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Israel Intercepts More Rockets From Gaza; Four Children Killed In Gaza With Death Toll 200 Plus; CNN Crew Experiences Rocket Attack; Israeli Cabinet Member Discusses Crisis; Hamas Strategy; Cheney on Impeaching Obama; Hillary Clinton Run; Bachmann Talks Election

Aired July 16, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Right now, more children caught in the cross fire in the Middle East. Victims of the failure of the cease-fire. It's a desperate situation on both sides with no sign of a peaceful solution that can be reached.

Also right now, Bowe Bergdahl lawyers up but he still isn't ready to talk about his ordeal. Instead, his attorney tells everyone to hold the phone on judging his new client.

And right now, more anger over immigration as local leaders say not in my backyard. Meanwhile, Congress sets a timetable for taking up the president's emergency funding request for the border.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Jerusalem. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Rockets streak across the skies over Israel. The death toll in Gaza climbs, after four children are killed and diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed hit a roadblock.

Here are the latest developments on this Middle East crisis. Sirens wail as a rocket from Gaza is fired into Israel. Our CNN crew captured these images of the country's iron dome missile defense system intercepting the rocket. Israel says more than 1,260 rockets have been launched from Gaza since this conflict erupted a week or so ago.

In Gaza, meanwhile, Palestinian paramedics say four children were killed by a round by an Israeli gunship. Palestinians say the number of people killed is now over 200, most of them civilians. One Israeli has died in the conflict.

And Palestinian authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, traveled to Egypt today searching for a way to end the violence, but Hamas officials are refusing to participate in cease-fire talks. The senior leader says Hamas is not going to Cairo and won't discussion the Egyptian proposal. It's hard to imagine the tension both Palestinians and Israelis are living under.

My crew, we were driving near the Israeli town of Ashkelon, not far from the Gaza border, when we had to pull over because of a rocket attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (on camera): We're going to get out. You can hear the sirens. You can hear the sirens now. You can see what happened over there. There was rockets coming in. The iron dome anti-missile system goes up there, knocks off those rockets. And that's the aftermath. You see the smoke from the debris. We've got the all clear now. But a lot of the cars -- we were on this highway going toward Ashkelon. A lot of the cars simply pulled over to the side. We watch what happened. And now, the traffic is resuming.


(live): A short time later, we saw the damage caused by the intercepted rocket.


(on camera): This is where the rocket, that just came in from Gaza, landed. We're just here in Ashkelon. We heard earlier -- we heard the siren. We got out of the car. And this is the remnants. This is the aftermath. You can see the smoke. It landed here in a relatively open field but not far from the intersection, a major intersection.


(live): The Israeli military today warned people living in three Gaza towns, in the northern part of Gaza, to evacuate. The Israel defense forces sent text messages, dropped leaflets from the skies, warning of plans to carry out more air strikes. The leaflets read, in part, the IDF does not want to harm you and your families. The evacuation is for your own safety. You should not return to the premises until further notice.

Despite those warning, the civilian death toll in Gaza keeps climbing. Palestinian paramedics say four children were killed at a refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Ben Wedeman is in Gaza City for us. These four kids who died, what do we know about this, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't just -- this isn't coming just from Palestinian medical sources. This is from our colleagues, journalists who were there who saw this happen. What happened was these boys, all from an extended family called the Buckert (ph) family, were playing, apparently, in the area of the port when incoming rounds from an Israeli vessel off shore slammed into the area. Four of them were killed. All of them between the ages of about eight and 11.

Now, of course, we've -- CNN has been trying to get reaction or some sort of explanation from the Israeli military. Until no -- until now, no answer. Although some Israeli media are reporting that the target was something -- some sort of naval facility about 100 meters away from there. But, of course, these four boys, they come from the Shati refugee camp which is just up the coast from where the -- they were killed. They, apparently -- I spoke to several relatives. They had just gone out to play. One relative, their uncle, saying they had gone to play football.

And, of course, this is the problem, Wolf. People are being told from those other areas, like Shajarian (ph) and Beit Lahiya (ph) in the north to go to Gaza City. People come to Gaza City and it's just as dangerous. And, really, they have nowhere to go. Now, we attended the funeral. Lots of angry people. The feeling is that -- as the death toll rises, and it's now well over 200, that the level of anger is rising. And the resentment that exists here against Hamas is sort of being eclipsed by this rising anger at the death toll, most of whom, according to the U.N., 70 percent plus, are civilians -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an awful, awful situation. There's no doubt about that. Ben, thanks for that report.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says Hamas will pay the price for not agreeing to that Egyptian-brokered cease-fire plan. What is Israel's next move? Just a little while ago, I spoke with a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's inner cabinet. But he was one of those members who voted against that proposed cease-fire.


(on camera): We're joined now by Naftali Bennett. He's a member of Israel's inner security cabinet. He's the minister of economy. Minister, thank you very much for joining us.


BLITZER: As we speak, we're just getting these reports, awful reports, four Palestinian kids, playing on a beach, all of a sudden killed. An Israeli gun boat shell landed there. You've heard of these reports, right? Do you -- do you --

BENNETT: I just heard about it this moment. I think it's terrible that Hamas is butchering its own children. I would never take my children and place them next to missile launchers. Here's what they're doing. Hamas is conducting massive self-genocide. They're taking women and children, placing them next to missile launchers, and shooting the missiles at Israel.

BLITZER: But these kids apparently were playing on a beach.

BENNETT: I'm telling you -- I'll tell you where we find the missile launchers. We find them in hospitals, in schools, in homes. I myself am a former commando fighter. I saw it in Lebanon. You have a kitchen. You have a living room. And then you have the missile launcher room. What they're deliberately doing is seeking to kill as many Palestinians as possible in order to yell to the world, help us. And this is cynical and cowardly. You know, if you want to conduct terror against Israelis, which is unacceptable, send fighters to do it. Don't send your women and children.

BLITZER: But they are not sending them. These are little children. They were just playing on the beach. And, clearly, you were -- you were -- the Israeli military was aiming for some sort of target that, in the process, there was what they used to call the Pentagon collateral damage. These are human beings, though.

BENNETT: Israel never targets civilians deliberately, period. What Israel does is defends itself. And when people shoot at us -- just as you would do with your family. If someone's shooting at your family, you'll shoot back. If that coward is hiding behind his own children, they might get hit. This whole thing can go away in one moment. Hamas needs to do one thing, stop shooting.

BLITZER: The criticism is coming in from this organization, Human Rights Watch. I don't know if you're familiar with that. Israel's rhetoric, it says, is all about precision attacks but attacks with no military target and many civilian deaths can hardly be considered the price.

BENNETT: OK, take the radical left wing organizations doesn't impress me. No one wants to save more lives than us. We want to save all lives. We want to live side by side. I'll remind you, we handed the entire Gaza strip over to the Palestinians nine years ago. Back to the 67 lines. Vacated all the settlements. They said they would turn it into Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, they invested billions in missile launchers and tunnels, in the TNT, and everything to kill people. We want to live peacefully side by side. The moment they stop shooting and disarm themselves, we stop. At that very moment.

BLITZER: You voted against the cease-fire in the inner security cabinet. The prime minister wanted it. He got his way. Israel accepted that cease-fire. It lasted only for about six hours because Hamas rejected it. Does this mean you're on the outs with him now? Because one of your colleagues was fired by the prime minister, the deputy of defense minister, for speaking ill of him and that decision to accept that cease-fire.

BENNETT: I fully back Prime Minister Netanyahu. If we have our differences, it's within the inner security cabinet. I thought that we have to demand not only a cease-fire but also disarmament. My opinion was not accepted. And I stand behind Israel's official position, cease-fire.


BLITZER: Naftali Bennett speaking with me here in Jerusalem earlier. Strong views, clearly, from him.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas is just one example of the conflicts gripping the Middle East. The civil war in Syria. Militants on the march in Iraq. Warring militias in Libya.

Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us now with more on what's going on. It looks like this whole region, Jim, seems to be on fire.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is. It's extremely dangerous. And these are all areas where the U.S. is involved and, in fact, has made firm policy stands. In Syria, not intervening there, withdrawing U.S. Troops from Iraq and now sending troops back, participating in regime change in Libya and attempting but, of course, failing to engineer a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. And now, today, each of those areas, for a variety of reasons, facing severe turmoil.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): In Gaza, hopes for an immediate cease-fire today up in smoke even before it started.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There are great risks in what happening there and the potential of the even greater escalation of violence.

SCIUTTO: It's a statement that could describe an entire region mired in conflict from Gaza to Libya to Iraq and Syria.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would argue that given conditions in the Middle East, this might be more dangerous than any time in the past.

SCIUTTO: In Libya, warring militias bombarded Tripoli's airport, as the government considers asking for international troops. In Iraq, politicians took a first step towards a new government, even as ISIS militants bulldozed barriers along the Iraq-Syria border and celebrated the takeover of Iraq government buildings. And the neighboring Syria, ISIS is flourishing as the civil war wages on. The U.N. now urgently sending in humanitarian aid. This week, the White House raised eyebrows seeming to gain broad foreign policy victories in the region.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been a number of situations in which you've seen this administration intervene in a meaningful way. It has substantially furthered American interests and substantially improved the -- you know, the tranquility of the global community.

SCIUTTO: Today, the administration insisted it is engaged diplomatically.

JEN PSAKI, SPOKESPERSON, STATE DEPARTMENT: This is not an administration or a secretary that rests. The fact is there are a range of factors happening in the world that are not caused by the United States but the United States remains engaged in because we care about the stability in the region as well.


SCIUTTO (live): Of course, the other major U.S. foreign policy priority in the region, the nuclear talks with Iran. The deadline for an agreement is this Saturday. I'm in touch with Iranians' deputy foreign minister, Majid Ravanchi, who's directly involved with the talks with the west. He told me the following quote, "We are in the middle of negotiations now and are aiming to reach a deal by the deadline of July 20th. If we cannot get a deal by then, we will then decide on how long we need to extend the agreement reached in Geneva last November."

So, Wolf, a sign of hope, at least leaving the door open in the next several days to a longer term agreement. But all the other officials I'm speaking to now say that that's doubtful and, in fact, really, the real question is -- now, is how long they extend those negotiations, whether it's a few weeks, a few months, to try to get that long-term deal.

BLITZER: Yes, a critically important issue right there. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

Dick Cheney is taking a major swipe at President Obama. That's not a huge surprise. He's also coming to his defense, sort of. We're going to tell you why the former vice president doesn't think President Obama should be impeached.

But up next, more on the crisis here in the Middle East. We'll get the Palestinian perspective. Nabil Shaath (ph), a key advisor to the Palestinian authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Nabil Shaath standing by to join us live.


BLITZER: A day after ignoring an Egyptian planned cease-fire, Hamas has now officially rejected the idea, quieting their rockets earlier today. The former president, Bill Clinton, weighed in with his thoughts on the current conflict while on a trip to India, and he placed the blame squarely on Hamas.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets into Israel. They fired 1,000 of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them. Now, I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu could and should make a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Ramallah in the West Bank is the senior Palestinian adviser, Nabil Sha'ath.

Nabil, thanks very much for joining us.

Did Hamas make a major blunder in rejecting that Egyptian proposed cease-fire?

NABIL SHA'ATH, FATAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, we think Hamas should have accepted. We are supporting the Egyptian initiative and we want to get a stop to the spilling of blood and to the horrible tragic war that is being waged on Gaza.

Now, Hamas has questions about the unwillingness of Israel to fulfill any of the obligations made in the agreements that they made in 2012 and 2008. Gaza is still fully under siege. And none of the agreements that have been signed before have been implemented.

But we think that this is something that can be discussed later. What we should do now is proceed to an immediate stop of the Israeli attack on Gaza and, therefore, an immediate cease-fire. And we are working very hard to make that happen as soon as possible.

BLITZER: I know that President Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, he's meeting with Egyptian leaders, including the Egyptian president, el-Sisi, right now. How do you do it? Are Hamas officials involved in these discussions in Cairo, as far as you know?

SHA'ATH: Yes, President Abbas has been in touch with Mr. Mashar (ph) in Qatar and with his deputy in Cairo and with two of his deputies in Gaza. But the people who are making decisions for Hamas today are the military, and they do not really accept that cease-fire. They think there are other conditions that have to be met before they accept that cease-fire.

But I think that we should continue to try. President Abbas is in Cairo. He's going to Turkey next and then back to the Gulf, and he will do everything possible to get that cease-fire on as soon as possible.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, Nabil, is that the political leadership of Hamas, not necessarily in control. They can't necessarily control what's happening militarily. That military wing really is in charge, is that right?

SHA'ATH: That is right. There is a difference of opinion between their military and the civilian government. Both of the leaders of Hamas outside Palestinian and inside. And -- but I think this has to be discussed with them, has to be negotiated. And we are conducting these discussions. We would like to assure them that a cease-fire this time would be a real cease-fire. There would be no more Israeli attacks and that Gaza will be set free and at least ending the siege of Gaza, allowing people to move in and out and allowing products to come, fresh water and electricity. And I think this is what is being discussed today. No doubt everybody wants to see a cease-fire. But the question we feel that all the other questions can be dealt with a little later.

BLITZER: Nabil Sha'ath, thanks very much for your perspective. We really appreciate it. We'll check back with you tomorrow as well. Nabil Sha'ath joining us from Ramallah on the West Bank.

Coming up, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is back on active duty in the U.S. Army. He's also taking a step forward in his defense. We're going to hear from his new attorney.

Plus, Hillary Clinton getting some big laughs on "The Daily Show," possibly dropping a major hint about her plans for 2016.


BLITZER: The Democratic congressman from New York who's battling to keep his seat in November, getting blasted by his Republican rival for using a drone to film his wedding. Congressman Sean Maloney married his longtime partner, Randy Florke, last month. A miniature drone took video of the festivities outside the church. Maloney's Republican rival, Nan Hayworth, says that violated FAA rules on the use of commercial drones. Hayworth is calling on Maloney to resign his position on the House Transportation Committee that has jurisdiction over the FAA. Maloney's spokesman and the company that took the video insists no laws were broken.

Other political news involving some big names, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Michele Bachmann. Now, they're all making some headlines today. Joining us now from Washington, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

And, Gloria, let's start with Dick Cheney, the former vice president. He appeared on "The Lead" with Jack Tapper. He was asked if he agreed with Sarah Palin when she called for the impeachment of President Obama. Listen to this.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not prepared at this point to call for the impeachment of the president. I think he is the worst president in my lifetime. I fundamentally disagree with him. I think he's doing a lot of things wrong. I'm glad to see that the House Republicans are challenging him, at least legally at this point. But I think that gets to be a bit of a distraction, just like the impeachment of Bill Clinton did.


BLITZER: So on the one hand, the former vice president sticking up for the president as far as impeachment is concerned, but also calling him the worst president of his lifetime. So is this sort of classic Dick Cheney? You've covered him, Gloria, for a long time.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, Cheney wants to sort of get ahead with the business that he cares about, which is the way he feels Barack Obama has bungled foreign policy and domestic policy and he knows from experience that if you start an impeachment process, it kind of takes you off on a tangent. Your party becomes the target for overreaching. And the issues upon which you disagree with the president become secondary. So what Cheney is saying, he's not defending President Obama by any stretch, as you know, Wolf, but he's saying, you know, don't go off down that road because that isn't going to get Republicans anywhere. We need to talk about the issues we care about as you head into the 2014 election.

BLITZER: All right, let's, from Dick Cheney, turn to Hillary Clinton, Gloria. She's still out there, of course. She's promoting her book. Last night, during an appearance on "The Daily Show," she hinted, hinted of a possible presidential run. Listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I kind of prefer a home office, that's where I wrote my book. It was on the third floor of our house. So that worked. JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW: Do you have a favorite shape for

that home office? Do you like it -- do you like that office, let's say, would you like that office -

CLINTON: Maybe -

STEWART: Would you like to have corners or would you like it not to have corners? I don't know.

CLINTON: You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can --


BLITZER: A little humor from the former secretary of state.

BORGER: A little, yes.

BLITZER: So, Gloria, how did she do?

BORGER: You know, I'm kind of over the book tour, Wolf, to tell you the truth. I think she did just fine. I think she tried to sort of get around the problems she's had in this month-long book tour by talking about, OK, you know, maybe she misspoke and was unartful (ph) when she said they were dead broke and then turned into a conversation about income inequality. But I think a month-long book tour is enough. And there was a really interesting piece written about this in "The New York Times" today by a woman named Lynn Vabrik (ph), who made the point that there could be a downside to all of this for Hillary Clinton which is that the American public has known her for two decades. It's not like she's written a book and they're just -- she's introducing herself to America. They know her.

So on this tour, they're evaluating her not necessarily as a potential nominee but they're evaluating her as a potential president. And because there hasn't been that much substance in all these interviews and there hasn't been sort of a vision for how she would run the country, people may come away from the book tour kind scratching their heads saying, why does she want to be president.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, she's certainly no fan of Hillary Clinton's. She - talk a little bit about the --

BORGER: She wanted to be president.

BLITZER: Yes, she talked a little bit about the challenge Hillary Clinton could face from within her own party as she referred specifically to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

BORGER: Right.