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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Israeli Strike in Gaza

Aired August 21, 2003 - 06:50   ET

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

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's very hard to say. Certainly those within the Palestinian Authority security apparatus who say that it will take time to do this. However, they have the plans in hand. They told me that they had drawn up lists of wanted men from Hamas, senior officials included, from the military wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And they said they had drawn up the lists and were prepared to start action.
Whether this incident will change that remains to be seen, but it certainly won't be helping the mood on the Palestinian streets.

COSTELLO: I don't know if you can see the pictures that we are seeing, but we just saw bystanders carrying one of the bodies into an ambulance from that burned out car. There are literally thousands of people in the streets. Emotions certainly high.

HOLMES: Very much so. There were people standing on the car chanting anti-Israeli slogans. There's probably about 400 or 500 people here at the moment and the bodies have already been taken away. People pulling articles of clothing out of the car and holding them up for the crowd and the crowd chanting in response. There is a great deal of anger at this scene, as there always is at similar scenes.

It would appear that the facts as we know them at the moment would certainly point to an Israeli targeted assassination, as the Palestinians call them. The Israelis call them defensive measures.

COSTELLO: Did the Palestinian Authority expect this?

HOLMES: I think that everyone, the Palestinian Authority and people on the Palestinian street had feared it, yes, in the wake of the tragic suicide bombing that took place in Jerusalem. People had been waiting in the Palestinian territories and hoping that Israel would hold off. We had word that the Americans had asked the Israeli government, the Israeli prime minister to hold off on any military action.

This was certainly not a large scale action, but it is a significant one if, as we have been told, a senior official of Hamas was in that car. That is a direct attack. The Palestinian Authority, as I said, saying to me not an hour ago that they were in the process of beginning to dismantle the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, breaking them down and turning those groups into political parties and nothing more, was what we were told in no uncertain terms.

And as I say, within half an hour this happens. What impact that may have on the attitude of the Palestinian Authority remains to be seen.

COSTELLO: Well, you know what it seems like to some Americans, that this endless cycle of violence is just continuing and the road map doesn't matter anymore.

HOLMES: Well, indeed, I put that to this senior security official and said that in the eyes of the outside world, or much of the outside world, the bombing in Jerusalem was obscenely out of proportion to what Islamic Jihad and Hamas had claimed, which was that it was a response to Israeli military attacks on their people.

However, this man said that the cycle of violence must stop, that these groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are out of control. And this coming from a senior Palestinian official, I might add, that the groups are out of control, that they're working against the Palestinian Authority and that's why the Palestinian Authority is pledging -- and this is the first time I've heard it said so directly -- pledging to disarm and dismantle the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Now, that's the first time I've heard it said so directly. It's been alluded to in the past. However, this official telling me that, as I said, lists are being drawn up of suspects and he said to expect some action in Gaza and elsewhere in the days ahead.

COSTELLO: All right, we eagerly await what happens next.

Michael Holmes, we're going to let you get back to work.

And you be careful out there.

Michael Holmes reporting live by phone from Gaza City, where three Palestinians are dead after Israeli gunships, or Israeli helicopters, rather, fired down on a car. And we understand one of those killed a permanent Hamas member.

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