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CNN NEWSROOM

Continued Reporting on Gaza Crisis; Working for a Cease-Fire

Aired November 20, 2012 - 15:30   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper coming to you live from Gaza City tonight, where over the last hour or so, we have heard a number of explosions off in the distance, as we have been awaiting some sort of a statement about a cooling-off period.

That had been the word from a Hamas official to CNN earlier this evening, that they would be announcing some sort of a calming-down or cooling-off period in advance of a ceasefire or some sort of truce.

Let's check in with Hala Gorani in Atlanta who has been monitoring the latest developments on what -- where the negotiations now stand.

Hala, what are you hearing?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing, as you are, as well, that the Egyptian government is now saying, no announcement tonight.

There had been some hope this, quote, "cooling-off period" would come out of Cairo this evening and there was also some hope that perhaps this would be the beginning of a period of calm that Israel has told one of my sources it has requested in order to sign onto any deal.

So, it is not looking, you know, as good as it was a few hours ago, Anderson, because a few hours ago it appeared as though the sides were coming closer together.

Now, with the reports that at least one Israeli soldier was killed in southern Israel and you have the announcement from the Egyptian presidency that there will be sort of no announcement of a period of cooling-off, so it looks as though we're taking -- you know, if we took two steps forward a little bit earlier in the day, it appears, though, Anderson, now as though we're taking one step back.

And we'll see what this Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state's visit is going to achieve in the next few minutes there with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

COOPER: Yeah, we're -- we -- she arrived within this hour and awaiting to hear what, if anything, comes out of that meeting.

From meeting with Netanyahu, she will go on to meet with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, correct?

GORANI: Right. Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, so you have the Palestinian Authority, and then you have Cairo, which, of course, is the essential element in any equation that could lead to a ceasefire.

As you know, because the U.S. doesn't speak to Hamas. Israel doesn't speak to Hamas. Egypt is the mediator in this, the middle man.

But it's a new Egypt. This is the Egypt of post-Hosni Mubarak. It is a completely new region where you have post-Arab Spring governments that need to answer to their constituents and to their citizens. And, of course, need to politic, as well.

This is a question of appearing to side with the Palestinian cause in order to gain the sympathy of ordinary people in the streets.

This is something that Mohamed Morsi knew was going to come as a test. This is a big test of his legitimacy and his popularity and it's a very interesting and precise game, political game, he's having to play now.

And it would appear very bad for him if this announcement that he made earlier today that there would be a deal within a few hours doesn't happen at all in the next 24 hours.

It is something that would be bad p.r. for him, Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah, no doubt about that.

Hala, appreciate that. We'll continue to check in with you.

You know, it is not just Hamas, which is the group which is in control here, but there are other groups, as well, which the U.S. and Israel and others consider terrorist groups.

Islamic Jihadi is one of those groups. There was a strike yesterday that killed one official from Islamic Jihad that we talked about yesterday.

We want to show you, up close, give you an up-close look at what Islamic Jihad is when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage live from Gaza City.

As you know, there are a number of different Palestinian groups. In the West Bank, there is Fatah, the Palestinian Authority that is in control of that area.

Here in Gaza, it is Hamas, which is in control.

But there are also a number of other groups. Islamic Jihad is also one of those groups. It's a name you probably heard a lot about over last several days.

We wanted to get an up-close look at exactly who they are, what their beliefs are and who is backing them.

I'm joined now by Aaron David Miller with the Woodrow Wilson Institute. Thanks so much for being with us.

Aaron, explain Islamic Jihad and their operations here.

AARON DAVID MILLER, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Well, the Jihadis emerged in the late-'80s and early-'90s and it's been a group that has been dedicated, essentially, to military struggle.

It offers no political or social safety net. In other words, it doesn't provide in the tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood and the (INAUDIBLE) or Hamas. a kind of social and economic network in order to attract and reinforce and consolidate its adherence.

It is divided over the years. It is smaller now than ever, but it has demonstrated along with a number of other jihadi groups that operate in Sinai, sponsored probably with links to al Qaeda, al Qaeda subcontractors.

It shows the capacity of militant, tiny groups to disrupt an already volatile situation

One of the reasons, I think, that you have a deterioration of the agreement in formal that was worked out between Hamas and Israel by the Egyptians in '08, '09, was that you had these jihadi groups.

And, remember, as -- in the way of the Egyptian revolution and changes, Sinai has slipped increasingly out of control of Egyptian security and military establishments.

So, these groups continue to operate and I think the Israelis grew the conclusion that Ahmed Jabari, the guy they took out last week, was essentially unable or unwilling to control these jihadi groups.

COOPER: So, even if Hamas agrees to some cooling off period or even finally signs some sort of a ceasefire, are they able to make sure that Islamic jihad does not break that?

MILLER: Well, I mean, I think you've got the inherent paradox of any ceasefire agreement.

I mean, I'm not sure Hamas would go into this without some measure of acquiescence on the part of these smaller groups.

Remember, the jihadi and Islamist stock now is rising. You have a fundamentally divided Palestinian national movement, a kind of Noah's ark, really, where there is two of everything -- two constitutions, two polities, two president, two visions of Palestine.

And the religious manifestation of Palestinian nationalism, Hamas, is rising. And Abbas looks weaker and more feckless.

One of the reasons, I'm sure, Secretary of Sate Clinton is going to pay a visit to Mahmoud Abbas is to pay him some attention. In fact, he's been ignored.. So, the reality, including Islamic jihad that there boat is rising, as well.

The only wild card here, Anderson, I think, is that the Iranians may well believe that a long-term ceasefire is not in their interest, and it is certainly is not beyond the stretch of imagination that Tehran, in an effort to disrupt this, would continue to channel support, funds and logistics to some of these smaller groups.

COOPER: Yesterday, we witnessed a strike on the media center, which is just about four blocks away from the location I'm in right now. We have the video of the strike. Three rockets hit from different angles into that building.

And according to local sources, as well as Israeli officials, one member of Islamic jihad was killed in that strike. They say it was a target of several members who were in the building at the time, but we know one member was killed.

How big an organization are we talking about and where are they getting their support from?

MILLER: Small. Small, in the hundreds. Probably no more.

Iran and Syria was a primary supporter of Islamic Jihad during the '90s. but as Syria, Assad's Syria begins to melt down, that source of support has dried up.

It is primarily Iran and I suspect that that support, its minimum expenditure, Anderson, for maximum effort and we have seen this time and time again, when small willful organizations are prepared to act in defiance of the majority, and this clearly is going to be an issue that the Israelis and the Egyptians will be watching as both stake their credibility on the continuation of a ceasefire that has certain structural impairments that may threaten its success.

COOPER: Aaron David Miller, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. And your expertise, as well.

When we come back, we're going to talk to Sara Sidner who's in Jerusalem. As you know, this conflict is different than what it was in 2008-2009, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, now, has these Fajr-5 rockets that can reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

We're going to show you some of the impact of that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Want to take us back to Jerusalem and Sara Sidner.

Again, you just heard more incoming there. Just quickly looking. Don't actually see any impact zone, so it is probably not in this -- at least in my field of vision over here for now.

But we have been hearing a number of explosions really all evening long. Our Ben Wedeman was on the air about an hour and a half ago when there was a very large explosion about a block from here that actually broke glass in this building.

We went over there. We weren't able to see if there were any bodies. We arrived just about the time the first ambulance was just about getting there.

There was a villa on fire that was said to be the target of the strike. But, again, it is unclear if anybody was this there at the time. And it is not really clear what that blast was either.

Let's check in with Sara Sidner who is in Jerusalem. Sara spent a lot of time here in Gaza City over the last several days. She's now in Jerusalem.

Sara, the last time we, ourselves, from this office saw outgoing rockets was probably several hours ago. I'm not sure if rockets have been fired from elsewhere in Gaza toward Israel.

Have you been seeing any incoming rockets in Jerusalem or elsewhere?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have. From our vantage point, we're on the Mount of Olives, looking down on the Old City. and we're quite high up and we can see rockets.

Just about 15, 20 minutes ago, we saw another set of rockets come in. You can see the bright light that looks like it is landing somewhere either near Ashkelon or Ashdod, those cities that are in Southern Israel so close to the border.

And, so, we're still seeing that. And I think everyone is hearing about this talk of the potential of a ceasefire, at least a quieting down, a 24-hour quiet period, but then they see these rockets and then they hear the blasts there, the air strikes there in Gaza and that sort of hope kind of drains from people.

And there's a lot of residents on both sides who they really want to see this calm down, but what they really want, ultimately, is something that is going to be a permanent solution. And that permanent solution just hasn't come for so long.

And to see this ratchet up like this and to hear about the talk of potential ceasefire, and then to see the rockets coming and then hear about the air strikes there in Gaza, it is quite frustrating to a lot of residents who have been through quite a lot on both sides of the border.

COOPER: I'm curious about -- are you hearing anything from people about expectations now that Hillary Clinton is here?

Do people really expect much to come from that? Because the U.S., really, has not been in the forefront on the ground here over the last several days.

SIDNER: I think there is hope there. There is optimism that perhaps she'll have the -- be able to put pressure on both sides.

But, again, you know, what is happening here in Israel, she's going to be here, talking with the Israeli leadership, the prime minister in just about 30 minutes or so. And we know she's landed.

But, of course, you know, Gaza has to be in that equation. There has to be conversations with the leadership there in Gaza. And there are many groups, as you just mentioned, you've got not only Hamas, but Islamic jihad, for example.

So, all of these groups have to come together in agreement with each other and then with Israel to decide, OK, we're going to deescalate this situation, hoping that people from the outside coming in will put some pressure on both sides.

Yes, that's there, but really until there is an actual agreement and until that agreement is stuck to, there is a lot of worry here on this side of the border. I know in Gaza, as well.

There's just has been so many rockets, so much bombing, and there have been so many people hurt and injured. Here in Israel, we have five people who have been killed, including a soldier and we're talking about, you know, more than 100 people there in Gaza.

COOPER: Yeah, Sara Sidner, appreciate that. And, as you said, Sara mentioned, Israel announced today a soldier was killed today, the first time a soldier so far has been killed in this conflict by rocket attack. That occurred earlier today.

When we come back, our Ben Wedeman looks at the toll this conflict has taken on one family. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage live from -- welcome back to our continuing coverage live from Gaza City.

One of the most controversial blasts that we saw was on Sunday. The Israeli Defense Forces hit a building they said was owned by a member of Hamas, a head of a rocket unit they said.

Initially, they said they had killed him in the blast. Then emerged that nine members of a family were killed in the blast who were apparently staying in the house.

And then Israeli Defense Forces walked their statement back, saying they could not confirm whether or not they had actually killed the Hamas member.

They said they were trying to target and they acknowledged that members of a family were killed there which the Israeli Defense Forces call regrettable.

Ben Wedeman went to the funeral of that family which occurred yesterday. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BED WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The body of 5-year-old Yousef Adelo (ph) is held aloft as calls ring out for revenge

In life, Yousef (ph) was a child known only to his family and friends. In death, yet another potent symbol for the cameras and the angry crowds.

Yousef and eight other members of the Delu (ph) family were killed Sunday afternoon in an Israeli air strike on their home.

Israeli officials say they were targeting a Hamas military official, though no Hamas official is known to be among the dead.

Their bodies were carried through the street to the sound of gunfire under the banners of Hamas to the Shared-1 cemetery.

When the crowd leaves and chanting stops, the real mourning begins. Friends and relatives quietly pray for the dead. Quiet tears are shed for the latest to die so suddenly without warning.

Hamdi's (ph) brother was killed in another Israeli attack Sunday. Like so many here, he's weary of war, but sees only more coming.

There will be an escalation, he says. Israel won't accept our conditions. It wants blood for blood.

Abu Ahmed (ph) and his team of grave diggers prepared 15 graves, their busiest morning yet and they're preparing for more.

What's left? he asks me. No one is safe anymore in their homes.

The main cemetery for Gaza City is out of town near the Israeli border and, therefore, to dangerous to hold funerals at.

Now, they're bringing the dead here to the Shared-1 cemetery, but this cemetery has no more room for new graves.

Back where Yousef Adelo's (ph) home once stood, mourners greet an Egyptian delegation led by Hamed Katanki (ph), head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A member of his delegation loudly vows vengeance against Israel for the deaths of Gaza's children. Children caught in a struggle they were too young to comprehend but not too young to die in.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Gaza.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Welcome back. We just had a number of large blasts here while we were playing Ben Wedeman's piece.

I'm sorry. I'm just looking for impact. I haven't actually seen it. Quite loud. We're trying to re-rack the tape and show that to you shortly.

We're going to take another quick break and, when we come back, Jill Dougherty, our State Department correspondent what she's hearing from the U.S. delegation, why they're not using the word "ceasefire."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Take us back down to Jerusalem and check in with our Sara Sidner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, you've just heard more incoming there. Just quickly looking. Don't actually see any impact zone, so it's probably not in this at least in my field of vision over here for now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

That was about 10 or 15 minutes ago and probably about five minutes ago there were a series of three explosions, as well. I can actually see some smoke a couple blocks from where I am. You can actually smell the burning smell of burning metal.

I want to check in with Jill Dougherty, our State Department correspondent. Find out what, if anything, she's hearing from the State Department side on Hillary Clinton's visit and what might be possible.

Jill, what are you hearing in terms of -- I know officials are not using ceasefire, a "calling-off period" was the term Hamas was using earlier.

But there's certainly been no announcement on any kind of a cooling- off period. And we're certainly not seeing any here. Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, Anderson, here at the State Department, there was kind of a little ruckus, you could call it, at the briefing about that word, why officials aren't using it.

And one of the reasons that we are told they're not using the word "ceasefire" is because they're not quite sure what words, what nomenclature, as one official told me, would be acceptable to either side, so you don't want to lock yourself in. You don't want to start defining things before the parties involved are.

And then another factor? You know, why did Hillary Clinton have to fly halfway around the globe to go to the Mideast?

And we're told that it was really because it is -- she believes in being there, showing up, talking in person and that's what the president wanted her to do -- sit down with people and, really, you know, talk with them, person-to-person.

One of, I think, the important things and even talking about this, is why, if you can't talk to Hamas, doesn't that kind of undercut her trip?

But, obviously, they can't do that. It's considered a terrorist organization, but she'll be talking to the main players.

COOPER: All right. Jill Dougherty, appreciate that reporting. I'll be back on "AC 360" at 8:00, also at 10:00 Eastern tonight for a full wrap-up of the day's events.

It often gets much more active during the night during those hours. So, tune in for that.

We'll also show you what we saw when we arrived on the scene of a blast that occurred just a short time ago while our Ben Wedeman was on the air.

Our coverage, though, continues now from the region from Jerusalem with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?