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Bomb Kills Cease-Fire Hopes; Clinton & Morsi Meet on Israel- Gaza; Airstrike Damages CARE Offices

Aired November 21, 2012 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are taking you around the world in 60 minutes.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michael Homes, sitting in as well. Welcoming our viewers around the globe for more of our special coverage of the crisis in Gaza.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you. Glad you could join us, Michael.

HOLMES: Glad to be here.

MALVEAUX: Here's what's going on right now.

At least 11 more Palestinians killed today across Gaza. That is according to the official Hamas TV channel. It's unclear if anyone died in the apparent Israeli air strike that you see in Gaza City, but the casualty count now stands at 142 Palestinians dead, 1,180 wounded.

HOLMES: The number of dead and wounded also rising in Israel. Hospital officials now say 24 people were wounded in this morning's bus bombing in Tel Aviv. No one was killed, though. But since the conflict with Hamas began, five Israelis have been killed. More than 70 wounded.

The explosion in Tel Aviv greatly diminished any chances of a cease- fire actually taking hold. Witnesses say they saw a man throw a bag into the bus, then run away and it blew up. Official from both sides at this time yesterday, they actually believe that a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was close. But diplomats today, they are furiously trying to get peace talks back on track, but there is still a lot of shock, there is anger on the streets of Tel Aviv. Want to go there live to talk to our Sara Sidner.

Sara, give us the very latest of this bomb -- this bus bomb that went off. And what is the reaction, the response to people there about the possibility of this violence ending?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, if you talk to people on the streets who have actually come up to us as we were in the hospital coming out on to the streets right outside the hospital where at least 22 people have been treated after this bomb blast, some of those people on the bus, some of those people outside of the bus, saying that they just can't take it anymore. They're sick and tired of these sorts of attacks on the population.

Now, we do know from the ER doctor, who we spoke to today, that there were 22 patients, people affected by this. Everything from panic attacks to the most severe injuries, which were on a couple of teenagers. One of whom may lose an arm because the blast was so severe and took so much of the soft tissue of one of the arms that they are trying to save, that teenager's arm right now. The other with a lot of shrapnel wounds to the face. They're trying to pick that out shrapnel. But the doctors saying that both could be dealing with debilitating injuries that will affect them in their lives.

We also know that the police have been looking for a suspect throughout the day. This happened around noon. We saw the bus ourselves. The windows were blown out, but it did not completely destroy the bus. In fact, the bus was driven away from the scene instead of towed away from the scene. But a lot of injuries, a lot of people very scared, seeing this happen. It hasn't happened here in such a long time, Suzanne, and a lot of people worried that this is the beginning of something worse. Though we have found out now that they have lowered the alert level. The alert level was just next to the highest level that there is. And so police still looking around saying that they're still looking for suspects, but a lowering of the alert level says something.


MALVEAUX: Sarah, is it any clearer right now who' actually responsible for this bombing here? There's been a lot of talk about at least Hamas tweeting out that they thought it a blessing and perhaps revenge for the killing of a Palestinian family. Do we know who's responsible?

SIDNER: No. The police say that there has been no claim of responsibility. There have been different militant groups who have said -- praised the attack, but no one coming forward for sure and officially saying, yes, we take responsibility for this bombing.

But, you know, look, the patients are still here. Some of them in the hospital. A few being treated for just stress and others really having some serious surgeries. And in the streets, these people just are sick of it. They just don't want to be going through this again. They want an end to all of this.

MALVEAUX: And, Sara, the reaction here. I mean clearly people were optimistic. They thought they were on some sort of verge of at least a cease-fire, a calming down, if you will. This happens, you know, within that 12 hour period or so. Are people more emboldened now? Do they feel like, OK, we don't want this cease-fire? We want to just like finish off the other side, or they feel more motivated to say, look, everybody just stop, just halt, you know, we're going to try to live peacefully together?

SIDNER: Well, I don't -- I don't, you know, stand to speak here for 7 million people that live in this country, but it's a differing opinion depending on who you talk to. Those that were in the attack, one of the people that came, a volunteer that helped rescue some of the people, said that, yes, finish this off. We want there to be an escalation, not a de-escalation. While others are saying, we don't want any more conflict. We just want to figure out a way for this to end permanently. All this talk of cease-fire, they want a permanent solution to all this so that neither population, a population here in Israel and the population in Gaza, has to deal with this anymore. So you really have two strong opinions depending on who you ask about what to do next and what they really want to see happen from the government here in Israel.

MALVEAUX: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you very much.

Michael, what do you make of that? I mean people are out there. I mean, they thought they were so close -- you and I were talking about this -- just at this time yesterday that they were on the verge and we were hours away from a cease-fire. And now you don't even have a moment. You don't even have a moment where the violence doesn't end.

HOLMES: Well, in fact -- and, in fact, it's not --


HOLMES: In some ways it's not surprising. You know, when you do have a cease-fire coming, militarily it's almost a normal tactic to get in as much as you can before that cease-fire hits. And we saw it was 120, I think, since last night, missile and rocket attacks in Gaza by the Israelis since, you know, there was this talk. Since you and I were talking yesterday, I think it's nearly 200. And at the same coming out of Gaza too, multiple, dozens of rockets coming out of Gaza too, and then this bombing today.

And it's going to be interesting to see who actually carried this out. It will come out in the fullness of time. But it doesn't seem that it was Hamas by the sound of the wording of their tweet. It was probably more likely somebody from a group in the West Bank.

MALVEAUX: You and I were also talking too that, you know, Israel had stopped its ground invasion, but if you see more of these kinds of explosions, more of these bus attacks or even more casualties from these kinds of attacks --

HOLMES: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: That that ground invasion is probably very likely to happen.

HOLMES: Yes, what we saw in Tel Aviv was not what you would call a game changer in terms of where things stand now, because nobody died. I think there's only one or two serious injuries. The rest were fairly moderate. If you saw a mass casualty situation or more of these sorts of attacks, then you're talking game changer. And I doubt the parties in these peace talks or truce talks want to see that either. And that sort of brings us to our next point here. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, shuttling back and forth across the region. A furious effort, really, to try to help find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, be one of the players at least in the talks.

Right now she's in Cairo. She's been meeting with the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, who has, of course, emerged as a key player in the effort to try to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas. But, Mr. Morsi walking a very tight political and social, for that matter, tight rope. Reza Sayah joining us from Cairo. And, Reza, Morsi, as we said, playing a pivotal role, as Egypt has in the past, in talks like these, but in a real tight spot. Balancing the expectations of his street, the people who elected him and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the U.S. and the international community and all that is bound into that.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, Michael, in many ways, as we speak today, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is viewed as maybe the most important voice for the Palestinians on the world stage. And to understand the type of pressure he's under, it's so important to understand how Arabs, how Egyptians view this conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis because it is very different from the western view. Egyptians, Arabs look at the latest round of fighting and they see more than 130 Palestinians killed compared to five Israelis killed. They see the Israeli military, one of the most powerful forces in the world, backed by a super power in the U.S., taking on Palestinian fighters who are smuggling their weapons in, and they see Israel as an illegal occupying force for more than 40 years.

That's the Arab view. They see this as an unjust, as a lopsided conflict, and they want President Morsi to do something about it. At the same time, Mr. Morsi has made it clear that he doesn't want to disrupt his alliances with Washington and western powers. He relies on these governments for political credibility, for economic recovery. Pressure from all sides, Michael. That's why it's a challenging time for this new government.

HOLMES: He certainly needs the substantial money that he gets from the Europeans, as you said, and the Americans.

Now, Secretary Clinton meeting earlier with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Somebody who a lot of people think is almost irrelevant in these discussions. Also the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But it really stands out in her various talks who she has not talked to, and that is one of the actual combatants, Hamas. How does that play into all of this?

SAYAH: Well, you can take this to the bank, Michael. Washington is not going to interact with Hamas. Washington views Hamas as a terrorist group. Any attempt at interacting with Hamas will infuriate Israel and it will undermine that critical relationship for Washington.

And that's where Egypt can play a key role. Of course, Egypt has strong ties with Hamas. Hamas was born out of the Muslim Brotherhood. And many say that's why if these two governments can band together, Cairo and Washington, they can both play the role of peace makers. So far it hasn't happened, but certainly diplomatic efforts continuing at this hour, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, many people thinking that the Obama administration, in the first term at least, kept this whole issue at arm's length, but certainly getting involved now.

Reza Sayah in Cairo, thanks for covering this. We'll get back with you if there's developments.

MALVEAUX: They make it their job to get food to the people of Gaza, but this humanitarian group offices, it was just hit. We're going to tell you what it means for the people struggling to survive in the middle of this crisis.


MALVEAUX: People on both sides, they're paying a high price for this conflict between Hamas and Israel. Lives are being lost. Homes are being destroyed. Families are being forced to move to safety. Many times aid agencies, they are their only source of help.

But even groups like CARE have been affected by the battle. I want you to take a look at this. Their international offices in Gaza were seriously damaged in an Israeli air strike on a nearby police station. Now, the office was empty at the time, and Ana Uzelac, she is CARE's policy and advocacy manager for the West Bank in Gaza. She joins us via Skype from east Jerusalem.

And, Ana, first of all, explain to us, tell us how people in your organization are managing during this very difficult time.


Well, at this moment, actually from the beginning, from the very beginning of the latest escalation, our staff has been hibernated, which means that they're at home and that they are not leaving -- our security advice is not to leave their office -- not to leave their homes and not to work from the offices because of the risks involved in traveling through Gaza Strip at this moment.

MALVEAUX: So the -- so the people who need your help, the people who need the food, who need the aid from your organization, what are they doing?

UZELAC: Regrettably, I believe that most of the -- of the citizens of the Gaza Strip are doing exactly the same, saying put in their houses. I think that you don't have a very good, statistical (ph) overview, but it is our sense that quite a lot of civilian casualties have happened basically as people were moving, as people go out to the street and get -- they could be caught in an air strike. So I think there's quite a lot of Gazans that are actually staying home huddled with their families, much like our staff members. They're no different from other citizens.

MALVEAUX: Ana, describe for us what you actually do, what your group does. Because we know the last war between Israel and Hamas, there were more than 1,000 Palestinians who were killed and a lot of people worry that this could be a humanitarian crisis on both sides.

UZELAC: Before the outbreak, the latest escalation of violence in Gaza, we had been working on distributing very fresh food products to about -- just over 70,000 people. And the most venerable, the poorest of the poor in Gaza, people who are most effected, both by the conflict and by the ongoing blockade. We have also been providing (INAUDIBLE) social support to children traumatized by the ongoing conflict. And we have also been providing, through a project whose offices have been damaged in this latest -- in the incident that you have mentioned, we have been providing up-to-date security information through other colleagues, international and national NGOs.

MALVEAUX: And, Ana, I just -- I want to point out because we've been seeing pictures of children and our viewers are watching these pictures of these children. You're there. Describe for us. What are these kids going through? What are they feeling? What are they telling you when they realize that there are rockets and bombs that are going off around them?

UZELAC: We have had conflicts with our staff in Gaza and they have all quite large families, and we've been hearing some really moving testimonies about children, basically suffering continuing fear and continuing stresses from -- to begin with quite disturbing, some of the facts, I should say.

And ending with being unable to move out of their houses for days and days in a row and suffering from a constant feeling of insecurity.

The Gaza Strip does not have as good air raid sirens as, for instance, that would announce strikes, so quite often these strikes come somewhat unexpected and that adds to the trauma.

But, as I said, quite -- Gazans are quite family-oriented and I believe that most of them are now with their extended families and the children are trying to provide comfort to each other.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ana Uzelac, please be safe. Be careful. We certainly wish the best for those children and for all of those families caught up in this crisis.

HOLMES: Well, imagine this. Imagine leaflets falling from the sky, thousands of them, warning you that your neighborhood is about to be attacked and you live in one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Well, that's the reality for people living in Gaza, thousands and thousands of them. We're going to take a look at the refugee crisis that's now erupting out of this conflict when we come back.


HOLMES: Yeah, we are getting some news that we are expecting an announcement from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the Egyptian president, Morsi, within the next half hour. We're just hearing this now.

And separately to that, Palestinian sources are telling CNN we can expect an announcement about a cease-fire. Now, that is the wording that is being put to us.

A cease-fire, of course, the devil is in the details. It doesn't necessarily mean "truce." It doesn't necessarily mean "agreement." It means a cessation of fire. We'll get more information, hopefully, in the minutes ahead.

Meanwhile, of course, 24 hours ago, all the signs were pointing to a possible cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Hamas was even using the word truce, but since then, we had that bomb, of course, exploding on a bus in Tel Aviv, and Israel pounding more buildings, bridges, tunnels, key roads, as well, in Gaza.

Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joining me now, live from Gaza. He has more on the latest violence, as well as a look at the road ahead for Hamas.

Let's start with the latest violence, the night that was, more than 100 air strikes there in Gaza, and tell us how it was.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a fairly noisy night, Michael. We did see some very large air strikes around here.

There was also an air strike very close to where a lot of the -- rather, the hotels are where a lot of the journalists are staying.

The death toll so far today against -- among Palestinians is almost 20 at this point, so it's quite a contrast from the optimism that was beginning to bubble up here in Gaza yesterday evening, that we were on the verge of a cease-fire compared to what came in the hours afterwards.

Now, we are hearing -- everybody is hearing these rumors, these reports, these claims that a cease-fire is going to be announced. It's not clear if it's going to be the two sides or one side, unilaterally, Israel, for instance, simply ceasing its military activities and waiting for Hamas to respond in kind.

But, obviously, it's a very delicate set of negotiations. Secretary Clinton has been in Ramallah and Jerusalem, as well as in Cairo now, so we are expecting some sort of announcement to come out of Cairo this evening, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it at this point.


HOLMES: Ben, few people know the place as well as you. I want you to give us some context here in terms of the level of damage done in Gaza to infrastructure, but also in terms of the leadership of Hamas.

In terms of infrastructure, it's going to be very difficult to just govern in a civilian sense once this does all end. And, in terms of the leadership, those who have now been taken out will have to be replaced.

WEDEMAN: Yeah, in terms of the physical infrastructure, the damage has been fairly dramatic. Not as dramatic, I must underscore, compared with what we saw last year when the fighting was over here in Gaza. The place really was just sort of a lot of smoking ruins when it was all over. As far as sort of the leadership of Hamas goes, certainly, you've seen, for instance, the man whose death began this whole round of fighting, Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of the military wing of the Hamas movement, killed.

We've seen several of his deputies, as well, and one of the concerns after a war like this or a fight like this is that there's going to be a security vacuum and it's important to keep in mind there are other groups here in Gaza.

There is Islamic Jihad. There are Salafis. There are jihadis who are not necessarily favorably disposed to Hamas. And I was speaking yesterday with a Gazan who really knows this place well, knows the factions and the groups, and he said, keep your eye out for what happens.

Hamas, in a sense, has fallen into a power vacuum. They don't have the sort of grip on the place compared to before the fighting began, and Hamas actually -- I must stress that Hamas, for instance, was able to function prior to its takeover in Gaza in June 2007 through its own channels, which still exist. They're still out there. And they were very good at re-establishing their authority after the last round of fighting.

But they've taken quite a hit this time and it may be a challenge to prove that they run this place ...

HOLMES: Ben ...

WEDEMAN: ... when the fighting stops.

HOLMES: Ben, I've got to interrupt you. Thanks so much.

There is a news conference about to get under way. We see there Hillary Clinton about to speak. Let's listen in.


MOHAMED KAMEL AMR, FOREIGN MINISTER, EGYPT (via translator): ... sponsorship, Mr. President, Mohamed Morsi, the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt and on the ground of the historic responsibility for the Palestinian cause and in the interest in keeping with the peace and security in the region, Egypt have made intensive efforts and made intensive contacts since the beginning of the crisis in Gaza with the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian factions and with the Israeli side and with the international community, headed by the United States of America.

And these efforts have resulted in reaching an understanding to hold fire and bringing back the calm and end the bloodshed that had been witnessed in the last few days.

And the cease-fire will start at 9:00 p.m., Cairo time today, Wednesday, November 21st, 2012.

And Egypt assures that its responsibility towards the Palestinian cause and for finding a just solution for it, and, therefore, Egypt will continue its effort to reach this noble goal through continuation to bring in the Palestinian unity and end the division of the Palestinian factions and the unification for the Palestinian people in the interest of its principles.

And Egypt thanks the Arab League and its efforts and thanks the efforts of Turkey and Qatar and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

And Egypt calls on everybody to implement what has reached in Egypt and to agree on all efforts that has been agreed upon and the statement will be distributed to everybody. The agreement will be distributed to the press.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) The cease-fire is set to start at 9:00 p.m., Cairo time, today, Wednesday, 21st of November, 2012 (INAUDIBLE) the Palestinian cause (INAUDIBLE) to achieve a comprehensive and just resolution.

The government of Egypt will continue its efforts to achieve this noble objective (INAUDIBLE) Palestinian factions and assistance in achieving (INAUDIBLE) on the basis of Palestinian values and interests.