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Israeli Bus Attack Ignites New Fears; No End in Sight?; But Bombing in Tel Aviv; Police Questions 2 in Indianapolis Blast; Police Question 2 in Indianapolis Blast; Teacher Dodges Rockets
Aired November 21, 2012 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello.
A new flashpoint in the Israel-Gaza conflict threatens to implode today's peace talks. A bomb rips apart a bus in Tel Aviv, Israel's second largest city. Twenty-two people injured and tensions rise again across the region. Hamas praises the attack. But it's not claiming responsibility. In Gaza, streets are empty as civilians brace for the Israeli response.
So far, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the challenge of brokering a ceasefire, it grows even more daunting this morning.
More on those diplomatic efforts in just a minute but first the latest details on that bus attack. Sara Sidner is on the phone from Tel Aviv.
What's the latest, Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Carol, we're inside the hospital right now where the victims of this bus attack are. We know that now 22 people have been injured. Some of those were inside of the bus, some of the people were outside of the bus. There are two very serious injuries, both of them teenagers according to hospital officials here and they are doing surgery as we speak.
What we do know is that so far the doctors are saying that all the victims are expected to survive and the blast basically blew out all of the windows in the bus but it did not completely destroy the bus. And so for people who have seen these blasts before it was a lesser of a blast and then it's in the (INAUDIBLE) end of city.
But certainly a terrible, terrible scare to the people here. And certainly those on the bus, a lot of fear that this is the beginning of something worse to come.
And we just talked about the fact that Hamas has praised this particular blast but has not taken responsibility. The police basically are saying that they have not been able to get a suspect yet. They are sending out all of their equipment and people to try to find out who is responsible for this. And they said they do not for sure think this was somebody who blew themselves up on the bus but instead a device was placed on the bus and that is what exploded -- Carol.
COSTELLO: As far as the injuries, Sara, how many people suffered serious injuries? Are any life-threatening?
SIDNER: No, there are no life-threatening injuries. But there are two serious injuries. You know, someone has gone in, for example, with shoulder surgery. I'm not sure what the extent of the other injuries are. But we know there are three serious injuries according to the police and the hospital officials where we are right now.
We're in the hospital watching the emergency workers do their jobs quite (INAUDIBLE).
COSTELLO: I bet so. Sara Sidner, reporting live from Tel Aviv, Israel, this morning.
Secretary -- the White House and Secretary Clinton are condemning that bus attack saying these attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous, but there seems to be no end in sight to this conflict.
With us now the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.
MICHAEL OREN, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good morning, Carol. Good to be with you.
COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. We appreciate it. There have been so many attacks on civilians. Is this one different?
OREN: No, it's all part of the same Hamas and terrorist plan to kill the maximum number of Israeli civilians. That's what this conflict is about. There was no fighting. All of a sudden Israeli civilians were hit by 600 rockets over the course of one month and Israel felt it had no choice but to defend itself.
And that's what's going on here. On one hand we're doing our best, taking super human efforts to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. It's difficult. We're fighting terrorists who are deeply embedded in the civilian population, using them as human shields.
If we hurt a Palestinian civilian we look at it as a failure. If they wound or kill an Israeli citizen, they celebrate. And right now supporters of Hamas are giving out candy to kids in the street, celebrating that bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
COSTELLO: So do all the people within the Gaza Strip react in that way?
OREN: I don't know. We don't have polls about opinion in Gaza. But Hamas is the de facto government in the Gaza Strip. And again we are trying to aim at Hamas, we're trying to get at the terrorists without hurting civilians.
It's not easy. Hamas not only has a military strategy of trying to kill Israeli civilians, they have a media strategy. So they want to put their terrorists behind their civilians so if their civilians get hurt they can make a big splash on the news about it.
So it's not just a military strategy, it's a media strategy. But we will take whatever means are necessary and legitimate to defend our citizens, Carol.
COSTELLO: The Iron Dome, Israel's missile defense system, it's working, it's working phenomenally. Of course Hamas is aware that many of its rockets, because of this Iron Dome, were not hitting their targets. So could we see more attacks on the streets by terrorists, well, you know, like in this bus attack?
OREN: That's true, Iron Dome is an amazing success story. The first anti-rocket device in history to actually work in warfare. And we've taken down about 90 percent of the terrorist rockets that would have hit in our cities. We don't shoot at the rockets that are going to hit outside the cities. We just let them fall.
And, yes, the terrorists will try anything to get at our civilians. We've seen it before. We've seen many, many bus bombings like this. We've all lost friends. I've lost a close family member in one of those bus bombings. They're very, very personal for us.
COSTELLO: Secretary Clinton, as you know, trying to bring the sides together. Do continued attacks on civilians like this complicate her efforts?
OREN: Well, they certainly don't help. The goal is to get the fighting to stop. And then beyond that to create a situation where the terrorists in Gaza cannot open fire on us every week and paralyze half the country when they will. And also the goal is to prevent Iran from smuggling advanced weaponry and rockets into Gaza that the terrorists then fire at our civilians.
COSTELLO: Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
OREN: Thank you for having me, Carol.
COSTELLO: More now on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to the Middle East today. For the second straight day, she met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier Mts. Clinton sat down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and right at this moment she is in Cairo, meeting with Egypt's president. Mohamed Morsi trying to broker a ceasefire. Clinton and Morsi are expected to talk publicly later this hour. Once that news conference begin, of course, we'll bring it to you live.
And as you heard, there were some celebrations on the ground in Gaza. After word of that bus explosion, no claim of responsibility yet but word is Hamas has blessed the attacks.
For more on that, we go to CNN's Ben Wedeman. Tell us about that, Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what we heard from a nearby mosque is an announcement saying that, quote- unquote, lions from the West Bank had carried out that attack in Tel Aviv. There was also the suggestion in that announcement from the mosque that Hamas was somehow responsible for that attack. However, Al Alqsa television which is affiliated with the Hamas movement said yes, they did bless that attack but it said it was a, quote-unquote, natural reaction to Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip.
So there has been no claim of responsibility by Hamas or by anybody else at this point regarding that attack.
Now there was some scattered celebratory gunfire in Gaza after news of the attack in Tel Aviv. But I am not aware of anybody handing out candy. It's important to stress that not everybody supports Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And there are many people who are unhappy with the situation, unhappy with Hamas' firing rockets into Israel. But very unhappy about Israel's response.
And it's important to keep in mind that this is a conflict that goes back many years. There's a lot to it. Much more to it than the events of the last eight days. So there's a feeling here that the attack is not going to help Gaza at all. There's a profound worry, and we've seen it played out on the streets, which are pretty empty at the moment, that Israel could respond drastically with, for instance, a ground invasion into Gaza in the wake of this attack in Tel Aviv -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Ben Wedeman, reporting live for us this morning.
People in Israel, of course, they're living in fear that a rocket could strike at any moment, hit its target while they're eating their breakfast or just walking their dogs.
In about 10 minutes, we'll talk to the woman who took this video and hear how she's trying to stay safe.
Also new details this morning out of Indianapolis, Indiana, as investigators try to figure out what caused a massive explosion that killed two people and destroyed more than 80 homes.
COSTELLO: Going on 12 minutes past the hour, time to check our top stories.
The temporary security chief in Benghazi has been assassinated. That's according to the Libyan State News agency which says unknown gunman killed and shot Colonel Farag al-Dersi outside his home. Al- Dersi died on its way to a medical center. An investigation, of course, underway.
Chaos erupts at a Newark, New Jersey, council meeting.
This is crazy. Dozens of people rushed the stage. They were angry when Mayor Cory Booker cast the deciding vote to fill a vacant council seat with one of his long-term allies. Police officer reportedly has to use pepper spray to calm the crowd down. At least one man was arrested on assault and other charges. Two people are being questioned by police following an explosion in Indianapolis earlier this month. The blast killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes. More than 20 other homes damaged. The case is now being investigated as a criminal homicide.
Terry Curry is the prosecutor for Marion County, Indiana, and of course that covers the city of Indianapolis. He joins us live now.
Good morning, sir. Thank you for being with us.
TERRY CURRY, MARION COUNTY, INDIANA PROSECUTOR: Good morning.
COSTELLO: First of all, I know that you brought in two people for questioning. What's their status?
CURRY: Well, as we said on Monday we've had interviews and execution of search warrants since day one. And there were additional interviews yesterday and additional search warrants served, otherwise the investigations are still going forward.
COSTELLO: So you're just questioning people that might be involved in the case but no suspects at this time?
CURRY: Not that we can speak to at this time. That's correct.
COSTELLO: Do you have a theory in exactly how this crime went down?
CURRY: Well, other than the fact that clearly, as we indicated on Monday, an accidental cause of the explosion has been ruled out and at this point we obviously believe it's an intentional act. Beyond that, we really can't speak to what we believe caused the explosion.
COSTELLO: Well, how do you something like that? I have read many different reports, like you just opened up a gas pipe either outside or inside the home and then maybe someone ignites it using some sort of device outside the home. Is that what you think?
CURRY: Well, at this point, I can't be specific about what we think caused the explosion. Clearly our investigators are narrowing the cause but it would be inappropriate to talk about that publicly at this time.
COSTELLO: So do you think that there's this one house was targeted and the other homes were accidental collateral damage, if you will?
CURRY: What we can say is you're exactly right. Clearly the explosion was centered in the one residents and all the additional homes were damaged in the explosion.
COSTELLO: So the people who died, lived in the house next door. The house that was targeted was empty at the time. Any theories as to a motive?
CURRY: We certainly have theories at this point in time. But again, we can't speak to that publicly.
COSTELLO: Why might someone do this?
CURRY: I'm not going to speculate at this time as to why someone would do that. Clearly there's any number of reasons. And as part of the investigation, we don't want to disclose too much detail because as individuals come forward, we want to know that we're hearing based upon their personal knowledge not what they heard in the press.
COSTELLO: Well, the family that owns the house, they weren't home at the time. Are they suspects?
CURRY: I can't speak to who might be a suspect at this time.
COSTELLO: But you're still questioning them?
CURRY: Interviews have been conducted by a number of people, including the individuals that were residing in that home. That's correct.
COSTELLO: Have you ever dealt with a case like this before?
CURRY: Not of this magnitude, in the sense that obviously we have a much more significant crime scene that needs to be processed and that is still an ongoing process. It's a painstaking process. And we're clearly not going to do anything too hasty.
COSTELLO: Yes, I was just going to say, it must be challenging just to find the evidence. How did you figure out that it wasn't accidental in the first place?
CURRY: Well, the combination of our arson investigators, representatives of Citizens Gas and federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators, we're all knowledgeable in this area, went through normal processes, and ruled out any accidental cause for this explosion.
COSTELLO: Well, Terry Curry, the prosecutor for Marion County, Indiana -- thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
CURRY: Thank you.
COSTELLO: Back to Israel -- you're not safe even when you walk your dog. A rocket could strike at any time. We talk to a woman who finds herself dodging for cover on a daily basis.
COSTELLO: A frightening moment for Adele Raemer. She was walking her dog in Israel and heard the red alert warning that a rocket was headed for her neighborhood. Raemer she shot this video as she took cover.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
COSTELLO: You can hear those explosions in the distance, right? Raemer is a teacher in Israel. She lives about a mile from the Gaza border. And even though classes are canceled and the children have been evacuated, she has chosen to stay home to take care of her dogs.
She joins us now via Skype from Nirim, Israel.
ADELE RAEMER, CNN IREPORTER: Good morning.
COSTELLO: I guess it's afternoon there. So good afternoon.
Before we get to your personal story, I'm sure you've heard by now about the bus attack in Tel Aviv. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.
RAEMER: Not very surprised. It was -- you know, they were threatening that that was going to happen. They were promising that that was going to happen. And it finally did. I actually know exactly where it happened also because it's right on the corner of where I did my medical training.
COSTELLO: Do you fear that those kinds of attacks are going to happen in your neighborhood, too?
RAEMER: Like buses blowing up?
COSTELLO: Or something like that.
RAEMER: No, no, no. No, that wouldn't happen here. We just get the rockets and mortars. That's enough. Thank you.
COSTELLO: I think that's probably true. Tell us about how you stay safe.
RAEMER: How I stay safe. I have a safe room. And any time there's an alarm, I run to the safe room. It is within my house.
We have only about 10 seconds to get there. So at this period of time, I'm actually sleeping there. It's not my bedroom. It's my guest room. But I'm sleeping there for now.
And, I mean, as you can se from the video, the footage that I shot, that was just -- I just had the camera running when I was walking the dogs and I had this feeling -- I don't know, this instinct that caused me to walk right next to a building so that I knew if something was going to fall I would be able to take cover.
What you don't see in the footage is how I ran up to the building and I tried to open the door. But that's a children's house and there were no children here now so it was locked. And I couldn't get in.
So it's pretty scary. It's scary walking around. I was giving an interview to a report in Cyprus this afternoon -- this morning. As I was walking, there was that alarm. And during the interview, as I was doing the interview, I was running to scrunch up next to the wall.
COSTELLO: So some people might think, why are you staying there? Why haven't you evacuated? RAEMER: This is my home. I live here.
COSTELLO: We want you to stay safe, though. I mean, you have to carry your cell phone at all times. Tell us why.
RAEMER: Well, the cell phone is a tool. And through the cell phone, we get announcements about either -- that we have 15 seconds, that we should be 15 seconds from within a safe room or, as we got a few hours ago, that -- stop everything. Go into your safe rooms immediately.
So I would be doing this in my safe room where I don't really have very good Internet connection. Half an hour ago, they released us. You know, our phones are our lifelines now.
And you're not the only one who has chosen to stay, because other people feel as you do. This is my home. Why should I be driven out?
You had a great story about being in a yoga class. Did the air raid sirens go off?
RAEMER: No. We got a text message on the phone. Usually when I do yoga, my phone is off to the side and, you know, turned off. But this day, I happened to be waiting for my son, who was in the army. And I thought I might have to go get him.
So, it was like on the mat next to me. All of a sudden I saw a message that everybody in the area is supposed to be going to their safe rooms. And so I brought it over to my teacher, my yoga teacher, and showed it to her.
She responsibly announced to everybody, OK, this is the message we're getting. I'm staying and continuing the class. Anybody that wants to can go to the safe room. And we finished our yoga.
COSTELLO: I know when you added -- somebody pre-interviewed you and told me you added if something fell on top of us, at least we would be in a peaceful state. It's like -- you have such a good attitude about this. This must have been going on for days and days.
RAEMER: Well, this was before the war started. Since the war started, there's no yoga, there's no gym, there's no school, there's no -- there's nothing going on. Everything is closed.
Our little store on the kibbutz is closed. The dining room -- it's a communal settlement -- the dining room is closed. So, this was before the war actually started. That happened in regular times.
This is how we live. This, for the past 10 years, this is how we live, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never really appreciated that saying so much as when -- until I was in this situation, you know, until we had this situation. That's what it's like here.
COSTELLO: Well, Adele, we admire your courage. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us this morning. We appreciate it.
RAEMER: Thank you for taking the time and telling the story, letting me tell the story.
COSTELLO: Any time. Adele, thank you.
RAEMER: If anybody wants to read about it I have a Facebook group we opened in the area where we describe what it's like, living in the shadow of the rockets.
COSTELLO: OK, great. We will search your name on Facebook and find it. And thank you so much, Adele Raemer, for talking with us this morning.
The Obama administration expresses strong support for Israel in the latest round of violence in the Middle East. What exactly is behind our strong relationship with Israel? We're going to talk about that next.
COSTELLO: Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. It's just about 30 minutes past the hour.
Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM. We are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street.