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Israel Agrees to Ceasefire with Hamas; Immigration Crisis at U.S. Southern Border Continues; Metro Train in Moscow Derails; Some Families Deported from U.S. to Honduras; Good Samaritans Halt Carjacking; Eric Holder Worried About Westerners Joining War in Syria; The Counterterrorism Threat
Aired July 15, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get straight over to Wolf Blitzer who is in Jaffa who has been reporting on the ground for us. He's also joined by Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Wolf, this is the first Israeli response to the talks of this ceasefire.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": That's right, Kate. It's been five hours since the ceasefire supposedly went into effect. The prime minister's spokesman Mark Regev is here with me here in Jaffa overlooking Tel Aviv right behind us. We know the prime minister is in Tel Aviv over at defense ministry, five hours. What is the latest information, first of all, you're getting, because rockets still seem to be coming into Israel from Gaza?
MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The prime minister took a decision to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposals. Our goal ultimately is defensive. We want to protect the people of Israel from those incoming rocket attacks from Gaza. Now, if it's possible to do that diplomatically, we'll support that. The problem is so far it's a one-sided ceasefire. We've halted all offensive operations against terrorist targets in Gaza.
BLITZER: There's been no Israeli air strikes over the past five hours?
REGEV: Correct. We haven't initiated any offensive operations against terrorist targets, but there have been some 40 rockets fired at Israel, and this can't go on.
BLITZER: How much longer are you going to give it before Israel starts those air strikes once again?
REGEV: I can't answer that question. I don't want to answer that question and give a specific number. I can say the following. It's just unsustainable. Now, Hamas has to immediately abide by the ceasefire and stop all rocket fire against Israel. Otherwise Israel reserves the right, and I believe we'll have strong international support, for acting to protect our people.
It's not the first time, Wolf, we've tried to deescalate through diplomatic processes. Ten days ago, a fortnight ago, there was an attempt by Israel to deescalate, and then the answer we received from Hamas was more and more rockets.
BLITZER: If Hamas decides to honor the ceasefire, at least for the time being, Egypt says a high level Israeli delegation should go to Cairo, a high level Hamas delegation should go to Cairo, and then you work out the details. Are you open to that?
REGEV: We're open to a mechanism that gives long-term, sustained quiet and security to the Israeli public, an end to those missile strikes launched by the terrorists in Gaza, that's what we want. Now, if that can be achieved diplomatically, that's good. If diplomacy fails and Hamas continues to shoot, continues to try to kill our people, we will act to protect them.
BLITZER: Do you see a difference between the political wing of Hamas and the military wing of Hamas, because the military wing is making these very blunt statements? They reject it. We don't hear a lot though from the political leadership of Hamas.
REGEV: You know, for Israel there's one important thing that counts, and that is, are those rockets being fired or not? Now if those rockets stop being fired, that's one situation. If the rockets continue to be fired at our people, we will be totally within our rights to act to protect our people.
Now let's be clear. Israel has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire. If Hamas ruins this opportunity, we expect that they will be widespread, a very wide consensus in the international community in support of Israel continuing operations.
BLITZER: One final question. Are you sure Hamas is launching these rockets, because there have been reports that Islamic Jihad also has that capability in Gaza?
REGEV: As you've said, Hamas itself has had some problematic statements. Let's be clear. Hamas runs the Gaza Strip. It's not a democracy there in Gaza. They rule the strip with an iron fist. If they want to stop rockets being fired, they can do it. So far they have done not enough.
BLITZER: All right, Mark Regev, I know you're heading back to the defense ministry here in Tel aviv. And the prime minister has around- the-clock meetings, is that what's going on?
REGEV: Of course, we're also being updated about the developments on the ground militarily with rocket strikes on so forth and on the diplomatic front. But it's clear a ceasefire cannot just be one- sided.
BLITZER: All right, Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kate, back to you. It looks like that ceasefire is five hours in place right now. The Israelis haven't yet started their attacks, but if the rockets come in, presumably they will.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Wolf. Maybe a quick follow-up you could ask of Mark. He says that they have not launched any offensive attacks, but with the attacks coming from Hamas, have they responded at all, because we have reports on the ground that there have been attacks in Gaza?
BLITZER: That's a good question. Let me ask him. When you say Israel has not over the past five hours has not launched any offensive attacks, have you started defensive attacks? In other words, if there's a launching that you detect, will you go in and preempt?
REGEV: We will obviously keep that fluid. I mean, we have to protect our people. But I was speaking just a moment ago to the Israeli Defense Forces, and there was no information whatsoever of any action taken by Israel against Hamas, against the terrorists in Gaza. We were giving and are giving this ceasefire ample opportunity to succeed. But our patience, like anyone's patience, is not unlimited.
BLITZER: So what's your bottom line message to Hamas rate now?
REGEV: The rockets have to stop, one way or another. Either they will stop because the ceasefire works or they will stop because Israel will take steps to protect our people.
BLITZER: Mark Regev, once again, thanks very much.
So there you have it. It's a very fluid situation, I must say, Kate, and we're going to have to monitor it literally not just hour by hour but minute by minute and see what's going on.
I'm standing other in Tel Aviv over in Jaffa overlooking Tel Aviv, and over the past hour or so what we've been here I've heard several booms. Presumably those are those Iron Dome missile defense systems taking out some of those incoming rockets and missiles. You get used to it after a while.
BOLDUAN: Unfortunately, that is the case. Wolf, excellent reporting on ground. Thank goodness are you there to get that initial response, first response coming from the Israeli government, Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to you. Wolf, thank you so much.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're following other breaking news as well this morning. At least 15 people now dead after a metro train in Moscow derailed in the middle of rush hour. More than 100 people have been injured, some 50 of them critically. We've got Phil Black there with more. Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. Yes, this has now become a recovery operation. The rescue phase has finished. The emergency workers here believe that they have got everyone out who was alive or simply injured. They are now down there underground cutting through the wreckage of the subway train, trying to access the bodies, the ones they can't get to easily, which gives a sense of just how significant and how powerful the impact was that took place under ground here during that morning rush hour, that peak hour period.
There were hundreds of people aboard subway on this line at the time. They all came, stumbled up to the surface, very chaotic scene, a lot of walking wounded, bleeding, stumbling, people not quite knowing what had happened, and more than 100 of those people now in hospital, and, as you say, more than 50 are said to be fighting for life.
Officials here say this was a derailment. Crucially, they say it was not a terror attack which is always everyone's first fear here, because terrorists from the Caucasus region of Russia have struck with devastating effect on Moscow's metro system in the past. Not this time, but still a very significant human cost. Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Phil, thanks. Keep us up on that situation. Appreciate it.
Now let's go to the latest crisis along our southern border -- 21 Honduran children and 17 mothers have been deported. Their plane touched down late yesterday. And we'll give you more information about that. That means there's still tens of thousands of kids up in the air in conditions that are often not open to inspection. Making matters worse, there are only 12 working days left until Congress takes their month-long vacation.
We're all over this story. It couldn't be more urgent. Let's get to the White House with Correspondent Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, just to set it up for us, is there any chance that the president will say don't go on vacation when kids are being held in pens? You've got to solve this situation.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We'll see about that, Chris. I mean, as of this week the administration has lived up to its goal of starting at least to speed up the process for these people at border and send them home. But that also treads a fine legal line. Now there's some criticism from Democrats as to what kinds of terrible conditions are we sending them home to. Also, some fallout over how to humanely house and care for these kids and families in the meantime.
KOSINSKI: The border is tense, flooded, but the chief of homeland security had this to say after meeting with house Democrats last night.
JEH JOHNSON, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The message that I and others have been sending is that our borders are not open to illegal migration. We will send you back.
KOSINSKI: Later today, Texas Senator John Cornyn and Representative Henry Cuellar plan to introduce their bipartisan bill to treat kids from any country the same and send them home more quickly. Well, now, more families are being flown back to Central America, the first group to Honduras Monday. That's part of the government's sped up process to deal with the problem while the administration urges Congress to vote on funding and authorizing even more action. But every action has had a strong reaction, including now in trying to house the unaccompanied children and families seeking asylum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
CROWD: Justice! KOSINSKI: Communities have started blocking projects to create
temporary housing. That's happened in several states as spread out as California, Texas, New York, Virginia. The governor of Nebraska is angry that privacy laws prevent the government from telling states when children are temporarily placed with families there.
GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN, (R) NEBRASKA: Our concern is the cost, and they are not supposed to be receiving federal or state taxpayer-funded benefits. And the easiest way for us to make sure that doesn't happen is to know who they are.
KOSINSKI: But on the flipside, there's been some criticism from Democrats, too. While Republicans have rebuked the enormous resources requested, some Democrats said really now the administration is not helping these people enough.
SEN. TOM HARKIN, (D) IOWA: Round them up and ship them back. It sounds like we're dealing with cattle. On the one hand they say we want to send kids back as soon as possible, and then they turn around and say, well, but these kids are escaping violence and drugs and sexual abuse and gangs. How do you reconcile those two?
KOSINSKI: So right now the law requires these asylum-seekers to have this lengthy legal process even though the vast majority of them won't meet the burden for asylum. So the administration has been under this enormous pressure to speed up that process. At the same time though that's not exactly going over well with many Latino voters, some of whom have called President Obama the deporter-in-chief. Kate?
BOLDUAN: And Congress, they have got three -- about three weeks before they leave for their August break. Let's see what they do before then. Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much, Michelle, at the White House for us.
So, staying on this topic, Monday's flight touch down in a notoriously dangerous city in Honduras known for its very high murder rate. It's expected to be the first of dozens of flights chartered by U.S. immigration officials coming in the coming weeks delivering deportees back not only to Honduras but also El Salvador, Guatemala, and other parts of Latin America. Rosa Flores is in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with much more on this.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. And 18 family units arrived yesterday here to Honduras from the United States. I saw the list of those deportees, and I can tell you there was 18 women, 13 girls nine boys. Now the ages are very interesting because it's women as old as 49 years old and kids as young as six months. We saw that woman with the six-month-old, with the child in her arms.
Now, so what happens? So they arrive in Honduras and they get processed through immigration. They get asked a lot of questions about their experience in the United States, but perhaps the key is they get asked about why they left the country. And a worker inside that processing center tells me that the majority of the women mentioned that they were leaving violence and that they were leaving poverty here in this country.
Now, after that they get on a bus and they are on their way. They are free in Honduras. We talked to one of those women, and her eyes were swollen. She was very much saddened by the fact that she was back in her country and she was with her six-year-old girl. She told us that they made the trek alone. The little girl told us that they got on trains, which was very scary for her, that they slept out on the woods and that they saw monkeys and snakes, that it was a scary experience for her as well.
But that's the recurring theme. Those are the stories that we're hearing. And perhaps most importantly people saddened that now they are deported back into their country, they're deported back to the poverty and the violence that they were trying to leave behind. Michaela?
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And the violence that awaits them has very much been a driving force for many of those people who are looking for a better situation. Hopefully we'll get more stories from there. Rosa, thank you for giving us that perspective. We appreciate it.
It's 13 minutes past the hour. Let's give you a look at these headlines now.
A flare-up of violence has forced the United Nations to pull its staff out of Libya. A militia shelled Tripoli airport destroying 90 percent of the planes that were parked there and damaged the control tower with several rockets. More than a dozen people have been killed in fighting in Benghazi and Tripoli since Sunday.
In the meantime, a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi terror attack has been found dead. Locals say Faraj al-Shibli's body was found in an eastern Libyan city.
The U.N. Security Council has approved humanitarian aid to rebel-held parts of Syria. The resolution passed unanimously and does not require the Syrian government to authorize aid deliveries. Syria warns that it will consider any unauthorized aid delivery as an attack. The U.N. says more than 10 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid after four years of civil war.
Score one for the good Samaritans in southern California. A man allegedly tried to hijack a car with a woman and young girl inside, but no. A group of men stepped in and made sure that suspect didn't go far before cops arrived. It was all caught on video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA (voice-over): A heroic effort -- watch as thee bystanders struggle to stop an alleged carjacking. According to local reports the suspect, 21-year-old Ismael Hernandez, climbed into the driver's seat of this minivan while a woman and child were still inside. He tried to take off but hit a pole in the parking lot, according to police. That's when witnesses jumped in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seen a guy in the back seat choking out the
driver, and there were a couple other people at the window that were grabbing the keys from him.
PERREIRA: Watch again as bystanders drag Hernandez out of the car before he could take off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once I realized, I didn't really feel sorry for the guy.
PEREIRA: When officers arrived, Hernandez continued to struggle but was quickly arrested. His family tells CNN affiliate KGTV that Hernandez has been struggling with drugs and alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I saw the video, when he was aggressive like that, it was different.
PEREIRA: As for the woman and child, they were shaken up but not injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's great that people stand up for each other. I know that won't happen in a lot of other neighborhoods.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA (on camera): How frightening for that little girl, the little one, rather, and their mother. It's good to know that the good samaritans jumped in.
CUOMO: The guy is right. In a lot of neighborhoods ,it doesn't happen. It's amazing what people watch but not do anything about. They don't know how or they are afraid.
BOLDUAN: Yes, that's a good point. It wasn't just one person that came to their aid
PEREIRA: Nope, a whole lot of people.
BOLDUAN: My goodness, it was a whole group.
PEREIRA: Big people, too, which was nice. They overpowered him and police arrived shortly after, so that's good.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.
PEREIRA: No problem.
BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Attorney General Eric Holder says Westerners fighting in Syria pose a serious threat to the United States. Coming up, a counterterrorism expert is joining us on why Holder is sounding the alarm, calling it more frightening than anything he's ever seen.
CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Attorney General Eric Holder is scared. He's scared of foreign fighters from the U.S. and Europe joining the war in Syria. Why? Because he says they are linking up with extremists, including Yemeni bomb-makers, and returning home with a mission.
Take a listen to what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is a very real thing. I guess just last month or so, the first American became a suicide bomber. So this is not a theoretical problem that we are dealing with. This is something that's very real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Very real, but not being discussed very much. So the question becomes how dangerous is this really? Let's bring in Philip Mudd, a CNN counterterrorism analyst, former deputy director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center. In other words, Mr. Mudd, you will know the answer. Is the Attorney General speaking the truth? how serious is this threat, and why are we ignoring it?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I hate to tell you this, but this is a rare case where I would say, after 25 years in government, believe the government official. And the reason is twofold.
First, when you're in the terrorism business -- and I sat at the threat table with Attorney General Holder four years ago -- when you're in the threat business in terrorism, every person counts. Three cases, five cases, ten cases, if you make one mistake on one case, a shopping mall gets shot up. That's a disaster.
In this case, you're talking about dozens of kids coming home, and in the counterterrorism world that is a flood of people. So the first problem you're facing is volume. The second problem I would mention is time. We've been at this civil war in Syria for four years. ISIS has been on a roll for months. If you consider that already we've had dozens of kids come home, what about 2015, what about 2016, when does this end?
CUOMO: All right. So hold on a second, because from my perspective Syria is a situation we've backed away from. I mean, it will come as a surprise to most Americans to hear that we're dealing with one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent history there. There are hundreds of thousands of people displaced and fleeing with nowhere to go. You know that breeds extremism and extreme measures to survive, so what are we doing wrong in this situation?
MUDD: I think the question about what we're doing wrong goes back to the origins of Syria. It doesn't have to do with extremism. It has to do with the humanitarian disaster we faced years ago and the president's decision not to intervene.
I'm not here to judge the president but I am here to say, as an expert in terrorism and extremism, when you get a situation where there's a power vacuum in the Middle East, people with extremist views are going to move into that vacuum and start to provide not terrorism but security. People vote with their feet when they're facing insecurity. That is, they're not looking for democracy, they're not necessarily looking for the Syrian government to return. They're looking to go out the front door and go to the shopping mall so that they can buy groceries.
And that's what the extremists are providing in places like Syria and Iraq. They're filling a vacuum. And over the course of years they might cement control in those areas and turn their attention to things like how they send more extremists home to places like Europe and the United States.
CUOMO: So you're saying, yes, Iraq is a problem if it continues to disintegrate. Of course, Afghanistan. But Syria is where we should be focusing. That's why it's troubling we haven't been hearing about it so much.
So take us inside the threat room, Mr. Mudd. When you're in there and you're looking at Syria, what kind of decisions are being made by our government right now?
MUDD: Boy, there are some tactical decisions. You sit there every morning -- we sat there with the FBI director, and the Attorney General, there's about 10 of us, 12 of us sitting around the table. You have literally a matrix of threats, the most significant problems or cases you're facing in the United States. That's a tactical issue. New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Sacramento. Kids cropping up everywhere. Sometimes individuals, sometimes small groups trying to do things like build backpack bombs or find a weapon so that they can shoot up a shopping mall.
So there's a tactical question about what you do about that? How long do you watch them? How much threat do you sit on? How much risk you take when you go home every night that that kid is not going to decide that night to go shoot something up?
Then you've got a bigger strategic problem, and that's where Syria and Iraq come in. You've got to sit there and say, OK, the Germans, the Italians, the Russians and British, they're all dealing with hundreds or thousands of kids in Iraq and Syria. How do we partner with them so that we can see which kids are going in and which kids are coming out for one simple reason. You don't want to find those kids after they get home. You want to know about them before they get off a plane. Because if you only find out after they get home, you risk missing a few of them and that's a disaster in the counterterrorism world.
CUOMO: But you only have a finite amount of assets, so when you look at, well, you've got the Middle East, you've got Israel and Gaza going at it; you've got Lebanon that has its own situation; you've got ISIS that's dealing with moving back into Iraq now, seems to be doing very well with that; you have Afghanistan. Do you put Syria at the top of the list?
MUDD: Yes, I would. For the simple reason. If you look at the problems you talked about, for example, Israel, Palestine or Lebanon, typically you're not talking about threats to the U.S. homestand. When you're in the security business, you have one primary question -- when is something going to happen in a U.S. city that damages the lives of American families and men and women across country?
That's -- we face a security problem, obviously, you were talking about it earlier, between Israel and Palestine. That's not the same as a kid coming home and blowing up the subway in New York City.
So to my mind I look at Syria and Iraq and realize that not only do we have a volume problem, but as I said earlier, I mean, if we're sitting on this in 2016 potentially with hundreds of kids coming home, one of the problems you face, you mentioned resources, is you can't take one of those kids off the table. In other words, you can't say a kid who came home in 2014 is OK in 2016. Maybe he'll decide two years after he got home that it's time to move. You start to realize you've got a mushrooming problem with no end in sight.
CUOMO: Well, hopefully the Attorney General talking about it means that our homeland security and all our operative agencies have been dealing with it already before we hear about it publicly. But one thing's for sure. I'm no alarmist but I need to have you, Mr. Mudd, on speed dial. Thank you for giving us the perspective this morning. We'll be calling you again soon.
MUDD: My pleasure. Take care.
CUOMO: Thank you.
All right, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, on Inside Politics, the border crisis gets worse with more children flooding into the U.S. every day. Some facilities are running out of space, but some governors are telling the federal government they don't want the children sent their way. So what happens next?