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Latest on Malaysian Airliner Shootdown; Israel Flight Ban Lifted, But Questions Remain; Russian Sanctions Examined

Aired July 24, 2014 - 04:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. Breaking news to tell you about this morning, U.S. Flight to and from Tel Aviv clear to resume, the FAA lifting that travel ban. It lasted just 36 hours, but now it's up to US carriers to decide what they will do. We'll take you live there with the latest on the ground.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New developments this morning into who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The plane's black box is now being analyzed this morning. Did pro-Russian separatist posses the weapons needed to shoot this plane down? This is emotional -- emotional tributes play out. This morning, more coffins leaving Ukraine bound to the Netherlands. We have live team coverage on every angle of this big developing story this morning. Good morning everyone. Welcome to early start. I'm Christine Romans.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It is Thursday, July 24th, 4 a.m. here on the East Coast. We welcome all of our viewers both here in the United States and around the world. We begin our (inaudible) breaking news, the FAA lifting a ban on flight into and out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. That ban came after Hamas rocket landing just about a mile from the airport. Now, Israeli officials have been lobbying hard to try to convince the agency to reverse that decision. Now, three domestic carriers that fly to Israel, Delta United and US Airways, must decide if and when they will resume those flights. The travel ban angered some, even prompting former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to fly to Tel Aviv to drive home the point that he said, "This is safe." Listen to this exchange between the New York former mayor and also our Wolf Blitzer.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: If you don't feel safe here, I don't know where you'd feel safe. And I think the State Department is just overreacting in typical bureaucratic fashion.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Political reasons for that?

BLOOMBERG: Why would you think that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Did you think that -- I'm asking you.

BLOOMBERG: Don't be ridiculous. Why would you think that? It's an outrage for you to accuse one of our agencies ... BLITZER: I'm not accusing anything, I'm just asking.

BLOOMBERG: ... by asking the question. You're implying that our government does things for political reasons. And maybe every once in a while they do, but it's your job to prove it. Just the allegation against our government, I personally take as an offense.


HARLOW: And then Wolf went on to report that we've had U.S. lawmakers who have made -- brought those questions up including Senator Ted Cruz. And also, of course, some in Israel where Wolf have brought that question up as well. I want to go straight to Martin Savidge who is standing by live at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. We'll get to the FAA lifting this restriction in just a moment. But you've just heard sirens going off there, right, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did. It was not exactly at the airport. It appeared to be at a community that is a little bit of ways. But then after about maybe hearing those sirens for a minute, we also noted that there were launchers from the Israeli Defensive System that's known as Iron Dome and there were multiple explosions in the air. Now, I have to point out, Poppy, they were right over Ben Gurion Airport. Maybe not right over the runway, but one of them appeared to be over the area of the outer-approach roads. And then there was another explosion that appeared to be out over the perimeter.

So, it appears that there were detections of rockets coming in this direction. And as a result, they activated the defense system. There were explosions, multiple explosions, heard in the air. We have not been told of any rockets striking the ground. But it's a clear emphasize point, if you will, to the circumstance of what is going on around this area and Tel Aviv and the concern for Ben Gurion Airport on the part of the government and on the part of the International Air Carriers. Now, the FAA ban has been lifted, it means that it's up to the individual U.S. airlines to determine if they're going to come. Events like these, certainly, are not going to encourage them. The Israeli Government says and the FAA agrees that Israel has implemented new security devices. They won't say what they were, but it appears we just witnessed them in action. Poppy?

HARLOW: And of course this plays in, Martin, to the bigger picture, the bigger fight here between Hamas and Israel. Hamas after that FAA ban claiming that is a victory for them. Israel saying and politicians there along with former New York City Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, saying, "Look, don't let them win. Do not ban this flight." Apparently, the FAA a few hours ago lifting that agreed and said it is safe to fly in the region. But what are you hearing from people on the ground there? What do they think? Because I know this can be crippling to their economy not to have all these tourists in the summer, but do people on the ground there think it is safe?

SAVIDGE: Well, let's face it. The tourists were not coming not because the airlines weren't coming here. The tourists weren't coming because of the entire military situation right now and individually chose to make a decision based on their personal safety or their fears for it. The impact though economically would be that business wouldn't be able to get here and Israelis wouldn't be able to leave. Now, there are planes that fly. It shouldn't be said that Israel is isolated. You have El Al, the national airline. That flies through everything. It has many flights to many parts of the world. And then major carriers like British Air, they continue -- and a number of other airlines continue to fly. So, it was more a prestige issue and there is of course an economic issue. But, you know, the Israeli government did not like to see or give in any way Hamas a victory which they felt is definitely they do. They're glad of course. The FAA has now lifted the ban. They'll wait to see that the American carriers come.

HARLOW: We'll wait as well. Martin Savidge reporting for us live from Ben Gurion Airport. Thank you so much, Martin.

ROMANS: All right (inaudible) from the top rebel commander in Eastern Ukraine, Alexander Khodakovsky, telling Reuters separatist did have control of BUK missile systems at the time Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down and that it indeed may have come from Russia. He goes on to say it was probably sent back to Russia in order to, quote, "Remove proof of its presence." But now, he is telling Russian media his comments were taken out of contexts. On the investigation, air crash experts say they've been able to download valid information from the dooms jetliner's cockpit a voice recorder and there's no sign of a so-called black box. This had been tampered with all this as the violence rages in this region too.

Ukrainian fighter jets shot down less than 15 miles from the wreckage of MH17. As Australia announces, it's deploying 50 national police officials to London for a possible international deployment to Eastern Ukraine, the goal, to secure the MH17 crash site. I want to bring in Nick Paton Walsh. He's live from Kharkov, Ukraine. Nick, we understand dozens more coffins are leaving there for the Netherlands this morning. This is this grim choreography of trying to move those human remains from the battlefield onto those trains, onto a C-130, and home to the Netherlands. Nick, bring us up to speed.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a grim but also frustrating the inconclusive task, because what they are doing today is, as you say, putting 74 coffins onto a C-130 and a C-17, these two cargo planes that will then fly to the Netherlands and then come back and repeat that process. I say coffins because we now know that what they're doing here is like opening the body bags that come off the train, simply taking the body bags, scanning them, x-raying them, and then putting each body bag into a separate coffin. So, sadly, it's not clear that each coffin actually represents one human soul. Then when they get to the Netherlands, the process begins of opening the coffins and the body bags and trying to determine exactly how many people, human remains sent from the crash site by the separatist on that refrigerated train or wagons, how many people that actually represents.

They hope Dutch investigators and Australian officials and Ukraine official here hope that process will end by Friday. It does seem to be going in (inaudible). They hope to move 50 yesterday, only managed to move 40. 74, they hope to move today. But it's only a 114 coffins they've got through to the third refrigerated wagon out of four at this stage yet (inaudible) we understand this latest last night, the fourth. They simply don't know how many body bags they'll find and all that and assisting is the fear that this train doesn't contain the remains of all 298 people on board MH17. And that's of course where the question comes about access to the crash site. There's Australian police potentially on route, maybe they can secure the area maybe where the searches can be done. But it's been a long time that this wreckage has remained out in the open.

ROMANS: And an international observer yesterday telling CNN late yesterday, telling CNN that they had seen what they thought to be human remains around the site and that there weren't really very many people around there. It's almost as if the separatist had moved bodies onto those trains. And then now, that's it. They've washed their hands (inaudible) a little bit of security. What is the process for retrieving other human remains and getting it to the Netherlands?

WALSH: We took a lot of huge area here where much of the wreckage from the crash landed. So, there are many different ways this could go about. I'm sure though, for the relatives of those who died and the governments representing them, they want to be sure that those at the crash site are going through the wreckage and finding perhaps any more remains from the Australian or Dutch police or some from an international body who are considered objective, because this is also a crime scene too. And as the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, just pointed out, people there have (inaudible) have a vested interest in the outcome of the investigation.

So, I think few people want the separatist militants to be involved in going through the wreckage there, but they're obviously the ones closes to it. So, that's going to be a complex situation that needs to be negotiated through all parties. But I have to be honest, having been to that part of Ukraine a lot, the notion of an international force taking up a permanent presence and securing that site for what could be days, weeks of scouring through the wreckage. It's a tough (inaudible) at the best of times and I think we're going to see a lot of frustration particularly today. Maybe this best representative of the Australian Prime Minister, Angus Houston, he's on his way to the crash site. We understand we're going to have to see how easy that journey is, to show how easy potentially any future investigations maybe there too.

And sadly, and this is the most tragic thing, I think most people we speak to accept that whatever investigations done there, because of what has happened since the plane crashed, may end up being inconclusive. And it may be hard to finally say that the remains of all 298 people on board have been collected. It's just an incredibly difficult, gruesome, and tragic task.

ROMANS: That's very well said. Nick Paton Walsh, Thank you.

HARLOW: Heavy hearts throughout the Netherlands.

The first 40 coffins arriving on Wednesday marked by solemn ceremonies, steady flow of tears, and by tomorrow, all of the coffins carrying the remains of Flight 17 victims, at least what they have at this point, are expected to be on Dutch soil.

Our Saima Mohsin is live from Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands.

Saima, you have been reporting on this throughout yesterday as we saw this country stop to honor their countrymen to allow them the dignity that they did not get in Eastern Ukraine. What have you seen so far and what are you expecting today?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, just before you came to me, we saw an Air Force officer from this military base and his family coming to lay flowers and leave messages of what has become another makeshift memorial here in the Netherlands. At the military base where yesterday the first of those passengers' remains, those 40 coffins arrived here at the Eindhoven Military Base. The King and Queen, the Dutch Prime Minister there, they landed to a trumpet call, one minute silence.

And the papers this morning, Poppy, saying things like, "In good hands and together," and to be honest, amidst all the different emotions that were felt yesterday, the overwhelming sense you get is these people have finally had safe passage and made their way back out of homes way, to where no one can do them any harm anymore, to regain the dignity and respect they deserve. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes, they certainly do. Saima Mohsin, we appreciate your reporting throughout on this incredibly difficult road ahead for all of the people there. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Is the world about to punish Russian President, Vladimir Putin, for his relationship with rebels in Ukraine? This morning, new sanctions could be placed against the Kremlin. We are live with that part of the story after the break.


According to U.S. Intelligence Officials, Russian troops are gathering along the border with Ukraine, sending tanks and artillery into a rebel-held territory while maintaining the ability to launch attacks without actually entering the country. Now, all eyes are on the European Union which could announce new sanctions against Russia later this morning. Will it ...


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: ... capital markets for a variety of Russian state-owned banks, its biggest banks. So, really, to sort of cut the financing for Russian companies and banks, talking about banning exports on technologies that assists Russia's energy sector for example so that it can't get the components from the EU to assist in its optic (inaudible) like that. And also, possibly, a ban on arms exports and imports. And that's particular tough for countries like France. You have this massive deal with Russia to build and supply to warships which France has said it at least going to go ahead with the sail of one of those ships.

Now, the question is whether all this is going to work, whether it's going to make Mr. Putin change his course, one thing is undeniable that it will hurt the economy. Russia is already heading towards recession. You are beginning to see large amounts of capital flowing out of the country and there is definitely a sense even amongst the -- your average personal mistreat, that sanctions will soon stop to affect what they have in their pocket. But Mr. Putin even since MH17 and the crash has sent more troops to the border. According to NATO and U.S. officials, there seems to be an increase in weapons going in to Ukraine.

So, it doesn't look even as though the threat sanctions are going to make him change its course and that's possibly because this narrative, this is propaganda, that the entire country almost believes that he is defending Russians and Ukraine against an enemy -- and enemy stood out by the West (inaudible) is waging war in its own people. He can't back away from that narrative. He's almost trap in it. So, this is the sort of dilemma that European policy makers are having to deal with, that even though these sanctions may hurt the economy, they may not change Mr. Putin's course. Christine?

ROMANS: The sanctions also give Mr. Putin one more reason to blame the West for the pain that could be solved by the Russian people. So, that's the other way that he could turn that to its advantage. Diana Magnay. Thank you so much for that, Diana.

HARLOW: All right. Now, we turn to Taiwan where 48 people were killed and 10 more were injured when their flight crashed while attempting to land. We'll look at the aftermath. It is incredibly disturbing. This is our footage from our affiliate, ETTY (ph). And what it shows is this TransAsia plane slammed into a residential area before breaking into pieces. This also destroyed 11 homes. Taiwanese authorities are now identifying the victims, trying to investigate the cause of this crash on Wednesday. Severe storms, really bad weather in that region may have been a factor.

ROMANS: That's so sad. All right, we're going to continue to follow up the latest on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 throughout the morning. But first, gasping for air for nearly two hours. Did an execution go terribly wrong in Arizona. You're going to hear from witnesses, next.


HARLOW: Arizona's Governor ordering an investigation and ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man deserved it. I don't believe he was gasping for air. I don't believe he was suffering. It sounded to me as though he was snoring.

HARLOW: What we do know is that his attorney did file an emergency appeal during the process. A federal judge has ordered corrections officials there to preserve all physical evidence into this event. They are of course investigating. And this is a bigger picture. This is the latest in a series of potentially botched executions that had renewed the debate over what drugs are currently being used in these lethal injections. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. Time now for an early start (inaudible) it's Thursday morning. European shares mixed Asian shares (inaudible) mixed as well. But look, stock grows on strong data from Chinese factories in Hong Kong, uncertainty though around the world laying on stocks. U.S. features pointing higher right now. But here's the big news everybody, all this global turmoil, the S&P 500 never had been the tide. The 26 record high close so far this year for the S&P except for that 7 percent since January.

And this morning, another big story, Facebook. Those shares are up 5 percent, more than 5 percent in pre-market trading. Please open at an all time high for Facebook shares. And report (inaudible) second quarter earning huge growth in mobile ad revenue. That's right, Facebook now is officially a mobile company. A lot more corporate news throughout the day, we're going to get earnings from General Motors, Ford, Amazon, Starbucks, Visa. And so far, most companies have been showing strong growth. That could keep driving stocks higher. But I keep saying if you look at all the geopolitical risk around the world ...

HARLOW: How high are we going to go?

ROMANS: ... and stocks, keep moving higher. The bull market keeps moving higher. They're looking, you know, they're looking at underlying profit growth, and the economy is still slowly healing and you never seen it in the stock market.

HARLOW: Yes, it's incredible to see this record numbers despite what's happening all around the world.

ROMANS: I know, I know. All right, breaking news this morning, U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv can now continue. The FAA ending its travel ban overnight but not without controversy, we're live after the break.