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White House Briefing

Aired June 19, 2002 - 12:39   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Continue to go follow this breaking news story out of Jerusalem. An apparent suicide bomber set off an explosion near a bus stop in this French Hill neighborhood, wounding at least 20 people, eight of them critically, and we are 00 we have confirmed that they have had several deaths. We are told by a police spokesperson. Our Christiane Amanpour brought that to us not long ago. It happened just about 40 minutes ago this morning, and now this afternoon. It's actually evening time there in Israel.

Now this blast follows an Israeli announcement that it would gradually reoccupy Palestinian areas until terrorism stops, and that Israeli move came in response to a suicide bombing yesterday on a Jerusalem bus, where 19 Israelis were killed.

We now have a police spokesperson on the phone with us, Dil Kleiman.

Sir, can you give us the latest details of this explosion?

DIL KLEIMAN, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESMAN: OK, what we know right now, at about 7:00, what is being treated as a suicide bombing, that's being checked out by our forensics, but we are treating it as a probable suicide bombing, blew himself up at a bus stop. People were waiting at the bus. He approached the people, blew himself up. We don't have the number of wounded. Wounded have already been all evacuated, and they have not come up with the number dead yet, but there are dead on the scene.

PHILLIPS: And we have been reporting 20 wounded, 8 seriously and several dead. Does that sound...

KLEIMAN: We are not coming out with the numbers yet. Families have to be notified. This is a very short time after the explosion. We do have dead on the scene. The wounded have been out for 20 minutes already. The wounded have already been evacuated to the hospital. We did that very quickly. And right now, we have forensics teams and the investigators working on the scene to determine whether it's a suicide bomber. Right now, we are treating it as a probable suicide bomber.

PHILLIPS: Dil, can you tell us about the French Hill area? Can you describe it to us? Is this an area that I understand, or if I remember it correctly, Israel captured this area in the 1967 Middle East war; there is a little bit of history related to this area. Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This is a residential area. People lived here. They have their schools here, they have their shops here. It's a quiet residential area; it's not an industrial area. This specific junction has seen a number of attacks, both suicide attacks, shooting attacks.

We had not too long ago a shooting attempt here. We had a suicide bomber. I think we had two. This junction has had a lot of problems, because a lot of people come and wait for buses here, and this is a central area for buses.

PHILLIPS: And is this time, this is sort of like a rush hour time, 7:00 your time...

KLEIMAN: Well, it's 7:00 in the evening. I wouldn't say rush hour, but there a lot of people at the junction. That is why it is the junction has been the target of many attacks, both suicide bombers and shooting incidents. Basically, it's a quiet, residential neighborhood, and people are just waiting for the bus to go home.

PHILLIPS: Dil Kleiman, police spokesperson there in Jerusalem. Thank you very much. We will take you now live to the White House, where Ari Fleischer is holding a news conference and addressing this explosion that happened not long ago.

We are going to listen in.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: ... the consequences of any actions, so that the path to peace, the political path, can also be pursued.

QUESTION: On the first point?

FLEISCHER: And on the first point, the president knows what he wants to say. I think you can anticipate until the moment the president gives a speech, there will be continued discussions around the edges. But the president knows what he wants to say.

And as I indicated, the Middle East, for too long, has been an area of the world in which there have been two steps backward for every step forward. On a good day, sometimes there's one step forward, one step backward, and one a rare day, it's two steps forward and one step backward.

The president wants to contribute, and do everything in his power, to an environment in which it is steps forward and not backward. So the president will, when he determines the time is right, have more to say about how to bring about more accountability for security, how to help build institutions that are necessary to develop peace. And when the moment is right, the president will announce that, and then you'll hear from the president.

QUESTION: He talk about consequences for Israel. What are the consequences? I mean, the president has said this, through you, for months that Israel must bear in mind the consequences to its reaction to violence. What are the consequences?

FLEISCHER: Well, the consequences are that ultimately still a political solution must be found to peace in the Middle East.

At the same time, it's very understandable, and the president does understand, that there are also immediate security issues that Israel is forced to address and Israel will address, and the president understands Israel's right to self-defense. But the consequences for all in the region are that the violence does not help solve the fundamental problem, and terrorism has got to stop.

Now, the president will continue to work with the Palestinians, with the Israelis and with the Arabs to help bring them together in such a way that the worst consequence of all would be a loss of hope. And the president wants to make certain that all parties continue to do what they can and that the United States will be there for them to help them focus on a political solution. But these are very difficult days for the Israeli people and the president understands that.

QUESTION: Just to button this down. Is it OK with the president that Israel is reoccupying Palestinian land?

PHILLIPS: Secretary Ari Fleischer addressing reporters there at the White House daily briefing. He did address the explosion we had been following in Jerusalem, and also talking about the fact that two steps back for every step forward when it comes down to President Bush trying to hammer out a peace plan here, in light of these continuous suicide bombings that have happened. Yesterday 19 people killed. Now another apparent suicide bomber setting off an explosion near a bus stop, this time in the area of French Hill.

I understand Sheila MacVicar is there where the bombing has took place just about 45 minutes ago.

Sheila, any new details you can tell us.

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, I am at the scene. This is a bus stop, also known as a popular hitchhiking spot, a place where often young Israelis would wait, looking for a lift.

Often, the -- you would see soldiers in uniform there waiting for a lift. Often you would see other young people trying to get home. It's just coming up to dusk here in Jerusalem. It was very crowded indeed.


This is a scene where it seems to be clear, because I cannot see a vehicle that appears to have been damaged the way in which you saw the bus yesterday -- it appears that what has happened is that the suicide bomber was either in the crowd or near to the crowd, who were waiting at this hitchhiking post when he detonated this device.

Now we have heard from the rescue services here on the ground that there are at least 20 people who are wounded, that is at least 20 people who have been wounded, eight of them we are told seriously wounded.

And a short while ago, the Jerusalem police chief, speaking on Israeli radio, confirmed that there were a number of dead. We do not yet know how many dead -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, our Sheila MacVicar, live there on the scene as this story continues to unfold.

Just about 45 minutes ago, an apparent suicide bomber set off an a explosion near a bus stop in this Jerusalem neighborhood. It's called the French Hill, wounding 20 people, eight of them critically. Several deaths are now being reported. And you may recall that this blast follows an Israeli announcement that it would gradually reoccupy Palestinian areas, until this terrorism stops.

The Israeli move came in response to the suicide bombing yesterday on a Jerusalem bus that killed 19 people, the largest blast thus far.

President George W. Bush continually want to go come out with his speech on his plan to propose an establish of a Palestinian state. That keeps getting postponed, though, due to these bombings that take place, yesterday, and now today.

And just moments ago, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, he's addressing reporters right now, but he addressed this explosion, talking about, you know, every two steps back for every one step forward, it is not a easy process for the Bush administration. This is what he had to say:


FLEISCHER: Violence has been going on in the Middle East for too long, and the president wants very much to work with all of the parties as he has been doing at meetings he had with Israelis and Arab nations on finding a way out of this violence. The president condemns the latest attack. The president was informed of it just moments ago. And the president is determined still to find a way to help the parties define peace.


PHILLIPS: As you can see the peace is not a happening as we are bringing to you breaking news story out of Jerusalem. An apparent suicide bomber set off an explosion here near a bus stop in the French Hill area, or the French Hill neighborhood, of Jerusalem. We are told that at least 20 people have been injured, eight seriously, and there have been several deaths.

We have Sheila MacVicar on the scene right now, and we also have our Christiane Amanpour, who is following this story for us. We will bring her back in the fold here. Christiane, have you been able to work sources and finds anything else to give us new information with the story?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The hospitals are saying now that two of the injured, two of the victims from the scene who have been brought to one of the of hospitals in the Jerusalem area, are dead.

So confirmed from one of the hospitals in the area, two people dead. Media reports are saying three people may have been killed, but from one specific source, a hospital source, we have confirmation, that two people have been killed.

Just to recap what we were told by police and other ambulance officials earlier on, that this in fact was a suicide bombing attack, that there were, as we have been reporting now, a number of dead. We know now that two people have been killed at least. There were at least 20 people were injured, and some of those injured were critical.

According to the police, this bombing in what's known as French Hill, a neighborhood, a Jewish neighborhood, in eastern Jerusalem. Apparently the suicide bomber detonating the explosives at a bus stop, and that is where the bulk of the fatalities and the injuries took place. We are told that it was a large explosion that caused quite significant destruction in the area.

At the moment, we do not have any word on who was responsible. However, Hamas, as you know, claimed responsibility for yesterday's attacks, and at the same time, talked about continuing -- quote -- "the war of the buses." Told Israel to be prepared for more attacks. Israel also, Israeli officials, telling people to be on the alert, to watch out, an alert for more suicide attacks.

And in fact even this evening, as we were talking to a government spokesperson moments before this explosion took place, which was about 50 minutes ago, government spokesman saying that they had information that there were more suicide attacks planned, and that they were doing their best to try to stop them.

So this is the situation that we have at the moment. The latest is that we have been told by a hospital that at least two of those brought to the hospital were brought in dead -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, you mention this war of the buses. I have remembered 10 years ago being in Jerusalem, and this was the main mode of transportation. Can you sort of put in perspective for us, is the most popular mode of transportation for people who live in these small towns and get from one place to another?

AMANPOUR: Well, we are talking about Jerusalem here, a major city, and that is a major part of the transport, the public transportation system. And it is part of the transportation system, regularly targeted. And yes, like in any other major city, the buses are used frequently, by civilians, by soldiers that go from home, back to location, vice versa.

So this is, one with of the situations which has been targeted by the suicide bombers and the various groups that have claimed responsibility over and over again over the past few years. PHILLIPS: Christiane Amanpour, thank you. We'll continue to check in with you.

Once again, just to recap quickly before we take a break, an apparent suicide bomber setting off an explosion. You are seeing pictures here from Israeli TV -- near a bus stop, in a Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill, wounding at least 20 people, eight critically. And now our Christiane Amanpour has confirmed that 2 people are dead. So far, two people dead in this suicide bombing.

It happened -- our Sheila MacVicar on the scene was explaining to us, this bus stop area, a very popular hitchhiking spot, a lot of soldiers, a lot of teens, wait in the area, to get a ride home, get a ride from place to place.

We are following -- we have, obviously, crews on the scene, and working sources in 50 areas.

But if you are just joining us, a suicide bomber setting off an explosion near a bus stop in the French Hill neighborhood there in Jerusalem. Two people so far we can confirm have been killed in this bombing.




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