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Simultaneous Attacks Target Israelis in Kenya and Israel

Aired November 28, 2002 - 09:01   ET


BILL HEMMER, ANCHOR: Good morning. It's Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28. If you're home with your family and friends, enjoy it because it's a wonderful day to give thanks today.
We are watching a number of reports throughout the world right now. And attacks against Israelis occurring a short time ago in Israel, hours after back-to-back hits that targeted Israelis in the East African country of Kenya.

Straightaway to Jerusalem once again and Mike Hanna is gathering information on the ground there.

Mike, what more are you learning?

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, about the attacks inside Israel, within last few minutes there have been reports of an eruption of gunfire in the northern Israeli town of Beit Shean.

Initial reports from police sources told us that at least three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a crowd of people in the central bus station. Three Palestinian gunmen, according to that initial report, were shot and killed. One of them, reportedly had explosive belt strapped to his body.

Within the last few minutes, we are receiving more details. One said at least three Israelis have been killed, as well, in that Palestinian gun attack. Various reports, Israeli television and radio, saying that dozens of Israelis have been wounded in that gun attack.

So it's a very serious situation under way in that northern town of Beit Shean.

This follows early on in the day, an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa came under suicide bomb attack, according to Kenyan police, a number of people killed there. Among the dead, three suicide bombers who were in a vehicle that they drove into the reception area of that hotel.

At least seven Kenyans killed, say Kenyan police. And the Israel foreign ministry says that three Israelis were killed, including two children.

Well, at roughly the same time in what appears to be a coordinated attack, missiles were fired at an Israeli charter aircraft as it was taking off from that port city of Mombasa. The missiles narrowly missed the aircraft. All 260-odd passengers on board returned to Tel Aviv safely.

But attacks against Israelis would appear outside Israel and now within last half hour, inside Israel with reports from the north of the country indicating that at least three Israelis have been killed, a number of them wounded in an attack by Palestinian gunmen.

Police sources saying that three of the Palestinian gunmen have been shot dead at this stage.


HEMMER: Mike, thanks. Mike Hanna reporting from Jerusalem. There's a lot to keep track of. We'll move west now to Tel Aviv and the airport there, where Matthew Chance is standing by.

Matthew is there where that plane landed, 261 passengers on board landing safely. That is the good news. And Matthew has talked with a number of them.

Hello again, Matt.


A lot of relief here on the ground in Tel Aviv as the passengers arrived off the plane that came under missile attack.

I just want to briefly bring you up to date on a few developments.

First of all, that the Israeli foreign ministry saying that they are advising all citizens now in Kenya to leave the country. Also, coming from the Israeli foreign ministry, they're telling us that they have shut down, have ordered the closure of the South Africa embassy of Israel in Victoria because of a threat they say that may be feeling towards that.

Earlier we spoke to the pilot of that aircraft, those that left Mombasa. I asked him here in Tel Aviv what he saw in those first seconds after takeoff.


RAFI MAREK, PILOT: Right after takeoff in Mombasa, we were retracting the landing gear. We felt some bump, which we had no idea at the time, it was a very small bump. We had no idea at the time what it was. And right after that we saw two white stripes passing us by on the left side from the back of the airplane towards the front, which disappeared after a few seconds. So...

CHANCE: And at that point did you realize that this was a missile attack?

MAREK: No, I couldn't tell what it was, except that it was something I've never seen before.

CHANCE: Is this something that you are trained to deal with as a pilot for this airline?

MAREK: Well, you might imagine that no commercial pilot is trained to deal with the missiles, but we do have some procedures, which obviously I can't go into, and we are doing what we were told to do.

CHANCE: How many minutes or how many seconds was it from when you lifted off from the ground, you took off from the airstrip, that this occurred?

MAREK: Well, actually, it was very fast. I mean, maybe five to ten seconds after the liftoff.

CHANCE: There was no serious damage or no damage to the plane?

MAREK: There was no damage at all to the airplane. Actually, it is going to take off now for London. So there was no damage at all to the airplane.

CHANCE: So I understand. Did you consider the possibility of making an emergency landing, given that you saw this very unusual incident?

MAREK: Yes, this question was raised in the cockpit. We checked all the systems. The airplane behaved completely normal. There was no indication for any problem whatsoever. So we decided the best course of action was to continue the flight back to Tel Aviv.

CHANCE: At what point did you know that you'd come under missile attack? When was that confirmed for you?

MAREK: Well, actually, it was much later on during the flight when we contacted the headquarters in Tel Aviv, and we were told that this is a possibility. And of course, according to what happened on the ground in Mombasa, the tourist attack which brought us reason to think that that's what it was.

CHANCE: And you made a decision in the cockpit not to inform the passengers until right at the very end?

MAREK: No, we just after takeoff, after everything had settled, we talked to the passengers, which also some of them saw the...

CHANCE: What did you tell them?

MAREK: We just told them that according to all of our indications, everything is normal, and we continued the flight to Tel Aviv. There was no panic whatsoever. Everything was calm and normal.

CHANCE: So at what point did you tell them that the plane had come under missile attack?

MAREK: Well, I don't -- I don't have enough information until now that that's what it was, actually. So I didn't tell them for sure that that's what it was. We told them that it might be, and we told them that only about half an hour before landing at Tel Aviv.

CHANCE: Did you lias (sic) with the Israeli military to organize the escorts into the airport? I understand an Israeli military aircraft...

MAREK: Just for the last few minutes of the flight.

CHANCE: Tell us why that is; I mean, this is a security consideration that the Israelis...?

MAREK: I guess you should ask the Israeli air force and those responsible. I'm not the one to ask.

CHANCE: But as far as you know, it's just a routine procedure or is it something that...

MAREK: It's not something that is done every day, of course. But I'm not aware of the full considerations.


CHANCE: That was Captain Rafi Marek, the captain, the pilot, of course, of that Boeing 757 that came under missile attack as it left Mombasa airport. As they say, 261 of the passengers on board, all of them, along with the crew, arrived here now safely in Tel Aviv.

Still very anxious, though, of course, and very relieved to have gotten away with their lives in this occasion.

HEMMER: Matthew, thanks. Matthew Chance in Tel Aviv.

And just so our viewers know, in case you're just joining us, five minutes after that plane left the airport in Mombasa, suicide bombers hit a nearby hotel, three of them, two on board a car, loaded with explosives, another one on foot walking into the lobby of that hotel.

The latest report we have from Catherine Bond, 13 dead on the ground.

Let's get to Catherine again by way of telephone there in Mombasa with more.

Catherine, hello.

CATHERINE BOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kenyan investigators have now taped off the scene of the attack. We understand that a car with three occupants arrived at the hotel gate at about 8:30 local time this morning.

The hotel security guard refused it entry, at which point it reversed and then rammed the gate, came tearing down in front of the hotel, parked outside the lobby.

The hotel owner says one of the occupants of the vehicle came into the lobby and blew himself up. The Kenyan police say they think the other bombers stayed inside the car and that was actually a car bomb, plastic explosives, perhaps as much as 500 kilograms of them, and that the car blew up, causing extensive damage and killing at least eight people here.

We've seen eight bodies removed from the site just a short while ago. We can see the parts of the car and a small crater where it exploded, the wheel hubs, parts of it, fenders, that kind of thing, is strewn across in front of the hotel. And some of the investigators here have put notes on parts of the vehicle they obviously want to look at as exhibits.

HEMMER: All right, Catherine Bond by way of telephone again as she continues to track the latest information on the ground there.

A note to our viewers here, that the number of dead and injured continues to change, oftentimes every 15 minutes or so. It's not uncommon at all in a developing story like this to get that conflicting information.

But the bottom line is this, in case you're just joining us, there are three different incidents right now that we're watching: one in Israel and at least two back in Kenya.

The two being the airliner that took off, narrowly averting an attack by a missile fired from the ground, all passengers and crew members landing safely about 5 1/2 hours later back in Tel Aviv.

Also, the suicide bombing that took place at this hotel. A number of Israeli tourists checking into the hotel at the time, a car ramming the front of that hotel and a suicide bomber walking into the lobby in a simultaneous attack there.

Again, there are dead on the ground in Mombasa from a result of this attack in the hotel. How many has yet to be clarified.

In addition, back in Israel, the third incident we're watching, the shooting and grenade attack that took place in northern Israel. All of these pieces, again, coming together as we talk to you now.

Breaking news throughout the world here this morning on "American Morning."

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