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U.N. Shelter Hit, Civilians Killed; Punishing Putin For MH17; Clinton On Russia: The Reset Worked; Looters, Scammers Target Flight MH17 Victims; Interview with Sen. Kelly Ayotte; Interview with UN Spokesman

Aired July 24, 2014 - 16:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar for Jake Tapper. Before it was a U.N. shelter, it was a school. Now it's one more scene of human suffering in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The fog of war is thick in Gaza right now. A spokesman in Jerusalem says that it's still unclear, which side is responsible for this nightmare, but that same U.N. spokesman says both Hamas and the Israeli military knew, quote, "Exactly where their school was."

Here's what we can confirm. Innocent lives were lost. Scores were injured and this conflict is still nowhere near over.

I want to bring in Farhan Haq right now. He is the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general. Farhan, thanks so much for being with us. And part of the issue with this is we can't really tell who is responsible at this point.

It's actually the IDF has said various actions may have caused this attack and a misfired rocket is one possibility that it's investigating. This is actually a tweet that they've put out implicating Hamas. They said Hamas fired from a populated area near a U.N. shelter and prevented civilians from evacuating after we sent warnings. What are you hearing on where the responsibility lies here?

FARHAN HAQ, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Yes, Brianna. We're still trying to get details as you can imagine and, of course, we also have to deal with the large number of dead and wounded inside the school. What is clear is that our schools, our facilities of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA are clearly marked. We've given out the coordinates for those schools.

This case, this was one of those that is sheltering Palestinian refugees from the fighting in Gaza. Right now, there's more than 140,000 refugees or you know, people displaced by the conflict in Gaza who have taken refuge in our schools more than 80 of the UNRA schools are being used for these purposes. We've made clear where those schools are, and the fact that there are civilians in them.

So they shouldn't have been attacked by anyone. If there was any military activity, there shouldn't have been any military activity near those schools either. But whether or not there was activity nearby would not excuse anyone firing at the schools. We've been very worried about the safety of these facilities.

The Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned the Security Council just two days ago about his worries that our facilities could be struck and now here we are two days later and this is a horrible attack and we'll need to find out who did this and what happened.

KEILAR: Do you know apparently, Israel is saying that Hamas has been basically hiding among civilians that they hide among the innocent in this case. Do you know if that happened with this shelter?

HAQ: At this stage, we have no reason to believe that the shelter had anything other than civilians. The people from the Relief and Works Agency have tried to make sure that their areas are kept free of any type of militant activity. Of course, we would still need to get more details.

But regardless of what was happening in and around the area, the bottom line remains, that school should never have been hit. And you can see a reason why. The casualties are overwhelmingly going to be civilians who were just seeking shelter, seeking a safe area.


HAQ: In the midst of conflict.

KEILAR: Farhan, speaking to that concern, twice the U.N. had asked or the UNWRA had asked for safe passage to get these people out of this shelter. Those requests were denied by the Israeli military. What was the explanation given for that denial?

HAQ: Like I said, we're trying to get details about how it was that these requests were not granted. I don't know the precise reasons why we were not able to evacuate people. But yes, the Relief and Works Agency was trying to evacuate people. We'll have to see what went wrong and this is something we're trying to determine.

KEILAR: Now, in this case, it sounds like U.N. staffers were not among those who were killed. I don't know, you can tell us if they were among those who were injured in this case. But certainly U.N. staffers have been killed during this conflict. What can you do to protect your own people there to help out the Gazans in this conflict?

HAQ: Yes, you're right. That staff of the Relief and Works Agency have been killed. Three of the women who are school teachers for the relief and Works Agency have been killed in recent days. Two of them killed among family members while they were at their homes, one person killed basically walking to her home on her way home from her work.

And so these are people who have been devoting their time to the extremely risky task of trying to protect a large number of displaced civilians. And they themselves have been put in harm's way. Ultimately, the only thing that will guarantee their protection is the only thing that will guarantee the protection of the people of Gaza as a whole, which is a halt to the fighting.

This is why Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary-general remains in the region trying to work with different parties to obtain support for a cease- fire that can go into effect as soon as possible. And indeed, he is meeting I believe just in the recent hour with Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo on this matter.

KEILAR: Now, the shuttle diplomacy is extraordinary as we watch this all unfold. I want to ask you about this is obviously not the only shelter that UNWRA is providing to Gazans. It is a big chunk of the population, I think about 5 percent that is seeking refuge in these shelters. Should Gazans and those who are watching feel that they are safe in other shelters or are there plays where they can go?

HAQ: U.N. premises, anywhere around the world are meant to be safe from all attack, safe from militant activity, safe from being any site where weapons will be stored. Those are part and parcel of the immunities that U.N. premises have. And that is meant to be respected by all sides. If that is respected by all sides, then yes, people will be safe. But if it isn't, that's a huge problem and it's a huge violation of our ability to protect innocent people.

KEILAR: Whoever is responsible, I think Ban Ki-Moon said it is appalling. I think that's something a lot of people certainly connect with. Farhan, thanks for being.

HAQ: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Farhan Haq with Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary-general.

Now coming up next, Russia apparently not too happy about being linked to the shooting down of Flight 17, now actually blaming the western media for making assumptions without any facts.

Plus thieves pick through the wreckage in the hours and days after Flight 17 crash. Now what they found is being used to victimize the passengers again.


KEILAR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar in today for Jake Tapper. It's been nearly a week since Flight 17 went down over Eastern Ukraine. U.S. intelligence points the finger at Russian- backed rebels using a Russian provided missile system to shoot it out of the sky. When the global consensus blames your government for the deaths of 298 innocent people, what do you do? Blame the media, of course.

The Russian deputy minister for foreign affairs saying there's no real evidence indicating who brought down Flight 17 yet and that all the whispers about Russia can be traced to the western media's irresponsible tweeting.


ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO, RUSSIAN DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: We have the allegations, you know, speculations you know, basically the media making its own conclusions without any facts.


KEILAR: That concrete proof could come soon with Flight 17's black boxes being analyzed in the U.K. But in the meantime, what, if anything, can the U.S. and Europe do to hold Russia accountable?

Joining me now to talk about this, Republican senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte. Senator, thanks for being with us.


KEILAR: As you look at this, how do you think that the U.S. and Europe can hold Putin accountable?

AYOTTE: Well, first of all, I never continue to be amazed by the brazenness of Vladimir Putin with trying to blame the media, trying to blame everyone except for himself and Russia for what happened to Flight 17. And what we can doing is issue tougher economic sanctions against Russia. Sectoral sanctions that will be much more hard hitting against their economy.

Defense sector, energy sector, also thinking about their financial sector, much tougher than we've imposed. Europeans need to step up to the plate and join the United States of America and we also need to give support to the Ukrainian military to defend themselves against Russian aggression.

KEILAR: If you're talking about targeting the defense and energy sector, we've seen some targeted sanctions unilaterally from the U.S., you have the E.U. talking about travel bans and asset freezes. Is that really enough?

AYOTTE: Totally inefficient. In fact, it is time for Europe to step up. Think about the Europeans that were murdered on Flight 17. This was obviously just horrific what happened to those individuals. It's been directly connected to the Russian backed separatists. The responsibility for this really does lie with Vladimir Putin. It's time for the Europeans to acknowledge this and to step up and to really take tougher actions against Russia.

KEILAR: It really seems in a way doubtful I guess. We're hearing even from one of own colleagues. Senator John McCain had this to say, quote, "The Europeans are not going to do anything if anybody believes that, I have some beachfront property for them in Arizona." Arizona is land locked, not a lot of beaches there.

But if you have -- you can kind of see it from Europe's point of view. They are so dependent on Russian energy. How do you say to -- how do you appeal to Europe and say, this needs to be done even if you're going to be taking certainly an economic hit and a political hit to get this done?

AYOTTE: Well, certainly to protect freedom, you have to be willing to sacrifice. Also with Europe, we also need to I think have a longer term strategy with energy. The legislation I've supported would open up our natural gas resources, have to come up to Europe with a plan for energy independence from Russia. We've got to look at the energy issue long-term. Europe can't allow Russia to be involved in the way they have been in Ukraine. There are grave implications for all of Europe's security.

KEILAR: I want to get your reaction to something that happened today. Hillary Clinton during an interview said that the reset with Russia, which obviously she shepherded during her time as secretary of state said it worked. She distanced herself from the president's recent struggles with Russia.

She sort of emphasized successes in the first term of the Obama administration and didn't mention the second term. Do you think there's been a difference in how the administration has dealt with Russia from the first term to the second?

AYOTTE: Actually, no, there were lots of concessions made early on when Secretary Clinton was in office and if your goal was to allow Russia to expand its territory or dismember its neighbors, then you can define reset as a success. But the reality of the facts are that reset has been a huge failure.

What we have seen is not only the invasion of Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea and what we've seen in Eastern Ukraine. They have given arms to the Assad regime to murder its own people. They have had gross human rights violations in their country. Think about them banning adoptions for children that need parents to our country.

KEILAR: What concessions do you think should not have been made that you feel contributed to this problem?

AYOTTE: Well, one of the first concessions the administration made was not to build the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. On other agreements, we've made concessions. For example, I know that Secretary Clinton cited the new START Treaty as some kind of success.

If you look at that, we made many more concessions. Russian made few if any concessions in terms of reducing its armament. There are arguments Russia is violating the INF Treaty, an existing nuclear treaty.

KEILAR: Thanks so much for being with us, Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire.

AYOTTE: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Coming up next, victim's families already struggling with their grief and unknowns. They now have to worry about thieves using their loved ones' credit cards. How looters could be making a tragic situation even worse.


KEILAR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. They are the innocents. Innocent victims of a civil war and now we're learning that the passengers aboard Flight 17 are at risk of becoming victims of identity fraud. Our business correspondent, Cristina Alesci is here with the details and Cristina, I want you to listen to this. Yesterday on THE LEAD, I spoke to Shane Hattingh. He is the brother-in-law of Cameron Diel, a father of two who was killed when the plane was shot out of the sky in Ukraine. Shane told me that Cameron's credit card accounts had to be shut down out of fear that they may have fallen into the hands of looters.


SHANE HATTINGH, BROTHER-IN-LAW OF MH17 PASSENGER: I mean, getting his credit cards, you know, destroyed because people are abusing it in the Ukraine, I mean, that is just unfathomable.


KEILAR: It is unfathomable, Cristina. I mean, it's horrible to even think about this. How widespread is this threat?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly couldn't have happened in a worse part of the world. This area is known for having hackers and the scene is littered with personal belongings and information. It's a criminal's gold mine. At the end of the day, we spoke to a cybersecurity expert, Brian Krebs, he's the cybersecurity guy who actually uncovered the target hack.

He said that he hasn't really seen any of these credit card numbers pop up on the black market yet, but remember, that doesn't mean that it's not possible down the line. Sometimes these hackers wait and these thieves wait to put those credit cards online. At the end of the day, we did have the interior advisor to the interior ministry in Ukraine say that these people are death hunters and that the families should cancel the credit cards.

And then we had the Dutch and the British Bankers Association today, yesterday actually acknowledging that there is potential for fraud and telling people that the bankers association would cover any losses for the victims.

KEILAR: So these thieves are presumably stealing the credit cards and then selling just -- selling the information, right, to buyers?

ALESCI: They could be selling the information. They could also be using the information themselves. Remember, when we will -- this is an area that's particularly sensitive and not great. If you actually look last year, there were four Russian nationals and one Ukrainian that were charged with running one of the largest credit card hacking schemes in history. About 160 million cards hacked. These included infiltrating some of the biggest computer systems of the biggest companies out there from JetBlue to JC Penny.

KEILAR: And obviously these families are not going to be held liable, right. You would expect there would be protections when it comes to credit cards, certainly.

ALESCI: Most credit card companies have some sort of fraud protection. That really depends on the country that the card is issued in. And it comes down to the particular bank and the kind of contracts the bank has with the credit card processing companies as well as with the customers so it's really country specific.

Earlier today, I called Mastercard. They said when it comes to the Netherlands and the U.K., those customers, their card holders have zero liability when it comes to fraud. That's just one company.

KEILAR: Real quick before we let you go, it sounded like Shane was saying some of Cameron's credit cards may have already been used. But you've heard of none yet being used?

ALESCI: What we don't know exactly is what he said yesterday in the interview was abused and we don't exactly know what that means. But we, what, we know is that perhaps they were taken into somebody else's possession.

KEILAR: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar. I turn you over to off Wolf Blitzer who is live from Jerusalem in "THE SITUATION ROOM."