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Blast Rocks Tel Aviv

Aired December 11, 2003 - 06:05   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We have John Vause in Jerusalem now with an update there on that explosion in Tel Aviv on that busy street in the business district there.
John -- what can you tell us?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we have a few more details for you since the last time we spoke. Police are now telling CNN that there are, in fact, a number of bodies. They would not give us a death toll at this stage, only saying there are a number of bodies at the scene of that explosion. Of course, the Associated Press is reporting that three people may have been killed.

There is also now some confusion as to if this is, in fact, a terrorist attack or whether it was a criminal attack. Police are saying that it may not, in fact, be a terrorist attack. It could have some kind of criminal element, because it took place near that money exchanging shop on the first floor of a three-story building.

But the Israeli authorities are automatically treating this as a terrorist attack, a terrorist explosion -- the first one happening in Israel for almost two months now, Carol.

So, there are the few details that we have. Medical authorities are also telling CNN that at least 15 people have been hurt in this blast -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And I guess it's not obvious as to -- you know, when there's a suicide bomber they always have evidence, something left behind to tell them that it was a suicide bomber. But not so in this case?

VAUSE: Well, it happened about 35 minutes ago, and they're still piecing the scene together, still trying to work out what happened.

One of the things that slows down authorities on the scene is there is always this fear of a secondary blast. When they get to the scene of these suicide or these terrorist attacks, they clear the scene first, make sure it's safe for police and investigators and emergency crews to be there. And then they start piecing together what happened. They make sure the scene is secure. Then they worry about how it happened.

So, that could be explaining why it's taking a little longer to figure out exactly if this was a suicide bombing or if it was, in fact, a criminal act. COSTELLO: Yes, and, you know, it's so easy to draw the conclusion that it was a terrorist attack, because we were reporting this morning that the Israeli military was cracking down again on Palestinian militants in the Palestinian territory. And then there are all these new plans for peace in that region floating around.

VAUSE: Well, overnight, the IDF has, in fact, been operating in Rappa (ph), searching for and arresting a senior Islamic Jihad militant. They arrested him. But in the process, according to Palestinian medical sources, five Palestinians were killed, 12 were wounded -- one of them a 12-year-old boy who was in critical condition right now. The IDF is confirming that it shot and killed one Palestinian militant. The Palestinians are saying that death toll, though, is five.

Also, in that overnight raid, the Israelis destroyed three homes, and in one of those homes, according to Israel, a large cache of weapons, a large arsenal of weapons. Palestinians say the IDF actually destroyed four homes.

But we're also hearing talk of peace plans. The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qorei, is saying he is willing to sit down in trying and stop these kind of terrorist attacks, trying to work with Israel, trying to stop the illegal smuggling of arms, all that kind of thing, and also saying that if the fence was built, the security barrier fence that Israel has been building to try and stop these very things, these terrorist attacks, if the security fence is built along the 1967 border, then the Palestinians would help pay for it, which is a substantial shift in the Palestinian policy.

So, a lot of movement on the ground. Israel is also talking about unilateral withdrawal from the occupied territories, possibly annexing some parts of the West Bank where there are larger settlements and leaving the rest to the Palestinians.

So, there is a lot of talk about trying to get the peace process going in one form or another, and so then you have this. And so, the automatic assumption is that this was, in fact, a terrorist attack.


VAUSE: If it was, we will find out in the coming hours.

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