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Hamas Agreeing to Ceasefire Again; Harun Calehr Talking About Flight 17 Family Member's Experience; Mounting White Flags On Brooklyn Bridge for Unknown Purpose Under Investigation; Dangerous Weather for Parts of U.S.

Aired July 27, 2014 - 06:30   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Sunday. Half past the hour right now. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Here are five things you need to know for your new day. Up first, more than 1,000 homes dangerously close to a wildfire. They have been evacuated in northern California. At least five homes have burned already. Officials say that the fire's threatening an additional 500 homes. The flames have scorched 4,000 acres thus far.

PAUL: And number two, this headline in the "New York Times" is catching attention today. Repeal prohibition again. The op-ed calls by "The Times" editorial board calls for the ban on marijuana to be repealed. The piece says much like the ban on alcohol in the 1920s laws prohibiting pot put a strain on the criminal justice system and editorial board believes pot sales to people over 21 should be legal.

BLACKWELL: Number three, a Canadian citizen is found - is free, rather on $1,000 bond after he was detained by a SWAT team on an airplane in Toronto. 25-year-old Ali Shahi, he's allegedly made a bomb threat during that flight to Panama City. The SWAT raid was captured here on cell phone video. Shahi is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft and other crimes. His father says that he is mentally ill.

PAUL: Number four, French President Francois Hollande has declared three days of mourning to remember the victims of the Air Algerie plane crash. 54 of those victims were French nationals. There were no survivors of Thursday's crash, and the wreckage was found in "disintegrated" state.

BLACKWELL: Number five, an American doctor treating Ebola patients in Liberia is now infected with the virus. Dr. Kent Brantly is now hospitalized and undergoing treatment at an isolation center. He has been in Liberia since last October working for the Christian humanitarian group Samaritan's Purse.

Well, the breaking news this morning we're learning that Hamas has agreed to a new cease-fire extension. PAUL: Yeah, we just got this word a couple of minutes ago. This, of

course, comes after this unilateral cease-fire extension by Israel collapsed just hours ago. And Israel announced it's resuming military operations from the ground, air and sea in Gaza. Or a senior Hamas spokesman says Hamas has now agreed to a 24-hour U.N.-mediated humanitarian pause that would start in just about 28 minutes from now.

BLACKWELL: We've got Martin Savidge joining us from Jerusalem. Martin, this was something that initially Israelis were willing to accept and it was Hamas who rejected it because they wanted the Israeli troops out as they continue this work of demolishing the tunnels there, these tunnels under the border.


BLACKWELL: The reaction - the response now that this has been accepted.

SAVIDGE: Well, so far we haven't heard from the Israeli side, but you are absolutely right, it was Israel and its cabinet last night that said it was willing to extend for another 24 hours at midnight, then, the humanitarian pause, I think, is sort of the best way to put it. This was, of course, what the United Nations had been requesting. But at that time Hamas came out verbally as well as militarily, and said that it was not going to adhere to that beyond what had already been said yesterday.

So that came in the form of a statement from Hamas that it was not going to honor the cease-fire, it also came in the form of mortars and rockets that were fired out of Gaza against Israel. Now it appears that Hamas somehow has been convinced or has come to the decision that it will now honor a humanitarian pause, it says it will begin at 2:00 local time, which is just a little less than a half hour from now. And that it would continue for 24 hours. But again, we have not heard from the Israeli side, to understand if they will adhere to it since it was Hamas that originally broke this.

So you know, it's going to be back and forth here. That's going to be the problem. And then you also - the Israelis are going to be wondering why has Hamas suddenly changed its mind. What is different now, say, 12 hours later than what they wouldn't agree to 12 hours before. So, there's a lot still to be worked out here. But if it's true, at least for the people in Gaza, the civilians, it would be a welcome respite.

PAUL: Martin, you knew what definitely I was going to ask you because everybody is wondering why the sudden turnaround by Hamas. Do you think it could have anything to do with the fact that there have been bombings there over the last few hours and is it any indication that perhaps Israel has done some pretty severe damage in that time?

SAVIDGE: I don't know. You know, both sides, of course, have to be concerned not only with the conflict on the ground there, which they definitely are, but they also have to be concerned about what their image is and how they are perceived when it comes to public relations in the rest of the world. Israel, by agreeing to say look, we will extend for 24 hours, might have appeared to be in a very good position whereas when Hamas starts firing rockets and says no, we won't do that, that makes it look exactly like what Israel has maintained, that they are a terrorist organization that refuses to negotiate when it comes to the issue of peace. So, there is a bit of brinksmanship that is clearly going on here. And at the same time, though, Israel has said look, we agree to a cease fire, a pause, but our troops will remain in Gaza up until this point that is something that Hamas said was totally unacceptable. It wanted Israeli forces to withdraw outside of the border of Gaza for any kind of extended cease-fire. I presume that is still what they want, although we have not heard specifics. So, we're waiting again to hear if Israel will adhere to what Hamas is now willing to offer.

PAUL: Martin, we were talking earlier about if there is any potential for a long term resolution to this, but earlier this morning Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told CNN he believed they were about halfway through the tunnels, those tunnels that Hamas had built, is a huge point of contention, we know, in this conflict. Is there any indication if they are halfway through now, if Israel gets through a certain portion of those tunnels or if they get to all of those tunnels that they will then pull back?

SAVIDGE: I think there is no doubt that Israel wants to identify where all of those tunnels are. They perceive and truly believe they are a great threat to Israelis. These are tunnels, many people have heard about tunnels before when it comes to Gaza. These are not the smuggling kind of tunnels that traditionally had run between Egypt into Gaza. These are a different type of tunnels. They are extensive and they are quite well built. They run from Gaza underneath the security border into Israel. Israel believes that these are for one purpose only, and that's to launch terror attacks against its population, against the farming communities that are located right next door to Gaza, against Israelis. And these tunnels have been fairly effective in that they can hide material, they can move the militants undetected by Israelis and they can suddenly pop up. They have also, the IDF has alleged that these tunnels are being used within Gaza to attack Israeli forces. So they are considered every bit as much a weapon as the rockets that have been fired from Gaza and their demolition is crucial. They believe there are still tens more to be discovered. Given that, it would be expected it would take Israel probably many more days to locate, destroy and then get out of Gaza.

BLACKWELL: All right, Martin Savidge there in Jerusalem for us. Martin, thank you very much.

SAVIDGE: Thank you, Martin.

BLACKWELL: Enjoy us on the breaking news again, a temporary cease- fire, which is scheduled to begin in about 22 1/2 minutes. It's going to be 7:00 a.m. Eastern, 2:00 p.m. local, for 24 hours, U.N. mediated humanitarian pause. Again, doubling the time of the last one. At this morning at 9:00 Eastern, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be right here on CNN discussing the latest efforts toward an extended cease-fire. He'll be Candy Crowley's guest on "State of the Union." Of course, we'll talk about the breaking news this morning, that's this morning at 9, right here on CNN.

PAUL: And Hillary Clinton weighed in on the crisis in Gaza speaking on Fareed Zakaria GPS.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: People from both sides of whatever divide it is, whether it's Israeli, Palestinian, you know, Russian speaking, Ukrainian speaking, whatever it might be, people have to start listening and working together to build habits of cooperation that might possibly lead to greater trust.


BLACKWELL: Well, this morning we've learned that the MH-17 crash site too dangerous, according to an OSCE spokesperson - I spoke with our Nick Paton Walsh, too dangerous to access today. There are still victims there and many of the victims were Dutch citizens and some had ties to the U.S.

PAUL: And we are talking to a man who lost his nephews on that fatal flight. Talk to him about how the identification process is going and what they as a family on that flight are hearing now.


PAUL: Well, 42 minutes past the hour now. And take a look at this. Because these are the last few hours for this ship, the "Costa Concordia." The wrecked cruise ship is expected to arrive at Port in Genoa, Italy later today and that's where it's going to be cut up for scrap metal.

BLACKWELL: 32 people were killed when that cruise ship ran aground off a coast of Italy just two years ago. 4200 passengers had been on board.

PAUL: Turning back to the crash of Malaysian Flight 17, a Dutch forensic team says it has made its first identification of one of the victims now.

BLACKWELL: Now, the officials will not name the person publicly, but they say that person's family has been informed, and you pair that with the news from CBS that they say that they have learned early details from one of the plane's black boxes which indicates the plane was indeed shot down by a missile. The CNN has not been able to independently confirm that information.

PAUL: But we want to bring in Harun Calehr who joins us on the phone right now. He lost two of his nephews when Flight 17 crashed.

BLACKWELL: Harun, thank you for joining us once again. We understand ...

HARUN CALEHR, LOST FAMILY ON MH-17 (via telephone): Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. We understand your family received a call from the Dutch forensics team. What did they tell you?

CALEHR: Yes. They called last night and they simply, you know, informed that out of all of the victims that have been brought back to the Netherlands for forensic examination that one positive identification has been made, but they - I guess they confirm obviously that it was not our boys, but they did not share with us who that particular person is.

PAUL: Did they give you any sort of indication as to when they thought they might have some definitive news for her?

CALEHR: No. This has been very careful and diligent in repeating and underlining the fact that this could be very painstaking, it could take a few hours, it could take a few weeks. They keep drawing back the analogy to the 2010 Tripoli crash where 70 Dutch citizens lost their lives and they said it took 2 1/2 months to I.D. everyone on board.

BLACKWELL: What has your sister's involvement been in helping to identify these boys? I understand that she spent several hours with these -- the teams and investigators. Tell us about this side of what's happening.

CALEHR: Yes. The accident happened last Thursday and I believe it was Monday that the hotel where Malaysian Airlines had put up the victims - the two, each family member has been assigned to forensic Dutch police officers for the victims that are residing here in the Netherlands. And they spent about five hours with her, in depth, you know, investigation. Had a bunch of forms to fill out. Asked them all about, you know, personal belongings, birth marks, anything that she could shed light on insofar as dental records, getting authorizations, releases for the doctors, primary care physicians. And also yesterday in the phone call they informed about what we just discussed. They also mentioned that, you know, she had initially in the interview told them about birth marks so they wanted to clarify the general vicinity of the birth marks in the boys' bodies and which of the boys had the birth marks.

PAUL: Harun, we have got these news from CBS this morning that the black boxes reveal it was indeed a missile that took the plane down. What is your reaction to that information now?

CALEHR: Well, I mean, we all knew somewhat informally along from the very beginning that this must have been a missile attack. It's a flagrant violation of international law and even the subsequent treatment or disrespect for the crime scene and the contamination. And I've heard informally also from Dutch TV and from colleagues in the aviation field that not only did that happen, but moreover right now the separatists are actually planting evidence of other downed planes primarily military planes, among the debris, this is, of course, all of hearsay, and unconfirmed. I don't have any evidence of that. But this is what I'm hearing that they are doing that to deny - to further solidify and strengthen the deniability that they may have in so far as the Russian government is concerned. So if that really is true and gets confirmed down the line, it's just you know, despicable. BLACKWELL: Yeah, there are reports there from the OSCE monitors that

there have been passports and other personal effects that have appeared now that weren't there just days ago. And we're going to talk more about that later this morning. Harun Calehr, I know this is a very difficult time for your family. And we thank you for taking just a few minutes to speak with us.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, I appreciate it.

PAUL: Thank you.

You know, white flags, they usually mean surrender, right?

PAUL: But what about this one? What about these flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. They may indicate something sinister. Who put them up and who would risk their lives to do that?


PAUL: Well, Philadelphia is on the lookout this morning for two men suspected in a violent carjacking that led to the deaths of three children. We know right now there is an $110,000 reward for any information that leads to arrest.

BLACKWELL: Police say the men carjacked a woman at gunpoint on Friday night. Investigators say they ended up losing control and crashed into a mother and her three children selling fruit on the sidewalk. A 15-year-old girl, a 10-year-old boy, and a seven-year-old boy were killed. The mom, she's still in critical condition.

PAUL: So here's the question in New York that police are trying to answer right now. Who would climb up to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, right, and set up giant white flags? Well, Susan Candiotti is digging in to this mystery.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who did it and why? Intruders scrambling to raise two bleached white American flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking across social media, Facebook, Twitter and other indications or other indicators to see if there is any claim of responsibility for this.

CANDIOTTI: New details emerging, a law enforcement official tells CNN, DNA now collected from tin pans. That's what they say climbers used to cover bridge lights Tuesday to hoist the flags without being seen. On this Earth cam video it's hard to make out but you can see lights flickering around 3:30 in the morning near one flagpole. So far no DNA match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time it appears it has no particular nexus to terrorism or even politics. This may be somebody's art project or may be an attempt at making some kind of statement but at this point it's not clear what that statement is.

CANDIOTTI: Or where the bleached 11 by 20-foot American flags with hand stitching came from. Officials are interviewing flag makers and checking Internet sales. Police are searching for four or five people captured in video during those overnight hours. And, tracing five nicknames to see whether they belong to people who may be of interest. Investigators are also systematically checking about 18,000 license plates of vehicles using the bridge that night.

And why was Monday night chosen? Officials say a terror plot seems unlikely, but if it was a prank, no one thinks it's funny. Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


PAUL: All right. Susan, thank you so much. Reporting from New York there.

BLACKWELL: Well, tonight on CNN you can help catch the bad guys who have been on the run for too long. A new episode of "The Hunt" with John Walsh starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll hear the story of a man who's been wanted for murder for almost 40 years.

PAUL: Potential for severe weather in parts of the country. Your forecast not looking so good, right? Victor looks better. Why don't we keep that camera on Victor?

BLACKWELL: I looked better than forecast.


BLACKWELL: Also we've got more on that breaking news, that the new humanitarian cease-fire that is about to start at the top of the hour there between Hamas and Israel.


PAUL: Hate the messenger, but if you are waking up in the Midwest or the Northeast, severe weather heading your way.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, meteorologist Jennifer Gray is live in the CNN weather center. Who's been hit?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, basically, folks in the east. We're going to see a possible severe weather threat here from Washington D.C., Philly, New York, Boston. It does extend a little bit farther to the West including Charleston, Columbus, that's where the moderate risk is. Slight risk, though, including all of these areas in the light orange, that includes all of our cities, most of our big cities in the northeast. We're looking at damaging winds, large hail, a slight possibility of a few tornados. So we'll be looking for that as we go into the afternoon. The severe threat lasts until tomorrow as well. But it does shift a little bit farther to the south.

So we'll be including cities like Montgomery, Jacksonville and all of those coastal cities right along the Carolinas tomorrow, same type of threat, just different area tomorrow. It's that cold front we've been talking about, believe it or not, that's been causing a lot of rain, a little bit of severe weather and it is starting to drop those temperatures down from north to south. So yes, we'll all feel a little bit of relief in the coming days but it takes a little while to get there. D.C., Baltimore, you're in the bull's eye this morning as far as rainfall goes. We'll see that rain move into places like New York City and Boston as we go into the afternoon. We're also going to see anywhere from three to five inches of rain in Charleston, one to three outside of Cleveland, New York City, Boston, you could pick up about an inch of rain.

We've got cooler air starting to filter down into the East, we've got very warm temperatures in the west. We're talking about when you factor in the heat index, triple digits across much of the south for today. Actual temperatures will be in the 90s, but look at this, guys. Worried you about Atlanta, but look, come Tuesday we'll drop by about ten degrees. Low to mid 80s. Looking a little better.

BLACKWELL: That's better.

GRAY: Better. See?

BLACKWELL: I'll take it.


PAUL: Jennifer, thank you.

GRAY: All right.

PAUL: And thank you for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: We've got much more ahead on the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts right now.

PAUL: Good morning. 7:00 right now. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. 7:00 here on the East Coast. 4:00 out West and 2:00 p.m. there in Israel where there's hope this morning that a cease-fire extension may hold in Gaza after all.

PAUL: And it is starting allegedly right this minute. We're learning Hamas has just agreed to a 24 hour cease-fire, a humanitarian pause as they call it. And that is to start precisely at this hour, 7:00, 2 p.m. their time. It would be mediated by the United Nations.