in favor of our front. Either you act seriously, sincerely, effectively against those organizations or you are outside international community. Those coalition who fight terrorism wants democracy and peace.

So often it not be a member of the international community if he allows, that under his jurisdiction, those organizations would wage those gruesome murders attacks on civilians.


KESSEL: But in his absence, there was a security cabinet this meeting this morning and from what we heard from leading members of the Israeli Security Cabinet, the mood there very adamant, particularly from the center and the right of the Israeli political spectrum, insisting that there must be action, tough action from Mr. Sharon or literally a threat that that would be the test of this national unity government.

We heard from one of the Labor Party members in the -- in the security Cabinet, Prime Sneh about just what is needed now and the demands of Yasser Arafat. Here's what he had to say.


SNEH: More should be said and more should be done. And a clear choice would be good in favor of our front. Either you act seriously, sincerely, effectively against those organizations or you are outside the international community. Those coalition who fights terrorism wants democracy and peace.

So often it not be a member of the international community if he allows, that under his jurisdiction, those organizations would wage those gruesome murders attacks on civilians.


KESSEL: Just as that, a second explosion of these two lethal explosions was happening in Haifa, that bus and that bomb very likely now it seems another suicide bomb on the bus in Haifa. The man charged with bringing the two sides to a solid cease-fire set up by President Bush and by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni was in Jerusalem and he was accompanied by Israeli's state president, Moshe Katsav, went to the site where the twin suicide bombing of last night. That bombing has been followed by an explosion of a car bomb in which 10 young Israelis were killed and well over 100 range of 80 still are being treated in Jerusalem hospitals this morning.

And Mr. Zinni was given rather a hostile reception by some in the spiritative (sic) Israeli crowd there, many of whom called to him to go home. There were also cries of -- to Ariel Sharon to resign, a very strong and menacing mood almost from the Israeli crowd as Mr. Zinni laid a wreath on the side where those two suicide bombers had blew themselves up and killed 10 Israelis yesterday.

He had put out a very strong statement last night, putting the owners entirely on Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, saying there must be action. There was no excuse for non-action now. And in a very acute statement, Mr. Zinni saying that the -- Yasser Arafat had to act not simply against those who sent -- responsible for sending the suicide bombers, but against the infrastructure of group that supports such actions.

And indeed, we have not confirmed this from any other source, but there are reports that the blame of responsibility for both attacks, the one last night and today, are coming from the radical Islamic group, Hamas. That has not been confirmed elsewhere and we have no way of verifying this claim made by Hamas. They enter it on a Web site in the Internet. And -- but the pressure certainly being put there by the United States on the Palestinian Authority to act against the radical Islamic group.

We spoke to a leading member of Mr. Arafat's cabinet, Nabil Sha'ath, down in Gaza. This was his response.


NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: It cannot be really but anger and condemnation for those who've done it and grieve, sorrow and condolences to the people who have suffered and to the people of Israel in general.

We are in the process trying our best to -- with the help of Chancellor Zinni to bring out a real stop to all of these incidents, both the Israeli incidents of last week and these outrageous incidents this week.

I can only say that the Palestinian leadership will do everything it can to arrest and follow up on these actions and do its very best to stop them.


KESSEL: "Very best" may not be enough for the international community. We've heard condemnations this morning coming thick and fast from around the world -- from Europe, of course from the United States, as we've heard both President Bush yesterday, Mr. Zinni in that statement and also from within the Arab world of both Jordan and Egypt; a very strong condemnation of the terror attack last night in Jerusalem.

But at the same time, both the Jordanians and the Egyptians saying that they hoped, almost warned, against a strong military action in reprisal by Israel saying that that would not help the situation. And the situation very precariously poised. And I can only repeat what we heard from the man who's in a very good position to assess just how acutely dangerous and precarious the situation is and that is the U.N. envoy Terry Larson, who said, "quite frankly, we are at a critical moment. The next 12 hours will prove critical. Either there will be some sort of civil war within -- among the Palestinians or there will be some kind of war between Israel and the Palestinians."

A bleak prospect then as often as that assessment and the pressure building all the time on Yasser Arafat.

Back to you for now.

SAVIDGE: That was CNN's Jerrold Kessel. We had joined CNN International. That is our sister network there on the coverage of the terrorist attacks that were taking place in Israel over the past 24 hours -- Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is quick to condemn the Mideast violence. He plans to leave Camp David this morning and head to the White House for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett joins us now with the latest.

Hi, Major.


There is no fresh Bush administration reaction to this latest act of violence in Haifa. But President Bush, as you said, did put out a statement Saturday evening condemning the attacks in Jerusalem. Let me read two critical portions from both of those statements from President Bush.

First up, the president said from Camp David, "I was horrified and saddened to learn of the bombings that took place tonight" -- meaning Saturday -- "in Jerusalem. I strongly condemn them as acts of murder that no person of conscience can tolerate and no cause can every justify." The president went on to say, "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."

And as you said, Kyra, the president will be returning here to Camp -- to the White House from Camp David to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mr. Sharon requested that that meeting originally scheduled for Monday be pushed up to today so he could return to Israel to deal with the situation. That was even before this latest act of violence in Haifa. Clearly, the situation, as Jerrold Kessel has pointed out, very crucial, very critical.

The White House had very low prospects for any sort of breakthrough even before this weekend of violence, understanding that Prime Minister Sharon was going to come to the White House, in the words of one senior administration official, "in no mood to compromise with the Palestinians on any issue." That level of compromise even brought down to a lower degree now with this incredible state of violence this weekend.

The administration will try to see what ideas Mr. Sharon might bring to the table. But as Jerrold Kessel, with so much violence in the region and so much animosity building between Israelis and Palestinians and that internal political pressure now being applied ever more directly to Mr. Sharon, the situation very, very dicey indeed. The U.S. president will try to see what if anything he can do to help out -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett, thank you so much.




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