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Hamas Now Wants 24-Hour Cease-Fire; Dutch Police Arrive in Ukraine; U.S. Embassy "Suspending" Activity in Libya

Aired July 27, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, those explosions carried on for about 10 or 15 minutes into the hour. Since then, things have got considerably calmer. I would say totally quiet, except for a few incidents of sporadic shelling some distance away from where we are now.

It is very difficult, though, to get a full picture of what's going on. We said we haven't heard formal comment to my knowledge from the Israeli government or the Israeli military that they are back on board now that Hamas is back on board with a 24 hour cease-fire. It is also not clear from Hamas what kind of conditions they have set in order for them to agree a new 24-hour cease-fire. Previously, one of the reasons it appeared they were using not to agree with Israel's offer of a longer cease-fire was because they didn't agree to Israeli soldiers being on Gazan soil. They didn't agree to Israeli soldiers continuing to destroy Hamas' military infrastructure which include those tunnels and their rocket launchers.

So, the picture is murkier. One stage this morning, the shelling was so heavy that the smell of high explosive residue was drifting into this office. That was the first time we have smelled that for the last 21 days. It is quiet now. So, I guess, actions speak louder than words. Some kind of lull is certainly in effect, Christi and Victor.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem -- Wolf, you have been talking about this, this morning. Have you heard a response, officially, from Israel about this cease-fire?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: There is no official response, yet. Just checked a minute or two ago before we went on air to see if there was a formal statement from the Israeli government. I assume the Israeli cabinet is considering this latest initiative put forward by the United Nations. The U.N. special envoy, Robert Serry, who's Ban Ki-moon's representative here in this part of the world, he's been trying to put together this humanitarian pause, as he calls it. And you heard the live interview we did with him in the last hour.

He says, they do have a commitment from Hamas, all the factions of Hamas. Not just Hamas but Islamic jihad. And some of the other militant groups in Gaza as well. They have a commitment to stop their firing of rockets and missiles into Israel. They are looking for the Israeli response right now and made a strong

appeal to Israel to go ahead and accept this initiative, stop the shelling from Israel. The air strikes, the naval strikes are going against targets in Israel.

Israel had been willing to accept a 24-hour pause. And as Karl pointed out, they wanted to do so, but they wanted to continue their effort to destroy those Hamas tunnels going from Gaza into Israel. Let's see if that's the condition put forward right now.

But Karl is absolutely right. Actions speak louder than words, and it seems to be a little quieter in Gaza now over the past half hour or so. And here in Israel, it seems to be a little bit quieter, too. There were some rockets and missiles coming in after the top of the hour. We haven't heard alerts or sirens going off.

So, there are careful deliberations going on right now. And let's see if the U.N. special envoy, Robert Serry, can get what he wants.

He did make a specific appeal to people in Gaza -- don't assume the cease-fire is going to work. Don't leave your homes. Don't leave the shelters. Don't leave those U.N. facilities, because there's no guarantee the cease-fire is going to work. He's worried about the security of the Palestinians in Gaza right now. He says, "Stay put. Don't just assume it's going to be quiet for 24 hours."

We shall find out soon enough and we'll get, of course, the official Israeli response in the next hour when our Candy Crowley speaks live with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on "STATE OF THE UNION."

BLACKWELL: Karl, we just spoke with Middle East analyst, Aaron David Miller, a few moments ago and he said that a string of 12-hour cease- fire to a 24-hour cease-fire continue in that fashion just isn't plausible.

But beyond the 24 hours of silence, if that's what we are in now, we don't hear anything at the moment, what then for Hamas? Is there indication it could stretch into something that could lead to what Secretary Kerry is trying to broker?


In fact, I have talked to several U.N. officials that have negotiated in other conflicts, in conflicts in other parts of the world. One U.N. negotiator once told me, if neither side is on board to coming to a deal, one of the keys is to get them locked into an international dynamic. And I believe that locking them into a cease-fire agreement now and then an extension, and an extension is possibly the kind of tactic that international negotiators, international mediators are trying to lock both sides into to get this inevitable dynamic, so they get much more difficult to restart the guns.

Now, on the one hand, if there is long cease-fire, that maybe means Hamas and its military factions will lose their momentum, because in terms of guerilla warfare, Hamas has been giving or has had a good campaign. It's continued to launch commando raids into Israel and it's also been taking on Israeli ground troops on the ground, attacking with missiles, attacking them with hand-to-hand fighting and inflicted more casualties on Israeli forces this time around than it did in 2008-2009.

So, the longer the cease-fires go on, maybe the more difficult it is to restart the momentum of war. And the same presumably on the Israeli side. There would have to be something serious going on for Israel to simply start shelling again. So, that could be the dynamic that is going on here. Both sides may get locked into the cease-fire, even though initially, Israel feels it may not have achieved all its goals, and certainly, Hamas is still far short of its political state today and that of getting some deal that will definitely improve the living conditions of Gazans once and for all.

BLACKWELL: All right. Karl Penhaul there in Gaza City, Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem, thank you both. Stand by.

Let's go now to Candy Crowley.

PAUL: Yes, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," of course. She's going to be with us fully at 9:00.

But, Candy, what -- you are talking to Benjamin Netanyahu.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Yes. Certainly will ask him how Israel feels about another 24-hour cease-fire. Obviously, the last one we had was sort of unilateral on Israel's part and held a cease-fire. So, that's among many questions I'll be asking him. We will also hear from the Palestinian side out of Ramallah with one of the top deputies to the Palestinian president. So, trying to get a grasp on what ends this for the moment.

And I will say that listening to Karl, that U.S. officials obviously agree with that scenario, because any 24 hours they can get of a cease-fire is 24 hours in which to work for a longer cease-fire. They will go for that and welcome that in the U.S., if, indeed, this turns out to be agreed to by both sides.

BLACKWELL: Candy, thank you very much.

And you mentioned there, the big interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right here on CNN. "STATE OF THE UNION" coming up at the top of the hour at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Dutch forensic experts arrive in Ukraine, but violence some distance away from the crash site of Flight 17 is making it tougher for them to travel to that area. So, how will this affect the investigation there?

PAUL: You know, after so many heart-breaking stories of loss in plane disasters, one story of survival -- it is breathtaking. What a woman did as soon as she crawled out of the wreckage of this plane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: An incredible story of survival is emerging after a horrific plane crash in Taiwan. You remember, 48 people died when that plane crashed while trying to land on Wednesday in heavy rain. But 10 people survived.

PAUL: And one woman was able to crawl out through a hole in the body of that plane. This is according to the "Sydney Morning Herald". She called her father right away and said her plane crashed and exploded, but she was OK and he should come get her.

BLACKWELL: Her father rushed to the scene, but she'd already been taken to the hospital. She's shown here, you see her here on a stretcher. The "Sydney Morning Herald" says she had burns on her arms, leg and back.

International monitors say the situation in Ukraine is making it such that the crash site of Malaysia Flight 17 is inaccessible today. Some distances away, it's just too dangerous to get there. This news is coming as we learned that a contingent of Dutch police just arrived in Donetsk to help with the investigation. Now, the Dutch team plans to stay put in Donetsk until it is safe to travel to the crash site.

PAUL: And CBS News says it's learned early details from one of the black boxes and that it shows findings consistent with the plane's fuselage being hit by shrapnel from a missile explosion multiple times. CNN has not by the way been able to independently confirm that information just yet.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis and we have aviation attorney Justin Green with us as well.

Good morning, gentlemen.


PAUL: Good morning.

So, let's talk about the information from the black boxes. If you hear that the fuselage was hit multiple times by shrapnel, what does that tell you about what happened and can it be upheld in a court of law by that information alone? Colonel? Lieutenant Colonel?

LT. COL. BOB MAGINNIS, U.S. ARMY (RET): Well, clearly, if they have shrapnel indication at 33,000 feet, I don't know that there's another explanation, Christi. The reality, the president, well over a week ago, shortly after the incident, made it clear -- you know, this was shot down. It's not as if we don't have all sorts of abilities to monitor from the air and on the ground in that region. I'm sure the president wouldn't have said that if it had not been the case.

BLACKWELL: My question to you is the second half of Christi's question, Justin. In court, is that something you could use if a person who pushed the button or helped launch the missiles is identified? GREEN: Yes, the black boxes in the court are the critical evidence of

what actually happened. In this case, however, the black box is going to confirm what we already know from sources that the airplane was shot down. What the key -- missing evidence is the actual missile system, itself, and we have to get before investigators the people that were manning that system, the people that were in communication with that system. That's going to tell the full story.

PAUL: All right. Colonel, some are saying that the international community should go in and start military action against Russia in Ukraine at this point. Listen to what we heard yesterday from former U.N. ambassador to Ukraine.


WILLIAM B. TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Yes, we should have an international force. An international force could take care of those rebels immediately. The Russians need to play their role. The Russians need to cut them off, seal the border between Russia and Ukraine so all those heavy weapons, those heavy weapons and supplies, leadership is coming across the border in the Ukraine is stopped. That's what the Russians need to do. The international community can then secure that site. The rebels should be swept away.

BLACKWELL: So, you think beyond sending some armed, some unarmed police, there should be a concerted effort, militarily, to get rid of the rebels and take care of that site?

TAYLOR: If that's what it takes, that's what the international community should do.


PAUL: Lieutenant Colonel Maginnis, do you agree?

MAGINNIS: That's wishful thinking. And, unfortunately, Vladimir Putin and the Russians who have massed along the border and it provided heavy weapons. And, you know, certainly their proxy's from intelligence, as well as their former KGB FSB are there. Their leadership in the rebels are from Russia. They're Moscovites.

The ideas that they would not -- they would accept a U.N. force and who would be that U.N. force? You know, the only U.N. force you could use are those with significant counter insurgent capabilities. And that -- you can put that number on a hand.

The reality is, the Ukrainians are pushing the fight on Donetsk, which is not that far from the site. As they continue to take the villages, I think 10 around Donetsk at this point, the Russians are going to react.

And so, they are not going to cooperate allowing the Dutch police or any other police to go in there because their real focus right now is on keeping the Ukrainians back, and at the same time, the Russians are going to give in. Putin is not intimidated by what's going on. There's not going to be

a war over this. But I'll tell you, it's not going to be resolved quickly.

BLACKWELL: But, Colonel, I think the frustration a lot of people have is that, you know, the Malaysians still nine days later don't have access to the entire site. There are still human remains there, we are getting reports. The parts of the plane reports they have been sawed in half, passports and documents that weren't there several days ago.

And today, the conflict in the region is keeping investigators from getting there. At what point does the international community, if this is an international crime scene, stop playing by these drunken rebels' rules and go in and do the work that needs to be done? Or do we continue to, if they let in 68, that's all we can send?

MAGINNIS: Yes, Victor, this is a tough one, because you are in the middle of a war zone. The people out of Moscow are playing the string that is are controlling the pro-Russian forces, the rebels.

It's not as if there's only one militia unit there. There are hundreds of militia with various agendas. That's why the Ukrainian government out of Kiev is doing what it can. But it has a lack of capability in that region, especially now that we know Russians are firing across the border, Russians perhaps are helping to down other aircraft and the Ukrainians have already lost most of their SU-25s, which have been the most effective against the pro-Russian forces.

So, you have a chaotic situation. The only way to go in there would be with a first world capability, I'm talking a U.S., British, perhaps German or French capability. I don't see any of those nations willing to do a confrontation in that part of the world because they don't have forward station forces.

PAUL: Justin, we've already seen one family make the trek, much to the opposition of everyone in terms of leaders to see the crash site because they couldn't believe their daughter had been killed. What do you say to other families at this point trying to get answers?

GREEN: Well, I don't know what you can say. I don't think anyone can say anything that is going to make them feel better.

What's going on right now is inhumane and it's a disgrace. Right now, there are still bodies at the site, still remains to be retrieved and I think the people controlling the site and the Russians have a vested interest in not allowing a full and fair investigation.

And I'm with the colonel, it's a very difficult situation to deal with. And there's no easy answers.

PAUL: All right. Bob Maginnis and Justin Green -- gentlemen, we thank you so much for your insight today.

GREEN: Thank you very much.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Another U.S. embassy in the Mideast evacuated. We have pictures of the dramatic departure of diplomatic staff and a warning from the State Department for Americans still in Libya.


PAUL: Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

And as U.S. embassy staff fled the Libyan capital of Tripoli, witnesses say there was, quote, "a lot of movement with fighter jets and helicopters at the time.

BLACKWELL: Yes, these Defense Department photos, look here, they show U.S. marines securing the departure of embassy workers yesterday. It's about 150 personnel, including the 80 marines you see in this photograph. They were driven to Tunisia as militia fighting really intensified there.

PAUL: Erin McPike joins us now from Washington.

So, Erin, do we have any indication as to other Americans who are in Libya and as to what their safety might be?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi and Victor, frankly, Americans are not safe in Libya. And, in fact, on Saturday, the State Department issued a travel warning for Libya that is very intense and has some pretty dire precautions.

They point out that in Libya right now, some private individuals have in their position, military grade weapons, including anti-aircraft arms that could be used to shoot down a commercial jet.

Also, already this year, extremist groups made threats against U.S. citizens and anyone associated with the United States could be targeted for death. Now, the State Department is encouraging any American in Libya to leave, obviously, that's difficult because the airport in Tripoli is non-operational. Of course, that's where the militia's are fighting where they are trying to get control of the airport. But on top of that, seaports and roads in Libya can close without any warning, making travel in and out of the country tough.

Now, in general, the State Department says the situation in Libya is unpredictable and the country, itself, is unstable. There's no apparent road map, yet though, to restoring peace and stability there. So, there's no indication as to when the U.S. government officials can return or when it may be safe for Americans to be there, Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All righty. Erin McPike in Washington for us -- good to see you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Erin.

PAUL: Well, a top political editor at "BuzzFeed" was given the boot after it was revealed he plagiarized several passages in his writing. "BuzzFeed" says it fired Benny Johnson for copying without citing passages from organizations, including "The Associated Press", CBS News and CNN. In a memo to staff, "BuzzFeed" called the plagiarism, a quote, breach of our faith with our readers.

BLACKWELL: "The New York Times" says the federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. The stance is in response to the rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

Now, the newspaper compares the ban of the failed prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and '30s to what's happening now. But it says it should be only available to people over 21 years old.

PAUL: Well, you still have a few hours of your weekend left, so I can hope you can make some great memories today with that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, "INSIDE POLITICS" is coming up next.

PAUL: We are going to check in with CNN's John King in Washington and see what's ahead with him. Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS: Coming up on "INSIDE POLITICS", we release a brand-new CNN poll showing a different name, you'll want to watch this, on top of the field of possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Who? Well, that's why you have to stay tuned.

Also, if you were one week away from a five-week paid vacation, what would you do that week at work? Well, we're going to look at congressional Republicans have in mind. See you in a few minutes on "INSIDE POLITICS".


KING: Rand Paul appeals to African-Americans by quoting Malcolm X.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Nobody can give you equality or justice. If you are a man, you take it.


KING: And if that's not surprise enough, wait until you see the traffic jam and new leader in our new poll of Republican presidential prospects.