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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres; New Protests Against President Morsi; New App Detects When Rockets Go Off

Aired November 24, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: You're in "the SITUATION ROOM," happening now.

After ceasefire celebrations in Gaza, the Middle East faces enormous challenges. This, how we will look at the ways the Israeli Hamas truce has changed the region.

Plus, Wolf's interview with Israeli president Shimon Perez on President Obama's role in the negotiations and whether he ever threw Israeli under the bus.

And during this busy holiday travel season, we go behind the scenes with airport pit crews. You will see what it takes to gets flights turned around safely and on time.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Joe Johns. You're in "the SITUATION ROOM."

It's been a historic week in the Middle East, but the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was only a first step toward seeking a broader piece in a very volatile region. And now one of the crucial players in securing the truce is under fire in his own country.

In Egypt, we've seen huge protests against President Mohamed Morsi and the new powers he assumed just a day after the truce. He's insisting he's committed to democracy, but opponents are calling him a dictator. It could be a complication for the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas negotiations moving forward.

Let's go to CNN's Reza Sayah in Cairo.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, the coming weeks here in Egypt are going to be fascinating when it comes to politics. That's because there is an intensifying faceoff between Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and his opponents. Outrage aimed at Mr. Morsi after the announcement of a number of controversial decrees earlier this week that give him sweeping powers. They make him at least temporarily the most powerful man in Egypt. He has decreased, also seems to be an effort to push through the all-important drafting of the new constitution and putting in place the formation of Egypt's new parliament.

One of the decrees bans anyone, even the judiciary, from appealing, overturning, questioning any decision Mr. Morsi has made since taking office in June. That order is to be set in place until a new parliament is formed. So technically, he's going to be the most powerful man essentially he can do whatever he wants, without any oversight. That's one of the decrees, John, that has a lot of his opponents describing this as an undemocratic power grab.

JOHNS: And do these changes affect both his critics and as opponents or just his opponents?

SAYAH: Well, look. Right now, the political landscape favors Mr. Morsi and his political movement, the Muslim brotherhood, and certainly these decrees, when they went into place, make things look good for them taking power for the constitution, when it's drafted to favor the Muslim brotherhood. One of the decrees pushes through the drafting of the constitution. The panel that's charged to draft them is 100 members. Many of these members are liberals who are protesting the drafting of the constitution. Some have quit in protest and one of these particular decrees, Mr. Morsi, says no one can dissolve this particular assembly. They're going to push through. And if this assembly stands the way it is right now, which is dominated by Islamists, many of Mr. Morsi's critics will say the constitution will favor the Islamists and sideline the liberal factions, the women's rights groups, the youth groups, the Christians. That's why people protested this week - John.

JOHNS: Reza Sayah reporting for us there in Cairo. Thanks so much for that.

Now to Israel, where even though there's peace, millions of families there and in Gaza are still dealing with the aftermath of the fighting.

CNN's senior international correspondent Sara Sidner joins us from Jerusalem. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Joe, mothers, fathers and children all dealing with the aftermath, whether they have lost homes, been dealing with the trauma of having rockets coming into their homes. But there is a place where they're being healed, a place that's really a zone of peace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): 4-year-old Joseph is listening to an age- old bedtime story, but he's not at home safe in his bed. He's in a hospital, a victim of an age-old conflict that has shattered his family life. He and his parents were staying inside this apartment building in southern Israel when a rocket from Gaza slammed into it. The blast sheer-off several of Joseph's tiny fingers, badly injured his father and took his mother's life. She was among the first to die on the Israel side of the border.

She is saying, my mother is not here. She's with God. He knows it will be a hard time, his grandmother says. Hard is putting it mildly. He has just been through a second surgery. Doctors at the Sheeba medical center at (INAUDIBLE) hospital reattached four of his fingers, but in the end, they had to re-amputate two of them. He lives in the south, and there are rockets all of the time in that area. Hamas doesn't think about where the rockets are going, she says.

While Joseph is being treated in this hospital room, one room away there is another child with the same kind of war injuries, except she is from the other side of the conflict. She's from Gaza. 8-year- old Bison (INAUDIBLE) lost three fingers when the war came to her home.

SAUD AL-AGHRAM, WOUNDED GIRL'S MOTHER (through translator): I heard the sound of a missile that hit. I didn't even have time to ask what happened, and then the second one hit.

SIDNER: She says,

When the dust cleared, she could see the bones of her child's fingers in small pieces on the floor. She was taken to el Sheba (ph) hospital in Gaza, but it was too crowded and they couldn't give her the best care, so the family asked Israel for permission to cross the border.

Initially, her mother was terrified. Terrified at the prospect of people considered an enemy in their country putting their hands on her wounded daughter.

It's a strange situation, and it's my first time entering Israel. I was afraid. But they treated me and my daughter in a very nice way, and I understand that medicine has nothing to do with politics, she says.

ZEEV ROTHSTEUN, CEO , SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER: All the tension is blocked outside the hospital. Here there is an island of sanity in the Middle East. Here we treat people who don't actually look where they are and what they do and what they did before coming here and what they're going to do after leaving us.

SIDNER: Dr. Batia Yaffe is treating both children.

DOCTOR BATIA YAFEE. DIRECTOR, HAND SURGERY: It will never be normal. It will affect her life from now on and his life from now on, and choice of profession and choice of hobbies and choice of a future partner for life. Everything.

SIDNER: She has worked in this Tel Aviv hospital her entire career. Treating everyone from soldiers to suicide bombers. And the civilians in between.

YAFEE: What is it in this piece of land that everybody is fighting about it all of the time? This is what comes to my mind, whether this is our love for eternity from now on, always have injuries on both sides? Always fighting? What's the point?

SIDNER: If there is a point, it is lost on a 4-year-old boy and 8-year-old girl from either side of the Israel-Gaza border who just want to be children but now share a similar fate. Their innocence interrupted by a war they had nothing to do with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: For the families and staff in that hospital, they say it's just too bad that island of peace doesn't extend to the rest of the region. Joe?

JOHNS: Thank you, so much. That's Sara Sidner in Jerusalem.

We saw secretary of state Hillary Clinton play a very public role in helping to secure the truths between Israel and Hamas. And behind the scenes, President Obama was credited with sealing the deal, and now they're dealing with the question of what will happen next in Egypt.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is standing by. First to our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty. There's concern about what's happening in Egypt right now, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is. They're watching it, Joe, very carefully. The state department wants to have more details, because after all, remember, just this week, he was being referred, Mr. Morsi, was being referred to as a statesman and there was a lot of responsibility put on his shoulders. He was praised a lot by President Obama for coming through and helping to clinch this deal. Now, if there is some question, if he could be taking some power that would concern the United States, they want to know more.

And also don't forget that while Secretary Clinton was in Cairo, just this past week, she was meeting with Mr. Morsi and in those discussions. She talked about the constitution that they are writing, and about the concern that they want many different groups included, including women and others, other minorities, and most importantly, not to go back on one of the goals of the revolution and that was not to concentrate too much power in the hands of one person or any one institution. So there is some concern can.

JOHNS: And Dan Lothian, let's talk a little bit about the president's involvement. It seems he was very involved, even though he was behind the scenes.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right. The president was very engaged in the process, and remember, this was a week where the president was in Southeast Asia, focusing on building democracy there and expanding not only business ties but also military ties in the region.

But the president working the phones to get this deal done is one official saying the president actually closed the deal in phone conversations, not only with Benjamin Netanyahu, which he spoke with him just about every day, but also with president Morsi, spoke with him frequently, as well. In fact, the president left the summit to get a phone call with president Morsi, told his advisers that if Morsi called back they should wake him. He did call back at 2:30 in the morning. The president took that call. The president also speaking with him on returning to the United States aboard air force one.

And so there were a lot of conversations that the president conducted behind the scenes on the phone. The White House giving a lot of credit to secretary of state Clinton. But also pointing out the president played a very important role, Joe.

JOHNS: I would like to ask you both, starting with Jill. Did we know behind the scenes there were very good chances of success in this when Hillary Clinton first set out on this trip, or was this more of a role of the dice, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think it's kind of a combination of both. After all, the president had been on the phone, secretary Clinton had been on the phone. And as you just heard, the White House is saying that basically the president, you know, clinched the deal.

But in that part of the world, clinching is not a word that's used very frequently. So there was -- there was a lot that could have gone wrong. And I think for the future there are things that can still go wrong. These ceasefires, and there have been others, don't always last. And you've seen President Obama jump fully into this, secretary Clinton very directly involved in a way they haven't been for quite some time. You know, in this Middle East conundrum. So down the road, how will this all turn out? Not totally clear.

JOHNS: Dan, do you think the White House viewed this as a bit of a risk going into it?

LOTHIAN: Well, look, there is always a risk when you're dealing with this kind of situation in this region where you've had this conflict going on for so long. But there had to have been some indication it was moving in a positive direction or they probably would not have sent secretary of state Clinton there to sort of seal this deal or get it all tied up.

They did have these phone conversations that I pointed out, and the White House saying that the president developed sort of a relationship of trust with president Morsi. And that's kind of interesting it, because you look back, it wasn't just a short time ago where the president was saying that Egypt was no longer an ally. There were a lot of concerns about president Morsi's ties to the Muslim brotherhood, and now you have them using words like this relationship of trust.

So clearly, they had some kind of understanding that this was moving in the right direction. Now they believe this will be critical in terms of dealing with some of the big issues in the region in the future.

JOHNS: All right. Dan Lothian at the White House. Jill Dougherty, thanks so much for that.

The events of the past few days could change the course of the future of the Middle East. Stand by for Wolf's interview with Israeli President Shimon Perez.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK0

JOHNS: Before the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire took place, Wolf Blitzer spoke to Israeli president Shimon Peres. They talked about the including the civil war in Syria right across the Israeli border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: Syria has a concentration of chemical weapons.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANCHOR: Are they secure right now?

PERES: They're under the control of Assad. I'm not sure they are secure. I wouldn't trust them very much. And they get missiles from Iran. And some people say it's OK. What do you mean, OK? They're not collectors of missiles. They fire them. They shoot them against them. Civilian life in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The world must take a clear position. They say it is disproportionate, the Israeli reaction, and shooting at Israelis is proportionate. After Israel left Gaza, how long can they destroy any chance for peace?

BLITZER: What's the role of Iran that is playing right now behind the scenes in Gaza?

PERES: Iran is possible competing with Egypt. They want to win. Their chance is to have more extreme on the outside. So they support not only Hamas, but also the jihad.

BLITZER: Islamic jihad.

PERES: Islamic jihad in Gaza. So the Islamic jihad forces them also to be more extreme. One of the problems in Gaza is there is nobody to really -- there is a competition among four or five different groups. The Salafists and the Jihad and many other groups and they're competing and Iran is supplying arms to all of them.

BLITZER: So who do you negotiate the ceasefire with?

PERES: Look, Hamas has to take charge, otherwise they don't have a future.

BLITZER: Can they?

PERES: I think yes. They don't have a choice. Not only them, but the others, too. If Hamas won't take a position, the people in Gaza will say -- to those others, stop it. What are you doing to? There are people in Gaza too. And none of us want to see them suffering. It doesn't give us any pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: We'll have more from Wolf's interview with Shimon Peres in a little bit. Among other things, Peres has some advice for everyone about staying active and vital when you're approaching the age of 90. Huge celebrations Ron on the streets of Gaza in the hours after the ceasefire was announced. Now a longer list of diplomatic winners and losers is emerging from the conflict. That's next.

You're in "the SITUATION ROOM."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Ever since the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire took effect, we have seen huge victory celebrations on the streets of Gaza city. But there's a much longer list of winners and losers.

Here is CNN's Paula Newton.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT(voice- over): However crude the calculation, especially amid the civilian casualties, there are winners and losers in this truce, and they are already reshaping political alliances in the region.

We begin in Egypt, and its president, Mohamed Morsi. Clearly underestimated, his deft handling of what is a mine field of competing interests has given him much needed political capital in both the Arab world and the United States.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: First civilian president in Egypt perceived as a weak leader has much to everyone's surprise delivered.

NEWTON: Then there's Israel and its tenacious prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. After Israel targeted and killed Hamas' military leader, he launched air strikes, hitting more than 1,500 targets in Gaza, dismantling some of Hamas' arsenal of weapons.

And Israel had a successful come bait debut of iron dome, U.S. defunded defense shield that kept dozens of rockets from hitting Israeli civilians. But the counter point to that is ironic. Hamas emerges as a big winner from this conflict and its truce.

MILLER: When Hamas has stronger, it consolidated control over Gaza and it has gained now more legitimacy.

NEWTON: In the eyes of the Palestinian people, the militant leaders of Gaza took on Israel more boldly than ever before. Firing rockets further than ever before. And they may yet manage to get an easing of the Gaza blockade if a more comprehensive deal can be done.

MILLER: Look what they have accomplished. They, rather than Abbas, has put the Palestinian issue back on the international stage.

NEWTON: And that brings us to those who have lost much in this conflict. Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah faction. The Palestinian leaders were supposed to be the moderate peace brokers. Now, they can't even claim to speak for all Palestinians, and proved they have no leverage with Hamas, their arch rival.

MILLER: This is not a good outcome for Abbas. It is not a good outcome for the pursuit of a two-state solution.

NEWTON: And always a player, Iran's hand is arguably weakened after this episode. Iron dome shot hundreds of its missiles out of the sky. What if Israel attacks Iran? Can it still call on Hamas to retaliate? In one week with one truce, allies and enemies in the region have shifted again. This will have an impact on any peace negotiations going forward.

Paula Newton CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Hamas is touting itself as the big winner in the more than week-long battle against Israel, but it may have suffered a mainly game-changing loss in the violence.

Our Brian Todd is joining us now with details. We're talking about a loss of leadership here.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe. You know the irony here is 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 Aljab re, he was Hamas' real military genius, but also, a man who could have reined in some of Hamas' more radical militants during the cease fire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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 stated 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 increased violence against Israel.

TODD: Elizabeth O'Bagy and other analysts admit, Jaberi 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 OF STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: People are surprised there were people were 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 Jaberi was one of the guys who put them in jail.

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

MATTHEW 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 a minimum, an organized militia of not an actual arm.

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 the of weapons to Hamas, including longer range missile 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 1,000 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: So now all eyes will be on the surviving Hamas leaders and whether they can bring those more fanatical elements of the group in line to keep some measure of peace within Israel. It is believed that a man named Mohamed Dafe (ph) who worked behind the scenes while Ahmed Jaberi was the public face of Hamas' military leadership has at least taken Jaberi's place, but Dafe himself is physically impaired by two assassination attempts by the Israelis and it's not clear how much control he has.

Joe, this is possibly a leadership vacuum militarily for Hamas. We are going to see what place out.

JOHNS: Brian Todd. Thanks so much for that.

Life in a war zone, when we come back, Blitzer's debrief Anderson Cooper on his experienced reporting from Gaza.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: At the height of the fighting between Israel and Hamas this week, CNN's Anderson Cooper was reporting from Gaza City as Israeli missiles rained down. He talked about that with Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is here in Jerusalem right, just out of (INAUDIBLE). You spent the last few days there. What was it like?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's, you know, it is obviously intense. I mean, 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 was 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 has got a coastline, it has got blue 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 with celebratory gun fire, they are so happy, they're smiling, they're relieved this is at least for now over.

COOPER: And to even relieved to be out of their homes. You know, I have not seen those streets crowded like that. There was -- streets were virtually empty at night. You could drive -- if you drive at all at night, extremely fast. And, you know, you never know where a rocket is going to go, because you never knew where Hamas may be, where they have an installation, where they have an office.

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

BLITZER: An Israeli collaborator.

COOPER: Allegedly, yes.

BLITZER: Palestinians -- 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 is -- it's obviously, you know, the divisions are very clear.

BLITZER: We saw explosions, literally not far away from you. We saw you ducking. We saw Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon, Sara Sidner. They were close to you, these bombs.

COOPER: Yes, very close. I mean, we were standing in front of an open window like this and you could feel the shock waves through your body sometimes. Sometimes, the windows would rattle, the building itself would shake. And we're talking, you know, a block away, two, three, four, five blocks away. And it's startling. Ben Wedeman much made of sturdier stuff than 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 Gaza.

BLITZER: You can only imagine the terror these people are feeling. COOPER: Right. And they have nowhere else to go and we were able to leave. I was there for nights, able to leave and back here now. But, you know, they don't have any other place to go.

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

COOPER: Right, it is a very laborious process.

BLITZER: Tell us about that. 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, no stamp or anything. You take a series of taxis to the border, where you get out, and you go through a series of checkpoint checkpoints, where you don't -- there's no people you interact with, because they're afraid, obviously. Israeli officials are frightened or concerned about people bringing explosive devices in, so it's a step-by-step process. You, 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 move all your bags into that room, they get a closer look at your bags on the CCTV camera. You take off your belt, go through -- you put your bags on a giant conveyor belt, a giant x-ray machine, they disappear. You then basically strip down, your belt, several metal detectors, full body scanner, and you're gradually systematically allowed to cross over into Israel. They then hand go through all your bags.

BLITZER: The Israelis do.

COOPER: At gunpoint going through your bags, very methodically, very carefully, after it's been through x-ray machines, every piece of equipment is gone through. They then hand it back. You 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 fired towards Israel.

BLITZER: So it's not as if they're a 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, as -- the closer you get with each door you go through, you're one step closer towards Israel and one step -- they have examined you one step further. It's a fascinating system to see up close.

BLITZER: Yes, but at some point, and you were there for what, three, four, five days?

COOPER: Right.

BLITZER: Must have been scared out of your mind. COOPER: You're definitely in a heightened state of awareness. You know, I wouldn't say scared, because I've been in a lot of areas over the years. But it's, you know, it is 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 who is the only difference between them and myself is the accident of birth and what zip code they were born into, and what -- 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 shells going off, rockets -- it's loud, thunderous noise. Could you get any sleep?

COOPER: Yes, actually -- I've been in, you know, starting way back in Sarajevo back in the early '90s. I have been in places under siege. And after a time you just ignore it, you cannot let it get to you, because you'll be paranoid about it all the time.

And so, and look, you know unlike the siege in Sarajevo where it serves lapping motorists in to the city they are seemingly on, unlike what's happening in Syria where Bashir Al Assad is, you know, indiscriminately lobbing shells, there is targeting involved in where the Israelis are striking. You can make arguments about whether it's effective or not or people will take me to task for this, but even Gazans will tell you. You know, I stood with many Gazans watching bombs go into buildings, and they were taking pictures. They had a sense of this is not indiscriminate shelling, there is a specific target, whether it's the correct target, whether 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 fire missiles into your building, you can very easily get killed.

BLITZER: One final question. Did they have any clue when you walked around the street, and they saw you were wearing body arrest more and a helmet. Do these folks know who you are?

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 who right now didn't work. A lot of people didn't have electricity. I think some people have 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 of the time.

BLITZER: I saw some pictures of you wearing it.

COOPER: Yes, in some cases you would wear body armor, other times you didn't. A lot of it had to do with I was interacting with people, 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, I feel like I should be taking a risk with them.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks for the excellent work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Israeli president Shimon Peres shares his take on President Obama and reveals to Wolf the one thing he says Israel will not forget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: The Obama administration clearly played a crucial role in encouraging Israel to agree to the ceasefire with Hamas. Wolf spoke with Shimon Peres about relations with the United States and Peres' longevity on the world stage. Here is some of Wolf's interview in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You remember during the American presidential campaign the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, accused President Obama of throwing Israel under the bus.

PERES: Well, let's look at the facts. Israel is not under the bus. The fact is that President Obama, and we shall not forget it, helped us to find us those missiles. And security, a conflict or anything, we asked them. They responded positively. And is the president of the United States. We enjoy the support of the two parties. And it is -- and I don't want to say anything against candidate Romney any time. But we are not taking parts in the American campaign. And we are lucky to have the support of the two parties. And until -- it's hard to become the president of the United States. And I met all the presidents for the last 50 years, Republicans and Democrats. I must say, most of them are exceedingly friendly. Exceedingly.

BLITZER: So what about you? You're getting close to 90 years old. That's hard to believe. You look so great. How do you feel?

PERES: I feel that I am too young to do the job. What can I tell you?

BLITZER: Because you still have some energy left.

PERES: I think that everybody can be like me. And I think I'm lucky to show my people. I'm here not to woo the people. I think quite someone here to woo should not be a representative of the people. But if I can help my people in any way, I'm glad to do so. And you know, if I'm in good shape, I don't have reasons to protest against it. It's acceptable for me.

BLITZER: I read in the Israeli press there was even some ideas that maybe you should challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming election.

PERES: Don't you think I'm too young for the job? BLITZER: I think you look great. Is there --

PERES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Is there any truth?

PERES: I don't -- I have responsibility to the constitution. I am the president of the Israeli people. I have to fulfill my town, which is another year and eight months. And I should be able call it end.

BLITZER: Finally, is there one piece of advice for viewers watching right now that you want to share on how you've managed to stay so youthful, so energetic, so alert all of these years?

PERES: The first thing is self control. Before I try to control anybody else, every person is the best doctor of himself. He knows how much to eat and how much not to eat. How much to work. And use your own experience to control yourself.

Secondly, be engaged. If you ask me, don't go on vacation -- I don't take vacations. I don't know what people are doing during vacations. It's a waste of time. The best vacation is to work, to work, to be engaged, to be curious, to care, to love people, and to be an optimist. You know, people are saying I'm too optimistic. My answer is that optimists and pessimists pass away the same way. They live differently. And people say optimists are wrong. May I say that pessimists are wrong, as well.

And I believe that you really have to sell, to be positive, to try and help. I believe generosity is stronger and wiser than cruelty or indifference or trying to control somebody else. The real secret of life is goodwill and not the macho process, to be powerful and strong.

And also, the highest degree of wisdom is the moral call. There is nothing wiser in life than to be an honest man. I am trying to.

BLITZER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

PERES: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: It's a newer high-tech way to warn Israelis of incoming rockets. Up next, you'll meet the teenager who came up with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: In Israel, blaring sirens are usually the first warning that a rocket is heading your way. But one teenager came up with an app for that.

Here is CNN Frederik Pleitgen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When rockets from Gaza come flying towards Israeli towns, time is of the essence. People have to run for cover and this new app can buy them a few additional seconds. It's called color red and sends out an alert when a rocket alarm goes off. Believe it or not, the idea for the color red app comes from a 13-year-old. Liron Be'er lives in Beer Sheba, a town near the Gaza border that's often targeted by rockets.

There are people that need to know what is happening and the regular services don't help them enough so I wanted to be the one that gave them the right information, he tells me.

And just then another alarm goes off. Israel has a sophisticated warning system for impending rocket strikes. With sirens alerting citizens to take cover. But people inside their homes or in office buildings don't always hear the sirens. We got caught up in several rocket alerts while shooting this story.

We have to get under shelter because there's another air siren alarm here n Beer Sheba. But thanks to this new app some people at least have more time to get to shelter because they get day letters really quickly. Let's go.

The app created by an application developer is free. It seems to work so well it's been downloaded more than 130,000 times since the conflict began.

How many of your friends have this as well?

MARK SHABA TAYEV, COLOR RED APP USER: All. Soldiers too and the police do. All.

PLEITGEN: Israel's government even sent out a notice urging news people to download the Color Red App. The army says any application that warns people of rocket strikes helps in the effort to keep citizens safe.

AVITAL LEIBOVICH, LIEUTENANT COLONEL, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESWOMAN: The time that people have here to run shelters is between 15 and 50 seconds. Any mobile device that can help it's a good solution.

PLEITGEN: And Liron Be'er says he thought up the application in his little room at his parent's home in Beer Sheba.

I'm very proud of myself, he says. A very small thing that I did is doing a great thing for the people in the south of this country.

Liron Be'er spend as lot of time updating the color red facebook page these days. He's got plenty of time. His cool is closed because of the ongoing rocket attacks.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN. Beer Sheba, Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Behind-the-scenes of the holiday travel rush an exclusive close up look at the race to get your flight ready.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: It is crunch time at airports across the country.

CNN's Sandra Endo went behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at what it takes to get flights turned around safely and on time.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it takes a team of people to make sure flights coming in get prepped and ready to go right back out. We got exclusive access to a ground crew team at united airlines to see how they get it done under deadline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

At the gate the action starts when these wands stop the plane. We got an exclusive up close look at united airlines highly choreographed ground services grew at Houston's Bush continental airport. First unloading a flight from Amsterdam. These metal containers are filled with luggage.

ANTWON WARDER, RAMP SERVICE AGENT: People don't realize there's a lot of processes going to get the bag from one destination to another. But we do it proficiently.

ENDO: Timing is everything when you turn a plane as these guys unload the cargo off the plane. You can see up there catering is restocking the plane with food. There's refueling, filling the water tank, and replacing pillows and blankets. BB Chavez watches over it all from a control center at the airport.

BB CHAVEZ, MANAGER, STATION OPERATION CENTER: I like to think of myself as a orchestra conductor. Ate very complex operation. Everybody has a responsibility. Everybody has a critical part of the mission.

ENDO: You have cleaning crews and maintenance checking to make sure everything inside the plane is ready to go for the next flight. The pilots arrive while as many as 35 employees continue to ready the aircraft for departure.

Workers can see just how long they have to complete their task by the countdown clock over there and typically it ranges, depending on the size of the plane, from 40 minutes to about an hour and a half. I got to climb inside a cargo hold being filled with bags for the flight back to Amsterdam.

SIMI KALASA, RAMP SERVICE AGENT: You stay out of the game and get yourself in and order in order to organized everything. You will be all right.

ENDO: But, it is heavy-lifting?

KALASA: Yes, it is. But when you do it so long you get used to it.

ENDO: Efficiency is key. The head of operations says it's not only good important passengers but for company profits.

STEPHANIE BUCANAN, UNITED VICE PRESIDENT, HOUSTON OPERATIONS: The faster we can turn an airplane the sooner we can get it back in the air flying and earning revenue for us.

ENDO: And a little over an hour since it landed this plane is, again, filled with passengers and ready to go. After a push away from the gate, the ramp crew is done. All that's left is a taxi to the runway, and take off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO: Each ramp services team turns around six planes a day per shift and while speed is certainly a factor, the airline says safety is their number one priority - Joe.

JOHNS: Remember, you can follow what's going on in "the SITUATION ROOM" on twitter. Just tweet @wolfblitzer.

I'm Joe Johns in the SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next.