CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SATURDAY

Ukrainian Rebels Not Letting Anybody to the Remains of Flight 17; Military Expert Saying Rebels Must Have Had Military Training; Remembering Victims of Flight 17; U.S. Demanding Sanctions for Russia for its Backing Of Rebels; Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson Explaining Offense in Gaza

Aired July 19, 2014 - 06:00   ET

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


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It's 6:00 exactly on a Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul. We are glad to have you with us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and joining us from around the world. This is "NEW DAY SATURDAY."

First this morning, Malaysia is demanding full access to the crash site of MH-17. They're in eastern Ukraine.

PAUL: As saw live right here on CNN a short time ago, Malaysia's transportation minister says it is inhuman if investigators are not allowed into that sight, which is in the heart of - at the end of the day, a war zone.

BLACKWELL: And the bodies of 298 people, including 80 children here, are still lying in the fields patrolled by rebel gunmen. It's going to be a warm day there, and of course, the effort now is to with respect and dignity to recover those bodies. So far international monitors have been only allowed to spend a little more than hour there by the gunmen.

PAUL: The transportation minister also says the full list of the passengers on the downed flight will be released in just a bit today. He says he and other officials are going to go to Ukraine's capital to make certain the bodies are retrieved so they can be laid to rest. The question this morning is how long might that take and how is it going to get done at this point.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and the question also, who did this and with who - with the help of any state, possibly. U.S. and Malaysia officials suspect pro-Russia rebels took down the aircraft using a missile launch system that may have come from Russia.

PAUL: Transport minister saying the location of the crucial flight data and voice recorders, believe it or not, is still unconfirmed.

BLACKWELL: Yes. CNN's Phil Black has been at the crash site. He's now in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine and joins us now live. Phil, again, first, thank you for being up with us this morning. You've been there at the scene. Tell us what you saw there. PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, we spent the night there. And it was a fairly confronting situation during the dark. But come the dawn, with the sunlight, even more so. Firstly, the scale of the disaster, the physical disaster, the wreckage, the scouring to the earth through impact and fire it really is quite awesome to behold. But there is, of course, a very disturbing connection to that. And that is the victims, the bodies. And they are everywhere. They lay across that landscape still in great numbers. Presumably still in the positions from which they fell from the sky. Largely untouched.

Some have had their positions marked by sticks and white cloth, but other than that, there appears to be very little coordinated effort to try and fix that. To try and collect that. Now, this area is still very much under the control of those pro-Russian militants. They seem to have very little intent at this stage of rapidly dealing with that situation. And I think, particularly given that this is coming into the third day with which these bodies will now have been lying there under Ukraine's summer sun, it's going to be a couple of key points that are going to increasingly concern the international community about the lack of access to this particular zone.

Firstly, it is dealing with recollecting, recovering these bodies, with the required dignity that you mentioned there. As I say, it just doesn't seem to be happening at the moment. And the second big point, of course, as well is the investigation. A credible investigation to determine, with significant position precisely what happened there.

So far, there is or appears to be very little progress on either of those two counts. And I think that's going to cause considerable concern, perhaps even anger if it looks like that situation will continue. And I'll tell you, I think it will. Because there appears to be no easy solution to try and get the required resources. Required people in there quickly, even in the event that the rebels decide to allow that to happen. And so far, they are not doing so. Victor, Christi.

PAUL: You know, I wonder what exactly are the rebels saying. Or how exactly are they holding people back when they try to get into that site, Phil?

BLACK: well, they are allowing some freedom of movement, locals, journalists to some degree. We were able to get in there carefully, slowly, it took a great deal of time. The roads are terrible. There are lots of checkpoints. There are lots of armed rebels in that area. And they do regulate movement very carefully. What they're not letting in, obviously, those representatives of the Ukrainian government. The central government in Kiev, with which they're still very much fighting.

So, probably at this stage, the organization that has the greatest resources that could move in there most quickly, potentially would be the Ukrainian government. That is still the rebels' enemy. And so, we understand there may be some room to negotiate. There's been talk of negotiating an open corridor, a demilitarized zone, and if you like to try and allow the people, the resources, the experts to get in there and take care of this with the sort of level that the international community would expect. But so far, we're not seeing that sort of progress.

We believe as we speak right now, the rebel leadership is holding a press conference, in which they intend to announce some intention in this regard, but we are not hearing just what that is.

If we can judge them by their actions alone at this point, they have not made any progress whatsoever to allowing either Ukrainian authorities or large-scale numbers of international observers and experts in to deal with this.

BLACKWELL: All right. Phil Black there for us in Donetsk. Phil, thank you so much.

We're joined now by Colonel Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst.

PAUL: The crash site in Ukraine has been described as the biggest crime scene in the world at this point. We just heard him describe what he saw. What is your initial reaction to this?

COLONEL RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, this is outrageous, the people that are preventing the recovery of those bodies, which needs to be done for a variety of reasons, the same people that did this are refusing to allow any progress to be made. You need to get qualified investigators in there so they can find out really what happened. Although I think we have a pretty good picture of what happened. And they may be stymieing the investigation because they don't want to have the real proof of the fact that they actually shot this aircraft down.

BLACKWELL: This could go, I'm guessing, in one direction, or the other. In which that this could be, and tell me if you disagree here, that this could be -- come to a gunfight to keep the Ukrainians out of this area, to keep their territory. Or do you think as Phil Black just reported, there's now this news conference, could this leader of the People's Republic of Donetsk as they've named it, try to use this to gain some international legitimacy by letting in some of these investigators?

FRANCONA: They may try, Victor, but I think that that ship has sailed. I think that this action has probably done more to harm their case than anything they could have done. You know, the world is outraged at what is going on here. The mere fact that they took down this aircraft was almost abandoned. If you look at the carelessness, with which this operation was conducted. I mean no attempt to even determine if that was a civilian aircraft. You know, we saw these audiotapes and the realization that they had actually shot down an aircraft. But I didn't see a whole lot of contrition once they found out it was like, oh, no, look what we've done, now we're in real trouble. Not oh, look what we've done, this is a catastrophe. So, I think that they are on the wrong end of any kind of public sympathy. So, I think any legitimacy they hope to get out of this is gone.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, I doubt that they would get it. But hearing that the leaders now are holding news conferences talking about possibly negotiating some type of demilitarized zone, that maybe his strategy. PAUL: Right. And that's my question to you. Is - if they want to

negotiate, what does that look like? Who do you negotiate with? Who leads that?

FRANCONA: Well, yeah, because who actually controls that ground? And to get to that ground, you got to go through other people's territory. I mean, this is just as bad as it gets. And while they're negotiating and talking about negotiating, we've got real issues on the ground there. You know, those human remains need to be treated properly. And they need to be treated rather quickly. You know, time is not on our side here, so we need to get people in there. And not just a few people, a lot of people. And then if you're going to conduct any kind of forensic investigation, we need to get in there and do that fairly quickly as well. Because all of that evidence is going to degrade over time.

BLACKWELL: I know we're running out of time here. But one quick question I want to get in here, U.S. officials tell CNN that they believe that this - the system was moved into this region within the last few days, possibly weeks. Is it possible in just that short period of time to learn how to operate this properly? Do you believe that there was some Russian assistance there on scene? I could see your facial expression, leading me to an answer here?

FRANCONA: Yeah, I mean it's - there's no way you could learn to operate this system that quickly. It takes a U.S. Army soldier six months to train up on a very similar system. So, there's been some training somewhere. There's been some assistance somewhere. This system came in a few weeks ago. And the key should have been when they knocked down an AM-26 at 21,000 feet, which is far above the range of anything you can carry on your shoulder. They should have started diverting flights then. So, there's a whole lot of issues we need to look at in retrospect so this doesn't happen again.

PAUL: Already, Colonel Francona, we appreciate so much your insight here today. Thanks for taking the time to be with us.

BLACKWELL: Well, as we said, these pro-Russian rebels are blamed for downing MH-17. The question is, who are these rebels, who are they fighting against? And is it the Ukrainian government.

PAUL: President Obama has some harsh words for Russia, though, over the crashed Malaysian plane. We're going to tell you what he said. Stay close.

BLACKWELL: Well, as we've discussed this morning, Russia now facing international backlash over the downing of Flight 17. The White House now believes that pro-Russian rebels used this sophisticated missile defense system, much like this one, I should say. To shoot down that Boeing 777.

PAUL: President Obama says the Kremlin likely bears some responsibility here saying rebel fighters could not have carried out the attack without proper training. So who exactly are these pro- Russian militants? Well, CNN's Deb Feyerick has been looking into that. DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, the struggle in Ukraine took on even greater meaning and global impact after that passenger plane was shut down, possibly mistaken by rebels as belonging to the enemy, the Ukrainian military. In May, following a vote, those pro- Russian rebels carved out what they called an independent republic vehemently opposed by the government of Ukraine. Fighting has intensified ever since.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down near the town of Torez, a rebel-held stronghold in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Fighting has intensified in recent weeks between rebels and Ukrainian military forces with cities destroyed and planes targeted.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter. And they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet.

FEYERICK: Possibly thinking MH-17 was another Ukrainian plane, an ominous message appeared on Twitter at roughly the time the plane was shut down. Quote, "We warned you to stay out of our skies." It was posted by someone claiming to be pro-Russian rebel commander Igor Strelkov. That post was removed not long after the aircraft is identified as a passenger plane.

JEN PSAKI, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SPOKESPERSON: Over the last several days, this has escalated, and which culminated in yesterday, President Obama announcing series of very tough sanctions to penalize Russia for its support of these separatists.

FEYERICK: Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied providing help to these separatists, but Russian financier Alexander Borodai, now prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic in charges of rebels and, he says, hundreds of Russian fighters.

PSAKI: Pro-Russian separatists were backed by Russia and began to take over strategic administrative buildings, again, airports, some of the military bases. They were being aided and abetted by Russian Special Forces.

FEYERICK: Both sides have access to the type of Russian-made Buk missile launcher believed to have brought down Malaysia Air Flight 17. And the Russians might not have even had to supply it to the rebels. Some analysts believe the pro- Russian rebels could have seized it after storming a Ukrainian military base.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Still to be determined what impact, if any, this tragedy has to end the fighting and restore the country. Christi.

PAUL: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Well, President Obama called the Russian president about the MH-17 shoot down. We'll tell you what the two leaders discussed.

PAUL: Plus as international community really struggled to find some answers here, monitors are facing increased pushbacks from those militants. We're going to talk about the challenges on the ground and what it means for this investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Well, President Obama says Russia bears some responsibility for the downing of Flight MH-17.

PAUL: Yeah, the president said pro-Russian rebels could not have operated the Buk missiles believed to be responsible without, quote, "sophisticated training." Let's bring in CNN's Erin McPike. She is in Washington for us. So, we understand that the president has had a conversation with President Putin in Russia. Do we know what they talked about specifically, what was said?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sure, Christi and Victor, and he did speak with Vladimir Putin on Thursday. And Obama related that Putin wasn't happy with the additional sanctions that have been imposed so far. But President Obama didn't back down at all and made the case that the violence has to end there, which, of course, obviously, hasn't happened. And Russia still hasn't stopped that provocation on the eastern border. Well, as President Obama continues to needle Russia for propping up the separatists in eastern Ukraine. Listening him to describe how that conflict has escalated to something of much greater magnitude.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This was a global tragedy. An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries. So there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: Now, Obama did warn against accepting propaganda as fact, and he was careful about how directly he pointed the finger at Russia. But he did call for an immediate cease-fire between Russian separatists and Ukraine, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Erin, I think it's important also to bring in the statement from the U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. Her words were very firm, but also highlighting as many have it, this is a human tragedy.

MCPIKE: Well, Victor, that's right. Now, she also pointed the finger at Russia, but listen to how she did that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA POWER, U.N. AMBASSADOR: Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCPIKE: Now, she also then went on to say that essentially members of the international community have warned that something bad was going to happen because this provocation of Russia has not stopped, Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, that moment as well, where she highlighted that three of the victims next to those names were letters "I" indicating that that person was an infant. Three infants died on MA- 17. Erin McPike for us from Washington. Thank you.

Now, Malaysia says the rules of war were broken, and the Flight 17 apparently as many have indicated was shot down.

PAUL: Well, now, it's demanding full access to the crash site. Bodies are still lying in fields there. Are armed rebels going to allow investigators back in today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: The bottom of the hour right now. So grateful for your company, I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. We welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We are starting with five things you need to know for your new day.

PAUL: Number one, Malaysia said it will release the full passenger manifest from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and they will do so today. 298 passengers and crew were killed when the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine Thursday. U.S. officials say a surface-to-air missile hit it. Malaysia's negotiating with pro-Russian rebels to get access to that site.

BLACKWELL: Number two, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 307 this morning, as the Israeli military operations continue in the area. According to Palestinian officials, 72 of those killed are children. Meanwhile Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go to Qatar this weekend to try to find a solution to this crisis.

Number three, the terror group Islamic state in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS have sent threatening letters to Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. It tells them to accept Islam, pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia court or face, quote, death by the sword. Christians who do not agree to do so, have been told to leave the city by today. ISIS militants have taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria as we know over the past two months.

PAUL: Number four, talks on the nuclear deal between Iran and five other countries including the United States have been extended. The group will keep negotiating the future of Iran's program for four more months. Now, Sunday was the deadline to ink a final plan. Iran is looking for some sanction relief in exchange for slowly dismantling parts of its nuclear program and agreeing to inspections.

And number five, massive wildfires in Washington State are still burning and they are out of control. Officials say there is zero containment of the Carlton Complex fire. Flames surged Friday to nearly 170,000 acres. Fueled by strong winds and those hot fry conditions out there. Dozens of homes have been destroyed. Hundreds of residents have had to evacuate, some across the border into Canada, in fact. Officials say lightning ignited the wildfire on Monday.

BLACKWELL: All right. A live look now at Kiev. We're waiting the Ukrainian foreign minister to speak at a news conference here. Of course, when this happens, we'll bring it to you. We know, of course, that we heard from the Malaysia transport minister this morning. And have had a conversation with the Ukrainian government, hoping to get access to the area where MH-17, the debris, the wreckage is. He says that he has that confirmation that there will be cooperation from the Ukrainian government. But the question is will those rebels who actually control that area, will they allow any of the investigators, any of the monitors, the Malaysian Airlines officials to go to that area. We'll see if that happens over the next few days and weeks.

PAUL: And it's one is of the biggest question right now, because time is of the essence to get in there and get to those bodies and get them back to their families.

BLACKWELL: Yeah.

PAUL: And Ukraine as talked before, saying that, you know, they are pointing the finger at Russia alleging the cover-up.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. Take a look at this video. They say that this shows the Buk missile defense system, the weapon allegedly used to shoot down the plane being moved across the border into Russia. And you see one of warheads there, one of the missiles missing there in the center. Experts say the missile air defense system is so powerful that one missile can travel faster than three times the speed of sound.

PAUL: We need to talk more about this with Justin Bronk, he's a research analyst with a military sciences program at RUSI, also joined by CNN aviation CNN and former inspector general of Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo and CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes. Everybody, thank you very so much for being with us. So, Tom, you've seen that video that we just saw and showed to our viewers. How incriminating, do you think is that truly for the Kremlin? How much evidence is that?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Christi, if it's an accurate video, it's very incriminating that, you know, that equipment was being hidden after the shoot down. You know, at this point, we're asking the rebels who appear to have, at least the indications are that they shot that aircraft down, possibly by accident or mistake on their part, but they shot it down, but now, you have them, you know, trying to cover up, or we're asking them, I should say, to allow investigators in to find out how guilty they are. And then wonder why they're not doing that. Why they're not allowing the international community to come in. Right now, you know, a handful of rebels with weapons are holding back the entire world.

And we don't hear anything of the outrage you would normally expect. We haven't heard from the United Nations, ICAO, we don't hear from the Netherlands they had almost a 190 people on that plane. It doesn't seem to be anybody outraged except President Obama.

BLACKWELL: Why do you think we aren't hearing that?

FUENTES: That's a good question. I don't know. You know, that, you know, we've heard in the past about the reluctance of the Europeans to criticize Russia, because they get their gas and oil and a couple of months of winter will be back. And they need that. You know, if that's the reason, I don't know. And, you know, they are saying well, we don't want to cast blame too soon. Well, forget about the blame. You want to recover your victims. Recover the remains. Reunite them with their families. That's first and foremost, much less down the road to point fingers that who did it.

PAUL: All right, Justin, I want to bring you into the conversation here, because we look at this and think how much operational expertise would rebels need to have to operate a Buk missile. And we're getting reports that it was transferred just within a couple of days from this crisis?

JUSTIN BRONK: Yeah, well, I mean, to - to operate an SA-11 Buk properly and with full functionality, you need months of training, full military experience. It is a complex system. However, it is possible that, you know, perhaps people who did military service earlier in their lives, who've volunteered, have gone across and have previous experience on the system, or potentially, you know the separatists have people who have been trained by, one would assume Russian military specialists. And, for a few days, few weeks, could operate the system to a certain degree of functionality and that would also help to partially explain why they missed a contact far above the altitude that you would normally see Ukrainian military transport flights. And also they appeared to have had no idea that there were, you know, civilians transformed the signals which would have been coming off that aircraft as well.

PAUL: Mary, let's talk more about that. The recordings that have been released by the Ukrainian officials. They indicate that these rebels mistook this plane for a military plane. How is that possible?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATON ANALYST: Well, and I think, mistook, or making a mistake is actually giving them more leeway than is due. There's no indication that they made any effort to attempt to identify the plane. The plane was undoubtedly and this will be something that is clearly displayed on the black boxes. It was clearly squawking a civilian airliner code. It was on a civilian airliner transponder. There's no indication they made any effort whatsoever. They were just in this case, they were criminals with missiles, and they shot down the plane. So, I don't think "mistake" is really the right word. It seems very intentional, if everything we've seen so far is accurate. It's truly the words of the criminals that did it.

PAUL: Tom, you were hearing so much about what's happening at the crash scene, which is ironic because they're not letting investigators into the crash scene. Investigators as we know are being held back by armed militants who are there. And we're also hearing from Phil Black today who is in the region that perhaps these rebels are going to be holding a press conference soon. Or a news conference of some sort, ready to negotiate. We have never seen a situation like this. Or have you ever seen a situation where you've got to get to a crime scene. It's being held by rebels. How do you negotiate with that?

FUENTES: I haven't seen this before. And I don't think the rebels even have a clue of what would be required in this case to actually do any kind of investigation. It would take hundreds of people several months. They will need a convoy of trucks for the victims. They'll need a convoy of flat-bed trucks, cranes, other heavy equipment, to remove the debris. They'll need a location to take the debris to so where it can be reassembled and examined and determine what exactly happened to the aircraft. The recovery of the black boxes are probably still buried in the ground or in the tail section of that plane and have not been removed, we would hope. But all of the work that has to go into an investigation like this, requires thousands of people, really, on the ground, at the site. And away from the site. And a lot of equipment. And we don't see any effort yet to even discuss how that's going to be brought out there to be used.

BLACKWELL: Mary, there have been these unconfirmed reports that the black boxes are now in the hands of the Russians. Again, unconfirmed. The transport minister there in Malaysia this morning said that he has no confirmation on where those are. If those are not retrievable at this point, if indeed they're not there with the plane anymore, how much do we lose and are those as crucial as those would have been, let's say, as we spoke months ago in 370. We essentially know from the intelligence what happened here.

SCHIAVO: Right, well they're crucial in the sense of they can be used if misinformation is involved to attempt to give the criminals who shot it down and Russia some cover. For example, on the black boxes it would clearly be contained, you know, what the - what communications were made or attempted or not made, most importantly, with the carrier. What the carrier was squawking, meaning it was sending out a civilian airliner transponder code.

And that would be contained, of course, on that, setting up certainly that no effort was made. Of course, now, this is starting to be very reminiscent again of the shoot down of KAO-007 because Russia held the black boxes for, you know, a decade, saying they didn't have them, and only Boris Yeltsin then let the world know in 1993, a decade, or almost a decade after it happened that they had them, and it showed absolutely, conclusively that there was no effort made to contact the plane. And the plane was in international airspace and it was shot down. So, we see that the black boxes could become a pawn in a game of misinformation, that's the problem.

PAUL: All right, well, Justin Bronk, Mary Schiavo and Tom Fuentes, your insight is so important to us. Thank you for making the time to be here.

BRONK: Thank you. PAUL: And we are going to continue the conversation, obviously, as

well, throughout the morning.

But let's talk about a grandfather. A family on a summer vacation.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. A young student who loved rugby, soccer. They're some of the 298 people who were aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Next, we're going to remember some of those killed aboard that tragic flight. Remember, this is, at its heart, a human tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: And more now on the top story this morning, the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. And now the victims who died aboard that doomed Boeing 777.

PAUL: Yeah, the scene on the ground for investigators has been described as the biggest crime scene in the world. Plane parts, luggage, bodies that are scattered through fields for miles.

BLACKWELL: And, you know, those victims, they came from around the world. Some were scientists, others athletes. Vacationing families, even a Roman Catholic nun. We also know 80 of them were children. CNN's Alexandra Field has a closer look at a few of the 289 lives lost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you walk to the field, then you see the bodies, you see, you know, a man with his cracked iPhone sticking out of his pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thinking about those people, being knocked out of the sky, it's pretty tough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just -- it's unbelievable. It's not really real yet.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sister Philomene Tiernan, an Australian nun, a beloved teacher at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School was heading home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's been a great mentor and she's also a personal friend. So, we're just devastated. The shock has been incredible. She very much brought love in all her interactions with everybody.

FIELD: Nick Norris was traveling with his three young grandchildren.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just gentle, clever, beautiful kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most magnificent parents to us, those kids. My sister, my brother David and myself, and just generally the most wonderful people and we're absolutely devastated losing them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, mom, we love you. We love you. We love you so much, we're going to miss you so much.

FIELD: The families in pain now turning to prayer from Malaysia to Moscow. In Amsterdam and Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clothing everywhere, most of it kind of ripped off by the air, those suitcases and stuff.

OBAMA: Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

FIELD: Quinn Lucas Schansman is the only American to be identified so far.

Karlijn Keijzer was a Dutch doctoral student and a rower at Indiana University.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have been flying, you know, listening to the music, watching movies. And so, they've been finding lots and lots of headphones.

FIELD: Glenn Thomas, the spokesperson for the World Health Organization, about to celebrate his 50th birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His twin sister says he died doing what he loved.

FIELD: Joep Lange, a leading AIDS researcher on his way to an international HIV -AIDS conference with nearly 100 other passengers.

OBAMA: These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others. And they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

FIELD: They leave burning questions behind what if, what for? Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Alexandra, thank you so much.

PAUL: Boy, think about this. This is a chilling story, that's this family ready to board MH-17, but turned away by the airline. We're going to tell you what happened.

BLACKWELL: You know, we are also following this morning Israeli forces now plunging deeper into Gaza. Next, we're going to talk live to Israel's military spokesman about this ground offensive and these long-term plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD (CHANTING IN ARABIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Skies were lit up in Gaza last night eliminated by clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas militants. BLACKWELL: It's a conflict that has really grown bloodier by the day.

Palestinian officials now say that more than 300 people have been killed, 72 of them children, and more than 40,000 people have been displaced as parts of Gaza have been reduced really to rubble, look at this, by Israeli attacks.

PAUL: The Israeli military says it's forced to protect itself from the barrage of rocket fire coming from inside Gaza. So, let's talk about this with Wolf Blitzer. He is in Jerusalem and along with him Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli military. Wolf, good morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Goo morning. Let's get right to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner. He's the spokesman for the IDF, Israel Defense Forces. The images that we're seeing coming out of Gaza, the civilian casualties, the children, pretty horrific right now. What's going on?

LT. COLONEL PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESPERSON: Well our mission is in full - full gear, we're taking the battle to the terrorists. Unfortunately, they intentionally positioned themselves in the midst of the civilian population. Indeed, there is this overflow. I would say in our mission, over the last almost two days now, of the ground forces, we've achieved a great deal. We've exposed 13 tunnels, which were meant to enable the Palestinian terrorists, the Hamas terrorists, to penetrate Israel.

BLITZER: Total - it's going from Gaza?

LERNER: From Gaza. 13 instances. This - you know, in the small --

BLITZER: Have you destroyed those tunnels?

LERNER: We're in the action of operating to decommission them so that they will not pose a threat anymore.

BLITZER: Because we've heard there may be indications that there's been another infiltration even as we speak right now, of Hamas commanders, if you will, coming through those tunnels into Israel?

LERNER: Well, we have had an incident this morning where Hamas terrorists have infiltrated Israel, used the tunnel to come in. They were on their way to a civilian community in the south. They met our soldiers on the way. There was a gun fight. They have people dead, we have casualties.

BLITZER: Israeli casualties?

LERNER: As well. And some of them fled back to Gaza where we intercepted them with our Air Force capabilities, but it just goes to exemplify. Can you imagine if we would have had 13 of these instances where simultaneously they would have come into Israel? And this type of offensive? This is the threat we're up against.

BLITZER: Because the clashes inside Gaza seem to be very intense right now?

LERNER: I would say it's medium level. It's the type of combat we expected to meet when we are going into Gaza.

BLITZER: Do they have good resistance capability, Hamas?

LERNER: Well, I mean I've heard your correspondence reporting anything from low tech to high tech, so they have explosive donkeys that they are using now.

BLITZER: What does it mean have explosive donkey, explain that.

LERNER: They take an animal, they load explosives on it, and they send it in the way of the forces hoping that it will explode near the forces.

BLITZER: That happened today?

LERNER: It happened - It was late last night.

BLITZER: And what happened? What did you do?

LERNER: Well, we had to prevent the donkey from approaching our forces.

BLITZER: You detected that. Was is --

LERNER: We have intelligence indicating that this is happening. So we knew. And when the forces were prepared for this incident, which is - the level of our intelligence as swell, so we've taken over the last 24 hours, almost, 48, it would be later today, two strategic tours of Hamas' terrorist infrastructure. And we are really drilling down on those. So as to rocket capabilities that are now depleted to about 50 percent.

BLITZER: So, in other words, the 10,000 rockets and missiles you earlier - Israeli intelligence earlier estimated they had, you say they've destroyed --

LERNER: Around half.

BLITZER: Half of 5,000?

LERNER: Almost.

(CROSSTALK)

LERNER: Israel - They have launched 5,600 now. And around 3,000 - 3,000 that we've dealt with directly.

BLITZER: So, your estimate is they still have about 5,000 left?

LERNER: Yeah.

BLITZER: And so, your mission is to destroy all of those 5,000?

LERNER: Our mission is to restore security to the state of Israel. And if they stop today, things can be a lot better. I mean they've had time and time again opportunity to cease fire every time they've reached that junction. They've chosen to escalate and have more aggression. So we're basically left with no alternative but to operate against them.

BLITZER: So, you're going after the tunnels. How close are you to eradicating the Hamas tunnels that go from Gaza into Israel?

LERNER: Well, that's a huge feat. Because we don't know exactly how many tunnels there are?

BLITZER: How many do you think there are?

LERNER: There are tens of tunnels that are --

BLITZER: Tens?

LERNER: --. are targeting Israel at different levels of construction. So that type of threat for us is a huge feat. I mean, one of them that was successful today. A couple of days ago, we had another tunnel in which 13 terrorists came in through. That was a strategic goal for Hamas to have the upper hand on our forces. Now, what we are doing, we're fighting that. We're combatting that, we're preventing them from having this advantage on our forces. I'm not saying it can't happen. Because it proved itself that today this morning, there was another tunnel that we didn't have, and they came in.

BLITZER: Given the civilian crisis, the refugees that are fleeing their homes, the civilian casualties, the children, are there humanitarian corridors that these people can undertake to avoid these kinds of bitter battles that are going on?

LERNER: Well, we've encouraged people to leave specific area where we know we are going. Unfortunately, as we have seen, that Hamas terrorists, they will launch rockets from next to hospitals. They will launch rockets from mosques, from civilian areas. So, there's a huge challenge there in picking and choosing. We've cancelled several missions there in order to avert civilian casualties. But it is a huge challenge for a military.

BLITZER: But you know the civilian casualties, the numbers mount dramatically. There have been some Israel military casualties today as well?

LERNER: In this clash, this engagement this morning, we've had - we have casualties. At least two people that have been wounded. We have civilian casualties, also in the rocket attack in the Negev. We're receiving reports, as we came in, of one death there.

BLITZER: One more Israeli civilian death?

LERNER: An Israeli civilian killed by rocket fire from - indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, so this is --

BLITZER: There are initial -that Israeli soldiers may have been killed?

LERNER: I can't confirm that at this time. But we - if we have that development, of course, I will update you.

BLITZER: Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner, spokesman for the IDF, thanks very much for joining us.

LERNER: Pleasure.

BLITZER: Christi and victor, so there you have the latest from the Israeli perspective. You've been showing our viewers what is going on in Gaza. It is very, very intense. And as I suspect given what the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, it's only going to get even more intense in the coming hours and days.

PAUL: Already. Wolf Blitzer along with Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, well, thank you so much, we appreciate it.

So, think about this, a couple and their baby was supposed to board Flight 17, the Malaysia Flight 17.

BLACKWELL: OK, but then at the last minute, the airline said no, they could not. Well, we'll tell you what happened, and how they feel now knowing that they could have been on that doomed flight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: A British family, they feel like they've cheated death after they heard about the Malaysia Airlines crash.

PAUL: Wouldn't you? I mean Barry and Izzy Sim and their baby had reservations on that flight, but they were bumped to a later flight because it was overbooked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IZZY SIM: I'm shaking. I don't even know what to do. And I feel like physically sick. Now I was like from -- from Hilton, the day, coming through the airport in the taxi, it was just crying. I'm just thinking that I feel like I've been given a second chance. And hopefully that will (INAUDIBLE). And I'll be able to see my family again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: The couple said they were on their way to Kuala Lumpur for Izzy to see her family. So, hopefully, they get to do that soon anyway, because it will be one heck of a reunion.

BLACKWELL: It will be indeed.

PAUL: At that point when you realize what could have happened. Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of your "NEW DAY" starts now.