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Crisis in the Middle East: Four Israeli Soldiers Being Held by Palestinian PoliceAired October 12, 2000 - 5:30 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We've been following developments out of the Middle East. We want to take you live to Jerusalem now. Jerrold Kessel has the latest on a breaking story -- Jerrold.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Linda, the story is still under some sense of confusion of what's been happening in the West Bank town of Ramallah. But according to the Israeli army, four Israeli soldiers are being held by Palestinian police, in what circumstances we do not know, in that Palestinian-controlled town.
But reports from reporters on grounds say that at least two of those soldiers have been killed and perhaps have been lynched by a Palestinian crowd, either before or after they were taken to the hands of the Palestinian police. According to those reports coming out of the West Bank town of Ramallah, the soldiers were operating as an undercover unit and we're not in uniform when they went into that West Bank town of Ramallah, and they were, in one form or another, seized by Palestinians, either then taken into the hands of the Palestinian police, and then there have been some incident regarding their safety and security in the hands of the Palestinian police. That is not clear, or before that, and whether they are in the hands of the Palestinian police now.
But the Israeli army is confirming in the last few minutes to CNN that four Israeli soldiers, the army says, in the hands of the Palestinian police in Ramallah. Whether there have been deaths, whether they have been killed or not, that is still an open question at this time -- Linda.
STOUFFER: Jerrold, I realize that this is a breaking story right now, but do we have any idea at this point how Israel might respond to this?
KESSEL: Well, very seriously indeed. Clearly, this would be -- it would be serious on two counts. It would be the first known time that Israeli -- the Israeli army has gone into the Palestinian, in whatever form, even if worse in the form of an undercover unit, into those areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat. The town of Ramallah is one of a half-dozen or more of the Palestinian -- major Palestinian cities on the West Bank, which is totally under the control of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and is such off grounds completely to the Israeli army. That's on one level. The other, of course, if they have been captured or seized or killed, indeed, the Israeli army would regard this extremely -- the Israeli government would regard this with extreme -- as a really extreme act. And I dare say would act appropriately. This has to be taken, I think, in the context of the kind of escalation of rhetoric which we've been hearing this morning only.
A leading minister in Mr. Barak's government, Prime Minister Barak's government, saying that Yasser Arafat, according to the Israeli minister, had taken a step backwards and had turned his back on any accommodation, had taken the road away from accommodation and peace, was no longer regarded as a peace partner. And, in his words, we are heading to war. That was the way the Israeli minister put it. I think that could be put into this context now of this development in Ramallah -- Linda.
STOUFFER: Jerrold Kessel, with the latest from Jerusalem, thank you very much.
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