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Seven People Killed in Suicide Bombing at Mideast Bus Stop

Aired June 19, 2002 - 13:47   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Another terrorist attack on more innocent victims as this crisis in the Middle East continues. We've been following this story for almost two hours now. Suicide bomber blows himself up at a bus stop. At least six people are confirmed dead now.

We're going to go live, once again, to Christiane Amanpour. She's been following this story for us. She is joined by an Israeli spokesperson now there in the evening, Jerusalem time -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to update on the figures, the police in hospitals are telling us now that, in fact, the number of dead is confirmed at seven people. Four people were killed instantly at the site of the explosion, and the remainder were killed, or died of their wounds, on the way to hospital. Thirty-seven people, we are told, have been injured. This number, we are told, may climb due to the severity and the extent of that blast.

Eyewitnesses say that it was a very big blast and that it caused a lot of destruction in the neighborhood and around the bus stop where the suicide bomber detonated himself.

What happened, according to the police, was that this individual looked suspicious. Border police apparently approached this person, who then detonated his explosives at that bus stop as border police approached him.

We, CNN, have our own sources who have confirmed that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is the militant organization connected and allied with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, has claimed responsibility for today's attack. And separately, Hezbollah television in Lebanon also says that it has received a statement from Al Aqsa, claiming responsibility for today's attack.

This attack is the second in as many days, there was an attack on a bus in Jerusalem yesterday that killed 19 people and left 50 people injured. That attack was claimed by Hamas. We are joined now by Arye Mekel, government spokesman.

First of all, what more can Israel do to stop this kind of suicide bombing attack?

ARYE MEKEL, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We have announced the new policy, actually, early this morning. It basically says that any time that there will be a terrorist attack, we will go in, take over a certain area within what is now the Palestinian Authority. And we will stay there indefinitely, namely until terror is stopped.

Since another attack has occurred, one can assume that we will pursue this policy. We have seen, before, during Operation Defensive Shield in March and April, that when we do control these cities, these areas, then the terror is diminished. The terror is diminished almost to zero, so, we have really no choice.

We would rather have the Palestinians do it, but, as you just indicated, if it is the Al Aqsa Brigade, I mean, a name used by the Fatah and people that report directly to Arafat. They take responsibility, they even, they sort of take pride in killing people, and killing Jews, and killing Israelis. What choice do we then have?

AMANPOUR: You have described -- in Israel, you've described this as major new face, this new policy of essentially reoccupying territory controlled by the Palestinians. Do you believe that, eventually, Israel will decide to expel Yasser Arafat, and if you make that decision, do you believe that the United States will essentially acquiesce?

MEKEL: The Cabinet has not decided to expel Arafat, you know, they decided other thing, as we have just indicated. But, to be quite honest with you, very few people here still believe that as long as Arafat is in the picture something positive can be -- come out of it. Arafat is the man who started -- initiated this campaign of terrorism 21 months ago, and he continues to lead it, either directly by giving the orders, or by not stopping some others from doing so. So very few here still have any hope at all in Arafat.

AMANPOUR: Didn't quite answer my question, but I understand you don't want to. Let me ask you another question; it may sound odd to talk about a political situation at the moment like this, however, former Israeli government officials have said that there will be no reform of the Palestinian Authority, no great security cooperation, unless there is an end to the occupation. In other words, both those two go in tandem. Is there any political track that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is able to take right now, or are we locked into this cycle of suicide bombings, and retaliation?

MEKEL: Certainly this government, as well as the previous government, would like to see a political solution. During the last year and a half or so, we tried to assist the American administration. We facilitated the visit of Secretary of State Powell. We did everything in our power to assist General Zinni. We did everything we could any time that we were asked by the Americans or anybody else.

But anytime that this happened -- in fact, we saw the Palestinians are doing anything in their power to disrupt it. When Secretary of State Powell came here a couple months ago, what happened? Half a mile from where we stand right now, there was a deadly attack in this market. The Palestinians are obviously determined not to allow any progress. Nevertheless, we would still like to see a political settlement, light at the end of the tunnel. But there is a prerequisite; there is a precondition. Terror must stop. As long as these attacks continue -- and again we are burying seven more Israelis tonight -- there will be no solution, there will be no settlement, and we will have to do the only thing that any responsible government would have to do, and it is our utmost responsibility to try and protect the citizens of state of Israel.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Mekel, thank you very much. And we will continue to watch and see what the Israeli response to today's suicide bombing will be. As you have heard, there is logically going to be some response, particularly after Israel's tough new policy declaration today. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Christiane Amanpour, live from Jerusalem there. Thank you so much.

And if you are just tuning in, once again, another terrorist attack in Jerusalem. This time it's seven people dead, 37 injured, and that number may climb. A terrorist attack on behalf -- another suicide bomber. We're going to take quick break.

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