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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Several Palestinian Bombing Suspects Arrested

Aired August 21, 2002 - 09:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of the Middle East. More now on the arrest in Israel. Several Palestinian suspects believed to responsible for the July bombing at Jerusalem's Hebrew University have been arrested by Israeli security forces. Nine people, including five Americans, died in that bombing last month.
Mike Hanna, our bureau chief, joins us now live from Jerusalem with more on these arrests and how critical Israeli police are saying they are.

Good morning, Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Paula.

More details now emerging off this breakthrough, according to Israel police, in their attempts on to prevent ongoing terror attacks against Israeli targets. Police say that this breakthrough came Saturday night when a unit arrested four members of what police said was an east Jerusalem-based cell aligned to the Hamas movement, which was on its way it carry out an attack at the time that the arrests were made.

During the interrogation that has taken place over recent days, more information was gleaned, say police. They have made several other arrests, some of them in the West Bank city of Ramallah. And in all, say police, this group was responsible for a total of eight major attacks again Israeli targets over the past year, in which well over 30 Israeli civilians were killed.

Now among these attacks, the attack on the Hebrew University at the end of July, in which nine people were killed, including, as you mentioned, five U.S. citizens.

But also among the attacks that police are attributing to this group is the attack at a billiard hall in Tel Aviv, an attack at a cafe in Jerusalem, which claimed some 11 lives, as well as, police say, when they arrested them, they were planning to use a bomb, which had been planted next to major highways between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Police found that bomb, and dismantled that overnight. There was a massive snarl-up of traffic on that highway overnight.

So according to Israeli police, this is a major breakthrough, they have confirmed that a central cell comprised of four members, all of them residents of east Jerusalem, Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, Palestinians residents of east Jerusalem, have been arrested, along with several others -- Paula. ZAHN: And, Mike, can you confirm whether these are the same guys that are suspected of planting a bomb in a fuel tanker that was supposed to blow up an Israeli fuel depot?

HANNA: That's correct. That is one of the attacks that this group has associated with, that police say that they have confirmed this group carried out in interrogation, and that was a disaster narrowly averted. The explosion went off, but didn't ignite the petrol in gas storage area that it was supposed to do, but that is just one of the eight attacks that police say so far they have connected this group with.

ZAHN: A very big break for the Israel intelligence officials and police over there. Mike Hanna, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

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