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Israel to Allow U.S. Envoy Zinni to Visit Arafat

Aired April 4, 2002 - 12:31   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go back to the Middle East now, and that's where our Bill Hemmer is, standing by in Jerusalem -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, thank you. It was two days ago, the Israeli government released documents it says shows a direct link between the Martyr Brigade and the Palestinian Authority, some papers and documents, boxes, they say, found inside of the Ramallah compound of Yasser Arafat. The Palestinians have countered this. They say they were fake, a fraud and a forgery, but the Israelis promised us two days ago that they would release more in the coming days, and today in fact they have.

Colonel Miri Eisin, a senior intelligence official with the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, now with us to talk about this.

Hello to you, and good evening once again.

COL. MIRI EISEN, IDF: Good evening.

HEMMER: We talked two days ago, and you said you would bring more documents forward some time very soon. What are the documents you have now that you want to show?

EISEN: I think when I was here I spoke of the fact we did not expect to find things with Arafat's signature, and what we found within the documents now are Arafat's signature, himself paying out funds to terrorists. These are two documents that we have brought now. In each of the documents, Arafat himself is telling his treasury men to pay money to terrorists, not people that we consider terrorists, but people that they consider terrorists.

HEMMER: You brought what the Israeli government is proof. Prove it to us now?

EISEN: What We can see on the document itself, right next to my finger, is the signature of Arafat itself, and the letter itself in Arabic right out of Arafat's office Within it is a request for money, that on it he himself signed and said, give them that amount of money. It's a request for three terrorists, highly wanted terrorists. This document is from the 21st of September, 2001, 10 days after 9/11, and in this document, he is giving money to three people who are on the wanted list at the time. We have an additional document in which the same highly-wanted terrorists requested money that again Arafat funded, and these are for suicide bombers and et cetera.

HEMMER: Colonel, how do we know these are not fake, and have not been forged.

EISEN: We went into the compound over the weekend and took out truckloads, not just boxes, but truckloads, and we have the credibility of the IDF here. I stand here as a colonel in military intelligence here, not as a politician, and the credibility of the IDF, of military intelligence stands behind these documents.

HEMMER: What does this mean in the overall picture right now? The other day what I asked whether or not there was proof of the financial transaction between the Palestinian Authority and between the Martyr Brigade. Do you have proof at this point? Do you believe that there is now a financial transaction that took place?

EISEN: I think what it shows the most is that the terror is funded and is funded directly by Arafat himself. What we are seeing in these documents, what we could not show before and what we are finding now is that Arafat himself is paying out the money. You asked me then, did he pay out that money, and we did not know. Here we have in his own handwriting the sums to be paid on the terrorists, to the people who send the suicide bombers into Israel.

Terrorism needs money. It does not come from poor people, it comes from funds, and it's Arafat personally who was sending these funds to the terrorists.

HEMMER: What is more to come then?

EISEN: We have more. We are continuously looking in. You have to think of a room full. It's a warehouse of paper, it is hard it go through it. Anything of interest we fine we are immediately coming out to show.

HEMMER: Care to share at this point.

EISEN: We are looking things that have to do again with the same area of Tulkarem, and we hope to have things in a few days.

HEMMER: All right, Colonel Eisen, Thank you very much, Miri Eisin, IDF Israeli Defense Force, again with us.

Once again that, is what the Israeli government right now is putting forth, and if you could tell me the information, give me that information in my ear once again, Darrel (ph).

OK, the news we're getting right now is something that we were led to believe may have happened a few hours ago. Israel's Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, has agreed to allow Anthony Zinni, the U.S. Middle East envoy, to meet with Yasser Arafat in his compound, in Ramallah. We should remind you day seven right now, for Yasser Arafat being holed up inside of that demolished compound. About three rooms exist right now that remain essentially from that compound. Michael Holmes has been there throughout the entire siege. He joins us now live. Michael, news to you here?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Bill, that's right. We heard that just a few moments ago as you did. I can tell you a little bit of the Palestinian reaction to George Bush's speech on television, which we are watching here in Ramallah on CNN.

Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. I will just read from the notes here, within minutes ago. He said that I hope George W. Bush realizes that occupation is the highest form of terror, and that Mr. Bush will work to end the occupation, so Israelis can live and let live. These are his words. He also went onto say that Ariel Sharon is acting in self defense, according to the American government. He says he is not fighting an infrastructure of terror; he is fighting a infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, and 3 1/2 million Palestinian people, fairly a firm report from Saeb Erakat.

He did tell me that he has word that Yasser Arafat is going to make a formal statement. That will be in the next half hour or so, according to him, so we look forward to hearing about that. We are trying to get calls into the compound itself, as well.

Bill, I want to bring you up to date on what is happening this the West Bank today. At the incursions continuing quickly, for the people in Ramallah, where we are right now, a surprisingly quiet day in terms of shooting, though there was the unnerving sound of sniper fire, regular intervals every half hour or so around the city today, like a ghost town out there, no one in the streets.

Very, very few signs of Israeli military on the streets, I have to say, given what we have seen in recent days. There were a thousand people rounded up today. Of those 500 were released. Israel says there were 30 people on the wanted list, that is out of the through that were rounded up, the heaviest fighting is north of the West Bank in Jenin, and what I can tell you is that fighting is focused in the Old City, and that three refugee camps there, we are told by Palestinian security officials, is being (ph) Cobra helicopter, assault, and tank assaults. There are three dead there, and one Israeli soldier as well.

Palestinian police saying in Bethlehem, the Syrian Orthodox perimeter, the church there, there's an outer perimeter, and they say that that has been stormed, and of course the Church of the Nativity, as Ben Wedeman has been reporting, is still surrounded, and what we have from Palestinian spokesmen there is that a 52-year-old bell ringer at the church was shot by what Palestinian sources say was a sniper; he has died.

In Nablus, Israeli forces have control of the city, except for the three refugee camps and the old city. There has been shooting in all four of those people. One Palestinian death reported.

Finally, Hebron, tanks half a kilometer inside the Palestinian- controlled area of Hebron. Remember that's a divided city, a small enclave of Israelis in that city, tanks now half a kilometer inside the Palestinian side. There have been helicopter strikes. No word on the Palestinian casualties. We have heard that there has been one Israeli soldier killed in fire fights there. However, we will bringing you up to date there.

HEMMER: Michael, don't leave me just yet. I want to get again to our viewers. I want to let you know, the word we are getting through the Israeli government is that Anthony Zinni, the Middle East envoy, will indeed visit Yasser Arafat at some point, don't know if that's tonight or tomorrow, at some point will go into Ramallah, into that compound, and meet with the Palestinian leader.

On another front, Michael, we heard word earlier today, a strong possibility that perhaps a doctor, a Palestinian doctor, perhaps a few International Red Cross workers, might make their way into that compound, and tend to Yasser Arafat, some of those still holed up inside there, bring some medicine and supplies, curious on two fronts. Do you know anything about this, number one, and number two, when was the last time that any medicine went inside of there?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, it was two days ago, I think. It is easy to lose track of time during this situation here, but I think it was two days ago that some food, water, and medicine was allowed into the compound, although people inside there told us it was enough for one day.

I have got to tell you Bill, around town here, stocks are running low on just about everything. Water is cut off to most, if not all of this city of some 40 or 50,000 people in the actual city center area. There is 300,000 people in the region, if you include towns and villages. A shortage of food -- we ran out of food here today, fortunately we were able to get some.

We are out of water, the bathrooms don't work, it is a fairly dire situation, and especially so for ordinary Palestinians who are sitting in their homes, right now, as you and I speak, without the ability to wash, bathe, use bathrooms. I spoke with a family about how tough that is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a certain period with a shortage of food, but without freedom, you can't survive.

HOLMES (voice-over): Monsour (ph) heads this household, father to four girls, husband to Rema (ph). Visiting today: a neighbor, Cathy Shubak (ph), Ramallah resident and United States citizen. We met under curfew, a curfew which except for a few short hours yesterday, has kept this family inside for more than five days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have your worries, you are anxious about what is going on, about you, your future, your kids, about your people or your country and history.

HOLMES (on camera): Are you worried that a bullet might come through the window?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It happens, because -- before six month and last September -- more than six months, all of the windows here, shutters, glass were broken. All of the ceiling and the walls were bullet holes, yes? We settled that personally. So we know this feeling.

HOLMES (voice-over): Monsour's daughters, Myis (ph), 22, Nuwah (ph), 17, Ruba (ph), 15, Heba (ph), 12, incredibly still able to laugh. Normal here is like normal nowhere else.

(On camera): What's it like to look out of your window and see tanks, soldiers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think that we will cry, or we will do anything. No, we have never cried from seeing tanks or even when they shoot at us. No, when we seen tanks, it fills us with anger.

HOLMES: So action like we have seen in the last week here, you think achieves nothing.





HOLMES: It just makes you angrier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For more and more generations to come. This will never end.

HOLMES (voice-over): Unable to leave home, more often than not short of food and water. They somehow see even power cuts in a positive light.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I think that the darkness here make you think deeper, and this is a very good experience. And I think my character or any character is here better than in England or in the West.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it makes us stronger, much stronger.

HOLMES (on camera): So you see it as a valuable experience in some ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better than living in a perfect life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a very bad thing to live like this, especially I am a teenager. And I didn't do anything, and then just innocent girls that tried to live in a free country.

HOLMES (voice-over): This family is not political, holds no affiliation with political organizations, and they wish for a world without suicide bombings. But they view theirs as a country with minimal weapons to fight an occupation, and after this siege, their support of Yasser Arafat has only strengthened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they are doing, this is not terrorism. What they are doing, they are depriving everyone from his father or his mother and not letting even ambulances go to get injured peoples or -- so many dead people on the ground left for four days or five, yet this is not terrorism for them.

HOLMES (on camera): Do you think what is happening here now makes it worse, makes more suicide bombings?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of us, we want to go.

HOLMES (voice-over): If there is defiance and strength in these daughters, there is fear and sadness in their mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Always I am not peaceful. I can't eat, or I had the pains, stomach pain, a pain in my head, headache, always a headache. I feel -- I can't think of the future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over there, you sleep. You are not hearing no gunshots. You are not hearing the tanks coming by.

HOLMES (voice-over): Neighbor, Cathy Shubak (ph), over there is where she was raised, Chicago. She has seen life in two very different environments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here, it's where are you going? Let me see your passport. There, we have never held -- we have never held a passport. Here, it's like whatever you have (ph), wherever you go, your passport is in your pocket.

HOLMES (on camera): Do you sleep well?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, at first, it takes a little time to fall asleep, because you hear the gunshots and stuff. I hold a U.S. passport, they can have it if they want. I don't want it.

HOLMES: Why, you have given up on the U.S.?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not helping us, so we give up on them. I mean, I never -- with him. He never helps us. I never voted for him. So I don't give a damn. He can have his passport if he wants it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know that they are in there first, and they are afraid. And we are in our own house helpless and we have nothing, and we are not afraid. So it's clear who will win.

HOLMES (voice-over): Michael Holmes, CNN, Ramallah.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HEMMER: Once again, life every day in Ramallah right now. Michael Holmes doing an absolute terrific job, hanging in there in that town of Ramallah, again about ten miles north from our location here.

Tomorrow now, a life for an Israeli family. We will go inside one home in Israel proper to find out how they are dealing with the current situation. Also, the headline once again for this hour, President Bush is made his speech in Washington, and now we know, CNN has confirmed once again that Anthony Zinni, the Middle East envoy here in town, in Jerusalem, will go to Ramallah at some point very soon. When, we don't know, to meet with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. We will continue to gauge reaction from that, and also the president's address with the secretary of state, Colin Powell, a short time ago. Have that for you when we come back here a bit later, in Jerusalem.

Fredricka, back to you now in Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks, Bill.

And that meeting between Zinni and Arafat now taking place, or at least approval from the Israeli government now, just after earlier this week, the government said no to that request, that request being made by Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier in the week, and maybe in the next half hour we are also expecting, according to our Michael Holmes, a formal statement from Yasser Arafat himself.




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