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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Sharon Adviser Discusses Jerusalem Bombing

Aired March 21, 2002 - 10:39   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: For the last 1 1/2 hours, we've been bringing you some horrible, horrible pictures from breaking news out of downtown Jerusalem. You're looking at scene right now at King George Street, in Central Jerusalem, the equivalent of Times Square in New York City, a busy, busy area for international tourist, as well as Israeli Jews, a place where people eat and drink and gather. A suicide bomber struck there late in afternoon in a massive explosion, killing at least two people and seriously wounding at least eight others. More than 40 people have been wounded in that attack. And we heard from Christiane Amanpour just moments ago saying that the scene was incredibly chaotic, and very bloody.

CNN's Mike Hanna from Jerusalem, our Jerusalem bureau chief, says that a group called the Al Aqsa Brigade has now claimed responsibility, a group with ties to Yasser Arafat.

Right now, joining us by telephone is Ra'anan Gissin. He is an adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Good morning, Mr. Gissin.

RA'ANAN GISSIN, ADVISER TO PRIME MINISTER ARIEL SHARON: Good afternoon.

LIN: Good afternoon to you, there. I am sorry about what happened today. It is a devastating scene. I just want to get your reaction and what you think has happened.

GISSIN: I think the pictures that you see from the scene in Jerusalem speaks more than words.

(AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) the world will understand who is the victim here and who is the aggressor. We have been subjected to a war of terrorism for the past 18 months. We have multiple ground zeros almost every day. We have a ground zero (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). We have (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). And we lend all the assistance to the general citizenry. What we get in response is more indiscriminate killing.

I don't know if the people will (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). And of course...

LIN: Mr. Gissin, I think you're on a satellite phone and we are having problems hearing you. Try to stay still so we don't hear equipment moving around, but please continue.

I do want to ask you, though, do you hold Yasser Arafat personally responsible for today's attack given the name of the group that is claiming responsibility? Apparently, it is an armed offshoot of the Fatah movement.

GISSIN: It's no offshoot. It's an organization which is part of the blood and flesh of Yasser Arafat.

LIN: You are holding him personally responsible.

GISSIN: They are financed by him. They are financed by Mr. Arafat. And they take orders from him. Arafat not met the minimal requirements, not of Israel, but of General Zinni and Vice President Cheney, to make a declaration to stop the shooting, to stop the terrorism, one. Two, did not issue orders to his troops. Three, did not stop the incitement, that vilifying incitement that sent young people to their senseless deaths. Now what are we supposed to do? (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES)

LIN: Mr. Gissen, Israeli and Palestinian security forces met today. They are supposed to be meeting again tomorrow. Will your administration allow that meeting to go forward?

GISSIN: Well, I think overnight, throughout the night, there will be consultations. There will be consultation with our security forces. There will be consultations with General Zinni, which the prime minister is scheduled to meet in a little while, and of course consultation with Sharon, what will be the next step. But one thing one must understand. Arafat's time is running out. I mean, the (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) has been torn from his face.

(AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) and I will recall very much that he is leading people to another (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES).

LIN: Mr. Gissin, we've been reporting this morning that Israeli forces entered several West Bank villages and arrested a number of Palestinians, perhaps in response to the attack on the civilian bus in northern Israel we were reporting yesterday.

Given that, the administration, your administration, is sending forces into West Bank villages. Today, the administration here in the United States is asking for the Israelis to show some restraint. How is your government going to respond to today's attack?

GISSIN: (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) getting killed. (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). Every country in the world, and particularly a country like Israel which faces this threat of terrorist activity day and night have the right to protect itself. And if we have ticking bombs, people who about to explode, get out of the villages and (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) to town, we have the right to defend our citizens, and we exercise the same right as the United States exercised when it went thousands of miles to defend its citizens against this threat of terrorism.

LIN: Mr. Gissin, you have that right. What I'm asking you is what is your government going to do? Is your government going to be sending Israeli troops back into the villages? Are they going to be armed. Are you going to be using your troops, tanks, helicopters in response to today's attacks?

GISSIN: It's obvious, you know, that we will use the appropriate measure, and we will not -- we are not going to reveal right now when and where we are going to do it.

But if Mr. Arafat decides to continue in this policy, hoping to bring about a major escalation, hoping to bring about international forces into this area, I have surprises for him. (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES) is not going to materialize.

LIN: What hope, if any, do you have at this point that Vice President Dick Cheney will return to region, and that peace talks will go forward?

GISSIN: It all depends on the extent of pressure mounted on Arafat by all parties concerned in the Middle East. We have (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). We need to do more in order to achieve a cease-fire, in order to implement Tenet and Mitchell, and move to the political negotiations. We've seen that the Palestinians, particularly their leader at this present time, is not interested in that approach. And therefore, we will let the (AUDIO DIFFICULTIES). And if that doesn't work, then we will, of course reconsider our overall policy, vis-a-vis Arafat and vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority.

LIN: Mr. Gissin, I'm just hearing that Palestinian sources are telling CNN that the Israelis have canceled today's round, or the next round of peace talks. Is this true?

GISSIN: I don't know. I have no confirmation of that yet. But there's no doubt that following such a horrendous attack, there's a need to reassess our overall position, and I think in the next few hours, this issue will be clearer, and we will know exactly where we are standing.

But right now, there is a need, an immediate need, to put all the pressure possible on Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to stop from this crazy, senseless wave of terrorist activity, which is only eventually bringing more damage, more tragedy to the Palestinian people and we are trying to avoid it.

LIN: All right, Ra'anan Gissin. He is the adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Israel. And again, you are looking at devastating pictures there of the victims of this latest suicide bombing in central Jerusalem. Our thanks to Ra'anan Gissin for taking time out of his day. He is saying that his government is waiting and assessing to see what Yasser Arafat is going to do in terms of trying to secure the situation, trying to stop the violence. They are saying that they need more evidence that he can, in fact, control these acts of terror.

We are going to take a quick break right now, and we will be right back.

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