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FAA Lifts Tel Aviv Travel Ban; Making the Long Journey Home from Crash Site; Dutch Observe Day of Mourning; EU Prepares Sanctions against Russia

Aired July 24, 2014 - 05:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, 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 separatists possess the weapons needed to shoot this plane down? This as emotional tributes play out. More coffins leaving Ukraine bound for the Netherlands.

We have live team coverage on every angle on this developing story.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Poppy Harlow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you, Poppy.

HARLOW: You too.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, July 24th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East. We welcome all of our viewers here in the U.S. and all of you around the world.

Breaking overnight, the FAA lifting a ban on flight into and out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials have been lobbying hard to convince the FAA to reverse that decision. Now three domestic carriers that fly to Israel, Delta, United and U.S. Airways, they must decide when to resume their flight. The travel ban angered pro-Israel groups, even prompting Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, to fly to Tel Aviv to drive home the point that it's safe.

Listen to this testy exchange between New York's former mayor and our very own Wolf Blitzer.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NYC MAYOR: 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.


BLOOMBERG: What would you think that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Do you think -- I'm asking you.

BLOOMBERG: Don't be ridiculous. Why would you think that? That's an outrage for you to accuse one of our agencies -- (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'm just asking.

BLOOMBERG: By asking that question, you're implying that our government does things for political reasons. And maybe every once in awhile they do. But it's your job to prove it. Just the allegation against our government.

BLITZER: I do not --

BLOOMBERG: I personally take it as an offense.


ROMANS: Let's get right to Martin Savidge, standing by live at Ben Gurion International Airport. And there were many strong supporters of Israel who were very unhappy with the United States government had that travel ban and really wanted to see it overturned. They thought it was a big win for Hamas that the U.S. did that.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. They were right. It was a big win for Hamas. But the reality is that there are still missiles and still rockets that are engaging in the air over the Tel Aviv area. In fact as we told you an hour ago and now the IDF confirms there were two barrages of rockets that came out of Gaza and were targeting in the direction of central Israel Tel Aviv, and at least on one of those barrages, you could see that there were intercepts, also the Israeli Iron Dome Defense System that were launched. And some were very close to the area of Ben Gurion Airport.

So perhaps, even though the FAA has lifted the restrictions on U.S. carriers, you can see how those carriers might still be a bit nervous over the prospect of their aircraft sharing air space with rockets and intercept missiles. It's just -- it's not something they like to consider, especially in light of MH-17. That said, the FAA says it felt reassured as a result of conversations with the Israeli government and apparently new security measures which haven't been identified that have implemented that Ben Gurion is now safe and it should be up to the individual airlines to determine in the United States if they wish to resume their service -- Christine.

ROMANS: New security measures that they will not identify. For obvious reasons. My colleague John Berman says that Ben Gurion Airport is probably the most secure place he's ever been on earth.

What are you seeing behind you right now? Are you seeing planes taking off and landing?

SAVIDGE: Well, on this end, we're at the departure area of the Tel Aviv airport, the Ben Gurion Airport. You can see right now that it's pretty quiet. There's no activity on the runways and there's certainly no large aircraft anywhere to be seen. They do come and go. And El Al of course continues to fly its regular service to all over the world. That has not been disrupted in any way. There are some carriers that still come. British Airways is here and

flying large aircraft. So there are those that are continuing to carry on. But right now you can tell by the background that most of the European big carriers and certainly the U.S. carriers aren't here. If they are going to return, that remains to be seen.

It's going to take them a while to get back up to speed. Any time your disrupt service, airplanes get out of position so we would not expect to see them until much later in the day or possibly tomorrow if they do continue service.

ROMANS: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Well, a stunning admission from a top rebel commander in eastern Ukraine. Alexander Khodakovsky admitting to Reuters that pro- Russian separatists did have control of a Buk missile system at the time that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shut down and that it indeed may have come from Russia. He went on to say it was probably sent back to Russia in order to, quote, "remove proof of its presence."

Later he backtracked telling Russian media his comments were taken out of context and then on the investigation front aircraft experts say they have been able to download valid information from the doomed jetliner's cockpit voice recorder and there is no sign that the black boxes have been tampered with.

All of this as the violence rages on in that region. Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down less than 15 miles from the wreckage of MH-17. As Australia announces it is deploying 50 national police official officials to London for a possible international deployment to eastern Ukraine. Their goal, of course, is to secure the MH-17 crash site.

Let's go straight to Nick Paton Walsh. He's live from Kharkiv, Ukraine this morning.

And Nick, let's talk first about the victims, the victims that are finally getting to go home and being brought the dignity that they deserve. Their coffins, more coffins, 74, I believe, today, leaving for the Netherlands.

What can you tell us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary scenes yesterday both here and in the Netherlands as those hearses, the lengthy procession, took the coffins toward a military base where they'll be examined. That will repeat again today. Right about now, taking off from here, Kharkiv airport, we will see a Dutch C-130 and an Australian C-17 cargo plane. Yes, 74 coffins on board that. That would then land --

HARLOW: All right. We seem to have lost -- we seem to have lost Nick Paton Walsh there. Bad connection. We'll get back to him as soon as we can. But of course he was talking about this incredible scene that we saw play out yesterday. Coffins being brought home. The victims being brought home to be properly laid to rest in this tragic situation where 298 innocent lives were lost. We expect 74 more of those coffins to return today.

ROMANS: Heavy hearts throughout the Netherlands today.

The first 40 coffins arriving Wednesday marked by solemn ceremonies and a steady flow of tears. By tomorrow, all the coffins carrying the remains of Flight 17 victims, the remains that have so far been collected will be expected to be on Dutch soil.

Saima Mohsin live from Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands.

It was really a remarkable, a remarkable day. Almost no words for what the Dutch people did in terms of honoring their fellow countrymen and their friends and neighbors from around the world who came there.

What is the next step here for this grieving nation? A day of mourning yesterday, now moving forward trying to figure out how to secure the crash site and bring everyone else home.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning. Moving day as you said. In fact, the entire country literally came to a standstill for one minute of silence as those coffins landed.

Before we talk about the next step, I'm just going to step aside because this is the base where those coffins arrived yesterday. 74 more as they have just taken off as Nick Paton Walsh told us from Ukraine now arriving here. As you can see people still coming here to another makeshift memorial at the Eindhoven military base to pay their respects. We've seen people coming throughout the morning. People coming with their partners, with their children, entire families, people from the military base office is coming as well.

You know, this is an incident that's moved the country. 193 of those on board were from the Netherlands, of course 298 from right across the world. All those dignitaries were present yesterday, including the king and queen of the Netherlands and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Ritter. And strong words were used over the last three days, of course, about the treatment of those bodies of the crash site. It's downright disgusting and absolutely horrible.

But finally, finally, those people were given safe passage to make their way home to begin, really. This is just the beginning of that journey home because once those coffins land, and it could take a couple more days. We're being told it should be over by tomorrow, this ordeal of bringing them back from Ukraine to the Netherlands. They'll now be taken from this military base as they were yesterday in hearses, in those funeral cars, given that dignity finally. Taken to another base, just down the road about an hour away from here called Hilversum.

There, they are going to go through that forensic identification. It could take weeks because we don't know what condition those remains are in because of the fact that the investigators couldn't get to that crash site. And then that process of identification, giving these people a name. Giving them an identity. Giving them, in effect, their dignity back and then return to their families who have gone through such pain and frustration, waiting for their loved ones to return to be able to lay them to rest.

So this really is just the beginning of that journey when those coffins land here at Eindhoven military base, taken in those hearses to Hilversum, identification, and then finally given back to their families.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Saima Mohsin -- thank you so much for that, Saima, in Eindhoven Airport.

HARLOW: All right. Now this. Is the world about to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin even more for his relationship with the pro- Russian rebels in Ukraine? This morning new sanctions could be placed against the Kremlin. We'll take you live to Moscow with that part of the story after the break.


ROMANS: Welcome back. According to U.S. intelligence officials, Russian troops are gathering along the Ukraine border sending tanks and artillery into 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. But will those sanctions have any teeth?

Diana Magnay live from Moscow.

So far sanctions have been things like travel bans, asset freezes. This would -- if it happens, this would be an attack on the funding for companies inside Russia. It would be -- go right to the heart of the capital markets.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. This would be much more broad brush. So you would restrict access to the capital markets, the big Russian banks, which means that companies here within Russia would find it harder to get financing. The ban on imports and exports, say, on arms.

Now that's going to be tough for countries like France who's in the middle of this huge contract to sell two missile warships to Russia, second of which is ironically called the Sevastopol and will be heading to Russia's Black Sea fleet in Crimea, despite the fact that the West does not recognize the annexation of Crimea. And also a ban on sensitive technologies that could be used within Russia's energy sector.

Now we're not sure whether it will go this far and it may not happen today. But you do definitely get the sense that the rhetoric coming out of Europe after MH-17 is much tougher than it has been in the past. And the difficulties that Russia -- that Europe has had because it's so dependent on Russian energy, because countries like Germany have 6,000 firms who have business ties with Russia, those differences are now being overcome to a certain extent and that Europe feels that the time has come to slap sanctions down very hard on Russia's president at a time when the economy is already heading toward recession.

But still, will that change President Putin's course? Probably not. And as you mentioned, we have seen in the last few days a buildup of troops along the border, according to U.S. and NATO officials, and an increase in the flow of weapons going into eastern Ukraine, although that is something that Russia has always denied that it's done. One thing that's important to mention here that the deputy defense minister this morning stood up and said, listen U.S., we want to see hard evidence backing up the intelligence that you put out there.

We also want to have answers to the questions that we've raised. And we want to have you comment on the intelligence that we've delivered to the international community about what we found out about this crash. And they've also said they've got troops along the border because they are receiving incoming shelling from Ukraine.

So these things are so difficult to verify, unless you're there on the border itself. You know, if you're not, you're stuck in the middle of what is effectively an information war between both sides.

ROMANS: All right, Diana Magnay. Thank you so much for that, Diana.

Of course the important thing will be if the EU actually put teeth behind that rhetoric or just talks. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Now to Taiwan where 48 people were killed and 10 others injured when their flight crashed while attempting to land. Take a look at the aftermath. Footage from our affiliate ETTV shows the TransAsia plane slammed into a residential area before breaking into pieces, destroying or damaging 11 homes. Taiwanese authorities are now identifying victims and investigating the cause of Wednesday's crash. Severe storms may have been a factor.

Well, apparently some witnesses say gasping for air for over 90 minutes is an execution not going as planned. You're going to hear the debate over it and you're going to hear from witnesses, next.


HARLOW: Arizona's governor ordering an investigation into the state's death penalty process following an execution that did not go as planned. It took Joseph Wood nearly two hours to die after he was given a lethal two-drug cocktail. Wood was convicted of killing both his girlfriend and her father back in 1989, a double murder.

The inmate gasped and apparently, according to witnesses, struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes. But there are differing accounts from different witnesses on exactly what happened. Arizona's Correction Department said that it did follow protocol. Take a listen to what some of the witnesses had to say.


MICHAEL KIEFER, WITNESSED EXECUTION: Usually, it takes about 10 minutes the person goes to sleep. This was not that. This -- it looked like that at the beginning for maybe the first seven minutes. He closed his eyes, he went to sleep. Then he started gasping. And he did, he gasped more than an hour and a half.

JEANNE BROWN, SISTER OF DEBBIE DIETZ: What's excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood. That's excruciating. 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: Well, it took -- in the time it took for Wood to die his attorney filed an emergency appeal and the judge has ordered the correction officials to preserve all physical evidence in this case. They're going to look into it. And this comes after another execution that some people say was botched. And it has renewed the debate over the drugs, the combination of drugs that are being now used in these executions.

ROMANS: Yes. It shouldn't take two hours --

HARLOW: That's right.

ROMANS: It shouldn't take two hours to die.

All right. Time for an EARLY START on your money. Uncertainty around the globe. Record high in the stock market. U.S. stock futures are up after another record day yesterday, look at this, the S&P 500 never has been this high, ever. The 26th record close so far this year is up 7 percent since January.

Watching Facebook this morning, too. It's up more than 5 percent in free market. It's also poised to open at an all-time high. Facebook had a strong second quarter earnings, huge growth in mobile ad revenue. Remember that's such a concern among investors.

HARLOW: Yes. Can it go mobile? Yes.

HARLOW: It did. It's there. A lot more corporate news due out today as well. Companies have been showing strong growth and that could keep driving stocks higher. So a lot --

HARLOW: Higher and higher. Despite all the global unrest.

All right. Let's take a look at your forecast. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is here with us.

Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Saw a lot of rumbles last night in the northeast.



ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Indra.

HARLOW: Thanks, Indra. Appreciate it.

Well, of course, we have a lot of breaking news for you this morning, including this. U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv can continue. That's according to the FAA which is ending its travel ban. They did that in just the last few hours. We'll explain and take you live there, next.


HARLOW: Breaking news this morning. The FAA lifting its travel ban to and from Tel Aviv for U.S. flights. U.S. flights may now resume. The ban only lasting 36 hours, but causing plenty of controversy.

Why the air space has now been declared safe? We'll take you live to Israel.

ROMANS: Happening now, somber ceremonies playing out as more coffins holding victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 leave Ukraine bound for the Netherlands. This, as the plane's black boxes are analyzed. Investigators looking for clues as to who shot down that plane. We're covering all angles of the big, developing story for you.

Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. It's 28 minutes past 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast. We welcome our viewers both here in the United States and around the world. And we begin with that news.

Breaking overnight is that ban on flights into and out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has been lifted by the FAA. Israeli officials had pressed very hard to try to convince the agency to reverse its decision and indeed they have. Now it is up to Delta, United and U.S. Airways, the carriers into Tel Aviv to determine when they will resume those flights.

So let's get straight to Martin Savidge standing by at Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion International Airport.

And, Martin, this morning, I know last hour, and I wonder if perhaps this hour, you have heard those sirens, those warning sirens go off and heard explosions very close to the airport.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It was actually within the last hour that we had two barrages. We haven't heard anything since. The idea, it does now confirm that in fact there were two incoming blasts. They describe them as barrages of rockets that were coming from Gaza and coming to central Israel. They don't give you specific geographic locations.

And that there were five intercepts that took place. This is the train, by the way, at the airport. So that's what has transpired.