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Suicide Bombers Detonates Self in Hotel in Netanya

Aired March 27, 2002 - 13:34   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to the Middle East now. The pictures coming in are quite graphic at times and clearly the devastation inside the Park Hotel in Netanya rather extensive. We saw some videotape before the break inside. It looked nothing like the foyer of a hotel. The dead and wounded being carried off.

The numbers we have right now, and we say this with a bit of trepidation, only because often times the numbers change so often, 80 injured at least, we are told, 10 dead right now. Of the injured, 17 in critical condition. A coastal town of Netanya, we are told, according to reports from Israeli television and radio there, that a suicide bomber detonated himself inside the foyer, the front hallway for that hotel at a time it must have been very crowded too, with the Passover holiday beginning at sun down there.

Just based on the numbers of injured and dead right now, clearly there were a number of people inside that hotel. Netanya, just a few short miles away from the West Bank. As Mike Hanna has been reporting throughout the afternoon here, that with its relative closeness to the West Bank, Netanya has been an often cited target for terrorists not only this time but certainly over the past several weeks and months in that part of Israel.

As we watch these images, also I want to bring you up-to-date on a story that broke about an hour ago out of Rome, Italy. Alessio Vinci reporting that the U.S. embassy put Americans on notice throughout Italy for the entire week. Apparently the U.S. government says they have credible threats right now that may target -- again, may target, Americans, American tourists traveling through Italy during the holy week.

They put out a warning for four different towns: Venice, Florence, Milan an the town of Verona. Easter Sunday is Sunday of this week. That warning just going out today, not just to Americans traveling there but also Americans living and working there as well.

Two stories moving at this time in the Middle East is certainly garnering a lot of attention especially with the Arab summit well under way now just north, right up the coast there, the east side of the Mediterranean in Beirut, Lebanon, a number of Arab leaders have not shown.

Jose Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, they are not there, and certainly Yasser Arafat, as you well know by now, did now make the trip from Ramallah. He did address the delegates earlier today in a speech that was truncated by Lebanese officials. They pulled the plug, essentially, for a time anyway on Arafat's speech but later did bring his comments to them.

This certainly has reverberations throughout the summit. Rula Amin, Brent Sadler, working the story there. We will check in with them live when we get a moment here.

Back to Israel, though, and Netanya, we can show you as Mike Hanna was reporting, the early indications right now, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the hallway of the Park Hotel. A coastal town ripe for terrorist targets in the past. The numbers right now are devastating; at least 80 injured, at least 10 dead. Of the injured, as I mentioned before, 17 right now in critical condition.

Another story coming into us through the Associated Press right now. The AP is reporting that at least a hundred are wounded. But again as we mention, these numbers often times can change. It is quite interesting to get the gauge on the Arab world and what they are thinking right now with this summit in the Saudi peace proposal that has been launched there.

Speaking with a top adviser for crowned Prince Abdullah, last hour, just about 30 minutes ago in fact, he says 100 percent approval will be granted. Whether or not that does happen remains to be seen. There are divisions in many corners of the Arab world. They do not coalesce necessarily around every issue in synchronicity the way some may be led to believe, but apparently he is still hopeful that the Saudi proposal that is being thrown out there will indeed pass.

Then the issue becomes, how does Israel respond. Aerial Sharon indicating that if east Jerusalem and the old city were to go back to the Arab world, to the Palestinians, that Israel itself could not survive. His comments coming in a "Newsweek" article earlier this week. But that proposal is on the table. Certainly it is something that is gathering a lot of attention. It is front and center right now in the Middle East.

More images again inside that hotel. As we mentioned earlier, the devastation is quite apparent with now rescue workers inside trying to clear the area, as you can see. Mike Hanna will be back with us momentarily from Jerusalem. We will continue to keep a close eye on this story. Security negotiations still under way. They were adjourned for a while but back on late last week. It is our understanding through reports in the Middle East that they do continue, but at what stage right now is anybody's guess.

The Israeli government also not yet with an official response that we have gathered anyway. But we do anticipate that to happen. Many times the security council has been called into session by the prime minister and it is quite likely that may happen once again.

Checking the wires once again through the Associated Press, no claim of responsibility just yet. But certainly, as we have mentioned, the attack could derail the latest truce mission there as well. Anthony Zinni just on the ground. Dick Cheney returned about a week ago. An adviser to the prime minister, according to the AP, says the government will have to reassess its policy towards the peace effort in light of this attack. This coming in for us out of Jerusalem.

Another update, one report saying 13 dead at least from that explosion. Another report: 15 may be dead at this point. Another 15 critical as well. Again, the numbers change often. One report saying right now at CNN at least 13 are dead. Some say that number is higher right now. We shall hold our fire and wait to see if that indeed is the case.

We mentioned earlier at least 15 in critical condition as well. Those numbers will change but the images will not. The Middle East still remaining very violent, a very violent part of the world. Now it is a question of where they go from here if anywhere. Rula Amin now with us live in Beirut.

Rula, good evening to you. Reaction from Arab delegates to what we are watching now on television here.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Good evening to you. There is no reaction yet. Arab delegates are still in the meeting inside making speeches. We have not heard from anybody regarding this attack. However, earlier in today we did hear a lot of speech that referred to these attacks. Kofi Annan had called on the Arab leaders to deplore such attacks. He said civilians should be spared. We heard from Arab leaders like Crowned Prince Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who tried to make a distinction. They said we have to make a clear distinction between terrorism and resistance.

They made it clear, they consider the Israeli occupation of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a form of terrorism and they said that they implied that that would actually produce such reactions.

On another note, we just heard from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one of the Palestinian delegates here at the summit who confirmed to us that the Palestinian leader will be addressing the Arab leader's summit tomorrow morning. This is after the Palestinians had walked out of the summit, protesting that the Lebanese President Emil Lahoud had prevented Yasser Arafat from addressing the summit via a satellite link from Ramallah.

This snag had been resolved it seems and the Palestinian leader will be addressing the Arab leaders tomorrow morning. He has already endorsed the Saudi peace initiative. We expect to hear more from him tomorrow. Back to you.

HEMMER: Rula, we were talking earlier to the lead adviser to Crowned Prince Abdulla in Saudi Arabia. He believes he can get a hundred percent passage approval for the Saudi proposal. Are you hearing the same thing? could it be lock step of a hundred percent?

AMIN: We are getting the same kind of information that this initiative will be endorsed. However, it depends, what kind of wording this initiative will come out. There is a lot of debate still going on until this minute on the phrasing. There are certain issues that are very crucial and the wording will make a big difference. Like the issues of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Crowned Prince Abdulla used the phrase, the return of the refugees. He did not say the right of every refugee to return. He did not say that all the refugees have to return. This leaves room for maneuver.

On another issue, the kind of relations Israel will have with the Arab world. Initially we heard the crowned prince was talking about normalization of relations with Israel. Today he talks about normal peaceful relations. This sounds like it is all the same. But according to the experts and the analysts and the politicians we speak to, they say the Arabs will be ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel to end the state of war with the state of Israel if Israel withdraws from all the land occupied in 1967.

However, normalization is something that happens between people. It has to be by choice. Individuals have to have faith in each other. That is when normalization becomes a normal result for any kind of peace treaty -- Bill.

HEMMER: Rula, given the events on the ground in Netanya south of there, I know the weather is tough there, hang in with us if you can, given the events on the ground that we are watching right now, one of the chief concerns of Ariel Sharon is if indeed Yasser Arafat went to the Arab summit, they wanted to reserve the right of return in the event that terror attacks like the one we are seeing now right now took place, indeed that's the reality right now, in retrospect it appears that Ariel Sharon may have had a point on this front.

AMIN: Well, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had warned Yasser Arafat, he said he advised Yasser Arafat not to come to the summit because of exactly that same warning from Ariel Sharon. But to the Arab leaders who are here, they say this is something that is not legal. Aerial Sharon does not have the right to tell Yasser Arafat that he cannot come back.

He is going back to the Palestinian territories. And Aerial Sharon should not prevent him from doing so. It is a different take on what is the consequences of such attacks for the Palestinians and Arab and people we are talking to here, they say these attacks will never end until there is a peaceful solution and that the roots of the problems are resolved --Bill.

HEMMER: Rula thank you. We will cut you free to collect more information. Certainly with will delegates gathering there there is bound to be more reaction in Beirut. Rula Amin, live in Beirut, thank you.




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