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Details of the Izrael-Hamas Conflict

Aired November 19, 2012 - 15:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And all eyes, I can tell you, here in Gaza City, throughout the day, have been on the sky, both at rockets being fired toward Israel, which has continued throughout the day -- I personally saw probably a dozen or so rockets being fired throughout the day -- and also all eyes on the skies for strikes by Israeli aircraft, Israeli drones or artillery on targets throughout Gaza City and elsewhere throughout Gaza.

When we come back -- we're going to take a short break, but when we come back -- I want to show you "Iron Dome" in action, the Israeli air defense system, which has stopped and shot down a number of incoming rockets over Israeli air space.

We'll show you that when we come back.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Gaza City.

All throughout this hour, during the commercial break, actually, we just heard quite a large explosion here in Gaza City, probably the largest we have heard in the last several hours.

No visible sign from where I'm standing of what the impact actually was, so it is probably on the other side of the building where I'm at

But we have been hearing, obviously, explosions all throughout the day as we have also been hearing and seeing, very often you see them before you hear them, rockets being fired from Hamas forces and from other forces here in Gaza City toward Israel.

Now, Israel says that more than a thousand rockets have been fired in the last six days of this conflict toward Israel. They say they have been able to intercept more than a third of those rockets and the intercept them with a system called "Iron Dome.:

Our Fred Pleitgen, who is along the Israel side of the Gaza border in towns like Ashkelon and elsewhere, he got an up close look at how iron dome works. Take a look.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN CORRESPONDENT: A kill that possibly saved lives on the ground. This video shows an Iron Dome missile intercepting a rocket fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv on Sunday. The defense system had just been installed in Israel's largest city a few hours earlier. Several days into the conflict, it is already clear the Iron Dome is having a big impact picking off hundreds of rockets.

I got a tour of the Israel aircraft industries plant that assembles the air defense system.

Dr. Israel Oznovich is one of those in charge. One key element is an advanced radar.

DR. ISRAEL OZNOVICH, ISRAEL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRIES. : The radar searches, locates, tracks, and intercepts and guides the intercepting missiles within several seconds, few seconds within the launching time.

PLEITGEN: It is extremely hard to shoot down short distance rockets like the ones coming out of Gaza, in part because they're not in the air long enough for older radar systems to lock onto them.

OZNOVICH: The target is moving extremely fast. When you want to intercept it, you have to work -- you have to move faster with more agility, with more maneuvering power, relative to your target.

PLEITGEN: The "Iron Dome" was only put into service in 2011. With breakthroughs in technology, it can detect and shoot down multiple targets in mid-air.

But it isn't a perfect solution. This is the aftermath of a rocket strike in the town of Ashkelon.

One of the rockets that hit Ashkelon actually came here and hit this carport and, as you can see, did substantial damage to the car as well.

The Iron Dome system has been billed as a game-changer in this conflict, but as hits like this one show, it cannot intercept all the rockets that are coming at Israel from Gaza.

Still, Israel's military says it is very happy with the performance of the interceptor system.

MAJOR ARYE SHALICAR, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Rockets we want to down, we usually down.

Usually these rockets are the ones who are sent or launched from the Gaza strip from the terrorist factions, towards bigger cities where you have more people living.

We usually down them, but it is not a 100-percent solution, unfortunately.

PLEITGEN: And, so, the engineers at the assembly plant are working extra hours to assemble more Iron Dome batteries for immediate deployment.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Ashkelon, Israel.


COOPER: Obviously, all those incoming rockets on the Israeli side make regular life very difficult if not impossible at times.

Here in Gaza, as well, people are hunkered down. I'm going to talk about that with our Arwa Damon who has spent a lot of time in this region.

That's going to be shortly after the break. We'll be right back.


SHIRAZ WIESELHOF, ASHKELON, ISRAEL, RESIDENT: The safe room ash got thicker walls that are more or less blast resistant. It's got metal windows and a metal door, and this is what the children are going to be sleeping tonight.



COOPER: Hey, welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Gaza City.

A little bit last night, about 24 hours ago around this time, and I should point out as night falls, traditionally, that is the time we see the Israeli strikes seem to escalate, the fact that Israelis have far superior night abilities, obviously, than the rocket units here in Gaza do, so the Israelis really use the night to their advantage as much as possible.

We saw a number of large strikes last night. We were on the air, actually, as one of them occurred. Take a look.

In that blast, we know 10 members of one family, also, two media centers built -- whoa! That was a rather large explosion. That occurred -- just look out here, I can't actually see where the impact of that was. It is actually set off a number of car alarms, but that was probably the largest explosion that we have heard just in the past.

Turns out what was hit then -- and we went in the light of day to actually look at the scene -- was a police station here and the locals said the station was still being built, so it was actually not occupied at the time.

They say two local people were wounded, but obviously it was not full at the time since it was still under construction. But that was just one of the blasts we heard last night and we've heard blasts obviously throughout the day.

I want to bring in CNN's Arwa Damon who has spent a lot of time looking at what life is like for people here in the last six days. And it really is remarkable because you don't see people out on streets. People are basically hiding in their homes as much as possible.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are and that's the odd thing. You know, we've both covered plenty of war zones and in these situations when you don't see people in the streets, when you seat shops are closed up, you naturally assume they have somehow fled to a safer place.

Well, the reality here is that the vast majority of the population cannot leave. They are not allowed to.

The Israelis, obviously, won't permit them to cross into Israel. They need very hard permits to get into Egypt and so people are forced to stay inside and somehow try to try to stay safe.

We were at the market earlier this morning where, interestingly, one of the grocers was saying that, in the first two days of the strikes, the prices skyrocketed, but then people began adjusting to this new reality, so then they slowly normalized because people realized the ground invasion was not going to be happening right away.

But that being said, in other parts of the city, people can't get these basic things. So, we met a woman who had actually hitched a ride in an ambulance to try to get to this particular market so that she could feed her 11 children.

COOPER: You speak Arabic fluently, obviously, and, so, you're able to talk to people very easily.

I mean, when you're in the marketplace, when you're talking to people, what is the -- what's the sentiment? What is the mood? There is a lot of anger. There is a lot of frustration. There's fear. What are you hearing from them?

DAMON: And there is also a certain sense of resignation. This is obviously tragically nothing new. Gazans have been through this before.

These two sides have been clashing for decades right now and there is this overriding sense, too, and almost every single person who has spoken to this has mentioned this, the fact that they want peace.

They want this to be over. They want this entire conflict to come about to an end. They want to be able to live with dignity, like normal human beings. People here feel as if they're effectively living in this massive prison and feel as if it is their basic right to have a semblance of a normal life, normal opportunities that so many people do have in other parts of the world.

COOPER: It interesting, depending on which side of the border you're on, how people view the conflict and who is responsible for the conflict.

DAMON: Absolutely. And the two perspectives are complete and total polar opposites and both sides are just as equally convinced in the fact that they are the ones who are correct, that they're the ones who are the victims of this conflict, so you effectively have two populations.

Each feels that they're being victimized in this, each that feels they have this right to defend themselves and each is also fighting for self-preservation.

When you have that kind of a situation that has been developing for decades, again, it is incredibly difficult to try to bring these two sides together, to find that critical middle ground that would be necessary to bring about an end to all of this.

COOPER: So, even if there is a ceasefire of this immediate conflict that has gone on now for six days, the question of kind of a longer- term term road map for a peace settlement still seems very far away.

DAMON: Most certainly.

COOPER: Arwa, I appreciate it. We'll continue to check in with Arwa throughout the day and throughout the evening.

Our coverage continues. We have a lot more ahead. Stay tuned.


COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of the situation here in Gaza and also the situation in Israel.

And, today, again, we have seen continued rocket fire from Gaza City toward Israel and continued strikes by Israeli forces here in Gaza City, as well, most notably a strike for the second day in a row on a building that houses a number of media groups.

Also, according to Israeli Defense Forces, housed an office belonging to a member of Islamic Jihad. That person was killed in the strike, according to Israeli sources -- the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as Palestinian sources.

We actually saw the rockets slamming into that building. Israeli forces hit the building yesterday, saying they were targeting a Hamas antenna.

Today, the strike was on the second floor, three rockets slamming from different directions into the second floor, killing two people, one of them that Islamic Jihad member, which, of course, the United States and Israel consider a terrorist group, just one of the groups operating here besides Hamas here in Gaza City.

I want to talk to Bobby Ghosh, who's editor-at-large for "Time" magazine. He joins us now in New York.

Bobby, it is interesting, I was here back in 2008/2009 when Israel, actually -- there was a ground offensive into Gaza City.

The situation in terms of the geopolitical situation has changed a lot now for Hamas and for Israel, given the Arab Spring.

How does that impact decisions now on the ground here? BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, nobody seems to have any serious ability to exercise any control over either of the two parties.

The United States now has taken a sort of back seat to the conflict, saying only that Israel has a right to defend itself, primarily, and on the Arab Spring side, you have a lot of new faces, but they haven't demonstrated they have any more influence over what Hamas does than Mubarak did or any of the dictators that these governments have replaced.

So, you have a situation where you have two sides fighting and nobody has the ability to tell either of them, listen, it is time to stop fighting and start talking and to start getting a dialogue going.

There is no intermediary who can step in and get either of them to stop shooting.

COOPER: So, what does that tell you about the chances for some sort of short-term ceasefire of this immediate conflict and any -- and probably, most important of all, a kind of longer roadmap to some sort of peace agreement?

GHOSH: Well, judging by the rhetoric that's coming out today, the chances don't look awfully good, Anderson.

But, earlier today, we know there have been ceasefire discussions taking place with Egyptian mediation in Cairo.

But earlier today, Khaled Mashal, the head of Hamas, said a ceasefire could happen tomorrow or never. And he issued a fairly belligerent statement daring Israel to send land troops into Gaza.

That is not the kind of language you expect to hear from someone who's looking for an end to the violence.

So, the prospects of a quick ceasefire don't look terribly good.

In the long term, the situation seems even more desperate because, unlike previous conflicts -- you were talking about 2008 -- unlike previous conflicts, there is not an actual functioning peace process in which the parties can go back to.

So, a new process essentially needs to be created now and neither side is in the mood to start that.

COOPER: Yeah, Bobby Ghosh, appreciate you being on the program. Thank you so much from "Time" magazine.

GHOSH: You bet. Stay safe.

COOPER: When we come back -- yeah, thank you -- when we come back, we want to look at life for kids in this region, under fire, both on the Israeli side and also here in Gaza.

Imagine growing up a child used to the sound of drones overhead and rockets landing where you live. We'll be right back.


COOPER: OK, welcome back to our continuing coverage. We're live in Gaza City.

We all know what it must be like or can imagine what it must be like for adults to live here in Gaza or to live on the Israeli side of the border with the constant threat of rockets coming down.

But imagine what it is like for children who may not understand the conflict at large, if it can be really understood.

I want to check in Osama Damo who is with the group, "Save the Children." He's working here in Gaza City.

What are you seeing in terms of conditions for kids here?

OSAMA DAMO, SPOKESMAN, SAVE THE CHILDREN: The situation, Anderson, is very, very critical at the moment.

You are in Gaza and you can't experience the daily air strikes. Just 10 minutes from being with you, an airstrike took place, also, in Gaza City at the moment.

The continuation of air strikes, the continuation of bombings that are taking place, puts children in a state of fear 24/7.

The Jews that are having this kind -- it's a lot of tension on the children themselves. That's why we at Save the Children are deeply concerned about the children of Israel.


COOPER: What kind of needs do the kids here have, are you seeing? Do they have enough food, enough water, enough medical supplies?

DAMO: Because of the current situation, because of the deterioration in security situation, the humanitarian conditions, children ...


COOPER: Unfortunately, as you can imagine, conditions here are rough, sometimes even during the best of times and this is certainly not one of the best of times. And we're having trouble maintaining the audio with our guest.

We're going to try to fix that. We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more coverage from here and from Israel. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back to our continuing coverage from this region, live right now in Gaza City. We've been trying to get in touch for a live report from our correspondent Fred Pleitgen in Ashkelon on the Israeli side of the border. We're having trouble making that connection, as well.

As you can imagine, technically, it's a difficult and a very fluid situation right now, but we hope to get him up in the next hour, but we did have his report on "Iron Dome," earlier in this hour.

I want to show you, though, kind of the weapons both sides are using right now in this conflict, which is now on the sixth day entering into the seventh day.

Take a look. Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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. A hundred-seventy-six-thousand active troops are available and they have about a half million that they can call up from the reserves very quickly.

Ground forces, also impressive. Some 3,000 tanks, if you count all the artillery pieces and mortars, things like that, you get up to 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, essentially, by commercial grade fertilizer.

And they can pack quite a punch. They're not very accurate, but if you fire enough of them, they don't have to be accurate.


COOPER: That's Tom Foreman, looking at some of the weapons involved in this conflict on both sides of the border.

I'll be on "AC 360" tonight at 8:00 and 10:00 Eastern for more live reports from here in Gaza City.

Our coverage, though -- our extensive coverage of the conflict in this region continues right now with our Wolf Blitzer, who's standing by in Jerusalem. Wolf?