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Israel Mobilizing Troops; Family Killed in Attack; Egyptian Protesters Clog Border; U.S. Stocks Soar; Blast Kills 10 in One Gaza Home

Aired November 19, 2012 - 14:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Deb Feyerick.

Hey, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there. Thanks so much, Suzanne.

Well, I'm Deborah Feyerick, in for Brooke Baldwin.

And we begin with the escalating crisis in the Middle East as violence rages between Israel and militants in Gaza. More casualties, more deaths, fatalities doubling over the last day. Gaza's rocket strikes, which hit Israel's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have brought a swift and powerful response. Israel is focused on taking out Hamas' Iranian supplied Fajr-5 rockets which can travel up to 45 miles, the farthest ever. Hamas has been firing rockets for years as a way to end Israel's blockade of supplies into Gaza.

Well, the head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, just arrived in the region to join in cease-fire negotiations underway in Cairo. The terms of a potential cease-fire are being brokered by Egypt, Turkey and Qatari officials. Today, Israeli defense forces targeted a media building in Gaza, aiming at four senior Hamas operatives they believed were inside. And two people died. It is not clear if they were the ones designated as the Hamas targets.

Hamas, which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, seized power in Gaza in 2007. Since then, the group has become increasingly militarized. Last week, Israel assassinated Hamas' top military leader believed to be responsible for smuggling the sophisticated rockets from Iran through Sudan into Sinai and then Gaza. The death toll stands at 100 in Gaza, including women and children, and three in Israel. Many others have been wounded on both sides.

Israel credits its anti-missile defense system known as the iron dome funded by the United States for its low number of deaths. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen was live when the system intercepted a rocket midair.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There over in the sky. You probably won't be able to see it here. There's an interceptor missile taking off right now. That is the iron dome interceptor. And right there, if you just saw the flash in the sky, that was a rocket coming out of Gaza that was just intercepted right now.


FEYERICK: And despite back and forth rocket and missile launches, there is a behind the scenes optimism that a cease-fire might be close. One Egyptian intelligence official says Israel's prime minister has received a letter detailing conditions Hamas would agree to in order to end the attacks. CNN anchors and reporters have witnessed strikes up close, including Anderson Cooper just hours ago.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take him now. Take him now.


FEYERICK: Israel says it is mobilizing as many as 30,000 ground troops with another 75,000 reservists on standby. Hamas is not backing down according to one of its leaders, firing more than 1,000 rockets into Israel in the last six days according to Israeli officials.

Let's get to what's happening in Israel. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Ashkelon, which borders Gaza.

And, Fred, we just saw a clip of you as a rocket was intercepted during your report. Had there been any breaks in the strikes fired from Gaza into Israel?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we (ph) certainly have seen some breaks in between, Deborah. I would say that it's subsided somewhat now in the evening hours. The worst time of the day was really during the late afternoon hours when there was a barrage of rockets fired into the town that we were in at that point and time. But there have been some strikes throughout the day also here in the town of Ashkelon. Several of the rockets that were fired on to Ashkelon were also intercepted by that iron dome interceptor system. However, there were two rockets that actually made it through that screen and landed in the residential areas here in Ashkelon, damaging two houses. The reports that we're getting is that no one was injured in those.

Right now it appears to be fairly quiet. That's a pattern that we've been seeing. The night also yesterday was fairly quiet, at least in the later hours. I would say that by and large the rocket fire that's coming from Gaza today is a little less intense than it was yesterday. However, there are phases when a lot of barrages of rockets still are fired over here. And when you can also see, especially that iron dome interceptor missile, really in full swing, launching interceptor missiles by the minute, picking off rockets in midair. But, of course, some of them still make it through and that's something Israeli authorities always say is that you shouldn't get a false sense of security. There are still rockets that will land on towns here in Israel outside of Gaza, Deborah. FEYERICK: And, Fred, at its worst, when you're in the middle of it, how often would you say that the sirens were going off, because we have seen you right there on the front lines. How often were the sirens going off telling you to seek shelter?

PLEITGEN: Well, I can tell you about this morning. For instance, we were in Beer Sheva (ph) this morning and we had several siren alarms go off there while we were in there. Then we had several impacts then.

Then we moved to another location. There was mortar fire that we had to get away from where we had to hit the deck several times.

Then we went to another location and another village and there were rocket attacks there as well and sirens that went off. And you really have to watch out where you're going.

So at the worst of times, it really happens very, very frequently. Yesterday we were actually in the vicinity of one of these iron dome batteries and we could just see it picking off targets right above us. And I remember one particular barrage that went past where we were laying on the ground just looking up in the sky and you could see these puffs of smoke from where it was picking off these rockets. And it was at least a dozen rockets that came by that were picked off. Of course, some of them do make it through.

But, yes, at the worst of times, these barrages can be quite bad and they can be quite scary obviously for the people on the ground, especially for the children, who are witnessing this year, in these areas, Deb.

FEYERICK: And what's so fascinating is, is that, you know, you talk about Israel says that it's -- that it's firing in retaliation in order to wipe out the stockpiles of these rockets and they're launching the ground offensive apparently in order to get to the site of the launch pads. Have you seen any of the -- any of the Israeli forces that have been called up, by any chance?

PLEITGEN: Oh, certainly. I mean if you go around the border area, you will see a massive military buildup. I mean we were just hearing of tens of thousands of reservists are on standby, tens of thousands of troops have already been called up. And if you go into the area of southern Israel, near the Gaza border, then you'll see the trucks going past there, you'll see trucks with tanks on them, armored personnel carriers, armored bulldozers as well. And this heavy equipment is then brought to collection points that are growing really by the hour here. And you can see that that military buildup is in full swing. And obviously that army that's gathering down there is getting closer to being ready to go at any point and time.

Now, the Israeli government is saying that no decision has yet been made on whether or not there's going to be a ground offensive. Of course, now there's all this talk about a possible cease-fire, about a possible truce. But the Israeli government has always said, it is both willing and capable to escalate the operation that's going on and possibly launch a ground offensive. And from what we're seeing on the ground in that area, it seems that they're very serious. Deb.

FEYERICK: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us in Israel. Thanks so much. In Ashkelon. Thank you.

Well, now to what's happening in Gaza. The area is just 25 miles longer, so, and densely packed with about 1.7 million people living there. Today, one family buried 10 members, children among them, following an Israeli air strike. CNN's Ben Wedeman spoke to the survivors.

And, Ben, what did they say to you?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Deborah, when you go to these funerals, you go to the houses there around that house that got hit, there's sort of a mixture of things. In public, there's anger, there's a desire for revenge, there are sort of chants against Israel. But privately these people are suffering. They've suffered incredible losses, incredible shock. I was at the cemetery where the members of this family, the Dalou family, were buried. And there were a lot of people, onlookers, supporters, coming to -- they see it very much within the context of the conflict with Israel.

But if you waited around afterwards, you saw small groups of people silently praying and crying over the graves, over the loss of loved ones. And people are very upset about what has happened. Happened to this family and is happening around Gaza City and elsewhere in this strip.

But at the same time, people are scared. They're afraid this war could escalate. That Israeli forces could come into Gaza and even more people will be killed. Many people here really feel sort of caught between Hamas on the one hand and Israel on the other. And there's not an awful lot they can do other than pray, hope and hide.


FEYERICK: And, Ben, what's interesting is, when you talk about the people that are caught up in the middle, do they support Hamas? Are these Palestinians who clearly are resigned to living in the Gaza region because they've got no place else to go? How do you describe the folks there?

WEDEMAN: Well, really, they have nowhere to go. And this is the thing. I've covered conflicts where if there's a war, people can go somewhere. They can flee. There is no escape from Gaza.

And there's a sense of sort of resignation. I wouldn't call it hopelessness, or helplessness, but they're resigned to the fact there is nowhere to go.

Do people support Hamas? Yes. A fair number of people here in Gaza do. But you have to keep in mind, in the 2006 parliamentary elections, in fact, Gaza did not win a majority in -- I mean Hamas did not win a majority in Gaza. Its rival, Fattah, did. Now, there are people with have an obvious interest in Hamas and support it. But many people would support anybody who could guarantee their dignity, their freedom, and some peace because more than anything people need peace, they need jobs, they need to get back to a normal life. And for Gaza, a real normal life is something most people have simply never known.


FEYERICK: Sure. And a life free from fear for everyone.

Let's talk about the negotiations. A Hamas leader sounds like he's taking a hard line, but we're also hearing that there could be a cease-fire soon. What are you hearing, Ben?

WEDEMAN: Yes, I just got off the phone a little while ago to a senior Hamas official who's involved in the contacts that are going on between Hamas to Egypt, from Egypt to Israel. And they are discussing a cease-fire, sending messages back and forth. Hamas says they've sent a draft proposal for a cease-fire through Egypt to Israel. They're hoping to get a response either tonight or sometime early tomorrow morning.

And now there are sticking points, however. One of the sticking points is the question of buffer zones. The Israelis want buffer zones all around the Gaza strip to prevent anybody getting near to the border. But as you mentioned before, Gaza is very small. It's basically twice the size of Washington, D.C. If there's a large buffer zone, that means lots of agricultural land will be simply out of operation.

On the other hand, Israel also wants a complete end to arms smuggling. Now, Hamas isn't necessarily opposed to that, at least in theory, but their attitude is that they do not control every militant group in Gaza. There are others like Islamic jihad, which, to a certain extent, are out of Hamas' control and therefore Hamas is hesitant to make any sort of guarantees about an end to the smuggling of arms into Gaza.


FEYERICK: Sure. All right, certainly a region where every square inch counts. Ben Wedeman, thanks so much.

Well, coming up at the top of the hour, Anderson Cooper hosts special coverage of this conflict live from Gaza. That's 3:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And up next, as truce talks are underway in Egypt, anger on the border. Protesters furious and they're taking their flight to a narrow strip of land that borders Gaza. We're going to be taking you there.

Plus, as the conflict escalates, looks like oil prices are doing the same. Stay right here.


FEYERICK: Well, from Cairo to Istanbul, anger is erupting across the Muslim world over this latest conflict involving Israel and Hamas. These pictures come to us from Indonesia. More than 5,000 people marched through the streets of Jakarta Sunday protesting Israeli air strikes. The crowd marched to the U.S. embassy carrying Indonesian and Palestinian flags and posters condemning Israel.

Let's turn to Egypt and a narrow strip of land that borders Gaza. The Rafah border. This is Gaza's -- that's the crossing. This is Gaza's only gateway to an Arab ally. Let's turn from this map to what's happening on the ground. The Rafah crossing has become a very dangerous place to be. It is now a major crossing point for protesters and for those who are trying to smuggle weapons and supplies into Gaza. Israel says it's bombing smuggling tunnels that run under Rafah. In spite of the dangers, or possibly because of them, the border crossing is clogged with anti-Israel protesters trying to gain access to Gaza. CNN's Reza Sayah reports from the Rafah crossing.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are at the Rafah border crossing, where Egypt's border meets Gaza. Gaza is a very small piece of land. About twice the size of Washington, D.C. It has four gateways, three of them are inside Israel. And they're pretty much blocked off in an effort by Israel to choke off Gaza. This is the only one that leads from Gaza into an Arab ally. That's Egypt.

While the air assault continues in Gaza, while the violence increases, what increased here is the anger by Egyptians who want Egypt and the government to step up and intervene.

RAMI SHAATH, PROTESTING ISRAELI AIR STRIKES: The people have changed. We have changed and we are not going to take that for -- we're not going to wait for the government move. We're going to take things in our hands and we're going to lead the government into certain position that is required for Egypt.

SAYAH: There's roughly 500 protesters here. They have made a seven- hour journey from Cairo. Now they've lined up down the street. Each of them are showing their identifications to security forces and then heading into Gaza. We've asked them, when do you think you'll come back? They say, we don't know. We're just happy we're going in.

Are you scared?

DIANA EL LASSI, PROTESTING ISRAELI AIR STRIKES: Yes, I mean, absolutely I'm scared. And you hear bombs. You don't know what you're going in there for. But I think that's -- I think that's what we got to do. You have to be scared and overcome that fear by just going in there.

SAYAH: As more demonstrators continue to file into Gaza, back in Cairo, the Arab League, a group of 22 Arab states, has announced that on Tuesday they're going to send in more than two dozen Arab foreign ministers into Gaza. This is part of the Arab League's push to publicly stand with the Palestinians. Also in Cairo, Egypt's spy chief in talks with Hamas officials and Israeli officials trying to establish a cease-fire. This is the same spy chief that in 2011 helped secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Many say if there's going to be a cease-fire, Egypt's spy chief is going to play a key role.

Reza Sayah, CNN, at the Rafah border crossing.


FEYERICK: And the escalating conflict in the Middle East is pushing oil prices higher. We find out what that can ultimately mean for gas prices at the pump.


FEYERICK: So check this out. A TV crew making a fishing show captured on camera the spectacular blast from that deadly oil rig explosion Friday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED), look at that! Something just blew up.



FEYERICK: Now, it happened off Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were badly injured. One person was killed. Another person is still missing. And we still don't know what caused that blast.

Well, one sign of progress in storm ravaged New York City, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, officially known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, well it reopened today. Cars are allowed. Trucks, though, are still banned. The tunnel, seen here a couple of weeks back, was shut down due to flooding from Superstorm Sandy. Traffic that is usually bad in that area was made even worse following the tunnel closure.

And stocks are rallying on Wall Street on the first day of trading this holiday week, helping send them higher to better than expected reports on housing. But those gains could be tempered by the spiraling violence in the Middle East and what it means for oil prices. Maribel Aber joins us live from New York.

And, what's go on?


Well, you know, major averages surged out of the starting gate and pretty much never looked back. The Dow, as you said, is up by about 168 points right now. And that's mainly thanks to optimism that fiscal cliff talks are progressing. So, Wall Street has been expecting a deal to come at the very last minute. So, Deb, you know what, it's great news that things seem to be moving along faster than expected.

Also in focus today, existing home sales rose more than 2 percent last month and home builder confidence rose to a six-year high. And that's really what's helping add to these gains that we're seeing as we go into the final two hours of the session.

But oil prices, well, oil prices are jumping 3 percent today because of violence in the Middle East.

FEYERICK: And so what does that mean effectively? We were talking in our meeting today and somebody said that the gas -- the price of gas had jumped by 9 cents. But what is everyone going to see over the next couple of days, couple of weeks?

ABER: That's the right question. Here's the thing, Deb, unless it's a sustained increase, prices at the pump shouldn't be affected. Remember, except for the last few days, oil prices have actually been trending down. Take a look at the chart. It shows the past three months, you'll see oil prices are down from $100 a barrel in September, with only a slight uptick at the end of the chart reflecting the current fighting in the Middle East. But it's not enough to outweigh the sell-off we've seen since October. Long-term, analysts expect oil to keep falling because of the weak global economy.

And let's take a step back, Deb. Israel and the Gaza Strip are not big oil producers. So investors are trading on fear and the possibility of what could happen. They're thinking about the fighting possibly spreading to neighboring countries which are major oil exporters. But analysts are quick to point out that there's plenty of oil in the market. In fact, it's oversupplied because world oil production is rising. So oil prices are up today, but we're still hopeful about the long-term view.


FEYERICK: All right, Maribel, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Well, there are many layers to the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants. We'll talk next about how other countries in the region, especially Iran and Egypt, have a hand in not only the hostility, but also the solution.


FEYERICK: Well, take a look at these dramatic pictures from Israel. These images captured the moment women and children run for cover when air raid sirens go off warning of incoming missiles from Gaza. A mother cradles her scared child in her arms. Others duck inside a concrete drain pipe.

Now to the Palestinian side of the border. And these are pictures from Gaza City, where Sunday's air strikes left 31 dead in what is the bloodiest day so far in this conflict. CNN's Arwa Damon reports from a neighborhood trying to dig out from under the rubble, the chaos and the death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The large slab of concrete and mangled metal finally gives way. Buried beneath it, another lifeless body. It's the second child we've seen. There was also a baby.

Others in the neighborhood say the blast killed all 10 people who lived here. Israel says it was targeting Yaha Bayah (ph), who heads a Hamas rocket launching unit. People we spoke with said they never heard of him. This was the al- Dalou family home.

DAMON (on camera): People here are telling us that so far those who have been killed in this strike have been women and children. And they have not been able to find any survivors.

Just moments ago, from that back corner, they did pull out the body of a tiny child. And over here, there's another frantic effort underway.

DAMON (voice-over): Tempers easy flare as frustration and anger mount.

"She's my uncle's wife," this young man shouts. Rage, coupled with sorrow, etched across his face. This is where she lived. Her elderly body finally dug up and carried away.

There are no air raid sirens or bunkers in Gaza. This strike came with no warning.

The rescue efforts are not always so hopeless. Not far from here, just the day before, 11-month-old Ahmed (ph) and his four-year-old sister, Sahata (ph), both survived a multiple missile strike on their home.

"When the roof collapsed, it somehow formed a protective arch over us," the children's mother Safa says. "For about 45 minutes, I thought I was going to suffocate. My leg was stuck. People could hear me screaming, but they couldn't do anything," she tells us. In between her cries, fears that her children were dead.

This is what the building looks like now. The rubble that was clear to save the family of 10, piled back into the lot that was their home.

"I will never forget what happened," she says. I will die imagining it.

"I can't believe it. I can't believe these are my children. I tell myself, they are not my children. I can't imagine how they survived. I feel like I'm not myself. I can't believe that I am alive, talking to you, breathing."

She tells us she wants revenge, but more than that, she wants peace. She says there is no good that comes with war. Arwa Damon, CNN, Gaza City.