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Netanya Has Been Hard-Hit By Suicide Attacks

Aired June 27, 2002 - 14:41   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.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: In the Middle East, months of bloodshed between the Israelis and Palestinians have changed the landscape in the eyes of many tourists. On the northwest coast of Israel, the town of Netanya has been hard hit by suicide attacks.

And CNN's Wolf Blitzer looks at how some of the victims of terror there are coping.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The other face of Netanya, away from the nightmare images of the dozen attacks the city has faced over the past year and a half. These are the Netanya beach boys who have spent their whole lives on the sand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come to the beach. Enjoy the sun. Keep going. Keep going to the work. Everything. You do everything that you can. But, a little caution.

BLITZER: These beaches should be full as the high tourist season approaches, but the tourists are staying away. Not the locals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terrorists want the life will stop. We are doing the opposite.

BLITZER: Meet Mark Kalberg (ph), head of the tourist police in Netanya. A dream job? Not when the beach front has become the prime target for Palestinian suicide bombers.

And as dusk falls over the city, he briefs volunteers -- civilians who help out the police. The whole country has again been placed on the highest alert. The security services warn a suicide bomber is on his way. Netanyahu could be the target.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BLITZER: Life goes on. Thirteen-year-old Natalie is celebrating her bat mitzvah. Her mother, Eliza (ph), is determined terror threats will not stop the celebration. How will the current situation shape her daughter's future?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We really don't know at the moment. We are living for the moment. This is the moment, from now to now. BLITZER: Outside the hotel, where the teenagers dance, the heightened alert brings a surprise checkpoint. Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on this road four months ago. The police aren't taking any chances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terror isn't when something happens and people are involved and killed in this most horrendous way that we've been suffering. The real terror is what goes on in people's lives the whole of the time, because that's what terror is all about.

BLITZER: And it's about the roadblocks in the heart of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people in the cars here have shown you great deal of patience and, indeed, pleasure at the visible level of security, because it makes them feel safer, seeing this defensive barrier that there is, protecting the hotel district in Netanya.

BLITZER: Most of the people in the city's Independent Square are probably unaware of the threat as they spend their evening outside in the cool. Some say Israelis are getting used to dealing with the consequences of suicide bombings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to prepare myself anymore. I've seen enough carnage in the last three or four months. You can never forget this carnage. And we have to prevent them. Prevent them doing what they've been doing. Prevent the bloodshed, the swimming pool of blood in the Park hotel. We have to prevent that.

BLITZER: The Park hotel attack in March is what the authorities blame for the absence of tourists in Netanya this year. April saw a 73 percent drop in tourists from 2001. And hotels are seeing half the number of Israelis they usually see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just pray that peace will come someday. And after the peace, that the tourists will come back again to Netanya.

BLITZER: Praying for new beginning, Ofir and Leyor (ph). Their wedding goes on without a hitch. But the owner of the wedding hall remembers the times when his hall was booked most days. Now he's lucky to get two bookings a week. How does he see the future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It will be good. There will be peace, a good life. Security and only good.

BLITZER: Netanya sleeps. And alleged suicide bomber is intercepted by the security forces about 100 kilometers away. The sun rises over the West Bank, only 13 kilometers from Netanya. For many in this city, the Palestinian threat is continuous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get the information that the guys have been caught and he hasn't succeeded, it's a feeling of joy. It's saving lives.

BLITZER: But nobody was celebrating in the streets of Netanya. Shops are closing and even the most successful are just hanging on. This diamond center has seen a 95 percent drop in sales. Still, the owner believes Israel will prevail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it needs to take longer to help our government to do their good job, then we will wait.

BLITZER: In a city where serenity seems the natural backdrop, security is still the main consideration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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