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Suicide Bomber Strikes Suburb Tel Aviv Suburb

Aired May 22, 2002 - 15:24   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Arthel, thank you. It has been a very busy news day. We want to get back to the Middle East right now.

In Jerusalem our bureau chief Mike Hanna continues to track the latest information we are getting, the result of a suicide bomber, Rishon Letzion, about 15 miles south of Tel Aviv. CNN now learning that three are dead, including the bomber, and at least 40 are injured. Twenty of the 40 are injured seriously. Back to Mike Hanna in the Middle East. Mike, what do you have for us? Good evening again.

MIKE HANNA, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Right, Bill. At this stage what we have is that there are three people dead plus the person believed to be the suicide bomber -- that is four dead in this explosion, three Israelis killed in the blast, in Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv.

Confirmation too from rescue workers that 24 wounded people have been removed on the scene, some of them reported to be in a serious condition. So three people dead plus the person who was believed to be responsible for the attack.

The Israeli prime minister's office is describing this as an act of terror, and once again an attack in Rishon Letzion, which was the scene of a suicide attack two weeks ago.

Well, I am joined now by senior Israeli official Gideon Meier, and I would like to ask your initial response to this attack.

GIDEON MEIER, ISRAELI FOR. MIN. SPOKESMAN: We witnessed tonight another Palestinian vicious terror attack against innocent Israelis who were out to dine and to enjoy themselves on a pedestrian in Rishon Letzion.

Israel will not give into terror. While we will continue to advocate the path for peace, we will also continue the battle against terror.

HANNA: Now, we have heard from the prime minister's office that the Palestinian Authority being held responsible for this attack, as it has held the Palestinian Authority responsible for attacks in the past. Each time there has been a condemnation of these attacks by the Authority and by Yasser Arafat in this particular, do you dismiss these condemnations of such attacks from the Palestinians?

MEIER: Absolutely yes, because condemnations are only words. We must see action, and we do not see any Palestinian action. Quite the contrary.

In the past 20 months, it was the Palestinian Authority who encouraged this kind of terror and they must understand that terror will lead the Palestinian people only from one tragedy to another. They must understand, the only way out of this conflict is to negotiate face-to-face with us Israelis.

We want to pursue peace, they want to pursue terror, and terror must stop.

HANNA: But we have seen Israel taking action, a massive military operation lasting six weeks aimed at rooting out the infrastructure of terror, and yet there have been attacks in the wake of this, at least two serious attacks, a number averted.

What can Israel do on its part to end such attacks? Is it possible?

MEIER: It is possible, but it is a continuous war against terror, a war of perseverance, of patience.

We damaged the terror infrastructure in Jenin, in Nablus, in Ramallah, in other places on the West Bank. We did not go into Gaza because Gaza still have the huge infrastructure of terror.

We cannot seal off completely and totally the borders of Israel. We must understand, we also pulled out of these areas, so there are attempts. We tried to intercept some of them. We succeeded. Unfortunately tonight we saw another Palestinian attempt, and the Israeli people, who really are yearning for peace, will not give up to terror. The Palestinian people must understand it, and the international community must understand it. We must continue our battle against terror.

HANNA: Gideon Meier, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

So yet another explosion in an Israeli civilian area. Three Israelis reported to be killed at this point. Dead too the person that police detonated the explosive device -- Bill.

HEMMER: Mike, thank you. Mike Hanna, our bureau chief in Jerusalem.

Again, at 10:30 p.m. local time there in the Middle East, this explosion happening about 9:15 p.m. local time, about an hour and 15 minutes ago.

Ohad Shemesh is from the town of Rishon Letzion. In fact Ohad is with us here now at CNN, literally connecting a flight in the city of Atlanta, came to CNN for a tour, and now you sit here and see this news broadcast on our network. Your thoughts as you watch this in your hometown?

OHAD SHEMESH, RISHON LETZION RESIDENT: I was very shocked to see that there was a car, there was a bomb blast in Rishon Letzion. This is my city, this is the city that I live in. I was unable to speak with my family...

HEMMER: You did reach your family?

SHEMESH: Two minutes ago I called and I could spoke with my brother. Everybody is safe and everybody -- just I know that my family is safe. I do not know who is there, who are those three people that's killed and all those injuries. I might know some of them.

HEMMER: Ohad, what was your family telling you about what they were learning there, and were they anywhere near this location in the central part of the town?

SHEMESH: I hardly spoke about that. I know it is a very central place in Rishon Letzion, in my the city. It is a passengers' walkway, lots of shops, lots of restaurants, many young people there, especially in this hour, it is rush hour, so I believe this is what caused many injuries from this bombing.

HEMMER: Two weeks ago in this same town 15 Israelis were killed from a different suicide bomber, this taking place in a pool hall. What did you notice in your town? I know you have been in the U.S. What have you heard, anyway, about the security measures taking place or being implemented as a result of that event two weeks ago?

SHEMESH: There were -- again, it is -- most of the public places in Israel, there is a armed guard that secure those places from those suicide bombers.

It happened two weeks ago the first time in Rishon Letzion, the first time in many, many years in my city, and it is very, very -- I feel very fear because it is very close to us.

Now it was always like a very small country, but it was far from my city, and now it is very close, it is like -- last time it was like three minutes walking from my house, so -- I am going to come back to Israel to a different Israel, because I left, like, about two years ago, before the intifada was started. And now it is very scary.

HEMMER: Yes. Are the crowds staying away, still, in your country? Crowds seem to ebb and flow, come and go, depending on the conflict. It was my impressions, largely in the month of April, that crowds stayed home and inside. Are they coming back out again now?

SHEMESH: I don't know. I don't know.

HEMMER: What does your family tell you about what they are feeling about their mood right now? SHEMESH: People are just staying at home, and same as my family. They do not go any more to public places, do not go to malls, at least trying to get, be far from malls or any public places.

So my family, my friends, all the people that I know there feel very uncomfortable in this situation. And I hope, I really hope that it will be done.

Bill: Ohad Shemesh, a resident of Rishon Letzion, going home you say, after being away for two years time. Good luck. Travel safe, OK?

SHEMESH: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: We will continue to track this story. As you see on the map here, Rishon Letzion is just south of Tel Aviv right near the Mediterranean Sea. As Mike Hanna is reporting, at least three Israelis killed plus the suicide bomber. Early indications on the injured count say at least 40, 20 of whom injured seriously, but many times with these stories the numbers tend to fluctuate and change.

And unfortunately, many times they continue to increase as well. We will track it for you. Arthel Neville continues again with TALKBACK LIVE in a moment.




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