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Two Israeli Soldiers Killed by Mob in RamallahAired October 12, 2000 - 8:44 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Things do appear to be heating up in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where CNN's Ben Wedeman now joins us live with reports of Israeli tank movements after two Israeli soldiers were killed today -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Carol, just seconds ago, four armored -- two armored personnel carriers and two Merkava tanks just rolled up the road behind us, reinforcing the Israeli armor already in this area.
In fact, if I step aside, you can see another one of these Merkava tanks. These are on a bluff overlooking the northern entrance of Ramallah. And throughout the day, we've seen -- we've been seeing more and more military activity in this area. There have been helicopters hovering around the outskirts of this city.
Ramallah, of course, is the site where those two, possibly three Israeli soldiers were killed by a mob earlier today. Also, we've been seeing helicopters, spotter airplanes, as well as unmanned aircraft otherwise known as drones.
Despite the tension, it is very, very quiet, almost too quiet here. This is a city that has been racked in recent days and the last two weeks by riots, by clashes with Israeli troops. Today, there's nothing, nobody; nobody on the streets. It is very quiet because many people in this Palestinian town are anticipating some sort of Israeli retaliation to the killing of those soldiers earlier today -- Atlanta.
LIN: Ben, do you know -- have you heard anything from Yasser Arafat today? And do you know where he is?
WEDEMAN: Well, we believe he's in Gaza. And apparently he has issued a statement expressing his regret over the incident. But the Israelis are reacting very strongly, obviously, to these killings. We know that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has described the incidents in Ramallah as very grave, and apparently he's also canceled all his appointments as well -- Carol.
LIN: Ben, as you watch these military maneuvers here, I don't know if it's too early to be able to answer this question, but can Israel afford not to retaliate in some way, given the mob scene and the death of now these two Israeli soldiers?
WEDEMAN: Well, that's basically a political equation. Now, behind me you can see some of this armor also moving.
That's a political question that -- obviously it's a hard one, because, on the one hand, Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, is under intense pressure to do something, to respond to what has happened, and to somehow bring an end to this two weeks of fighting.
On the other hand, the question is, is it worth it regarding the peace process? The peace process, which has gone on now for seven years, is now in the balance. If Israel responds vigorously in a strong way, that could really push the peace process over the brink.
So, really, that's a difficult question, and probably one Mr. Barak is trying to find an answer to -- Carol.
LIN: What is your sense, as you spend time in the West Bank, Ben, and talk with Palestinians, who are now seeing the death toll over 100 -- mostly Palestinians killed in the last two weeks of conflicts -- what to them is going to equal the playing field? When I was there a week ago, for example, people were saying that too many Palestinians have died now for the clock to be turned back to the peace negotiations, that what more radical factions are looking for is to up the death toll among Israelis, and that is the only satisfaction that they will have.
WEDEMAN: Well, I think that might be the position of more extremist Palestinians. But, really, what people would like, Palestinians who we talk to would like, is a fairer deal, basically. They feel that Israel, as a partner in the peace process, is the stronger partner that is able, through its political might, through its military might, to a certain extent, to dictate the course of the negotiations.
The Palestinians will tell you they really don't have much to play with, they don't have many cards in their hands, and therefore they would like a more equal playing field in the sense that they would like the sort of economic and political support that the United States provides to Israel.
In terms of the actual bloodshed, I think you'll find very few Palestinians who would actually like to see the death toll on the Israeli side rise simply out of vengeance -- Carol.
LIN: All right, thank you very much, Ben Wedeman, standing by in Ramallah, where Israeli tanks are now moving towards that West Bank town.
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