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CNN SATURDAY

Israeli Hammering of Ramallah Continues

Aired March 30, 2002 - 22:05   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, for two days, Israeli ground forces have been hammering away at the city of Ramallah. CNN's Michael Holmes is there and has this look at a day on the frontline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Israeli soldier tells these women, "Go home." They're here in the city of Alvira (ph) because all the men, age 15 to 45, were rounded up Saturday. In all, hundreds were. Under heavy Israeli guard, one at a time, they filed into a school for questioning. Some released, some detained, others still waiting hours later. A child waits in the street for his father's return.

In Ramallah, the shooting lessened, but it did continue. In a corridor on the third floor of an office building, the bodies of five Palestinian men, four in military style clothing, shot at very close range, three of them in the head. Two of the men appeared to have been shot from directly above, in the back and side of the head after they have fallen to the ground.

Israeli military sources said the men had thrown grenades at soldiers, who then fought back in a close quarter gun battle. CNN did not see any evidence of grenade explosions inside or outside the building.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers took up positions around the city, including overlooking Preventative Security Headquarters, a key Palestinian facility. Throughout much of the night, sounds of battle. At dawn, those sounds continued. An ambulance siren competes with the guns. Ambulances not allowed near the scene of the fighting, a building in the heart of Ramallah. Inside, a group of Palestinian gunmen and also civilians.

(on camera): The battle raged for hours. Tank shells and heavy machine gunfire from the Israeli side returned shooting from inside the building. And then, a fire broke out.

(voice-over): Smoke could be seen across the city. Eventually, a dramatic surrender. Israeli troops taking no chances confusing the innocent with the fighters. Everyone who came out told to kneel and lay down amid of the refuse of a battle.

Glass, bullet casings, used tear gas canisters. Another routine precaution, forced to lift their shirts to prove they did not have explosive belts, prove they were not suicide bombers. None were.

There were injured, too. Numbers difficult to ascertain, perhaps a dozen. Inside the building had been hard-core fighters, armed with AK-47s, no match for Israeli firepower.

But amid the fighters and the youthful faces of Israeli soldiers, an old man emerges, bewildered by his night in the crossfire. In the street, glass, bullet holes, and well after the shooting stopped, fire. On the sidewalk, the personal effects of those arrested.

At the Palestinian Authority headquarters, Israeli troops in complete control, although earlier in the day, several gunshots could be heard from inside. Late in the day, the body of a Palestinian Security force member taken out.

Yasser Arafat still confined to a two-room office. No end in sight for his isolation.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Ramallah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: That piece you just saw from Michael Holmes just shows how close reporters get to the action, though they normally find refuge when the fighting gets too intense. Well, a journalist for Dubai television says the Israeli army brought the fight to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAHER SHALABI, DUBAI TV BUREAU CHIEF: They entered two (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We said we are journalists. I scream at them in English, in Hebrew, in Arabic, "I am a journalist. Don't shoot. We are all journalists here." They said to come out and get naked. I said, "I'm not going to get naked at all. I can show you that I have nothing but I'm not going to get naked."

Well, in the end, they search us, but what happened actually from the beginning, they use me as a human shield to go from room to room, searching for Palestinian police. And I said, "This is against your rules and against international rules. I am American citizen and I have journalist press card." They said, "We don't care about anything. You go in front of us." They put a gun in my head and I had to go in front of them from room to room, to make sure -- for them to make sure it's empty. No Palestinian police would shoot at them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Again, that alleged incident happened yesterday, as Israeli forces were invading Ramallah.

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