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Air Algerie Found in Mali; U.N. School Shelled in Gaza; New Evidence in Flight 17 Crash;

Aired July 24, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. Another airliner has gone down with major loss of life and we're following late developments on that, more coffins from Ukraine arrived in the Netherlands but there are still big questions about access to the crash scene in Ukraine and Russia's role throughout the tragedy, that and U.S. claims that Russia is now shelling the region directly.

I'll speak with the Dutch prime minister and we'll take you where a somber and sacred effort is underway, identifying the remains, keeping faith with the living by honoring the dead. Reconnecting a broken chain of life and love.

Also tonight the anguish and anger in Gaza, women, children killed, a school, a shelter was hit. The question and controversy, though, is over who launched the attack, Israel or Hamas.

We begin, though, with the latest aviation disaster. Another and sadly new images of people grieving loved ones, grieving tonight in France, Algeria and in southern Lebanon. This woman showing photographs on her cell phone of her niece, her 5-year-old niece and her nephew. They and her sister-in-law among the 116 people aboard yet another airliner over another war zone that went down today. Some were Lebanese, 51 of the 116 were French nationals.

This is what the plane looked like. An American-made jet operated by a Spanish company, Swiftair, for Algeria's national airline. The wreckage spotted in the deserts of Mali. This happened over dangerous territory but also around dangerous weather. The reporting is fresh, the facts may change.

With that in mind here's Joe Johns with what we know so far.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wreckage of the plane has been located near the city of Gao in the northern part of the country according to Mali's president who confirmed news of the discovery to Reuters, hours after the aircraft first went missing.

1:17 a.m. local time, Air Algerie Flight 5017 left Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso bound for Algiers. It was supposed to be a four-hour overnight flight but about 50 minutes of takeoff, it disappeared from radar over Mali close to a zone of ongoing conflict between Islamist rebels and the government. An area the FAA had warned pilots to stay above 24,000 feet to avoid becoming a target.

As of now, there is no indication the plane was hit by a missile, but the early indication suggested bad weather in the area may have contributed to the crash. Air traffic controllers told the pilots to change course to avoid sandstorms in a part of the world where conditions are breeding grounds for hurricanes.

The military chief of staff for the Burkina Faso Army, "The plane expressly asked to change itinerary because of the bad weather. That may be a reason. Another made the hypothesis linked to other conditions but we cannot at this time venture in that direction."

The McDonald Douglas MD-83 plane, a staple in small commercial passenger jets, was carrying at least 110 passengers plus six or seven crew members including the pilot and co-pilot. About 50 of the people on board were reported to be from France, about 25 from Burkina Faso. Authorities reported a long list of other nationalities on board, none was American.


COOPER: Joe Johns joins me now from Washington.

So the government in Mali, do they have the resources needed to lead the investigation of this crash site?

JOHNS: Anderson, Mali has said that it is launching an investigation into the crash and we do know the government's Transport Ministry has some experience in this, a crash involving the same airline occurred there in March of 2003, and the Transport Ministry filed a complete report in that case. There was an engine failure on takeoff, 102 people died and there was only one survivor -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, appreciate the update.

Now France bearing a large share of the pain of this crash.

Joining us from Paris tonight is CNN's Isa Soares.

I mean, it looks like France has born the majority of the losses aboard this flight. Obviously the reaction there has got to be stunned.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Oh, absolutely, Anderson. 51 people, French -- 51 French nationals on board that flight and the French have been quiet and somber about it all but we haven't seen the makeshift memorials that we have seen in Amsterdam and that's because the French government is being quite silent about this, despite the fact that we're hearing from Mali president they have found the plane.

The French governing, in fact, hasn't come forward. They haven't said the plane has been found. So far this is all a mystery for them and they are saying they are looking into it. They are sending fighter jets to investigate but so far after 2:00 here in the morning, the French government being very tightlipped saying they are looking into all the facts, when they see the plane for themselves, then they will make a statement -- Anderson.

COOPER: And they've said they vow to mobilize all their resources to find the plane, but again it's in rebel held territory. That's -- so actually investigating the scene may be difficult.

SOARES: Absolutely. This is completely inhospitable terrain. You know, it is remote, it is vast, it is perilous, and they are pretty aware of that. At the same time, they have sent out two fighter jets to kind of ascertain, follow that route to try and ascertain what may have happened. They've also got troops on the ground, military and medical there. We found out they've got some 3,000 French troops on the ground. They have also asked for the Algerian and U.S. task force to really help them out in that area.

But it is a hard area not only from what Joe Johns is saying because of the weather, it's such a difficult and harsh terrain, quite mountainous but also it is the heartland of this heavy militant group, the Tuareg Group, that have been pushed back slightly, Anderson, from 2012, 2013, the French government military went in. They have been pushed back. They don't have as -- much capacity at the moment, but it's still -- they are still armed and they are still dangerous.


SOARES: So obviously, going in, trying to get that information becomes much more difficult -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isa Soares, reporting from Paris.

Isa, thank you very much.

Between that, Flight 17 and the FAA's decision to reverse its ban on flights into and out of Tel Aviv, an awful lot to talk about. There's also simple arithmetic. Seven hundred aviation fatalities in recent months.

Let's bring in the panel, aviation analyst and pilot Miles O'Brien, aviation safety analyst and author David Soucie and former FAA chief of staff Michael Goldfarb.

Miles, first of all let's talk about this crash, the Air -- the Algerian Air flight. What is -- what's your gut tell you about this?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, remember, it's early, of course. But you have to take a strong and hard look at the weather here. This is a part of the world called the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone. These are the worst thunderstorms in the planet near the equator where the trade winds north and south meet. Thunderstorms have become hugely embedded. Thunderstorms, the likes of which brought down Air France 447 in 2009.

And you see on the flight track that this aircraft was headed right toward a cell, had requested to deviate around it. All kinds of reasons not to fly through a thunderstorm and there are all kinds of questions that will be associated with the weather in this case.

COOPER: Yes. Air Algerie.

Michael, the recent tragedies, I mean, there is obviously concerns about the Tel Aviv airport. Is there a perception issue as far as airplane safety right now?

MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, FAA: Well, it certainly feels that way, Anderson. I mean, how many people would feel comfortable flying into that region of the world and yet, you know, it remains the safest mode of transportation. I think David and Miles could tell you the statistics are like one in 55 million that you would be involved in an aviation incident but if the perception is that it's not safe, well, then there's a real crisis of confidence.

That's why what the FAA did at Ben Gurion airport is so important. The Israelis may complain that they intervened but thankfully they did. Imagine had they left it up to the airlines themselves to assess the security threat, planes might not be flying in there for many days. So that's precisely the role you want FAA and other governments to play, a much more proactive role to respond to what increasingly seems to be a very hostile world that comes together with commercial aviation.

COOPER: David, what do you make of the FAA resending its ban on Tel Aviv?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, I think it was a smart thing that it was put in the first place. I think that when Bloomberg went over there, he needs to read the Federal Aviation regulations because they state that if there is a risk, identified risk by anyone, and that's part of the safety system. Anyone within that system, including the pilots, the passengers, anybody who raises a significant risk, that airport -- has to be shut down for a period of 24 hours.

So the fact that it was done and the fact that they found new significant information and that was necessary in order to lift the ban, they did exactly by the book, they did exactly the way the system safety system is designed to work.

COOPER: And just for our viewers who don't realized, Michael Bloomberg flew over there on El Al specifically to make their point saying that that airport was safe and that the -- what the FAA did was wrong essentially.

Michael, you agree with the FAA ban, that it was the right thing to do?

GOLDFARB: Completely. Completely. I think it allowed the airport to reopen safely and David is absolutely right, there is a very methodical process with every airport to look at the indicators of how safe it is from the navigational aids to this strife around an airport in a conflict area. They did the right thing, they got new information and they reopened it as quickly as possible.

COOPER: Miles, I know you have a point you want to make about Malaysia Airlines, the disaster over Ukraine, about the Ukrainians. You say they aren't being transparent enough, in what way? O'BRIEN: Well, you know, we've been talking about some of the

scenarios which might have led to the surface-to-air missile being fired at that airliner. One of the things that is persistent and still in the realm of speculation but needs to be run down is, was there a Ukrainian fighter jet in close proximity to that airliner?

Certainly not unheard of to have fighter jets using civilian airliners as cover to evade radar. If that is in fact the case, it certainly muddies the water as to why the trigger was pulled, if you will, and the best way to clear that up is in the hands of the Ukrainian air traffic control authorities which have radar tapes, primary and secondary, as well as the air traffic control tapes. Now they said they've released them. We haven't seen them yet. This needs to be settled.

COOPER: David, do you agree that they need to step up?

SOUCIE: Absolutely. Those need to be released immediately during the investigation and everything that happened before and leading up to it, as well.

COOPER: All right. Miles, David Soucie, Michael Goldfarb, appreciate you being on.

We're going to come back to the Ukraine -- story shortly.

When we come back, we're going to take you to a single location in Gaza where 200 people, mostly women and children, have been wounded, 16 were killed. It happened at a school that was serving as a U.N. shelter. The Palestinian anger, white hot even though answers about who is exactly responsible remain unclear.

We're going to show you how each side is reacting and the best evidence available we have right now.


COOPER: Tonight, outrage growing over the shelling of a third United Nation school in Gaza, at least 16 people were killed. Palestinian officials said more than 200 others were wounded. The two other U.N. schools have been hit, this one was serving as a shelter in an area that seen intense fighting. Many families with young children had gone there thinking it would be a safe place. Obviously, it was not.

Officials in Gaza accuse Israel of targeting the school despite knowing it was a shelter. Now Israel said it's investigating the shelling and suggested a rocket fired by Hamas could have hit the school.

Just yesterday the U.N. secretary general slammed Hamas for storing weapons in a U.N. school and thereby turning schools into potential targets.

Among all the finger pointing, what is certain right now at this hour beyond doubt, today young children and babies once again paid the price of war. ITN reporter Dan Rivers filed this report from Gaza. I do want to

warn you, the images are hard to bear.


DAN RIVERS, ITV REPORTER: They had come here seeking refuge, but today, the war came to this school. The playground peppered with shells, the results were devastating. A few minutes later, we watched the first casualties arrive at the local hospital, child after bloody child. This boy reeling in shock as doctors lost the battle to save a member of his family.

For more than 30 minutes, the ambulance crews flooded this tiny hospital with more and more victims.

They are running out of room in this triage center as ambulance after ambulance have arrived with dozens of injured people including many children.

One of the youngest, this six-month-old baby boy, Ahmed, has shrapnel in his back. There is no time for anesthetic as doctors pluck out the fragmented metal and make room for the next patient.

Nearby the baby's father, Mamfa (ph), is hysterical. The father of six tells me his family was waiting in the school playground to be evacuated by the Red Cross when suddenly the shells rain down. He says his children were blown away like pieces of paper.

Everywhere we looked, faces contorted in pain, terrible news broken. For many, it was too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to tell me that Netanyahu made the responsible thing, a responsible thing to kill the children, the old women, the children? What? Their army, what?

RIVERS: The mayhem of this day will never be forgotten by these people. For many the injuries will be life changing. Agony, too, for those yet to live theirs. By the end, the injured children were simply being treated on the floor so great were their number. And most with the same injuries, shards of metal lacerating their tiny bodies.

Multiple shrapnel. How many children have been brought in?


RIVERS: The price of this war is etched on each and every face here staring blankly back in shock. The innocent victims of this relentless conflict.


COOPER: That was Dan Rivers reporting.

The U.N. secretary-general said he is appalled by today's strike on the U.N. school. Tonight Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo trying to help broker a cease-fire. The crisis now in its third week.

The FAA, as we reported, has lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Israel. A U.S. official, though, told CNN if the situation in Tel Aviv, quote, "goes south," their words, the ban could be reinstated.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Gaza, Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. They join me with the latest.

Karl, regarding the U.N. shelter, what's the latest?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far from the Palestinian held authorities, there are 16 dead and over 200 wounded. What we haven't gotten any clear picture of right now is who exactly is to blame. On the one hand the United Nations says that the Israeli military had clearly had the coordinates of where the shelter was. The United Nations also said that that it asked for the Israeli military to call a lull in fighting on at least two occasions during the day to allow the civilians safe passage out of that school.

They say that that permission was denied. However, the Israeli military clearly say that they did permit a four-hour window, so there's some confusion there. That is one point. Also we know in the previous days there had been intense fighting, both artillery shelling but also ground fighting in that area of northeastern Gaza. And the school is only about a mile and a half from that border.

Also what the United Nations is saying is that it isn't at this time blaming either side but it does say in previous days both the Israelis and Hamas have violated the neutrality of U.N. schools. They accuse the Israeli military of firing on U.N. schools on at least two occasions in the past three days and over the past week or 10 days or so they blamed Hamas militants for using at least two schools to store their rockets.

The U.N. is calling for a full report. The Israeli military is saying it will investigate, too. When a CNN team went down to the scene, we could not draw any conclusive evidence about what may have caused the blast. We saw shrapnel marks, pop mark in the school and the ground. No signs of any rocket parts on the ground and no fragments from anything that looked like commercially made weapons grade material ammunitions -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wolf, you asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman about it. What did he say?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He says that it's a tragic incident. The Israelis are investigating it. They say there is a possibility it could have been a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza towards Israel but landed in that building. On the other hand it could have been an Israeli military mistake for which they would be deeply regretful. They are investigating and they'll know more as the investigation continues. But they weren't ready to make a firm determination yet.

COOPER: And Wolf, senior State Department officials are seemingly trying to certainly put pressure on both sides today saying Secretary Kerry's time in the region is not indefinite. Have you heard of any, is there any feeling on the Israeli side that they are closer to a cease-fire?

BLITZER: I haven't heard any indication from the Israelis that they're closer to a cease-fire. If anything, they see the continuation of this operation and they don't see any willingness on the part of Hamas to stop launching rockets and missiles into Israel. The Israelis are continuing their military operation in Gaza. They are going after those tunnels from Gaza into Israel. They're going after the rocket launchers.

They do say that they went into this operation thinking that Hamas had about 10,000 rockets and missiles. They think about 6,000 of them are gone. Either that they were launched against Israel or destroyed by the Israelis, but they say Hamas, though, has 4,000 left and they also say that the Hamas fighters seem to be a lot more disciplined, more trained, better professionally in dealing with the Israeli operation than they thought was the case a few years ago. So this is a real battle that continues.

I'm not very encouraged that there will be a cease-fire any time soon, although that would certainly be good.

COOPER: Karl, what Israel says they're going to do an investigation, I mean, is there anybody on the ground there in Gaza actually capable of doing investigation, whether it's the U.N., whether it's any other group?

PENHAUL: We don't believe right now from what we've seen, first of all, the chain of custody, we got back into that school more than three hours after the explosion occurred. The school had been completely evacuated. No staff were in place to secure the explosion site. We just walked in, took more photographs, took more video of the explosion site as we were in the compound.

Another ambulance drove in with three paramedics in and also some civilian adult males in the rear of the ambulance dressed in civilian clothes. We don't know what their purpose was arriving back at the compound but clearly, this compound has not been secured and also presumably that means the chain of evidence is not secure either. So very difficult to see how anybody could do a full investigation at this stage.

The Israeli military is also not in control of that school or the surrounding area. That said, checking through records, checking through firing logs, perhaps, checking back with after action reports from its units perhaps Israeli military could come up with some answer, doubtful that any of that kind of information would be coming -- forthcoming from any of the Gaza militant factions -- Anderson.

COOPER: Karl Penhaul, Wolf Blitzer, thank you.

We're going to take you up to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 investigation next. New developments on the ground to tell you about and in the air that could complicate an already daunting job. The U.S. State Department saying it has new evidence that Russia is firing artillery into eastern Ukraine. The latest ahead.


COOPER: There may seem another complication in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 investigation. After seeing the crash site, the crime scene picked over by the very rebels accused of downing the plane and their backers, the Russians stepping up the threat on the border, a new development.

The Americans claim that some of the shells landing on eastern Ukraine were coming from Russian artillery.

For that and other late development, we're joined by Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

So let's talk about this new intelligence that Russia could actually be firing artillery from their side of the Ukrainian border?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary but by all accounts according to the U.S. government, true, Anderson. Earlier today the State Department actually spoke about this in detail.

Let's quickly have a listen.


MARIE HARF, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We have new evidence that the Russians intended to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military position.


STARR: Now here at CNN we know behind that scenes that the U.S. has been looking at this for the last several days and they now believe they have the satellite and radar intelligence that tells them the Russians have actually been showing most of this week, if you will, for the last several days. There are even photos out there -- I think we can show everyone -- that U.S. intelligence is scrutinizing right now. These are artillery pieces and the U.S. is looking to see if it can demonstrate the claim that Russian soldiers are making that they took these pictures from the Russian side of the border including the empty artillery shells after they fired into Ukraine.

COOPER: You reported yesterday that Russian troops are also massing near the Ukrainian border. How concerned are U.S. officials that that could become an actual invasion force?

STARR: Well, you know, that would be the -- you know, the true dire consequence of all of this, the worst-case scenario aside from everything else going on in this region.

U.S. officials tell me that they are just not sure what Putin is up to. They believe he's in control of the forces. One leading theory right now is not preparing necessarily for an invasion but that that basically they are firing from the Russian side to push back government forces on the Ukraine side who've some progress in taking back territory so that they can open up, the Russians, if you will, can open up some of this retaken territory for their pro-Russian separatists to move back in and try and take control. But this continues day by day, really to be a hair trigger situation.

COOPER: Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

Whatever the Russian role in Flight 17's downing may be in the ugly aftermath, it is clear from Barbara's reporting and all the reporting from ground that Russia exerts enormous influence from the region. We know that and of course, on the rebels who surround the crash site.

Many believe that Vladimir Putin is not living up to his own words of just a few days ago when he said that everything possible must be done to safeguard the teams now there.

Earlier today I spoke about it, about Mr. Putin with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands. We also talked about the burden that he and his country have been baring with such grace and humanity.


COOPER: The Netherlands has done an extraordinary job welcoming the first victims of this crash back with dignity and with honor and with respect. You have said that something fundamental changed last Thursday when this plane was shot down. What has changed?

MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER: Well, as you can understand, we are a nation in mourning and the loss of 194 of my countrymen in total 298 in the plane has been an earth breaking and shattering experience for the whole country. It was extremely important yesterday as a nation to come together to stand shoulder by shoulder.

COOPER: The beauty of what you did yesterday and today was in stark contrast obviously to the horror that we witnessed in Eastern Ukraine, not just in the downing of this plane, but in the treatment of your citizens and citizens from all around the world for the last several days. There may be as many as 100 people still left at the crash site.

I spoke to on OSCE monitor today who is at the crash site today with some Malaysians and Australian investigators. He found human remains. It appears no one right now is doing anything systematically to find all the victims still laying out there and to bring them back one week since the crash. Is this acceptable to you?

RUTTE: No, that is why we will increase our effort to bring home all the victims of this disaster. We will send into the crash site a large number of people from the Netherlands, experts, forensic experts, people from the police who are trained to deal with this type of work and these issues.

They will start tomorrow and we will have in total around 50 people working there from Sunday on ward. We will again rebuild our capacity in the field at the crash site to recover the remaining remains and as much as possible their personal belongings.

COOPER: On Saturday, you said that Russia's President Vladimir Putin must act to allow access to the crash site. Do you believe he has done all he can?

RUTTE: I've been on the phone now for six times. It's always difficult to assess why things have been moving a bit further and a bit more swiftly than at the start of the crash investigation and the recovery of the victims. It started awfully slow. The pictures were heart breaking for the relatives and families for the whole nation, for the whole country.

COOPER: Do you have any doubt Vladimir Putin has armed and packed these pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine? There is now a report that we just aired on CNN saying in the U.S. There is a belief that Russia is actually firing from Russian territory into Eastern Ukraine.

RUTTE: I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I don't believe I'm furthering the process or helping the process by pointing my finger. I want to base this evidence from our intelligence community and be working very closely together with the American and communities and the support from President Obama.

And the fact that he visited our embassy in Washington and was writing a book of condolence has been a very moving, has been a very moving experience for the Netherlands. We highly valued the fact that he did.

COOPER: Prime Minister Mark Rutte, appreciate it, thank you very much.


COOPER: Just ahead, more evidence but even now, the crash site is practically abandoned. Also, the identification and forensic examination of the victim's remains begun. It's a challenging job to say the least.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the ground in the Netherlands where the work is being done. We'll also talk with a forensic pathologist who helped families identify victims of 9/11.


COOPER: About this time, Ivan Watson told us something inconceivable that was almost inconceivable. He just came back from the site of where Flight 17 crashed and it was completely deserted, there was no real investigation underway as far as he could tell, no one looking for the bodies of what could be as many as 100 people still lying in those fields.

Today as we ask Phil Black to go back out to the site to see if anything changed, the short answer was not much. Here is his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the biggest international presence scene at MH-17 crash site. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe traveling with investigators and diplomats from Malaysia and Australia. For the first time, the observing mission looked beyond the grassy fields and pushed into a dense forest. They found small, scattered pieces and this.

So far, it's the largest single piece of MH-17's fuselage to be discovered. Its impact was cushioned by the forest, some windows are still intact. According to the European monitors, the investigators from Australia and Malaysia are surprised by two things, firstly, the sheer size of the debris field and the fact that one week since the disaster, there is still in exclusion zone surrounding it.

At this site, observers and experts study the front end of the cockpit. This is where emergency workers caused significant damage a few days ago cutting into the wreckage with a high-powered saw and it's also where the metal debris is marked by numerous puncture marks, possible signs of shrapnel damage from a mid-air explosion.

Moving in convoy across the crash zone and at sometimes unfriendly militant escort, there is nobody examining or security evidence. This, the site of a major recent air disaster is quiet. It looks abandoned and there is no ongoing operation to find victims' bodies among surrounding fields and farmland. That's a concern because monitors found yet more evidence, the original search effort was less than thorough.

MICHAEL BOCIURKIN, OSCE: Human remains for the second day in a row, we did spot human remains.

BLACK (on camera): Again today, as well.


BLACK (voice-over): One week on, international experts are on the ground in small, but growing numbers. But the wreckage of MH-17 is still not being treated with the care it deserves. Phil Black, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


COOPER: Well, again, today in stark contrast to what Phil Black saw, we bore witness to the dignified reception of casket after casket at an air field in the Netherlands. Each one given the same dignified, treatment, the same care being treated for they are mothers and children, treasured friends, countrymen and women. Humanity is plain to see and feel in their journey home, the next step, identification and forensic examination.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us tonight from the facility where that is taking place in the Netherlands. Also forensic pathologist, Dr. Judy Melinek, who served in the New York City Medical Examiner's Office in the wake of 9/11. Sanjay, you were there as the second procession of coffins came today. Investigators have the incredibly difficult task of making identifications. What do we know where the process stands now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I did see that procession come in, Anderson. I can tell you it was an incredibly moving thing. I was really amazed just how quiet and respectful it was, behind me is the military base. You have 75 investigators from different countries around the world that represent the countries from where the passengers were on that plane and it's the process has started.

My understanding is talking to some folks here, they create stations within this large military base to try and begin this process of identification starting with basic things first and then other things, you know, looking at identifying features of the remains, maybe clothing or jewelry or something that's unique about the person.

They get medical records, dental records and then also DNA analysis. It's really remarkable. They have to talk to these families. They have to go obtain some of these things from families who have just gone through this incredible loss. It's challenging work, both in terms of medical and scientific aspects, but also psychological aspects for these examiners -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dr. Melinek, you worked to identify victims at ground zero after 9/11, what are some challenges that are unique to tragedies involving a large number of fatalities like this?

DR. JUDY MELINEK, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, in this case the challenges are not just the large number of fatalities, but also the forces at work here. Just like in 9/11, where we have planes and then the collapse of the building so it's an explosion as well as a collapse and then fires and here we have an explosion at a high altitude and descent of remains over a long distance and a large area. Then there is also the delay, as you mentioned, of it's been about a week, so decomposition is playing a factor, as well.

COOPER: Dr. Melinek, you're an expert on this, but just in a personal level, how do you do this? How do you -- I mean, I'm trying to imagine those 75, you know, workers with the dozens of people who have thus far come in, not even complete people in some cases, how do you get through each day?

MELINEK: It's incredibly difficult if you never worked a mass disaster before. When you are training, you learn to desensitize to be able to put on your hat and put on your gear and go and do the work the next day because the most important thing is there are people at the other end who are waiting for results. There are family members grieving and they want closure. So that is the motivation.

COOPER: Sanjay, I know you've been through this training, as well. Is there any sense of how long this process is going to take? Because obviously, there are still, you know, estimates of this perhaps as many as 100 people still in fields in Eastern Ukraine who haven't been found yet. I assume there is just in timeline for this. GUPTA: There really isn't. The first and foremost goal is to return these remains to the people who love them and to get that absolutely right to not make mistakes. I mean, look, this is a science, but in some ways, not a perfect science, either after the Oklahoma City bombing, for example eight years later, it was discovered there were remains, that was buried in the wrong coffin.

After Hurricane Katrina, Anderson, nine years later, there were 31 unidentified remains still. That's horrifying. It's emotionally catastrophic, as you might imagine. The close sure is not there for those families perhaps and so it's something that they don't want to rush.

COOPER: Certainly, Sanjay, appreciate you being there and Dr. Melinek, it's good to talk to you. Thank you.

Well, as always for more on and other stories, go to Just ahead tonight, the latest on efforts to free the Ukrainian journalist seized by pro-Russian rebels while freelancing for CNN. He's not the first journalist to be targeted in the war zone where Flight 17 was shot down.


COOPER: It's becoming increasingly dangerous for journalist near the crash site of Flight 17 in the Eastern Ukraine as we said it's a war zone. For the last two days, CNN has been working behind the scene to try to secure the release of the Ukrainian journalist, Anton Skiba, who was seized by gunman outside the hotel in Donetsk on Tuesday.

He was working as a freelancer for us, CNN. Donetsk is controlled by pro-Russian rebels. The U.S. State Department is calling his detention a kidnapping and human rights groups are demanding his release.

Ivan Watson joins me now with the latest. So Ivan, freelance journalist, take me exactly through what happened, how he was abducted. I understand there are men waiting for him at the hotel?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Our TV crew with my colleague, Phil Black was coming back from the Malaysian Air flight disaster zone on Tuesday evening. They pulled up just outside this hotel and there were a group of gunmen in green camouflage with the vice premiere of the Donetsk People's Republic who were standing basically waiting for them with a folder of documents they got his ID and detained him, marched him into a car and drove him away. They told us he was a very dangerous person, that he was a Ukrainian agent and we've been trying to secure his release ever since.

COOPER: Now an official with this self-declared Donetsk People's republic, they accused him of terrorism and said they presented evidence allegedly taken from his Facebook page, but they since walked back that acquisition, yes?

WATSON: Yes, at first, it was that he had allegedly been posting ransoms for the killings of separatists fighters, but within a couple hours, it was, well, he was carrying three different IDs with three different last names on them. We got a brief phone call from Skiba on Wednesday, he basic called and said I'm OK. I'm being questioned at the headquarters of the separatists security office and then the call was cut off and we don't know if the call was made under duress.

COOPER: Scary times right now. In terms of other developments in the Ukraine, I understand you obtained video of a mass grave allegedly the work of rebels.

WATSON: That's right. A human rights watch researcher returned from the town and then the Ukrainian government within the last month has taken back control of that town and there he documented and shared with us video of Ukrainian officials uncovering what appears to have been a mass grave with at least eight bodies inside.

Now Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitnesses there who said that they had seen rebels burying the bodies, which are at a location next to the city morgue on June 11th, when the rebels were still in control of that city. It's not clear who the victims were or how they died, but human rights watch reported that there were some people waiting there at the site.

Waiting for their missing loved ones and that there has been a terrible record of disappearances and executions taking place in that city while it was in the control of the separatists.

COOPER: Ivan Watson, appreciate it. Ivan, thank you.

Up next tonight, honoring the victims of Flight 17. More remains return to the Netherlands.


COOPER: The sound that echoed from one end of the Netherlands to the other, yesterday, sadness and strength as people paid respects and the first caskets came home. Two more planes carrying remains of Flight 17 victims landed in the Netherlands today. There were 74 coffins today, 74 waiting hearses.

Once again, a procession as the remains were taken to a military barracks where forensic experts will begin the process of identification. Here's a look at today's solemn journey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our community is really in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has a person who is involved with one of the victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has a sad feeling. It is also we are, I feel a little bit of anger, as well, because an accident can happen and afterwards, you should treat people with respect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is very respectful to the people that we lost and it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can imagine the people are angry, but when they stay in a situation of love, I think that the violence of death makes destroy everything, but the violence of love gives the chance to survive.


COOPER: The violence of love. That does it for us. We'll see you at 11:00 p.m. Eastern for another edition of 360. The CNN original series, "The Sixties" starts now.