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Head: Thirteen Israeli Soldiers Killed Sunday; Armed Rebels Control MH17 Wreckage Site; John Kerry Going to Cairo; More Bloodshed in Middle East; UN Security Council Calling for Access to Accident Site of MH 17; Hamas Claims to Have Captured Israeli Soldier

Aired July 21, 2014 - 6:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That will be so important because as you well know, Ukraine is not in control of the region where I am right now. You have to deal with Russia's influence and these local militias.

On that point, what does it mean if Russia is influencing them and it's almost impossible to believe they're not when this local prime minister is surrounded by Russian military men -- what does it mean that he's allowing this to continue? That Russia has not pushed them to open this scene to international cooperation, to leave these bodies the way they have, to make the dignity the fuel for outrage for the entire world? Why would Vladimir Putin allow this to happen and continue?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you're absolutely right. Over these last four days, the actions on the ground have been revolting, revolting. Remember, 100 years ago, we had World War I and those sides managed to call truces, little ceasefires, you know, whatever they needed to do X, Y or Z.

And in this case, it hasn't happened. It is appalling. And to see a former superpower, the former Soviet Union, the Russian president who wants to have pride and dignity and a big role in the world for Russia, not to insist that that site is secured and those bodies get the decency that international law, not to mention human law and human morality demands, and to seal it off and allow investigators to come immediately is truly something nobody can understand.

That's why here the two slightly reluctant world leaders have been galvanized into this united sense of outrage to actually hold him to account now, because they know he's the only one who can do anything. You heard the Australian prime minister -- Australia lost so many of its own citizens after the Dutch which lost so many of their citizens as well, as well as Malaysia and other countries -- the Australian prime minister said the notion that these separatist rebels are securing the site is like having criminals secure their own crime site.

And, Chris, let's not forget, there was an election in Ukraine. These rebels are outliers. They don't represent anybody except themselves and a handful of people who are just out there playing very dangerous games. The Russians accuse the Ukrainians of being fascist and neo- Nazis and this and that. Let's not forget that the so-called extreme right groups in the election in the end of may won less than 2 percent of the vote.

Petro Poroshenko was elected by a majority of the country including in that eastern region. And I spoke to him a few weeks ago. He detailed the peace plan to them and to Russia. They have not picked it up. He wants to do it again. Let's see if they will this time.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST "THE SITUATION ROOM": Christiane, it's Wolf in Jerusalem.

You know, the Ukraine situation is not the only deadly matter on the U.S. agenda. The Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington about five or six hours ago on his way to Cairo to see if he can stop the bloodshed which has been awful here in this battle between Israel, and Hamas and Gaza.

Do you think Kerry realistically can get that ceasefire?

AMANPOUR: It's incredibly difficult to see how it's going to happen at any time before Israel decides it's got enough out of this ramped up invasion and air bombardment to claim some kind of victory.

I mean, I was watching just like you, wolf, what happened overnight, scores and scores of Palestinians. Also I think 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. It's the biggest Israeli military death toll since the 2006 war that I covered, you covered in Lebanon, and there is -- there's a l more at stake now as the death tolls increase so dramatically. Obviously it's very uneven. There's a much smaller number of Israelis who have been killed. Hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians have been killed.

But whether or not Secretary Kerry can, not just convince the new Egyptian authorities who are obviously working on it, but to have that leverage on Hamas to insist they take up this time of a new ceasefire agreement. Again, we're going to be speaking -- I'm going to be speaking with Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister of justice, the first time she speaks since this ground invasion since the air bombardment. She was the lead negotiator in the now defunct and collapsed peace talks.

And, Wolf, you know better than I do, this is a serial occurrence in Israel, between Israel and Hamas over the last decade or so, that it's all these intermittent wars followed by a little bit of cessation of hostilities, only to start up again. And unless there's some much bigger resolution to this, this is going to be a pattern we're going to be watching and covering for a long, long time.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope that they can emerge from this current conflict with some sort of resolution. I heard one Israeli commentator earlier today recall that after the 1973 war, that's when Anwar Sadat was the leader of Egypt. He decided to make peace following what was a very bloody war then. Let's hope positive could emerge out of this disaster that's unfolding right now.

Christiane, we'll get back to you.

Let's go back to New York. John Berman is standing by -- John. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Wolf and Christiane. So

many important events going on around the world right now.


BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, how do you investigate the attack on Flight 17 when there is so much infighting in Ukraine already? So dangerous. Chris Cuomo will have a look on how monitors are trying to get to the wreckage and the resistance that they face.


CUOMO: We are in a hostile area of Eastern Ukraine because this is the final resting place of Flight MH17. This is called the biggest crime scene in the world, and it is probably being mishandled in as big a way as you can imagine.

Even the perimeter, what is called the perimeter, there's so much outside of it that any forensic expert that would want to pay attention to. And what has been happening here that makes it worse, it's in control of local militants under -- in a circle of suspicion about how this plane came down in the first place.

They haven't allowed people in. They didn't want experts here. They didn't want the monitoring team here. They didn't want media here. They have a lot of force at their disposal.

So, the task was for cameras to become tools to investigate and preserve what's here so that the real experts can get the answers that the families of the 298 victims deserve so very, very much.


CUOMO (voice-over): Sun flowers and wheat and farmland changed in an instant. A dark cloud and thunder fills the sky as MH17 is shot down. The plane's 298 souls -- men, women, children -- crash into the middle of a battlefield and now an undignified limbo.

Local militants suspected by Ukrainian authorities of bringing down the plane restrict access with the constant threat of force and gunfire.

(on camera): Of why it is the way it is, they're telling us to move back. At least he's being gentle about it this time.

(voice-over): Cameras become tools to preserve the scene as much as to report on it.

(on camera): Today, we're traveling with one of the monitoring teams. They're called the OSCE. We're going to see if they're given access to the crash site and what has been done and what isn't.

(voice-over): When we arrive, the area is raw, bodies still everywhere, exposed to onlookers, dogs and hot sun. Personal effects, the last traces, memories of loved ones picked through. Intact valuables seem to be missing. (on camera): Over my shoulder you see a major portion of the crash

site that monitors have not been able to inspect, but has been very well picked over.

There's something else I want to show you that's pretty interesting here. They've drawn a line for the boundary, right? Look, there's so much outside of it they haven't taken into account. It just goes to the need of having the right people here and they're not here yet.

(voice-over): And the militants in charge of the dignity of the victims seem more interested in a show of force than in showing respect.

(on camera): We're heading back a little bit here because the security situation is very tenuous. The invitation is only as good as the mood of the men in front of us with the weapons.

(voice-over): Finally, two days after the crash, bodies are bagged and trucked away. But to where?

We follow monitors to a nearby train station, inside some cars designed to carry meat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have verified that there are body bags in these wagons.

CUOMO: There's no way for monitors to count the bodies or to even inspect inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going inside is impossible without special equipment. The stench is very, very bad.

CUOMO: And there is no bad to come.

(on camera): OK, at this point, the military is stopping us from going any further.

(voice-over): Regional security decides we've seen enough. Once again, hands on guns, they tell us to go.

Villagers take up our cause. One woman takes us to a neighboring area and there we see this -- a collection of debris residents have assembled in a makeshift memorial to the lives lost, a rare show of respect and empathy.

Nearby, a remarkable find in a tree above, an overhead bin closed and intact. It just serves as a reminder of the desperate need for attention and care before it's too late.


CUOMO: Can you imagine a crime scene somewhere in the United States where local people in the community had to point out huge pieces of wreckage, days after there was supposedly an investigation in place?

Thanks to those villagers doing the right thing, bringing everything in, alerting the authorities here. It's really the best hope of any type of preservation of this scene along with the media.

Now, the good news. Look where we are this morning, a horrible place to have to be. At least we're allowed here. Just yesterday, I had to sneak around with these men with their weapons trying to keep us away as we followed the monitors.

They are doing more. There is some progress. I do think having the media here has made a difference. But where are these bodies going to be ultimately? Will they really be identified? When do the families get to be reunified?

These are important questions. I'll send it back to you in New York. Hopefully, we're going to have the man in charge of the monitoring situation. And again, he's not a forensic expert, he's not in charge of flight investigations, he's here to observe violence, and he's the closest thing to an expert they've had here.

So, hopefully, we'll have him soon to talk to him, guys.

BOLDUAN: And the fact that families of 298 people, I mean, they're still remain in limbo. They have no idea where their loved ones are, what's happening to their bodies.

Another thing, I know there have been some signs at least of the potential mishandling of evidence, Chris. You've been on the ground there. Are you seeing that still today? Has that changed?

CUOMO: Mishandling of evidence, absolutely. There was just a huge crane here, Kate, and it was lifting things up and moving them around. You would hope they were looking for bodies. At least there's some rationale for that. But it can't be right for the crime scene. Looting, a lot of rumors about looting. I haven't seen it, but I have seen no valuables and I haven't been told that they've been collected anywhere else. You know, cell phones, wallets. That speculation we brought to the self-appointed prime minister here, John, and he said, "Yes, there may have been looting. We'll find them, we'll punish them."

BERMAN: Hey, Chris, you've spoken about the men with weapons who have been around you this whole time. We saw some pictures of them. I do not know if they're around you right now so if you can't answer honestly, I will understand that as well. But how would you describe the command structure there? Are these people who look like they're under strict control from higher-up, or are these just kids roaming around aimlessly with guns at this point?

CUOMO: It's the right question. The OSCE tells us, they're the monitoring agency again for violence, that there are about 100 disparate militant groups in this region of eastern Ukraine. Some are just Russian imports, others are just bandits, etceteras. When we spoke to the prime minister, I pushed him to say he was in charge. And he said, "Well, we have local leaders, but I'm in charge." When you go through checkpoints, John, you've had this experience a lot of different places, they're a different group almost every time. However, the men surrounding this self-appointed prime minister are no joke. Someone who is with us who has been here his whole life says they are from Russia, they are not from here. They are very intent on making their message known and on fighting this fight.

BERMAN: Be safe out there, Chris, we really appreciate your reporting on the ground there. It's important for us to get that view to see for ourselves what's going on and what's not going on in some cases.

BOLDUAN: A reminder, we're now four days in after this tragedy, all in the midst of this crisis that has been unfolding in eastern Ukraine. Chris is on the ground, we're going to be getting back to him throughout the show. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to have much more on the crisis, obviously, from the ground. But first, new bloodshed in Gaza. The deadliest day for both sides since the fighting between Israel and Hamas began. Two Americans among those killed. We're going to get back to Wolf Blitzer on the ground in Jerusalem who is going to be talking to the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister.


BLITZER ": Welcome back to NEW DAY. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. The Secretary of State, John Kerry, he left Washington about six hours or so ago. He is on his way to Cairo to try to deal with the very, very deadly situation unfolding here between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The violence is spurring new urgency for the United States and others to try to find some sort of cease fire solution. Let's discuss the very latest. Mark Regev is joining us. He's the spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: First, a quick question because there are conflicting reports. Does Hamas have an Israeli soldier right now that they say they took?

REGEV: It could just be Hamas bravado. We're looking into it. We don't underestimate Hamas. Hamas has built a formidable military machine. We see that with these rockets that they can shoot at the center of our country, at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That network of tunnels under the Gaza Strip, there's a whole sub terranean terror world there in Gaza. And as you've reported, some of those tunnels can go into Israel and they pop up on our side of the frontier with arms, with explosives and they can cause murder and mayhem on our side. So we take the Hamas threat very seriously.

BLITZER: So you're not confirming or denying, you don't know yet whether or not that Hamas claim is true.

REGEV: We're looking into it as we speak.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Secretary of State John Kerry. He's heading to Cairo. I assume he'll come to Israel after that. Is that right?

REGEV: The secretary of state of the United States is always a welcome guest in Israel.

BLITZER: But Is there a plan already for him to go from Cairo to Israel, to Turkey, to Qatar. He's supposed to be engaged in these efforts to come up with a cease fire.

REGEV: This situation I don't have details to share with you. I can tell you the following, America has stood by Israel. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, we heard it again yesterday. Let's be clear. There's a wall to wall condemnation of Hamas for shooting rockets at our people. There's wall to wall condemnation on Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian cease fire proposals, and there's wall to wall support for Israel's right to defend ourselves against these attacks.

BLITZER: But, there's a lot of condemnation coming at Israel right now from various human rights groups, some countries saying that you're going too far.

REGEV: I would ask those countries, what would you do if your civilian population was on the receiving end of 2,000 rockets launched from terrorists on the other side of the frontier? And I think if people ask themselves that question, they would be a little more understanding of Israel's predicament.

BLITZER: You heard that open mic exchange that John Kerry had, he was doing all five Sunday talk shows in the United States. In between one he was overheard speaking to one of his aides on a cell phone. He sounded sarcastic when he spoke about Israel's supposedly pinpointing its military operation, as if he really didn't believe that was true. What's your reaction to that?

REGEV: What's important is what he said publicly. That was that Israel is under siege by Hamas and we are exercising our right of self-defense in dealing with that threat. As to the conflict in Gaza, war is a terrible thing. Anyone who has been in combat, anyone who has covered combat knows that people get hurt, people get killed. We did our best to avoid this conflict. Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to deescalate before the thing exploded. Once the fighting started, he accepted the Egyptian cease fire proposal. It was Hamas that rejected that.

BLITZER: Are you ready to accept another cease fire right now, even if it were to be announced today by Egypt? A cease fire, Israel withdraws its forces from Gaza, Hamas stops firing rockets and missiles into Israel? Is it too late for that or are you ready to accept that?

REGEV: Our goal is to end the terror attacks from Gaza into Israel. Our goal is that there shouldn't rockets fired on our citizens and we shouldn't see terrorists trying to infiltrate into Israel through the tunnels as we saw this morning.

BLITZER: I guess the question is can you accept the cease fire before you destroy those tunnels going from Gaza into Israel?

REGEV: At the moment we don't have to answer that question because Hamas says no. Hamas keeps shooting rockets at Israel and keeps trying to launch terror attacks against our people, trying to kill them. It has to be understood, just this morning there were two squads of Hamas terrorists whose came through tunnels. They entered Israel in the south, they tried to attack two different (inaudible) where civilians, farmers are just trying to conduct their daily lives. It shows who Hamas is. Hamas is an extremist, deadly terrorist organization. The worst of all is the people of Gaza are suffering because of Hamas. They didn't want this war, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there a good cooperation between the new government in Egypt and your government?

REGEV: Many governments in the Arab world, including Egypt, see Hamas for what it is and don't support Hamas's violence. Let's remember the Egyptian cease fre proposals were endorsed by the Arab League. That's important, Wolf, because the Arab League is not known historically to be a friend of Israel. On the contrary, the Arab League has often been hostile to Israel. The fact that they show that they endorsed the Egyptian cease fire proposals, proposals that Hamas rejected, it shows how isolated Hamas is not just in the general international community, but how isolated Hamas is in the Arab world.

BLITZER: One final questions, Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General he's on his way here already. What's his status? He's trying to get a cease fire as well.

REGEV: I think the focus of the diplomacy at the moment is to get behind the Egyptian proposal. It has to be clear that if mediation is going to work, that there has to be only be one mediator. Once again, our goal is to end the hostile fire on Israel's cities. Hamas said no to a cease fire proposal. We're acting to defend ourselves. We will see Hamas come out of this substantially weakened. Their arsenal of dangerous weapons diminished. They will understand that they cannot shoot at our people with impunity.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, thanks very much for joining us. Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It looks like all these efforts for a cease fire will continue. Whether or not anything is going to be changing today or tomorrow, in my mind that looks unlikely. We'll see where we go from here. Kerry should be in Egypt soon. I assume he'll be heading over to Jerusalem shortly thereafter. Guys, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Alright, well thank you very much, and thanks so much to Mark Regev as well. The Israeli prime minister spokesman. We'll be getting back to you, Wolf, very shortly.

There is a lot of news going on this morning of course in Ukraine and the Middle East. Let's get right to it.

CUOMO: We have breaking news live from the final resting place of MH 17 and a hostile area of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and the world is ramping up pressure on Vladimir Putin.


CUOMO (voice-over): New evidence as to who shot the plane down and the possible attempts to cover it up. The crash site controlled by rebel fighters, 298 bodies now in limbo. Their memories and dignity at the mercy of a larger battle. We have hard questions for the rebel leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please answer the allegation.

CUOMO: As families and the world demand answers and actions.

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer live from Jerusalem. Breaking news, the deadliest day for both sides in the conflict. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers killed. Two of them, Americans and 90 Palestinians killed. The death toll rises. Now Secretary of State John Kerry on route to the region to stop the bloodshed. And now this. Hamas claims they've captured an Israeli soldier.

CUOMO: A special edition of NEW DAY starts right now.


CUOMO: We are at what is being called the biggest crime scene in the world, here in a hostile region of east Ukraine. Behind me you can see for yourself. This is the final resting place of MH 17. 298 people lost their lives here and still this morning bodies just being recovered, just being put in bags, still left out in the sun and eventually being put into trucks and moved away. There's a lot to tell you about that's going on here. Some of it is good. A lot of it isn't. Let me get you back to New York for the headlines as well. John, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Alright, Chris, thank you so much. We're also following the other big story this morning in Israel. Wolf Blitzer is on the ground in Jerusalem. Let's begin, though, with the grief and politics and finger-pointing, quite honestly, still at this point after the attack on Flight 17.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Vladimir Putin is pushing back against international criticism over his support for pro-Russian rebels. The United States and much of Europe hold Putin responsible for not curbing his support for the separatists. Putin has responded by accusing other nations of exploiting the tragedy.

BERMAN (voice-over): The United Nations Security Council will vote today to condemn the attack on MH 17 after a late night meeting to discuss a resolution calling for access to the wreckage site for investigators. The Dutch now have teams to where the bodies are being held. Meantime, Ukraine's prime minister was strong, strong words for the Russians this morning.

ARSENIYYATSENYUK, PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE: I don't care about, not rebels, but these Russian-led guerillas, they are not rebels. I expect nothing from the Russian government.