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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Malaysian Airliner Shoot Down Investigation Detailed; Malaysian Transport Minister Speaks to Press

Aired July 19, 2014 - 05:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind me is just part of what is left of Malaysia Airlines flight 17...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As again (inaudible), you just hope none of this children or your grand children will go before you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw next to three of the passenger's names capital I. As we now know the letter I stands for Infants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's crazy. You don't expect to go into an airplane and get blown out of the sky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: (inaudible) developing situation this morning and you cannot help but -- I mean, it hits in you in your gut when you listen to some of this people talk. We're so glad that you're with us and we can walk through this with you this morning. I'm Christi Paul

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You're watching a special early edition of New Day Saturday. Let's take that live look in Kuala Lumpur right of the top of the show here. We're waiting a news conference here. We know that Malaysian officials have arrived at least in Kiev and are in route to the crash site to begin to -- or at least attempt to begin this investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. As soon as that begins, of course, we'll bring that to you live.

But we know that this morning, International Monitor say that rebels toting guns are keeping them at least from the crash site where that plane went down in Eastern Ukraine.

PAUL: Yes. They see there's no time to wait. They do plan to return to what some are calling the biggest crime scene in the world today.

Now, they say gunmen though know force them to leave the site yesterday just over an hour half after they or an hour after they have been there. But you've seen some of the pictures we've been able to obtain, pieces of the airplane. (inaudible) bodies, nearly 300 of them still lying, spread across cornfields and fields of flowers two days after the plane was blown out of that sky.

BLACKWELL: The US officials say they are confident that a ground air missile shot the plane down over eastern Ukraine as it was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Now, they suspect pro-Russia rebels took down the aircraft using a missile launch system that may have come from Russia in recent days or possibly weeks. And the FBI is sending two investigators to work this case there in Ukraine.

PAUL: And a team of Malaysian investigators as Victor said at the top of the hour have just arrived in Keiv, Ukraine, we know (ph). A furious President Obama though says, "Russian President Putin can stop the bloodshed."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: If Mr. Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukraine and Russian border, then it will stop. And if it stops, then the separatist will still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to arrive at the sort of political accommodations that Mr. Putin himself says he wants to say. He has the most control over that situation. And so far, at least he has not exercised it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Now, here's one of the most significant almost mystery that this point of this. Where are the black boxes? We don't know. All 298 passengers and crew including 80 children were aboard this flight. And they lost their lives when this plane went town.

BLACKWELL: Now, more than half of the victims we know were Dutch. But the rest came from as you see around the world. 19-year old Quinn Lucas Schansman was the sole American on the flight. He was going to meet his family for vacation.

PAUL: Australian Nick Norris was taking his three grand children home for the new school year. CNN's Phil Black has been at that crash site, and he tells us it's just -- it's a horrific scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: Behind me is just part of what is left of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. And it gives a powerful sense of the force responsible for breaking it up in the skies above Eastern Ukraine. It is just one segment that has been scattered across the fields of this region. It appears to be a tapering, narrowing section towards the back end of the fuselage.

To stand before it is quite impressive, to look closer is quite disturbing. Within the wreckage, there is a body and it is unrecognizable. We can't tell if it is a man or a woman, a member of the crew or a passenger.

And it is just...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. We're interrupting Phil Black to go to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. The Transport Minister now speaking out about Malaysia 17.

LIOW TIONG LAI, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: ... 17. Each of the numbers represent a life lost and a family in anguish. After this press conference, Malaysian Airlines will release the full passengers manifest. Malaysian mourns the loss of all 298 passengers and crew. We feel for their families and we promise to do all we can to ensure that the investigation is completed and justice is done.

On the investigation, Malaysia is deeply concerned that the crash site has not been properly secured. The integrity of the site has been compromised and there are indication that vital evidence has not been preserved in place.

Interfering with the scene of the crash risks undermining the investigation itself. Any action that prevent us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated. Failure to stop interference would be a betrayal of the lives that we lost.

Malaysia calls for all parties to protect the integrity of the crash site and to allow the investigation to proceed. We urged all those involve to respect the families and the nations who have lost their sons and daughters in this attack.

Yes, MH17 has become a geopolitical issue. But we must not forget that it is a human tragedy. Since the plane went down, the remains of 298 people lie uncovered. Citizens of 11 nations, none of whom are involved in the conflicts in Eastern Ukraine, cannot be laid to rest. Their lives were taken by violence, now violence stop them being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue.

On deployment, earlier today, Malaysia's special team arrived in Kiev. We ask for continued support from the Ukraine government and the other parties involved, as the team seeks to assist the Ukrainian authorities in recovering and identifying the remains of the passengers and the crew and with a wider investigation.

The world has a moral obligation to ensure that the remains of all victims are recovered and treated with respect. We'll play all part in fulfilling this obligation. That is why later to thee, I will join the Malaysian team in Kiev where I will work with my counter part in the Ukraine government to support efforts to retrieve the remains and to assist with investigation.

I'll be joined by Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Malaysian investigator in charge, and the Chairman of Malaysia Airlines. The CEO of Malaysian Airlines is already in Kiev

On the matter of MH17's flight path, I would like to refer to recent reported comments by officials from Eurocontrol, the body which approves European flight paths under ICAO rules.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the officials stated that some 400 commercial flights, including 150 international flights crossed eastern Ukraine daily before the crash. Officials from Eurocontrol also stated that in the two days before the incident, 75 different airlines flew the same route as MH17.

MH17's flight path was a busy major airway, like a highway in the sky. It followed a route which was set out by the international aviations authorities, approved by Eurocontrol and used by hundreds of other aircraft. It flew at an altitude set and deemed safe by the local air traffic control. And it never strayed into restricted airspace.

The flight and its operators followed the rules. But on the ground, the rules of war were broken. In an unacceptable act of aggression, it appears that MH17 was shot down; its passengers and crew killed by a missile.

This outrage cannot go unpunished. Once again, Malaysia condemns this brutal act of aggression and call for those responsible to be found and to face the full force of justice without delay. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media, the floor is now open for question and answer session. To some of questions, (inaudible). So, we'll start on (inaudible).

Your name? Your name please and the agency...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible). People are now angry with the delay of (inaudible) flight. Our investigators (inaudible) of the ground forces in Ukraine or is there any other options? And also now seems to be (inaudible) investigations are in jeopardy, will Malaysia hold Russia and Ukraine accountable for this?

LIOW: We are very concerned about the work at the site. We need to retrieve the human remain as fast as we can. There's a reason why we immediately dispatched our team there. They reached there early this morning. And we hope that we can enter the site as promised by the Ukraine government. The Ukraine Government have assured us of a safe corridor to enter the site. So, to expedite the matters, that's the reason why I will go to Ukraine this evening and hope that I can assist and expedite the matters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

LIOW: (Foreign Language).

We haven't got access to the site, the accident (ph) site. So we -- I believe the authorities there to clear the site and we need the support of the world to ensure that the site are not tampered. We must have the full access to the site and we must ensure that those evidence at the site are not tampered. And we also hope that we can ensure that justice can prevail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible). Third row.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) on the black box,(inaudible) them into (inaudible). Now, with the Russian separatists -- pro-Russian separatists taking (inaudible), most of the (inaudible) are recorded (ph) in that. And also what attempt on getting to the crash site, why (inaudible) taking the (inaudible) in there. Thank you.

LIOW: There is no confirmation on the black box. We have to countercheck on the details. So, as of today, we have to countercheck this detail. And we hope that we can assist the search and also the recovery at the site as soon as possible. That's why our team are there, and I'm going there so that we can quickly retrieve the remains of human body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is (inaudible). Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible) from the site. Malaysia Airlines have released a statement saying that MH17 (inaudible), 35,000 (inaudible). Do we know why what happened there? And my second question is (inaudible) to enter so (inaudible) Malaysia do (inaudible) continue to prevent from entering the site.

LIOW: First, I must mention that the areas of flight -- they're suppose to fly at 35,000 feet but the air control tower asks us to fly 33,000 feet. So, I think we have to obey the control tower directives. And that is the decision and always of within that span (ph) of air space, that is under the air control tower jurisdiction.

So, if they'll not allow us to go to the site, I think this is inhumane. We are looking at -- on the humanitarian ground. That is why we are calling the United Nation to assist the ceasefire and (inaudible) to ensure. We are asking the Ukraine authority to ensure us a safe corridor to the site. And this must be done immediately. It must be done fast so that we can retrieve the human bodies as soon as possible. It's critical and that's the reason why the Malaysian government now is sending me to Ukraine and hope that we can expedite the work as fast as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flight path -- the MH17 did not deviate on it's flight path route. There were aircraft -- Malaysian Airlines aircraft before that. They confirmed there was no hurricane in that vicinity and even the aircraft behind it. There's no weather -- Yes.

LIOW: (Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll also like to add before MH17, there's a Thai international aircraft flying in the area it was back -- a Singapore Airlines on the same route.

LIOW: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, there are more than 15 flights -- airline from the Asia Pacific region using that route. So, it is what we call a very busy highway. It's just like, you know, we are talking highway and traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. The highway is clear. The highway is safe. I'm driving down to Singapore, then halfway the bridge collapse and I'm the victim. So, can you blame me on that? So we are actually traveling at the route approved by the ICAO and also the Europe control tower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) Russia or Ukraine itself.

LIOW: (Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To ensure who shot it down...

LIOW: Who actually shot the Malaysian aircraft MH17. And that's the truth (inaudible). And we want and we demand justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. If we go on to the next question please. Yes, at the back there, please. (inaudible). Please pass the mic over, yes. To the gentleman, yes? Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is very -- my name is (inaudible), I'm from (inaudible). My question is related to the (inaudible). I know that the (inaudible) the route is safe but (inaudible) going -- continue that. Did any (inaudible) prior to the incident or post anything there as a (inaudible) action of preventing (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We are aware of the twits and actually, social media (inaudible) pilot reporting and reverting for us where we got (inaudible), that accusation is false. There was no report from our pilot. Malaysia Airlines flies our (inaudible) in anywhere, any part of the world seriously. And their safety is paramount to us. So, those roots (ph) were validated and the (inaudible) that it is said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. All right. And please refer (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm (inaudible). Just to check (inaudible), is suppose to fly 35,000 feet, right? But was instructed to fly at 33,000 feet, above the restricted (inaudible). Is this a normal thing to do to fly so low to a restricted area? Maybe...

PAUL: All right You've been watching the Transportation Minister of Malaysia as he talks about the crime scene calling it inhumane that Malaysian officials have not been able to get to the crime scene. What is now being called the world's biggest crime scene, the crash of Malaysia Flight 17 at the Ukraine -- in Ukraine near the Russian border.

He is saying that he is actually going to go with some of the other Malaysian officials who are in Kiev. And he wants to go himself there. The question is, will they be allowed in? That's what is -- really is the critical component of that this morning.

BLACKWELL: You know, several times during this news conference that Transport Minister Liow Tiong referenced that he has the cooperation or a confirmation from the Ukrainian government that they will have access to the site. But we know is that it's not the Ukrainian government that has control of this site. In fact it's the pro- Russian rebels who are in control here.

We also learned right at the top that at the end of this news conference, they're going to release the full passenger manifest. Of course, we have learned some of the names over the last few days of the people, the 298 souls who are on board. And he reminded us that this is a human tragedy at its heart.

PAUL: Right.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to CNN's Kyung Lah. And Kyung, you have -- because of the events of Malaysia 17 and MH370 covered many news conferences like this. This, very different. Apples and oranges some might say compared to what we saw just a few months a go.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Apples and oranges it absolutely is. If MH370 was a mystery, a nightmare for this country with no answer, this is one with an answer, and there is outrage. It is a collective national outrage here, a lot of anger. You can sense a frustration in the Transportation Minister as he's talking about a human tragedy not being able to get to the bodies, not being to bring those bodies home.

What's in the back of his mind is that he and the Prime Minister of this country earlier today did meet with around 40 family members. There are number of family members here who did meet with top government people, they twitted some pictures out. And what these families are saying is that they want their family members to be brought home to be given a proper Muslim burial. That needs to happen in the next 24 hours, clearly not going to be happening. So, there is this national outrage.

So. Yes. Victor, very, very different. If 370 was a mystery and a lot of questions and rage pointed at the government. In this case, there is the answer and there is anger to what has happened in Ukraine and Russia.

PAUL: Kyung, a lot of people are watching this, and at the end of the day, they maybe nervous about getting on a flight. Is Malaysian Air making any sort of mandates or changes, modifications to how it's going to fly in the next few months? Based on everything that's happened in the last four months...

LUH: You know it's -- yes. I mean they -- certainly, anyone who is going to be getting on a Malaysia Airlines flight is going to be thinking about not just this reason disaster but what happened with flight 370. So, the airline and it is the national flagship, it is a state-run airline, and certainly mindful of that for the next five days. And it's only five days that anyone in the world who has a Malaysia Airlines ticket is going to be given a refund.

Regardless of what that ticket says, even if it's a non-refundable, they Airline said that you can get your money back because they are mindful of the amount of fear and skepticism that people may have. They're hoping to win those customers back. But this touches on what sort of a business disaster this maybe for this very important airline for this country.

So, not only do they have the stain of Malaysia, the country itself having a black eye to a lot of people around the world right now but the airline itself. They are trying to mediate that by talking to their customers directly and saying, "We're going to give you your money back if you don't have confidence in us, and we're going to try to win you back." But certainly, that is going to be an uphill battle because there are a lot of nervous people around the world right now, Christi.

PAUL: Kyung Lah, very good point. Thank you so much. Kyung joining us live from Kuala Lumpur. But we're covering this all angle -- this morning. And there are so, so many to touch on. But as he said, while this has become a geopolitical issue, at the end of the day, this is a human tragedy.

BLACKWELL: It is indeed. Next, we're going to have a conversation bout exactly what US officials believe took down MH17. And who took it down, and where those black boxes are that the Transport Minister just said, there's no confirmation on who has them or where they are.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Malaysia 17 crash site is being called an international crime and the biggest crime scene in the world this morning. The FBI says two experts are on their way to help with the case in and advisory role, but a lot of people fear that access -- we know that access to evidence there has been limited based on some of the people that have already made it there and who are met by armed guards.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Yesterday, Monitors were able to spin a little more than an hour at the site before those arm separatist forced them to leave. Let's talk about this and the effort to get to the site and to those victims with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, and former pilot Alastair Rosenschein.

Good to have both of you with us. And, Tom, I want to start with you. We just heard from the Malaysian transport minister that they have the cooperation of the Ukrainian Government that they will get access to this site. That stood out to me because we know that if it's not the Ukrainian Government that has control over that site -- talk about the challenge that the Malaysians and I guess everybody group will face getting to MH17 and those 298 victims.

TOM FUENTES, CNN FBI ANALYST: Good morning, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Good morning.

FUENTES: You're exactly right, Victor. The Ukrainian Government promises to the world that, you know, there'll be a full investigation, there'll be full access to be, there'll be, you know, all the ability to find out what happened. You know, it's irrelevant and ridiculous if they can't control that site.

Now, in a way, it'll -- it tends to defend the Ukrainian Government that they couldn't have had the necessary military hardware in that vicinity to shoot that plane down because they don't have any hardware. They don't have any military presence, can't control the crime scene. And by the way, besides just controlling a crime scene 10 miles long, they're going to have to set up the logistic support. They're going to need to convoy (inaudible) trucks to go in there and be able to take the victims out and take them somewhere, to some facility, possibly Donetsk, the capital of that region, and then find facilities there to house those bodies. They can't just leave them out to decompose in the field forever.

So, you need to bring equipment in, you need to be able to bring in hundreds of people, not a handful of observers from Europe. But that's what's happening now, is that the FBI agents, other experts that have arrived are giving the advice to the government of here's what you're going to need to do this. Here's what we've seen in the past.

If you look at the downing of Pan Am 103 in Scotland years ago, there were close to a thousand FBI agents and British law enforcement personnel at that crime scene for months. And the grid search that was over hundreds of square miles eventually turned up key evidence as to what happened, how the explosive was constructed. So, you can't just send any handful of people. You can't just look at this and go, "Well, all they're going to do is gather up." They need not only a place to take the victims and the family members' bodies, but they're going to need a place to take that aircraft and all the pieces they can recover to reassemble it.

You've seen the pictures, even this week's CNN Special, about TWA 800 ...

BLACKWELL: Yes.

FUENTES: They pulled a million pieces of that plane off the ocean floor and reassembled it. That's still reassembled here in the Washington D.C area, near Dulles Airport, at the NTSB Training Facility. So, you need to be able to take the victims out, take the pieces of the aircraft out, set up a place where they can do examination of all of it, the people and the pieces. And none of that is in progress as we speak. And I noticed, I checked the weather before going on the air, it's going to be 82 degrees in Donetsk, Ukraine today. So, this is summer time there. The bodies need to be taken care of and need to be removed quickly.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: Yes, you're right about that. Alistair, I wanted to ask you about some things that the transportation minister said as well, because he did seem to spend some time doing this news conference, defending why they took this air -- this flight in this route. In particular, he said,"75 different airlines had flown this route over the two days prior to them doing so." But when -- there are a lot of people right now questioning, this still was a war scenario going on in this area. Why do you think this flight path was still open?

ALASTAIR ROSENCHEIN, FORMER PILOT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. That's a very good question. What they've done is they've abrogated their responsibility to the (inaudible) authorities being this route safe. Other airlines from the West, perhaps from America too, had been avoiding this area because it was a conflict zone. In defense, the Malaysians, they were within their right to fly in that airspace and indeed there were other airlines.

I'm not, you know, totally convinced that they are whiter than white in this in the sense that, you know, it clearly was a conflict zone where aircraft were being shot down. I've mentioned this several times. But only a couple of days ago, an (inaudible) had been shot down at high altitude, 22,000 feet, you know, but there's nothing in it between that and where the Malaysian Airlines aircraft was shot down. But I mean it's clear (insecure) that it was Malaysia yet again lost an aircraft.

It could -- as the Malaysian transport minister said, you know, it could've been any one of these other aircraft that were flying along there, including a number of Western airlines. So, you know, it's important not to hit a lot of blame on the Malaysian Government or its airline. But, you know, as a lay person might think, what on earth are we doing flying over, you know, a water and basically where aircraft are being shot down.

PAUL: May I ask real quickly. Who makes that decision? Who has -- who authorize it? OK. This is a safe flight path and I have to believe at this point -- I have to believe it is no longer -- there are no longer planes flying in that path out there.

ROSENCHEIN: No, of course not. The airspace is serious close. I mean it's highly dangerous. But who authorized it? Well, basically, an airline can operate in any airspace that's not close, restricted, or noticed as a danger zone. And even if there is a restricted area at the ground, they may not affect aircraft at higher altitudes. So, you can have restricted zones at certain levels but not high.

But that is not something which the airline does not make a decision on that. This information is provided at the time of departure of the airline, and the airline operator in the case of Malaysian Airways will have produced a flight plan for the flight crew. The flight crew then had the option of accepting or rejecting that route. 99.9 percent of the time, the flight crew will accept it. The only times where flight crew, in my experience, have changed routines being because of exceptionally bad weather, there might be severe turbulence or moderate to severe turbulence where the flight crew decided they (inaudible) route, or whether it's flying over a hurricane or a typhoon which is deemed safe to fly above it. But, you know, balance of flight crew not decide, no, they'd rather fly somewhere, you know, through the South or North, East or West to avoid it. And I didn't make these decisions myself.

BLACKWELL: All right. Tom Fuentes, Alastair Rosenchein, thank you so much. We'll check back with you later this morning.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

ROSENCHEIN: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you both for being here. We do want to take some time this morning, you know, at the end of the day, as he said, this is a human tragedy. We need to focus on the victims here. BLACKWELL: 298 innocents -- and we have to say innocent men, women, children on board. We have three infants included in that number. All of them gone. And we're learning much more about their lives and their families they've now left behind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Welcome back to our special coverage of the downing of MH17. And this morning, there is another MH17 that is going to take off.

PAUL: They didn't retire that number which I think a lot of people are surprised to know.

BLACKWELL: Yes. From Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, we have on the phone with us Roger (inaudible). He joins us from the airport there where MH17 took off. He lost a friend on that flight this week and he's about to board MH17 to head to Kuala Lumpur. Roger, it's good to have you with us this morning. Of course we mourn with you the loss of your friend. What are you feeling now as you wait to board MH17?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's a good question. I'm a bit anxious to actually board the flight, taking into account that my friend didn't make it back home. But this is the flight I have been taking for the past 23 years to Malaysia. So, I guess -- I'm hoping lightning doesn't strike by, and the tank, they've got it filled. It's still difficult to fly (inaudible).

PAUL: Roger, is this flight a full flight? I have to believe. What are your conversations there in the airport as you're getting ready to board maybe with other passengers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I'm flying with my family. So, we were arranging the luggage and the golf bags and stuff like that, so we didn't really get a chance to talk to many other people at the check inn. Yes?

BLACKWELL: Was there any hesitancy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the flight was delayed for two hours now anyway, so we have to wait.

BLACKWELL: OK, OK. Was there any hesitancy on your part, so soon after MH17 was shot down early this week, to fly again (inaudible) in that from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Automatically, the first thing that comes to your mind maybe we should take another airline back home. But then when we found out that there wasn't any technical or mechanical issues, we decided to take the flight back -- the same flight back because we have been doing that for many, many years. So, I mean, you know, we guess -- again, as I said, we just hope for the best and see what happens.

BLACKWELL: OK. PAUL: Roger, we understand that the friend you knew who was flying the doom flight, MH17, was on board with his wife and his child. You know, tell us a little bit about him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you repeat? How is it?

PAUL: Tell us a little bit about your friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friend. I know my friend now for about three years. We used to work together and we've became very good friends and we, you know, we are still -- I mean absolutely (inaudible) very good friends. His wife is a very nice lady and they have a son, 10 or 12 years old. And they're very happy, lucky, (inaudible) guy. And he does, you know, these people ask everywhere he comes, his a -- you never get into an argument or a problem with him. He's just a very nice guy. He's always smiling and always happy.

BLACKWELL: Roger, after the disappearance of MH370 and some of the decisions to fly this route for MH17, do you have any concerns about the confidence, about the decision making of the managers, the executives there at Malaysia Airlines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's a good -- that's a very good question. Initially, as I said, you know, we were devastated and we thought we better get onto maybe a 6:30 flight or another airline, because, you know, after the 370 and now this, your confidence levels just go down to the -- in the red zone. But because it wasn't a technical method this time, so we said, OK maybe we will stay loyal to Malaysian Airline which we have been doing for the last 23 years. And it's a good airline. I mean the service is good, they treat you well, you know, it's not too expensive. So, I think I'll continue flying Malaysian Airlines for my yearly trip back to Holland and also to my working (inaudible).

PAUL: All right. Well, Roger, again, you know, our thoughts and prayers with you and all of the people who are trying to reconcile what's happened if they had a family and friends on that flight, and the faith as you travel still with your family as well today. Thank you for spending some time with us. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Roger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having me, and all the best.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And you know, Roger, as he said, lost friends. Many people lost friends, relatives. Let's go now to CNN's Erin Mclaughlin. We have Nick Valencia with us as well. Erin, you're at Amsterdam's airport where Roger is. We know that that's where that ill-fated plane took off. Almost half of those who died were from the Netherlands.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN REPORTER: That's right because this is very much a country in mourning. All day, people have been coming here to the airport to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial just over that way. Just a short while ago, the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was here to pay his respects and sign a book of condolences. He also spoke to reporters really joining that chorus of calls through a full, independent, international investigation into what happened.

Not far from the airport, in a hotel, that's where they're taking care of the relatives of the victims of those that were on board MH17. The hotel is covered and security officials here are very concerned about the family members' privacy.

Now, yesterday, we were really traveling all over the country just talking to people. One of the really interesting things that you got a real sense of was not only at the diverse members, passengers that were on board MH17, but the number of people that have been impacted and affected here in the Netherlands, family members, an entire community, mourning this loss.

Now, we were in Rotterdam yesterday speaking to (inaudible). He lost three family members on board MH17, his cousin (inaudible) and her husband, and his aunt. Take a listen to what he had to say when he found out about what happened.

When you came to that realization, you know, what was going through your mind at that time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Everything you -- when you loss someone, you never expect, so there are no words for that.

MCLAUGHLIN: A couple owned a well-known restaurant -- Chinese restaurant in Rotterdam. It was really their life's work. All day, people had been stopping by. There are some very tearful. You've got a real sense of the community loss they leave behind. The couple left behind their 30-year-old son. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've built up this restaurant in about 15, 20 years. It's a fair good restaurant, and if you (inaudible) the flowers and of course all the comments on internet, and always looking for the song for the business and this was (inaudible).

MCLAUGHLIN: So many people on board that flight were on their summer vacation. (Inaudible) told me that he wants a full investigation. He wants answers to these questions. Yesterday, we heard from the Dutch Prime Minister who said at the moment they're not going to be pointing fingers. They want to establish exactly what happened. But if they find out for certain that the plane was downed as a result of the attack, well, then he said, "This country will not rest until they find the perpetrators." Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Erin, thank you so much. Let's get to Nick right now. Because, Nick, I know that you've been getting to know, so to speak, some of the other victims here including the scientist, revered AIDS researcher, Joep Lange, was on this flight as well.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN REPORTER: And it's so important to give meaning to the numbers. I mean you see that 298, but really, these are individuals with their own stories, lives. We heard a lot there from Erin Mclaughlin talking about the impact there in the Netherlands. Dr. Joep Lange, he was a professor at Amsterdam University, a pioneer in HIV/AIDS research, really immeasurable in his impact to that community. You're looking at the photo of him there.

I spoke to Dr. Lange's friend, Dr. Patrick Sullivan of Emory University here in Atlanta. Dr. Sullivan, a prominent voice in his own right in the HIV/AIDS research community. He spoke to me about the impact in leadership role that Dr. Lange had in this field.

PATRICK SULLIVAN, DOCTOR: I've met him at research conferences, but I think everybody in the field would know his work as well. And he's one of these folks who started, you know, as a clinician, saw a problem and he stepped up into leadership roles that really helped the field move forward.

VALENCIA: Some of that research included developed -- and developing countries as well. He was very inextricably linked with research in mother-to-child transfer of the HIV/AIDS. And initially, we reported -- it was reported, I should say, about 100 people on their way to this international AIDS conference. Early this morning, we heard that figure lowered to at least six people.

Dr. Sullivan who I spoke to yesterday, he said, "This is really a tight (inaudible) community and they've all been exchanging emails, text messages, trying to figure out if there's any one else on that flight." He fears that he knows others who have yet to be reported are on that flight because they have yet to return his emails, so very chilling there. Dr. Sullivan, very sad, a lot of people impacted by these guys.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Six is still a great loss.

VALENCIA: Yes, just a tremendous loss.

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

VALENCIA: Thanks guys.

PAUL: Thanks, Nick.

BLACKWELL: Of course, we'll have much more on this tragedy, MH17, in just a moment.

PAUL: But we do have obviously another story that we are watching very closely. The night sky lighting up over Gaza as Israel launches its ground defenses now. We have a reporter in Gaza City watching all of it unfold. We're taking you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Israeli tanks and soldiers are now going deeper into Gaza. And for Palestinian, the death toll continues to rise.

PAUL: Palestinian officials say more than 300 people died in this conflict. Now, another 2,200 had been injured. Take a look at some the pictures we're getting in here with more than 40,000 displaced from their homes as part of Gaza. I mean you see what's happening there. Some of this reduced to rubble.

BLACKWELL: We understand that damage coming from Israeli forces. We say they have no choice but to fire back against (inaudible) rockets. Karl Penhaul is in Gaza City there. Karl, what are you seeing right now?

KARL PENHAUL, INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST: Christi and Victor, I wish I could tell you good morning. But there is no left up in the fight for Gaza. There's been a flurry of military activity across all of Gaza's borders this morning. Overnight, down in the South, the Israeli military told us that Hamas militant sent a donkey bomb towards them. Yes, you heard it, a donkey laden with explosives. The Israeli military say they detected that shot into the donkey and exploded the bomb without doing any damage to their forces.

Later on this morning, we heard from the Al-Qassam Brigades, that's the military wing of Hamas, saying that despite being Israeli ground incursion, they had once again managed to burrow onto the border and were attacking Israeli tanks on the other side. We haven't heard what the Israeli military have to say there because they have said that this incident is now on the military censorship rules up in the Northern part as well. Clashes on the ground and the morning has been punctuated by the sound of bombs, the sound of artillery fire.

And just three seconds, literally, before coming on air, we saw five Hamas rockets going out from the position about 400 meters across there. But of course, don't forget the civilians. According to United Nation's estimates, more than 70 percent of the casualty so far have been civilians. Take a look at this toddler.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy, daddy.

PENHAUL: A soft plea, "Daddy, don't leave me." (Inaudible) is only three. He's never picked to fight in his life, so he can't understand why he's being punished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

PENHAUL: "Just go ahead and tell the world. My son was firing rockets at haifa tel aviv or Jerusalem," his father says. Words loaded with irony and anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

PENHAUL: (Inaudible) says an Israeli missile slammed into their home in Eastern Gaza just before dawn. CNN team saw that neighborhood on the heavy bombardment as Israel launched its ground invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PENHAUL: You know, all war is dirty, but any war here on the Gaza Street is dirtier the most. Why is that, because we're talking about an area that is no larger than the metropolitan area of Las Vegas. The board is close dome. So, if anybody wants to try and run, they have no place to run and no place to hide. So, when you see fighting in the East of Gaza, up in the North of Gaza, these are densely populated areas with very little green space between. These people are refugees with no place to flee. And this is why Hamas is accused by Israel of placing itself within the civilian population.

There are really no green areas for them to fight their guerrilla war. This is definitely a war of an urban nature and the Israelis are coming in. They say they need to have foots on the ground to destroy militant tunnels that have been used to burrow into Israel and carry out commando raids. They say they need to destroy rocket launchers that are buried underground that they haven't been able to destroy in air strikes. And that is making for a very dirty war. It's making a huge impact on the civilians. Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Karl, that is a report we will not forget any time soon. Thank you so much for letting us know what's happening there. Just stay safe yourself and to your crew there as well. There's a lot of important news going on this morning and we are bringing it to you as it happen. So grateful to have your company.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of youur NEW DAY starts now.