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Varying Reports of Casualties in Latest Suicide Bombing

Aired May 19, 2003 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's get more information about exactly what has taken place in Afula at the shopping center as we look at these pictures as they come in, and we go ahead and bring in Avi Zohar. He is director of the Red Cross in Israel, and Avi, I understand you are actually at the scene of the bombing?

KAGAN: And what can you tell us about what's taken place?

ZOHAR: We have one who was killed, four was seriously injured, 12 -- let's say injured but not seriously, and it includes 18 casualties were on this scene. All casualties, all the wounded were transferred with the best medical treatment, were sended to the nearest hospital in Afula, and we hope that, for the time being, this is the situation in this (ph) moment, and all (ph) ambulances were in high tension (ph), so less than 10 minutes, the seriously injured were treated and transferred to the nearest hospital. It is mall -- mall in Afula, a new, completely new mall in the eastern part (ph) of Afula. That is 10 miles from Jenin, 12 miles from Jenin. So maybe even the suicider came by feet. What is not sure for this moment, if the suicider was a man or woman, and this we shall know in the few next minutes.

KAGAN: Avi, just want to make sure I understand the numbers correctly. You're saying one person is dead? We had heard reports that as many four people have died.

ZOHAR: No. Only one person died. Only one, but let's say four or five seriously wounded. And the hospital is close to this place, and I hope in a few minutes we know exactly what is the situation from the hospital. It is close. The surgery is not far from here, the emergency room got all the seriously wounded and started immediately to take care of them, and we hope they will do the best job.

KAGAN: And that one person, is that the suicide bomber, or too soon to tell?

ZOHAR: One person is Israeli who was killed. Another part of the body is from the suicider.

KAGAN: All right. Avi Zohar, from -- director of the Red Cross, Israeli Red Cross, happens to be there in Afula, bringing us the latest on the situation there -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that also now does bring into question the numbers that we had before, the Associated Press reporting four dead. Now we are hearing here -- the director of the Red Cross there saying only one Israeli dead. Sounded like he was saying only one Israeli was dead, and he also mentioned there was another body, that being of the bomber.

KAGAN: Might be the suicide bomber.

HARRIS: So perhaps what he was trying to say was that there were two dead confirmed at this point, at least in the eyes of the Red Cross. He is going to go to the hospital, as he said. Perhaps he can get some confirmation on those who were taken there.

Let's go now to our Jerrold Kessel who is standing by in Jerusalem, and he's been monitoring reports that have been coming in there. Jerrold, what have you learned?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, yes. Some confusion about the numbers. Originally there were reports of four dead, but that is now -- according to what we are hearing from the Israeli police and other medical relief services, but I dare say the director on the spot has the clearest information, the police were talking about three dead in addition to the bomber, and there was also some confusion about whether it was a male or female bomber. Now it seems that it was a male, not female. But according to the reports coming out of the area, what we have been able to garner, that the bomber was confronted by security men at the entrance to the shopping mall. There was some kind of set to it (ph) on the scene. He then was right close to a woman, and blew himself up at that stage, and that is why the confusion of whether it was a male or a female bomber.

But now the latest reports speak of it being a man, and that the woman is one of the casualties. Now, as I say, not clear, as the director of the Red Shield of David organization on the spot says there was one person killed in addition to the bomber or three, as the Israeli police have been reporting. This the latest in this series of suicide bombings over the last -- less than two days. Five such bombings in the West Bank, down in Gaza this morning, here in Jerusalem yesterday, and now up in the Galilee -- Leon.

HARRIS: Jerrold, I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Afula area, but we just heard the official there say something about the hospital being very close to that shopping mall. Do you know that to be the case?

KESSEL: Yes. It is a small, compact town. It is really the regional service town for a big rural farming district, and the hospital is, well, about five minutes drive at most from the -- from the shopping center, even perhaps less than that.

The shopping center, which is called the Gateway to the Valley, because Afula is situated in this very verdant, very beautiful Gesual (ph) valley area. That's the name of the shopping center, and apparently the bomber got to the entrance to the shopping mall, and was there confronted by the -- by one of the security guards.

You do know, Leon, since this spate of bombings over the last two years, every Israeli public place, restaurants, shopping malls, in this case, most big centers, public offices have security guards on the door, and there have been many casualties among the security guards who have challenged who they see as suspicious, and that is apparently what happened here today as the reports come in of the security guard confronting the bomber and that is then when the explosives went off.

Now, I should point out that the big West Bank town of Jenin is just about no more than eight, nine miles, as the crow flies. Really a straight drive away, although it is through a check point, and Israel has imposed a closure on that border between Israel and the West Bank, so there will be some consternation how the bomber managed to get through, if he, indeed, came from the West Bank.

HARRIS: Understood. Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, thank you very much, Jerrold.


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