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U.N. Security Council Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Gaza; Report Hamas Military Got into Israel Through Tunnels; Horrible Casualties Following Attack on Gaza Hospital; Anti-Semitism Rising in Europe Following Israeli Attacks on Gaza.
Aired July 28, 2014 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Up next, Israel is not backing down. Neither is Hamas, at least for now. We'll speak to the United Nations special envoy involved in trying to get a cease-fire.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're just getting this into CNN. This, according to an initial report just coming into CNN. I want to be precise in what we're learning. There was, according to the Israeli military, some sort of infiltration through one of these tunnels, the southern part of Israel, from Gaza, into Israel. Hamas militants apparently trying to get through. It was intercepted by Israel. They opened fire on the Hamas militants, according to the Israeli military, and IDF forces. IDF searches are now being conducted following the incident.
I was down there a little while ago. You saw the video from another tunnel we saw in the area. But clearly, the Israelis are searching right now.
We're going to be speaking with Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the IDF. He's coming in to brief us on what they know. But there may be, may be -- repeating, we don't know for sure -- some Hamas militants who may have emerged from that tunnel in Israel right now. IDF searching. They may have gone back in the tunnel and escaped. We'll get more from Lieutenant Colonel Lerner once he gets here to our CNN studio.
In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council is calling for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The council met in an emergency session overnight. But the call for cease-fire seems to be falling on deaf ears. Both Hamas and Israel launched new attacks today.
Robert Serry is the U.S. special coordinator for the peace process. He's joining me now.
Mr. Serry, thank you for joining us.
I know you are working so hard right now to get a cease-fire. We spoke yesterday, we spoke the day before.
ROBERT SERRY, U.S. SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS: Yes, yesterday.
BLITZER: Tell us what the latest is. How close are you, if at all, to a humanitarian pause, as you like to call it?
SERRY: Well, I wish I could say we were close. But events now are proving that, yet again, parties are on the brink of another major escalation. When we spoke Sunday, yesterday, actually, it could have happened already, a major escalation. It didn't happen. The guns fell silent on the eve of Eid, the very important Muslim holiday.
BLITZER: The end of Ramadan.
SERRY: Yes, the end of Ramadan. So we had a short lull again. And this morning, also, the situation was relatively calm. I did work with both sides to have a humanitarian pause to be announced at a zero hour. Not by one party or the other party. I was, until let's say 3:00, 4:00, hopeful that could happen.
BLITZER: What happened?
SERRY: What happened is suddenly we have seen a flare-up again. In a situation when you have a calm, which is based on "if you don't shoot, we don't shoot either," you know, if anything goes wrong, like, for instance -- I don't know precisely what happens and who is responsible for, again, the very tragic loss of life, children in the hospital. That is what we heard first. And then we had rockets coming out again. Attacks in southern Israel, I just learned from you, that maybe there was an attack --
BLITZER: Through the tunnels.
BLITZER: I was in one of those tunnels today.
SERRY: Yeah, yeah.
BLITZER: And as I was coming here, back to Jerusalem, there were several rockets and missiles from Gaza that landed way up towards Haifa, northern Galilee. They have that range to get up there. You know what that's going to do in Israel, the impacts?
BLITZER: You just heard Danny Danon, the former defense minister. He doesn't want a cease-fire at all. That will reinforce that trend is that continues.
SERRY: Still, I would like appeal to both sides to step back from the brink. What will happen is all of this is inevitable, and not a major escalation. Hundreds of lives, most of them civilians, and going to be pointlessly killed again. I will certainly continue my efforts. I call on both sides to still consider what the Security Council has been calling for today, after hearing an appeal from my secretary- general, which is to accept an unconditional humanitarian pause.
BLITZER: For 24 hours?
SERRY: For 24 hours, yes. This is -- you know, we have to stop this fighting and then, of course, the pause has to be used to build on for talks, which is only one avenue, for Cairo, for parties to go there and talk about the underlying issues.
BLITZER: The Israelis clearly trust the new Egyptian government as a mediator.
SERRY: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: Does Hamas?
SERRY: Well, there's a new development here which I think is important. President Abbas is heading towards Cairo, who has a joint delegation, including Hamas, for talks with the Egyptians. So what you see is that the new government, which is a government of national consensus, which should also assume responsibility now for Gaza, is actually starting to assume this responsibility. That is --
BLITZER: I know as the special U.N. envoy, you talked to obviously the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority.
SERRY: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: Do you talk to Hamas as well?
SERRY: Well, let me put it this way. We are in Gaza. We have also, for the safety and protection of our officials, we do have contacts. I prefer not to comment on these contacts, Wolf, but I would not be able to do my job without having some contacts.
BLITZER: Can you update us on the latest horrible situation at the hospital, this hospital that was hit today in Gaza?
BLITZER: The Israelis say it was an errant Palestinian Hamas rocket. Hamas blames Israel, of course.
SERRY: Each side is blaming each other again. I know both stories. I have no independent confirmation of this.
BLITZER: But you're not giving up?
SERRY: Absolutely not. I think this is so important that we stop this fighting now. I don't see the point of another major escalation. More than that, actually the destruction of Gaza will be even -- even more, even worse. This is my third war, Wolf. I've been here six years.
BLITZER: We spoke a few weeks ago when you were kidnapped in Ukraine. That's a whole different story.
SERRY: I seem to attract some trouble.
BLITZER: Yes, you've got a tough job that you're doing. But good luck, be careful.
Mr. Serry, thank you for joining us.
SERRY: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you. If there's a breakthrough on the cease-fire, you'll let us know.
SERRY: I'll let you know.
BLITZER: You'll call us right away. We'll put you on television.
SERRY: Yes. OK, thank you.
BLITZER: Don't go away yet.
Still to come, anti-Semitism, among other things, rearing its ugly head in parts of Europe over the Israeli military actions in Gaza. The Palestinian response. We'll speak with Abe Foxman, from the Anti- Defamation League in New York, about this latest troubling development.
Also, disturbing news out of Africa, a second American becomes infected with the deadly Ebola virus. We'll speak with our medical correspondent later this hour.
BLITZER: The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just addressed the nation here in Israel, and he said -- I'm quoting now -- "The only aim of the tunnels is to kill our children and destroy our cities. This action first is an essential stage of the demilitarization of Gaza. This must be part of any solution. And the international community has to demand that rather than allow Hamas money and to tunnels, impossible that the Israeli citizens should live under the threat of rockets." That statement coming in from Benjamin Netanyahu. He says "Israel has to be ready," in his words, "for a prolonged campaign." He says, "We will continue acting with judgment and force."
Joining us, the spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner.
Several issues I want to discuss with you, Lieutenant Colonel. First, this report that Hamas militants got into southern Israel today through a tunnel, and they emerged, they exchanged fire with Israeli troops, and they're now on the loose. Israel is looking for them. What is the information you have? LT. COL. PETER LERNER, SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Well, Hamas
clearly spent the entire day just preparing more and more attacks. Indeed, in this evening, we have seen an infiltration again through a tunnel, much like the one you visited earlier today, into Israeli territory and they carried out attack. They shot at some of our forces. And we are in pursuit of them. Indeed, this is the exact problem we have with these tunnels. They serve only one purpose. And because of our forces on the ground, we were actually able to prevent them from striking our cities.
BLITZER: How many Hamas militants do you estimate got through that tunnel and may be in large in southern Israel right now?
LERNER: Still a bit early for me to indicate specifics. But when we do, we'll make that announcement.
BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe they may have gotten back into the tunnel and gotten back into Gaza?
LERNER: That's a possibility. We'll have to confirm that or see what we have on the ground.
BLITZER: What can you tell us about this destruction, this shelling that hit the hospital in Gaza today? Horrible casualties, children, a lot of sick people. We know Hamas blames Israel. You're blaming Hamas, but tell us why.
LERNER: That's just preposterous. We did not target the hospital.
BLITZER: Could it have been an errant Israeli rocket or missile or shell, something along that line?
LERNER: Absolutely not. We have indications, and the chief of staff just presented a photograph of the launch of the Palestinian rockets from Gaza this afternoon around 5:00 p.m. That struck those positions. Now, since the beginning of this operation, we have noted 200 cases of rockets that have fallen short, within Gaza Strip.
BLITZER: Rockets fired by Hamas?
LERNER: By Hamas, at Israel, that have fallen short in the Gaza Strip. This is just another case. It's unfortunate that it lands in the Gaza hospital, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Israel.
BLITZER: One of our reporters there in Gaza told us he interviewed people there who heard an Israeli drone that makes a unique sound flying overhead before that incident occurred.
LERNER: Well, in the last three weeks, through your reporters, almost every time you can hear the drones, the air force in the background, there is extensive presence, because they're carrying out these attacks, these rocket assaults against our civilians. So we have capabilities in the air at any given time. We have nothing to do with this attack against the hospital, which was originated in Gaza and struck Gazans. BLITZER: Just last hour or so, sirens were going off as far north as
Haifa in the Galilee area. But Hamas has capability of launching rockets from Gaza and reaching that far north? We knew they could hit Tel Aviv, but I wasn't aware they could go all the way to Haifa.
LERNER: Wolf, we've been telling you over the last three weeks that Israel is under a threat by this ruthless organization that has rockets that holds three-quarters of our country under threat. They have over five million Israelis in their sights. And they will do anything and everything they can to strike us. This is the reality we are living. This is a reality we're not willing to accept. That is why we're operating in Gaza. We will strike these terrorists. We will not let them -- we will not permit them to continue this onslaught against us.
BLITZER: What's the maximum range of the Hamas missiles, and where did they get these longer-range missiles that can go up to Haifa and northern Galilee?
LERNER: They have a 200-kilometer radius that they can reach with the --
BLITZER: A range, 200-kilometer -- a 200 kilometer range?
LERNER: Yes. So that basically leaves almost all of the state of Israel --
BLITZER: That's 120 miles?
LERNER: Yes -- all of the state of Israel, except for the corners --
BLITZER: Where did they get these longer-range missiles?
LERNER: Well, we saw earlier in March an attempt by Iran to import these rockets. We said then it was Iran shipping rockets to Gaza. And, indeed, we knew that they had already had some of these rockets in the Strip. So we know that they have these longer-range capabilities. They've been striving to utilize them, striving to strike our cities, our towns, from Haifa in the north, down to the south, further south. This is what they're doing. They are trying to strike us from the air, from beneath the ground, from over the ground. They're constantly trying to attack our civilians. We won't let it happen.
BLITZER: No indication of a humanitarian cease-fire right now, right?
LERNER: I think safe to say we are combating a terrorist organization and, as such, we will continue to do so.
BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, of the IDF, thank you for joining us.
Doesn't look like there's going to be a cease-fire any time soon.
Much more of the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: On "This Day in History," July 28th, 1868, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified, extending liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves. It was one of three amendments part of the Reconstruction program to guarantee equal rights and legal rights to African-American citizens, on "This Day in History."
Three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas and Gaza certainly has led to large pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests in many places, especially in Europe. French riot police responded with tear gas in Paris over the weekend. But it's also stoked a disturbing number of violent incidents against Jews, once again, especially in Europe. Jewish-owned businesses in suburban Paris, for example, attacked and looted with some protesters yelling -- and I'm quoting now -- "Jews to the gas chamber."
Abe Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He's joining us from New York.
It's always a sensitive subject, Abe, is this simply anti-Israel demonstrations against Israel, but another step to say it's anti- Semitic. You say?
ABRAHAM FOXMAN, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It is both. Amongst the people demonstrating against Israel, there are many who want to harm Jews. They're using the demonstrations in support of Gaza as a vehicle to express their anti-Semitism. We have witnessed in the last several months anti-Semitic incitement, violence, as you indicated, especially in France, Germany, Italy. Synagogues have been attacked. Jewish stores attacked. Jewish institutions, one in Toulouse over the weekend, and they even closed a museum because of the threats. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. And in a study that the ADL did, released two months ago, we found that the worst of anti-Semitism, globally, is in the Middle East and North Africa. And many of those have made their way to Europe, to Paris, to London, to Rome. And they are expressing not only their opposition to Israel, but also their deep-seated anti-Semitism.
BLITZER: But is it fair to say that this anti-Semitic element that's protesting out there is a relatively small portion of the demonstrators who simply disagree strongly with what Israel is doing as a state, as a military in Gaza?
FOXMAN: Well, number one, it's growing, unfortunately. This is not the first demonstration that we have seen anti-Semitism. We have seen them in previous wars emanating from the Middle East in Europe. We have not seen it with that intensity, with that -- with so many numbers. We have not seen marching in defense of Palestinians going on synagogues. We have not seen them going to Jewish neighborhoods. We have not seen them attack Jews. And we have not heard some of the epithets, "Jews to the gas" and "Kill the Jews." It is a new dimension. Maybe the Internet has something to do with it, maybe the frustration with some of the fundamental Muslims. You have imams in Europe preaching death to the Jews, not just opposition to Israel. It is a new dimension.
I need to add that the European governments are responding. France, Germany, Italy, the prime ministers, the foreign ministers, have publicly condemned it. And some of the demonstrations this weekend, there were more police than demonstrators. Jewish institutions are being protected. But it is, Wolf -- it's a very, very dangerous increasing phenomena.
BLITZER: Abe Foxman, of the ADL, joining us from New York.
Abe, thanks very much.
Another quick break. Much more news, right after this.
BLITZER: Coming up later in "The Situation Room," much more of my visit earlier in the day. I went down do the Gaza border. I actually went into a tunnel that Hamas had built from Gaza into Israel. The IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, allowed me in. Spoke with the lieutenant colonel. Explained what was going on in there. Much more of this unique opportunity to see one of these underground tunnels from Gaza into Israel. That's coming up later in "The Situation Room."
Until then, thanks very much for watching. 5:00 p.m., a special two- hour edition of "The Situation Room."
For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.
For our viewers in the United States and North America, NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.