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CONNECT THE WORLD
Connect the World Special: Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; Interview with Palestinian Parliamentary Member Mustafa Barghouti; Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres
Aired July 9, 2014 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Israeli President Shimon Peres told me just moments ago that a ground offensive on Gaza may happen quite soon. Quote,
"it's the threat of a war neither side says it wants."
I'm Becky Anderson. And this is Connect the World tonight from Jerusalem. We had planned to be in Cairo all this week, but right now the
world's attention is on Egypt's neighbors, so we have relocated to the epicenter of what is this standoff. I'll have my exclusive interview with
the Israeli President Peres as his country prepares its forces for an incursion into Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIMON PERES, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: If there is hope, for example, tonight I (inaudible) entrance. But if they continue, sooner or later the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: And I'll also speak with Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti to get his sense of what it will take to break this cycle of
All right, let's get you an update on exactly what is happening this hour. Explosions and heavy plums of smoke can be seen rising across Gaza.
Israel defense forces say more than 250 rockets have been fired into Israel in recent days, more than 160 sites in Gaza were targeted today. There
were 150 Israeli air strikes on Tuesday.
Well, Palestinian sources say at least 43 people have been killed.
We've got reporters on the ground in both Israel and in Gaza for you tonight. Diana Magnay is in Ashkelon just north of the Gaza border. And
Ben Wedeman is at Beit Hanoun inside Gaza.
And I want to start with you, Ben. What's the situation on the ground?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, Becky, it's relatively quiet. I can hear drones overhead. The morning,
however, there were some heavy airstrikes on the northern part of the Gaza Strip in the Beit Lehiya (ph), Beit Hanoun area. We saw rockets being
fired out and minutes later Israeli airplanes striking back.
Now we have an update, according to our information, which we get from Palestinian medical sources, the death toll since the beginning of this
conflict is now 46. Today, 17 have been killed, and disturbingly seven of those 17 are children, and more than 20 wounded.
Now as far as sort of the non-military situation in Gaza goes, what we're seeing is a lot fewer people and cars in the street. It really seems
to be sinking in that this is going to go on for awhile. And with the possibility of a ground invasion, many people are sort of staying hunkered
down at home, going out as little as possible, others are sort of storing up -- we were in a supermarket where I saw people really filling their
baskets with food in anticipation that there could be trouble.
Now another problem, of course, is that all the banks have been ordered closed by Hamas, money changers as well. So if people don't have
money, they're going to have a hard time getting by in the coming day -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Ben, I've just spoken to the Israeli President Shimon Peres who wouldn't rule out an imminent ground force attack on Gaza at this
point, although he couldn't tell me when that might start. Just how concerned are people that you are talking to on the ground there that this
could really ratchet up at this stage.
WEDEMAN: Well, people are very concerned, because they are well aware, for instance, that there doesn't seem to be any body trying to
mediate some sort of cease-fire. Back in November 2012, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy interceded. He had good relations with Hamas. And he was
able to, with the Americans talking to the Israelis, to work out a cease- fire. This time around, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the president of Egypt and he is a sworn enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of course Hamas is the
Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, so he's probably not working too hard to stop this current war from going on.
And people here remember, 2009 -- 2008, 2009 Gaza war. Israel did make a ground incursion into Gaza, and the destruction, especially in the
northern part where I was today was massive. People still remember that that entire area was torn up by artillery fire, tank fire, air strikes, and
they don't want to see this happen again -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman for you this evening. Ben, for the time being, thank you for that.
Let's get to Diana Magnay. Di, just describe where you are and what you are seeing and hearing?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm in the town of Ashkelon just by the sea. It's a coastal town north of Gaza at the
northernmost tip of the Gaza strip.
Yesterday it was extremely quiet and there were numerous sirens going off. Today, the stream of rocket fire out of Gaza has subsided a bit,
though the streets are not particularly busy.
We were down in the town of Starods (ph) a little earlier. A mother was telling us, you know, there's nowhere to take my child. There are no
kindergartens, there are no children playing in the playgrounds and we are all very scared. And these are people who are used to living this close to
Gaza, who are used to the sort of stream of rockets or numerous rockets coming out.
But when the sirens go, they say, you know, we're still scared. It doesn't make any difference that you're used to it.
One thing, though, is that despite this huge barrage of rockets that over the last few days have been coming from Gaza, over 200, the Iron Dome
missile defense shield does seem to have worked pretty well at intercepting those that were heading towards densely populated areas.
Hamas and other militant groups within Gaza seem to have been deploying much longer range missiles, including Israeli defense forces say
the M-302, which they believe was shipped to Hamas by Iran.
ANDERSON: All right, Di, I'm going to interrupt you at this point. Diana, I'm going to interrupt you just at the point, because Khaled
Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas is now speaking. And I do want our viewers to get a sense of what he is saying at this point. Let's listen
(KHALED MESHAAL SPEECH)
ANDERSON: That is the Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal speaking live on al Aqsa TV.
I want to get you back to Ben Wedeman for some analysis. And Ben, Meshaal laying out the criteria that Hamas believes would lead to a cease-
fire on the Israeli side, echoing what was said effectively by Hamas last night.
But I think the top line from this -- and we've been listening to him now for about six or seven minutes, is that Meshaal and Hamas continue to
deny any involvement in the abduction and murder, those tragic abduction and murders of three Israeli teenagers, which of course subsequently we
believe led to -- or at least allegations suggests that that led to the burning of a Palestinian teenager. That the spark that has really ignited
this latest ratcheting up of this civil war, and eluding to the fact that Israel using those murders as an excuse to go after Hamas as a whole, a
cover as it were, to try and stamp that organization out entirely.
This is not new. We've heard this from Hamas before. but your analysis at this point.
WEDEMAN: Certainly he is restating what we've heard before from Hamas, that he denying any involvement of Hamas in the kidnapping on June
12 of those three Israeli teenagers and their subsequent murder. We're heard that before.
Now, Hamas yesterday actually put out a list of conditions for a cessation of fighting. They called for an end of what they call the
Israeli aggression of Gaza. They want all those Hamas leaders who were arrested during the military sweep following the kidnapping in the West
Bank, they want them released. Many of them were released in November 2011 when Israel and Hamas worked out the deal -- a prisoner swap between where
Gilad Shalit, that Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in Gaza in 2006 was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, of course
many of them rearrested during that sweep. But at this point, it's hard to say whether this reiteration of Hamas's demands is going to lead to any cessation of the hostilities.
Israel says that as the president Shimon Peres told you that if it's quiet tonight, we will respond with quiet. But at the moment there isn't any
sign of quiet. And let's not forget it's not just Hamas that's firing rockets into Israel, it's Islamic Jihad. And there are more radical groups
that want to sort of make their mark on the ground. And there's no guarantee that even if a cease-fire is worked out that everyone is going to
go along with it -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah. Ben, let me bring Diana in at this point, because Diana, lest we forget this ongoing and continuing Israeli-Palestinian
crisis really providing the fuel, and some would say, the excuse for Islamist militants to continue their insurgency, not just here in the Holy
Land, but outside not least ISIS, for example, in Syria and in Iraq.
So I think it's important to contextualize this for our viewers who may not understand perhaps the sort of minutiae, or machinations of what is
going on minute by minute on the ground here, although that is clearly, clearly important. But just the wider picture here, why this is so
MAGNAY: Well, that is very true. I mean, fundamentally this conflict predates the international sweep towards sort of global jihadist movement.
And it is from terror cells in Gaza and terror cells operating against Israel that many of these jihadist movements found their origins.
And conversely now you will find -- and Ben will probably be able to comment on this better than I from his perspective at the moment, but cells
that reflect ISIS's ideology in Gaza at the moment, even if they are only extremely small.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots so long ago now, and there have been so many attempts to bring peace to this area, which have
fallen by the wayside, not least John Kerry's earlier this year, which effectively ended in a unity pact between Hamas and Fatah, the Palestinian
Authority, which is something that Israel is railing against. And it just feels as though this is a never ending conflict that, you know, that just
breeds conflict elsewhere also.
ANDERSON: Diana, stand by. I want to take a very short break at this point. Viewers, our special coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict does
continue, though, in just a moment. Up next, we're going to speak to lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti to get the Palestinian view on this violence as
we speak, of course clearly the Hamas political leader continues to speak on al Aqsa TV. And we will monitor that for you.
We'll also hear from the Israeli President Shimon Peres who tells me - - and this was an interview I conducted just before the show started -- that a ground attack on Gaza could be just a short time away. That is all
coming up after this short break. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Well, the conflict here in the Middle East has been intense all day. The Israeli President Shimon Peres tells me that if the rockets
from Gaza continue, a ground offensive in Gaza will happen sooner or later.
Let me just caveat this for you. I must make it clear that the Israeli president here in Israel does not talk for the executive office.
That is clearly the prime minister. The system here is such that this will be his opinion.
But this is a man who has been in Israeli politics for nigh on 70 years. His opinions count. And what he says is important.
Now this comes after Israel's defense forces say they targeted 160 sites in air strikes on Gaza. So far, the IDF says militants have fired
more than 250 rockets since the violence began on Israel. According to Palestinian officials, Israeli air strikes have killed, in turn, at least
43 people in Gaza and wounded more than 300.
Well we're going to hear from Shimon Peres in a moment. First, let's get reaction from the Palestinian perspective for you.
Mustafa Barghouti, the found of the Palestinian National Initiative and member of the Palestinian parliament joining me now from Ramallah in
the West Bank.
And sir you are joining me coming out of a meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. What was said and what was decided?
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, first of all we are all appalled by the suffering of the civilian population and
especially the Palestinian civilian population so far. Our hearts are broken and bleeding for the fact that five families have been completely
eliminated by Israeli air strikes, we are talking about families seven or eight members of each family were killed. You're talking about the father,
the mother, the children, the brothers, the sisters. And it has happened already five times.
The total death toll since Israel started its attacks is 63 people, and 450 have been injured, and 57 houses have been destroyed.
It's true that there were 250 Palestinian rockets shot, but fortunately for us and unfortunately for the prime minister of Israel Mr.
Netanyahu, not a single Israeli was killed. While on the Palestinian side so many Palestinians are killed.
Today, we discussed what kind of response we should have. And of course there were different proposition. And I can tell you that first of
all there is immediate action to activate Geneva conventions, which will hold Israel accountable for the war crimes that are conducted today in
We -- there is a very serious consideration now to go to the International Criminal Court. We have demanded that from the president.
And many of the political forces are demanding that. And there is a committee that is discussing this matter. And we also spoke about the
importance of continuing the unity.
We will not allow Netanyahu to impose on us a division. We will not allow Mr. Netanyahu to divide Palestinians as he wants.
And most important, efforts are being made in the security council and everywhere else to immediately have a cease-fire. What we want is cease-
fire. And you heard Mr. Meshaal, the head of Hamas, he also wants to have a cease-fire immediately, as soon as possible.
It was very important what he said today because he denied categorically any Hamas responsibility for the death of the three settlers
ANDERSON: That is correct, Mr. Barghouti. Can I stop you for one moment...
BARGHOUTI: ...any provide proof that any Palestinian was responsible -- please.
ANDERSON: Yes. And we have just reported that. And we spent some time talking to Ben Wedeman about that very fact that Hamas once against
denied any responsibility for the abduction and murder of those three teenagers last month.
But clearly that providing a spark, whether a spark for -- a cover for Israel or not, as the allegations suggest for this sort of outright attacks
on Gaza remains to be seen.
He also once again laid out conditions for a cease-fire. Those were repeating what he said last night, nothing necessarily new in that. But
it's been interesting to hear from you what you have decided in your meeting.
Let me just reiterate if I can, immediate action to activate a response from -- using the Geneva conventions to hold Israel responsible,
you say, for war crimes, considering going to the ICC, and you say you must stay unified as a Palestinian people and that the security council is
working hard to try and find a solution for this.
ANDERSON: Is the security council, to your mind, working hard enough? I'm wondering how you feel about the response from the international
BARGHOUTI: No, no. I don't think it's...
ANDERSON: As you rightly pointed out, there is death and destruction.
BARGHOUTI: No, I don't think the security council is working fast enough or hard enough. And I think the United States, in particular, holds
a very serious responsibility here. By the way, there were meetings with representatives of the United States. And since as you have described
Egypt is incapable of doing the same roll as before, I think it is the responsibility of the international community to stop the escalation,
especially, especially to stop what Mr. Peres has been talking about, which is a ground operation.
A ground operation would simply mean a massive, huge massacre against Palestinians. In the two previous invasions, Israel killed 2,000
Palestinians, including 500 children.
The most important thing for us now is to stop the bloodshed, to stop the escalation. And the world community -- we cannot stop Israel, we don't
have the military power to stop Israel. There is no equality between us and Israel. Israel has the fifth maybe largest army in the world. It has
a military mighty power. It has very big air force and its striking continuously. We cannot stop them with military means.
The only way to stop them is for countries like the United States and international community to immediately put pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to
restrain him, especially that he is the one who is responsible for killing the peace process and for killing Kerry's initiative. And this man and his
government, which includes racist settlers, should not be allowed to drive this place into agony, into suffering, whether for Palestinians or
ANDERSON: Sir, I'm going to stop you there for one moment, but I don't want you to go away. I want you to have a listen to the discussion
that I had with the Israeli President Shimon Peres, which was an exclusive interview just before I came to this show. Again, I want to reinforce that
the Israeli president here --
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Sure.
ANDERSON: -- doesn't speak for the executive office, of course, but his opinions count. We talked about this crisis. He, as I said, isn't
speaking on behalf of the government, but as a seasoned politician, he knows a thing or two about these crises and how they develop. I began by
pushing him on the impact of Israeli action in Gaza. Have a listen to this.
SHIMON PERES, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: -- against an army, against mothers and children in their neighborhood.
ANDERSON: As are Israelis, of course. With respect, Israeli strikes have killed 37 Palestinians since Monday, according to Palestinians. So
let me -- sorry. Let me push you once more on this, because this is important. Under what circumstances do you believe a ground offense is --
or do you know a ground offensive will begin?
PERES: If they won't stop, the army says that we are going, but I'm not going to tell you when and where. But that's the logical conclusion.
ANDERSON: The world should expect to see a ground offensive at any time from the Israelis? You've called up reservists.
PERES: We -- whatever we can do without armed forces, we shall do. So, we waited. We didn't start the war today. They started it already
several days ago, and they continue and they spread the fire on more areas in Israel.
ANDERSON: How long will Israel wait?
PERES: Until we shall reach -- or the moment we shall reach a conclusion that this should be the next stop. We shall not talk of dates.
Nobody will do it. It may happen quite soon.
ANDERSON: It could happen quite soon?
PERES: I can give you only a general estimate, a concrete I won't give you, and they won't expect it to do so. So, I wish that there was --
if there is hope, for example, tonight there won't be any ground entrance. But if they continue, sooner or later, this will be the response.
ANDERSON: There are those that say he doesn't negotiate, and I'm alluding here to Benjamin Netanyahu, that he just has four words, or four
positions: Iran, Iran, Iran, and I don't have a legitimate Palestinian to negotiate with. Do you understand there is concerns and criticisms?
PERES: About Iran, he agreed to negotiations that President Obama started. And he, like all of us, say whatever can be achieved without a
war, it's better. If we can reach -- or American can reach an understanding with Iran without a war, who wants a war? Nobody here is
crazy to go shooting.
Now, when it comes to the partner, I disagree with Mr. Netanyahu. I think that Abbas is a partner.
ANDERSON: As you retire from the political scene, albeit just from the presidential palace here, are you concerned that Israelis and
Palestinians will be forever stuck --
PERES: Oh, no.
ANDERSON: -- in a cycle of violence.
PERES: Oh, no. They're relevance-based. I don't imagine a Palestinian mother or Israeli mother that will forever pray that her
children will be at war all their life and no other future. It's nonsense, all of us live in pain.
And even though I started the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, halfway we went, I participated or even initiated
negotiations for the children, and we achieved it. And as so with Egypt, it occasionally takes a long time, occasionally takes a short time.
Because the conditions are different in every place.
ANDERSON: The latest ratcheting-up of violence here in the Holy Land has come as a result of the abduction and murder of three teenage Israeli
boys and the subsequent murder of a Palestinian. Some say, allegedly, in retribution for those teenagers who were killed. Clearly, a tragedy to the
Palestinian family and to the Israeli families. What is your message to those families?
PERES: My message is blood divides, tears unite. The very interesting accompanying spirit on that occasion is that Jewish mothers
that was their children called up Arab mothers that was their children, and vice versa, and there was a hidden empathy and understanding on both sides.
I don't think that anybody was really happy.
So, unfortunately, we have both blood and tears. I wish that the amount of blood will go down and the tears will be tears of happiness, not
tears of regret and sorrow.
ANDERSON: Shimon Peres speaking to me just moments before we came to air about 45 minutes or an hour ago. I've got Marwan (sic) Barghouti still
with me, who's been listening in to that interview, and let me sort of start from the back and go forward, as it were.
"Blood divides, tears unite," said the Israeli president. And clearly very touched by what has happened on both sides of this divide. He has
been in Israeli politics for now near nigh on 70 years and very much involved over the entire time in what has been this crisis between the
Israelis and Palestinians.
I was interested to hear that he didn't agree with the prime minister, here, Benjamin Netanyahu, who says he doesn't have a Palestinian to
negotiate with. I'm sure that you would agree with Abbas on that -- with Peres on that.
BARGHOUTI: Of course, but of course there are Palestinian partners, and that's for sure. But I wish he would have also disagreed with
Netanyahu about the description of why this war was initiated. Unfortunately, he repeated the same lies of Mr. Netanyahu and his
government about -- that Palestinians have initiated this conflict.
No. It was Israel that precipitated it with its airstrikes and assassinations, and then when Palestinians responded, they tried to claim
that Palestinians were responsible.
But more than that -- and that's a very important thing -- I wish he would have said that he would object to a land invasion of Gaza. He would
object to the death of thousands of Palestinian who could die if such military operation takes place. And we don't want tears among an Israeli
or Palestinian family.
But he has a moral and political responsibility to say no for more violence, because he probably should know what Gandhi said so many times,
that violence breeds violence. To stop this situation, it's very easy.
All it takes for President Obama or any other international person who is highly respected to come out and say, OK, within 24 hours, everybody
should stop. The airstrikes would stop, and the rockets would stop. And then we would have --
ANDERSON: Do you have any indication --
BARGHOUTI: -- cease-fire back again.
ANDERSON: Sorry, do you have -- yes.
BARGHOUTI: We had it for years.
ANDERSON: Do you have any indication from the international community, from the Security Council, but primarily from the US, that they
are prepared to say that within a very short period of time, so that the possibility of imminent strikes on Gaza through a ground invasion would
BARGHOUTI: I wish we would have. Up to now, we don't. And unfortunately, that's why I say the international community is not being
responsible enough in not interfering immediately.
And that's why I think they don't realize or understand that unless we stop this vicious cycle, and unless this war is stopped before it becomes
very bad, then we will have cycles of violence, and we will have so many families who will lose their children and their fathers and mothers and who
will look for revenge later.
This should be stopped as soon as possible. And let's all remember, this is something that Mr. Peres should have remembered. He cannot have
peace without ending occupation. He cannot have peace and we cannot have peace unless this system of apartheid ends. And maybe eventually peace
But the price will be very high if the idea of two-state solution will be lost, and we will have to struggle for decades to come to end the system
of apartheid and the segregation and discrimination against the Palestinian people as it's happening today.
ANDERSON: From Ramallah in the West Bank, Marwan (sic) Barghouti here on CNN for you. Thank you, sir, for joining me.
I'm going to move away from here just for the moment. A gruesome discovery in a mostly Shiite town in Iraq. Iraqi security officials say
more than 50 unidentified bodies were found in Alexandria south of Baghdad, two children were among the dead.
It's unclear how the victims were killed or who is responsible, but this comes as the Sunni militant group ISIS continues to gain ground in
northern and western Iraq and in Syria. CNN international correspondent Arwa Damon joins us live, now, from Baghdad. Do we have any more details
on that story as of yet?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we've been in contact with a number of officials in Hilla, and with
residents there as well, and people have still been unable to identify those bodies. Some people, families, have been going to the morgue, but at
this point, unclear who they are, whether they are Sunni or Shia, and who is responsible for the killing.
A lot of this very chillingly reminiscent of the worst of the violence in Iraq, 2005 to 2008, when sectarian killings were rampant, and when
finding unidentified bodies was a fairly regular occurrence.
This war right now with ISIS most certainly is taking a toll on the population, and as volunteers have been joining the fight, Becky, many of
them with very little training have been getting themselves killed on the very difficult and brutal front lines as well.
DAMON (voice-over): Eight-year-old Manine (ph) says she cries each time she thinks of her father. Continuously rubbing her eyes as we speak,
though her tears no longer fall, showing us old photos. She was Daddy's favorite, the youngest of her eight siblings, but the toughest of the
"He told me, 'Take care of your sisters,'" she remembers, "'and don't go out because of the explosions.'" That was the last time she heard his
voice, the evening before he was killed in battle.
Her father, Ali al-Tabi (ph) was 50 years old, a sniper in the Iraq- Iran war. He was glued to the TV as ISIS took over Mosul and other areas. When the spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued the call for
volunteers, for al-Tabi, a devout Shia, joining became obligation. The family begged him not to go.
"He didn't tell me. He knew I was against it. I said, 'You are old, your leg is bad.' He had breakfast and left," his widow Safa Abdulla Heim
(ph) remembers, her face fully covered, as is tradition for a woman in mourning. He called that evening and said he was in Samara. Ten days
later, he was killed.
"It was a mortar," Heim tells us. "There were clashes and they pushed ISIS out. The army left the volunteers to hold the terrain, and ISIS then
mortared the position."
DAMON (on camera): Her favorite memory is when they would all get together for meals, and that would happen in this room. This is where the
family spent most of its time, and he would always be cracking jokes and making the kids laugh over meals.
DAMON (voice-over): "It's a sacrifice for that nation," she sighs. "But we lost him. We lost the head of our household. His warmth will
always be here, but nothing can bring him back."
"The house feels empty without him," his eldest son, Hussein says. "I have the responsibility of the house now." His younger brother is silent,
sullen, and angry as Hussein tries to hide his pain.
DAMON: And Becky, this is already proving to be among the deadliest months. In the first week of July alone, hundreds of Iraqis have been
killed, whether it's in explosions or on the battlefield as the fighting against ISIS continues, Becky.
ANDERSON: Arwa Damon for you in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you.
This is a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, live for you tonight from Jerusalem. Coming up, as rockets and missiles fly back and forth, how
can a solution to the latest escalation here in violence be found? We speak to a man who understand both sides of the Israel-Gaza Conflict when
CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, continues. Do stay with us.
ANDERSON: All right, you're back with us here on CNN, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, a special for you tonight from
The barrage of rocket and missile fire over the Israel-Gaza border didn't ease this day, I'm afraid. Israeli president Shimon Peres tells CNN
that if Hamas continues to launch rockets towards Israel, a ground offensive in Gaza will happen sooner or later.
This comes after Israel defense forces say it targeted 160 sites in airstrikes on Gaza. The IDF says militants in turn have fired more than
250 rockets into Israel since the violence began.
According to Palestinian officials, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 43 people, possibly more, inside Gaza, and wounded many, many more.
Well, journalist Hillel Schenker has explored both sides of this conflict over years in his role as a co-editor of the Palestine -- what -- ?
HILLEL SCHENKER, CO-EDITOR, PALESTINE-ISRAEL JOURNAL: Palestine- Israel Journal.
ANDERSON: Palestine-Israel Journal, and he joins me now --
SCHENKER: Right, this is it.
ANDERSON: -- with more. So, how do you assess what is going on here?
SCHENKER: OK, well first of all, Becky, I got up this morning to the sound of an air raid siren.
ANDERSON: Here in Jerusalem?
SCHENKER: No, in Tel Aviv. I live in Tel Aviv and I commute to Jerusalem.
SCHENKER: And yet, life goes on in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and in most of Israel. Unfortunately, not in the south of Israel and also not in Gaza.
We're in the midst of a very tragic escalating cycle of violence, which began with the killing of the three Israeli teenagers, and then the
horrific killing of the Palestinian teenager. And we know that because two Hamas members are suspects, the Israeli government used this as an
opportunity to strike at Hamas.
ANDERSON: Hillel, I spoke to the Israeli president earlier on. Again, I must emphasize that he doesn't speak on behalf of the executive
office here, but clearly what he says resonates. He says a ground strike will come sooner or later from the Israelis if they continue to be provoked
by these strikes from Gaza. This is tit-for-tat, I know, but this is killing people on the ground.
ANDERSON: Many, many people being wounded, of course. If a ground strike were launched, as it could be imminently, what would happen?
SCHENKER: First of all, the average Israeli does not want to see a war. They do not want to see a ground invasion. At the same time, it's
clear that the government would like to use these circumstances to hit Hamas.
And we're in a situation where Hamas is extremely vulnerable, and unfortunately, Hamas is taking the bait and is firing all of these what are
essentially ineffectual rockets, although they could kill. And so, we're in a situation where the question is, how do we get out of this situation?
ANDERSON: I hate to say this, but it sounds like a smart technique by the Israelis, and I've had discussions with other people here about this.
Peres said to me just an hour ago, we've waited a day. We've waited two days. We've waited three days. The wait won't go on. Clearly suggesting
that this is provocation, continued provocation from Gaza.
SCHENKER: Well, the question is really, will there be factors in the international community who are capable at this point of facilitating a
ANDERSON: Marwan (sic) Barghouti doesn't believe so.
SCHENKER: Well, last time around -- remember the last round was in 2012, and at that time, Morsy was the president of Egypt, the Muslim
Brotherhood, who considered Hamas as their brothers, and they wanted to gain credit from the international community for --
ANDERSON: And he did, didn't he?
SCHENKER: And he did.
ANDERSON: And he mediated a cease-fire.
SCHENKER: And he also wanted to demonstrate that he was in a good relationship with Israel as well. We have a different situation today,
with -- the Egyptians are the logical candidate to facilitate a cease-fire, but General Sisi sees the Hamas people as essentially an enemy, and he's
not going out of his way to help at this point.
ANDERSON: And I can tell our viewers that I spoke to the Egyptian foreign minister just two days ago, and I put it to him that there was a
role here for a mediator that clearly everybody is crying out for. I saw no sign or heard no sign that the Egyptians, at this stage, at least, were
going to step up to the plate. Hamas clearly a problem for Egypt --
ANDERSON: -- given their associations with the Muslim Brotherhood. What are your biggest fears going forward?
SCHENKER: Well, my fear is that as can always happen in the Middle East that things will simply get out of hand. The cycle will continue,
will become worse, that we will then really get into a third Intifada in the West Bank as well. Right now, things are relatively quiet there.
And we are in a situation where we need international action. And I was very disappointed to hear an announcement on Israeli radio today that
the American embassy in Tel Aviv decided to close today and send all the diplomats home.
What they should be doing, in my view, is have the diplomats out there trying to work out a cease-fire and going beyond that, trying to move
ANDERSON: So, if you had one message for the international community tonight, and we've got about 45 seconds --
ANDERSON: -- what would it be?
SCHENKER: The message is to take hope from the fact that yesterday, Haaretz, the big Israeli daily, had an Israeli conference for peace, and
not only did President Obama give a message, but what is particularly striking, Prince Turki al-Faisal --
ANDERSON: Of Saudi.
SCHENKER: -- sent a message, an article to Haaretz in which he said peace would be possible with the Arab Peace Initiative at its core. And we
also heard in general that what is needed today is concerted diplomatic action to try to get things on track.
We're only at a pause in the negotiations, and it's up to the international community to help us move forward and also end this
ANDERSON: Hillel, with that, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. You are always very insightful with
your analysis. Thank you.
SCHENKER: Thank you.
ANDERSON: We are going to take a very short break at this point on CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, I want to reflect on my last visit to
Jerusalem six weeks ago, when Pope Francis provided what was a brief glimmer of hope for a coming together of the peoples of this land. I spoke
to Hillel at the time. It was just six weeks ago, it seems a very long time ago, now. Stay with us, more on that after this.
ANDERSON: It was six short weeks ago that I reported from this very spot about the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land and the spirit of
peace and compassion that he brought with him. I followed him through Jordan, through Israel and the West Bank, where crowds gathered to
celebrate his visit.
Many in this volatile region hoped his message would inspire a greater cooperation and understanding among their leaders. During his trip, the
pope planted an olive tree at Jerusalem's Gethsemane Church, just a short distance from here, where I stand today, the ultimate symbol of peace, of
But just 45 days later, peace has never seemed further away. Francis also paid a visit to the so-called Wailing Wall, one of the most divisive
monuments in a divided land, and as we report from here at a time when the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, tells me a ground assault on Gaza could be
imminent unless the Palestinian rockets stop, it's clear to see this is very much still a place of weeping.
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. The headlines follow after this.