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Conflicting Messages On "Calm Period"; Egypt: No Announcement Tonight; Top Five Boomer Health Concerns; Recreating A Deadly Train Crash; Tuition Breaks For Immigrants; Fierce Storm, High Winds Slam Northwest; Feds: Terrorism Plot Foiled; "Soccer Mom Madam" Gets Six Months

Aired November 20, 2012 - 14:30   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Developments are unfolding very quickly out of the Middle East. And as we've been reporting, discussions are underway to broker some sort of deal to halt the deadly violence in Israel and Gaza. But nothing's been agreed to just yet. Joining me on the phone from Jerusalem to tell us where Israel's operation stands is Avital Leibovitz. She is the spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces.

And thank you so much. First of all, what does Israel need in order to agree to any sort of a cease-fire?

Hi. Miss Leibovitz, can you hear me now?

AVITAL LEIBOVITZ:, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESWOMAN (via telephone): I can hardly hear you. I'm sorry.

KAYE: Oh, OK. I will speak a little bit more loudly. What does Israel want in order to agree to some sort of a cease-fire?

LEIBOVITZ: Well, I don't know anything about a cease-fire at this point, but I can update you that today was a pretty difficult day for us here in Israel. We have over 110 Israelis that were wounded as a result of over 90 rockets that were fired toward civilian areas. The two last ones actually hit two homes directly in two major cities in Israel.

FEYERICK: Right now, we're being told that in order to have any sort of a truce, in order to have any sort of a diminishment of rockets there has to be a quieting down period. Is that what you are understanding? Have Israeli Defense Forces been told to stop any rockets, any retaliation measures?

LEIBOVICH: Well, currently there is no change and as I told you, it is not quiet down. I mean, a seven-floor house, a seven-floor building was targeted in a few hours ago, rather two hours ago.

The top floor was burning. And luckily the family stayed alive. Every half an hour average, there is a siren somewhere in the country. This is obviously not quiet or safe at this point.

FEYERICK: When we think of the damage that is being done, Hamas will say, well, an equal amount of damage is being done in Gaza. So how do both sides get to the point where it stops?

LEIBOVICH: Well, I think the equation that you're drawing is very problematic because Hamas is a terror organization and the target that Hamas looks for, civilian. While we, the country, are looking for targeting terrorist sites, launchers, launched with rockets.

We're looking for underground launchers. We're looking for people that are about to launch rockets. These are two separate issues and I'm not sure you can really make an equation here.

FEYERICK: I guess what some people would argue is that because Gaza is so densely populated, you have 1.7 million people. There is virtually no way to avoid civilian casualties from Israel into Gaza. Is that a fair statement or not?

LIEBOVICH: Well, you know, all the places that I mentioned before that were hit were all very densely populated as well on the Israeli side. We actually put a lot of measure minimizing civilian casualties. Civilian casualties are not our goal.

We're looking to stop the rockets, looking for the terror sites. Overall, we attacked over 1,500 targets, but yet the civilian casualty rate, it is tragic, but it is also low. And this shows the great effort.

Now, I'll give you something interesting that happened today. We actually spread flyers. We dropped flyers from the air, asking people in Gaza to go to certain areas in order for them to stay safe.

The Hamas radio on the other hand broke his -- broke into the broadcasting and said -- were commending people in Gaza not to leave their homes and stay in their homes. This is the human shield factor we see over and over again in Gaza.

FEYERICK: All right, Avital Leibovich, thank you so much, spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Forces. We appreciate your insights and updates. Thank you.

What is at the heart of the latest violence in the Middle East? Up next, we'll talk with one expert who says Hamas is going through an internal conflict, a power struggle.


FEYERICK: Well, moments ago we heard from the Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, joining us now from New Jersey, Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow with the American Task Force on Palestine. Thank you so much for being with us.

The first thing that I would like to ask is the situation initially Hamas called this a ceasefire and then back tracked. Explain to me why the misunderstanding, if you might know.

HUSSEIN IBISH, SENIOR FELLOW, AMERICAN TASK FORCE ON PALESTINE: Well, I think everyone has been changing their language on what this is and both sides appearing to be taking the opportunity to get their final shots in.

For all of the Israeli Defense Force spokeswoman's efforts to sort of say that Hamas is trying to kill as many Israelis as possible and Israeli is being careful, the reality is that three Israelis have died and 130 Palestinians, most of them civilians and many of them children, have been killed.

And I don't Israel can evade the moral and legal and political responsibility for that by invoking the phrase human shield. But what's going on ultimately is that I think both sides have kind of overreached. They had their reasons for getting into this conflict on both sides.

They both escalated at different moments, and now they're looking to pull back. But they want to do it seeming to their publics as if they have held strong against the other. I think that's what's causing this back and forth dance, this kabuki show. But I do think we'll have a ceasefire sooner rather than later.

FEYERICK: And, you know, Mr. Ibish, you talk about sort of the kabuki dance between two sides. We have been here before. We've seen both sides doing this. Is this just a temporary stopgap? Can with Hamas in charge right now of at least the ceasefire and the truce, can there be any sort of longer term resolution?

IBISH: Between Israel and Gaza run by Hamas under the present circumstances, it is always going to be temporary until there is clarity with the PA and the PLO in Ramallah. Israel can make a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The PA and the PLO, the PLO in particular, only legal authorized representatives of the Palestinian people. So Israel could make a deal with them. Hamas and Gaza could try to be a spoiler, but the Palestinians want a peace agreement.

They want independence. They want an independent state. I think public pressure would make it very hard for Hamas to stand against that, if Israel and the PLO were able to do a deal. Now, in the meanwhile, Gaza is ruled by Hamas and Hamas, as you pointed out, is undergoing a power shift since the Arab spring and since Hamas lost its relationship with Syria.

Its headquarters of its external leadership in Damascus and most of its relationship with Iran and I think there has been an effort by factions inside Gaza, to try to pull ultimate decision-making, real power within the group --

And in order to do that, they started firing rockets to Israel again and say we rule and we fight and we're the decision makers. You guys go and deal with our friends and get us money and support from the Arab states, but that's --

FEYERICK: So they're finding their political voice in many respects. Earlier today, Piers Morgan spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Let's take a quick listen one moment.


SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: We will work with the people of Gaza to try not to make their lives difficult. Gaza is open, the economic situation was improved and we don't know why all of a sudden they decided to shoot.


FEYERICK: So that was the President Shimon Peres. Is that an accurate portrayal?

IBISH: Yes, I think there is a lot of truth in what he said actually. I strongly disagreed with the characterization you just had from the spokeswoman, but I think that's not unfair.

I think between the last conflict between Israel and Hamas at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, after that, the Hamas rulers in Gaza I thought -- the people on the ground thought that they had more to lose from a conflict with Israel and violence with Israel.

So they talked a lot about armed resistance, but they fired very few rockets and they didn't let anybody else do it and over the course of this -- because of the internal power struggle, and because they want to say to the external leadership and to everybody else in Hamas, we rule Gaza and we do the fighting against Israel.

They have unfurled again the banner of armed resistance and dragged this in. Now, let me just say, though, Israel too escalated at one point. There was a ceasefire that was holding and Israel used that ceasefire and they admit this to lull Hamas into a false sense of security and murder its military commander, which set off the latest round.

So -- and they are in an election cycle and I think Israeli politicians are also cynically using this violence to seem tough, to strike a pose, to win points against their rivals, and so I think you have very few clean hands here.

I do think, yes, the change within dynamics within Hamas explain why this started again in 2012.

FEYERICK: And very quickly, I know this may not be fair, but yes or no answer, has the United States lost its opportunity to help negotiate or broker a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian authority now that Hamas is such a powerful player, yes or no?

IBISH: No, absolutely not. If we put our hearts and our political capital into it, I think we cannot only have a chance, I think we can succeed.

FEYERICK: OK, Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow, American Task Force on Palestine. Thank you so much for joining us today.

IBISH: Thank you very much. FEYERICK: While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets ready to arrive in the region, we'll look at how the international community is working to find a peaceful solution.


FEYERICK: Here with me now, Hala Gorani of CNN International and a couple of developments over the last couple of minutes.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And perhaps not very positive ones. We're hearing from the Egyptian government that we will not be getting any announcement on an end of hostilities tonight.

That was the expectation that perhaps at 9:00 p.m. local, which is 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 45 minutes ago, we were going to get an announcement of the beginning of a period of calm initiated by Hamas.

Now a little earlier in the day, a source told me that as far as the Israelis are concerned, they will sign on the dotted line, only if they are assured a period of calm of at least 24 hours.

Then we heard from Hamas that possibly that period of calm would be announced at 9:00 p.m. local, 45 minutes ago. Now we're hearing no announcement. So it is not looking good for right now.

FEYERICK: What is interesting is because even when this was first announced there was a ceasefire, Hamas quickly came out and said, truce, ceasefire, Israel backpedalled and said, no. No, we don't have anything yet and Netanyahu was very forceful about saying we're not going to do anything until the rockets stop.

GORANI: And another development is that Israel lost a soldier in Southern Israel today. So we have confirmed that with the Israeli military as well. That's made that announcement.

There reports a second Israeli soldier may have been killed near the Israel-Gaza border as well. Now, those two developments, we can look at how close everything is, because when you think of the Middle East, you think of a big place.

But, you know, technically it should take you 20 minutes to drive this distance without checkpoints or closures or borders or anything like that. You know, obviously, it is a completely different story when you have to make the journey.

But look, we're talking here about Northern Gaza, here is Southern Israel. Now if there are deaths of Israeli soldiers, it would have occurred very close to the Gaza border, the part of Southern Israel that you see here.

Now if those two deaths indeed are changing the equation right now in terms of what Israel is prepared to accept, that might be something to take into consideration.

FEYERICK: And what is so interesting is the crucial role that Egypt plays, but it also can't be ignored that Egypt won't let anybody from Gaza pass into its territory. There are no refugee camps. There are no sorts of settlements. So it is really locked in. They can't go into Israel and can't go into --

GORANI: Occasionally the Rafah border will be open, but one of the conduits between Egypt and Gaza that angers Israel so much are the smuggling tunnels. The tunnels are used for arms. But what people must remember is they're always used as well for other goods.

So this is the kind of the way in and out for people in the Palestinian territory here, the Gaza Strip. But one of the other things I think we should be looking out for in the coming hours are announcements from the Israeli government.

Because the -- of course, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making a trip, cut short that Asia trip and I understand from someone who I spoke with in Israel a few minutes ago, her meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled for 11:00 p.m., could be pushed closer to midnight. These are 11th hour talks right now.

FEYERICK: Absolutely, no question. So first, she goes to Israel, meets with the prime minister then she goes to the West Bank, to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian Authority. And then she is going to Egypt and somehow the folks in Gaza get themselves to Egypt. Got a little sort of --

GORANI: Yes, because the U.S. doesn't speak to Hamas. Israel doesn't speak to Hamas. Egypt speaks to Hamas. So when you want Israel and Hamas to negotiate, you need someone in the middle and that's Egypt.

FEYERICK: And that's where confusion can arise. Hala Gorani, thank you so much. We'll be back right after this.


FEYERICK: This week, we're looking at the specific health issues facing baby boomers. Today, CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, takes us through the top five health concerns.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Number one, they're the generation that made marathons mainstream, weekend warriors, racing and jogging across finish lines at a rate not seen in their parents' day.

Years of beating the pavement have led to injuries. Orthopedics are calling it boomeritis, unusually high rates of tendinitis, arthritis, tears and fractures among baby boomers.

Doctors say the solution is to stretch, focus on flexibility, and alternate between weight bearing activities like jogging and not weight bearing activities like swimming and cycling.

Number two, in baby boomer health, brain games. Study showed games can help keep an aging mind healthy. With rising rates of dementia and Alzheimer's, the generation that gave us pong isn't settling for bingo. They're seeking out new game on screens designed to promote memory and attention.

Number three is boomers in the bedroom. If you thought STDs were just for 20 somethings, think again. Rates of infection among boomers have doubled in the past 10 years. Some newly divorced boomers, no longer concerned about pregnancy, aren't using condoms the way they should. The bottom line, this generation needs a refresher course on safe sex.

Number four made headlines this year, one in 30 baby boomers has Hepatitis C. This generation alone accounts for three-fourths of all Hepatitis C cases. Many don't know it because often there are no symptoms. Untreated, Hepatitis C can cause liver cancer. The CDC says if you're a boomer, get tested.

Number five makes staying healthy easier. Whether it is getting tested for Hepatitis or getting regular mammograms, boomers now get free preventive care under all health insurance plans. Now it is up to them to use it. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN.


FEYERICK: Thanks, Elizabeth.

Well, a big storm hits the north western part of the country, heavy rain and fierce winds trigger mud slides and leave roads under water.


FEYERICK: It was the deadly collision between a parade float and a train. Now the moment of impact, it is being re-created, four veterans were killed, the National Transportation Safety Board is at the railroad crossing in Midland, Texas, with a train and a flatbed truck to find out what could be seen when and where.

The veterans were seated on the back of the flatbed when an eastbound train traveling at nearly 70 miles an hour slammed into it. Investigators say the track's warning system, a bell, lights and a gate, all of that was working, giving it a 20-second warning that a train was coming.

In Massachusetts, thousands of undocumented immigrants can now qualify for lower state tuition at the state's colleges. The new policy applies to young people brought to the United States illegally as children.

Massachusetts becomes the 12th state to allow illegal immigrants to claim instate residency. Here is what the change means. At U.S. mass, in-state tuitions and fees are just over $13,000. Out of state students, they pay twice that.

A fierce storm is slamming the Pacific Northwest, just in time for one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. This is Seattle. Infamous for its rain and, get this, yesterday was its wettest day of the year. More than 2.5 inches fell. Streets are swamps, trees are down. Listen to the Seattle drivers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden you just slam into a horrible lake in the road. Dangerous, go slow, stay home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Been interesting. I'm in a little Volkswagen. So I'm little and the trucks are big.


FEYERICK: Well, an Oregon high wind snapped trees. A hunter was killed when a tree crashed on to his tent. Winds in some areas gusted to 114 miles per hour. That is the equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.

Four men from Southern California have been arrested over an alleged terror plot. The FBI says they were planning to join al Qaeda and the Taliban in violent Jihad.

Authorities say they have been making arrangements over Skype to head to Afghanistan for stage one terror training like the training in this Taliban video.

American military staff and bases overseas allegedly were among their targets. Authorities say they were caught after divulging their plans to someone who turned out to be an FBI informant.

Well, she's known as the soccer mom madam. And today Anna Christina got a six-month jail sentence for her crimes. So she turned herself in, spent about 45 minutes in custody then was let go for time served and good behavior because she had already spent four months at New York's Rikers Island. Christina is the suburban mom of four who ran a multimillion dollar prostitution ring on New York's wealthy Upper East Side.

There is a lot going on in Israel and the Middle East. There say lot more coverage coming. And up next, we will have special coverage of breaking news from the Middle East, and that begins right now.