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Limited Truce in Gaza; Serbia's Struggles; Imagine a World
Aired August 4, 2014 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a limited truce in Gaza. But the violence continues. The IDF has dealt Hamas crippling blows
but is Israel losing the diplomatic war? We'll get the view from both sides.
And later in the program, a Russian ally that wants E.U. membership. I'll talk exclusively with Serbia's prime minister and how his country
intends to balance those interests.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Good evening, everyone, and welcome, I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour all of this week.
We begin in the Middle East. Israel is redeploying ground troops out of Gaza. A unilateral decision indicating that this phase of its campaign
against Hamas may be winding down. The IDF has wreaked havoc on Hamas' arsenal of rockets and artillery and shut down numerous tunnels under the
border. But even if Israel is safer in the short term, could the diplomatic blowback from this incursion leave Israelis less secure in the
long run? In Europe and America, where diplomatic support for Israel has been unshakable over the past decades, condemnation of attacks on civilians
has been uncharacteristically intense. Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the situation in Gaza has become, quote, "simply intolerable."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the world should impose a solution on Israel and Hamas to stop what he calls "the carnage in Gaza."
And U.S. State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: When you have a situation where innocent civilians are killed in Gaza, there's more that Israel can
do to hold themselves to their own standard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: So there we have it, a growing chorus of criticism from Israel's allies. But will it impact the next moves? Let's ask a key
player in the Israeli government, intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz. He joins me now from Jerusalem.
Sir, thank you so much for being in the program. How worried are you about this international --
YUVAL STEINITZ, ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE MINISTER: Good evening.
PLEITGEN: -- good evening.
STEINITZ: Look, first we have to protect our people. This is the first duty of any democratic government. And for three weeks now, Hamas
has launched 3,000 rockets toward the Israeli cities and towns. Out of the blue it started one day and refused for six cease-fires. Now we are doing
our best to minimize collateral damage, to minimize civilian casualties, although they are fighting as us from densely populated areas.
And I must tell you honestly, sometimes I feel there is some hypocrisies (INAUDIBLE). Maybe, maybe United States, Britain, France and
NATO forces can teach us from their experience how to minimize collateral damage. For example, in their experience in Belgrade, their experience in
Iraq, in Fallujah in Iraq or in Afghanistan, maybe we have something to learn .
If somebody knows how to fight terrorists in dense (INAUDIBLE) launching rockets from densely populated areas, somebody have better ideas
how to limit civilian casualties or collateral damage, please share your experience with us.
PLEITGEN: Sir, the United States --
STEINITZ: -- soldiers are doing enormous efforts not to hit civilians.
PLEITGEN: The United States did learn from some of the mistakes that it made in Iraq, for instance. And one of the things that it came up with
was a new counterinsurgency doctrine. And the counterinsurgency doctrine has as a base saying that you have to hit the insurgents hard but you have
to protect the civilian population, even if it's at cost to yourselves.
Now there was of course the incident that happened yesterday on Sunday near that school in Gaza, where three militants were killed but there was
also severe collateral damage.
And one of the that the U.S. State Department said about that was -- and I quote -- "The coordinates of the school, like all U.N. facilities in
Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that
put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians."
Is your military really doing everything it can to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza?
STEINITZ: The idea it is doing more than any other armed forces, including Western armed forces, to minimum collateral damage. And I
remember when American or European forces were fighting in similar circumstances inside the evident troops, inside densely populated areas,
what was the damage?
We are doing our best. We are sorry for any civilian casualties in Gaza. It doesn't serve us. We didn't start this round of violence. But I
want to emphasize another thing as well. The fact that terrorists, that Hamas is launching thousands of rockets toward our cities and towns, from
densely populated areas doesn't mean that Israel right of service defense diminish. I mean, this idea that if they are launching rockets from
civilian neighborhoods or nearby some -- unfortunately some schools or hospitals, then we cannot or should not defend ourself. What other
alternative do we have? Can we tell our citizens that since Hamas is launching hundreds of rockets from densely populated areas, very close to
schools or hospitals, sometimes from the schoolyards or from the school roof or hospitals. We are unable to try to intercept them and to defend
our people. We are doing our best within influence this round of violence in first place. We agreed and we implemented six cease-fires so far, all
of them were violated by the Hamas. And at the end of the day, we already pull out from Gaza. And the whole world told us, withdraw from Gaza,
deliver Gaza to the Palestinians. We evacuated all the Jewish settlements from Gaza. And Abu Mazen and the Palestinians gave us clear commitment,
one -- I am quoting now -- now while Israeli occupation inside Gaza is over, once there are no Jewish settlements in Gaza, there will be no
rockets, no hostilities whatsoever from Gaza into Israel.
STEINITZ: Since then --
PLEITGEN: One of the reasons why the campaign --
STEINITZ: -- launch from Gaza into Israel, 3,000 only in the last three weeks.
PLEITGEN: Sir, one of the reasons why this campaign has been so --
STEINITZ: So we have to protect ourselves.
PLEITGEN: -- for the Israel Defense Forces, is this network of tunnels that Hamas was able to build. You're the minister for
intelligence. Is it a failure of the Israeli intelligence community that it didn't see this coming, it didn't see if these tunnels were being built
and it certainly didn't see the extent and the amount of tunnels and the problems they could cause, the danger that they put Israeli soldiers into
and, of course, Israeli citizens as well.
STEINITZ: No. We were very well aware of those tunnels. Until the last 3-4 years, Hamas invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the
building this network of hundreds of tunnels, a few, you know, or maybe 10 or 15 tunnels going into Israel. But many more inside Gaza instead of
building schools and children gardens, they were using the money of some international contributions into build this -- build tunnels. And we were
also fully aware that Gaza was supposed to be totally demilitarized and instead Hamas is buying thousands of rockets from Iran and from other
sources in order to prepare a terrorist attacks against us. We were fully aware of it. And therefore we managed to deliver so far very heavy blow
close to the rockets and to the rockets industry inside Gaza, into the stockpile and both to all the underground incursion tunnels into Israel.
PLEITGEN: Intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz, thank you very much for --
STEINITZ: -- this is the effect of very good intelligence.
PLEITGEN: OK. Thank you. Thank you very much, sir, for being on the program.
Thank you very much.
And of course one of the things that with all of this seems more elusive than ever before is a possible cease-fire deal. Now in Cairo, the
Egyptian government is trying to broker one. Hamas and Fattah which rules the West Bank has sent representatives but Israel has not. Now standing by
in Gaza City is Mustafa Barghouti. He's a member of the Palestinian legislative council and he's just returned from those talks in Cairo.
Mr. Barghouti, thank you very much for being on the program tonight. Tell me, sir, you were in Cairo. The Israelis are not there. Hamas and
Fattah are there. What's the point of even going through this?
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Well, before I answer your question, let me say that the Israeli minister of intelligence
does not seem to be intelligent enough or human enough to realize that the loss of 1,850 precious lives of Palestinian civilians mostly and the injury
of 9,000 other civilians is not and cannot be caused by collateral damage.
This is inhuman to call this suffering collateral damage.
And reality, this was a war where Israel was conducting a severe aggression into the Palestinian population who had very limited means to
defend themselves. There was no equality here. The Israeli is bombarded and they are still bombarded from behind me. I can hear the bombardment of
artillery against the civilian population.
I was just been to the hospital and I've seen -- I just wanted to tell you about two cases. I've seen hundreds of cases. But let me tell you the
names of two people, which the intelligence minister in Israel calls collateral damage.
Mysera (ph), a woman, was 24 years old, was pregnant. She was hit with Israeli shrapnels. Her baby was killed in her uterus because her baby
received a shrapnel while she was in the uterus of her mother. And she died. And her mother now is in critical condition.
Another person, Amira (ph), a 2-years-old girl, have lost her father, her mother, her grandfather and her grandmother and all her sisters and
brothers and aunts and uncles. She is now along in this life.
Seven (INAUDIBLE) families --
PLEITGEN: Let me just -- let me just -- let me just interject there, sir. One of the things that the Israelis, though, are saying -- and I want
to ask you if maybe they don't have a point. These are all awful casualties. But isn't it also the result of the fact that Hamas is firing
rockets from these civilian areas? I mean, Israel can't tolerate that, can they?
BARGHOUTI: No, this is not true and this is an Israeli claim that has not been proven. What has been proven finally is that Israel is attacking
even civilians in shelters protected by the United Nations, four shelters. In each shelter, no less than 20 people would be killed and hundreds would
be injured. And the last one happened in Rafa. And the whole world community is now condemning Israel for that.
For three weeks the world media has adopted the Israeli narrative, which was claiming that Israel accepts cease-fire and the Egyptian
initiative and Palestinians don't. Today, it is clear, all Palestinians groups are unified in accepting cease-fire and Israel is the one that is
refusing to come to negotiate.
The Egyptians are accepting the Palestinian position today. But the Israelis are not showing up.
Why? Because they want to continue this process of killing people. I've seen families, whole neighborhoods have been eliminated completely
from the surface affair. Where will these people go back to?
We're talking about 200,000 people who were pushed out of their homes. How would people in New York, for instance, would feel if they are told
that they have to leave their homes because they would be bombarded within few minutes or within few hours and then come back and find that they all
their homes have vanished?
PLEITGEN: Sir, but on the other hand, on the -- yes.
BARGHOUTI: Today we're asking for complete and immediate cease-fire.
PLEITGEN: See, but on the other hand, the Israelis did implement a unilateral cease-fire today which Hamas didn't recognize and fired rockets
into Israel again. So how is Israel supposed to deal with that?
BARGHOUTI: Again, please, sir, you are accepting the Israeli wrong narrative. And I urge you to look into the facts. I was myself today at
Rafa crossing with many injured Palestinians who are transported outside.
While I was at Rafa crossing, the Israelis continued to bombard during the period of cease-fire. Why? Because they declared that one-third of
Gaza is outside the cease-fire and they can continue to shoot there. Even in other areas, in the northern part of Gaza, they continue to shoot during
So it was a unilateral since declared cease-fire, which Israel itself does not respect. We want a full and complete cease-fire now, immediately.
People in Gaza don't have drinkable water. We are here in Gaza at the edge of a humanitarian crisis. Epidemics are starting. We have now tens of
cases of meningitis.
We have tens of cases of hepatitis. Why? Because the sewage system has broken down. There is no water for people.
Here in this studio, when I tried to wash my face, the water is so salinated people don't have drinkable water. This is a humanitarian crisis
and still Israel is allowed to continue to shoot. Look at the fiderstair (ph), 1,850 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, mostly children and
women and 68 Israelis killed, two of them were civilians or three.
The rest were soldiers killed inside Israel while they were invading the Palestinian territory. I don't want any Israeli or Palestinian to die.
But it is Israel that created this aggression and this is not an attack on Hamas. It's an attack on all Palestinian people. The world ought to see
Just ask the question, why is this happening? Why do we have to have wars every two years? Because the root of the problem is not managed by
the world community because the Israeli occupation which has been there for 47 years is allowed to continue. We need to end occupation. We need to
end the system of apartheid that Israel has created.
We need Palestinians to be free like the Israelis, to have their own state like the Israelis. As long as Israel does not accept that, there
will be no peace or security for nobody.
PLEITGEN: Mustafa Barghouti, thank you very much for being on the program tonight. And of course we want to apologize for some of the
technical difficulties that we had there. Obviously it's very difficult to get a live line out of Gaza, especially as this conflict is ongoing.
And there has been another casualty to the conflict in Gaza, freedom of expression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: A student dance company from Ben Gurion University in Israel was supposed to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month
in Scotland. But security concerns about anti-Israel protests prompted the university to cancel their performances.
And the drawing of redrawing of territorial lines isn't unique to Israel and Gaza. We'll talk to one man who should know, Serbia's prime
minister, when we come back.
PLEITGEN: Welcome back to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen in for Christiane Amanpour.
Ceremonies are taking place across Europe to mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. Fifty heads of state gathered in Belgium to
remember the German invasion and Britain's declaration of war on Germany.
It was also supposed to be -- it was supposed to be the war to end all wars but 100 years later tensions in Europe are ratcheting up yet again,
particularly between Russia and the West.
Now one country that is close to both sides is Serbia, a traditional ally of the Kremlin that is also looking to join the European Union. Its
prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic joins me live from Belgrade.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for being on the show tonight. Serbia is trying to remain neutral in a conflict that's going on right now.
But that's becoming increasingly difficult, isn't it?
ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, actually we have our own stand, our own political stand which is not neutral. We do respect and
we do support territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea as a part of Ukraine. But you're right; we did not impose any
sanctions over Russia and because of many political, economical, historical and all the other reasons.
But today Serbia is a pillar of stability in the region which is very important and we hope that we'll be able to keep stable Serbia and we hope
that we'll have enough trends to take care of our economical development.
PLEITGEN: But the economic development is important vis-a-vis the E.U., but you're also economically very close to Russia, especially with
the construction of a South Stream pipeline that's set to go forward.
How big an issue do you think that's going to be also for talks to join the European Union?
VUCIC: Yes. We spoke without -- with our European friends and as you know, I had a chance to speak to Chancellor Merkel and also to the prime
minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls and discuss -- we discussed these issues with Manuel Barroso and Stefan Fule, the commissioners. And of
course we had our -- we have our own interests. We have to take care of our own people but also we do our best to harmonize our legal system with
European legal system. We do our best to join as many as it is possible declarations and resolutions that European Union is already adopted. And
there are small differences on the issue of not Ukrainian, Ukraine but on the issue of sanctions against Russia and I hope that people from Europe
will understand specifical situation that Serbia is facing today, particularly because of that need that I emphasize at the beginning of our
discussion tonight, that we need to be very stable in the future. No one is anymore crisis in the heart of Europe, no one needs any more problems,
any more clashes, any more fights. And we are doing our best to be a pillar of that stability in this region. We do our best to improve our
economy. We do our best to be a modern state and we do our best to join E.U. in 2020 or to do our best to fulfill all our obligations and then
it'll be up to member states to make a decision whether Serbia did its best or we didn't do it.
PLEITGEN: Does Serbia condemn the annexation of Crimea, just to be clear?
VUCIC: Serbia, as I said, very clearly, do support and do respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and we do support Crimea
as a part of Ukraine. We said it very publicly, very openly. And we are on our E.U. path. But we did not and we don't -- we are not imposing
sanctions over Russia , which means that we have to protect our economical future. We have to protect our political future and you were very much
right speaking about South Stream project. We are very dependable on Russia, on Russian gas. We are very dependable on our export to Russia,
particularly of our agricultural products. And it is the fact that we are facing with. And you know, I cannot deny that. I'm elected to do a -- the
best possible work for our people, for Serbian people, for this country and I'm doing my best with all the other members of the government to take
Serbia closer to you, to do our homework, to do our job in the best possible way, but also not to harm ourselves with imposing any sanctions
PLEITGEN: You've been in office for 100 days and you've come into office in a very difficult geopolitical situation where, for the first time
people are really worried about peace in Europe.
How worried are you? We're 100 years after the beginning of World War I. Of course, the beginning of which took place right in your
neighborhood, in Sarajevo, where things started.
How worried are you about the situation in Europe right now?
VUCIC: I can tell you something, as you know, Serbian guy triggered that First World War, Gavrilo Princip and there were always different
assessments on his role from Serbian side and also on the German side.
But that's the reason that you actually mentioned that we are striving for peace, that we are doing our best to preserve our position, to preserve
our stand, to be a pillar of stability in the region, not to cause anymore problems, not to be a part of the problem but to be a part of the solution,
to be a part of creating a modern state, to creating the best possible environment in the whole region and that's the reason why we do not want to
participate in any kind of clashes, in any kind of fights, in anything like that. We do have to improve our economy. We just passed in our parliament
new labor law, very modern one, new privatization law, new bankruptcy law, new sets of media laws. That will bring Serbia closer to you. And that's
the reason why we are so passionate in insisting on our political stand that will preserve peace in this country and it will also mean that we are
not going to be any more in the heart of the problems of Europe. That's the best possible position and the best possible message that I can convey
to you. You know, today, this evening in your show, I heard a lot of things, a lot of quarrels from Gaza region, from Russia-Ukraine region.
And Serbia is not a part of the problem. And that's a great news for the whole world. Serbia is a pillar of this -- pillar of stability in this
region and Serbia will remain the pillar of stability. And Serbia will become a prosperous economically prosperous and very modern state. And I
think that's a great news. Although we'll have to make many harsh, many tough economical reforms, for the first time we'll also take fiscal
consolidation measures without pressure from outside. And that's a great news for the whole world.
PLEITGEN: Prime Minister, thank you so much for being on the program and all the best to you there in Belgrade.
And as Europe holds World War I commemorations, imagine if you could revisit the battlefields of that conflict. After a break, you will,
through the eye of a camera that captures the terrifying beauty that exists to this day.
PLEITGEN: And a final thought tonight, as we mark 100 years since the start of World War I, we remember the words of Britain's foreign secretary,
Sir Edmund Grey, who said, "The lights are going out all over Europe."
He spoke those words from his office overlooking St. James Park here in London. Now imagine a world where that same park is the scene of a
remarkable photographic exhibit called "Fields of Battle," revisiting the battlefields of World War I as they appear today.
It's a seven-year labor of love by photographer Michael St Maur Sheil, who we show here with an iconic souvenir, the football kicked by British
soldiers across no man's land to their enemies, the Germans, during the Battle of Loos.
His mission was to capture the historic and emotions of that dramatic period and honor those who fought and died, like the soldier whose helmet
still marks his grave on the Western Front. There is the savage beauty of Passchendaele, where an unexploded shell still lies in the mud, a reminder
of the rain that fell during the battle here which claimed half a million lives.
And that's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.