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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Gaza Explosion

Aired October 15, 2003 - 05:40   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Want to rejoin David Clinch right now.
You were listening to that interview, what jumped out at you?

DAVID CLINCH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL EDITOR: Yes. Well, I have met Saeb Arakat a number of times, and this is a -- he says he doubts that Palestinian militants carried out a targeted attack on a U.S. convoy. I think if he were being more honest, he would probably say he hopes that Palestinian militant groups did not target a U.S. convoy. It would be a watershed event in terms of the way the Palestinians view their relationship with the United States.

Obviously it would not be the Palestinian Authority targeting them. But on the other hand, the distinguished -- the distinction between the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian militant groups is gray at best. In the view of the Bush administration at the moment, this would be a watershed event.

But just to -- just to quickly review some of the things that we know and what he -- what he -- why what he was saying is important. We know that the first vehicle was targeted. We are now being told that there were Americans in that vehicle. There are Americans dead, but that it is, at this point, the U.S. Embassy giving indications that it was employees of what they say was an external security company that had been employed to supply security.

Now we're still trying to check on that. It would be news to me that they would be employing external security companies to supply security for a U.S. diplomatic convoy, but that's apparently what we're being told at this point. We're still checking.

In terms of the targeting, initial reports said there might have been a suicide bomber. It now looks like a roadside bomb. But again, The Associated Press reporter on the ground saying that he has seen a wire with an on/off switch going to the site of the bombing. Again, possible indication of specific targeting.

And that's where what Saeb Arakat says that they are offering a joint investigation. I think, again, if he was being more honest, he would say insisting on a joint investigation. Because, obviously, if Israel is already going in there, which we are being told right now with tanks and helicopters to clear the bodies and the injured from the scene and to also gather evidence, the Palestinians want to make sure that they have a stake in that investigation because the Israelis are already in there with their tanks clearly the scene. Again, the point from the U.S. side and the U.S. Embassy being very reluctant, at this point, to say whether they believe it was a specific targeting, the Bush administration will be watching closely to see what evidence comes out here. If it can be established that a Palestinian militant group either claims responsibility or the evidence points to a specific targeting, again, we're looking at a watershed event.

COSTELLO: Exactly, because you know the Palestinians keep saying they have control over these militants groups, and this would -- well this would most assuredly prove they do not.

CLINCH: Right. I mean to be fair, they say they have some control. Their argument, as always, is that they cannot possibly control it while the Israelis are coming in and out of Gaza, coming in and out of the West Bank and effectively destroying the Palestinian security system's ability to completely control them. But I think the point is that they don't control them. And this, again, if it is specific targeting, would mean that not only do they not control them, but that the militant groups have gone over to the other side.

COSTELLO: And has many frightening implications.

CLINCH: Absolutely. Again stressing, we don't know that it was targeting. And if it turns out it was a roadside bomb that went off as this convoy was passing, it's a different nature to the -- to the story. That doesn't change the fact that Americans have been killed.

COSTELLO: All right. David Clinch, we'll let you get back to work,...

CLINCH: OK.

COSTELLO: ... because I know you'll rejoin us later.

CLINCH: Bye.

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