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Tanks Enter Arafat's Compound

Aired September 19, 2002 - 13:10   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Back to a breaking news story that we have been following now in Middle East. Israeli tanks have rolled in, after dark, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and have now circled the compound of Yasser Arafat. This comes after two straight days of suicide bombings.
Our Mike Hanna is live in Jerusalem with more of what's taking place right now -- Mike, what do you know?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well Kyra, at the moment we are receiving reports from Ramallah of a massive Israeli Defense Force operation there directed, it would appear, at the compound of Yasser Arafat. This follows a day in which a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv claimed the lives of five Israelis, more than 60 Israelis wounded in the suicide attack, the second suicide bomb attack in Israel within 48 hours, ending a period of some five weeks in which there were no attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel itself.

Successful attacks, that is. Israeli intelligence sources saying that a number of attacks were averted. But the situation now, at the end of the day, during a meeting of the full Israeli cabinet, which has been taking place in the course of the last few hours, an Israeli Defense Force operation now underway in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a city that has been under curfew, and under Israeli blockade for a long period of time, but now we are hearing that a number of armored personnel carriers are moving through, and into Yasser Arafat's compound in that area.

I'm joined now on the phone from Ramallah by CNN producer Sausan Ghosheh, who has been following developments there -- what are you seeing now, Sausan?

SAUSAN GHOSHEH, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Mike, half an hour ago, we heard heavy machine gun firing, and it became apparent that it was happening around the compound, so after speaking to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian police, we were told that around 9 APCs and tanks surrounded the compound, and have currently entered the gates.

Their is a helipad where Yasser Arafat's helicopter used to land. This is -- the compound is the head of the Palestinian Authority, it is the headquarters where Yasser Arafat has been residing since December 1, 2001.

And what we also heard from the sources inside the compound is that two of Yasser Arafat's personal security guards were wounded, one of them seriously. The latest that we have heard as well is that three of the APCs and tanks that were around the compound left -- surrounding the compound, and went down to the main road, strafing (ph) the compound, and now we are left with six surrounding Yasser Arafat's office.

Ramallah has been under 24 -- I'm sorry?


GHOSHEH: Ramallah has been under 24-hour...


GHOSHEH: Go ahead, Mike.

HANNA: Sausan, you went into Ramallah early on in the day following that suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv. Did you notice on your way into the city a build up of Israeli forces at any stage?

GHOSHEH: Yes, definitely. Today Ramallah looks different than two days ago. I left Ramallah two days ago, and I came back today, just after the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, and there were more Israeli -- presence in the streets, there were armored vehicles right at the entrance.

Driving in, I drove in at regular speed like I usually was driving in before, the week before that in Ramallah, only to find two tanks facing me right at the entrance. I had to slow down, and I had take a different route, but also Ramallah has been under 24-hour curfew for the past two days, and tomorrow is also expected to be a 24-hour curfew, since it is Friday and every Friday, there is a 24- hour curfew in Ramallah since June 24 -- Mike.

HANNA: CNN producer Sausan Ghosheh on the scene in Ramallah, where Israeli forces conducting an extended operation there, by all reports. Armored personnel carriers and other Israeli forces having entered into the compound of Yasser Arafat, machine gunfire heard by residents. Obviously, it is dark there in Ramallah, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) region at this particular time.

We have heard from the Israeli Defense Force. They confirm that there is, what they term, an ongoing operation underway in Ramallah, that its forces are on high alert. Those are the only details we have been given by the Israeli Defense Force at this stage, so once again, Israeli forces moving into the compound of Yasser Arafat, in Ramallah, the extent of the operation still not quite clear. All of this following a day in which a number of Israelis were killed and dozens wounded in a suicide bomb attack in a crowded Tel Aviv street at lunchtime -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Mike Hanna in Jerusalem, thank you so much for continuing to follow this breaking story in the Middle East.


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