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At Least Five Dead in Attack in West Bank

Aired July 16, 2002 - 08:31   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to the Middle East now. Mike Hannah, our bureau chief at our Jerusalem bureau joins us now to update us on these initial reports that at least 25 Israelis have been wounded. Five of them seriously. Mike, do we know what the cause of this was? There are initial reports there was an explosion followed by shooting. What happened?

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the Israeli Defense Force saying that indeed there was both. There was an explosion, they report. There was also shooting by Palestinian gunmen, directing at a busload of people entering the ultra-orthodox settlement of Emanuel in the West Bank. This between Nablus and Ramallah.

There are, according to several reports, a number of people killed in this attack, although no absolute confirmation of this as yet. The number wounded well over 20 at this particular stage. According to the Israeli Defense Force, the evacuation of the wounded is still continuing. The situation on the ground still confused.

But the Israeli Defense Force saying that the attack carried out by Palestinian gunmen, as well as some kind of explosive device being detonated at some stage in this attack.

More than 20 people wounded at this stage and we are hearing a number of people killed. The exact number of fatalities we're still waiting to hear -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike, what else can you tell us about the settlement of Emanuel where this dual action took place, the explosion and then the firing?

HANNA: Well, Emanuel itself has been the target of an attack in the past. In December last year, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a bus in what appears to be very similar area. On that particular occasion, at least 10 people were killed in that attack. So Emanuel has come under attack from Palestinian gunmen in the past, and it appears this is exactly what has been happening in the course of this afternoon.

We're still waiting to firm up on these casualty figures, although we did do know that more than 20 people have been wounded, that there are a number of people killed. Israeli television reporting that as many as five people could have been killed in this attack. The Israeli Defense Force saying the attack was both gunfire as well as some kind of explosive device -- Paula.

ZAHN: Mike, give us some perspective with this action happening as key meetings are taking place in the United States. Secretary Powell indicating in an interview last night he would be willing to accept some kind of formula where Yasser Arafat would be kicked upstairs and not be the guy that necessarily governed the Palestinian Authority.

HANNA: Well, yes, at the moment, while this is happening, people preparing in New York for a meeting. This the so-called quartet, which is the members from the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. They're gathering in New York to basically form a common position on how to approach -- begin a new approach to creating some approximation of a peace process within the region again.

And in principle, as you are saying, part of their discussions, or a very important part of their discussions is what is the future of Yasser Arafat? The U.S. has said it will not have any business that so ever with the Palestinian leader. The U.S. president, George Bush, said that he is disappointed in Arafat. He does he not believe that Arafat has any roll to play in any peace moves that may transpire down the road. Others disagree. They say Arafat is the elected Palestinian leader, and that he is still the person with whom business must be done. This is what they're trying to sort out in New York while the killings continue in the region.

ZAHN: OK, Mike, as you were speaking, Israeli TV confirmed that at least five Israelis are dead. We don't know now if that's part of the original figure we were given. Your numbers I think are the same as ours at this point 25 wounded, at least five of them seriously, and we assume the five dead would be part of that initial number of 30 we were given?

HANNA: Well, I'm not sure, Paula, maybe the figure of the statement of confirmation from Israeli TV may be a bit strong. They did report that at least five people may have been dead at this stage. We do know from the initial reports that there were five people seriously wounded. As I said, the evacuation is still going on there, very mixed up situation on the ground.

We do understand that there are a number of people dead at this stage. No confirmation. The confirmation that we are waiting for is from the Israeli Defense Force and indeed from the ambulance workers on the ground there, but the figures at the moment is more than 20 wounded. That is definite from the Israeli Defense Force sources and from rescue workers sources, that a number of people probably dead, according to several sources there as well -- Paula.

ZAHN: And once again, Mike, we're all trying to make sense of some of the conflicting information we've been given about an explosion possibly preceding this shooting that was unfurled on a busload of Israelis in the West Bank town of Emmanuel. We will be coming back you to, Mike, as soon as you get more information, as soon as we're able to confirm more here with the Israeli Defense Forces.

Thanks for the update.

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