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Why So Many Lost Power in Sandy; Israel-Palestinian Airstrikes in Fifth Day; Escalating Crisis in Mideast; "Iron Dome" Intercepts Missiles; PLO Ambassador to U.S. Weighs in on Gaza; New Explosions in Gaza
Aired November 18, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon.
Diplomatic efforts are intensifying to put an end to the deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas. But even with international calls for resistance -- restraint -- excuse me, preparations for an all-out war are taking place right now. Already 65 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed in five days of air attacks. Hamas says ten members of the same family were massacred during an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Israel says it was targeting a top militant.
Air sirens screamed out at times in Tel Aviv for a third straight day. But two rockets headed for Israel's largest city were intercepted. Dozens more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel including one that hit the town of Ofakin (ph) injuring an unsuspected number of people.
Meanwhile, Egypt and President Mohamed Morsi says discussions are under way in Cairo right now and Arab League Foreign Ministers are set to visit Gaza on Tuesday. So the violence has become a daily nightmare for nearly two million people who live in Gaza.
CNN's Anderson Cooper from Gaza City now. He joins us now with more on the intensifying crisis. Anderson, take us to the ground and what's going on there. What are you seeing and hearing?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Don, it's about 2:00 a.m. here. We've heard a number of large explosions this evening just a few probably in the last hour or so. This is generally the time when the -- the strikes actually intensify. That's what we have seen over the last several nights. You can hear drones circling overhead, over Gaza City as they have been really since this conflict began.
It is a constant sound, a constant reminder of the Israeli forces watching the city. As you mentioned there was a strike. And what the Israeli military said was a house owned by a Hamas commander of an artillery unit, a head of an artillery unit initially, they said they killed that Hamas commander they then walked that back and said they couldn't be clear if he was actually even at the house at the time. Ten members of another family that were staying at the house -- they were all killed.
Our Arwa Damon was on the scene, I saw a number of children's bodies being removed from the wreckage and talked to hospital ambulance crews who said as many as ten people were killed although there's one report now saying 11 people were killed in the blast.
But we know ten members of one family, also two media centers -- whoa -- well, that was a rather large explosion.
COOPER: That occurred -- look out here, I can't actually see where the impact of that was. It's actually set off a number of car alarms. But that was probably the largest explosion that we have heard just in the past -- really in the past hour. There have been a number of explosions in the last hour or two, but that one -- that one was pretty loud.
We actually -- there are -- the rockets continue to be fired from Gaza toward Israel about three or four hours ago, there was actually a quite large rocket that was fired very close to -- very close to this building where we are right now.
LEMON: Hey Anderson stay with us here. You said that was the biggest blast that you've heard since you have been there. I mean it was quite shocking to see what just happened.
COOPER: It was -- yes, it was loud. I mean, I can't tell if it was bigger than some that have occurred farther away. I mean we've heard there have been a number of large explosions obviously over the last, you know, over the last several days, but in the last five hours or so. But that was definitely the largest explosion closest to the location of where we are right now.
And generally after one of those, I see an ambulance now turning around and going. But I don't actually see any kind of a fire ball, so it's not clear to me where the actual explosion took place.
But I said we saw a large rocket being fired by -- by forces here on the ground in Gaza toward Israel. That occurred several hours ago and I'm told there was an immediate response by an Israeli drone striking that -- that -- that rocket battery, but I haven't gotten an independent confirmation.
LEMON: It could be on the other side of the building from where you are. Maybe -- certainly why you're not seeing it.
COOPER: Yes it's very possible. I mean it's -- it's hard to get a sense of the direction because the sound echoes. This is such, as you mentioned, a tightly packed city; 1.7 million people. And you know people are living right on top of each other and so kind of echoes ricochet off buildings. So unless you actually see where it landed, it's hard to get a sense of what part of the city was actually hit.
LEMON: Anderson, talk to us about what people are telling you as you speak to them.
COOPER: You know, look, there's a lot of -- a lot of fear. People are bone-tired. You know, this has been going on for days now. There's this constant sound of the drones. It is a -- you know, it is a very eerie feeling. It's a very strange feeling. The city appears, you know, very deserted although Arwa Damon earlier has pointed out, you know, people have nowhere else to go.
So they're all still here, they're just hiding inside; people are rarely are going outside of their -- their apartments except when they absolutely have to, to try to get to food, to try to get cooking oil or any kind of supplies that they need. But shops are shut down, stores are shut down. You don't see a lot of people walking around on the streets.
And at night, it's completely deserted. And if people are out driving, they're driving very, very fast through the streets. But it's a very tricky time of the night to be -- to be going anywhere.
You know, there's talk obviously as you know of -- of some sort of peace agreement that's being negotiated elsewhere, but you know, I think there's a lot of skepticism here on the ground about the likelihood of that occurring anytime soon. You know, Israel points out that Hamas refuses its right to exist, to recognize its right to exist.
Hamas wants Israel to stop the blockade of Gaza, to stop blockades at sea as well as on land and a number of -- a number of other items. So no -- nobody will argue that there is a military solution to this conflict. That there needs to be some sort of political solution, some sort of negotiated solutions. But -- but when that might occur or what the parameters of it are -- is impossible to tell.
LEMON: Yes. So Anderson, we're trying to cut the video cut and producers are telling me of what just happens with the explosion there. And as you know as we sit here in the studio, we are dealing with very small monitors, so the people at home probably have a better view of it than I do from here in the studio, but I'm being told it was over your left shoulder and you can see definitely the flash when you turned around.
And we're trying to get -- yes we're trying to get that cut for you, but apparently, it was over your left shoulder. So just stick with us for a little bit here.
How often --
COOPER: Is this the video of me jumping out of my skin?
LEMON: Yes -- we do. And who wouldn't. I mean, it's very understandable. So how often are you hearing, you know, firing back and forth here?
COOPER: Yes you know it occurs with some regularity. You know, you -- again, I said I arrived at this location probably about four hours ago and a rocket had just been launched right by this building. And -- and that was responded to very quickly. But every, you know, 20 minutes, 10 minutes or so, at night, you can hear some sort of explosion somewhere. And when it's at a great distance, it's hard to tell if it's outgoing or incoming, but for the most part we've heard a lot of -- it's usually at night where we hear a lot of the incoming from -- from Israel targeting various sites.
And -- and but again, I mean you heard that large explosion just moments ago. And now -- now it's silence once again except for the drones just circling.
LEMON: Yes and as you're speaking, the clock is up on the bug and it's 2:08 in the morning there. And can you imagine being rattled out of your sleep by that?
Anderson we're going to come back to you in a bit. I am being told you're needed by other parts of the network. CNN International to be specific, we're going to get back to you. We'll have that video for you. Thank you, Anderson. Be safe, ok.
COOPER: Sure, thanks.
LEMON: So make sure you join Anderson tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern and again at 10:00 Eastern for a special edition of "AC 360" live from Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is prepared to significantly escalate military operations if the rockets don't stop falling. Our chief political anchor Wolf Blitzer has more on Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANCHOR: The Iron Dome is really a very successful program so far. It's only been in business now for a little more than a year. But the -- the Israelis have come up with this anti-missile, anti-rocket system where they're getting word of what's coming in and they launch, this -- this "Iron Dome" goes into action. And if the -- if the rocket or the missile is aimed Don at a populated area, a city, or a strategic target or a significant political target, it can go up and knock down and destroy that rocket or missile in midair.
It's sort of like the old Patriot anti-missile system as a lot of us were familiar with in U.S. wars over the past couple decades. But this is designed for short range rockets and missiles, if you will. And it's got about -- the Israelis say so far, it's got about a 90 percent success rate. They -- they have been using it pretty successfully. The problem is there's been about 1,000 rockets and missiles that have come into Israel from Gaza since last Wednesday when this crisis really escalated.
Every time they get word of a rocket or missile coming in, the sirens go off in the towns and the villages and the people have to rush to air raid shelters or to bunkers, stairwells, wherever they can go. And it's causing a lot of terror out there and the Israelis say they're not going to tolerate it a whole lot longer.
So that's -- that's the problem right now from the Israelis perspective. They're going in there with the air strikes, they're going after targets in Gaza, but there's plenty of civilians who have been killed in the process in Gaza because it's such a heavily populated areas and some of those rockets and missiles are launched from populated areas and you've got these tragic results in the process.
LEMON: And we have seen the video of the people fleeing and when they hear those sirens running off just trying anything they can do Wolf to get to safety. Everyone wants this not to escalate. So let's talk about the possibility of a ceasefire and what you're hearing from your sources.
BLITZER: I think that there's intense international efforts under way and the President of the United States is deeply involved in this. He's speaking to the leaders of Egypt. He's hoping that the government of Qatar, of Turkey, all of whom have good relations with Hamas in Gaza that they can get -- convince Hamas to stop the launching of these rockets and missiles into Israel.
If they stop, the Israelis will stop their strikes against them, and this -- and then they can begin hopefully Don to road some effort to achieve some long-range solution. That's going to be very, very difficult as all of us know.
But the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu convened his cabinet here in Jerusalem today and he made it clear in a public statement that if the rockets keep coming in, the Israelis have already stood on stand-by 75,000 ground forces, reservists, 35,000 of them are already have been activated. They're in training exercises not far from Gaza and they all go in as brutal and as ugly and as horrendous as that might be, they might go in. They don't want to do that because it'll -- it'll cause an enormous amount of pain all around and the Israelis had a relatively poor experience in Gaza four years ago.
They had a bad experience in Lebanon in 2006 when they went in against Hezbollah forces there. They don't want to do it, but the Prime Minister thinks he may have no choice. My own gut tells me Don the next 48 hours, 72 hours will be critical and I'd say there's a 50/50 chance of a diplomatic ceasefire.
LEMON: Wolf Blitzer, thank you.
And make sure you join Wolf Blitzer tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern for "THE SITUATION ROOM," a special live edition from Jerusalem.
Ok, so just a -- just a moment ago on the air and I just want to make sure I have the right guy. Ok, yes we have it, I just -- just a moment ago on the air, if you weren't watching, CNN's Anderson Cooper in Gaza, reporting live from a balcony, and then this happened
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: -- of one family, also two media centers -- whoa -- well that was a rather large explosion.
COOPER: That occurred, just look out here -- I can't actually see where the impact of that was. It's actually set off a number of car alarms. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So it looks like something over his left shoulder, I'm not sure if it's a reflection or the explosion there. But as Anderson said, he nearly jumped out of his skin, and he did -- who wouldn't?
We're going to have Anderson back up live for you and we're going to play that video and talk about what else is happening there.
The crisis in the Middle East intensifying, can the conflict be settled or will the region go to war? We're asking a Palestinian representative to the U.S. next.
LEMON: As Israelis and Palestinians trade rocket fire and inch toward a possible ground war, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas today called on Arab League leaders to hold a summit, quote, "as soon as possible". Though Abbas's group gave up control of Gaza to Hamas years ago, Abbas says he is in close contact with leaders there.
Abbas also said he thinks Israel's latest attacks are designed, quote, to increase division between two parts of the homeland. That's the Arab homeland, of course, he's talking about.
I'm joined now by Maen Areikat. He is the Palestinian Liberation Organization representative to the U.S. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
MAEN RASHID AREIKAT, PALESTINIAN LIBERATION ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
LEMON: Just -- I don't know if you were able to see what just happened live on our air. When you see things like that, what goes through your head?
AREIKAT: Well, what goes through my head, the suffering of my people in the Gaza Strip and the atrocities that the Israelis are committing against an innocent population. You referred -- Anderson Cooper referred in his report to 11 people being killed from the same family -- four under the age of 10, and also including a pregnant woman with a yet to be born baby. There is human suffering as a result of this Israeli campaign. That's where our hearts and minds are right now.
LEMON: Do you think the Arab unification is the answer to the latest round of violence?
AREIKAT: Arab unification?
AREIKAT: I think the Arabs are showing more sympathy and more support to the Palestinian people. And they are making it clear to the Israelis that they are not going to tolerate a continued campaign against the Palestinian people.
We have a political problem, Don, there. This is not a military issue. The Israelis understand. The irony with Israel is they tried it in 2008, they tried it in 2006 in Lebanon; they tried it 1996 in Lebanon. They keep trying the same failed approach which is military adventures. When is the Israelis going to understand that the only way out of this conflict is to resolve it through political means once and for all by ending their occupation and allowing the Palestinian people to be independent and free?
LEMON: Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, was on this program last night. He leveled a very serious accusation against Hamas. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: We're trying to drive home a message to Hamas that they cannot shoot at Israeli civilians, trying to kill Israeli civilians with impunity. We have been able to reduce to a remarkable extent the amount of civilian casualties on their side.
Now compare that to what Hamas is doing to us, they're trying to maximize the number of Israeli civilians that they kill. That's the difference between a terrorist organization and a democratic country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mr. Ambassador, what do you make of Mr. Oren's statement?
AREIKAT: What I would like to say, 75 Palestinians have been killed so far. 680 have been wounded. 24 were killed today, only today -- one-third of the 74 who were killed so far.
I think it takes two to tango here. The ambassador knows that it was Israel who provoked Hamas by taking out one of their military commanders on Wednesday. They knew that Hamas and other factions in the Gaza Strip will retaliate. They also are to be blamed for this escalation in the violence between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
I think again, there is only a political solution to this conflict; a solution that will also lead to the lifting of the blockade and the siege of the Gaza Strip that has been in place for the last six years. 1.6 million Palestinians are living in big jail and they're not allowed to move in and out of the Gaza Strip. It's time for the United States, for international communities to force and pressure Israel to lift this siege, and that, I believe, will lead to putting an end to this.
LEMON: I want to bring in, Mr. Ambassador, Anderson Cooper who is in Gaza and he is experiencing this. You saw what just happened to him moments ago on the air. And then we all three will talk. Anderson, are you there?
COOPER: Yes, Don.
LEMON: Ok. So let's play the video. I don't know if you can see it. But we did see the video, and it did at least the explosion, I'm not sure the reflection was over your left shoulder. It could have been coming from somewhere but this is Anderson on the balcony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You see the reflection first, then you hear the explosion, Anderson. Since then, I understand you have witnessed more.
COOPER: Yes, first of all, Don, our sources on the ground are saying that what was hit was a police station on the other side of the building we're on now, so if you did see some sort of a reflection, or an explosion -- it was a reflection, it was not something behind me.
And about five minutes later, there was another large explosion, another incoming, and as I pointed out, several hours ago, there was a large rocket being fired from Gaza City toward Israel. Our Ben Wedeman who was here at the time and heard it pass very close by this building described it not as a significant rocket, not the sort of more or the less technically sophisticated -- I guess advanced rockets, sophisticated rockets that previously would have been fired here many years ago. That's part of the difficulty that Israel is facing, the changing nature of this conflict. The sophistication of some of the rockets that are being fired toward Israel has increased significantly.
LEMON: Anderson, I'm speaking now with Mein Areikat, he is the Palestinian Liberation Organization representative to the U.S. here. And he -- and we have been talking about the statements obviously going back and forth between Israel and Palestine and the Palestinian people here. He's talking about the deaths of people and the people on the ground, who are suffering through these attacks as well and being disturbed, as it is now, 2:22 in the morning in Gaza. Talk to us about that, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, without a doubt, I mean obviously, any people who are being subjected to the bombardment of the city they're living in, it is extraordinarily difficult. There have been, according to health officials in Gaza about half of the casualties they have seen have been women and children. Obviously, we have seen that in the hospitals for ourselves just today.
Israeli military said that they were striking at the house of a Hamas commander. A man they said was a Hamas commander of an artillery unit. They initially said they had killed him in the strike. They then walked that back and said they're not sure if they have, but we do know ten members of another family who are living in the house at the time, they were killed. And obviously, we have our reporters on the scene for that.
So we have seen civilian casualties and the Israeli military saying they're targeting strikes. And you hear ambulances going by right now. They're trying to target strikes as much as possible, but as you know, Don Gaza is a very populated city -- 1.7 million people, Gaza city is. And people are living very close to one another, and in any kind of military conflict like this, you're going to have civilian casualties.
LEMON: Anderson and Mr. Areikat -- Ambassador Areikat, stand by. We need to go to a quick break in. I want to speak to both of you on the other side of this very short break. We'll be right back.
LEMON: All right. We're back now with our Anderson Cooper -- he's in Gaza; and also Mein Areikat who is the Palestinian Liberation Organization representative to the U.S. Anderson reporting just moments ago from a balcony in Gaza and then this happened. Watch closely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One family. Also two media centers -- whoa. That was a rather large explosion. That occurred --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yes, Anderson, that was a rather large explosion. And anyone would be frightened by that. At first you see the reflection of the flash over the left shoulder. Not sure from exactly where it was coming. But Anderson says -- he's been reporting that this is a police station.
I want to get to you, Mr. Areikat, first, because when you heard what Anderson said about, you know, people on the ground and how they're feeling, what they're dealing with and you see the explosion, do you think public sentiment at all will play a role in deescalating the situation?
AREIKAT: I did experience this kind of Israeli attacks when I lived in Ramallah in 2002 in the West Bank when the Israelis invaded the West Bank -- all the major cities of the West Bank in 2002.
This is exactly what we're saying. We are seeing that the PLO does not tolerate violence, does not want to see an escalation in violence. But at the same time, this is a political problem. When you besiege 1.5 million people, when Israel continues to denied Palestinian rights to self-determination, establishing their own state, to live side by side in peace and security with Israel, this is exactly the outcome -- the outcomes that we are expected to see.
And the Israeli government continues to take the same path that they have taken in the past -- relying very much on their military power. You know, our people have endured so much. We are aspiring to see an end to the Israeli occupation and to be able to live in peace and dignity. And as long as Israelis don't get that, I don't think we'll ever see peace or security in the Middle East.
LEMON: And I'm reading, Mr. Ambassador, just getting a statement in from the state department as it concerns Secretary Clinton, and as soon as we get more information on this, I'll read it to our viewers. Basically, it's saying that the secretary has been -- made numerous phone calls and that she underscored Israel's right to self-defense when rockets are falling on its citizens and then on and on. We'll get the full statement up for our viewers in a moment.
Anderson, back to you; you said it was a police station, and we understand that there's video coming in shortly of a second blast as you were on the air there. The people in Israel are dealing with -- they have this iron dome system. Where you are, that's not in place.
COOPER: That's certainly correct. There's not the kind of air raid warning system here in Gaza that there is in Israel. I would just point out just for accuracy's sake, you just heard what the ambassador is stating, the position of the PLO. You know, Israel's position is that Hamas does not recognizing its right to exist, and continues to fire rockets from civilian centers and civilian populations and that's quite clear. We see that all around.
So just for accuracy's sake, the ambassador is saying that it's Israel who doesn't recognize the right of the Palestinians; for Israel's position, it's that Hamas does not recognize its right to exist and continues to fire these rockets and, you know, from civilian population centers where they know, if there's going to be response to it, there's no doubt civilian casualties will occur as well.
You want to respond to that, Mr. Areikat?
AREIKAT: Of course, I want to respond to that. We did sign the peace agreement with Israel, the PLO did sign a peace agreement with Israel.
COOPER: You're not Hamas, though, you're the PLO.
AREIKAT: Israeli matters are not only limited to the Gaza Strip, Anderson. They are embarking on illegal settlement activities in the West Bank. They have refused to talk to the PLO leadership over the last four years. We have been --
COOPER: I'm not denying that.
AREIKAT: We have urged them through the United States and other interlocutors to sit down and try to resolve the conflict once and for all, and you have an Israeli government here that does not have peace on its agenda. They are using now the conflict in the Gaza Strip in advance of an election in January.
Israel embarked on three or four military campaigns prior to general elections in the last 10 to 12 years, and you know, they have to also understand that the PLO has been willing and forthcoming to try to resolve this conflict politically.
Hamas does not recognize Israel. Israel does not recognize Hamas. I think this is an issue that will be sorted out once the Israelis decide to have peace with the whole of the Palestinian people, not only with certain factions.
LEMON: Ambassador, as Anderson said, he can speak for himself, he's not denying that. I think he's just offering our viewers some clarification on the language in here. AREIKAT: But this is not the issue right now, Don. The issue right now is an Israeli military campaign that are killing hundreds of people and wounding hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip. Innocents, innocent people are paying a price for a campaign that is being carried out by a military power, the most powerful country in the Middle East, and this has to come to an end. Everybody has the right to defend themselves, but an occupying power trying to subjugate an entire population to its rule, to its military rule, and you want to deny those people the right to defense themselves? This is absurd.
LEMON: Point is taken. We're going to -- we'll stop it there. Anderson, moments ago, another explosion. Let's look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I don't know -- I don't know if you can just hear that. That was another quite large explosion relatively close to where I am. I'm not sure if that was in the same -- the explosion we heard before was very similar to that. And --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Anderson, that was you on CNN International, and you said to me earlier on this broadcast that it was coming about every 20 minutes or so. Have you seen an escalation in that or is it still the same?
COOPER: Well, those two blasts occurred probably in the last 15 or 20 minutes or so. I haven't heard anything since then. It's usually around this time of night that the bombings escalate. This is from what I'm told, this is my first day here, but from what I'm told over the last several nights, it's usually been around this time. So this is kind of what I think people here have come to expect. And we'll just see what happens in the hours ahead.
LEMON: Anderson Cooper, thank you. Maen Areikat, thanks to both of you, we appreciate it.
Civilians living in fear, as Israeli forces battle Hamas militants across the Israel-Gaza border. Crowded neighborhoods and innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire. Their stories next.
LEMON: Tensions between Israel and Gaza are intensifying as the crisis enters its sixth day. Despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts, the death toll is mounding, and the situation is getting increasingly tense on both sides of the border. Our very own Anderson Cooper is experiencing it firsthand. He's in Gaza City. And while he was on our air about 30 minutes ago, a rocket attack could be seen and heard in the background. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: -- in that blast, but we know ten members of one family, also two media centers -- whoa! That was a rather large explosion. That occurred -- let's look out here--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We have been talking about casualties inside Gaza, across the border in Israel. Officials say the persistent rocket attacks that prompted their air offensive against Hamas haven't let up. In Ashkelon, just north of Gaza, Israeli authorities say at least 120 rockets have been aimed at them today. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen had to take cover when he was out on an assignment earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The crews now working on the ground. And that seems to indeed be part of the rocket that has landed here. People here spend most of their days indoors. There's another attack -- there's another rocket launch going on right now. We have got to get out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system has knocked down scores of rockets, but life in Israel is far from normal. Here again is CNN's Fred Pleitgen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Don, there was a lot going on in the Ashkelon area today, especially a lot of air alarms going on. In fact, we woke up early this morning, and the first thing we saw when we looked out our hotel window is a rocket had hit in downtown Ashkelon. It really went exactly the same way since then. We then moved to the scene of that first air strike. There was another air alarm while we were there. We had to take cover, and it continued exactly that way.
Now, the Israeli government says there were at least 120 rockets fired out of Gaza into this area in Israel throughout the day. Now, of course, one of the things the Israelis have here is the Iron Dome missile defense system. And I was on the scene of one of these missile defense batteries, and it was in action the entire time. You could hear it fire off rockets, see it fire off rockets, and there was one instance that I remember where we were actually taking cover from a possible rocket strike, and we could see it intercept seven or eight rockets at once, only about 200 yards above our heads.
Now, of course, all of this is taking a heavy toll on the population that lives in this area here, especially in the town of Ashkelon, where people here are very concerned. They're trying to leave their houses as little as possible, venture out as little as possible, and really also keep their children inside. It really is something that's also taking a psychological toll, of course, especially on the littlest ones.
The mayor of Ashkelon told me a couple of days ago that he believes commerce in this town is down by about 80 percent. You can see that, the streets are absolutely empty here in the evenings. Normally people go out here at night, they go to bars, they have their beer in the open. Now, of course, that is not happening at all. So the people that we're speaking to here say, yes, they support the military operation that's going on, but they also hope it will end very soon, Don.
LEMON: All right, our thanks to Fred Pleitgen. As the tensions in the Middle East escalate, we're constantly getting new video and images like these from both sides of the Israel/Gaza conflict. We're going to show you the latest streaming into the NEWSROOM, next.
LEMON: There is a new twist in the clash between Israel and Hamas, and our Josh Levs is here with all the details. What do you have, Josh?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, you know, we've been following all the latest from the CNN international desk right here, part of the CNN NEWSROOM. This is actually really interesting. We have been talking about the role of Twitter and social media in this battle between Hamas and Israel. Well, Hamas did something a lot of people find surprising. Hamas has actually tweeted out a link to Israeli television. And I want to show you this clip that they're linking to. This is a clip of an apparent attack, as we understand it, near Tel Aviv today. And Hamas, the militant wing, the Al-Kassam Brigades (ph), is saying that this was a good shot on their part. We're not sure exactly what that's about. What we have seen reports of from Israel itself is that the interceptors from Iron Dome are working. In fact, take a look at this video we have also from Israel Channel 2 earlier today. It's right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: What you're seeing there are some attacks, some rockets coming in from Gaza, and Israel using those Iron Dome interceptors to stop them.
Now, there was one earlier in the day that apparently when the interceptor met the rocket, ended up falling, injuring a civilian. We're not sure if this is what Hamas is now pointing to, but let me bring you back to my screen here, because we have been talking about this Twitter war. And these messages keep coming. The videos keep coming. The messages keep coming. Israel has this one up right now talking about a recap of the fifth day, of everything that has been going on here. They're talking about the number of attacks on Israel during the day.
We're also seeing more from Al-Kassam, from Hamas. Take a look over here. This is something the Hamas, Al-Kassam has now put out on Twitter. This is a picture of Ahmed Al-Jabbari, who was the Hamas military leader, who was killed in an Israeli strike last week. These are some of the latest in the volleys back and forth.
I also want you all to see something here. Our Frederik Pleitgen, whom you just saw reporting minutes ago, sent me a picture earlier today. Let's see if we can zoom way in here. He wasn't able to get on Twitter at the time, but he wanted everybody to see this. This right here looks like a picture of the sky, but if you look really closely, there are these five splotches right here, and those splotches are what it looks like from his vantage point inside Israel when you're seeing rockets being stopped during the day by the Iron Dome system. There are many heartbreaking pictures from all sides of this conflict. I'll end on this one on CNN.com, which shows some of the devastation in Gaza. We have got a lot more for you, really heartbreaking images from all sides of this deadly conflict, and we'll have more throughout the night.
LEMON: Josh, thank you very much. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Each week, we're shining a spotlight on the top ten CNN heroes of 2012 as you vote for the one who inspires you the most at CNNheroes.com. This week's honoree is from Nepal, where innocent children can be forced to live in prison with their incarcerated parents. Pushpa Basnet made it her life's mission to ensure that no child grows up behind bars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUSHPA BASNET: In Nepal when parents have been arrested by the police and the children don't have a local guardian, some children go to prison with the parents.
The first time when I visited the jail, I was studying my bachelor's in social work. I saw a small girl who just grabbed my shawl, and she just gave me a smile. But it was really hard for me to forget that.
My name is Pushpa Basnet, and my mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.
In 2005 I started a day care where the children can come out from the jail at morning and they can go back to the jail at afternoon. We have children who are from two to four. They have coloring, reading, studying, five days a week.
We started the residential home in 2007. Currently we have 40 children living out here, mostly above six years old. I don't get a day off, but I never get tired. The children all call me mamu. It's a big family with lots and lots of love.
When I started this organization, I was 21 years old. People thought I was crazy, but this is what I want to do with my life. I'm giving them what a normal child should have. I want to fulfill all their dreams.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Pushpa is just one of our top ten CNN heroes, one of whom will become the hero of the year and receive $250,000. Who will it be? You're going to have to decide because you can go to CNNheroes.com online and you can vote by mobile device, you can vote ten times a day every day for the most inspirational hero.
Coming up -- the constant threat of rockets has people in Gaza and Israel on edge. The human toll of this conflict straight ahead.
LEMON: Follow-up now to a story from Friday about the death of a 4- year-old boy in Gaza. The child's death got a lot of attention after his body was kissed by Egypt's prime minister during a tour of a Gaza hospital. And we need too warn you about the video you are about to see. It is heartbreaking and may be considered disturbing to some viewers. For our report, CNN visited the child's home that neighbors said had been bombed five hours previously. Neighbors and family members told CNN they heard an aircraft before the explosion. Israeli military told CNN today it did not carry out any air strikes at the time of the child's death. Israeli Defense Force says it stopped attacks because of a visit of Egypt's prime minister, raising questions about what caused that fatal blast.
Among the other possibilities, the misfire of a Hamas rocket intended for Israel. CNN's crews in Gaza says it saw two such rockets passing overhead, apparently fired not far from where the boy lived.
We will be right back.
LEMON: Each year, more than 20,000 people die from an accidental prescription overdose. That's one person every 19 minutes. In fact, prescription overdoses are how the number -- are now the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., surpassing car crashes. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been looking into this growing epidemic, and he joins us now. And by the way, we should say your special coming up at the top of the hour. Interesting conversation you had with the former president, Bill Clinton.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is the one who sort of called me about this originally. And I have talked to him many times over the years. I have never heard him quite like this. He had lost two friends -- two friends lost their sons within just a few days of each other due to this problem, accidental deaths due to prescription drug overdose.
I talked to him about several things related to this. He really wanted to talk, Don, about this issue. I want you to hear just a small part of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: 80 percent of the world's pain prescriptions are in this country. 80 percent. Does that surprise you?
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I didn't know that. No, because --
GUPTA: Is that a cultural problem?
CLINTON: Yes. It is cultural. People think, I have got a headache or I have got this or my elbow is sore, whatever -- and look, I don't want to minimize, there are a lot of people who live courageous lives in constant pain. But there's no question that since we represent 5 percent of the world's people, we got no business popping as many pills as we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: How did we get to the point that we consume, just collectively, so many painkillers, so many prescription medications?
GUPTA: I think we live in a culture of overabundance as it is, and I think frankly, it is easier for doctors to write a prescription and easier for patients to fill that prescription rather than sometimes diving into the root cause of the pain.
We consume 80 percent of the pain pills in the world here. We don't have 80 percent of the pain, obviously.
So there is also this movement, I think, about 20 years ago to sort of think of pain as a fifth vital sign. Any time anybody came in for anything, no matter how minor, they might walk away with a prescription for pain pills, because no one should ever be in pain. And I think, obviously there are legitimate uses of these pain pills, but I think we are seeing the consequences; 600 percent is the amount these pills have gone up over the last ten years.
LEMON: And it is relatively easy. You heard the president talking about it. Obviously it's a big issue when you have someone like Bill Clinton talking about it, right, if anyone can bring a voice, he can and you can. You can go to the doctor now, some doctors, I should say, and say, you know, I have an ear ache and I have this, and boom, they write it right away. What is the solution?
GUPTA: I think this is going to be -- this is as much of a message for consumers as it is for the medical community, which is what I think you're saying. I think a lot of doctors, again, out there, it takes the extra beat to find out is there something else going on? Could there be an alternative solution? Could depression or anxiety be something that is also fueling this physical pain? It takes time to get at those answers, Don, and we have strayed away from that. I think, again, we go to the medicines too quickly. And I'm a subspecialist saying this, you know, but I think there are other answers. And also this idea that someone is dying every 19 minutes, we see the consequences.
LEMON: We got to go, because your special is coming up. We don't want to take any time out of that.
GUPTA: You going to watch it? LEMON: Of course I'm going to watch it. I'm Don Lemon here with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here is his special. It begins right now.