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Ceasefire Broken in Gaza; U.S. Embassy Evacuated from Tripoli; Putin Increasing Military Deployment to Ukraine; Grieving Parents Coming to Flight 17 Crash Site Despite Security Warnings

Aired July 27, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for starting your morning with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Live coverage of the cease-fire in Gaza continues on "NEW DAY SUNDAY" right now.

PAUL: All right. Grab your coffee and your breakfast, sit back and relax. Because we've got a lot to tell you this morning. And glad to have your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. 6:00 here on the East Coast. This is "NEW DAY SUNDAY." And that cease-fire is no more because the fighting is raging again in Gaza.

PAUL: We know there have been explosions, there has been billowing smoke, the Israeli military said it's resuming aerial, ground and sea strikes here. Now, this came shortly after the Israeli cabinet had agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire extension but it says, quote, incessant rocket attacks by Hamas overnight and into this morning violated that humanitarian pause.

BLACKWELL: Hamas flatly turned down the cease-fire extension saying Israeli troops must withdraw. And earlier CNN's John Vause asked a spokesman for the Israeli military about Hamas's vow to fight to the death.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen a repeated -- I would say a reflex - natural reflex to a situation where they have every time there has been a cease-fire on the table, they have taken it up a step with aggression. So, I don't know if they are actually fighting to the death, but indeed they are putting themselves as an organization, as a terrorist body, at great risk and I'm pretty sure that they don't want to actually leave the arena.


BLACKWELL: Of course, we're covering this from both sides of the Israel/Gaza border. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Jerusalem.

PAUL: And CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Gaza City. Carl, let's start with you. Help us understand the situation there right now. KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly that cease-fire has

totally collapsed. It was a unilateral cease-fire, as you're pointing out. It was Israel's offer to extend the cease-fire throughout the course of the day right up until midnight. But now Israel blaming incessant rocket fire on Hamas. And the result of that you can see from pictures of the Gaza skyline, plumes of black smoke, the sound of artillery positions pounding and pounding away of what we can see is here on the eastern Gaza border and the eastern Gaza neighborhoods. We're also getting word that once again the Israeli military advising residents of a couple of neighborhoods in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes. They are also going to be targeted. Hamas as you rightly say, did not accept Israel's conditions for continuation of that cease-fire because they say that it was a lopsided cease-fire, Hamas said that it would not accept any extension that permitted Israeli troops to stay within the Gaza Strip, also under the terms of Israel's cease-fire offer it allowed Israeli military to continue to destroy militant tunnels and militant rocket launchers, that's to say to go after Hamas's military infrastructure, so Hamas very much felt that its hands were tied. And there does seem to be both a political and a military decision by Hamas to go forward and wage this war against Israel especially because it feels that in guerrilla warfare terms it is waging a good campaign so far. Already in this war Hamas has inflicted more than four times more casualties on the Israeli military than it did in the 2008-2009 war. We've seen very different tactics from Hamas commandos engaging the Israeli military in hand-to- hand fighting within the Gaza Strip, and then continuing to get into Israeli territory to wage war on the Israelis' home turf. The Israelis now saying, of course, that the cease-fire is off and so the civilians once again are the ones that are going to be bearing the brunt of this. Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Martin, let's go to you now. Hamas has said that this is a fight to the death, the war to end all wars. Is there no non- military solution to this? I mean does it look likely at all that there will be any diplomatic progress in ending this?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Christi. No, at this particular point, unfortunately, it does not, at least for the time being look like there is going to be a non-violent solution to this ongoing conflict. Now, Israel would say, look, last night the cabinet had voted, we were willing to extend this humanitarian ceasefire for another 24 hours, and then it was Hamas that rejected that and then began launching both mortars and missiles and rockets into Israel. So you know, from the Israeli point of view they would say we offered the hand of peace and instead what we got was another barrage of fire coming from Gaza. Now, to -- it should be pointed out that as the Israelis were observing this humanitarian cease-fire, they said it was still their right to continue to move forward and destroy the terror tunnels, that's what they refer to as those tunnels that Hamas had been building and were constructed between Gaza and Israel, so it could also be that Hamas was seeing that some of its infrastructure was being taken away from them, even though it was supposed to be a cease-fire, that was not stated by Hamas, but that could have been in part their motivation. They saw that they were losing something during the cease-fire. So right now, unfortunately, it doesn't appear either side is willing to step back from the brink of fighting.

PAUL: All right, Martin Savidge and Karl Penhaul, gentlemen, thank you both so much.

BLACKWELL: This morning at 9:00 a.m., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be right here on CNN discussing the latest in efforts toward a temporary cease-fire. He will be Candy Crowley's guest on "State of the Union." Again, that's 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: The people who witnessed the evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli say there was, quote, "a lot of movement with fighter jets and helicopters around the time that the Americans were moved out."

BLACKWELL: These pictures from the Defense Department show U.S. Marines securing the departure of the embassy staff there. About 150 personnel including 80 Marines were driven to Tunisia, just to the west, early Saturday, as the militia fighting intensified there.

PAUL: Now, the State Department says embassy employees will continue working from Washington and elsewhere in the region.

BLACKWELL: The Pentagon has been pressing to evacuate the embassy after the Tripoli airport came under repeated fire and repeated siege by militias there. Threatening the option of getting Americans out on commercial flights.

PAUL: And the heightened hostilities are raising concerns about whether the Obama administration has a handle on escalating violence in that region. In fact, here is CNN's Brian Todd with more.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An embassy in the cross-fire, now evacuated, with fighting ramped up around the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya over the past several days, a convoy of diplomats is escorted out of the capital and over land to Tunisia. They had to move by land because U.S. officials say the airport in Tripoli wasn't an option. Battles between rival militias had intensified at the airport which is near the U.S. Embassy. This video shows an airbus owned by a Libyan airline erupting in flames on the tarmac. Secretary of State John Kerry was clear the 150 Americans at the embassy were at risk.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are suspending our current diplomatic activities at the embassy, not closing the embassy, but suspending the activities.

TODD: Former U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey has evacuated U.S. embassies in the Middle East twice.

JIM JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: We tried to keep people, even when the situation is dangerous as long as possible, but when you do have very clear and present danger and that was the case in Tripoli over the last few days, you suspend operations in embassy.

TODD: Nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has descended into lawlessness. Along with the ongoing violence, the U.S. is still haunted by the 2012 killings in Benghazi of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador. What role should the U.S. play in Libya now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having removed Qaddafi the administration sort of took its focus off of Libya and things have been getting worse for quite some considerable time now. I do think they should be much more engaged on the ground with the factions in Libya.

TODD: A White House official says the U.S. has been actively engaged on the ground in Libya and will remain so. The exodus of American diplomats prom Libya follows a partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad last month, as ISIS rebels threaten the city. And evacuations of the U.S. embassies in Cairo and Yemen last year. Damascus in 2012. Has it become too dangerous to keep any U.S. embassies in the Middle East open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The default position by the State Department, and it's the right decision, it is to keep highly skilled professionals on the ground, trying to advance our interests even in a war zone, even with bullets firing around. We're used to it and we're good at it.

TODD: Still, one U.S. official says the Pentagon had been pressing for weeks to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Tripoli especially after the airport had come under attack. That left Americans no way to get out on commercial aircraft. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: A new information coming out this morning about Flight 17's black boxes. Is the data confirming that the plane was shot out of the sky? We'll let you know what we heard.

BLACKWELL: And a family braves that war zone in Ukraine. We'll have more on their dangerous journey to get answers about their daughter right there at the crash site.


PAUL: For the devastated families of those on board of Malaysia Flight 17 some answers are slowly beginning to form.

BLACKWELL: In the last several hours investigators say they have made their first identification of a victim. A Dutch citizen. Officials say the family has been informed but the identity will not yet be released to the public.

PAUL: The early findings from one of the plane's black boxes reveal the -- reveals rather that the fuselage was hit multiple times by shrapnel consistent with a missile. This is according to CBS News. CNN, by the way, has not been able to confirm that information just yet.

BLACKWELL: And Malaysia says it has secured an agreement with the pro-Russian rebels for 68 of its police personnel to gain access to the crash site. They will join the dozens of Dutch police who have arrived in Donetsk, Ukraine. They arrived just a short time ago. So what is this agreement with the pro-Russian rebels to allow the international police there? What does it mean for the investigation?

PAUL: Let's talk to CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes. Tom, thank you so much for being with us here. Wondering when we talk about the crash site, why is it that -- I want to ask why people are so afraid of Putin and the fact that they have got a whole rebel group that is containing this site. We know according to Barbara Starr and some reports earlier, that Putin is still sending in tanks and some artillery across the border into Ukraine. Is it just because he feels that he doesn't have any one to answer to at this point?

TOM FUENTES, CNN ANALYST: I think that's true, Christi. The more he beats on his chest and pushes his military to the border and across the border, the more popular he is at home. You know, most of the Russian people miss the days of the mighty Soviet Union when the world feared and respected them or at least feared them, and you know, Putin's promise to them over these past couple of years has been to restore Russia, the Russian federation now, to the glory days, and the way to do that is through military might so he's threatened in the region, Ukraine, he took over Crimea and the world let him. The Europeans let him. Everybody let him. He's threatened Georgia, another neighbor, the Baltics with cyber-attacks. So, you know, there has been no stopping him. And what his message is, is stay away from my border. He doesn't want NATO encroaching on the Russian federation getting closer and closer by taking in countries that are adjacent to the Russian border. And he's showing that. In this case most recently I thought it was interesting, the day that the Australians announced that they were going to send police officers and the Netherlands said they were going to send investigators that's about the same day when Barbara Starr reported that the U.S. satellite coverage indicated increased military deployment on the part of the Russian military to the border and across the border. His message being, don't even think about it. I'm controlling this area, my surrogate army, the rebels, are controlling this area. Stay out or we'll let you in when we feel like it and for as long as we feel like it.

BLACKWELL: Tom, let's talk about the black boxes in this CBS News report that - it shows evidence of shrapnel hitting the fuselage. Is that something that can be used in court to prosecute a person if that person is ever identified, to use as a reason to go after a state or a group if they are - if it's decided that they are the ones responsible?

FUENTES: Well, the problem, Victor, is that you have no direct knowledge of who pushed the button and actually shot the plane down. So you can say it was a missile, you can say looking at the debris or analyzing the debris on the ground at the crash site that there's no, you know, no discussion, a missile shot the plane down. But I think that probably we're never going to know who did it, who actually shot it down. If that person's back across the border in Russia, he'll be protected. The U.S. and the world, we have no extradition with the Russian federation, so that person, basically would have safe haven. And the Russians aren't going to allow the FBI or any other major investigative force, either in eastern Ukraine or on Russian soil, they are not going to allow investigators to interview the people in the way that you would have to. This is much like a drive-by shooting in an urban area where an innocent person gets shot down and at first you don't know who did the shooting, but the police are able to do investigation, they are able to talk to known gang members, they are able to put a case together. In this case, we don't get to talk to the known gang members. And essentially you have a fly-by shooting by someone, yes, we know the shot that was fired, we know it was a missile, we know the plane came down. Who pushed the button to do it, we don't know.

PAUL: All right. Great conversation. Tom Fuentes, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Tom.

FUENTES: You are welcome.

PAUL: Sure. Boy, the tales of loss from this flight, 17, they are just heartbreaking. We're going to look at one family's journey through the war zone.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we are going to see the red tape and they get to see where their daughter died. But you'll find out if they really believe that she's gone.


PAUL: All righty. I want to let you know we're just getting word that an OSCE Deputy head Andrew Hug has told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Donetsk that the security situation at the crash site Flight 17 right now is too dangerous, it is such that they cannot access the crash site today. So we've been talking about how Australia and Dutch, they are getting their police force and this multinational force to go into the crash site. Apparently they are not even going to attempt it today because of severe security concerns there now.

BLACKWELL: And with all that's going on there, let's bring in CNN's Kyung Lah. She has spoken with the family that travelled to that crash site to get answers about their daughter. They just don't believe that she is dead. Kyung, we're getting this report that it's too dangerous and the advice at least the plea from international leaders is stay away from this area, expecting more families to try to do what this family has done.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the hope is that no other families are going to try to do this because we have to remember that there is a conflict going on in Donetsk. It is only escalating and that report that we are getting from OSCE really puts it into perspective. There are international police agencies trying to get in there, the Dutch police are here, the Australian prime minister saying that he wants to try to send officers down there to try to reach the crash site today to secure it. It's just going to be very difficult with the fighting that's escalating there. But what we saw is that one set of parents, they managed to get through and get to the crash site.


LAH: Nothing could keep these parents from Flight 17's wreckage, not a bloody conflict, not a breakaway republic filled with armed rebels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I cry. Of course. We thought how we survive this. We just don't - we couldn't believe it.

LAH: Even being this close they still don't want to believe that their only child Fatima is gone. The 25-year-old aerospace engineer aims to be an astronaut one day and hopes space exploration could bring peace on earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She would challenge me if I would give up. She has a training in not giving up.

LAH: And neither will her parents. The Australians flew to Ukraine armed only with shock, grief and hope to find their daughter alive.




LAH: We met them on the Ukrainian side of the conflict as they fought to get to the rebel-held territory of Donetsk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please.

LAH: Local Ukrainian government officials urged them not to go warning them the fighting was getting worse. Embassy workers on the phone begged them to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have not sorted this out. Please do not contact me anymore.

So the risk we know. No worry.

LAH: Refusing to listen they left in a private car, crossing rebel blockades to their daughter's plane that the U.S. says the rebels shot down. They are the first of the families to come here. Seeing is not believing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really want no condolences. I really say this to the - no condolences.

LAH: Denial is powerful. A parent's grief unyielding.


LAH: And we need to underscore how incredibly lucky these parents are that they were not hurt, kidnappings, people getting hurt by accident. This is not unheard of. This is a conflict zone, again what we're hearing from international observers please, do not come if you have a relative who was aboard that flight. Victor, Christi. BLACKWELL: Kyung Lah reporting for us from Kiev. Kyung, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Kyung.

Well, the cease-fire didn't last long between Israel and Hamas. We know that smoke is already billowing over Gaza this morning.

BLACKWELL: We'll take you through a neighborhood destroyed by the fighting and talk about the effort to secure yet another cease-fire.