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Interview with Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem

Aired March 29, 2002 - 11:10   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been showing pictures from what's been happening in Ramallah. We'll be checking in with our Michael Holmes in just a minute in Ramallah.

First of all, I want to talk with the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, on the phone with us.

Mr. Mayor, hello.

EHUD OLMERT, MAYOR, JERUSALEM: Hi.

KAGAN: First of all, can you tell us the latest about what happened at the bombing, the suicide bombing, earlier today at that supermarket in Jerusalem?

OLMERT: Yes. I'm afraid that what happened there is not precisely what Miss Ashrawi would like me to say, and what she is trying to describe.

Unfortunately, what happened there is that a Palestinian person came to the commercial center in one of the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and carrying on herself more than 10 kilos of explosives. And she tried to get through into the store, where hundreds of people were buying for Saturday, for the weekend. And the security guard prevented her from coming in.

So she exploded herself at the very entrance of the store. And the security guy and another 16-year-old girl were killed, and over 26 were wounded, some of them severely.

KAGAN: So right now the casualty list -- fatalities two to three, including the suicide bomber?

OLMERT: Yes. The suicide bomber, yes. All together, at least three, that we count here from this particular case.

KAGAN: And then this would be the second time, I believe, that we've seen a female, a woman, act as a suicide bomber, where it used to be, you would just be on the outlook for men.

OLMERT: Yes. Well, today, in the morning, this is second time that we see a female participating in this suicidal attack. Just a few hours ago in the morning, Arafat was making a call for all the Palestinians to go to Jerusalem and to make the suicidal attacks. And this is a response of one of them.

So this is precisely what we are talking about all the time. The inspiration, encouragement is made by Arafat.

He is the one that leads them, he is the one that inspires them. He's the one that, in most cases, coordinate the activities.

And, you know, without going into the political aspects of this, whatever it is about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) way to resolve the conflict politically -- who can justify the killing of innocent people in the heart of town who have nothing to do with the political conflict? Who can justify killing them in such a brutal way? How can a political conflict be justified -- the killing of so many innocent people in the heart of town, as the Palestinians are doing, almost every day?

KAGAN: Mr. Mayor, it's a comment we hear on both sides.

Our condolences on the losses in your town this morning: the two, three people lost, add the suicide bomber -- at the supermarket in Jerusalem.

OLMERT: Hello?

KAGAN: Thank your for your time.

We need to go ahead and check in in Ramallah right now, the action taking place, as Israeli forces are moving in on Yasser Arafat's compound.

Our Michael Holmes is very near that compound. Let's go ahead and check in with him -- Michael, hello.

MICHAEL HOLMES: Hi, Daryn.

Yes, I can tell you that fighting is still continuing inside the compound. It seems to be a room-to-room or building-to-building affair.

The Palestinian authority headquarters in Ramallah is a compound of several acres and several buildings -- many buildings, in fact; probably eight or nine buildings. The fighting was severe earlier on as we reported, when the Israeli forces went through the wall and into the compound.

We drove around the perimeter just a short time ago. We counted seven separate entry points of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers. We saw them well inside the compound -- maybe in one case, about 100 yards inside this compound.

So they have gone inside in numbers. We counted about six tanks inside and as many armored personnel carriers. And there was still fighting continuing. It was small arms fire, and we heard grenades as well. So the fighting is going on.

We spoke to somebody inside. And they said that Yasser Arafat security forces are still continuing the fight despite some 40 of those security forces being wounded, one killed, Daryn. So still a very tense time here in Ramallah.

As we drove to the -- through the compound, we also passed probably a dozen Palestinian gunmen on the street in civilian clothes armed with AK-47s.

And so, it's still very intense time here as dusk approaches, nighttime approaches -- a very dangerous time on the streets, Daryn.

KAGAN: And getting back to this compound, Michael, somewhere in there we believe still is Yasser Arafat.

HOLMES: Indeed, yes. We spoke to one of his advisers a couple of hours ago. And he told us that Yasser Arafat -- while in between making phone calls to Arab leaders and European leaders on the telephone, pleading for help and intervention -- he was also directing the battle, directing the defense, if you like, of the Palestinian authority headquarters. He is still there. And so are his advisers.

How close Israeli forces are to where he is is impossible to tell at the moment. It really is literally a combat site. But we don't know their intentions either, whether they intent to get close to him or not, Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, that will be my next question, Michael. Besides what is clearly an intimidation factor here, is it apparent at all what the end game is? What's the point of this operation?

HOLMES: Well, that's right. I know that there was a spirited debate, to put it mildly, inside the Israeli cabinet -- I suppose it was last night -- when they worked out what it was they were going to do.

There are elements of the right wing of the Sharon government who want Yasser Arafat out. They want him expelled from the territory. And there are more moderate elements on the left, the Labor Party, who say that's not the right thing to do. So there was a compromise made, which was what Ariel Sharon called isolating him in his compound.

So what we've seen today goes far further than isolating him in his compound. They've gone in, and they've gone in armed (ph), and according to one report were firing at his office.

So what they are planning to do once they do get to him we can only speculate. We don't know, Daryn.

KAGAN: Michael Holmes in Ramallah. Be careful out there, as you continue to watch this latest operation.

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