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Oil Platform on Fire in Gulf of Mexico; Israel and Gaza Violence; Egypt's President in Tight Spot; Congressional Committees Hear From Petraeus; Hamas Rockets Land Near Jerusalem; Israel and Hamas Wage Online War

Aired November 16, 2012 - 12:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Although in my earlier interview, there was quite a bit of assessment that would need to be done clearly before that can be determined 100 percent. I think we all know what happened back in 2010 when that leaking was going on a mile below the surface of the water before anybody could really assess that that was happening.

I know that we are trying to get an interview together right now with the medical center in New Orleans that may be receiving some of these people who were on board -- or were on the platform, but I'm not sure that we can get that arranged for you at this point. So I'm going to hand over not only this story, but the other breaking stories to my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux, who is standing by. And she'll be able to update this story throughout the next hour. Thanks for joining us, everyone.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in 60 minutes.

We're beginning with breaking news here. An explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico just set off a major fire. Two workers are now missing. Want to bring in Chad Myers with the latest on what we know about this.

Any details?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Literally things just coming in here. It was a production platform. It was not a drilling rig. It was in shallow water. It was not deep water. They were not drilling. There was not a blowout. This is not take two, OK? This --

MALVEAUX: This is not like we saw in 2010 where we had that leak?

MYERS: This is not an environmental disaster according to the Coast Guard that's out there right now. This is not what we saw when it took a year to cap that oil from coming into the Gulf of Mexico. But six were injured, two possibly killed from this explosion. And it was considered to be a construction problem on this rig at this point in time.

Production and drilling, completely different. Production means it's already working. But they don't even believe that there was any oil coming out because of the construction that was going on it at this point.

MALVEAUX: And what would it take, actually, to assess some of this? Because one of the problems was before you had that leaking that was going on.


MALVEAUX: It was a mile underneath the surface. And people really didn't have a sense of what was taking place until much, much later. Is this the kind of thing that you could assess right away what they're dealing with?

MYERS: Right away within 12 hours. We couldn't get down to the base of the old becanda (ph) well because it was thousands of feet down. You can't put a diver down there. But with this being in shallow water, less than 500 feet, and probably much less than that, we can assess that much, much quicker. They'll know what's going on within -- by tonight they'll know exactly what's going on. Right now the Coast Guard saying no oil in the water at this point.


MYERS: We're worried about the men and women on the platform, more than we're worried about the disaster at this point in time because the Coast Guard's out there trying to find two that they believe are still missing.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Chad.

I want to bring in -- this is Taslin Alfonso. This is a spokeswoman for the West Jefferson Medical Center.

And -- can you hear me?

TASLIN ALFONZO, WEST JEFFERSON MEDICAL CENTER (via telephone): Yes, can I hear you. Barely.

MALVEAUX: I understand that there are some that we know who are injured. Can you tell us about that?

ALFONZO: Say that again. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

MALVEAUX: Has anybody been injured from this oil platform --

ALFONZO: We have -- I can tell you that we have a total of four injured here at West Jefferson Medical Center. All four are in critical condition. We got the first one at 9:55 a.m. this morning. I should say the first three. The first three at 9:55 a.m. and the fourth one at 10:10 a.m. this morning. They were all helicoptered in.

MALVEAUX: And what is the nature of their injuries? Can you describe it for us?

ALFONZO: Because of HIPAA laws, I cannot detail their injuries. But I can tell you that as soon as they are stabilized, that they will be transported through to the Baton Rouge Burn Center. MALVEAUX: Are these serious in nature? Can you describe it at all?

ALFONZO: It is critical condition. That is what I can tell you at this time. We are having critical care nurses transported with these patients via ambulance to Baton Rouge Burn Center. They are going to be intubated and have dopamine drip on their trip there to make sure that they are properly cared for before they get to the burn center in Baton Rouge.

MALVEAUX: All right. And is there any indication that you might be getting additional patients brought in?

ALFONZO: There is a possibility that we may get one or two more patients, but that has not been confirmed at this time.

MALVEAUX: All right. We're going to get back to you as soon as you have some more information about the state of those patients and whether or not there are more injuries on the way (ph). This platform, what seems to be some sort of incident, a fire that occurred there. We're going to have more. And we'll be following this breaking news story throughout the next two hours.

Turning now to the Middle East. Despite a very brief cease-fire, rockets are flying back and forth between Gaza and Israel. The death toll is now rising.


MALVEAUX: Hamas's rockets are reaching farther into Israel than they have ever before. Two more have fallen south of Jerusalem despite Israel's sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities. But Israel says they didn't cause much damage. Palestinian officials say rockets from Israel have killed 24 Palestinians and wounded 200 in the past two days. Israeli officials reported no new deaths today. Three died yesterday from rocket fire.

And Egypt dispatched its Prime Minister to Gaza to show support for the Palestinian people and Hamas today. Hesham Kandil met with Hamas's Prime Minister, got a tour of the casualties on the ground. Kandil visited a hospital, showed emotion over the death of a one-year-old boy. He also read a verse from the Koran. And later, Egypt's President, Mohammed Morsi, gave a fiery speech in support of the Palestinian people on state TV. Listen.


PRES. MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPT (through translator): We support the people of Gaza. We are with them in their trenches. What hurts them, hurts us. And the blood that flows from their children is our blood too.


MALVEAUX: Hate and violence between the Israelis and Palestinians was sparked by this, Israel's assassination of Hamas's military chief on Wednesday. An assassination that Israel called necessary because of increased rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel the last several weeks. Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Tel Aviv.

And, Ben, you have covered the Middle East crisis for decades now. When you see Israel moving hundreds of troops to the border of Israel and Gaza and saying it's going to call up 16,000 more reservists, what does that sound like they're preparing for?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly would indicate that they're preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza. In fact, this is very similar to what happened in the 2008-2009 fight between Hamas and Israel. Israel, for the first few days, pounded targets around Gaza. And then when -- then sent in the troops.

Certainly, I mean, if you listen, for instance, to what Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, told CNN yesterday, he essentially said that we want to put an end once and for all to the firing of missiles from Gaza into Israel. And there's no other way to do that logically than to go in and not only smash Hamas's military capabilities, but to smash it as an organization. And, frankly, that's a fairly tall order. That's what they tried to do in 2008-2009. It didn't really work. In fact, Hamas only was more entrenched in power in Gaza after that.

So I think we're looking ahead to some very difficult days certainly for the people of Gaza and for the people of southern Israel.

MALVEAUX: Let's (INAUDIBLE) more than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since this operation began. And you have the iron dome defense system intercepting at least a quarter of them. Away do you make of the capabilities on both sides?

WEDEMAN: Certainly it's completely out of balance. I mean, Israel is, by far, the most powerful military power in the Middle East compared to Hamas, which, you know, can only man -- sort of field a few thousand men. They do have these rockets, but obviously they don't have any airplanes or tanks or anything. So it's a fairly uneven fight. But the problem is, of course, politically it has come at a very high cost for Israel, particularly when there's a high civilian casualty.

So far, the civilian deaths on the Palestinian side have been compared to 2008-2009, relatively small. You remember in that 20-day war, around 1,500 Palestinians were killed. So far, 48 hours into this fight, only around 25 Palestinians have been killed. But if they go in with ground troops, that could change much for the worse, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ben, we're going to be watching closely. Thank you.

Egypt's newly elected president, Mohammed Morsi, he's in a tight spot. Morsi needs to show support for Hamas because the Islamic group has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Morsi once led in Egypt. But Morsi also wants to respect the peace treaty that stands between Israel and Egypt. So he doesn't want to lose western support.

Michael Holmes, tell us about what kind of bind do you think Egypt -- the role that Egypt plays. MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's really stuck because, as you say, I mean, he was elected on a groundswell of popular passion. Part of that passion being anti-Mubarak, who the Egyptian people saw as abandoning the Palestinians back in 2008-2009. So he's a man who's got to stand up for the Palestinians. He's recalled the ambassador to Egypt and -- to Israel. And so he's trying to look tough. He can't be too tough, though, because if this peace treaty is threatened, the west steps in with their billions of dollars in aid that they give to Egypt every year. Their economy stinks at the moment, and they need that money to survive. So you know, it's another reason why Egypt and I think all the players, they don't want this to go that far, to a ground invasion.

MALVEAUX: Is this something that the administration can count on? Can they count on Egypt's support, or do they think that Egypt is going to escalate the situation and it's only going to become worse if they step in?

HOLMES: It would be a big, big deal if Egypt escalated it, in a tangible sense. I don't know about supplying weaponry or something like that. I cannot see that happening. Egypt needs western money, European and, importantly, United States money, just to survive economically in these tough times.

But the sense is that I don't think any of these people want to go to a ground war. Israel has got an election in two months. They don't want dead soldiers. Bibi Netanyahu doesn't want dead soldiers. Hamas doesn't want 1,200 dead Gazans. And Egypt can't afford for things to go south for them as well.

You know, I get the feeling that everyone's waiting for a truce to come out, to be brought up probably in Egypt. And everyone can say they both won and go back to the highly unsatisfactory status quo that's existed for years.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's listen to one Egyptian official, what they believe could be a peace treaty.


MOHAMED REFA'A AL-TAHTAWI, CHIEF, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENTIAL CABINET: Respecting the peace treaty does not mean they're idol (ph) or indifferent with what is going on along our borders, and what is touching our borders (ph). And we cannot be indifferent to human suffering. So we are abiding by our legal obligations, but we are active to help establishing real peace in the area.


MALVEAUX: What do you make of that?

HOLMES: Yes, well, that's exactly what we were saying before, that there is a need for this truce to come out. I think there's probably one being worked on right now. I'm sure that -- I was talking to Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, an envoy to the region, yesterday. His phone's running hot. They're trying to get a truce together.

The thing is, that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, things can go south very quickly. And it doesn't take much. If one of these missiles lands in a sensitive place in Jerusalem, lands on an apartment building in Tel Aviv, then it could be ground invasion time. At the moment, as long as they keep their -- keep it to a dull roar, as we like to say in Australia, then I think -- I think that there's a chance that they'll all step back, because I don't think they want this.

MALVEAUX: What is the role that the United States should playing here? Because we already know the Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, weighed in with his counterpart saying, look, you know, be careful that you're not going to have civilians, you know, mass casualties here. Do you think that they play an effective role? Do they have leverage?

HOLMES: They're a voice. Do they have much leverage? They have a little bit of leverage with Israel. And we were chatting about this yesterday. And we've seen, when it comes to settlements and the rest, the Israeli leadership has basically ignored what the U.S. has had to say.

In this situation, I think they are listening. I think that they're trying to get cooler heads to prevail on this. Same as, you know, there's pressure being put by Egypt on Hamas to sort of step back a little bit and tone things down because the way it's looking now, it's not looking good.

MALVEAUX: All right, Michael, thank you. Appreciate it.

This is a big story. We're going to be following it. And coming up in about 20 minutes, we're going to be talking about this with former Mideast envoy, Senator George Mitchell.

And former CIA Director David Petraeus has testified on Capitol Hill about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But one Republican says there is a discrepancy in the account given by Petraeus and the account initially given by the White House.


MALVEAUX: Members of Congress have been demanding it for days. This morning, they got the details of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi from the man who was the head of the CIA at the time, David Petraeus. He testified behind closed doors to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Dana Bash was there as lawmakers were leaving this meeting. She's joining us from Capitol Hill, and, Dana, there's been a lot of outrage, of course, about these conflicting intelligence reports on this attack.

Was there anything that Petraeus said today to kind of clear up some of this confusion?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems that he certainly tried and, when we're talking about confusion, it's whether or not the intelligence community gave appropriate or enough information -- maybe emphasis is the right word -- on what turns out to be more of the case, which is there are extremist elements that are behind the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, much more than a protest which doesn't even appear to have existed.

So that was what Petraeus came in here to try to clear up, but talking to Republicans and Democrats coming out, Republicans for the most part who were talking said that they didn't think that Petraeus' recollection of his initial briefing here was exactly the way he thought.

And Democrats said, no, it's fine. It's exactly what he thought. He came in and he said that it could be extremism -- extremist elements, it could be these protests and we're not just going to find out for a little while and this -- today, he was coming to give an update.

But one other thing that has been very controversial coming out of these briefings, whether or not Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador -- the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., had the proper information or was correct in what she said publicly about the attack being probably, at that point -- this is four days after the attack -- because of a demonstration.

Democrats are really to a person coming to her defense aggressively and trying to explain why there was a discrepancy. Listen to Kent Conrad, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.



SEN. KENT CONRAD, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: What is very clear is that Ambassador Rice used the talking points that the Intelligence Committee had all signed off on. That is very, very clear.

She used the unclassified talking points that were signed off on by the entire intelligence community, so criticisms of her are completely unwarranted. That is very clear.


BASH: And, Suzanne, Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just moments ago actually took out and read the unclassified talking points that Susan Rice used on that day and they were very short.

It sounds like there were two, maybe three points in the talking points and the first one was mostly about the demonstrations, but the second one was underscoring the fact that it was preliminary information that is almost certain to change.

So they're all -- even Dianne Feinstein who doesn't like to get political, generally, on these issues, was very aggressive in her defense of her, saying that she's being unfairly pilloried. MALVEAUX: A couple of things. First of all, who did she get the talking points from? Did she get it from General Petraeus and, secondly, is there some sort of suggestion that perhaps they gave the talking points, but they still had other intelligence that was clear that it was a terrorist attack?

BASH: The suggestion -- yeah, it seems to be that the difference here in what they're trying -- the picture they're trying to paint is the difference between unclassified talking points, what they can talk about in public, and classified talking points, what at the time still they didn't feel comfortable enough talking about in public for whatever reason. So that is the difference that they're painting.

Where she got the talking points, unclear if it's from Petraeus. I can tell you that the Director of National Intelligence Clapper was here also for a separate briefing in the room right behind me and he also showed and talked about the talking points.

So they're definitely trying to clear this up inside the intelligence community.

MALVEAUX: Right. And real quickly here, any questions about this affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and the circumstances around him stepping down?

BASH: In the first meeting and that was on the House side here, he was asked right at the beginning by the Intelligence Chairman whether or not his resignation had anything to do with Benghazi, that he wanted to clear that up, and General Petraeus said definitively no, they had nothing to do with one another and expressed his regret for what happened, the fact that he had to resign a week ago.

And we just heard from the Senate that -- the Intelligence Chairwoman that he has virtually said the same thing and nothing else was asked about his affair or his resignation.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dana, thank you. Appreciate it.

So now that lawmakers have heard from the former CIA director, David Petraeus, we're going to break it down, see what it means.

Retired General James "Spider" Marks joins us after the break.


MALVEAUX: Lawmakers aren't just hearing information about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. They are also now seeing it. House and Senate Intelligence Committee members were shown footage of the attack taken by surveillance cameras and a drone.

Retired Army General and CNN contributor David -- rather, James "Spider" Marks joining us from Washington.

So General, first of all, lawmakers say they watched this video. They saw the attack from beginning to end and it even included shots of the ambassador being dragged out from this building here, hard to watch. Why didn't this intelligence actually help with the initial response and a potential rescue mission?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Suzanne, I think the issue is when you look at a video like this, you are really getting a very, very tactical view of what occurred and I don't think there was any debate in any of the discussions over the course of the last two months that this was brutal, that this was very targeted.

The issue became, what motivated this to occur? And, again, from the outset, I don't think anybody argued that the type of weapon systems that were involved in this attack were pretty sophisticated, so, again, how did this occur? What were the motivations for it?

I think that intelligence has been -- that information has been out there and what we have now is greater panoramic view, again, at a tactical level, of what occurred and the real question is, what was known in advance? What were the conditions that the intelligence community, that the consulate knew about their surroundings, so that they were prepared for these kind of eventualities and would take the appropriate risks?

Every time you deploy, any time an ambassador goes anywhere and you've got Americans on the ground in foreign countries, there are levels of risk and you assess those risks and this obviously wasn't done well.

MALVEAUX: Sure. So we've heard that Petraeus has two different lines, two different storylines about the attack. In one way, they blame this terrorist organization and say it's a terrorist attack, but they also say there was evidence or intelligence that perhaps it was linked to the protests for the anti- -- against this anti-Muslim film.

Is it possible when you are collecting intelligence that you have two strains, if you will, and that this is not necessarily something that is meant to be misleading, but that there really are two different stories and possibly they believe them both at the same time?

MARKS: Suzanne, in intelligence, fundamentally, you have to subscribe to the notion of a contrarian view. You have to have competing intelligence. In fact, it's very dangerous if everybody in a formation, everybody in an intelligence organization, comes down on the same answer and says that's it. You have to have somebody that walks in and says, you know, I think this has some fault to it. Let's challenge this assumption.

We've got a piece of intelligence here that doesn't seem to square with something else, so the fact that there are competing views is absolutely healthy. What needs to be acknowledged is that intelligence -- in intelligence, it's OK to say I don't know. And, in this case, we came down as an administration very hard on an assessment. That was not the right thing to do when there were some other contrarian views still floating around that had not been reconciled.

MALVEAUX: So there was a public -- not a classified version, but a public version of what the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was supposed to say, what she was allowed to say, these talking points that were given to her by intelligence officials. Was that appropriate, even though it might have been inaccurate information?

MARKS: Yeah, think we need to -- frankly, my view is we need to stop defending David Petraeus or feeling sorry for him and stop attacking Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice was on-message from the administration. I mean, she didn't make this stuff up. She was given talking points. She was told this is what occurred.

The real question of my mind is why was she a messenger on all those shows if she was not intimate with the details or involved m process by which those details would be revealed.

So this really is about competence and character. Is our intelligence community correct in this assessment? And intelligence is a very chaotic, a very imprecise art and science, and it's a matter of character. I hope people were telling the truth.

MALVEAUX: "Spider" Marks, thank you. Appreciate it.

Air raid sirens, rocket attacks, attempted ceasefire, as well, the situation in the Middle East seems to be deteriorating by the hour. We're going to get a live report from Jerusalem.


MALVEAUX: Fighting between Israel and Gaza despite a short ceasefire. Earlier today, rockets from Gaza landed near one of Israel's most populated cities just an hour ago.

Fred Pleitgen is joining us from Jerusalem. Fred, first of all, these rockets, we see that they are reaching as far as north -- never before this northern in Israel.

What kind of damage are they doing, and what is the concern on the ground, the community, the response?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the damage, Suzanne, has actually not been too big. I mean, there's been some houses that have been hit.

However, of course, it is something that keeps the population in these places in fear and the big thing today really was that targeting of Jerusalem. And there's never been a rocket actually shot at Jerusalem since the 1970s and I can tell you from actually having been here and speaking to people afterwards that we could hear the sirens go off and then a few seconds later there was a thump.

Now, the rocket hit south of Jerusalem near a settlement there. It apparently hit an open field and didn't do any damage, but the people that I have been speaking to since then say that they're absolutely terrified of what's been going on.

If you look around the area around Gaza, the folks there are actually quite used to rockets coming down there. They have sort of a routine to deal with that, but people here absolutely not used to and say they're absolutely terrified about it.

And it certainly is something that also is an escalation of this conflict rather than a de-escalation. As you said, things appear to be ramping up. It doesn't seem as though either side is taking its foot off the gas in all this, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So there seems to be some effort from the international community to try to intervene here. You've got the U.N. chief, Ban Ki-Moon, going to the region next week. You've got the European Union's high representative, saying, look, you know -- encouraging Israel to be proportionate in how it's dealing with these militant groups in Gaza.

Do the people there -- do they believe that that's important, that, as the world -- that the world must intervene in order to get control of the situation?

PLEITGEN: Well, they certainly do. I mean, they certainly do believe that the negotiations that appear to be going on or that seem to be in their fledgling stage, that they are important and that they could possibly help to bring these two sides together.

Certainly, people that we speak to on both sides of the equation -- I was in Ashkelon which is right next to Gaza and it's taken a lot of rockets. People say they don't want war and they don't want a wider conflict. However, they also don't want to have rockets raining down on them constantly.

So right now, it seems as though both parties are still very much seeking the military option, if you will. However, people here really do hope that the negotiations bring something not just from organizations like the United Nations, but also possibly even Egypt could play a role in this.

As you said, today, the Egyptian Prime Minister was in Gaza. There was a short ceasefire. That really didn't hold even during the time that he was there. But people are hoping that in the coming days, possibly, negotiations could bring these two sides a little closer together.

But until then, both sides are saying that they are willing to sustain and expand their campaigns -- the Israelis saying they're willing to conduct more air strikes and, more importantly, they are willing to enter Gaza with ground troops, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Fred.

I want to bring in somebody who is highly respected, who's been on the frontlines of Middle East peace efforts, George Mitchell. He's the former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East.

Back in 2000, 2001, you served as chair of an International Fact- Finding Committee on violence in the Middle East, and the findings from that committee really became widely known as "The Mitchell Report."

First and foremost, when you take a look at what is taking place on the ground there, does this look like to you potentially all-out war?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL U.S. ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST (via telephone): I'm sorry, Suzanne. I just had a bad connection. Would you repeat just the last part of the question, please?

MALVEAUX: Sure. I'm wondering do you think, when you see this situation on the ground, the number of rockets fired, where this is taking place, the number of deaths now, does this look like this is potentially turning into a war?

MITCHELL: Yes, it does and it's more dangerous than ever before because of the extreme volatility of the situation throughout the Middle East.

Just think of the facts that didn't exist the last time a conflict erupted which was in 2000 of a broad degree and that now includes Syria in turmoil, really in a deep civil war; Egypt having had the revolution there and change of government; Jordan under threat.

There was, of course, the conflict in Gaza in 2008, and I hope that's not repeated and the danger now is that, if it is, it could spread. Not just the damage to Israelis and Palestinians, but if you had a conflict that spread throughout the region, it could be hugely destabilizing and costly to everyone involved.

MALVEAUX: If you were in the White House, if you were advising the President, what would you tell him to do? What kind of intervention would you suggest?

MITCHELL: I think the President is on the right course. He is trying to use all of the influence that the United States has with its allies to encourage both parties to step back from an escalation of the conflict.

That's very difficult, of course. Israel, obviously, has the right to defend itself against the barrage of rockets that have accelerated dramatically in recent days and no doubt will do so, wanting to deter such action in the future.

But the problem is for Israel that, if this escalates far beyond a Gaza-Hamas-Israel conflict and others are drawn in in the region, that could have devastating consequences for all concerned.

So it's a tension there trying to accomplish one objective without having it reverse and cause greater damage in the future.

MALVEAUX: Talk about the role of the Arab Spring here because, obviously, you have a different Egypt, a different leadership in Egypt that is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, very supportive of Hamas. We have seen Egyptian officials who have gone to the area very recently to express support for Hamas, so what does the United States need to do?

What does the Obama administration need to do in order to corral all these different players who are completely different than the kinds of players who you dealt with just a couple of years ago? MITCHELL: You've accurately described one of the major changes in the region that have occurred since the last outbreak of violence and not only are the Israelis and Hamas trying to balance competing tensions, but so also are others and, most especially, the Egyptians.

Now, the government there, of course, was elected. It's a Muslim Brotherhood group which is directly allied with Hamas. At the same time, Egypt is in a very uncertain situation. Its economy is badly set back as a consequence of the events of the past year and a half. They are trying to build their way back and they want to have continued assistance. They want to have continued good relations.

Add to the fact that from Israel's standpoint, they very much want their agreement with Egypt and with Jordan to remain in force, so a lot of tensions are competing and conflicting in the region for everyone.

I hope very much and I am certain that the President and the United States government are trying hard to persuade the Egyptian government to use its influence with Hamas to get them to stand down and prevent this from escalating further.

MALVEAUX: What would it take to get this conflict, to de-escalate this conflict, to stand down, to back up from a potential all-out war? What do you think?

MITCHELL: Well, of course, what's happened in the past is when the damage gets so great, one side or the other, pulls back and stops. Or when the possibility of a much wider conflict emerges, people tend to stop.

I think the problem is that you just keep the cycle going unless you address the root causes, and that is getting the parties in to negotiations to try to resolve the underlying conflict.

MALVEAUX: All right. George Mitchell, thank you very much, as always.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Expert analysis. Thank you.

He survived an attack in Iraq, lost his legs, ran a veterans program, and then starred in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Meet Army Colonel Gregory Gadson who's got a new challenge. Our "Veterans Focus, " next.


MALVEAUX: Colonel Gregory Gadson has played many roles. He has run the Army's Wounded Warrior program and has starred in "Battleship."

Now, he is taking on his biggest role to date, commanding an Army post. His inspiring story is today's "Veterans in Focus."


COLONEL GREGORY D. GADSON, GARRISON COMMANDER, FORT BELVOIR, VIRGNIA: May 7th of 2007, my vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.

I remember the explosion very clearly. It is something I'll never forget and, ultimately, over the next two weeks I would lose my legs above the knee.

Well, then I came home, of course, wounded, that was a new experience for me. I had never come home without my troops. I really felt alone.

I did say absolutely enough is enough. It was -- not that I got to a point where I felt like I was going to take my life or anything like that, but I just didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

I just wanted to just crawl in my hole and kind of collapse on myself. I'm very grateful and thank God I didn't do that.

For me, when I tried to quit, when I tried to crawl into that shell, it was very uncomfortable because that wasn't who I was.

I'm the garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. We support a base, including about 51,000 personnel.

All right, so, we're going to add battalions, but we're going to lose brigades, right?

All of our services appreciate the value that someone has, regardless of what they don't have anymore.

This event that happened to me doesn't define me, and it is not something I dwell on.

I wouldn't characterize myself as a hero. I mean, ultimately, those that really pay in full measure are heroes.

I just say, if you know a veteran out there, then just tell them thank you and their family. I never get tired of hearing it.



MALVEAUX: Despite a very brief ceasefire, rockets are flying back and forth between Gaza and Israeli. The death toll now rising. At least 24 are dead. Joining us on the phone from the West Bank, Diana Buttu. She is a former Palestinian Liberation Organization legal advisor.

Thank you for being with us. First of all, what is your understanding of what is taking place in Gaza now?

DIANA BUTTU, FORMER PLO LEGAL ADVISOR (via telephone): My understanding is that the bombing -- Israel's bombing continues, and that Palestinian civilians are still being subjected to bombings, as well as navel and aerial shelling. And as well as tank shells. And it simply hasn't ceased.

MALVEAUX: Do you know how many Palestinians have been killed in this conflict?

BUTTU: Well, just in the past few days alone, were looking at over 22 civilians, many of them children. Just the other day, an 11-month-old was killed. And a pregnant woman was just killed as well.

The problem with this type of campaign is that it doesn't distinguish civilian from combatant, and that it is entirely unnecessary. We know what the formula is to move forward, which is to end Israel's military rule over the Palestinians and allow them to live in freedom. Why Israel persists remains a mystery to me and to many others as well.

MALVEAUX: I want to read a statement here. We've just got this statement. This is from the Israeli military, and they describe the situation very differently. They say they're going to operate until the mission has been completed. They also say that -- Israel says that Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a -- what they're calling a frontal base for the Iranians to directly target Israeli civilians.

BUTTU: This has always been the Israeli claim. And, obviously, there is no evidence to this whatsoever. What Israel wants to do is deflect from its own actions and somehow blame it on somebody else. The truth of the matter is, is that international institutions, including the United Nations, have come forward and have said to Israel that it has got to stop its control over the Gaza Strip. And it has to cease its occupation and colonization of the West Bank as well.

MALVEAUX: But, Miss Buttu, did --

BUTTU: Every country around the world has said this. But, unfortunately, the --

MALVEAUX: Do you deny that the rockets that have been coming from Gaza that are going into Israel, close to Jerusalem, do you deny that there have been dozens of rockets that the Israelis have reported dozens of rockets? Our reporters have seen these dozens of rockets that have come from Gaza Strip into these civilian neighborhoods in Israel, close to Jerusalem, and even Tel Aviv?

BUTTU: Oh, I certainly don't deny them at all. That's not the issue. The problem is how do we move forward? How do we actually get this to stop? And the way that we get this to stop is to recognize that there is an imbalance of power, and we worked to try to make sure that Israel actually ceases its occupation.

A simple cease-fire is not going to work at this stage. We need to be looking beyond a simple cease-fire into a long-term solution. And the only long-term solution is one that is known to all, which is Israel needs to allow the Palestinians to live in the freedom and dignity that is their right, that is the right of every person around the world.

MALVEAUX: Diana Buttu, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. We're going to check back in with you to see how things are going there.

The conflict, of course, between Israel and Gaza also taking on another dimension. As the fighting continues, both sides are on the offensive, and they're taking their attacks now to a different arena. We're going to explain, up next.


MALVEAUX: While rockets fly between Israel and Gaza, a parallel war is raging between the two sides. It's a war of words unfolding on the Internet. Atika Shubert tracks it online.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rockets and bombs in Gaza, but the war is also fought online. A battle for public opinion. Israeli forces versus Hamas. Both using the Internet to get their messages out.

At the exact moment Israeli defense forces began hitting their targets in Gaza, they sent out this tweet. "The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites and operatives in the Gaza Strip."

Moments later, they posted video of the deadly air strike that killed the head of Hamas's military wing. Hamas's al-Qassam brigade was quick to respond with its own tweet, confirming the death of its top leader. The war of words had begun.

SHUBERT (on camera): Well, the Israeli defense forces are live tweeting about their actions using a few hash tags, but most notably - #pillarofdefense. Meanwhile, al-Qassam brigade has come back with their hash tag, #gazaunderattack. Both sides have been issuing threats online. Just take a look at what the IDF put out. A rather dry statement saying, "we recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead." And not to be outdone, the al-Qassam brigades responded directly to IDF spokesperson saying, "our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are. You have opened the gates of hell on yourselves."

So there you have it. The war of words online.

SHUBERT (voice-over): For every strike, it seems, there is a corresponding tweet or video post with links and graphics. A war of information battling for hearts and minds online, no less critical than winning the war on the ground.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.


MALVEAUX: Protesters are back in the streets of Jordan today.


MALVEAUX: They are angry over rising gas prices. Some are even calling for King Abdullah to step down. According to one report, protesters chanted the slogan of the Arab Spring. Quote, "the people want the downfall of the regime." No deaths or injuries were reported in today's demonstration.

In Japan, there's going to be a general election next month that's expected to unseat Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. This after the Prime Minister dissolved to the lower house of Parliament today. Noda caved under pressure from the opposition liberal Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has been in power for over three years.