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CONNECT THE WORLD

Connect the World Special: 360 View Of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Aired November 19, 2012 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Live from Abu Dhabi and London. Tonight on Connect the World as violence rages across Israel and Gaza for a sixth straight day, ceasefire talks in Egypt happening right now as the UN secretary-general and we believe an Israeli team arrive to push for peace.

In the next 60 minutes you'll hear from a host of CNN's top talent in the region. We're live in Gaza city and in Southern Israel. Reza Sayah is standing by in northern Egypt for the latest on those truce talks. And from London, expert analysis from our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson on how the Middle East has changed dramatically since the last Gaza conflict.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: I'm Max Foster in London.

In other news, after an historic visit to Myanmar, U.S. President Barack Obama is in Cambodia for a regional summit as the U.S. looks to reframe its relations with Asia.

ANDERSON: A very good evening from Abu Dhabi.

We begin with special coverage tonight of the worst cross border violence between Israel and Gaza in years. On the sixth straight day of fighting Israel attacked at least 80 targets in Gaza. One was this building that housed media outlets. Palestinians say two people were killed including an Islamic Jihad media official.

Well, Israel continues to build up troops at the Gaza border threatening to launch a ground invasion if militants don't stop firing rockets at Israel. Well, at least 42 rockets reportedly hit southern Israel today, sending civilians running for bomb shelters.

Israeli radio says cabinet members are now debating an Egyptian mediated ceasefire proposal.

Well, here we see talks in Cairo over the weekend. CNN has learned this evening that Israeli representatives themselves are in Cairo tonight talking with Egyptian mediators.

And Hamas says it wants a truce, but it's also demanding Israel end its blockade of Gaza.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS LEADER (through translator): But what you should know that we will not accept any Israeli conditions, because they're the one who committed the aggression. Second, ceasefire is - should be with accepting our demands. They want a ceasefire, sure, should stop - to end the aggression, but we insist in meeting our demands.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: My impression is that Hamas just wants a respite. They want a timeout. We've been hitting them hard and they want to have time to rest. That's not a ceasefire, that means we'll be back here two weeks from now or three weeks from now with more rockets on the south.

We want to come out of this in a situation where we can have a new reality for Israel citizens who have been on the receiving end of all those rockets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, the Israeli government spokesman there. And I impress upon you as we speak those mediation talks ongoing in Egypt. And we learn in the past hour an Israeli team is in Egypt for those mediation talks obviously through the Egyptian government.

We are live on both sides of the Israeli-Gaza border tonight. Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Gaza city. And Frederik Pleitgen is in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Let's start, then, in Gaza tonight. And Palestinians now say, at least, 100 people there have been killed since the conflict began. Many of the attacks have come in Gaza City itself, Ben, a very densely populated area. What is the latest from there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it's been relatively to last night a bit quieter, really the big sort of the most significant bombing that took place was in the mid afternoon at a building less than a kilometer from here where we saw three rockets hit that building, including one a front office which had - we saw a great big ball of fire coming out. In that strike, the Israelis were apparently trying to hit - the leader, the head of Islamic Jihad's military media office. I did see one body that came out of that building badly charred. We assume that that was the man they were looking for.

Today, there were funerals - funerals for 11 people killed in a neighborhood just north of Gaza City when a house was struck by an Israeli missile. All of those people in that house were civilians. The Israelis were saying that the reason why they targeted that house was that there was a senior member of Hamas' rocket unit that was there, but as far as we can tell he was not in that house. Nobody in the neighborhood has ever heard of the individual the Israelis mentioned. So there's still a very big question mark on that particular event.

I attended the funeral. Many angry people, many very distraught relatives. There's a fear that this conflict may go on for quite some time here in Gaza - Becky.

ANDERSON: And Ben we're going to talk a little later this hour. For the time being, I thank you for that.

Ben saying the concern of course that this may go on and on. That is exactly what those discussions in Egypt are about, can - can these regional leaders plus Israel settle on a truce, that's something we'll discuss as we move through this hour.

Let's cross, though, now at the border into Israel. The city of Ashkelon is being repeatedly targeted by Gaza militants. It's only 15 kilometers from the Gaza border. Frederik Pleitgen with an update now.

And Fred, I know you're there now, but you've been across the border area during the day. What's the story from there?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSESPONDENT: Well, the story has certainly been actually similar to what Ben was saying as well is that especially in the afternoon hours there were a lot of rocket barrages that were fired at this area from Gaza. I was in several towns including Be'er Sheva, including really close to the Israel-Gaza border in Eshkol (ph) and all those places we always heard the air sirens go off. We ourselves had to take cover several times. There was one occasion where we got under mortar fire as well.

But by and large, I would say that, yes, the rocket firing from Gaza is still going on at quite a high intensity. I wouldn't say that the intensity is as high as it was yesterday. Nevertheless, yes, of course people here are still living in fear of these rocket strikes. And if you look at the town of Ashkelon, for instance, it had several barrages of rockets fired its way. A lot of those rockets were then picked off by the missile interceptor system called the Iron Dome. But some of them actually came through. And two rockets here hit a residential building in downtown Ashkelon.

From what we're hearing, no one was hurt in that attack. However, of course, it is something that does put people into fear.

Now the situation at this point in time - and it's always very interesting during the evening hours - that right now it's very quiet here. There have been no rocket attacks. What we are hearing, however, Becky is a lot of Israeli war planes in the air. That could point to the fact that there might be new air operations going on over Gaza, but they might also be flying surveillance flights.

So we'll see what happens. Nevertheless, the situation here in this whole part of Israel very, very tense. And it remains so, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah.

And stick with CNN for more as we get it from Fred Pleitgen. Fred, thank you for that.

That's the picture both sides of the border this evening, this hour.

Still to come tonight, as the casualty numbers rise, we're going to take a look at the regional and international powers working to resolve this conflict. This is a special edition of Connect the World live out of Abu Dhabi and London this evening. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you this evening.

Well, as ceasefire discussions continue in Egypt this hour, Piers Morgan spoke to the Israeli president Shimon Peres and asked him how he thinks this conflict could be resolved. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: We have two surprises on a positive and another warring one (ph). The positive is the constructive role that the Egyptian president is playing right now. And we appreciate very much his efforts.

The unpresent (ph) one is the Iranians. They are trying again to encourage the Hamas to continue the shooting, the bombing. They are trying to send them arms. They are out of their mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Israeli president there.

And you can hear what else Shimon Peres has to say on Piers Morgan Tonight later on CNN.

Well, as Shimon Peres there acknowledging that this conflict has drawn in several neighboring states, some with unexpected results, after all the politics of this region has changed immeasurably since the last major clashes between Israel and Gaza.

Well, our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in London with me and joins me now.

Nic, you've covered this region for many, many years. Your thoughts at this point.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, I think perhaps if we look at a map of the area we can see how much has changed. And significantly much of that change has happened in Egypt here.

Zooming in on Egypt to show its crossing connection with the Gaza Strip, going in again to what's known as the Rafa Crossing (ph). Why are we zooming in on that? Because that, if you will, embodies how much, and symbolizes what we've seen that's changed in the past couple of years.

Move along and you're looking now at that border crossing 2008, 2009. Back then, the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak helped essentially enforce part of the closure of the Gaza Strip, if you will sort of putting something of a strangle hold on Hamas. Now, because of the Arab Spring, there is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood government if you will in Egypt at the moment. Hamas is a militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. And then now Hamas is now able to look and get a lot more support, political support in Egypt. They're also able to sort of count on this border crossing now being more open to them so that they can get supplies. They will feel less cut off.

But perhaps very symbolically and strongly today we saw the political leader Khaled Meshaal speak at a press conference in Cairo, unthinkable back in 2008, 2009 while negotiations are going on for a ceasefire. And he was speaking at exactly the same time that that building containing Palestinian spokesmen, media arms for certain militant groups, was being hit.

So here you have the political leader of Hamas speaking out and himself stating how much Egypt has moved and changed in Hamas' favor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MESHAAL (through translator): Netanyahu wanted to test the new Egypt, the great Egypt, an Egypt of the May 25 revolution, the leadership of Egypt, the sons and daughters of Egypt. The answer he got was not what he had expected. He wanted to test the countries of the Arab Spring. And the Arabs in their spring, but the Arabs did not fail us, rather failed him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: So the bottom line here is Hamas is going to feel emboldened because if feels that it has Egypt and a lot of the rest of the Arab region at its back now that it didn't sense that it had back in 2008, 2009 Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, you're making a really good point. I want to come back to you on that.

Stay there, Nic.

We want to cross, though, first live to Reza Sayah who was at the Rafa Crossing that Nic was referring to. The only Gaza gateway as it were for Gaza into a neighboring Arab - but he's now in the neighboring town - Egyptian town of el-Arish (ph).

At this point, what are you hearing - what are people saying, Reza?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first off, let's describe to you how the day went at the Rafa Crossing. Obviously most of the Israeli airstrikes throughout the past few days have focused on northern Gaza. Today, we saw a number of explosions in southern Gaza right inside Gaza the Rafa Crossing about eight explosions.

We couldn't independently verify what these explosions were caused by, but Egyptian security officials there told us that they believe they were caused by Israeli drones hovering up above. They told us that these drones were firing into open fields in an effort to send a message to anyone on the Egyptian side of the border not to cross into the Gaza border.

But within the past hour, we've spoken to some of our sources and they tell us some of those Israeli drone strikes had targeted some of those tunnels, some of those underground tunnels widely believed to be used by Hamas to transport illegal weapons.

Again, we can't independently verify this, but I can tell you, Becky, we were there throughout the day. And all day we heard the incessant buzz of what sounded like Israeli drones up above.

ANDERSON: Reza Sayah there on the Egyptian side of this story.

I want to bring Nic back in. Reza, thank you for that.

I want to bring Nic back in now. Testing times, as we speak the Egyptians mediating these truce talks in Cairo. They have - and I'm talking about the Muslim Brotherhood here, Nic, in the past, the mentors of Hamas now acting as mediators. I think it's interesting to point out here as you did that the Arab world perhaps has at least the Palestinian's back if not Hamas' back more now than they ever have in the past.

Turkey is certainly making noises about how Israel needs to stop this bloodshed and stop it now. Qatar to a certain extent saying the same thing.

Christiane Amanpour spoke to the prime minister of Qatar earlier on. And she interestingly, I thought, put it to him - and Qatar being the place that Khaled Meshaal is now living. He's living in Doha. She put it to the prime minister of Qatar, one of the regional leaders here, whether they were trying to turn Hamas away from their original allies, that of Iran and Syria for example, and try and bring them into the fold a bit more, trying to get them working more with the Qataris, for example.

Nic, have a listen to what the prime minister of Qatar had to say to Christiane just about an hour ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEIKH HAMAD BIN JASSIM AL THANI, QATARI PRIME MINISTER: Don't forget in Doha, his highness, we bring together Khaled Meshaal and Abu Mazen a few months ago to help them in reconciliation. So that's also part of my answer.

The second thing is we are not trying to take Hamas from anybody else, from Iran or others. Hamas, they have to decide for themselves. I think they are pretty mature to decide for themselves. But we believe we as an Arab, we should - and the Islamic community, we should help any human being - Christian, Jew, Muslim, we need to help them if they are suffering. And right now the only people suffering are the people in Gaza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: All right.

What we know right now is that there are mediators from many, many countries in Egypt looking for a truce. Earlier on today, Nic, we certainly heard from one of the Egyptians that there was the possibility of a truce.

Your reaction firstly to what you heard from the Qataris there.

ROBERTSON: I think, look, the Qataris, if you want to pick a winner in the Middle East of a country that now has more influence and more sway in more countries than it did before the Arab Spring than look no further than Qatar. They've really made huge inroads - influential in Libya, influential in Egypt, certainly they have a huge effort underway as well to gain influence and a foothold in Syria as things change there.

Khaled Meshaal when he left Damascus where he has been living in exile for many years - I've interviewed him there twice - he left in February this year fearing which way the situation was going in Syria. When he took that first step to Qatar back in February I think a lot of people at that time really though, OK, now he's fallen out of under Syrian influence. And he is sort of more under Qatari influence.

So however the Qataris frame it, it certainly gives them a bigger hold over them, sway, influence over Hamas.

Khaled Meshaal has a very sort of - a long-term agenda as do Hamas. And a lot of it is a political agenda. And the Qataris will be keen to influence that agenda for sure, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic, you can see more of course of Christiane's interview on Amanpour after this show.

The other thing I wanted to pick your brains about at this point is the interesting development we've heard here at CNN. There is an Israeli - an Israeli group talking in Egypt, not to Hamas of course, that's not a group that they recognize - but to the Egyptians. How surprised are you to hear that tonight?

ROBERTSON: At this stage I wouldn't be surprised. It does seem when we look at the intensity of how the shelling could be that it is not as strong and heavy as it could be. And there hasn't so far been a headlong rush into a ground invasion. It gives the impression that there's recognition that if you get into a ground war it's very hard in the short space of time to extricate from that. It is a very big commitment. Israel suffered a lot of international outrage over the operation lead in 2008, 2009. They will be aware of that again, aware of the consequences.

So while there is still an opportunity to talk, I am not surprised that people are trying to use that. There does seem to be a certain amount of willingness on the partners of all sides here to use their best offices wisely at this stage.

But the real question is, is it going to make a difference? Is that team that's there in Cairo actually going to have enough political wherewithal to make some kind of a deal or at least edge towards it, Becky?

ANDERSON: And that is what we will talk about later this hour. Nic, for the time being we thank you very much indeed.

You're getting a 360 look at what is an incredibly important story not just for the region here that I'm in, Abu Dhabi, this evening, but for the entire world.

You're watching Connect the World live on CNN.

Coming up, the members of the same family all killed in one attack in Gaza City. Our reporter was on the scene just afterwards. Her report up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back.

Palestinian officials say at least 100 people have been killed in Gaza since the conflict with Israel began last week. Among them on Sunday a devastating airstrike killed 10 members of the same family in Gaza City. CNN's Arwa Damon was there right after it happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 Yahia Beyaha (ph) who heads a Hamas rocket launching unit. People we spoke with said they never heard of him.

This was the el-Dalou (ph) family home.

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.

Tempers easily 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 Shehatha (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 (ph) 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 happens," 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you this evening. The latest world news headlines are coming up plus a building held the international media in Gaza City is hit for a second day running. As smoke billowed from the tower, CNN was live at the scene. We're going to get you that report up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: At just about half past one in Abu Dhabi, a warm welcome to our viewers across Europe and around the world. I'm Becky Anderson, these are the latest world news headlines from CNN.

Peace efforts are underway to end the deadly conflict between Israel and Gaza. CNN has learned that Israeli representatives are in Cairo. They're talking with Egyptians, who've been trying to broker a deal with Hamas.

Also tonight, Israeli radio says cabinet members in Jerusalem are now debating an Egyptian cease-fire proposal.

US president Barack Obama flew to Cambodia today ahead of regional summit meetings on Tuesday. It's part of his first overseas tour since his reelection. Mr. Obama earlier made an historic trip to Myanmar, becoming the first ever sitting president to visit the country.

The president met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her home and praised Myanmar's gradual shift from dictatorship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I took office as president, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear. I said in my inauguration address, we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The European Union has said that they consider the National Coalition opposition group to be the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. The National Coalition is also backed by the US and the Arab League. Some Islamist rebels are rejecting the bloc. They say the group was formed by parties outside the country.

Well, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has rejected a 24-hour ultimatum from rebels to start negotiations or face an onslaught. Soldiers from the M23 group are just a few kilometers outside of the main eastern city of Goma. A journalist there tells CNN some government officials have left the city, with some crossing the border to Rwanda.

And Colombia's FARC rebels have announced that they will honor a temporary truce starting in just a few hours as a goodwill gesture while peace talks continue with the government. Talks began in Norway last Monday -- or last month, sorry -- and are now continuing in Havana, Cuba. The government has previously said it would not consider a cease-fire until a final peace agreement is reached.

In Gaza City, Israeli forces targeted a building housing international media for the second day in a row. Two people were killed in the attack on the tower block, including a key media official from Islamic Jihad. Our Ben Wedeman was there at this day's attack and sent this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At about 3:20 in the afternoon, we heard three large explosions. We saw a great big ball of flame coming out of the third floor. It appears to have been an Israeli airstrike.

This is the Sharouk building. It contains the offices of Al-Aqsa Television, a television station affiliated with the Hamas movement. It also was hit the day before --

(COUGHS)

WEDEMAN: -- apparently people in the building did get a phone call from the Israeli military telling them to leave.

Now, we did see at least one man being taken out on a stretcher by the ambulance services. That man was severely burned. We subsequently learned that he, in fact, was dead. They're still looking inside, if there's anybody else who survived or was killed in the bombing and, of course, trying to put out the fire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: A moment in time from Gaza, there. On the other side, the Israeli side of the border, fewer lives have been lost, thanks in part to new technology that intercepts rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome, as the defense weapon is known, has shot down over 300 rockets so far, changing the game for this conflict. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A kill that possibly saved lives on the ground. This video shows and Iron Dome missile intercepting a rocket fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The defense system had just been installed at Israel's largest city a few hours earlier. Several days into the conflict, it's 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.

ISRAEL OZNOVICH, ISRAEL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRIES: Deployment is a matter of minutes.

PLEITGEN: Dr. Israel Oznovich is one of those in charge. One key element is an advance radar.

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

PLEITGEN: It's 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.

PLEITGEN (on camera): 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.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Still, Israel's military says it's very happy with the performance of the interceptor system.

ARYE SHALICAR, MAJOR, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: Rockets we want down, we usually down. Usually these rockets, exactly 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's 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, let's bring in our Senior International Correspondent once again who is in London for you this evening. Nic, technology one of the big differences in this conflict compared to that of 2008 and 09. What stands out most for you?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the biggest differences is going to be how Hamas feels about its position.

Essentially, you have the political leader of Hamas in Cairo today, essentially daring the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to launch an offensive, calling his bluff and saying that you're really posturing, that if you'd wanted to invade, you could have done.

I think for me the biggest difference is going to be the political position that Hamas feels that it is in now, and it's really trying to explore that.

You could argue that there is another difference, and it's a very significant difference for Israel, that Hamas and other groups inside Gaza now have access to longer-range missiles that can target Tel Aviv and have been fired in the direction of Jerusalem.

And that means that so many -- so many more people in Israel are at risk of being targeted, and that also has to be a bigger internal political concern in Israel as well, Becky.

ANDERSON: We've heard from a whole bunch of representatives of leaders who will be talking as we speak in Egypt tonight. Tuesday, take me forward here. What next for diplomacy? Where do we go from here? What do you expect?

ROBERTSON: Well, today, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the UN, has arrived in Cairo. That's significant. But what is he going to bring to the table? Well, his good offices.

He's not going to bring something which, it appears to us right now, that's going to allow either side to move forward. But he is there in person and he can urge the players or some of the players to their faces that they really need to avoid an all-out confrontation.

The Arab League, which is sounding very strongly behind Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza right now, is planning to send a group of ministers to Gaza Tuesday. That will certainly play out by having high-profile Arab leaders.

We're expecting the -- at least the foreign minister from Egypt, possibly a Turkish foreign minister rumored to be among the group going, but a high-level delegation coming from the Arab League into Gaza.

Will we hear again similar statements supporting the Palestinians as we heard from the Egyptian prime minister, Hesham Kandil, who went there Friday. Certainly that's going to play likely into Hamas's favor.

So, there is a sort of a diplomatic crescendo building, but there's no indication that there is a compromise achievable. That is not being leaked out of the talks at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: Interesting to hear, Nic, from here from the minister for foreign affairs of the UAE saying that he is -- he thinks it's wrong that the international community and the West hasn't got more involved at this point as well. That may be to come as we move forward. Nic Robertson in London, always a pleasure. Sir, thank you very much, indeed.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live on CNN with me, Becky Anderson, in Abu Dhabi. Coming up, our senior international correspondent in Gaza City, Ben Wedeman. You've heard from him throughout this hour. He's going to join me with the very latest from there and his thoughts. Now, though, back to Max in London.

MAX FOSTER, HOST: Becky, coming up next, Barack Obama made an historic visit to Myanmar, but is he also making history with his whole approach to Asia? We'll discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FOSTER: US president Barack Obama is now in Cambodia for two key regional summits as part of Mr. Obama's first overseas trip since his reelection and a sign that the US is making the Asia-Pacific region a priority. Before Cambodia, the president made an historic trip to Myanmar, as Jessica Yellin reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was in Thailand the president gave his first public remarks on the violence in Israel and Gaza, standing by Israel.

OBAMA: There's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So, we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself.

YELLIN: And he put the onus on Hamas to make peace possible.

OBAMA: It starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel's territory.

YELLIN: But that's not the focus of this trip. Less than two weeks after his reelection, he jetted halfway around the world to Southeast Asia. President Obama says --

OBAMA: This is no accident.

YELLIN: The trip is meant to strengthen trade and security alliances and counterbalance China's growing influence. The dramatic highlight: a visit to Myanmar, a country long under military rule, now undergoing a democratic transition.

In a speech encouraging the nation's reforms, he used his own identity as proof it takes time for full democracy to take hold.

OBAMA: I stand before you today as president of the most powerful nation on Earth, but recognizing that once the color of my skin would have denied me the right to vote. And so, that should give you some sense that -- if our country can transcend its differences, then yours can, too.

YELLIN: And the president made a symbolic visit to the home of former political prisoner and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MEMBER OF MYANMAR PARLIAMENT: I would like to say how happy I am to receive President Obama in my country and in my house.

YELLIN: With him, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He said this is their last official trip together, as she plans to leave the State Department.

OBAMA: I could not be more grateful, not only for your service, Hillary, but also for the powerful message that you and Aung San Suu Kyi send.

YELLIN: The president spending the balance of his day Monday in Cambodia, there for two summits with the focus on trade in the region. During the trip, the president, the White House advises, is being regularly updated on the situation in Israel and Gaza by his national security advisor and Secretary of State Clinton --

YELLIN (on camera): -- who, we are told, are in touch with their counterparts in France, Egypt, the UN, and Qatar, as well as Turkey, all nations that have influence in the area and could help to deescalate tensions.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, traveling with the president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Well, as you saw there, despite closely monitoring the Gaza conflict, President Obama also felt it was crucial to make his presence felt in Asia. Is this sudden focus on Asia a shift in US foreign policy?

With me to discuss this is Lex Rieffel, a leading expert on Southeast Asia and a former US Treasury economist. Thank you so much for joining us. First of all, is there an increase in focus on Asia?

LEX RIEFFEL, FORMER US TREASURY ECONOMIST: Absolutely, Max. This is quite deliberate, and it's not new. This has been going on since the beginning of the Obama administration.

FOSTER: And what is it that's important about Asia? Is it economic, or is it military?

RIEFFEL: I would like to quote just one sentence from Obama's speech at the University of Yangon this morning. "The United States of America is a Pacific nation. We see our future as bound to those nations and peoples to our west."

These peoples represent 40 percent of the world's population. The people in just China, India, and the ten countries in ASEAN. That's 3 billion people. That's ten times the number of people we have in the United States. It's hard to imagine a peaceful world without a peaceful Asia.

FOSTER: So, what sort of negotiations is he having behind closed doors there? Obviously, he had that great photo opportunity today in Myanmar, but what's the serious business he's doing behind the scenes with a group of Asian leaders?

RIEFFEL: There are two groups that he is meeting with. He's meeting with the ASEAN leaders, the leaders of the ten member countries of the ASEAN community. And then, he's meeting with those leaders plus the other six countries -- excuse me, eight countries in the -- that participate in the East Asian Summit. And there are somewhat different objectives with each group.

With ASEAN, President Obama will be trying to strengthen the ties that have already been strengthened considerably during his presidency with this important group of countries.

In the East Asian Summit context, this is a -- new forum for the United States. We only participated for the first time last year. China is a critical member -- crucial member, key member of that larger forum.

And, of course, China is the -- is at the center of everything that happens in Asia. China is a rising power, is the world's leading rising power. And I would say the objectives in that forum are more modest.

They are simply to make it -- to reiterate that the United States is part of the process of keeping peace in Asia and on building a more prosperous world centered in the Asian economies and Asian region.

FOSTER: That's a clear message. Lex Rieffel, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. That's it from me here in London. For now, it's back to Becky, who's in Abu Dhabi.

ANDERSON: Max, thank you for that. Ahead, I'm going to be talking to our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, for the very latest developments happening here in the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, live from Abu Dhabi this hour as we bring you the very latest developments happening here in the Middle East.

Missiles and rockets continue to fly between Israel and Gaza, and the casualties continue to mount. CNN's Wolf Blitzer just moments ago sat down with the Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich. She said Israel had not ruled out a ground invasion of Gaza, but that it's rockets, not people, that they are trying to target.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AVITAL LEIBOVICH, SPOKESWOMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Nobody's looking for occupation once again. We're just looking to practice the basic right that Israel has, just like any other country in the world.

This is -- we want to have a rocket-free country. We want to have 3 million Israelis, which is approximately 50 percent of the population, sleep quietly in their own beds rather than in shelters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: And it's that grounding, or certainly a cease-fire that's being discussed as we speak in Egypt this evening. I want to bring back Ben Wedeman. Ben, you've covered the region for the past -- what? -- 17 years and were one of the first reporters in Gaza, I remember, in the last offensive in 2008. What do you make of all of this?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly I think that there's a lot of fear, a lot of worry about the consequences of an Israeli ground invasion, and therefore, that's one explanation why there seem to be so many intense contacts going on between Hamas and Israel via the Egyptians.

And we also understand that the Obama administration itself is -- even though it was initially sort of condoning the airstrikes on Gaza, it's very concerned about the possibility of an Israeli ground incursion. It of course will have reverberations throughout the region.

Let's not forget that four years ago, Egypt was relatively quiet during what was called Operation Cast Lead, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza dead.

This time around, it's a whole different equation. You have Egypt where sort of all of the forces have been set free, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so to speak, and it's a much more volatile place where the leaders have to listen very carefully to what the Egyptian people are saying.

And Egyptians are definitely agitated over the current situation. So, it's a much different picture than what we saw four years ago, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, very briefly, as they speak in Egypt, what of a two- state or even, as some say, three-state solution at this point? Realistic or not in the short term?

WEDEMAN: Most definitely in the short-term it's a pipe dream. The whole idea of a two-state solution -- or a solution -- seems to be off the cards at the moment. Really, the focus is to try to put an end to the fighting.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman for you this evening. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Ben, thank you and thank you, viewers for watching. We'll leave you with some of the most striking images from this conflict.. A very good evening from Abu Dhabi.

END