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No Sign Of Truce In Gaza; One Square Meter: Tehran

Aired July 29, 2014 - 11:16   ET


AMARA WALKER, HOST: And we were just listening in on CNN USA's coverage of this very fragile situation in Ukraine as Nick Paton Walsh was

reporting a few moments ago.

We just heard from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holding a news conference with the Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. And we

heard Kerry call on separatists, the pro-Russia separatists there in the region to allow for unimpeded access to the MH17 crash site. We also heard

Kerry calling on Moscow to use its influence over the separatists there to end the violence or Russia would face wider sanctions as the EU ministers

are meeting now in Brussels to discuss those sanctions.

But as the violence in Ukraine continues, the investigation to the crash of MH17 continues to be impeded. We will stay on top of this and

bring you any more developments as it warrants.

Onto other news now. And Israeli airstrikes and shelling intensify in Gaza despite renewed calls for a ceasefire. A Hamas spokesman in Beirut

tells CNN they will consider a call from Palestinian leaders in the West Bank for a 24 hour truce.

Well, so far Israel has not commented.

The situation on the ground in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour. But there's no sign the fighting will end any time soon. The

Israeli military says it is targeting tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and launch attacks.

The IDF says five soldiers were killed when militants tried to enter Israel through a tunnel on Monday.

Let's get the view now from Gaza -- we will get the view from Gaza in just a few moments, but first let's go to Sara Sidner for the latest on

what's happening along the Israel-Gaza border.

So Sara, with Hamas rejecting this ceasefire proposal and we heard on Monday from the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that Israel is

preparing for a protracted conflict. Are things about to get worse? What are you seeing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly got worse last night in Gaza. There were at least 70 strikes within a few

hours. And those were massive blasts that fell. We know there is a lot of damage. We also know, because we can see here from this vantage point a

power plant was actually hit, the only power plant that exists there. And at least one of the barrels that carries a lot of fuel, a fuel for a day

was struck. That caught fire and now it is burning and continues to burn just over my left shoulder there. You cannot see it with the camera's eye,

but you can see it with the naked eye and it's just billowing and billowing and billowing smoke causing a major problem there.

And we're in a neighborhood. You're hearing honking horns. We're in a neighborhood where people are sick and tired of being scared listening to

those sirens that go off on a regular basis. Last night, overnight, at three in the morning the sirens went off across southern Israel. We are

standing on the Israeli side of the border.

Just over my right shoulder is the Iron Dome missile defense system, that system Israelis have come to trust to help save their lives,

especially in these areas that are so close and definitely within striking distance of the rockets that have been coming over from Gaza, a total of 30

rockets since midnight that we know of so far have come over into the Israeli territory.

And people here are looking at this from a perspective of they want it to stop. They want the rockets to stop just as the residents of Gaza want

the air strikes to stop. They are sick and tired of feeling that fear every time they hear a plane fly over in Gaza or the sirens sound here.

They also can hear, because they're so close to the border the sound - - it's like a whistling sound when some of those mortars or rockets come in. And then you hear the sound of the Iron Dome system.

The Iron Dome is set up to try and take out any of those missiles or rockets that are going to be hitting a very populated area, that is very

specific. So of the 30 rockets that came over, for example, 26 did fall in areas not causing damage as we understand it, but four were taken by the

Iron Dome along this Gaza-Israel border, trying to keep it from hitting the civilian population who is fed up with this.

They don't want this to go on every two or three years as it has done since 2008. They want this finished. And right now Benjamin Netanyahu,

the Israeli prime minister, has a great deal of support from Israeli Jews, about 87 percent according to one poll, has basically said we want you to

finish this, do whatever you have to do.

Right now I'm actually hearing what sounds like a helicopter overhead. We saw the helicopter shooting some flares a little bit early on. So the

activity still very strong here on this border. We have also heard some deep baritone bangs and that usually indicates that tunnels are being taken

out. And as you know Israel tried to take out as many, or all of the tunnels that are used by Hamas.

WALKER: Clearly no end in sight at this point. Sara Sidner with the latest there from the Israel-Gaza border. Sara, thank you.

And as I said we will have a live report from Gaza coming up. In the meantime, there are organizations providing relief to those affected on

both sides of the crisis. Whatever your personal views on the matter, if you want to help those civilians we have links to organizations working on

the ground. Find out what you can do at

Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. We'll bring you the latest headlines in just a few minutes. That's after a visit to Tehran

where construction is booming, but no one seems to be buying. It's a conundrum for Iranians squeezed by international sanctions. This week, One

Square Meter is coming up next.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A Japanese inspired garden with mini waterfalls welcomes potential buyers to this newly built

luxury apartment for sale in the most exclusive neighborhood in Tehran.

A four bedroom, four bathroom unit with amenities that rival five star hotels, an apartment so posh visitors are required to wear sanitary shoe

covers. At roughly $8,000 per square meter, the price tag $3.5 million.

BAHAR KHALILI, REAL ESTATE AGENT (through translator): In my opinion it's worth it. It's one of the best apartments in Tehran, an exceptional

building designed by the best developer in the city.

SAYAH: But for the past year, this swanky apartment has sat empty without a buyer. Half of the other units in the six story building are

empty too, so are tens of thousands of other apartments throughout Tehran.

KHALILI: Right now we have a lot of apartments that aren't being sold and sitting empty because of high prices.

SAYAH: Housing prices in Tehran soared beginning in 2012, soon after western powers imposed the toughest round of economic sanctions against

Iran to curb its disputed nuclear program.

The sanctions were a huge blow to Iran's economy. And when Iranian currency started taking a nosedive and no one could figure out where the

economy was going, many here poured their money into real estate.

MOHAMMED ALI SHABANI, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Real Estate in Iranian culture has always been a safe form of investment. You can never lose your

house. Your house is going to be there. So we've seen huge investment in real estate in Tehran.

KHALILI (through translator): This is the safest investment you can make today. Real Estate has always increased in value.

SAYAH: But with uncertainty still plaguing Iran's economy and many Iranians lacking buying power the market is at a standstill -- sellers not

selling because they're hoping prices go up, buyers not buying because they're hoping prices go down.

The outcome is a Tehran skyline full of empty apartments and investors still looking to buy and build despite very little demand.

KHALILI (through translator): Sometimes you wonder how can people possibly be building more apartments when nothing is selling?

SAYAH: But remarkably it's happening in Tehran, because until the economy improves and housing prices stabilize, they believe real estate

continues to be the safest place to invest.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Tehran.



WALKER: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Amara Walker, sitting in for Becky Anderson. Here are the top stories this hour.

International investigators have tried and failed for a third day to reach the crash site of MH17 in eastern Ukraine. Heavy fighting is still

making it too dangerous. And in what could be a major escalation of the Ukrainian conflict, US officials say government forces have fired short-

range ballistic missiles at rebel-held territory.

An influential Afghan politician and cousin of President Hamid Karzai has been killed by a suicide bomber. Hashmat Karzai was at a home in

southern Kandahar when the attack took place. He was a key campaigner for presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani.

One of China's most powerful former officials is at the center of a new investigation. Zhou Yongkang was the country's domestic security chief

until he retired in 2012. The probe is just the latest to emerge as the ruling Communist Party intensifies its campaign to weed out corruption.

A Hamas spokesman in Beirut tells CNN they will consider a call from Palestinian leaders in the West Bank for a 24-hour truce. So far, Israel

has not commented. The weeks-long conflict has killed more than 1100 Palestinians; 53 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians inside Israel have been


And returning to one of our top stories and a CNN exclusive, US intelligence officials confirm that Ukraine's military fired short-range

ballistic missiles at pro-Russia separatists in the last 48 hours. Now, if confirmed, it could be a serious escalation in this crisis.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joining us live from Moscow. So, Nic, have we had any response from the Russian government on

this development?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Specifically not on these short-range ballistic missiles, but absolutely on the ongoing

conflict in the east of Ukraine. The Russian government is accusing the government in Kiev of escalating the conflict there.

They point to an incident today where they say Ukrainian soldiers fired on a school, killing 17 people, 3 of them children. They say that

all 17 were civilians. They also accuse them of shooting at a hospital, rounds landing in the grounds of a hospital.

They say that the government of Ukraine is escalating the conflict there. They say that somebody there will be held responsible, clearly

quite a loaded statement.

We've also heard from the Foreign Ministry today saying that Secretary -- Foreign Minister, rather, Lavrov spoke with Secretary of State John

Kerry today, urging him to use his influence with the Ukrainian government to urge them to get the Ukrainians into talks with the rebels in the east

of Ukraine.

So, so far nothing specific on those particular missile systems, but absolutely the accusations continue to fly, the United -- implicitly that

the United States and the Europeans are, if you will, encouraging, aiding, and abetting the Ukrainians in escalating the conflict in the east of

Ukraine. Amara?

WALKER: And Nic, in the meantime, European leaders are meeting, they're discussing the possibility of widening the sanctions against

Russia. And it seems that Moscow's had somewhat of an interesting response, at least from the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who

essentially said that they're not going to retaliate against Europe if these sanctions come through.

ROBERTSON: It is interesting. There's certainly been a lot of rumors about what could happen, what Russia's response could be. We understand

that the 28 European Union ambassadors are meeting, that they are deciding on language and text that could increase sanctions, taking them from just

the personal level to specific people to sectoral sanctions.

That would be potentially on the finance sector, potentially on the energy sector, potentially on the arms sector as well. And in that

context, it was interesting that President Vladimir Putin yesterday met with the government and talked about finding alternate methods of making

sure that the arms industry here can get the components and the raw materials that it needs if, he said, that -- current deals fall through.

So, the implication is that the Russians are taking it very seriously what could happen. But I think also we can balance what we're hearing from

Sergey Lavrov on the issue of what may or may not happen with sanctions.

The Japanese said that they were putting sanctions on Russia because of its -- seizing of Crimea. And there, the Russian response today has

been, well, this is going to damage bilateral relationship with Japan and severely set it back. So, the indication is that there will be -- there

certainly will be some kind of a response, if it happens. We just don't know what it will be at the moment, Amara.

WALKER: OK, thank you Nic, for that, with the view, there, from Moscow. And some news just coming in to us. An EU official has confirmed

to CNN that sanctions have been expanded against Russian individuals and companies.

Now, it targets eight new individuals, the so-called Putin cronies who have benefited from destabilization of Ukraine, and three entities will now

be targeted. Now, those identities will be released on Wednesday. There will be measures aimed at Russia's access to EU capital markets.

There will be, also, an embargo on arms imports from -- and exports to Russia, but only on new contracts. For more now, let's cross over to CNN's

emerging markets editor, John Defterios, standing by live. So, John, help us understand these sanctions and how damaging they might be to Moscow.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, there was some question whether the European Union, Amara, had the stomach to push ahead

with tougher sanctions, but the downing of the Malaysian flight number 17, and now the reports that we've been seeing about arms going into eastern

Ukraine, perhaps from Russia, certainly seems to have emboldened the 28 countries of the European Union.

We had the United States in an unusual conference call last night with the four largest countries of the European Union. That of course being,

Germany, France, Italy, and the UK. The big question mark is whether those four countries will be able to persuade all 28 to proceed. And in fact,

the word is in the last 20 minutes, that is the case.

These are far-reaching sanctions, if they can stick to them for the next three months. First and foremost, you noted the financial sector,

there, with Nic Robertson.

They're suggesting that the state-owned banks in Russia will be unable to tap the capital markets, both in Europe and the United States going

forward. They hold better than $50 billion of debt that they like to tap into for European ambassadors and US ambassadors as well. There will be an

arms embargo going forward.

And finally, and this is a very tricky one, can they put on sanctions to limit the investment into the energy sector into Russia. As we know,

Rosneft, the big state-owned energy giant, has partnerships with Exxon Mobile, Eni of Italy, Total of France and BP of the UK which, by the way,

as a 20 percent shareholder in Rosneft.

They want to limit the supplies of technology to limit the ability for the Russian sector to expand. Now, the reason it is very tricky is that

the European Union overall gets 30 percent of its gas supplies from Russia, and if you move closer into eastern and central Europe, that number goes up

to some 80 percent for Ukraine and some of the other countries of central and eastern Europe.

But the news tonight is that the European Union, the ambassadors of the EU met in Brussels, have decided to proceed with sanctions that will be

reviewed in the next three months, Amara.

WALKER: OK, John Defterios, thank you so much for breaking that down for us.

We've also seen a dramatic increase in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. One explosion struck Gaza City just as our Karl Penhaul was

reporting on the air.





WALKER: OK, that was our Karl Penhaul just a few hours ago when a blast hit a building nearby. He joins me now, live from Gaza City with the

latest on the fighting. And it seemed like the violence was de-escalating on Monday, but things quickly changes, as we saw there in your live report,

didn't it, Karl?

PENHAUL: Yes, absolutely. And that escalation began Monday night after dark. And it was a moonless night, and the Israeli military began

firing illumination rounds into the sky over Gaza City. For the first time, we saw those coming down into the sky from very close to the office

where we have been based.

And then, after about a couple of hours, what the function of those illumination rounds was that overhead drones could get, then, a site with

their cameras onto any potential targets down on the ground.

And then, after a couple of hours, the artillery started to rain in, F-16 fighter bombers were also carrying out airstrikes, and that carried on

pretty intensely throughout the night. There kind of was a lull going into early morning around dawn.

But it was amazing. By the time that dawn came and the day began a little, the air was thick was smoke. And just standing here in the office,

that smell was of high explosive residue, because the bombing had been so intense during the night.

There was a little bit of a lull, and then, in that clip, as you showed, just as we were talking to our colleagues on the morning show as

well, some more rounds go in from Israeli airstrikes from less than 200 meters away from where we are, basically. That was an apartment block that

got hit.

And shortly after it was hit, people began screaming and then flowing out of that building to go to a safer place. Now, I would tell you that my

overriding impression is that the skies of Gaza seem to be filling up with black smoke.

A little further south of where we are, the Gaza power plant is on fire. That because an Israeli tank shell, according to the Gaza power

plant chief, hit the diesel fuel tanks of the generator, and so that generator is out of action, no power being provided by there.

A little further north, a gas station has been hit, we're told by our news sources up there. And across on the east of the Gaza strip, huge

pounding going on there, 2,000-pound bunker-busting bombs being dropped on a neighborhood there.

I would suspect, although I have no confirmation, that bombs are probably being dropped on tunnel complexes there, since that has been one

of the Israeli military's main stated aims, to try and stop Hamas commandos burrowing into Israel and taking the fight to their home turf, Amara.

WALKER: Now, Israel says that it warns the residents with a phone call or a text message before a strike, and I know that on Monday, Israel

is warning residents to leave northern Gaza. My question is, where are the Palestinians fleeing to? Is anywhere safe at this point?

PENHAUL: Well, that is the real tragedy, Amara, because yesterday, those SMS text messages and pamphlet drops were concentrated in northern

Gaza, telling people there to flee to safety in Gaza City. There was no such warning in Gaza City, and yet Gaza City was the area that was bearing

the brunt for at least part of the evening of those air and artillery strikes.

So, essentially, what the Israeli military message did was funnel displaced people towards Gaza City into the danger zone, not out of the

danger zone. And remember, this confrontation is three weeks old, now, and so a lot of people have come to Gaza City, which until now had seen less of

the action.

In some of these homes, you're seeing multiple families in very small apartments. You might have 60 and 70 family members in just one building.

And so, that expression of shooting fish in a barrel, this is more akin to shooting sardines in a barrel.

There is absolutely nowhere that the people of Gaza can flee to. There is no safe place. One emergency doctor said to me, not one square

meter of Gaza is safe. And of course, the borders are closed, so they can't go abroad, Amara.

WALKER: And as we reported earlier, Hamas rejecting that cease-fire proposal. Karl Penhaul, always appreciate your reporting. Thank you so


And live from CNN Center, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. John just mentioned the crisis in Libya, and right ahead, we'll take a look back

at how the chaos got to this point and what the international community should do to ease the tensions. Stay with us.


WALKER: Welcome back. Canada is temporarily pulling its diplomats out of Libya. It is the latest country to evacuate as the violent clashes

between rival militia groups and security forces intensifies.

Meanwhile, Italy is sending planes to Libya to help firefighters battle a massive blaze at an oil depot in Tripoli. The government said

violence nearby sparked the blaze that is now out of control. Fionnuala Sweeney reports.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thick, black smoke from fuel tanks burning out of control rises over the

Tripoli skyline.


SWEENEY: Heavy shelling can be heard not far away as rival militias battle for control of the airport. Earlier, an Airbus owned by a Libyan

airliner erupts in flames on the tarmac.


SWEENEY: All of those signs that he Libya has descended into its worst violence since the uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi three years

ago. In Benghazi, dozens of civilians are caught in the crossfire between Libyan special forces and Islamist militants.

The Health Ministry says in two weeks of fighting, more than 100 people have been killed in Benghazi and Tripoli, many of them civilians.

And Libya's central government finds itself outgunned by the increasingly powerful militias.

Over the weekend, fighting near the US compound in Tripoli forced the US to evacuate its embassy under heavy military protection. Britain and

other countries are also pulling their diplomats out.

Germany is one of several nations urging its citizens to leave Libya now, but flights out of the country are limited. US, EU, and the Arab

League are calling for a cease-fire from all sides.

JOHN KERRY, US SECRETARY OF STATE: So many people died and gave so much effort to the birth of the new Libya, and we're very, very hopeful

that together, all those people will recognize that the current course of violence will only bring chaos and possibly longer-term difficulties.

SWEENEY: But, as one envoy says, the situation in Libya is reaching a critical stage.

Fionnuala Sweeney, CNN.


WALKER: And as you see these images, you might be wondering, how did Libya fall into chaos in such a short amount of time, and where does the

nation go from here? Associate professor at Dartmouth College, Dirk Vandewalle, joins us live from Hanover, New Hampshire, to answer some of

those questions. Dirk, it's great to have you on the program.


WALKER: So, I understand Libya is seeing its worst levels of violence since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, so what is behind this spiraling

violence? And is Libya at the point of collapse?

VANDEWALLE: Certainly I think what we've seen over the last two or three weeks seem to indicate that Libya may have crossed a threshold that

it had not approached before. The violence that we're seeing really is now between two different sets of militias. On the one hand, Islamic militias,

and on the other hand, what you could call, a liberal or more secular militias.

And the situation has been aggravated in part because, really, when the civil war ended in 2011, the government, the current Libyan government,

really had no power to disarm these militias.

And the different militias over time, heavily depended on the government for their survival in terms of money, and have now acquired

their own political agendas and have increasingly fought with each other, essentially for power within Libya to control certain parts of the country.

And indeed, what we've seen, particularly at the airport and now the oil storage tanks, is that seemingly not a single place is off limits

anymore, whereas before, there were certain places that both sides simply would not fire upon.

All of that has now been lost, and it seems, indeed, that we are in a new kind of situation, perhaps edging a little bit closer towards sustained

confrontation in Libya between these two different sides.

WALKER: So, Dirk, you say that these militias are trying to make a power grab. So, where is the interim government in all of this?

VANDEWALLE: Unfortunately, ever since the civil war ended in October 2011, there really has never been a central government in Libya that really

actually possessed power. Yes, there was a political government, a political solution.

But in essence, these militias, these different militias literally hundreds of militias at a time, kept their power, kept all the weapons that

had been liberated during the war of independence, the revolution overthrowing Gadhafi, and simply have never handed over these weapons.

Initially, it was thought that the local -- that the central government would be able to persuade militias to hand over these weapons,

but that has never happened, and has really contributed to the lingering chaos that we see today in Libya.

WALKER: Yes, and all the reason more why many say the international community needs to step in and help stabilize this country. Dirk

Vandewalle, associate professor at Dartmouth College, thank you so much.

And coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, this look of concentration says it all, doesn't it? We'll show you the epic table

tennis exchange that brought the crowd at this year's Commonwealth Games to its feet.


WALKER: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. Well, over the past week, the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, have offered

several memorable moments. The joy of 13-year-old Erraid Davies from Shetland Islands, Scotland's youngest-ever competitor, winning a bronze

medal in the swimming pool.

And the surprise of Australian Michael Shelley at beating his Kenyan rivals in the men's marathon. Sixty-year-old grandfather Mike Gault

equaling the all-time Commonwealth Games metal record with his 18th prize in the shooting competition.

And the arrival of the world's most famous track star -- you see him right there, Usain Bolt, seen here with Games mascot, Clyde, ahead of his

much-anticipated role in the sprint relay.

But for sheer wow value, there's been nothing to beat this table tennis duel between Nigeria's Segun Toriola and Singapore's Ning Gao.






WALKER: Incredible, it just keeps going and going. Well, you know what? Congratulations to Toriola for winning that rally after no fewer

than 41 --




WALKER: -- shots. There you see him there. But sadly for him, the Singaporean went on to win the semifinal. That was hard-fought, though,

wasn't it?

Well, the team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you. Visit to have your say, or you can tweet me

@AmaraWalkerCNN. That does it for me. I'm Amara Walker, and that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you so much for watching. "International Desk"

with Isha Sesay is up next.