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CNN LIVE TODAY

Israeli Forces Effectively Turn Arafat's Compound into Prison

Aired September 23, 2002 - 11:02   ET

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Israeli forces have effectively turned Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah into a prison. Only one building remains standing, and it's surrounded by razor wire and Israeli soldiers.
CNN's Ben Wedeman has been covering this siege since it began last week after two suicide bombings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The destruction of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters seemed to have been halted for the time being, but Israeli officials say they are going to keep up the encirclement of the one last building that remains standing inside of the compound. They, of course, are demanding the surrender of some 50 individuals, they say, are on their wanted list of individuals, who have been accused of involvement in terrorist activities against Israel.

Now efforts are under way to somehow resolve this problem. Just a little bit ago, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat drove into the compound. He has been trying for several days to get in, to work out some sort of resolution of this standoff. He is -- in our conversations with him, he has expressed a certain amount of frustration. But this is his opportunity to possibly make some headway.

However, another senior Palestinian official we spoke to said that the Palestinian leadership has no intention whatsoever of handing anybody over, of surrendering anybody or coming to some sort of an arrangement whereby a third party might be responsible for the incarceration of those individuals.

And also last night, the Israeli army delivered a very large supply of food and water, this after Palestinian officials inside of the compound complained that they were running out of supplies, and it's a very long list of the things that the Israelis brought. It includes 1,000 loaves of bread, 100 bottles of water, potatoes, yogurt, onion, corn, cooking gas, lentils, kidney beans, batteries, toilet paper, plastic plates and three cartons of underwear in all sizes. But that seems to be the only problem that anybody seems able to resolve here.

As far as the Israelis go, there seems to be something of a difference of opinion within Israeli society as to how to resolve the problem. Many editorialists accusing the government of actually saving Yasser Arafat from his own people, many of whom were calling for some sort of reform within the Palestinian Authority for the Palestinian leader to give up much of his power to others within the Palestinian community.

Now, elsewhere in Ramallah, many people are defying the curfew that was set in place earlier last week. People were out and about buying food and other supplies. There were rumors that the curfew would be lifted on Monday. However, those rumors were squashed by Israeli soldiers patrolling the people, telling the people to go back inside.

I'm Ben Wedeman, from CNN, reporting from Ramallah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: You can keep up with the latest on the crisis in the Middle East, view video and get important background on the history and the key players, at cnn.com/Mideast -- Leon.

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