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Sources: At Least 3 Dead, 1 Seriously Hurt

Aired October 15, 2003 - 06:42   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been telling you all morning long, a U.S. convoy was hit by an explosives device in Gaza. We believe at least three Americans were killed in that attack. What we don't know for sure right now is if that convoy was targeted, although witnesses on the scene saw a tripwire leading from some sort of explosive device into a concrete building. The convoy was passing by a gas station at the time.
Matthew Chance happens to be in our newsroom. You are just back from Gaza. If this U.S. convoy was targeted, would this be a huge surprise to you?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it would be a surprise. And it would have, of course, profound implications for the direction which the Palestinian militant groups are taking. I think you know if we can analyze this at this stage, what it says to me is that it really blows out of the water the illusion that the Americans, if it isn't a targeted attack, it to some extent blows out the water the illusion, shatters that illusion that they can be honest brokers in this peace process. Certainly they themselves, the U.S. administration says that they can be, but so do the Israelis, so do the Palestinian Authority. But on the ground in the occupied territories like the Gaza Strip, speak to ordinary Palestinians and they consider the U.S. government to be its enemy, their enemy.

COSTELLO: Yes, but if Palestinian militant groups did target Americans, wouldn't that be stupid of them?

CHANCE: I think it would be, but I think if you imply that -- apply that kind of rationale to the objectives of the Palestinian militant groups, it never really makes a great deal of sense. You'd think that they would give up their campaign of violence to try and seek a peaceful negotiated solution. But that's simply not on the agenda for the Palestinian militant groups, the extremists on the -- on that side of the -- of the struggle for a Palestinian state.

They want to see mainly the destruction of Israel. Groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad aren't really that interested in a negotiated settlement that's going to give them a portion of the -- of the territory of the -- of the kind of nature of the deal that the Palestinian Authority say that they favor. They very much want an all-out sort of conflict with the Israeli authorities and with, you know, the people who support them to try and get control over, you know, the whole territory of mandate Palestine. Whether or not, you know, they'll do that, obviously big question mark.

COSTELLO: I talked to the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Arakat, and I asked him if it was conceivable that any Palestinian group, militant group or otherwise, would target Americans. He said absolutely not. Can not even conceive of this. Why would he say something like that?

CHANCE: Well, obviously, I mean the thing is what's also clear out of this attack is that you know it underlines also just how little control, I think, the Palestinian Authority, and Saeb Arakat is a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, headed, of course, by Yasser Arafat, how little control that organization has over the militant groups.

Now the Israelis often say that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority can turn on and off the violence coming from those militant groups as if it were on a tap. But there is a sense in which that violence is taken on a momentum of its own. There is a sense in which you know the militant groups act independently of the Palestinian Authority objectives, as well which is why you made that comment, I think, that it doesn't seem to make sense. It seems to cast the Palestinians in a bad light. That's simply because these militant groups are acting towards their own objectives.

COSTELLO: And in their own minds they feel they have nothing -- they have nothing to lose if they target Americans, right?

CHANCE: Well I think they see that the American administration has vetoed various resolutions. Just recently in the Security Council vetoed the resolution condemning Israel's construction of a barrier across Palestinian territory in the West Bank. They have seen countless other resolutions vetoed. They have seen a sort of unflinching support by the U.S. administration for the policies of Israel in the occupied territories. And that leads them to the conclusion that you know the U.S. perhaps isn't an honest broker, the kind of honest broker it wants to be, and should rather be considered as more of an enemy.

COSTELLO: And in this town where this attack occurred, there -- it's been a -- well the Israeli military has made incursions into this particular town before, so the Palestinians there have seen that as well and perhaps that's fed into the anger.

CHANCE: Right. This is an area where Israeli tanks, armored vehicles have routinely been taking their incursions into this area of the -- of the Gaza Strip, leveling olive groves, orange trees, taking over houses and demolishing them, they say, for their security requirements because they say these are areas where the Palestinian militant groups launch their sort of missile attacks. They have these makeshift rockets that they assemble in Gaza and they shoot them over into the territory if Israel. And so the tanks tend to move in and clear the area of trees of cover for these militants. And it's often a place where there are clashes between the militant groups and the Israeli forces when they come in in their incursion. So it's a very intense area, an area that is full of great anger and frustration towards the Israelis.

COSTELLO: All right. Matthew Chance, thanks for joining us on DAYBREAK. We appreciate it. Again, if you are just joining us, a U.S. convoy attacked in Gaza when the convoy -- one of the trucks ran over some sort of explosive device. We know for sure that three Americans were killed in this attack, perhaps four. All of the Palestinian leadership coming out and expressing their regrets and sorrow and offering their condolences to the family. No group claiming responsibility as of yet.


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