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Nine U.S. Citizens Rescued From Hotel in Bethlehem

Aired April 3, 2002 - 14:43   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: We come back to you with some breaking news out of the State Department. CNN's Andrea Koppel there, with some information about Americans who were evacuated from Bethlehem -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Carol. It sounds as if it was a dramatic rescue that happened just a short time ago, of nine American citizens who were trapped in a hotel in Bethlehem. Now, according to a State Department official who spoke with CNN, diplomatic security agents who normally guard the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem got a call on the phone from these American citizens, saying, you know, help us, we can't get out of here.

There's been, obviously, a lot of fighting in Bethlehem in recent days since the Israelis moved in there. And so these diplomatic security agents staged this rescue, and the nine American citizens -- we don't know if they're tourists, but one can guess if they were calling from a hotel, that they don't live there -- are now safe and sound in Jerusalem.

Remember just yesterday, the State Department issued a travel warning to all Americans for the West Bank, Gaza and for Israel, telling them to defer any travel there. And if they were in those areas, to keep in close contact with the U.S. consulate, and to try to vary their travel routes, stay away from crowds, and whatnot.

It should go without saying, but it's obviously an extremely dangerous situation there, Carol.

LIN: Andrea, does the State Department know how many other Americans are in the region who may also have to be evacuated?

KOPPEL: They have no idea. And that really just -- it comes from whatever contacts may or may not be taking place on the ground there. It was, before the violence of the last 18 months, a very popular tourist destination. And presumably some tourists may be there, and there are obviously a lot of American students and others who have been living in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

But the State Department does not have, at least it isn't telling us, a firm figure on the number of Americans there.

LIN: They may be doing a head count as we speak, Andrea.

KOPPEL: Let's hope so.

LIN: Andrea Koppel, live at the State Department, thanks so much for that breaking news.

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