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Israel Ramps Up Military Offensive in Gaza; Interview with Congressman Jim Bridenstine; World Cup: A Battle for Soccer Supremacy

Aired July 13, 2014 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Eight o'clock on a Sunday. Good morning. We're so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.


And the breaking news we're starting with this morning is in the Middle East, where there are these growing concerns that a ground invasion may be inevitable between Israel and Gaza.

PAUL: Because overnight Israeli forces ignored the U.N.'s request for a cease-fire and crossed into Gaza, the first time in this conflict, raiding a long range missile site late last night.

Now, right now, the Israeli military is dropping leaflets, we know, warning residents in northern Gaza of more airstrikes today, ordering civilians to evacuate their homes as Hamas leaders are targeted.

BLACKWELL: More than 160 people have been killed in Gaza by Israel's airstrikes this week. The U.N. says that the majority of those are civilians, a third are children.

Let's head to Wolf Blitzer live in Jerusalem.

Wolf, earlier this morning, you spoke with the Israel Defense Forces spokesman about the possibility that the missile raid last night was not an isolated incident.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: He made it absolutely clear it wasn't an isolated incident, there would be more of these kinds of incidents where Israeli troops actually cross in on the ground, go in there, do what their assignment is and then get out and go back to Israel.

In this last incident, they were there for about a half an hour these Israeli commandos, four of whom were injured, slightly injured. They all got back to their base.

But he did indicate to me, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the IDF, Israel Defense Forces, that more of these operations were likely. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESMAN: We're preparing that possibility. I mean, it's not something we wanted to do but in the past five or six days we have built up the forces and indeed there is a substantial force on the borders with Gaza. And if the order is given, we are prepared for that type of activity.


BLITZER: There, he was specifically also referring to a more robust military invasion of Gaza. I don't suspect the Israelis are going to going to go in all and try to reoccupy Gaza or anything like that. They withdrew from Gaza back in 2005. But I do suspect they will go in with limited operations and try to destroy as much of Hamas' rocket and missile capabilities, and other military capabilities as they can.

And in fact, as you know, this one northern town of Gaza they airlifted these leaflets telling civilians get out, get out as quickly as possible because more airstrikes are going to go into this one town in northern Gaza.

Lot of those people are not able to leave. They're staying put because it's really congested heavily concentrated area of Gaza. There's limited places where these people can go.

PAUL: Wolf, we know Israeli military is saying that Hamas is using civilians as human shields and that's part of why the death toll there, 160 dead in Gaza, is so high and there's no death toll so far in Israel.

Do we -- is there any way to verify whether Hamas truly is using civilians as human shields, because when we talk to somebody from the PLO this morning, they said that is not what's happening?

BLITZER: Well, if you take a look where some of the rockets are launched from there, heavily concentrated populated areas. So, the Israelis say, if they're going to go after the sources of these rocket launches and they are near populated areas, there are going to be civilian casualties and there have been extensive civilian casualties inside Gaza, as you point out more than 160 people have been killed, many of them civilians, women and children, more than 1,000 have been injured.

When Hamas rockets come into Israel, rockets and missiles, they're targeting various populated centers in Israel. The Israelis have a significant advantage in that they have this Iron Dome anti- missile system which works effectively especially when they can get information, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, a minute and a half in advance where it's heading they can launch the anti-missile systems. They're very dramatic and they knock out these incoming rockets and missiles in the sky and they work very, very well.

That's the main reason I suspect -- certainly all the analysts suspect -- why there have been no deaths as far as the rockets coming into Israel because so many of them when they're getting towards populated centers are simply destroyed up in the skies.

PAUL: All right. Wolf Blitzer, live for us there in Jerusalem -- Wolf, thank you so much. We appreciate it this morning.

BLACKWELL: We're also learning this morning that Palestinian Americans are being evacuated from Gaza.

PAUL: Diana Magnay has the story from along the Israeli/Gaza border.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Citizens with dual nationality have now been given permission to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing here at the northern most tip of the strip.

We've seen a stream of U.S. citizens come through, have their documents checked, around 140 of them boarding buses to freedom effectively. They said they were so glad to be out. The airstrikes have been terrifying but they're sad to leave their friends and relatives behind.

So, you left Gaza this morning. Has it been terrifying?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very terrifying. I mean, I was born and raised in the United States, so it's something that I'm not used to and it was a very terrifying experience for sure.

MAGNAY: How did you feel, with all the airstrikes all the time, what was it like?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It was really scary. I wasn't used to it, especially since I live in America. So, I didn't like that we were filled with tears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was kind of scary because you never knew where they were going to bomb and you kept hearing explosions, sometimes they were closer, sometimes far away. You didn't know if your loved ones were hurt or anything so it was kind of, you know, it wasn't a nice experience.

MAGNAY: Were any of your loved ones hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, thank God. But, look, we don't know what's going to happen in the future.

MAGNAY: The Israeli Defense Forces have dropped leaflets over northern Gaza, warning citizens to stay away from Hamas targets and Hamas in turn have told them to ignore the washings, it adds to the feeling that a ground invasion could happen soon.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Erez Crossing, Israel.


BLACKWELL: All right. Our thanks to Diana Magnay.

PAUL: Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his military is ready for, quote, "all possibilities."

BLACKWELL: And earlier this morning, he warned Hamas militants that Israeli commanders are taking aim at weapons stockpiles and operating centers in Gaza.

PAUL: To talk more about this with host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION", Candy Crowley, who is in Washington.

So, Candy, have we heard from the White House about this situation this morning?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": We have sort of all along and the White House has taken the position of first condemning the rockets that consistently fire from Gaza into Israel, and one of the purposes of what Israel is doing right now, says Israel.

It, of course, all began with the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the death of a Palestinian teenager. It has gone from there. But the White House has basically said Israel has a right to defend itself, but it also said we are quite willing to try to broker a cease-fire here.

But at the moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu says that's not even on the table.

So, while condemning the violence and Israel's right to defend itself, and we also know that the president has spoken to the prime minister. So, at this point, the story really is on the ground there, and I think the White House understands that.

BLACKWELL: And one of the big stories I'm sure you'll be discussing this morning in addition to the crisis at the border, who do you have this morning?

CROWLEY: Well, among others, we have Senator John McCain, as you know, he and his fellow Senator Jeff Flake have a bill that they want to put out to try to deal with keeping children from coming to the border as well as those children who are already here. The president as you know wants almost $4 billion to deal with it. Republicans seem quite reluctant to give him that without some other things added to it.

And then we're going to talk to four members of Congress who have come and one you have the things we want to talk about is the Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against the president and where they think that's going.

PAUL: All righty. Candy Crowley, that will be an interesting conversation. We're looking forward to it. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

PAUL: And you can catch Candy on "STATE OF THE UNION" at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Well, the crisis in the Middle East took center stage today at the Vatican as well. Earlier this morning, Pope Francis made an appeal for a cease-fire between the two sides. Here's what he said, "I make a heartfelt appeal to all of you to continue to pray with insistence for peace in the holy land. In light of the tragic events of the last days, I exhort to all the interested parties and to all of those who have political responsibility at local and international level to not give up the prayer, nor any effort to cease any hostility and reach the desired peace for the good of all."

Thousands of children, as we just heard from Candy Crowley, she'll be talking about that at 9:00, still coming into the U.S. illegally and often they end up briefly at least briefly in federal holding centers. We'll talk with the congressman who just toured one of these facilities.

PAUL: Finally.

Plus, today, what does that music tell you?

BLACKWELL: Oh, World Cup.

PAUL: It's it. Before the World Cup final kicks off, though, we'll look at some of the tournament's most amazing games. We're going to get you geared up.


BLACKWELL: Authorities in Mexico are trying to figure out whether a body found in a shallow grave belongs to a missing American man. Harry Devert was on a transcontinental motorcycle journey when he disappeared six months ago. His green Kawasaki motorcycle was also found in the grave.

PAUL: His last communication was an ominous text message being escorted from, quote, "to an area too dangerous for me to be," unquote. His mother has provided a DNA sample to compare for those remains.

We know children by the tens of thousands at this point are streaming across the Mexican border and so many of them are traveling alone and we know, it's jolting to realize they're fleeing gang violence and all kinds of other problems in Central America.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The Obama administration has asked for almost $4 billion to address the crisis, including a PR campaign urging parents not to send their children to the U.S. illegally.

But for now, many of them wind up in federal holding facilities.

PAUL: Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine just toured one facility at Fort Sill, in his home state of Oklahoma and joins us now from Tulsa.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. We spoke with you before your tour yesterday. What did you


REP. JIM BRIDENSTINE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, the stories of human tragedy are verified. There are many accounts of abuse on the way to the United States. A lot of the children quite frankly don't even make it to the United States.

The scenario is very bleak. There are parents in the United States that have been smuggled here who are here illegally and they're attempting to get their kids here. In many cases, they're paying coyotes who then pay transnational criminal organizations in northern Mexico, as your previous story indicated, Mexico is a very dangerous place, northern Mexico. There are 70,000 to 100,000 dead bodies in the last seven years as a direct result of the organized crime and, of course, the criminal organizations they're not just killing each other, gangs and cartels, they're also killing judges and police officers and in many cases politicians. This is a bad scenario.

So, for the parents that are in this country illegally, if they're paying coyotes or criminal organizations to transport their children into this country, that's a very dangerous scenario. There are accounts of parents not being able to pay and the result is the children get put into forced labor or forced prostitution. This is a crisis that needs to be dealt with in a serious way.

BLACKWELL: Congressman I want to ask you about something we read this morning, "The New York Times" editorial board weighed in in on the request from the president, for $3.7 billion to counter this crisis. And I want to read part of it.

"The request would be a good step toward tackling the problem. Congress should swiftly approve it since it contains pretty much everything that lawmaker -- even President Obama's Republican critics -- have been demanding."

Do you support this request? I mean, will you vote to give the president the money needed?

BRIDENSTINE: I disagree with the assessment. Certainly, what we've got to do to stem this crisis is secure the southern border. The $3.7 billion does not do that.

We know -- we know what works, to secure the southern border. It has worked in San Diego, a double layer fence, sensors that include remote sensing satellites and also we need rapid response teams.

BLACKWELL: Congressman --

BRIDENSTINE: They reduced illegal immigration --


BLACKWELL: Congressman, I have to jump in here. Let me challenge you. You said you have got to secure the southern border. In many cases, these children, these teenagers, the families are not trying to run by these border agents. They are surrendering. They want to be taken into these places because they've gone on this horrendous trip.

BRIDENSTINE: You're right.

BLACKWELL: So, securing the border if they just get there, that's still the challenge that the country has to face.

BRIDENSTINE: Well, you have to remember, the children are turning themselves in at the border because they have family or friends that are already in the United States that got smuggled in as adults. So, if you stem the adults being smuggled into the United States, then that will quell the demand signal of these adults paying transnational criminal organizations to transport their children.

Ultimately, the key here is to secure the southern border to end the demand signal that's being sent down south.

PAUL: OK. Real quickly, we just have a couple of seconds, what did you see when you went inside this facility?

BRIDENSTINE: I saw a whole lot of folks that were working very hard to deal with disease, folks that were dealing with children that have been traumatized and they were -- the mental health professionals were doing the Lord's work. I mean, this is a very serious crisis that needs to be dealt with.

I was satisfied with the level of care the children are getting. I am not satisfied with the fact that the crisis continues and we're not doing what needs to be done to solve it.

BLACKWELL: So, you're satisfied with the work that was done. The president, a large part of this, is to continue to pay for the work that's being done because the children have not stopped. How will that be paid for? How will that be funded?

BRIDENSTINE: The key here is to stem the crisis. What that requires, that requires us to reunite the children with their families back in their home countries, so that people understand down south, look, if you come here, you're got going to get in. If you do get in, you cannot stay. That's the only way we're going to stem this crisis.

There is trafficking happening here. This needs to be dealt with in a serious way, and certainly, Marsha Blackburn, a friend of mine who toured with me yesterday, she suggested that we take the money to stem this crisis, we take it from the foreign aid that we're providing the countries down south from whence a lot of these children and adults are coming.

PAUL: All right. We'll hear more from her, too. She is going to be on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine, thank you for sharing what you saw yesterday after you were able to get in there.

BRIDENSTINE: Thank you. PAUL: And for fighting for what we know. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, sir.

Well, a month of World Cup drama action, the heartbreak all ends today, well heartbreak continues for some people, because one team is going to win.

PAUL: Another one is going to be ecstatic.


PAUL: Before the final World Cup match, though, kicks off in Brazil, we have got the journey each of these teams took to get there.


BLACKWELL: Soccer fans, set the countdown clock. I'm sure you've already set it but I'm reminding you if you haven't. In just a few hours, the World Cup final kicks off in Brazil.

PAUL: Germany, Argentina facing a date with destiny when they meet on soccer's greatest stage for the third time in history, by the way.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Amanda Davies and Alex Thomas are in Brazil with a look at what it took to get where they are today, the most anticipated soccer game of the year.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a journey that began back on June the 12th in Sao Paulo.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've survived six matches each and (INAUDIBLE)) 30 other nations.

DAVIES: And now, here at Maracana in Rio, either Germany or Argentina will be crowned world champion.


THOMAS: Argentina's road to Rio not only ends here but it started here, too, because they played their opening game in this stadium an unconvincing win over Bosnia, a moment of Messi magic, victories over Iran and Nigeria followed. They topped the group.

DAVIES: Germany didn't kick off their tournament until day five, but, boy, was it worth the wait. The pulsating 4-0 win over Portugal that helped them top group, despite a draw against Ghana, and unconvincing 1-0 win over the U.S. And the lingering doubts about Germany's star-studded line-up continued in the second round when they needed extra time to get past lucky Algeria, 2-1.

THOMAS: A day later in Sao Paulo, Argentina also needed an additional 30 minutes to get past Switzerland by a single goal. DAVIES: And the copycat results continue to end the

quarterfinals. It was a match (INAUDIBLE) goal that proved decisive, as Germany got past France.

THOMAS: And Gonzalo Higuain's volley was the difference between Argentina and Belgium. Argentina returned to Sao Paulo where their winning run ended. The Netherlands holding them to a 0-0 draw. But goalkeeper Sergio Romero's heroics in the penalty shoot-out put them through.

DAVIES: The game was never going to compare though to what had gone the night before, Germany's incredible 7-1 victory over Brazil -- a result that broke Brazil's heart but puts Germany into the final. Will they beat the South American side to claim the fourth World Cup title?

THOMAS: Certainly the favorites, but a man named Messi may just have something to say about it.


PAUL: Again, big match kicks off today 3:00 Eastern. I'll be spending part of my television reading your tweets about it, ready to go.

BLACKWELL: It sounds great.

PAUL: All right. Ladies, feast your eyes, I love this music, on this. This is a pageant for the lovers of beard culture.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is the thing. Beard culture is a real thing.

PAUL: I learn something new every day.

BLACKWELL: Wait until you see the winners here.


BLACKWELL: Time now for the must see moment.

You know, guys, we can get pretty creative with facial hair.

PAUL: Yes, we've seen that with you. Yes.

BLACKWELL: Remember I had that goatee for a while. Yes, it didn't last long. But these guys are getting a gold star in grooming. Look at the winners of this year's Midwest mustache and beard wearers championship.

PAUL: Organizers said men from all over the world come to Middleton, Wisconsin, to compete in the facial pageant. It's for good cause. Proceeds go to a charity that helps the homeless. So, good for them.

Hey, go make some great memories. BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" starts now.