We scrambled into our armored vehicle and drove through the deserted
streets toward Arafat's compound. It wasn't long before we encountered the
first group of tanks blocking one of the approach roads to the compound.
We tried another route and again encountered rows of tanks and armored
personnel carriers. We got out and started to film them. There were
occasional bursts of gunfire, sounding just a few blocks away. The
Palestinian militias were putting up some resistance.
Eventually we got to the front of the compound. It was surrounded by
tanks. We walked past them and up to the main entrance. The large metal
gates had been smashed down. A jeep lay crushed next to them; the tank
tracks visible in the flattened metal. This time the Israeli army had gone
We spotted Israeli soldiers looking out of the widows of the compound's
buildings. The fighting here was over. The compound had been taken.
Arafat, holed up in a windowless interior room inside one of the compound's
buildings, was pinned by Israeli forces.
Later in the day Arafat declared that "Israel wants me a prisoner or
they want me killed. But I will be a martyr. I hope that God will give me
Arafat is trapped in a couple of rooms in the compound with just two
close aides at his side. There is speculation as to where it will go from
here. Will Arafat be kept a prisoner here or perhaps be taken away to
Israel? Nobody knows, but everyone is sure that this will do nothing to
end the deepening cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
As if to confirm this view, news comes through of yet another suicide
attack in Jerusalem. A young woman blew herself up at the entrance to a
supermarket. Two Israelis were killed and 20 were injured. Some of her
bombs failed to go off. The casualties would have been much higher if they
We moved around to the far side of the compound. An old man lay dead in
the road, his body shattered by machine-gun fire. We stopped to take a
closer look at him. He didn't seem to be a fighter; he had no weapon and
no flak jacket. He had been killed within the hour. Israeli tanks moved
past us and into the compound through gaps bulldozed in the perimeter wall.
Gunfire started again from another part of the city.
We came across a large group of Tanzim, the armed militia of the
Palestinian Authority. They had withdrawn out of range of the tanks. But
as we spoke to them the Israeli soldiers took up positions in the streets
close by. The Tanzim responded by starting to fire on their positions. We
watched them step out into the street from behind the protection of a
building and fire off a few shots at the Israeli soldiers. Each time they
stepped out into the line of sight of well-positioned soldiers they were
taking an extreme risk. They knew it, and hardly waited to take aimed
As we watched, a Tanzim fighter was hit in the neck by a sniper and
rolled onto the ground, dead. The other fighters picked him up and rushed
him to the hospital in a car.
This fighting was only token resistance. It was more like watching men
carry out desperate acts of bravado than one group of trained soldiers
going up against another. Later, we learned that five Palestinians had
been killed in the fighting this morning -- and the battle continued.
home - on the ground - cycle of violence - can anything end this? - combatants - introduction
discussion - video excerpts - producer chat - map
FRONTLINE - wgbh - pbs
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation