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Gunmen Kill Four Israelis in Settlement

Aired December 27, 2002 - 13:51   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: This just in to CNN, gunmen infiltrating a Jewish settlement. Three Israelis killed, four injured. We are told the gunman has been killed.
Mike Hanna on the phone with the latest from there -- Mike, what can you tell us?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, what we have at the moment from military sources is that four Jewish settlers have been killed in the settlement of Otniel. That is just south of the West Bank city of Hebron. According to the military sources, at least eight Jewish settlers have been wounded in the attack, the attack carried out by two Palestinian gunmen, according to the army.

One of the gunmen was shot dead immediately, another of the gunmen reported to be still alive. They are still shots being exchanged at that settlement of Otniel, but according to the Israeli army at this stage, four Israeli settlers have been killed, at eight wounded.

One Palestinian gunman carrying out an attack on the settlement has been killed, another gunman still alive, according to military sources, shooting still continuing there. This the first fatal attack on Israelis in a long period of time, although within the past 48 hours, at least eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in what Israel says is its ongoing sweep against terror -- back to you.

PHILLIPS: Mike, do you have any idea how these gunmen infiltrated this -- the Jewish settlement, and is it true that they opened fire in a dining hall?

HANNA: Yes -- at this stage, details are still sketchy, but what we're gathering together is the fact that the members, people in the settlement, were sitting down to the Shabbat dinner, the Friday evening dinner, when two gunmen burst into the dining hall in the settlement, opening fire randomly. The details that we have, as I said, is that four Jewish settlers were killed in that opening burst of fire.

One of the Palestinian gunmen was killed in return of fire. One gunman still reported to be alive, still an exchange of fire in that settlement of Otniel, according to the army at this stage.

PHILLIPS: Any word on who is claiming responsibility, who these gunmen represent? HANNA: No claims of responsibility as yet. The situation is still ongoing, although there were cries for revenge early on in the course of the day, when funerals were held by a number of Palestinians who had been killed by Israeli forces in recent days, including leaders of three extreme militant Palestinian groups, the Al Aqsa Brigades, the Hamas movement, and Islamic Jihad, leaders of each of these groups have been killed in the past 48 hours, and there had been pledges of revenge, and it appears that this is now forthcoming in this attack on the settlement of Otniel.

PHILLIPS: Can you tell us more about this Jewish settlement, Mike? I'm not familiar with Otniel. Can you give us an idea more of the settlement and the area? We're looking at sort of a semi-map right now as we speak with you.

HANNA: Well, Otniel is one of the many settlements in the West Bank. It is just south of the major West Bank city of Hebron, which is very much a divided city. Otniel itself is said to be a religious settlement. That means most of the people in the settlement are observant Jews.

The settlement itself numbers about a couple of thousand people, and it is, as I say, a number of settlements in the area of that West Bank city of Hebron. Hebron itself has been a focal point of conflict for a long period of time now. Hebron, itself, is a divided city. But Otniel itself is within -- very close to Hebron, very close to where a great amount of conflict has happened in recent weeks, indeed months, and we're still hearing the latest word from the Israeli military is confirmation that four settlers have been killed to date.

There is still ongoing exchange of fire with what the army says is one Palestinian gunman still left alive. The army saying that one of the gunmen was killed immediately that the firing started. But we have at the moment four Israeli settlers dead, one of the Palestinian attackers dead, and at least eight Israelis have been wounded. Difficulty in evacuating the wounded at this stage, according to the army, because the situation, as I say, is ongoing, there is still an exchange of fire underway there.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Mike Hanna with the breaking news out of the West Bank there. Right now, we're being told four Israelis killed, eight injured, one gunman is dead after they infiltrated a Jewish settlement, rather -- Otniel -- these are not live pictures, these are taped pictures. We're continuing to follow this breaking news story. We will bring you more information as soon as we have it. Still, the search for one more gunman takes place at this moment.


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