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Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Under Way Now; Ceasefire Now In Effect

Aired November 21, 2012 - 14:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, Ben Wedeman, politically for Hamas, what does this -- what does the last eight days mean? How much stronger are they now than they were at the start of this violence, vis-a-vis Fattah and the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Politically they definitely emerged from it much stronger. Remember that in January 2006, when there were Palestinian parliamentary elections, and Hamas won, immediately the United States and Israel began to impose sanctions on Hamas, political and economic sanctions.

They have been trying now for the last six years to isolate Hamas, but what we have seen in the last few days is that high level Arab delegations, including several foreign ministers, we have seen the leader of Qatar previous to this outbreak of fighting.

We have seen the Turkish prime minister come, suddenly Hamas has many friends in the Muslim and Arab world that it could not depend upon before. Before it was Hosni Bubarak was guarding the gates at Gaza. He was not a friend of Hamas.

And now you have Mohamed Morsy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, president of Egypt who is now the head of state and he is much less hostile to Hamas.

So certainly Hamas emerges from this in a much better political shape. And unlike in the last round of fighting in 2008-2009, as the general mentioned, they were -- they have been spared a military humiliation, a ground invasion where they really get mauled.

They did fight Israel to -- into a negotiated settlement so to speak to bring about this ceasefire, so they do have something to crow about at the moment -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Ben, just very briefly what does that mean for the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly they sort of have been on the sidelines the entire time. They don't have a lot of sway with Hamas, even though they did sign a reconciliation agreement last year that hasn't really resulted in much.

But they don't have any influence really on the affairs of Gaza. Once more, just to repeat myself, it is really Egypt who is the main player, the main influence, the gatekeeper to Gaza. The Fattah Movement, the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah, has really just sat on the sidelines and watched and issued some protests over what is happening in Gaza, but they really could not influence the course of events here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, we're going to hear more from Ben Wedeman. We're also going to hear reaction from both sides, the Palestinian National Authority and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. We'll be right back.



BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): We will work to strengthen our military capability while considering political issues. I think some Israeli citizens are hoping, expecting stronger Israeli action and we might need to react to that.

But at the moment, the right thing to do for the state of Israel is to try and make the most out of this ceasefire. As a prime minister, I have a responsibility it a great responsibility it take the right steps, to secure Israel. That's how I've been acting and I will continue to do so.


COOPER: A statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made shortly before the ceasefire went into effect. Ceasefire seems to be holding for now. Over the last 30 minutes or so we have been watching closely the skies over Gaza city.

Nour Odeh, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, she is joining me on the phone from Ramallah. Thank you for being with us. You're skeptical of a ceasefire. Why?

NOUR ODEH, PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY (via telephone): Well, we're just hoping that Israel will honor its commitment to ceasefire and stop the killing of innocent Palestinians as you've been covering over the past eight days, over 150 Palestinians were killed.

A third of them were children and the vast majority were civilians, women, children, and the elderly. Our priority right now is to make sure Israel stops the fire. It is the occupying power, the supreme military power in the region.

And so it has in its control the power to make sure that calm is restored or to provide more reasons for more bloodshed and the opportunity for this very grave escalation to happen once again.

COOPER: How concerned are you about the growing power of Hamas, emerging from this more powerful than they were eight days ago, the Palestinian National Authority has largely been sidelined from this.

How concerned are you about Hamas living up to this ceasefire agreement and some of the other groups operating in Gaza strip, Islamic Jihad and other factions? ODEH: Well, Anderson, the president has been following up very closely with Egyptian leadership, with the Egyptian president, whom we really praise for his leadership, and making sure that calm is restored and that an agreement is reached.

We have full confidence in our Egyptian partners to make sure that this agreement carries through. As far as the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements are concerned, our priority is there is a chance for the bloodshed to stop is to make sure that reconciliation is consolidated.

That the call of President Mahmoud Abbas, to meet urgently and consolidate reconciliation, is carried through as soon as possible that's the national priority right now, rebuilding, healing, and making sure that we never confront a situation like this, not united.

You can see why a population that has been trapped for over five years, under siege and under occupation and also suffering from political division is especially vulnerable. This is a realization that all political parties in Palestine accept and they accept the responsibility to make sure that reconciliation is achieved.

That's the national priority right now as we approach the day on which we hope to upgrade our status at the United Nations to observer state, bringing really to a close a chapter, if you will, in our national struggle to statehood and getting closer to that two-state solution being undermined on a daily basis by the entrenchment of occupation.

COOPER: Nour Odeh, I appreciate you being on. Joining us now from Washington is Michael Oren. He is the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Oren, your thoughts on this ceasefire right now. How confident are you that it will hold?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, I hope it will hold, Anderson. Prime Minister Netanyahu has responded to a request from President Obama to try the ceasefire and we're certainly going to hope that it takes hold.

And that Hamas will honor its commitments, Israeli forces as you can note have ceasefire at this time. But we're still seeing -- receiving reports of Hamas continuing firing from Hamas and we hope it will dwindle and end, but the ceasefire is the beginning. It is not --

COOPER: So you're saying you have reports that firing continues?

OREN: Just prior to coming to the studio, yes.

COOPER: Where is it coming from, to your knowledge?

OREN: Same place it was going the last eight days into the southern part of the city, southern part of the country. But that was just prior to coming into the studio.

We understand it may take a while for the ceasefire to hold. We understand that Israel will retain the right to defend itself should the ceasefire break down, should there be terrorists who continue to shoot at our population. That's not only our right, but our duty. We are now prepared to explore ways of returning stability and security to the area and certainly peace to the 5.5 million Israelis who have been under rocket fire.

Not only over the last eight days, but over the years since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, since Hamas threw -- overflew Fattah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Gaza in 2007 and since turned Gaza into an outpost for Iran.

COOPER: Let me ask you about the blockade of Gaza, do you see Israel altering that if this ceasefire continues to hold?

OREN: Well, it is not a blockade in the full sense of the word. It is a blockade in which we reserve the right to inspect ships to see if they're carrying cargos of Iranian arms.

And in the past, we have caught ships whose hulls were filled with Iranian arms. That cannot change. That can't change because it is a matter of national vital security for us.

The long range missiles that were fired at Tel Aviv were smuggled into Gaza from Iran and that cannot continue. It is one of the great -- that partial blockade is one of the great guarantors of our security.

COOPER: Egypt now says they are a guarantor of this. Do you expect them and hold them accountable for any weapons that are smuggled for the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza?

OREN: Well, Egypt in the past has fulfilled a very constructive role in mediation. It has filled that role again in this current episode and we appreciate Egypt's contribution. And we hope that Egypt will continue to fulfill that constructive role.

COOPER: Ambassador Oren, appreciate your time as well. Thank you very much.

A lot ahead on this program. Our coverage continues in just a moment. We'll continue to show you what is happening over Gaza city as we hear celebratory gunfire. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the ceasefire now in effect between Israel and Hamas. The head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, is now making a statement in Cairo. Want to play that for you.

KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): God took their hand off Gaza and can build them to commit themselves to the conditions of the resistance. Therefore, if we understand, this simplicity, we can understand as people of the media to tell the brave message of our people to the entire world because we want the entire world to understand our people and our cause.

And through you, we can explain the faces, the pale faces of the leaders of the enemy because they have failed in their attempt and their attempts back fired against them. They wanted to destroy the infrastructure of the resistance in Hamas.

Today, they claim they have done so and they have not. This is -- they are bankrupt. I don't deny they have done so much, we could count how many buildings they have destroyed. And how many offices of the media they have destroyed and how many children they have killed.

And how many journalists and how many photographers they have killed, just like you. We can count how many offices and how many buildings they have destroyed. This is their accomplishment. They have nothing else to show.

And our rockets continue to strike them until the last minute. Their goal, their aim was to deter us. Their resistors showed them and the people of Gaza and the West Bank and Gaza and elsewhere that this deterrence had failed, that people -- the free people of the world cannot be deterred.

Then the Israeli adventure has failed. And if Netanyahu prepared this adventure to win at the elections, we will see what happens at the Israeli election. If he wanted to test Egypt, Egypt of the May 25th revolution showed itself as a -- the true Egypt that we have known as a nationalistic, that we have grown up with it.

Israel, in all its -- all of its goals have failed, thanks to God. Our brothers in Egypt were asked. The whole world asked our brothers in Egypt to sponsor account, to the ceasefire, a calm to the situation.

The Israelis asked them, the Russians, the U.N., everybody went to Egypt, you can pressure Hamas, pressure the resistance, please, do so, but I tell you, Egypt with no honesty. Egypt took its responsibility.

Thankfully, with a complete spirit as a respected state, that the whole world asked them to do its responsible professionally and objectively and at the same time did not forget its Arab nation, that is the Arab nation and Muslim nation that Palestine lives through the conscience of Egypt.

Egypt did not sell out the resistance, did not pressure that resistance as some people are saying. Egypt behaved responsibly. Egypt wanted to end the aggression, but not with any price. On the contrary, Egypt understood our requests.

Through the negotiations, Egypt wanted to end the hostilities, to stop shooting only and our demands that we have put forward to the Egyptians that put forward to the Americans and to the Israelis said that they could be discussed later on, but first, the shooting should be stopped.

But we have said to them, and this is reflected in the agreement clearly, we have told them, this is one package only, and a mutual ceasefire, with the demand -- with our demands. Our demands must be met. We insisted to the end -- to end the killing and the destruction and the assassination through land, sea -- we have assisted that through the sea because the sea of Gaza has been taken over by Israel and the land -- the border area that Israel should not encourage against Gaza through the land borders crossings and to allow -- all this as being put forward in the agreement as one package.

And the implementation of this agreement will start 24 hours after the ceasefire. And all these agreements as far as the crossings, it will be dealt with and prepared 24 hours, which means and after 9:00 p.m., Cairo time, there will be a discussion on how to implement the demands of the Palestinian people.

Therefore, Gaza could be the killing -- the killing could be lifted off Gaza and the blockade could be lifted of Gaza, so Gaza could live normal like any other part of the world. Gaza is part of the Palestinian homeland. Not a separate entity from the other Palestinian territories.

And it is part of the entire Palestinian nation. Me and my brother and with him, we were determined and we had the flexibility and the determination to work together with our brothers, the Egyptians, and with Egyptian intelligence it was a beautiful work as we worked with it as our one party.

And Egypt, through its intelligence service, to understand our requests and to be responsible and professional about our requests, and here I would like to thank our dear Egypt, aided by president -- the brave elected President Dr. Mohamed Morsy. May God give him bountiful and may God keep him in the --

COOPER: The head of -- you are listening to Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas making a statement in Cairo. We're joined by Nic Robertson in London and also our Reza Sayah who is also in Cairo.

Nic, I mean, in terms of what Hamas had been asking for, in order to have a ceasefire, not everything they have been asking for has been agreed to. Most notably they wanted an opening up of the borders, an end to blockade by Israel.

That has not occurred. As part of this agreement within 24 hours, basically the borders are reverting back to the way they were eight days ago. But that's not opened up the way that Hamas certainly wants.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it hasn't. They're not getting everything their way. What they have got there is an understanding -- we heard it from Khaled Meshaal that within 24 hours they will be begin talks on those borders and the opening of those borders.

They have got a promise there. They have something much, much bigger here, and obviously Khalid Meshaal alluding to it there, and speaking directly to it, and in praise of President Mohamed Morsy of Egypt. What they have is the support and the backing. I was looking back at my notes from when I interviewed Khaled Meshaal back in 2007. He said isolation would never work. Isolating Hamas would never work. There couldn't be peace without Hamas because they -- he said, more influential than the other.

Palestinian group Fattah and they couldn't as they were -- as they have been, excluded from peace talks at that time, Annapolis in December 2007. In 2010, he said the international community needs to put more pressure on Israel to recognize Palestinian rights.

What we're seeing here now in this agreement is Hamas getting the essentially what it is asked for there. It now has this international support. It is not the isolated group that it was. Hosni Mubarak has gone from Egypt.

President Morsy is in. So this is all changing and they are beginning to see now an awakening of the Arab voice that they wanted that will put more pressure on Egypt.

So these are some of the roots, I think, why Hamas is willing to sort of compromise and wait for 24 hours before it begins the substantial talks over what it wants on the ground -- Anderson.

COOPER: And of course, major implications for any longer term solution to peace in this region. It complicates matters a great deal now that you have the increase in power of Hamas, weakening in power of the Palestinian Authority and their leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Reza Sayah is joining us from Cairo. Reza, 24 hours from now, more negotiations continue.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly do. I think the tendency is after a week of fighting and bloodshed to be relieved that the fighting is over, that there is a ceasefire. But at this point, there is no indication this ceasefire is going to lead to a long-term truce, a long-term peace agreement.

And many here in the Arab world and the Egyptian streets believe that if indeed the core problems persist, there is going to be more conflict to come. Those core issues are the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel and the building of settlements.

Hamas has come out and said, if those issues persist, they're going to resist and resistance in the past has met more violence. If we don't have a long-term agreement of peace, I wouldn't be surprised if we're back here, witnessing the cycle of violence in a year or two -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Those are settlements being built in the West Bank, not in Gaza. Reza, appreciate you. We'll take another short break. Our special coverage continues in a moment.