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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Alleged Mastermind of Passover Bombing Killed

Aired April 5, 2002 - 13:04   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.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news, however, out of Jerusalem, out of the Mideast.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel there with some results of some military action by Israeli forces -- Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Carol.

The news is that Six Palestinian have been killed in an attack by Israeli helicopters and tanks on a building in the town, village of Tubus (ph). That is in the northern part of West Bank, between the towns of Nablus and Jenin. And the significance of this may be that this confirmed both by Palestinian security sources, and by Israeli television, not by the Israeli army itself.

But the Palestinian security sources confirming that one of the men killed was indeed a major Hamas operative. And according to Israeli television, he is identified as the man named by Kasa Adwan (ph), as the man who masterminded that suicide bombing in the Passover eve in the Israeli coastal resort of Netanya, which killed 26 people, and in fact triggered this major Israeli military assault into the Palestinian areas, which has been going on for more than week now.

Now we haven't got as I say the confirmation that he is indeed the man who was killed. But the Palestinian security officials are confirming that there was a leading Hamas operative in that building which the Israeli forces had surrounded in the town of Tubas, and there were six people killed. The Palestinian security officials to whom we've spoken in one of the neighboring towns confirming that he was there, the owner of the house, four Arab people that were described as civilians, but there are reports that they may, too, have been members of Hamas.

So that would be indeed a significant development in terms of this Israeli sweep. They have said that the whole sweep was mounted to eradicate the roots of Palestinian terror on the West Bank. The man who -- Kasa Adwan was described by the Israeli television station as being the head of Hamas in the northern part of the West Bank. And the -- we are getting confirmation indeed from Israeli officials, that he was the man responsible behind that attack in Netanya nine days ago, which caused the death of 26 Israelis, and has triggered this massive assault.

Now the assault, of course, continuing despite the fact that President Bush yesterday laying out his initiative for a mediation by the United States, have called on Israel to wind down this offensive into the Palestinian areas, and a short while ago, we spoke to one of the leading men in the Israeli army, the head of the planning division, and he was telling us that perhaps even up until, and even beyond he was saying when Secretary of State Colin Powell would arrive in the area, the Israeli troops might be in the areas if there wasn't a cutback on terror or an attempt to undermine terror from the Palestinian side.

Here's what Major General Giora Eiland had to say when we put them to whether the Israeli army was indeed planning and indeed about to wind down this operation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. GIORA EILAND, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: There is no way that we can simply unilaterally resort from this areas, and let the Palestinians continue with their terrorist activities. I guess that something should be done on both sides. And if it is done in effective way, then their conditions for our withdrawal will be met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KESSEL: Well, putting it positively there, then they would withdraw. But on the other hand, if the continues would not be met, then perhaps they would be there fulfilling their mission, as the Israeli general put it, to undermine as far as possible the roots of Palestinian terror. And until now, the Palestinians have said they needed three to four weeks minimum to carry that out. That could be complication if Secretary of State Powell arrives, and the Israelis are still in the Palestinian territories.

Well, the first attempt to lay the groundwork for the Powell mission took place earlier today in Ramallah, where the Israelis lifted their isolation of Yasser Arafat and allowed General Zinni, the U.S. envoy, to meet with Palestinian leader, had a 90-minute meeting, and went into Yasser Arafat's compound.

There were reports afterwards that there would be further meetings between the Palestinians and the American side. But as of now, we've heard they're complications imposed by the Israelis. Prime Minister Sharon saying that other Palestinian negotiators would not be allowed to meet with Yasser Arafat in advance of further Palestinian -- further meeting between the Palestinians and General Zinni, so that diplomatic mission at this stage, perhaps stymied.

We don't know if it will take off or will be able to get over this latest obstacle of the Palestinians trying to prepare for further meeting with the American side. But even the Palestinians are saying it was a difficult first meeting between General Zinni and Yasser Arafat. But at least there was certainly a breech in that isolation, and perhaps the diplomatic initiative launched yesterday by the president in Washington has at least in one way or another gotten under way -- Carol.

LIN: All right, so, Jerrold, I'm hearing three headlines from you: the death of a Palestinian militant whose probably responsible for the Passover massacre, the fact that the Israelis are not making a firm commitment as to when they are going to pull out of these West Bank territories, but at least the good news is, there is some dialogue now with the U.S. envoy and Yasser Arafat, and we're waiting to see what happens now with Colin Powell's visit next week. Is that a pretty good summation of the situation there?

KESSEL: Pretty good. And it's interesting to say, which one do you put on top, which is the main headline. The moment, I guess you might say, I would say the fact that the Israeli military is saying, and of course this is the military and not the political and the general, was at pains to say, listen, this is a political decision. It's not my decision. But implying that the military wanted more time. They were pretty glad that the president didn't say, get out now, but was saying yesterday, start getting out to Israel, but saying that they had more time, and it seems as if the Israeli military say they want more time, and more time to complete or at least to carry out the mission as far as the best they can.

But certainly the other important development, the fact that they may have killed the man who was the mastermind not only of that Netanya suicide bombing, but also say they of other attacks. We're trying to get confirmation of that from Israeli officials in the next...

(CROSSTALK)

LIN: Thank you very much, Jerrold. Yes, an important development there, because at least that military action may solve some of the political dialogue issues there. Thank you very much, Jerrold Kessel, reporting live from Jerusalem.

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