- RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN)
- Israeli forces imposed a curfew Sunday on the West Bank city of Ramallah,
where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters have been under siege
for three days. Arafat has been confined to a two-room office, with Israeli
tanks and troops just outside.
CNN Correspondent Michael Holmes gained access to the compound Sunday and
was able to speak briefly with Arafat.
HOLMES: I've actually just left Yasser Arafat. We couldn't get a telephone
signal out of there. I can tell you that he is fit, uninjured and certainly
An extraordinary scene here; we're outside the walls and about 40 or 50
Palestinian and international peace protesters, including Americans, French,
Germans and Swiss, marched down the street to one of the entranceways into
the compound, walked straight past some armored personnel carriers and
tanks, and walked straight toward Yasser Arafat's compound.
- We followed, and as we did, Israeli troops fired warning
shots. The group did not stop. They marched straight in, past Palestinian
gunmen at the entrance to Yasser Arafat's office building, walked straight
past the Palestinian gunmen who seemed shocked and surprised and not a
little pleased to see everybody.
We went upstairs; we saw Yasser Arafat. They said no interviews, but we
did ask him questions anyway. He said that he's staying where he is. He
said he feels that his life is at risk but he is not concerned about that.
He said, in as many words, he doesn't care if he dies.
He said, "This is about my people." He has called on the international
community once again -- the European Union, the United States -- to step
in and stop the siege that is under way at his headquarters.
CNN: Is Yasser Arafat planning on -- first of all, is his cell phone working?
There were mixed reports on whether he had a line to get out of that compound.
HOLMES: Cell phone contact is very patchy at the moment in this area. I
was in there obviously trying to call to tell you what was happening, and
I could not get a call out. It's very difficult at the moment. He cannot
get a signal out. I spoke to several of his aides who also have cell phones
-- they cannot get a signal out either.
He is certainly defiant, and he has many armed security force people with
him. They have AK-47s; there were a couple of heavy-caliber machine guns.
They too are defiant.
CNN: Did you have a chance to discuss with him about making a statement?
President Bush is asking for him to condemn this violence, these attacks
that are taking place, in Arabic. Did he say anything about that, anything
at all about making any type of statement condemning this violence?
HOLMES: It was a pretty confusing and impromptu news conference, certainly
the most extraordinary I've seen in some 25 years of reporting. I kept
trying to get him to talk in English, and a couple of other journalists
who came in with us were trying to get him to talk in Arabic.
Yasser Arafat has said in the past he has already made those statements.
He has condemned bombings. He says that he has done everything he possibly
can to stop the bombings.
Israel, of course, has a very different viewpoint. He says that he has
already made those statements. He's calling for peace; he's calling for
the full implementation once again of the Tenet peace plan.
I asked him if he thought a cease-fire was possible given the circumstances
that he is in and has been in for a couple of days now. He said, "Of
course, of course, under Tenet." He's still willing, he says, to talk
peace, to talk cease-fire through [U.S. Middle East envoy] Gen. Anthony
CNN: What's his next move? What does he plan to do? What did he tell you?
Is he just going to wait this out? Is he being advised by anybody? Is he
strictly making these decisions himself?
HOLMES: No, he is surrounded by senior advisers. There were 10 or so of
them with him just now. From his point of view, and from the Palestinian
point of view, it's not up to him how to end this. He said he is the one
under siege. He said the Palestinian people are the ones who are occupied,
and there's not much he can do from inside his office, surrounded by tanks
There are snipers in the building opposite. They were firing warning shots
at us as we went in, and there were a couple of stragglers from the media
who tried to join up with the group later. They had shots fired at their
feet. So [Arafat] says that he's not in a position, given that sort of
environment, in which to do very much at all -- other than to call for
peace and call for a pullback of these troops that are in his compound.
He's stuck there; he can't get calls out. It's not a very pleasant situation
in there, in the building. There's a lot of people in there in not very
many rooms. I saw a mattress on the floor. We walked in, and the first
thing the soldiers there asked for were cigarettes. They're certainly running
short of supplies, but I certainly can say that their spirits seem very