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Conflict in the Middle East: Suicide Bomber Strikes Tel Aviv Mall

Aired May 27, 2002 - 12:04   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We also have some other breaking news, this time out of the Middle East. It is unfortunate we've got report yet another bomb explosion, this time outside of Tel Aviv at a shopping mall. That's all the details we have here, but CNN's Jerrold Kessel, live in our Jerusalem bureau, surely has more by now. Jerrold, what do you know?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, what we hearing now is that 50 people have been wounded in this -- what seems to a terror attack in a shopping mall in a super market, we understand, in the town of Petah Tikva. That's a town or suburb, you could say, just outside of east Tel Aviv.

It's now 7:00 or just after 7:00 in the evening here. And it's within the last half an hour, 40 minutes ago, no more than that, that the explosion took place. Israeli police confirming the attack. And from source are on the scene, it does seem that this was another suicide bombing attack.

This is not been officially confirmed by the Israeli police, the fact that it was a suicide bomber who struck. But we do know, as a result of what was described as a very powerful explosion, 50 people at least have been wounded. Some 20 have already been taken away to the hospital. The others, now ambulances on the scene. It's just a half an hour, as I say, since the explosion.

Still on the scene faring the wounded away to the number of hospitals in that greater metropolitan Tel Aviv area. And we understand from talking to hospital sources in one of hospitals, at least, that a number of the wounded are in serious condition.

This is the last -- the last suicide bombing took place in a town south of Tel Aviv last Wednesday evening. But since then there have been a number of attempted attacks or thwarted attacks, including a major attack which was a bomb placed under a truck which was faring gasoline or was supposed to ferry gasoline from the major gas and fuel depot just outside Tel Aviv. But the last suicide bombing was back on last Wednesday evening, as a growing spate of bombings and attempted bombings again striking Israeli cities.

The latest that we have for you now of casualty figures, 50 people wounded in the suicide bombing, what appears to be a suicide bombing. But certainly a powerful blast in a shopping mall in the town of Petah Tikva just east of Tel Aviv -- Carol.

LIN: Jerrold, right now, the Israeli military has once again closed the West Bank. It is now a closed military zone, as you know. They have surrounded and divided up the Gaza strip to try to tighten security. What other options are there now for the Israeli government and the Israeli military to respond to these suicide attacks?

KESSEL: Well a big question, really. I mean, you have been hearing voices increasingly over last several days about the results of that major military campaign, the offensive into the West Bank cities over the month. They have ended just a couple of weeks ago.

Since then, the Israeli military have been mounting. They've contained -- continue to contain Palestinians in the different towns in the West Bank and have mounted sporadic, very -- not irregular, but almost everyday incursions into Palestinian towns. What they call pinpoint operations. When they have information that there may be a terror attack planned or people, militants who are planning to move out of those towns and to engage in terror attacks.

There have been more than one a day. The defense minister was speaking about just yesterday and the day before, saying at least two a day, those that had been stopped or thwarted or had failed to reach their destination.

But there is clearly a spate of suicide bombings that is -- attacks that is underway. And there is a very, very deep concern in the Israeli military and the Israeli government about how to handle this situation. They are continuing with the incursions. Whether they'll step it up into a broader expansive operation remains to be seen -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much. Jerrold Kessel reporting live from Jerusalem.

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