Return to Transcripts main page


Hundreds Flee Gaza Amid Israeli Air Strikes; Severe Storms Across the U.S.; Congress to Focus on Border Crisis

Aired July 14, 2014 - 08:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Mass exodus. Thousands of Palestinians now evacuating Gaza, hundreds of them Americans. A deadly weekend there with one family of 18 killed by Israeli attacks, new Israeli casualties as well. The question, what is the best chance for peace?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The big chill. Temperatures plummeting across the Midwest and parts of the East. New summer lows set in for millions as fierce flooding and deadly lightning hitting across the U.S. And Disney's monorail forced to evacuate amid the weather madness.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN investigates. Are sexual predators beating the system and getting hired at the nation's biggest, busiest theme parks? The shocking details CNN uncovered.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Good morning. And welcome -- welcome once again to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Monday, July 14th, 8:00 in the East.

Israel's military and Hamas militants both bearing down for what could be a long battle in the Middle East. Hundreds now fleeing their homes in Gaza where air strikes have killed more than 170 people. Israel says the strikes are needed to stop Hamas terror group after years of rocket fire.

CUOMO: And this morning, Israel says it shot down the Hamas drone flying near the Israeli coast. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the video. This as more than 130 rockets were fired at Israel Sunday, sending citizens running for shelter.

Joining us now from near the Israeli-Gaza border is Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN's "SITUATION ROOM", of course.

Wolf, good to have you. Good to see that you're safe. I often call you the team captain, without dating you, you have extensive experience in the region. You worked for the local paper in Jerusalem. You worked for "Reuters."

And with that experience, how does what is happening now size up to you in terms of what you've seen in the past?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, obviously there is a full scale war, whether '73 war or the wars of Lebanon, it is a lot more brutal. But this is bad.

Clearly, a lot of civilians are in danger. As tough as it is for Israelis on this side of the border, I'm not very far from the Israel- Gaza border, so a whole lot worse what's going on in Gaza right now because it's such a small area and there are so many Palestinians concentrated in a small area.

And the Hamas forces, they keep sending these rockets and missiles into Israel. The Israelis go after where they're launched but, inevitably, there are going to be civilian casualties and there have been a lot of civilian casualties. You just reported some of the numbers, Palestinians have been killed, a lot of Palestinians killed, many more have been injured. There have been Israeli injuries, but so far no deaths here in Israel.

So, it's a brutal situation. People are scared on both sides, but they're terrified, obviously, a whole lot more in Gaza right now. And as much as the situation is bad, you know, the full scale war is whether a Six-Day War or '73 war, other wars, they're a whole loss worse. But this is -- I'm not trying to diminish this by any means. This is an awful, awful situation.

CUOMO: A quick question about the violence and then a quick question about the potential for peace.

The violence --when people look at the numbers, Wolf, it is not good for Israel from the perception because you don't have the dead. You don't have the high numbers that you see on the other side. How do you adjust perspective in the face of the numbers?

BLITZER: Well, the numbers are totally one-sided, 160, 170, 180 Palestinians are already dead, many of them children, women, elderly. And here in Israel, it's that a lot of about 800 rockets and missiles that come have come, but the Israelis are very sophisticated. When they seem to be coming toward a populated area, they have this Iron Dome anti-missile system. They launch these counter-missiles if you will and they do a pretty good job, the Israelis claim, they have 87 percent, 88 percent, almost 90 percent success rates.

If the missiles and rocket are going to go into an unpopulated area, farm land, open area, they don't bother to send up those Iron Dome n terms of the casualties, it is lopsided.

I was here at the end of 2012 the last time Israel and Hamas effectively went to war and there were relatively few Israeli deaths. There were some, not many, but there were hundreds of Palestinian deaths at the time. That was a lopsided casualty count as well, that just goes with the nature that the Israelis are much better in terms of self-defense. There isn't a whole lot of self-defense in Gaza because the rockets

come up, the Israelis go after where they're launched and sometimes launched from heavily populated areas.

CUOMO: By way of instruction, I want to direct the audience to what is behind you. That is a collection of ordinance that has gone off, right?

BLITZER: Right. These are rockets that came in to this area. I'm in Sderot. This is an Israeli town not far from the border with Gaza. If you take a look, you can see these are the shells. These are shells that went off, they were not intercepted by that Iron Dome system. They just went off and they went off in relatively unpopulated areas in the outskirts, if you will, of Sderot, this town where I am right now.

Every time a rocket comes in, by the way, into this area, since it is so close to Gaza, only a few miles away, they only have a limited amount of capability in terms of 15, 20 seconds for people to hear the sirens and then go seek some sort of shelter and if you're further north, further away from Gaza, whether Tel Aviv, you might have a minute, minute and a half, a little extra time to seek shelter.

But when you're close to the border as we are right now, it's basically 15, 20 seconds. If the sirens were to go off right now, we have about 15 seconds, 20 seconds to get inside and get into a safer area.

CUOMO: Those full shells behind you certainly give some perspective.

You've been reporting there for many years, nobody knows it better. Wolf, please stay safe.

And remind us -- of the rest of you are watching the situation, it was Wolf who back in the '70s asked the leader of Egypt about the possibility of athletes getting to visit again and wound up started a dialogue that many say contributed to a new process for peace. We'll see what he reports from the region this time. Be sure to watch him, anchoring from the Israel/Gaza border live at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Meantime, the United Nations is warning of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Let's talk more about all of the situation there. Joining us is Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, which raises money to aid the Palestinian people. He's also the executive director of the Palestine Center.

Mr. Munayyer, thank you so much for coming in. Thanks for your time.


BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the situation on the ground. Every day brings another barrage of rockets, one side to the other. We also know of leaflets being dropped by Israel in northern Gaza, alerting citizens to -- alerting residents to get out, to seek shelter. We're also hearing that Hamas is urging the same residents to remain at home.

Why is that?

MUNAYYER: Let's keep in mind that the context at play here, you have to remember the Gaza Strip is a very small territory that is teeming with people. It is extremely densely populated area and the reason for that is because the vast majority of people there are refugees from towns and villages inside of Israel where they had homes razed to the ground. So, that refugee crisis that is a human rights crisis, not just humanitarian crisis, plays into the ongoing humanitarian crisis that we see today and have seen for several decades.

And so, there is a tremendous trauma among the population of Gaza and having already experienced depopulation, the destruction of your homes. And so you can understand why so many of them are absolutely terrified at the prospect of becoming refugees once again.

This is the context in which the deeper historical context in which this bombardment is happening against a largely civilian population.


BOLDUAN: Right. But with all of this -- but with all of this context, why then if Israel is trying to alert citizens and civilians there that they need to get out to keep them safe, why is Hamas telling them to stay at home?

MUNAYYER: Unfortunately, we have seen on many occasions in the past where Palestinians have complied with all different kinds of messages from the Israeli military and still have been bombarded in what was supposed to be safe areas, most notoriously perhaps was the event in the Israeli operation cast led in 2008, 2009, where they bombed a school filled with refugees, a United Nations school filled with refugees and killed scores of people there.

So, there really is no safe place in the Gaza Strip. There is no refuge for people in the Gaza Strip. Places throughout the territory are being bombed. They -- the Israelis are not permitting Palestinians to exit through the Erez Crossing in the north, only passport holders of foreign nations are allowed to exit through the border in the south.

So, people are literally trapped inside this large open air prison and being told to effectively move to a different corner of the prison cell. That's really not in benefit of protecting civilians in any way.

BOLDUAN: Israeli prime minister pointed out, he also kind of suggests that Hamas is trapping them in this open air prison as well as you just said. I mean, they're accusing Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire. The prime minister saying this, and this really stuck with me -- we, the prime minister saying, we're using missile defense to protect our civilians and they're using civilians to protect their missiles.

Are they?

MUNAYYER: Again, you're missing the fundamental point here that you have a --

BOLDUAN: What am I missing?

MUNAYYER: I'm attempting to explain to you. You have a massive state-backed military against a non-state actor, operating within what is a civilian population because they simply do not have a state- backed army. You cannot, as the Israelis do, deny a people statehood for years and years on end and then wonder why they do not resist as a state. It is simply not going to happen that way. It doesn't happen in any similar context like this.

So I think, you know, the talking points that the Israelis put forward is the rhetoric, you know, they maybe catchy for sound bites and so on, but there is also another reality here, and that's that the Israelis are using their weapons to perpetuate an occupation and a siege in the Gaza Strip for decades now, where as Palestinians, some of them, are using weapons to resist that.

BOLDUAN: As any talk of cease-fire seems to be slipping further and further away, what do you think will change that realistically at this point?

MUNAYYER: Well, I think there needs to be intervention from the international community and particularly the United States, which has some leverage over the Israelis. Few players do. And that's really the important part here.

You know, the United States has offered to facilitate a cease-fire, but more are needs to be done, offering facilitation is not enough.


MUNAYYER: It is important that the United States demand the cease- fire because the reality is, look, the Israelis went in multiple times with all kinds of force and were unable to change the military dynamic.

There is no military solution to this. Knowing that, and engaging in a war in which civilian casualties are inevitable is truly poor decision-making and in fact is criminal.

BOLDUAN: And civilian casualties continue to mount with every passing day.

Yousef Munayyer, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for being part of the discussion.

MUNAYYER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.


CUOMO: Back here at home, weather creating a lot of trouble. Some people dealing with a weird mix this week. The Midwest is going to see unusually low temperatures in some places. It could get into the 30s while the Northeast and mid-Atlantic will face severe thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, even the happiest place on earth was not immune to the less than happy conditions. People stuck on the Walt Disneyworld monorail for an hour and a half because of a power outage. Can you imagine that on vacation?

George Howell has more from storm-weary Chicago.

What do you have to tell us?


So, yes, we have seen storms here in Chicago. And, look, it is July. And we're talking about cooler temperatures on the way. It is kind of depressing it look at that.

The big picture, though, has been a lot of severe weather, storms in the area, and a lot of rain.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flash flooding over the weekend in suburban Chicago turned residential streets into impassable rivers. This driver tried to cross it. But then look -- moments later, he and his son had to be rescued after the car got stuck.

So much rain fell so quickly. It flooded basements and overwhelmed the sewer system in Burbank, Illinois.

KENNETH SANDERS, BURBANK PUBLIC WORKS: It came down so fast, the water couldn't keep up. Our sewers couldn't keep up with the water we had. Everything just backed up on us.

HOWELL: Two to four inches of rainfall fell in Northern Illinois. Four to six inches soaked communities down state. And more rain is in the forecast.

In Florida, the weather caused a chaotic scene at the happiest place on Earth. About 120 passengers had to be evacuated from the monorail at Disneyworld after a power outage caused it to stop in its tracks, trapping passengers 30 feet in the air. Witnesses say they saw a few bolts of lightning nearby. Disney officials blame bad weather for the power outage.

Then, in Colorado, lightning strikes from passing storms made for dangerous conditions in the high altitudes of Rocky Mountain National Park.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't see the bolt, it was just a white flash.

DAN IVARSON, LIGHTNING VICTIM: I felt like something hit me in the head. And I lost my vision and hearing for a solid 10 seconds.

HOWELL: Officials say two people died as a result of lightning strikes in as many days, 13 others were injured. Looking ahead at the forecast, many parts of the country are in store for the feeling of fall in what's normally the warmest time of the year. Unseasonably cooler temperatures are expected as the jet stream dips down farther south than usual, dropping normal summer temperatures, some 10 to 20 degrees.

Though in places like Wisconsin, people are all taking it in stride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the winter we had, I think that 60 degrees still feels rather tropical.


HOWELL: So, look, if you're in the Midwest, get ready, cooler temperatures ahead, grab the scarf, you may need it.

And here is the other thing on the east coast, that threat of severe weather definitely something to keep an eye on.

PEREIRA: Marquette, we see you, 47 degrees. We all send you warm hugs if you're watching from Marquette this week. My goodness.

George, thank you. Good tips. We'll be ready for it.

Let's give you a look at more of your headlines at this hour.

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl could return to life as an active duty U.S. soldier as early as today. He has completed therapy at an Army hospital and is expected to take a job at Ft. Sam Houston. He'll live with a pair of soldiers who will help him adjust to life in the U.S. after five years being held in captivity with the Taliban. He also expected to meet with the officer that is leading the investigation into his 2009 disappearance.

The wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia is afloat again this morning. Overnight, workers slowly lifted the vessel by pumping air into tanks attached to the ship. It will eventually be towed away in one of the biggest maritime salvage operations in history. You'll recall in 2012, the Concordia struck a reef off Italy's coast, capsizing and killing 32 people.

The Pakistani teenager who became a global symbol of fighting terror is vowing to help free hundreds of school girls being held in Nigeria. Malala Yousufzai celebrated her birthday with some girls who escaped the April abduction. And today, on Malala day, she pens an editorial in "The Washington Post," lamenting the millions of girls worldwide unable to go to school and makes a plea to prevent students from being targets of violence.

Disappointment turned to rage in Buenos Aires following Argentina's loss to Germany in the World Cup. Unruly fans vandalized shops, they threw rocks and bottles at riot police, some 30 arrests were made. By contrast, the mood across Germany, weirdly, it's jubilance. The 1-0 win over Argentina, Germany's fourth World Cup title, their first since 1990 when they also defeated Argentina.

Hey, I want to show you how a German astronaut celebrated. Alexander Gerst tweeted these pictures after his home nation won.

Happy guy in space. Knowing that his team won.

BOLDUAN: Play soccer in space, you'll need Velcro, I guess.

PEREIRA: Challenging. Yes, you would need Velcro. I feel like Velcro would be a must have item aboard the ISS, you don't think?

CUOMO: For everything. Although it does make you look like you have great ball control.

PEREIRA: Slow motion.

CUOMO: Now, it is a great for them though because they have won four, so that makes them tied for second most ever. And it is their first win since reunification.

PEREIRA: That's right.

CUOMO: Last time it was West Germany as a stand alone country.

PEREIRA: Congrats, Germany.

CUOMO: We like to say, a billion people watched.

BOLDUAN: That is unbelievable.

PEREIRA: Just like our show.

CUOMO: That's right.

Slightly less than NEW DAY.

Coming up on the show, President Obama says $4 billion is required to fix the situation on the border. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of innocent children hang in the balance. The question, what will Congress do?

And the incredible story of a young girl who played dead as her family was killed around her. She did that just to survive. She's now speaking out about that unimaginable tragedy.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Listen to this, kids are being warehoused on the border in conditions that we aren't allowed to access as freely as we should. Wouldn't that usually inspire a massive aid mission? Well, not when they're undocumented kids. Then they're just a sign of a problem.

And as troubling as that is, the bigger concern is what will Congress do about this problem that they're all shouting about? A $3.7 billion package is on the table from the president, the question is will they accept it, will they come up with something else, will they just talk?

Let's bring in Ruben Navarrette. He's CNN contributor and columnist for "The Daily Beast."

Appreciate having you here on NEW DAY.

The situation is painfully obvious. Do you think this gets accepted or do politics force some further iteration?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right, there is a lot of politics, Chris. I think politics is really changing the view of folks on this issue, clouds their thinking. This is about a humanitarian crisis and about taking care of these kids.

I don't think the Republicans have the nerve to kill this package. I think they're going to accept the package, because they want to get rid of this, which is what part of the package is for. They also want to -- I don't think they have the nerve to stand up and say that they don't want these kids treated well on U.S. soil, which is what the rest of the package will do.

BOLDUAN: One thing I'm wondering is you've got kind of -- got eye lot of conflicting parts of this. You describe it as kind of octopus tentacles and all the issues at play.


BOLDUAN: But at its core, you look at the politicians who are examining this, secure the border, put more resources there, or get these kids processed through this system faster. Does one of those have to happen before the other can? Can they not happen in conjunction?

NAVARRETTE: I think in politics, they want to do it first, they want to secure the border first, and then deal with the humanitarian issues.

It doesn't work that way. You're right, Kate. They both have to happen at the same time. And as I'm saying, I think at the end, you'll have a compromise, you'll have the funding for the president and they'll come forward and try to alleviate the situation.

But the kids are suffering right now, as we pointed.

BOLDUAN: That is going to change that? In the end, they'll reach a compromise. But right now, if you heard lawmakers talking over the weekend, it sounds like they're no closer to moving first, they say the president can move first as well.

CUOMO: Yes, but they can't do it. See, that's the problem here, is that the two issues that you outlined, securing the border and deporting them, neither can be done. You cannot secure the border to anyone's satisfaction. They have already done that.

We have put -- I've spent weeks on the border showing how we secured it, it is not secure. So, forget that. You know, forget that as an answer.

Then, it is, well, send them back fast. You can't find out where they're from or who is there for them? Right?


CUOMO: That problem is being ignored. That's what we saw with the governor in Nebraska, right? He said, they just sent me the kids, they didn't tell me where they're from. They don't know where they're from.

NAVARRETTE: Right, I think there is a tendency to oversimplify this issue on both sides. There are folks who say we should keep them all, all 57,000, and whoever comes next. And there are folks who say we have to deport them all.

The more rational point of view is to say, treat them as refugees, don't let them get sucked into this endless immigration debate, which has no resolution. We've been debating his for years.

BOLDUAN: Focus on this humanitarian crisis.

NAVARRETTE: Focus on this, treat them as refugees, hear their cases, and see who can stay and who has to go back. But take politics out of it as much as you can.

PEREIRA: Dare I ask why is it they're not seen as refugees?

NAVARRETTE: Because we have a tendency to think of anybody that comes across the border uninvited is an immigrant and illegal immigrant. And I think the minute we start calling these kids illegal immigrants, we've lost the debate, because in fact, they are coming from war torn places, they have their lives threatened, they've been sexually assaulted, threatened with war, families threatened to be killed.

So, of course, they're refugees. At least give them a hearing so we can find that out.

CUOMO: And that's not a brace, by the way. The law that is operative here is passed in 2008, it was bipartisan law, Bush signed it, but obviously the Democrats pushed very heavily for it, it calls for an asylum hearing. It's part of the law that these kids were being trafficked, that's what the law was designed for, not this specifically, they get a hearing.

We're not even hearing, no put intended, about that here.

NAVARRETTE: That's right. Because this is an election year in 2014, in November is rolling around. A lot of Democrats in Congress are nervous about this, they feel if people are allowed to stay, it's going to create more turmoil in the community like happened in Murrieta and (INAUDIBLE). So, in an election year there are political considerations and

unfortunately, the humanitarian issues are taking a back seat to that.

BOLDUAN: I thought it was really interesting. You wrote an interesting column about this in "The Post" over the weekend, that you said that you do believe there could be real political fallout for the president in not visiting the border. Some said it's just a photo-op, why are you telling me -- that's what presidency is about in some part. You have to do these photo-ops to show that you care.

What's the fallout, do you think?

NAVARRETTE: This is going to be a big story. It's coming out. I got a call last week from a prominent Latino Democrat, who's familiar to your viewers, because he appears on CNN. He called me afterwards and said he agreed with my column and he thought this was hurting the president, with Latino Democrats in particular, because as a president, we expect you to go to the border to see the crisis firsthand.

When you say you don't want to go to the border, you're saying, they're suffering there, these kids are suffering, I don't want to see their faces because then I'm going to have to do something about it.

And the fact that he didn't go to the border really hurt him. On top of the fact that he wants to get rid of these kids, (INAUDIBLE) without due process, and top of the fact that was we started talking at the beginning as Chris pointed out, these conditions are horrible that they're being housed in.

CUOMO: And the politicians, the excuse, they won't let us in. Have you ever heard of politicians being kept out of a situation they want to see, if they really want to see it, right? That's not happening --

BOLDUAN: There has been a lot of political discussion that they said there are privacy concerns. Some Republican members of Congress have gone down there and who have been turned away and said they could not talk to the kids, they could not see the kids and they're fighting it back and forth.

NAVARRETTE: And members of the media, where we go see the kids, they take away our cell phones. They don't let us talk to the kids.

CUOMO: They don't let us in. That's fine.

NAVARRETTE: We're not allowed in.

CUOMO: That's fine.

You want to play the privacy concerns, do it. But the idea that, I'm just never -- all I'll say is this, I've never seen a situation where politicians wanted access to something and didn't get it --


CUOMO: -- like this. These are kids who are in bad conditions, we know what the guys in charge of them say we're doing as well as we can, but suboptimal.

NAVARRETTE: Right. We need a humanitarian push. These kids don't have showers, hygiene, adequate food and housing.

The administration is spinning at saying that the minute we found out about these kids, we jumped in with both feet to help them. That's not the case.

BOLDUAN: We don't see it.

NAVARRETTE: That's not the case.

So, politics and election year is mixing everything up and I think the kids have gotten lost. This crisis started about kids, but now it's become about politicians and sound bites.

CUOMO: That's why they're not going. That's why Obama didn't go. That's why the other side is not going. They don't want to be seen with the kids because then the politics becomes cheap.

NAVARRETTE: Right. And then we start saying, OK, you posed with the kids and what are you going to do about it?

CUOMO: That's exactly right.

NAVARRETTE: They don't like hearing that.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Ruben. It's great to see you.

NAVARRETTE: Good to see you. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in.

Coming up next, Wolf Blitzer on the ground in Israel. Just moments ago rockets from Gaza targeted the town where he is, shrapnel falling just feet from him. He's going to join us live to talk about it and the ongoing situation.