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Israeli Military Attacks Palestinian Refugee Camp in Jenin

Aired April 7, 2002 - 20:00   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: We've got some breaking news out of Jenin, the West Bank town there in the Middle East. CNN's Michael Holmes on the telephone with us from Ramallah. Michael, what do you know about military activity there now? Michael? Michael Holmes, reporting to us from Ramallah, do we have a connection with you, Michael? Obviously we don't have the connection.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah.

LIN: Michael Holmes, this is Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Give us an idea of what the latest military action is in Jenin? We are hearing that helicopters have fired on a refugee camp, and some civilians may be dead now.

HOLMES: Hello?

LIN: Michael? OK, we need to work on a better connection with Michael Holmes in Ramallah.

But this is what we do now, that Israeli forces were apparently bombing a refugee camp in the northern West Bank town of Jenin early Monday morning there now, since they are about seven hours ahead of us on the East Coast. That the Israeli forces used loudspeakers to call on residents to evacuate, saying that they were preparing to bomb the camp. But several residents refused to leave the camp. Some were evacuated by force, but the majority was still inside the camp when the bombing started.

Let me see if we reconnected with Michael Holmes? Michael.

HOLMES: Carol, yes, I can tell you that in the last hour or even half an hour, a furious assault has began at the Jenin refugee camp. This is home to some 14,000, 15,000 people.

Two sides to this story. Palestinian sources tell us that residents were told by loudspeakers to leave their homes and surrender, that their homes would be demolished and bombed. And they say that the Israeli army did force a small number of people out from the areas under Israeli control in this camp, which is not a large area.

Now, women and children were told to go outside the camp boundaries. Men were, according to Palestinian sources, removed to an unknown location. Now, according to those sources, 18 missiles have been fired from Israeli helicopter gunships in just the last half-hour or so.

Now, the Israeli side, the IDF, Israel's defense force, says that the announcement was to armed terrorists, and the announcement was: "Come outside and surrender to prevent more injuries." Military sources tell us that since that announcement, more than 150 have turned themselves in. As for the missiles, no comment from the military.

Now, the military sources do tell us, however, that their search so far in the camp has turned up explosives labs, Kissam (ph) rockets, a car bomb that has not exploded and mortar shells.

So two sides to this, but certainly both sides agreeing on one thing, that an assault is under way, Carol.

LIN: Michael, I know this is a developing situation, but maybe you can explain some of the tactics being used. The refugee camp in Jenin is pretty small; it covers less than a square mile. Why is it that the Israeli military would use fire power and so much fire power from the sky, versus going in for hand-to-hand contact with the people there?

HOLMES: Well, without wanting to read the military strategists' minds, what you know is that it is only a mile or so, but there are some 15,000 people in that square mile. It's an intricate network of streets and heavily populated, and there is a lot of resistance there. Whether their tactics are to try to clear out as many civilians as possible before launching an air assault and thereby saving potential Israeli military casualties is difficult to ascertain, but certainly those troops on the ground, Israeli troops, have been encountering fierce resistance from armed Palestinians within the camp. It's a very difficult camp to take from the ground, Carol.

LIN: Got you. All right. Thank you very much, Michael Holmes, reporting live from Ramallah on a developing military action in the West Bank town of Jenin.

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