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Interview with Mark Regev; Interview with Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida; Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza; It is Still Undetermined Who Shot Malaysian Plane Down
Aired July 18, 2014 - 6:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Israeli delegation just came back here to Jerusalem. They were in Cairo meeting with officials as far as the cease-fire is concerned.
Is a cease-fire now off the table?
MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Hamas slammed the door to the cease-fires.
BLITZER: Can it be revived?
REGEV: One way or another, this will end and the people of Israel will not live in fear of these incoming rockets from Gaza. That's our bottom line.
BLITZER: Well, the question is on the cease-fire, can the Egyptians, together with people in -- leadership in Qatar or Turkey or the Europeans, the United Nations, the U.S., can they achieve a cease- fire? What would Israel want in exchange for a cease-fire?
REGEV: Our goal is actually very simple. And it's defensive. We want a sustained period of quiet for our people.
BLITZER: So if Hamas tomorrow or today even would say no more missiles, rockets coming into Israel, would you pull out those Israeli troops?
REGEV: You know, Hamas could say something and do something else. We also don't want to give Hamas a time-out because they could lick their wounds because we've been hitting them hard. They can lick their wounds and rest and then we have rockets on Israel tomorrow or the day after. We're looking for sustained period of quiet for the people of Israel.
BLITZER: Very quickly, because Israeli military officials have told me they want to destroy as much of Hamas' military infrastructure as possible because they anticipate pressure for cease-fire will grow. Is that an accurate analysis?
REGEV: Yes, we are acting today our military to take apart Hamas' terrorist infrastructure that is happening as we speak. When this is over and Hamas and the Hamas leaders come out from their bunkers deep underground, they'll see that the terrorist machine that they once commanded very little left of it. BLITZER: Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu. I know he's meeting with his cabinet right now. We'll continue to get updates. Thanks very much.
REGEV: My pleasure.
BLITZER: There you have it, Kate. This is going to continue. I see no opportunity at least in the next few days for a cease-fire. Diplomats will be working to achieve it, but that does not look very likely, at least not now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It seems clear at this moment. Wolf, you're on the ground as things change and they do change very quickly as we've already seen since you've been there in Israel. Thank you very much. Thanks to Mark Regev as well.
Coming up next on NEW DAY, who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The latest on the investigation, the grim recovery effort that is now under way and international outcry in response to this tragedy. We're covering the breaking news from every angle for you. We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Friday, July 18th.
We are following two huge breaking news stories for you this morning, including Israel's ground offensive into Gaza. Israel says one soldier has already been killed as the military targets tunnels being used by Hamas militants to infiltrate Israel. We're going to get much more on that, coming up.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But, first, more on the Malaysia airlines disaster. Ukraine has now closed air space over rebel-controlled areas in the eastern part of that country and now that a U.S. official has confirmed the worst fears, that it was a missile that shot down Malaysia Flight 17, killing 298 people. Most of the passengers have been identified. So far, no Americans.
BOLDUAN: The blame game well under way, unfortunately. Ukrainian officials are calling for blood. They accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane, but Russian President Vladimir Putin -- he is quickly firing back. He says its Ukraine's crackdown on the rebels and military campaign in the area that is to blame.
BERMAN: Now, the United Nations Security Council, including Russia, is set to meet in emergency as countries step up the pressure on the separatists to let inspectors, impartial inspectors reach this site safely.
We are putting the full resources of CNN into our breaking news coverage. We are back now with our excellent panel.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson in Kiev. We also have aviation expert, Richard Quest, our military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski, and CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo.
And, Nic, I want to start with you in Kiev. We did just get a new piece of information in. Ukrainian intelligence is now saying that not only are the black boxes from this flight in the possession of Russia in Moscow, but also somehow the missile launcher, perhaps the BUK missile launching device that fired this missile that brought down this plane.
What are you hearing, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's something, that, obviously, is going to point the fingers very firmly at the Russian separatists here who are backed by Russia. This is the allegation all along from the Ukrainian authorities. They released audiotapes that purport to show pro-Russian separatists talking to what they call their Russian handlers. This is the narrative of responsibility for the shot down the government is painting very clearly here.
This new information that the government says that it has that the black box recorders are now already in Moscow, that Moscow has the launching device, if you will, again, paints a very clear picture -- a picture that the government here is trying to put across almost since the get-go, almost for the whole 24 hours since the plane was shot down. Independently verifying that, hearing the confirmation of that from Moscow and hearing if you will what Moscow intends to do with those devices, will it pass them to the expected chain of command, the expected government responsibility Ukraine. All of that is unclear.
Until we hear from the Russian authorities on this, confirming this information, it seems at the moment, it's just more that we have from the Ukrainian authorities that needs further inquiring and investigation, John.
BERMAN: All right, Nic. Thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Let's on this very point, let's bring in Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.
Colonel, what do you make of what you're hearing from Nic Robertson on the ground? I first wonder how Ukrainian intelligence has this information.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Ukrainian intelligence, they're pretty good in their own territory. So, they've got great sources there. They've also, you know, been able to very quickly get the signal intelligence data, that conversation, they were able to get that translated and broadcast that. So, that tells me that they are monitoring this very, very carefully.
BOLDUAN: What do you also make -- I'm sorry, I have to read it off my BlackBerry here. But it also says that from Ukrainian intelligence, they believe that the missile launcher that was -- they believe the missile launcher is now in Russia and will be destroyed.
FRANCONA: Well, every one of the missile launchers has its own signature. The radars are very easily detectable. They're also very -- they have a unique signature. If you can get your hands on the radar, we know what the radar signature was of the radar the system that hit that aircraft.
So, if they can get their hands on it, we can definitely say it was this launcher that did it. The separatists don't want us to know that, and the Russians don't want us to know that. So, the best thing to do is get it out of there and destroy it.
BOLDUAN: Even if it's in Russia?
FRANCONA: Well, the Russians down want their finger prints on that either.
BERMAN: You know, joining us now here in studio is Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat from Florida, as we say, a leader in the House of Representatives in so many ways.
Congresswoman, what are you hearing? What is the latest you've been told?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, what we've been told is, obviously, what we already know that this was a plane -- you know, a commercial airline shot out of the sky in an area where there are Russian separatists that are in disputed territory, and that have been the subject of the reason that we've imposed economic sanctions.
What's critical right now from our perspective in the United States is that there be an immediate international credible investigation.
BOLDUAN: Do you think, do you have confidence that will happen? That seems to be a big question right now, even getting international monitors to the area is a big question.
SCHULTZ: It is (ph).
BOLDUAN: We've heard from the president and really every nation involved, calling for the same thing. But you have confidence that's going to take place.
SCHULTZ: Well, I'm not sure we have confidence at this moment. Ukraine has accepted the United States offer of FBI and NTSB investigators. They're en route now in the role of advisors.
This is an area controlled by separatists. So, if they were the perpetrators, then, you know, there is some uncertainty and doubt over whether there is going to be, that they will allow a credible international investigation.
There also needs to be a cease-fire. Ukraine has offered a cease- fire, but that cease-fire is a two-way street. And then, of course, we need to make sure that a full investigation
takes place so that we can get to the bottom of what happened and perpetrators are brought to justice.
And, you know, of course, this is all in the atmosphere of a very delicate relationship that we have with Russia.
BERMAN: Let's talk about that relationship. What kind of pressure would you like to see the administration now put on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the investigation of this disaster, this crime, and overall, what more pressure would you like to see over the conflict that is now raging in eastern Ukraine?
SCHULTZ: Well, at this point, we have, like I said, a delicate relationship and we work with Russia in areas making sure that Iran is not allowed to achieve their goal of a nuclear weapon and then the temporary negotiations that have been ongoing. We certainly worked with them in Syria to bring all the chemical weapons out of Syria and disarm that country in that way.
What we need to see here is for Russia to be fully supportive of a cease-fire. They certainly have significant influence over the separatists and can have a great deal to do with whether a cease-fire happens and they should be fully supportive of a full and credible international investigation.
We just levied economic sanctions against Russia because there has not been, not only been not only a de-escalation of the violence, it's pretty clear their support for the separatists have included arming them and, in that case --
BOLDUAN: That's what I want to ask you. I think at this point, John McCain has come out very quickly to say that he is pretty darn sure that the separatists have not had this capability, if it is a separatist, they would not have the capability without the help of Russia, without Russia letting weapons in, allowing weapons in, Russian-made weapons being allowed to be brought in.
At this point, I mean, let's be frank, is this Russia's fault?
SCHULTZ: I don't think we're prepared to connect those dots directly. But, you know, as we have levied increasing economic sanctions, it's been because it's clear that Russia has been arming those separatists and increasing the strength in their ability.
BOLDUAN: Is this proof, though, that the sanctions haven't had enough teeth?
SCHULTZ: Well, we've just added pretty serious economic sanctions. We have been doing that in an e escalating way. We have to make sure we do so in a measured way, with the information that we have. And, again, balancing it with a delicate relationship that we have with Russia, where they are a partner of ours in the P5-plus-1 negotiations.
BOLDUAN: We want to bring in Wolf because we also want to, sorry to hit you with all this news that we've got, Congresswoman. Real quick, do you have word yet that any Americans were on this flight?
SCHULTZ: At this point we don't know whether there were Americans on the flight. My conversations with the State Department and the administration, it's still not clear.
BERMAN: And as Kate was just saying, this is just one of two major breaking stories developing this morning. The other one is the Israeli invasion. The ground invasion of Gaza. We want to bring in Wolf Blitzer right now who is live in Jerusalem to join this conversation. Wolf?
BLITZER: Congresswoman, I know you're a very strong supporter of Israel, but are you comfortable with what the Israeli government and the Israeli military is now doing in Gaza given the large number of civilian casualties that clearly have emerged?
SCHULTZ: I know Israel takes every step that they can to avoid civilian casualties and that's what we've communicated and I know Secretary Kerry has communicated that to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but there's no question that Israel has the right to defend itself. No country should be in a position where they have to repeatedly take incessant launching of missiles into their territory unprovoked. I mean, there are Israeli families sleeping with their shoes on, literally, because they never know at a moment's notice when they have to leap out of bed and run to a bomb shelter. And there's also no question where these rockets and missiles are coming from. So, there has certainly been every attempt. Israel has agreed to cease-fires repeatedly. Hamas it has even been suggested by Mahmoud Abbas' lieutenants that Hamas has made unreasonable demands for their terms that they'd agree to in a cease-fire. And so, at a certain point Israel has the right absolutely to go in and take out the origins of where these missiles and rockets are coming from. But, of course, the goal should always be and I'm confident is to avoid civilian casualties. Wolf, I think, you know, Hamas has a track record of using civilians as human shields in these conflicts and that is absolutely unconscionable and that's where any criticism, a lot of criticism about civilian casualties, can be directed.
BLITZER: Do you think the Secretary of State John Kerry and maybe the president himself should get more immediately involved in trying to, A. get a cease-fire but then, B. reviving what used to be called the peace process because that peace process seems to be, at least for now, to be dead?
SCHULTZ: Well like I said, Israel absolutely as a sovereign nation has the right and it's completely understandable that she'd be doing everything she could to defend her citizens. Remember, the United States and Israel have a very significant and close knit daily relationship in terms of military and intelligence cooperation. I mean, we are talking literally to Israel every day at every level and depth in terms of military and intelligence cooperation. And Secretary Kerry, as I said, just spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is not an instance in which we have to suddenly initiate communication about whether, about where we are in the peace process. I think it's pretty clear that the peace process, you know, we're not at the point where we can consider that it should be restarted. What we absolutely have to ensure is that the violence stops, that Israel should have every expectation that her citizens would be safe and not be subject to unprovoked rocket attacks. If there is going to be a restarting of the peace process, that a cease-fire has to be agreed to and the unity government that Fatah and Hamas have agreed upon. Hamas has to agree that Israel has the right to exist and that they will renounce violence and terrorism, which they've have clearly not been willing to do as we see unfolding in front of us.
BLITZER: Indications are this Israeli military operation is about to escalate and get even more intense.
SCHULTZ: The ball is in Hamas' court for that not to happen.
BERMAN: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you, Congresswoman. We appreciate it. Obviously we're also following all the developments right now over Eastern Ukraine where MH17 shot down yesterday. Our Chris Cuomo has just arrived in Kiev. He is on the scene there on the ground getting miked up, as we speak. We'll bring you to Chris as soon as he's ready to go. In the mean time, we're joined here in the studio by Mary Schiavo, aviation analyst expert, former FAA, NTSB inspector. This scene right now, this scene where the plane crashed is under the control right now of pro-Russian separatists. We're hearing that the black boxes, according to Ukrainian intelligence, are already in possession of Moscow. What does that do to the investigation?
MARY SCHIAVO, AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it's going to compromise the investigation and that comment is based on past history and the shootdown of KL007 in 83 and in the previous Korean airliner shootdown, again by Russia five years before that. In both cases there was great discussion and disagreement over what actually happened. Was there attempts to identify the plane as a commercial, a civilian jetliner before the shootdown? And all that was on the black boxes and of course they were hidden, in the case of KL007. The Russians kept them and, in fact, denied their existence and what was on them for years. So, it could greatly compromise the situation. You know, there are other investigators other than the NTSB if they have an issue with the United States. The French BEA the Australian AAIB. Of course, they're very busy with MH370 and the British. So there are many entities that can do a job like the NTSB. One of those, if they have an issue with us, one of those needs to get in there and do it right.
BOLDUAN: When they can get in there. That remains a huge question and we are getting, what are we? 12 hours out, approaching 24 hours out from when this happened. No one really that is independent, we can say, is yet on the ground. What is the first thing they need to do or establish in order to try to salvage this investigation?
SCHIAVO: Control. The first thing they have to do is secure the site and that's one of the requirements of Ichao's Annex 13 for an accident investigation and it is not being complied with at this point. Although, they are just guidelines. Controlling the site and then you can systematically gather the evidence and, most of all, take care of the remains and protect the remains of the humans.
BERMAN: You say that's the single most important thing. The one thing we simply do not know if it will happen at all at this point because the separatists are in control of that region.
BOLDUAN: Often its the easiest and fastest thing that happens. Not often does any kind of this tragedy happen in such a disputed area.
BERMAN: I wanted to ask, we have seen pictures, though, of this area. We have seen pictures of the wreckage right now.
BERMAN (voice-over): And it does seem like we will get more evidence from military analysis and intelligence of what actually happened to this flight. So, do you need the black boxes? what would the black boxes then tell you that we won't be able to find out on our own?
SCHIAVO (voice-over): In this case with the wreckage and with all the information that's out there, including with the intercepted phone calls etceteras, we pretty much know what happened.
SCHIAVO (on camera):But the black box is pinpointed down. There's a tell tale way that they will sound. If it's an explosion mid-air they will stop recording pretty much at the same time. If there's any chance at all that anybody even tried to ascertain this is civilian flight on the cockpit voice recorder and also how much time, if any, that they had. So the black boxes are sort of really the fail safe to tell you what happened. Yes, from the debris field, from the sites, from the information and evidence they already have, obviously investigators would have a pretty good idea. But the black boxes are always the best and the most important piece of evidence.
BOLDUAN: The most unbiased way of getting the information that we need.
Let's get over now and I think Chris is actually on the ground, miked up in Kiev after a long day of travel. Chris, I know that you're on the ground there. The first thing that we're seeing this morning is the finger pointing is continuing, the U.S. making clear that they believe at this point that this was shot down. Possibly by pro-Russian separatists. What are you hearing on the ground in Kiev?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news is that here in Kiev life is very stable. This is very largely a situation that's going on in the eastern part of the country and, obviously, as we all know, Ukraine is the largest by land country in Europe other than Russia. So, this is a very far away aspect in one regard here to life in Kiev. Although, over my shoulder you see one of the vestiges of the revolution. One of these kind of makeshift stockaid that has been left there just to kind of keep a level of quiet here against the former revolutionaries. However, the propaganda campaign is very red hot right now. Fingers being pointed by separatists saying the Ukraine military did this. There's a propaganda thread out there that's very popular among separatists or militants, depending on how you see them. That this was done by the Ukraine military taking down this plane. They thought it was Vladimir Putin's plane. Now, there is no real factual basis for that at this point. U.S. authorities said they don't believe that Ukrainian military has the capabilities, the military assets in that area of the country to even do something like that. So, that's one level of it. On the Ukrainian side, it's the question of, well, was this done by militants or was this done by militants with help of the Russian government? Now, the Russian government, of course, has denied that altogether. However, they have not denied that it was done by militants which at this point seems to be most likely. The really bad news, other than the ultimate tragedy of this plane being taken down and the 298 lives lost, is that now on the ground there things are very unstable. The Ukraine military is not in control. That means that while they're calling for international response and allow humanitarian bodies to come in, there is real no agreement among militants for who is going to make the decision that this is okay. So right now there is violence in the east and when we try to get there later on today, you don't know that the one checkpoint you're at is controlled by somebody who is okay with you being there. Very unstable. The area is being looted. The debris field is being compromised. We hear that the black boxes are in Moscow. We hear that whatever assets were used were taken back into Russia. So those are all concerns of that region of the country. But here in Kiev, life is stable and that's good news.
BOLDUAN: Its good that you are on the ground and we're going to get right back to you. The families of those 298 folks, people onboard, they are still waiting for answers of what happened to their loved ones. That we cannot forget in all of this. Chris, we're going to get straight back to you. Let's get straight to a break, though. We'll be right back on NEW DAY. More of our continuing coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. How does Ukraine respond now and does this change the dynamic of the fight against the separatists? Ukraine's foreign minister will be joining us in our next hour.
BERMAN: Plus, there's more breaking news. Tensions escalating in the Middle East as Israel launches a ground offensive against Hamas. We are live in Gaza with the very latest.