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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Renewed Mideast Violence: "Road Map" in Jeopardy

Aired June 13, 2003 - 19:01   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But first, in the Middle East, fresh violence between Israelis and Palestinians. There were two Israeli missile strikes in Gaza late today, putting additional pressure on President Bush's already bumpy road map to peace.
CNN's Kelly Wallace is in Gaza City tonight. Kelly, what's the latest?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Israeli officials say these air strikes are also putting pressure on the Palestinian militant group Hamas and they say this pressure will continue.

The latest one came around midnight our time here. Two Israeli Apache helicopters directly over our heads here in downtown Gaza city firing on a Hamas weapons warehouse, according to Palestinian sources. No one was hurt or injured or killed in that incident. Earlier, about four-and-a-half earlier -- hours earlier in fact, it was a scene that is becoming very familiar here in the Gaza Strip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): More anger in Gaza after the sixth Israeli air strike in four days kills a member of Hamas' military wing and injured more than 20 others, according to Palestinian hospital sources. The Israeli military says the Hamas militant and another man were on their way to fire homemade rockets at Israel.

Earlier, thousands of Palestinians buried the victims of Thursday's punishing air strikes, including a Hamas leader, his pregnant wife and his 1-year-old daughter.

It was also a day of tearful good-byes in Israel as some of the 17 people killed in Wednesday's suicide bus bombing by Hamas were laid to rest. Many here fear there are likely to be more of these scenes with Israel and Hamas now saying they are in an all-out war.

But why now, just after the smiles in Aqaba?

Israeli officials say they came up with the plan to target Hamas leaders months ago, but they implemented it only after deciding that Hamas was planning to scuttle the Mideast road map with more attack against Israelis. And Israel, analysts say, appears to be getting a green light from the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush is very critical of Israel. But within 24 hours, this had totally turned around and the signals that Sharon was getting from Washington was that, Yes in order for the road map to go ahead, Hamas must be brought to heel.

WALLACE: Hamas is now warning that the Jerusalem attack is just the beginning. Some Palestinian observers say Hamas was about to agree to a ceasefire, but that the Israeli air strikes made the group reverse course. Hamas will only lose its power, says this political analyst, when Israel leaves the West Bank and Gaza.

EYAD AL SARAJ, PALESTINIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wherever there is hope, there is less support of the bombing and violence. Wherever there is despair, there is more popular support for the car bombing (ph) and violence. Here you have it. End Gaza Israeli occupation, there would be no Hamas. We don't need it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Despite this new war between Israel and Hamas, there is diplomacy going on behind the scenes. Palestinian sources tell us there could be a high level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security officials as early as this weekend. Palestinian sources also telling us that Hamas members met with the Palestinian authority this evening and that Hamas is willing to end its attacks against Israelis as long as Israelis stops its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting development. Kelly Wallace, thank you very much.

While diplomats continue to press forward for peace in the Middle East, the death toll in the region just continues to climb. Just this week, 51 people have been killed in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; 23 Israelis, 28 Palestinians have lost their lives.

A U.S. diplomat travels to Israel over the weekend in hopes of ending the violence through negotiations. CNN will be following that development very closely all weekend long.

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