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Israeli Troops Massing Near Gaza; Dual Diplomacy by Washington; Petraeus Testifies on Benghazi Attack; Interview with Palestinian Legislative Council Member Mustafa Barghouti; Bakery Specializes in Doggy Treats; Petitions to Secede in All 50 States

Aired November 17, 2012 - 07:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Victor Blackwell is on assignment.

It is 7:00 on the East Coast; 4:00 out West. Thanks so much for starting your day with us.

We start this morning in Israel where troops are massing on the border with Gaza this morning. The move comes days after back and forth bombardments. Israel has launched dozens of airstrikes while militants in Gaza have fired nearly 200 rockets into Israel.

We are on both sides of the border in the line of fire. Our Sara Sidner is in Gaza City. And Frederik Pleitgen is in southern Israel.

Let's go to southern Israel where Israeli tanks are on the move. The Israeli defense forces say at least 30,000 troops are being mobilized along the border with Gaza. Thousands more are getting their marching orders.

As we said, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live there along the border.

Fred, great morning. You have been on the front lines there. What type of military activity are you seeing?


There's a lot of military activity going on here, right near the border area between Gaza and Israel. We just had a column of Israeli armored vehicles come through here. They are also moving in closer to the border. Of course, a lot of people believe that Israelis might launch a ground offensive into Gaza quite soon and we are seeing a lot of troops really near the border area amassing there. The Israelis have also called in tens of thousands of reservists and they're all reporting for duty right as well right now.

And when you go along the border area, you see units that are sort of hiding behind tree lines because they are, obviously, very wary of getting shot at from Gaza. You see a lot of tanks amassing there. You see armored vehicles there. And you see armored bulldozers as well.

The other thing that you get a really first-hand view here in this area is, of course, the airstrikes that are going on. We have warplanes overhead basically constantly. A lot of airstrikes that we're seeing plumes of smoke come up over Gaza but the fire is also going in the other direction and there have been some hits of rockets going out of Gaza, hitting in Israel. One just a couple of minutes ago in the town of Ashdod that wounded several people, Randi.

And what is the mood like, I'm curious there in southern Israel. I mean, are the residents more on edge?

PLEITGEN: They're absolutely on edge and they're absolutely worried.

The interesting thing about the people in the towns that sort of surround the Gaza Strip is they're used to having rocket attacks on a regular basis. They would have one every two weeks -- maybe one every month.

But, of course, now with the situation escalating, these things are common place every day and you'll have the air sirens go off several times a day and impacts, as well. It is something that is taking its toll on the people, especially children, of course, quite traumatized by this.

People are staying inside for the better part of the day, not leaving their house when they do have to leave their house, they plan their routes very carefully so that they pass by hardened shelters every once in a while if they could take cover when rockets come flying in.

And people that I've been speaking to say they can't do anything right now. Their businesses are idle.

We went to the marina in the town of Ashkelon, which is in the line of fire a lot just last night. And the place is absolutely deserted, when normally on a Friday night, it would be full of people. There would be people out there having their beer and going to bars but absolutely no one out there right now. So, it's taking a toll on the economic situation for the people there and, of course, they are also, of course, very worried about rockets flying on to their town -- Randi.

KAYE: Frederik Pleitgen for us in Israel -- Fred, appreciate your reporting there.

Now, let's go to Gaza where Israeli warplanes battered Gaza City earlier this morning. Sara Sidner is there.

Sara, what have they hit?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've hit quite a few places. We know they have hit the police headquarters. We were here at 4:00 in the morning when that happened.

I want to show you the video of our photographer Dan Morgan was live shooting this video. We're standing right behind him and the windows rattled and the building shook and all of a sudden we saw this big ball of fire just behind us. We are in a building that is about 11 stories tall looking down on Gaza City in the middle of Gaza.

Now, this building that got hit last night was actually the police headquarters. I want to show you the result of that blast from last -- from early, excuse me, early this morning around 4:00 a.m. If you take a look there, Dan is zooming into the picture. You'll see smoldering rubble. That is the police headquarters that was hit around 4:00 a.m.

And what you're seeing is part of the building collapsed. There is a bit of the building that is still standing and we also know that Hamas' headquarters has been hit also this morning. We know three more people have died bringing the death toll so far here in Gaza to 39 people.

We visited, Randi, the hospital yesterday and it was just chaotic because every 15 minutes, there was ambulances coming up to the hospital, even people who were just bringing people in in their own cars. So, very chaotic there in the hospital and I think the scene is very much the same today, Randi.

KAYE: Sara Sidner, thank you very much and please stay safe there. Appreciate that.

The U.S. is working behind the scenes to head off an all out war in the Middle East. President Obama spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to defuse the situation. That's not all Washington is doing.

Let's go to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr in Washington -- Barbara.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The big concern here in Washington: a ground war in Gaza. There is growing concern that Israeli troops and tank forces might cross the border and move into Gaza. That is the major escalation that the U.S. does not want to see.

So, the calculation now is, what does it take to make Hamas stop its rocket attacks into Israel and Israel feel comfortable enough with that to pull back on the airstrikes and pull back on any ground forces that it is assembling near the Gaza border.

There has been a lot of diplomacy going on. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta traveling in Asia, calling the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton firing up the diplomatic phone lines calling, of course, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan -- Randi.


KAYE: Barbara Starr in Washington -- Barbara, thank you.

As you can see, CNN has every angle covered on this story.

We've got much more ahead this hour. Here's a look at what we have coming up.


KAYE (voice-over): On the brink of war as fighting escalates between Israel and Hamas. Experts say there will likely be a lot more bloodshed before the violence stops.

And battling over Benghazi. Lawmakers are furious, the president is standing his ground and there is still no one in custody. All morning, we're putting the conflict and the players in focus.

And they're the quiet victims of the superstorm. The efforts to rescue pets from Sandy's devastating blow.



KAYE: David Petraeus, the former head of the CIA, now acknowledges what many Americans expected all along -- the September 11th attack in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador were killed in that attack.

Lawmakers have been meeting behind closed doors to review what was known about the attack. Petraeus appeared yesterday to brief members of the intelligence committees on the latest information gathered by the U.S. Lawmakers afterward reported publicly on some of what he told them.

CNN contributor and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, is extremely knowledgeable about how this kind of investigation can unfold and how it can change over time. He joins us this morning from Washington.

Tom, Good morning. So, let me ask you this.


KAYE: What do -- what do you make of David Petraeus' appearance on the Hill? Did lawmakers get the answers they were looking for?

FUENTES: Good morning, Randi.

I think they got many of the answers. It's going to be hard to unravel that entire incident in just a short period of time. So, it may take more explanations in a wider group of officials to come in and comment on it.

But, you know, so much has been made about his appearance or his resignation prior to testifying and, you know, it's been -- you know, it's been interesting because those committees can subpoena him or anybody else any time they want. So, it's not like he was suddenly going to become inaccessible by retiring or leaving his position with the CIA. So, as far as the investigation goes, that's still going to continue. It's still going to continue to take time.

And I think part of the discussion is just the semantic difference here. It can be an act -- well, it was an act of terrorism, no doubt of that. But a terrorist act can also be spontaneously committed. You could have the terrorists preparing to do an attack.

They have all the weapons they're ever going to need following the civil war in that country. So, they're readily armed and they had a year and a half to train on how to fire mortars and others more sophisticated weapons.

So, the fact that maybe on short notice they decided to go out and attack that consulate, you know, it's not making it mutually exclusive.

KAYE: Yes.

FUENTES: But it was kind of a spontaneous act. It was absolutely a terrorist act. It can be both.

KAYE: Do you get the sense after all the back and forth on Friday and the testimony from Petraeus that some GOP lawmakers may stop skewering the White House over this? I mean, maybe it changed their thinking at all?

FUENTES: I don't know. That will remain to be seen. And that depends if they want to stop doing it and have a reason to stop doing it.

KAYE: Yes. Well --

FUENTES: You heard many Republican lawmakers say that they're satisfied that there wasn't a conspiracy to hide the facts.

And, again, much of this is the terminology and place. You also heard comments about, why won't they call it al Qaeda or we know it's al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has morphed into a franchise. And it's more like Al Qaeda- ism. You have groups that are al Qaeda like, al Qaeda sympathetic, have the same goals and objectives as al Qaeda, but they're not necessarily under the command of al Qaeda central.

KAYE: Yes.

FUENTES: So you have many different groups out there, such as groups around Benghazi. You have many individuals during the Iraq war travel from that area around Benghazi to Iraq so that they could go to graduate school of terrorism and learn how to operate sophisticated weapons and then go back to Libya and then all these weapons come in for the civil war to overthrow Gadhafi.

They are trained. They are equipped. They've got everything they need. All they need is the phone call to say, let's go. You know, the --

KAYE: Right. But in terms of the talking points, though, that Ambassador Rice was working off of when she went on all those morning talk shows. They were unclassified talking points. But CNN has learned the original draft for those talking points suggested that the attack had links to al Qaeda, but that it was an interagency decision to change the wording to extremists. As you said, there's all sorts of those.

But was that the right move, do you think? Or should they have been clearer in those unclassified talking point? FUENTES: I think in retrospect, you know, there's been so much criticism about that, that, you know, possibly they should have been. But, again, you know, the number of agencies that are going to weigh in on this and then you also still have the continuing work of the intelligence community in Libya and in the Benghazi area. So, they may have still wanted to downplay it, not for political reasons, but possibly protecting sources and methods for ongoing investigation in that region that, you know, things that had been investigated or were being investigated in groups that were attempted to be penetrated before the attack ever occurred.

So, there's a lot of equities that -- in particular the CIA might have in the region and just want to be -- you know, not trying to overly spotlight it because there are still continuing efforts to penetrate those groups.

KAYE: And as we try to figure out exactly what happened there -- I mean, is it feasible for the U.S. to send in, say, a forensics team to investigate the Benghazi site after all this time?

FUENTES: Well, I mean, that work has now been done. You know, it wasn't done as immediately as many had hoped and the government of Libya being weak and not really having adequate control in Benghazi was not able to secure that site so that the FBI could immediately go in or at least go in within the first couple days after it. And then they didn't protect the crime scene, so, you saw individuals go in there, including journalists go in and have access to that site before authorities could come.

And it's easier to allow reporters to go in there than it is to have an official team of the FBI. I think the Libyan government was concerned that, you know, if they go in and they start working, were they going to be able to control these militant groups in the area? Would they start raining down rockets on them from afar and make it very unsafe to work?

Where there would be no availability to protect them and really retaliate if these things were being fired from rooftops ten blocks away --

KAYE: Yes.

FUENTES: -- how would they take that on without having civilian casualties and without escalating it? And, you know -- so I think there were a lot of concerns for how to do that.

I used to be responsible in my last five years in the bureau of those deployments, of sending people out to areas to conduct forensic exams of where Americans have been killed. My last one was the Mumbai incident in 2008. So, you know, I'm very familiar with the procedures and protocols and need of protection for the investigators when they go to a site like that.

And this was just a little more unusual because it wasn't occurring in a country where they have adequate control.

KAYE: Right, right.

FUENTES: It wasn't occurring in London or Riyadh or countries where say they have adequate security forces and can protect the investigators that come in to do the forensic work. This was just an out of control situation.

Our government, as well as the Libyan government did not feel in the immediate aftermath that they could do it and I think the Libyans were very concerned about a political backlash, you know, among their independents and their moderates that if all of a sudden the U.S. comes in and they bring in investigators and then bring in the Marines, let's say, to protect them, that this looks like, again, an American occupation.

KAYE: Right.

FUENTES: And there were a lot of ramifications politically to the Libyans to worry about compared to the possibility of success of finding something new in that site a couple of days later.

KAYE: Tom Fuentes, thank you very much. Appreciate that insight this morning. Thank you.

FUENTES: You're welcome, Randi.

KAYE: Pets abandoned because of superstorm Sandy. Their owners and their homes are gone, but they are still there. Luckily help has arrived. I'll take you on the ride along with their new guardians.


KAYE: Welcome back, everyone.

I spent part of this past week in New York on Staten Island. I saw the broken lives and shattered lives that superstorm Sandy left behind. But people, we know, are resilient. They'll rebuild or they'll move elsewhere. But there are some victims who can't speak for themselves or care for themselves, but luckily, they aren't alone anymore.


ROBERT MESSERI, PRESIDENT, GUARDIANS OF RESCUE: We're going to have cat food on the corner of Moreland and Midland.

KAYE (voice-over): Robert Messeri is on the move. On this day, he and his team from Guardians of Rescue are in Staten Island, trying to find, feed and save pets lost or abandoned during Superstorm Sandy.

MESSERI: We're going to leave you kitty litter. We're going to leave you dog food and cat food.

KAYE: Robert's team has rescued 100 cats so far. He says residents underestimated the amount of water the storm would bring so pets either drowned or ran far from home to escape the rushing water. Of those found -- MESSERI: Many of them are suffering from stress to start. Some of the cats had blood in their urine. Some of them had internal injuries. Some of them had exterior wounds. We found several cats with sea water in their lungs.

KAYE: It's a big job, which is why Robert called on his friend Hush, a hip-hop artist from Detroit. Hush is a rapper, but he's also an animal lover, who has helped animal rescue efforts in his hometown.

Hush's contacts in Detroit donated nearly 8,000 pounds of dog and cat food. Then he drove 12 hours through the night to New York to help Robert's group.

(on camera): What worries you most about the pets that are probably out there?

HUSH, AIDING ANIMAL RESCUE EFFORT: Being displaced, you know, and just being out of their element, they're probably freaking out.

KAYE (voice-over): Hush and the volunteers went door to door, looking for pets that may have been left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got plenty of food.

KAYE: And dropping off food and supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. And the dogs will be very happy, too.

KAYE: Along the way, they picked up whatever pets they could find.

MESSERI: We're going to put him in this carrier, OK? It's all right, baby. It's OK.

KAYE (on camera): This house is typical of this Midland Beach area of Staten Island. You can see the big red sticker here on the front door. It says unsafe area.

So clearly, somebody came by to check the home. They found it to be unsafe, but whoever that was probably wasn't looking for cats or dogs. They were looking for humans and to check on the condition of the home.

But when we pulled up, we did find a group of four cats eating from this cat food here, so obviously, somebody left this behind for the cats. The question is, though, how long will they be able to survive on this food? And will somebody be able to save them before this food runs out?

(voice-over): Robert marks the house so they know to come back for the cats. If they find them, they'll try to catch them. Otherwise, they will set humane traps to save them.

HUSH: They can't talk, you know? They can't say, "Hey, you know, my owner left me behind," or, "Hey, I'm stuck, I have nowhere to go. I need food." KAYE: Like this cat, who was hungry and alone. We were finally able to coax her out of an abandoned house.

(on camera): She's starving. She's eating so fast.

(voice-over): Eventually, she was put in a cage. She'll be held in foster care until the owner can move home again, or she'll be put up for adoption. After a terrible storm that took so much from so many, a reason to be thankful.


KAYE: Those two groups are doing incredible work. They are still out there every day trying to find pets. I just want to point out one more time that all these pets will be fostered or adopted. None of them are going to be put down.

And here are the two websites you're looking at where you can help. They take donations and try to help these folks out. The or, so they could continue their good work helping pets really all across the country.

On the brink of war, explosions rock Gaza and Israel again this morning. I'll speak with one Palestinian leader and get his take on the conflict and the prospect of avoiding more attacks.


KAYE: Another historic low for mortgage rates this week. Take a look.


KAYE: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back, everyone.

I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks so much for starting your morning with us. Victor is on assignment.

Here are five stories that we're watching this morning:

Let's get you caught up on what's happening in the Middle East. Thousands of Israeli troops are massing along Israel's border with Gaza, sparking speculation of a potential ground invasion.

Thousands of Israeli troops are massing along Israel's border with Gaza, sparking speculation of a potential ground invasion. The Israel Defense Forces says it's expanding its campaign to stop rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

The U.S. and other nations are urging both sides to show restraint. But there were more air strikes and explosions in Gaza today and more rockets fired toward Israel.

In Aurora, Colorado, details have been finalized for dividing up the $5 million for victims of July's theater shooting. Here's how it breaks down. Families of the 12 people killed and five people who suffered permanent brain damage or paralysis will get $220,000 each. Six people who spent at least 20 days in the hospital will get $160,000 each. Thirteen others who spent less time hospitalized will get $35,000 each.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard is searching for two crew members from an oil platform. An explosion ripped through the platform yesterday. It's about 20 miles from the Louisiana coast and it's used for production, not drilling. Very little fuel, we're told, was spilled.

We now know the train that crashed into a parade float in Midland, Texas, was going under the speed limit. Investigators say the conductor hit the emergency brake, but it was too late. Four U.S. Army sergeants were killed. The parade was to honor U.S. troops. Officials say they died while help others get out of the way of that train.

Football legend Mike Ditka went to the hospital after having a minor stroke last night. He told the "Chicago Tribune" it wasn't a big deal. The former Chicago Bears coach is 73. He'll take a break from working at ESPN this weekend. He hasn't had any major health issues recently but he did have a heart attack back in 1988.

The Israeli cabinet is calling up 70,000 reservists as Palestinian rockets continue to fall this morning near Israeli cities. Once again, both sides are inching towards all-out war. The Palestinians and Israelis blame each other.

Last hour, I spoke with a member of the Israeli Knesset.

I also spoke with Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. And I asked him for his reaction for the latest violence between Hamas and Israelis, and whether he thinks Hamas has enough international support moving forward with this conflict.


MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, first of all, let's put things in order because the responsible side for escalating this new round of violence is Israel and not Hamas. In reality, there was a truce, a ceasefire during the last two and a half years and the side that violated this truce was Israel. And, of course, each time Israel conducts airstrikes on Gaza, Hamas responds with rocket attacks and then Israel claims that it is the victim in this conflict.

Of course, we don't want any person hurt in this conflict, whether Palestinian or Israeli. But in this case, it's not -- it's not right or just to say that Israelis have the right to defend themselves but Palestinians don't have the right to defend themselves.

KAYE: Let me just say first of all that we're not saying Palestinians don't have a right to defend themselves. But for its part, Israel says it only began attacks in Gaza after enduring months of rocket attacks on southern Israel by Palestinian militants.

So, first of all, do you believe that's the case? And if so, can you fault a government for fighting to protect its people? BARGHOUTI: I don't agree with this Israeli statement. I think it was Israel that started the airstrikes. And they speak about 200 rockets falling to Israel, there were more than 300 airstrikes on Gaza. But the question here is how to stop that.

It seems to me that this Israeli government, Mr. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, is using Palestinian and Israeli blog for his election campaign. And that is unjust, unfair and unacceptable.

He is also saying -- his media people are saying, his spokespersons are saying that there is no free media in Gaza while there is a CNN correspondent and a BBC correspondent. They are insulting international media because they're preparing for the ground for huge casualties among Palestinian among innocent civilians. This must stop, and it can only stop if Israel is pressured.

KAYE: So if this situation continues to escalate, we're looking at the potential here that Israel could move into a ground assault. Is that something that the people of Gaza are ready for?

BARGHOUTI: If that happens, we will face a disaster. You will see hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed because you are talking about the most populated area in the world. It's the most densely populated area in the world, with 1.6 million people living in less than 140 square miles. This is a very little piece of land. When Israel bombards, it will kill civilians.

The last time, they killed 1,450 Palestinians, including 450 children. This should not be allowed to happen.

Pressure should be immediately exercised to stop this escalation. And not only to stop the violence, but also to initiate a process that allows to end occupation and to allow -- to end the injustice that has prevailed in this place, to end the system of segregation.

I always said to the Israelis, when we struggle as Palestinians, peacefully and nonviolently, to end the system of apartheid and segregation, we are struggling not only for our freedom as Palestinians, but also Israel's freedom from this system of segregation that nobody can be proud of in the 21st century.


KAYE: Today, Israel stepped up its precision air assault. It said it leveled the Palestinian cabinet headquarters, the place where just a day earlier, the Egyptian prime minister met with Hamas officials.

As tensions escalate between Gaza and Israel, Syria's civil war shows no sign of easing. At least five people have been killed today in Syria's capital. Take a look now at this dramatic amateur video of a warplane taken to the skies in the northern Idlib province.


KAYE: You can hear that man behind the camera saying, oh, my God. Oh, my God. He starts to run away for his life as the camera shakes there and then thick smoke and flames as bombs from the plane blow up buildings on the ground. Incredible sight.

Violence flares between Israelis and Palestinians, but who has the upper hand? We'll take a look at the firepower in the region and what a ground attack would look like.

But, first, a Georgia woman creates a bakery specializing in treats for dogs. Here's Victor Blackwell with the story of her new business that seems to be taking off.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Krista Aversano's business inspiration came from her dogs.

KRISTA AVERSANO, TAJ MA HOUND: That's why I started baking treats for my dogs. And they liked them. And I just thought, wow, this could really be something. I love to bake anyway.

And then it made me feel really good to make healthy things for my kids, which were my dogs.

During the initial taste testing process -- I am not going to lie -- I think my dog gained a few pounds. Now, they just get what hits the floor.

BLACKWELL: Krista started Taj Ma Hound, a bakery specializing in treats and muffins and cakes made for dogs. Most of the products are sold wholesale to pet stores across the country. But for Krista, it's the local customers who make it worthwhile.

AVERSANO: The idea behind this business is it's more than just treats for dogs, it's a place where people can go with their dogs.

You're a little early, but here is an ice cream. So today is ice cream special Thursday night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, get out of here.


Who knew dogs like ice cream, but they do. So, we thought, let's have a party.

It started as a way to really advertise our business and promote ourselves and it just seemed to grow, like word of mouth. It's just a lot of fun. I mean, yes, it has its own set of stresses owning a business. But it's all been worth it and I'm really looking forward to seeing where we can go.



KAYE: Keeping you up-to-date on the escalating violence. CNN has got the Mideast covered. You're looking at Israeli and Hamas television networks in the region. Our assignment editors are also monitoring those feeds. We also have reporters covering all sides in Israel and Gaza and along the border.

In Washington, our Tom Foreman takes a closer look at the manpower and firepower in the region.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at how the battlefield is shaping up over in the Middle East. Here's Israel alongside the Mediterranean. It's about the size of New Jersey, 7.5 million people, 75 percent Jewish. The economy is good and unemployment below 7 percent.

Gaza, by comparison, geographically very small. Only about twice as big as Washington, D.C., predominantly Palestinian. The economy there is quite bad and unemployment is very high. has called Israel the tenth most powerful military in the world. So, let's break that down and see why.

They have compulsory military service. That means every young person must go into the military for a while, 176,000 active troops are available and they have about half million that they can call from reserves very quickly.

Ground sources also very impressive. Some 3,000 tanks. If you count all the artillery pieces and mortar, you get about 12,000 units that can operate on the ground.

And, of course, their air force is formidable. About 800 aircraft out there, including some 200 helicopters. This is largely what they've used to have these strikes within Gaza.

Now, if you look at Hamas, their forces are much smaller in terms of their official forces certainly. If you look at people who are really in uniform, soldiers, police, whatever you want to call it, about 12,500. And, of course, they have nothing like the weapons that the Israelis have.

However, Palestinian militants do have lots and lots of rockets. And I want to bring in a model of one of them here. This is a Qassam 2. You've probably heard about this a good bit.

These rockets are popular because they're cheap. They're easy to make out of steel tubes. They only weigh 70 to 100 pounds, and they're fueled by commercial grade fertilizer and they can pack quite a punch. They're not very accurate. But if fire enough of them, they don't have to be accurate.

If you go beyond this to some of their more robust and better targeted rockets and missiles, then you also start talking about range. In this conflict so far, we have reports of weapons fired from Gaza, traveling as much as 50 miles to hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In fact, Israeli officials now believe as much as a fifth of the population of Israel is subject to these rocket attacks. That's something they say they simply will not tolerate any more, and that's why we keep hearing about talk and speculation about a possible ground invasion of Gaza. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Tom Foreman, thank you.

So, what would a ground invasion actually look like? Our Brian Todd has a look.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A precision strike from the air, killing the chief of Hamas' military wing.

But it appears Israel is getting ready to go beyond pinpoint hits like this to contain the Hamas threat.

An Israeli official says the army has already moved nearly a division's worth of troops, as many as 2,000 to the border of Gaza. Israel sealed off the main roads around Gaza.

Will Israel invade on the ground?


TODD: Jeffrey White, a former analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, says an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza would be a brutal, bloody grind.

WHITE: There's a pretty high density of population throughout the strip. It's highest in the major areas, Rafah, Khan Yunis, Gaza City, but there are a lot of civilians in other places as well. But the other part of this is that Hamas fights from inside the cities.

TODD: Cities of narrow streets, bazaars, apartment buildings. Translation? A punishing building-to-building slog in a place that's slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C.

We used a Google Map with CNN contributor, General James "Spider" Marks.

(on camera): What kind of close combat are we talking about here?

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): This is called combat in restricted terrain. And clearly what we have here in Gaza City, there are about 500,000 people that live in this city. And you can only imagine the type of combat that's got to take place in this very restricted terrain.

TODD (voice-over): Terrain where Marks says Israeli troops will be exposed to ambush, sniper fire, suicide bombings. If a ground invasion's launched, analysts say it could be eerily similar to a conflict four years ago after a series of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

(on-camera): In late 2008, early 2009, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a short period of airstrikes followed by a longer ground invasion of Gaza. These are some scenes from it. Entire apartment blocks destroyed. Estimates are up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians.

(voice-over): About a dozen Israelis were killed in that operation. Then the Israelis were able to split up Gaza, cut supply lines. This time, analysts say Hamas could make it tougher.

WHITE: They have some better weapons, no question about it. They've got better -- much better anti-tank capability with -- you know, with the Concourse, Russian ATGM. They have a better SAM capability.

TODD: White says in 2008/2009 Hamas units were not good at close combat with the Israelis. He says they broke and ran, and didn't coordinate well. He says, since then, they made an effort to improve with that with Iran's help.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


KAYE: Petitions from all 50 states -- yes, all 50 are asking to withdraw from the U.S. More than 100,000 signatures alone now support a Texas secession. That's coming up.

But first, check out a clip from the next episode of "THE NEXT LIST."


NALINI NADKARNI: This right here in this spot, this forest on this branch with these mosses is where I feel most at home. My enthusiasm in spreading this, you know, like a religious evangelist, if you know you have the truth, you want to make sure everybody has it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not for the faint of heart climbing up in these big trees. She's a boon for science and she's a boon for science education.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This Sunday on "THE NEXT LIST" -- Queen of the tree tops: Nalini Nadkarni.



KAYE: Online secession petitions have been flying around since last week's election outcome, so much so that citizens in all 50 states have signed petitions to withdraw from the U.S., and while some only have a couple hundred or even a few thousand signatures, one Texas petition has more than 100,000 names supporting it.

Nick Valencia is here to talk a little bit about this.

All right. What's going on? How many people actually want to secede?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are tens of thousands of Americans that are upset with the status quo, and, yes, they want to secede. But it's important to mention, Randi, even though Texas has 100,000 signatures on this petition, it's still only a very small fraction of their percentage, less than 1 percent of the state's population.

So, yes, there are people out there that are upset. They wanted to be their own sovereign nation. In fact, seven states have reached the 25,000 signature threshold that warrants response officially from the White House, whether or not that response is what they want to hear, that's another question.

But so far seven states: they include North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, you see them there on the map. Most of the states, red states that went for Governor Mitt Romney, so far seven of the states warranting a response from the White House.

KAYE: So a lot of unhappy people. You spoke with a member of the Texas Nationalist Movement. I mean, how serious are they about this? What is their complaint?

VALENCIA: If you talk to the Texas Nationalist Movement. They think it's a very legitimate reason to secede. They think over the last couple of hundred -- or last 100 years, I should say, that the United States has strayed from the Constitution, that this should be a federation of sovereign states, and they feel that Texas can sustain itself on its own.

It has the 15th largest economy in the world, Randi. They have its own defense, Texas National Guard, and they just feel that they are in a position to sustain themselves. The Texas Nationalist Movement has been at this since the mid-'90s.

And, in fact, the person I spoke to, Dave Monday (ph), he says he wants to make one thing clear -- this has not anything to do with his personal dislike for President Barack Obama. This organization has been at it since the mid-'90s. In fact, he joined when George W. Bush was in office. So, he says this is more than just a red versus blue thing.

KAYE: Yes.

VALENCIA: This is about the government.

KAYE: And if they have been unhappy about how things have been going for the last 100 years, I guess it's really not about the president.

VALENCIA: Right, right. It's not just about one man. So, they are upset about all sorts of things here, and they think they've got a legitimate chance as seceding. So we'll see. We'll keep an eye on this.

KAYE: We certainly will. I'm glad you're on it, Nick. Thank you very much.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

KAYE: We'll check back with you a little later on this morning.

Ever have one of those days when no matter how hard you try, you can't get ahead? The saga of one human hamster, straight ahead.


KAYE: Talk about going nowhere fast -- a businessman in London just couldn't get the hang of the escalator which, of course, means it was all over the Internet right away. And because we never get tired of people doing some pretty strange things, here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Man versus escalator. He wants to go down. The escalator's going up. You know it's going to end up on YouTube, hence the British TV producer, Sam Napper, who pulled out his camera phone.

SAM NAPPER, BRITISH TV PRODUCER (via telephone): It was pretty evident by his disheveled look. He was evidently drunk. He was so determined to go down the wrong way.

MOOS: There he was, lurching like Frankenstein, trying to get down into the London Underground, oblivious to commuters, yelling advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stairs go the other way!

MOOS (on camera): It was 11:30 at night. The Asian businessman didn't seem to understand English.

(voice-over): No one tried harder to set the businessman straight than this redhead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is dangerous. We're going to go this way.

MOOS: She physically grabbed the guy and tried to yank him, but he couldn't be deterred from his march to nowhere.

Online posters called him the human hamster. Hamster man. Though the comparison was apt, even a hamster takes a break sometimes. Not this guy. The redhead kept trying to come to his rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. I can't, I can't. I can't go on there.

MOOS: Must have seemed like an endless commute, stuck on what that old Robert Hazard song called the --


MOOS (on camera): This is hard enough to do sober. If someone hadn't eventually pushed the stop button, he might still be on that escalator.

(voice-over): They tapped him. Tried to get his attention from the sides. Finally --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press the stop button.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press the stop button.

MOOS: A young man did press the stop button and grabbed the businessman.

NAPPER: The weird thing about this chap was the minute that we pressed the stop button, he had an opportunity to walk down the steps, turned around and walked the other way.

MOOS: The escalator ride of his life was over, and he may never know he took it unless or until he sees this video.


MOOS: Neither up nor down in this case.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KAYE: Thanks for starting your morning with us. We've got much more ahead on CNN SATURDAY MORNING which starts right now.