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THE SITUATION ROOM

Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire in Effect; Turkey Asks NATO for Missiles

Aired November 21, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ends eight days of deadly fighting.

Has it really, though, come to a halt?

Will it hold?

What the U.S. promised Israel and Egypt in order to get an agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Also, a closer look at the man called Hamas' military genius and why some say it was a mistake for Israel to take him out.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's midnight now here in Jerusalem and this agreement appears to be holding, at least for now, an agreement between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls it "the right thing for Israel," but he warned that additional military measures might be need if the cease-fire breaks down and leads to security problems for Israel.

The leader of Hamas claims the cease-fire is a victory for his organization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS LEADER (through translator): 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The cease-fire agreement brought celebratory gunfire in Gaza, where 142 people have been killed in the fighting.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is standing by.

He's on the scene for us on the streets of Gaza.

We're watching what's going on very, very closely. So far, so good. No major violations of the cease-fire agreement that was brokered between Israel and Hamas thanks to the direct involvement -- the direct involvement of -- of Egypt and Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi.

You're looking at live pictures right now from the streets of Cairo.

Let's go to Ben Wedeman.

He's on the scene for us -- Ben, what's it like there?

We know we heard a lot of celebratory gunfire, a lot of people on the streets.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a huge celebration. I've never seen such a large celebration in Gaza. It really, it sort of gradually grew. At first, it appears people were waiting to make sure that the cease-fire did, in fact, hold for a little while. And then we started hearing a bit of gunfire and then seeing more cars in the street. And, of course, now it's been going on for quite some time.

Many of them, they're more sort of up the road toward the center of the city, with celebratory gunfire. Very much a feeling here on the streets of Gaza that they did, indeed, emerge victorious from this -- these eight days of bombardment coming both ways -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I said celebratory gunfire on the streets of Cairo. I, of course, meant Gaza, where you are. They're celebrating over there.

Hamas wants more open opportunities to cross borders, to allow people to come in, Palestinians to leave.

Are you -- are we likely to see any of that in the immediate future as a result of this cease-fire agreement, Ben?

WEDEMAN: Well, looking at the agreement, it appears that those details, the opening of crossings and the movement of people, still need to be worked out. Really, the agreement was about agreeing to discuss these issues once it's clear that the cease-fire can, indeed, hold.

But there are lots of important concessions, in a sense, that Hamas won as a result of this agreement. There is a guarantee or a commitment by Israel not to target Palestinian militants within Gaza itself. That's something, of course, that led to the beginning of this outbreak of fighting eight days ago, with the targeted assassination by Israel of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the leader of Hamas' military wing.

It also talks about freedom of movement and it also refers to the buffer zones around the edges of Gaza.

So for Hamas, it really does represent something of a change. They've been able to, in a sense, dictate terms to Israel that do make their lives, the lives of Hamas leaders and the Hamas government here in Gaza, somewhat easier.

BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt that Hamas sees this as a major political win for Hamas.

Ben Wedeman, we'll get back to you.

Let's get a little bit more now on the cease-fire.

Joining us is Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich.

She's a spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Lieutenant Colorado, thanks once again for coming in.

What is your understanding right now of this cease-fire agreement from the Israeli military's perspective?

The mobilization of reservists who were poised on the border with tanks, armored personnel carriers, potentially, to go in on the ground.

Are you going to ease that now?

Are those troops going to go back to civilian life?

LT. COL. AVITAL LEIBOVICH, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESWOMAN: Well, the troops are still there. We'll have to decide tomorrow. We'll see how the night goes on and then we'll decide what to do with them tomorrow.

I can tell you that since the cease-fire was declared, there are already five rockets that were fired from Gaza.

BLITZER: Five rockets since...

LEIBOVICH: Five rockets.

BLITZER: -- since the...

LEIBOVICH: Right.

BLITZER: And so were there serious incidents?

LEIBOVICH: Two were intercepted. Three of them landed in, some of them, urban areas. But...

BLITZER: Do you consider these major violations or minor violations...

LEIBOVICH: I -- I...

BLITZER: -- of the cease-fire agreement?

LEIBOVICH: -- I think that the current -- the next weeks and days will tell us exactly where we are in meaning of deterrence. So I suggest we need to wait. Every little minor incident, a rocket here and a rocket there, we have to wait and see where it takes us.

BLITZER: Because you know there's Hamas, but there are some other organizations, Islamic Jihad, other terrorist organizations in Gaza, that may not necessarily be part of this agreement.

Is that your understanding, as well?

LEIBOVICH: Well, since Hamas is controlling the Gaza Strip, Hamas is accountable for anything that goes on, meaning Hamas needs to control these other organizations that actually have been challenging Hamas for the past couple of years.

BLITZER: So is it your understanding that these five violations that you've now counted were Hamas violations or other splinter organizations in Gaza may have been responsible for those rocket attacks?

LEIBOVICH: I think these are minor events. But should a launching squad try to -- to launch a rocket toward Israel, we will target that launching squad. We won't initiate any operational activity in Gaza since we are respecting the cease-fire, but we still need to defend ourselves.

BLITZER: You'll monitor what's going on. I assume those Israeli drones will continue to fly over.

Are they allowed to fly over Gaza as part of this cease-fire agreement?

LEIBOVICH: Let's not get into operational details. But the Iron Dome batteries are not going anywhere for now.

BLITZER: Well. Those are the anti-missile systems...

LEIBOVICH: Right.

BLITZER: -- that if a rocket comes in, they can intercept and destroy...

LEIBOVICH: Right.

BLITZER: -- that missile in air.

But the surveillance drones, you don't want to talk about whether or not this agreement allows you to fly over Gaza to continue to watch what's going on?

LEIBOVICH: I don't want to talk about the intelligence aspects, although during the operation, we had very nice achievements and you can understand that we had very good intelligence, since we did find a very big amount of launchers that were underground. So the intelligence was really of high quality. And, overall, I can tell you that we are very -- very -- very happy, very satisfied with the achievements that we had in this operation.

BLITZER: The Israeli military, what will be its role right now in opening up Gaza a little bit?

Because, as you know, the Palestinians who live there, 1.5 million, 1.7 million of them, they'd like to have greater access to the outside world, more products coming in.

Are you going to ease that situation right now?

LEIBOVICH: Well, actually that situation has been eased already from a couple of years ago.

BLITZER: They don't feel it, necessarily, as you know. The Palestinians, they complain bitterly that they're -- they -- they say they're in a prison.

LEIBOVICH: Well, I saw some interesting story this morning with pictures from the market, one of the markets in Gaza. It was filled with fruit and vegetables. And basically you see people shopping. So there is no crisis in Gaza.

However, I understand that some things are not convenient. But truckloads have been going in, also, in the past, eight days, hundreds of them.

BLITZER: What about the Iranian weapons that have been coming into Gaza?

What will be the new role that Egypt plays, Hamas plays, if the U.S. is involved, in preventing those kinds of weapons from coming into Gaza?

LEIBOVICH: Iran is trying to influence a lot inside Gaza. And I can tell you something that maybe was not even told until now. Even during the operation, Iran went through great efforts to try and push ahead long-range rockets into Gaza.

When Iran saw the effect these long-range rockets have on the Israeli population...

BLITZER: That they were reaching Tel Aviv.

LEIBOVICH: They were reaching Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jeru -- Jerusalem, it tried, during the operation itself, to push more and more rockets inside the Gaza Strip.

BLITZER: What happened to them?

LEIBOVICH: We -- we are monitoring that. But the question is...

BLITZER: What does -- what does that mean?

LEIBOVICH: It means that we know that Iran is deeply involved with Hamas inside Gaza, just like it's involved with the Hezbollah. We are seeing here very similar patterns.

BLITZER: Did those weapons reach Hamas and Gaza over these past few days?

LEIBOVICH: Well, we know the Fajr-5s reached Hamas already for the past couple of years.

BLITZER: But that was before eight days.

LEIBOVICH: That was before. As far as we know, they did not reach, but there were great efforts on the part of Iran. Now we have to monitor those efforts for the future, of course, for our safety.

BLITZER: I assume those tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who were poised, and still are, on the border, ready to go into urban conflict, if you will, in a -- in a ground invasion, they must be pretty relieved about this cease-fire.

LEIBOVICH: Maybe they are relieved, but they're also -- they also understand the mission. I mean this is a small country. This is the only country we have. And these soldiers were waiting to defend this country.

And, by the way, they were training for these couple of days. They were not just sitting there outside waiting for a decision. So we took advantage of the fact that they were there to train them and to -- to see that they are ready for -- for the mission.

BLITZER: So we'll see what happens.

Are you confident?

Are you upbeat, optimistic, that it's going to work?

LEIBOVICH: I'm personally an optimistic person. But I think that the -- that the couple of weeks, the next couple of weeks will show us exactly where we're going.

BLITZER: Let's hope it works.

Avital Leibovich, the lieutenant colonel, the spokeswoman for the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, thanks for coming in.

LEIBOVICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: CNN's Anderson Cooper has been covering this crisis for us.

He's been in Gaza over the past few days, but he's now here in Jerusalem with me. He's going to be joining us when we come back.

Also, the possibility of a bigger U.S. military role in the region. We're going to talk to the Pentagon and get some new details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're monitoring a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas now over three hours old. We just heard from the Israeli military there have been some minor, minor violations, they say five rockets coming in. But they say that's minor. They're watching it closely.

Anderson Cooper is here in Jerusalem right now, just out of Gaza.

You spent the last few days there.

What was it like?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's, you know, it's obviously intense. I mean you -- you can't help but go there and notice that there is no such thing as regular life. And you know, shops are closed, people are hiding indoors. And it's, you know, for everyday people, they just want it to end. You know, they're not necessarily hugely supporters of Hamas, even though Hamas is democratically elected.

You know, there's a lot of people who just want a solution and want to get on with their lives and be able to feed their families. Unemployment is ridiculously high, 40 percent. You know, it could be a great city. It's got a coastline, it's got beaches, and yet, it is -- there's just no such thing as regular life.

BLITZER: So, when we see them on the streets right now celebratory gunfire, they're so happy, they're smiling, they're relieved that this is at least for now over.

COOPER: And to even be relieved to be out of their homes. I mean, I have not seen those streets crowded like that. Streets were virtually empty at night. If you drive at all at night, you drive extremely fast. And, you know, you never know where a rocket's going to go because you never knew where Hamas may be, where they may have an installation, where they may have an office.

And I think one of the most disturbing images I saw was -- and I want to warn viewers we have images that we'll show you, but it is very disturbing to watch, a group of Hamas men on motorcycles dragging the body of an alleged collaborator down a main street in Gaza City.

BLITZER: An Israeli collaborator.

COOPER: Allegedly, yes.

BLITZER: Palestinians, but somebody they accused of working with the Israelis.

COOPER: Right. And clearly, Israel has a network of spies who give them on the ground information. That helps them in their targeting, you know, tracking people's movements and who owns what houses.

But to see this person being dragged down a main street while these men on motorcycles are yelling God is great and yelling out that he was a spy, you know, it brings home that this is a place that, you know, there is not a rule of law. And it's obviously, you know, the divisions are very clear.

BLITZER: We saw explosions literally not far from you, we saw you ducking. We saw Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon, Sarah Sidner when she was there. I mean, they were pretty close to you --

COOPER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- with these bombs.

COOPER: Yes, very close. I mean, we were standing in front of an open window like this, and you could feel the shockwaves, the blast waves through your body.

BLITZER: Really?

COOPER: Sometimes, you know, the windows rattled. The building, itself, would shake. And we're talking, you know, a block away, two or three or four or five blocks away. And, it's startling. Ben Wedeman is much made of sturdier stuff and I and was able to stand there without ducking quite so much as I did, but you know, it really brings home to you what it's like for Gazans.

BLITZER: You can only imagine the terror that these people were feeling.

COOPER: Right. And they have nowhere else to go and we're able to live. I was there for three nights. I'm able to leave. I'm back here now. But, you know, they don't have any other place to go.

BLITZER: Now, when you got out, you got out through a crossing into Israel.

COOPER: Right. It is very laborious process to --

BLITZER: Well, tell us about that. How did that happen? Because it's very restricted.

COOPER: Yes, it is. You give them, the Hamas official, your passport. He writes it down in a little spiral notebook. That's about it. There's no stamp or anything (INAUDIBLE). you take a series of taxis to the border where you get out and you go through a series of checkpoints where you don't run in -- there's no actual people that you interact with because they're afraid obviously -- Israeli officials are frightened of -- you know, or concerned about people bringing explosive devices in.

So, it's kind of a step-by-step process. You know, there's all these surveillance cameras around. You lay out all your bags. They get a sense of who you are. They electronically open a door. You walk into another room and you move all your bags into that room. They get a closer look at your bags on the CTV camera.

You then take off your belt. You go through -- you put your bags on a giant conveyer belt. There's a giant x-ray machine. They disappear. You then, you know, basically strip down off your belt. You go through several metal detectors, a full body scanner, and you're gradually systemically allowed to cross over into Israel. They then hand go through all your bags --

BLITZER: The Israelis do?

COOPER: The Israelis, you know, at gunpoint that going through your bags very methodically, very carefully after it's already been through X-ray machines. Every piece of equipment has gone through. They then hand it back, get your passport stamped, and you're on your way.

And all the while, you hear rockets going off very close by, in some cases, some being fired from Israeli positions, some being fired toward Israel.

BLITZER: So, it's not as if there are United Nations personnel monitoring this border crossing, if you will.

COOPER: No. It's a very surreal system where you actually don't run into any human beings for several steps of the process. It's all done through surveillance cameras, through doors being electronically opened for you and gradually.

You know, the closer you get with each door that you go through, you're one step closer toward Israel and one step, you know -- they've examined you one step further. It's a fascinating system to see up close.

BLITZER: Yes. At some point -- and you were there for what, three, four, five days?

COOPER: Right.

BLITZER: You must have been scared out of your mind.

COOPER: You know, you're definitely in a heightened state of awareness. You know, I wouldn't say scared because I've been in a lot of these areas over the years, but you know, it's always shocking to see the conditions that people are forced to live in in a war zone.

And to see what life is like for somebody and who's, you know, the only difference between them and myself is the accident of birth and what zip code they were born into and, you know, that has determined what their life is like and what their ability is to get a job and to move upward.

BLITZER: Now, you're constantly hearing, the days you were there, shells going off --

COOPER: Yes.

BLITZER: I mean, it's loud thunderous noise. Could you get any sleep?

COOPER: Yes. You know, you actually -- I've been -- you know, starting way back in Sarajevo back in the early 1990s, I've been places under siege, and after a time, you just ignore it. You cannot let it get you, because you will just be paranoid about it at all times. And so -- and look, you know, unlike the siege in Sarajevo where servers (ph) were lobbing mortars into the city indiscriminately unlike what's happening in Syria where Bashar al Assad is, you know, indiscriminately lobbying shells.

There is targeting involved in, you know, where the Israelis are striking. You can make arguments about whether it's effective or not. You can -- people will take me to task for this, but even Gazans will tell you, you know, I've stood with many Gazans watching bombs going into buildings, and they were taking pictures

They had a sense of this is non-indiscriminate shelling. There is a specific target, whether it's the correct target, whether other people are going to get, women and children are going to get killed in the process, that is going to happen. But it's not that sense of, you know, indiscriminate.

The flip side of that is you never know where a Hamas or an alleged Hamas person may be, where they may have an office in a building like this where, you know, do they have an office on the floor below you? You don't know. And so, Israel considers that a target. And so, they're going to -- if they file missiles into your building, you can very easily get killed.

BLITZER: One final question, did they have any clue when you walked around the streets and I saw you wearing body armor. You were wearing a helmet. Did these folks know who you were?

COOPER: I think some people did. I mean, you know, CNN is seen around the world.

BLITZER: Is CNN in Gaza?

COOPER: You know, most people, right now, didn't -- a lot of them didn't have electricity. I think some people had satellite dishes. They're able to see it. But, you know, I actually don't -- you try not -- I actually didn't wear body armor all the time just because --

BLITZER: I saw some pictures of you wearing it.

COOPER: Yes. You would -- in some cases, you would wear body armor. In other times, you didn't. And a lot of it had to do with if I was interacting who did not, you know, just regular people, I generally don't wear body armor because I think it sends the wrong message. If I'm asking people to tell me their story and to feel -- I feel like I should be taking a risk with them.

BLITZER: I'm glad you got out safe and sound. You're going to have a lot more coming up later tonight.

COOPER: That's right. "360, " eight o'clock 10 o'clock eastern in the U.S.

BLITZER: We'll be watching.

COOPER: Thanks. BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much for the excellent work.

Disturbing signs of deadly crisis in Syria actually is boiling over in the Middle East. Up next, we're going to tell you why one neighboring country is now asking NATO for missiles. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: We'll get back to Wolf in Jerusalem in just a moment, but first, disturbing new signs the deadly crisis in Syria is escalating. Our Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what do you have?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Joe. Well, Turkey is asking NATO for patriot missiles to help bolster its air defenses after violence from Syria. A letter to the alliance cites threats the crisis poses to Turkey's national security. Last month, Syrian artillery shells hit a Turkish border town killing five civilians. NATO says it is convening to consider the matter and will send a team to Turkey to look at possible missile deployment sites.

And Illinois Democrat, Jesse Jackson Jr. is resigning from Congress. The son of the civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has been out of the public eye for months being treated for what he calls several serious health issues. He's also being investigated by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee.

Jackson submitted his letter of resignation to House speaker, John Boehner, today just a little more than two weeks after winning re-election.

And an extraordinary moment in basketball. A great game would be a player scoring in the high double digits, but what about scoring in, get this, the triple digits? Well, that's what Grinnel College's Jack Taylor did Tuesday night, smashing an NCAA record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): His teammates kept passing him the ball. Grinnell College sophomore, Jack Taylor, kept sinking it. Again and again and again. 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College topping the national record that has stood for more than five decades.

JACK TAYLOR, POINT GUARD, GRINNELL COLLEGE: Coming into the game, my teammates and my coaches wanted to get me some more shots to try to get my confidence going before we enter conference play. And so, I knew I was going to get a few more shots than usual.

SYLVESTER: At halftime, he had 58 points. His second half even better with 80 points.

TAYLOR: There's a point in the second half where I hit seven or eight threes in a row on consecutive possessions. And at that moment, I kind of knew something special was happening. SYLVESTER: Taylor thanks his teammates for their unselfishness, but you can also credit Grinnell's coach and his signature coaching system. It includes going heavy on the three-pointers and not worrying about giving up a two-pointer on the other side. In fact, the losing team's top scorer had 70 points, a high scoring game that caught the eye of American university's head basketball coach.

JEFF JONES, MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, AMERICAN UNIV.: Very few teams can score 138 points, but you know, for an individual to score 138, that was pretty remarkable.

SYLVESTER: Does he expect a repeat performance?

TAYLOR: I doubt it. I think this might be a once in a lifetime experience where, you know, I was just in the zone for an extended period of time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): That's certainly an understatement. Well, even the Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant, was impressed with Taylor's performance. And I asked Jack Taylor, OK, so, what's next? After he graduates, he would like to play professional basketball maybe, possibly with one of the overseas leagues. So --

JOHNS: In the zone. That's one way of putting it, I guess.

SYLVESTER: A 138 points for one individual. And you know, 80 points, that was just the second half of the game.

JOHNS: That's incredible.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Pretty impressive.

JOHNS: Wow. Thanks so much, Lisa.

All right. We're going back to Wolf in Jerusalem. New details of what the U.S. had to promise before Israel signed on to the ceasefire with Hamas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: U.S. made some substantial promises to Israel before it would sign the ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been learning some of the details.

What are you picking up, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it appears that the U.S. literally helped pay for this ceasefire deal. The president promising Israel that it -- the U.S. would help it try to intensify efforts to shore up the security around those tunnels where a lot of those weapons were flowing from Egypt into Gaza and being used against Israel. Basically what we know is that a lot of those weapons have been illegally smuggled through that tunnel. The U.S. promising to step up efforts to help Israel deal with the security situation there. As you recall, Wolf, just a few minutes ago, Israeli Army spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich told you that just in this last week Iran was still trying to get weapons through that tunnel into the hands of militants there. But they were unsuccessful.

Some of this aid may take the form of giving money to Egypt to help them on their end. We know that about five years ago the U.S. military aid over $20 million went to Egypt. They even sent a team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help train the Egyptians, help them use some of that ground penetrating radar. But as you can see, it still hasn't paid off. Those tunnels are still active.

So it remains to be seen, Wolf, exactly how much can be done on that front. The U.S. also promising to expand its contribution to Israel's Iron Dome to request more funding. But this is coming after the U.S. has already picked up a pretty big tab for that. Earlier this summer the president authorized another $70 million to Israel's missile defense. This comes after $200 million authorized just a couple of years ago.

And in fact, if you take a look at the Defense Authorization Bill that's coming out for next year, over the next three years the U.S. will be putting in, you know, well over $600 million into funding Israel's Iron Dome.

BLITZER: Yes. The Israelis are grateful for that. They keep pointing out how many lives that saved -- that saved here in Israel.

Chris Lawrence, thanks very much.

Let's get a little bit more now on the Iranian weapons that have been smuggled into Hamas.

Our CNN's Reza Sayah is joining us from Cairo right now.

What role will Egypt play, Reza, based on what you're hearing in stopping these Iranian weapon shipments from being smuggled into Gaza?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's going to be their next challenge. The next challenge for this new governments here in Cairo and I think the world is going to be watching to see how effectively they crackdown. First off, we should clarify Hamas' position when it comes to these weapons. Hamas' position is that they're taking on one of the most powerful military forces in the region backed by a superpower in the U.S. and they're going to try anything they can to get their hands on any kind of weapons to make it a fair fight.

And indeed many of their smuggled weapons come through the Sinai territory in Egypt to go through southern Gaza through the Rafah crossing and these tunnels. And they don't seem to be getting smuggled in with Egypt's cooperation. But now certainly there's going to be tremendous pressure from the West on Egypt to crackdown. And it's going to be another balancing act for Cairo.

On one hand they're going to need to publicly at least show their support for Hamas. On the other hand they're going to be pressured from Western governments for Cairo to crackdown. It's going to be a challenge for them in the months and years to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The U.S., the Israelis, a lot of folks are praising the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for his role in these negotiations. How involved was he?

SAYAH: He was very involved. And I think when these types of conflicts come to an end, whoever takes the podium and announces the ceasefire usually gets credit for the ceasefire. And indeed it was Washington and Cairo.

This was by many measures a test for Egypt, the new government, the new Islamist government, the Muslim Brotherhood, President Mohamed Morsi, remember there was a lot of concern and alarm from Western capitals, Washington, when this government took over. A lot of questions, would they take a significantly tougher stance against Israel? Would they give material support to Hamas? None of that happened.

And it looks like they made a calculated decision, Cairo did, to play the role of peacemaker in an effort to maintain their peace treaty with Israel and maintain their alliances with Western power and Washington countries they're going to depend on to recover economically. So in the end, the way things stand right now, they came out looking pretty good. But there's a long way to go in this conflict. And many will be watching to see what role they continue to play -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Earlier today, Reza, I spoke with the Israeli President Shimon Peres, he spoke very highly of President Morsi in that interview with me. We're going to air it in our next hour. But what's the feeling there in Egypt about Morsi's relationship with Israel?

SAYAH: Well, I think some people expected this Muslim Brotherhood government to come in and take a tougher stance against the Israelis and show more material support for Hamas. But clearly this was a government led by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that wanted to maintain its stature, maintain its credibility within the international community. And I think they made the decision that if they came -- if they came out and aggressively and materially showed their support for Hamas, they would lose some of that stature.

So that's the decision they made. And I think that's why they're getting a lot of credit from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders.

BLITZER: I think they're going to get a lot more than just credit. They're going to get some economic and military assistance, diplomatic support in the process as well.

Reza Sayah from Cairo, thank you. A leader some say unlike any Hamas has ever seen. Just ahead we're going to show you how the group gained some military strength -- some of the military strength it has today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The United States could now be considering sending more military power into the Middle East in the wake of this latest wave of violence.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a number of senior U.S. military officials tell us there are now discussions here inside the Pentagon at very top levels about whether more military power is needed in the region because of the instability. One official telling us this is post-Benghazi. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. And now in addition problems of rising tensions all over the region, of course, Syria, Israel, Gaza, Egypt.

Look at that map. That tells you exactly where this all starts. Rota, Spain. The U.S. Navy already has plans in the work to send four warships to be deployed out of Rota starting early next year just weeks away. Those four ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles from Iran. Three amphibious warships are staying on station in the eastern med. A lot of discussion now we are told about what is needed.

The Iwo Jima, this is a large -- you see the photo there. Large marine corps amphibian ship along with helicopters, V-22 aircraft, 2,000 Marines on board. All of this now the discussion with all of this going on, what is needed in the region? What is the requirement? What should the military have there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is anyone seriously looking though at actual combat operations, Barbara?

STARR: I think that's absolutely the crucial question, Wolf. Look, right now we're told no. You know, there may be a lot of fire power going to the region, but no. They're not looking at combat operations. What they are looking at is sending a very clear message once again to the region that the U.S. military is present. Look for more training, more exercises with countries in that region.

Look for humanitarian assistance. But also, if it were to come to that, this is the kind of capability that could do a couple of crucial things -- fire against Iranian ballistic missiles and those amphibious warships like the Iwo Jima -- could help Americans get out of trouble if it came to that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thanks for that report.

More than 1,000 rockets have rained down on Israel in the last week or so. Many of them intercepted in midair. Up next, we're going to show you what's been happening after -- repeat, after the Iron Dome system takes them out.

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BLITZER: Many of the rockets that rained down during the past week here in Israel were taken out by the country's sophisticated Iron Dome system. But intercepting them is only part of the process. What's left still has to be cleaned up and properly disposed of.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen spent some time doing just that. He's joining us now with details -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. They send these explosive ordinance disposal units that come from Israel's police out to get what's left of these rockets. Not just the ones that are intercepted but of course also the ones that still fall in urban areas. Because of course the explosive residue and other parts have to be cleared away so that the area is safe for the civilians.

We rode along with one of these units and saw just how much they have to do on any given day during the conflict. Here's what we saw.

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PLEITGEN (voice-over): More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israeli towns from Gaza. While many were intercepted by missile defense systems, some have hit residential areas. That's where these men come in. We're riding along with a bomb disposal unit from the Israeli police. A group that is working over time in the current conflict.

MICKY ROSENFIELD, ISRAELI POLICE: We've been through these type of situations before. We've maneuvered more than 500 police officers at the moment on a daily basis from different parts of the country into all of the southern cities such as Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva.

PLEITGEN: We arrived at the scene of an impact. One of the experts shows me what's left of a Grad rocket fired from Gaza. This one was intercepted in midair by the Iron Dome rocket defense system. But the bomb disposal officers still find chunks of TNT from the rocket's warhead. They need to clear the area of any parts that might still explode.

ROSENFIELD: But what is important is to make sure that the area is safe, we're talking about civilian population that is being targeted and hit. And therefore it's vital for us to make sure that no one will get injured immediately after the rocket attack.

PLEITGEN: Those in the bomb disposal unit are forensic experts. The rockets they find are analyzed in labs to find out where they were made, how they work and most important what types of explosives were used.

(On camera): So this is an assortment of rockets that have fallen over the Ashkelon area. It's not all of them. It's only some of them. There's more laying around here. But there's various types of rockets that you can find here. For instance, this one is apparently a Grad rocket. You can tell by the fins that pop out when the rocket gets launched. Whereas this one here is one of those homemade Qassam rockets. This one is made in a workshop in Gaza and you can tell because the fins are just welded on in a very rudimentary way.

(Voice-over): The unit's work is hard because they often have to take cover themselves when rockets come flying in.

(On camera): So even these guys from the bomb squad have to go inside when there's a rocket alarm. We're going to go in here, and I guess they're probably going to go out in case there's a hit and try to find the remnants of the rockets.

(Voice-over): Even with the possible end of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, rockets remain a threat to Israeli civilians. And it seems this unit's service continue to be in demand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, just to give you an idea of how hard the work is that these guys are doing, they of course have been going nonstop since the conflict began about a week ago, and just in the time that we were with them, which was just a few hours, they had to go into bomb shelters six times, and then afterwards, they had to move out to various sites to clear up the debris of rockets that had rained down. So certainly the guys from that unit, they'll be hoping that the ceasefire that has now been agreed to really holds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Have you lost count, Fred, how many times you've heard the sirens going off and that you've had to run for cover?

PLEITGEN: Yes. I have to tell you, I have -- I have indeed lost -- have lost count of that. One thing I do recall, though, is that there were six times that we had to run for cover while we were live on the air in the past week. So that was actually quite a lot, but in total, there were many times. We've gotten into mortar attacks, we've gotten into rocket attacks. We had times when we had to hit the deck when we were out in the open where all we could do is just lay flat and hope that nothing lands next to us. We had times when we had to flee into bunkers, we had times when we had to flee into buildings.

So certainly, yes, I mean, there were really times here when we saw a lot of rockets going over our heads. And one thing that we also saw a lot of was the Iron Dome in action. That's really something that I think left many people here in awe is seeing the Iron Dome in action and seeing those batteries combat multiple targets. We had one time when we were laying on the ground looking over our head and just saw puffs of smoke coming all over the place from rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you're grateful for that. All right, Fred. Thanks very, very much. One of our courageous reporters, and we have a lot of them here at CNN. Fred Pleitgen reporting for us from southern Israel. Hamas suffers a potentially game-changing loss in more than a week of fighting against Israel. Up next, what it could mean for how this ceasefire plays out. Stand by for new information.

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BLITZER: Hamas did suffer what some believe could be a game- changing loss in this more than week-long battle against Israel and that could take a serious toll on how the ceasefire plays out.

Brian Todd has been working this part of the story for us. He's got some new details.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the irony here is that Hamas' loss at the hands of the Israelis could also be Israel's loss in the long run. Last week the Israelis took out Ahmed al- Jabari, he was Hamas' real military genius, but also a man who could have reined in some of the Hamas' more radical militants during this ceasefire.

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TODD (voice-over): Hamas' ability to hold up its end of this ceasefire depends on how much control it has over its most dangerous militants. That control might have diminished in the flash of an airstrike when Israeli forces killed Ahmed al-Jabari, the leader of Hamas' military wing last week.

(On camera): You believe it was actually a mistake for Israel to take him out, right?

ELIZABETH O'BAGY, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: I do believe it was a mistake for Israel to take him out. I think that the core objectives that were seized by Israel for taking him out will not be met by his death. I think in fact it will lead to the proliferation of extremist groups. And less control actually over rocket attacks and increase violence against Israel.

TODD (voice-over): Elizabeth O'Bagy and other analysts admit Jabari was a formidable enemy for the Israelis. But they say he also was able to keep Hamas' most radical allies from attacking Israel on their own.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: People are constantly surprised. There were people in Hamas jails for firing rockets at Israelis. Not for the act of firing rockets but for firing rockets at the wrong time, and Ahmed Jabari was one of the guys who put them in jail.

TODD: He was a leader unlike any Hamas had seen before, analysts say. A key figure in Hamas driving the moderate Palestinian Fatah faction out of Gaza. Then --

MARK LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: And he completely changed the Hamas military structure, not only in terms of defeating Fatah in Gaza but after the Hamas takeover, turning this ragtag force into -- at a minimum -- an organized militia if not an actual army.

TODD: Organizing them into companies, battalions, brigades. And according to analysts and one Israeli official, he worked closely with Iran to coordinate training and the shipment of weapons to Hamas, including longer-range missiles that can strike Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Israeli say he was instrumental in the abduction of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2006. He also negotiated the release of Shalit five years later in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners. Now --

ALTERMAN: Not having somebody like that, somebody who can be an enforcer of peace as well as an enforcer of war, can make it not only hard to reach a peace agreement, it can make it hard to avoid war because whenever somebody decides to take a pot shot, they take a pot shot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now all eyes will be who among the surviving Hamas leaders can bring those more fanatical elements of the group in line and try to keep some measure of peace with Israel. It's believed that Mohammed Deif, who worked behind the scenes while Ahmed al-Jabari was the public face of Hamas' military leadership, has at least temporarily taken Jabari's place but Deif himself is physically impaired from at least two assassination attempts, and it's not clear how much control he has -- Wolf.