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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Suicide Blast in Jerusalem

Aired June 11, 2003 - 10:45   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Our Mike Hanna is still with us.
Mike, you can probably better put into perspective the pictures that we're seeing right now. Can you see them as well?

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Leon, we are seeing these live pictures as they go out from Israeli television of the scene around the bottom of Jaffa Road. Once again, a large number of casualties can be seen on the ground here, people being carried away. The ambulance services confirm that there are a number of people dead. Initial reports said as many as 30 casualties.

We saw in the first of these live pictures the remnants of a bus, bus number 14, I am told, which according to initial reports, was the bus on which a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device. Obviously in this type of scenario, the scene immensely confusing on the ground, as the ambulance workers and medics attempt to get through to help as many people as possible. There you see in the background the remnants of the bus number 14. The wounded still being carried away. There are a number dead as has been confirmed.

This particular area here is just below the Puchnu (ph) Market, which is also just off Jaffa Road. It is a very heavily populated place at this time of the day, people going to the market, going to the shops, restaurants further down Jaffa Road as well. So there would have been a crowd probably alongside that bus as it was driving down that road.

And we have confirmed from police that it was a suicide bomber aboard that bus, detonating an explosive device. Once again, we're trying to get the act casualty figures here, but this won't be known for a while, Leon, as the situation is addressed on the ground. Obviously, the priority of all of the aid organizations, all of the medics and all of the police is to first of all deal with the wounded, and we are hearing that there are a large amount of wounded and there are a number dead in this attack.

HARRIS: Yes, Mike, unfortunately we've all become much to accustomed to the way these procedures do work, the way this process plays itself out. And once again, we are also unfortunately accustomed to seeing this spasm of violence that comes after any step forward in the peace process. This sort of thing is the kind of thing that seems to happen regularly any time something does get done.

Now this is no doubt going to be a topic of conversation. Later today, we understand that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell and our national security adviser Condoleezza Rice from the Bush administration, and this will no doubt be a part of their conversations. And I have to wonder, Mike, what the expectation is that -- how this may play in the psyches of Israelis pleading for more progress, more concessions.

But before we go to talk to Mike about that, let's bring on the telephone now -- I believe we have gotten Gil Kleiman back on the telephone from the Israeli police.

Mr. Kleiman, are you there?

GIL KLEIMAN, ISRAELI POLICE SPOKESMAN: Yes.

HARRIS: Tell us what you know about what happened in downtown Jerusalem.

KLEIMAN: We know right now that a possible suicide bomber, that hasn't been confirmed yet, but all the indications are it that it's suicide bomber. A possible suicide bomber on a bus blew himself up, or herself. That also has not been clarified yet. We have bomb technicians working wounded already taken to the hospital, but the initial bomb work is just beginning.

We have wounded, we have dead, we don't have any numbers yet on that. We'll have to wait until that gets cleared up a bit to come out with the exact numbers. This is something, unfortunately, that we've seen many times before, and we have to be very careful with what we come out with before we're sure of what the figures are.

HARRIS: Was this something that was expected? We've been reading how Hamas has said, promised that it would retaliate for the strike that was made on Mr. Al-Rantissi over the weekend, an unsuccessful strike by your government. Was this expected?

KLEIMAN: As far Israeli police are concerned, we're not really involved in politics. We've been on a very high state alert for almost 32 months now. We've had suicide bombings throughout the year. We had 116 incidents last year. don't usually see any connection. What we see is constant onslaught by the terrorist organization to carry out terrorist acts.

So as far police are concerned, our work has been (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We haven't been down, as far as our alert status, for a long time now, and sometimes, these things are very coincidental. We know there is intent by the terrorist groups to carry out their activities. They always seem to have an excuse, and we know there is onslaught we have to deal with.

HARRIS: Do you have any indication who might be responsible for this?

KLEIMAN: As far as terrorist acts are concerned, we have our modes of information. We've had various terrorist organizations claim responsibility for gas leaks. We've had them claim a multiple responsibilities for multiple number of names of suicide bomber, but we don't pay attention with what they come out with. Our investigation with the Israeli army and police will have that information. I'm not sure that we always come out with that as far as the press is concerned, but as of now, we have no indications.

HARRIS: Does this action here change in any way the nature or the number of precautions that your police force and that citizens will be taking from here on out?

KLEIMAN: It's very hard to up the level all of the time. We've been facing an onslaught, we've had over 787 dead, close to 5,000 casualties in the last 32 months. It's difficult every time to up it. Last year, we had about 1,782 terrorist incidents. It's very difficult to up it every time. We base it on the working assumption there are certain parameters for security, close down the borders, close down areas in the cities. We have checkpoints set up in the cities. Every bar, and every cafe and every movie theater has a security guard at the entrance. So these are the precautions that we take. There are times when we heighten the level, but we've been at very high level of mobilization for a long time now. I don't think we'll have any immediate effect on us as far as mobilization.

After we hoarded our troops about five minutes ago, 10 minutes ago, we called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... immediately after a terrorist attack.

HARRIS: And finally, let me ask you this, sir, is there any way, based upon the -- where this explosion happened and the size of it, is there any way this could have been any worse than just 30 casualties?

KLEIMAN: No, I don't think -- I would be very hesitant as far as the numbers are concerned this early. Unfortunately what happens is, as the people are taken to hospital, we have a clear indication, and numbers that come out very close to a suicide bombing are usually inaccurate. There is a long process of about an hour, people get to the hospital, and the fog of terror, fog of war clears up, so I can't make any conjecture right now. But the numbers that usually come our early after a bombing are not exactly correct.

HARRIS: Gil Kleiman, with the Israeli police. We thank you very much for taking time. We'll let you get back to you work.

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