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Five Explosions Several Minutes Apart in Gaza City

Aired August 21, 2003 - 06:37   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Now we have Michael Holmes from Gaza City live on the phone to tell us about the Israeli gunships firing missiles into Gaza City.
Michael -- are you there?

Michael Holmes -- are you there?

We do not have him. All right, let's go to Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, and keep our fingers crossed.

Jerrold -- can you hear me?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I do, Carol. And what we can confirm, because Michael Holmes is down there in Gaza City right on the scene, confirming that he saw three bodies being brought out of a car, which had apparently been targeted from the air -- although there is no confirmation of that -- in Gaza City in the Remile (ph) neighborhood. That's one of the residential areas of Gaza City.

And, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses, there were a number of missiles fired from the air, apparently by Israeli helicopter gunships, at that car in the street in Gaza City. Fire and clouds of smoke rising are from the area.

Michael was on the scene shortly afterwards, reporting to us that he had seen three bodies. It appeared to be that all three were dead, brought out of the car.

There had been rumors on the spot, Carol, among Palestinians that a leading Hamas spokesman was in the car. That has not been confirmed as of this time, but that was the rumors that are immediately circulating around the area, as angry crowds gathered in the area.

We do know that Israel's security cabinet had met late into the night yesterday, and it authorized a number of actions in the wake of that devastating suicide bombing attack, which Hamas, along with Islamic Jihad -- the two militant Islamic groups -- had claimed responsibility, killing 20 people aboard that Jerusalem bus the night before last.

And at that Israeli cabinet meeting, we understand that a number of Israeli actions were authorized, including -- although this wasn't stated officially -- but Israeli sources confirming that this could be the resumption of what Israel had previously called "targeted killings," assassinations of leading militants. Israeli forces had gone into action in a number of Palestinian cities in the late hours of last night, but this would be a different kind of operation if indeed it is an Israeli assassination action that had been launched.

We have had no confirmation of this from the Israeli military, to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a few minutes ago, this incident taking place just about 15 minutes ago, and the Israeli military is saying, in their words, "We are checking" -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, Jerrold, I just want to tell our audience, these are raw pictures we're showing you, unedited images, so there might be something disturbing coming up. We just don't know. I just wanted to warn our viewers.

And that's why it's so difficult getting ahold of Michael Holmes. You said these pictures were just taken 15 minutes ago. We already have them on the air.

Israel had been raiding homes in the Palestinian territories earlier, hadn't they, Jerrold?

KESSEL: Yes, they had. They -- this is more of the predictable kind of Israeli actions that we have seen after all terror attacks inside Israel, suicide bombings and the like. The bomber's home is targeted, and that's what Israel did this morning in Hebron, blowing up the home of the man who carried out the suicide bombing on the bus; also blowing up another three homes in the northern part of the West Bank, where Israel said the previous bombers had come from.

But this would -- this action, if it is indeed an Israeli military action, and it does seem to have the hallmark of that, would take the confrontation into another level of Israel going back to targeting militant leaders, if that is indeed the case in this attack down in Gaza City.

It also, in a sense, Carol, undercuts the actions of the -- the prospective actions of the Palestinian Authority, because while the Israelis were taking their decisions about how to retaliate or how to respond to the challenge of the militants in the wake of that suicide bombing, the Palestinian Authority had said it had taken some very strong decisions to go after Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including to arrest them, so say Palestinian leaders, and to shut down their activities.

But the Israelis seem to have decided that because the Palestinians haven't acted up until now, they are going to act irrespective of what the Palestinian Authority does or does not do -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, I'm just watching some more of the raw pictures coming in to CNN, but we have to edit those before we show them to our audience. Jerrold Kessel, thank you very much for the update live from Jerusalem.


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