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Mideast Crisis: Kerry Proposes; MH17 Shot Down: Bodies Leave Ukraine

Aired July 25, 2014 - 04:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. Could there be a cease-fire finally coming in the situation between Israel and Gaza? Secretary of State John Kerry presenting a plan to stop the violence overnight. This comes one day after bombs strike a Gaza school, which supposed to be a shelter. More than a dozen dead, hundreds injured. We are live with the latest on the ground there.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Dutch officials complaining investigators are being kept from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Pro-Russian rebels in control of the site as Russia remains defiant denying any responsibility of the crash and accusing the U.S. of fabricating evidence. All this playing out as more victims of the tragedy leave Ukraine for the Netherlands this morning. We are live.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It's Friday, July 25th, 4:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

We welcome our viewers both here in the United States and around the world.

Well, it was supposed to be a safe haven, a U.N. school in northern Gaza serving as a shelter. Now, it is stained with the blood of children and others as an explosion in the courtyard yesterday. Sixteen people were killed, many more were wounded.

Palestinians blaming Israel for the deadly attack. The Israelis saying it could have been a Hamas rocket that landed short. Now, both sides in possession of a cease-fire proposal delivered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. This, as Israel presses on with that offensive. The Palestinian death toll topping 800. More than 30 Israelis dead in this fighting as well.

Let's get to Karl Penhaul live from Gaza this morning.

Good morning to you, Karl. What is the latest?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, what's really going on right now is this investigation going on to find out who was responsible for the explosion at that U.N.-operated shelter. The Israeli military says it is still investigating. It does say there was combat going on in the area around the school (INAUDIBLE) fired munitions to try to eliminate a threat from Hamas militants. Hamas, of course, is squarely blaming the Israeli military.

Now, the United Nations says it is calling for a full report. Right now, just a few moments ago, they have been committed by either side. (INAUDIBLE) evacuate the civilians. They said under no circumstances have they been allowed that. They say they called twice on the military to pull civilians out as fighting erupts around it. And they say twice that condition was denied.

U.S. spokesman said very clearly (INAUDIBLE) humanitarian force to get the civilians out, this carnage would not have occurred -- Christine.

HARLOW: And, Karl, we are having a little bit of a hard time hearing you with your microphone. We are going to work on that to get more of your reporting during the show. We appreciate the update. We'll get back to you shortly.

ROMANS: All right. More planes are flying in and out of Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Today, the FAA lifting its ban after 36 hours. Europe's aviation safety agency quickly following suit.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz not backing down from his claim that the ban was political, a charge the administration calls ridiculous and offensive.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: This is a very different decision. If it emanated from the State Department of the White House as an economic tool to pressure Israel than if it was simply an expert judgment on airline safety.

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Neither the decision to put the notice to airmen in place by the FAA or the decision to rescind last night had anything to do with politics.


ROMANS: U.S. officials warning the ban could be reinstated if violence flairs in the region.

HARLOW: All right. Now, the latest on flight 17. Investigators at the crash site in Eastern Ukraine are being denied access to the wreckage. This is according to the Dutch prime minister. The wreckage apparently still contains some of the remains of some of those 298 victims.

The Russians, promising to cooperate with the crash scene investigation being headed up by the Netherlands, at the same tie denying involvement in the attacks on that Malaysian jetliner.


ALEXANDER VLADIMIROVICH YAKOVENKO, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED KINGDOM: Ukraine is full of weapons. Some of the weapons we have captured from the regular Ukrainian army. So, this is effect of the civil war. But Russia has nothing to do with that.


HARLOW: Also an update for you this morning, just coming in. Nearly 100 Australian officials and officers are now on call, poised to head to the Ukraine to assist with crash site security that has been such a big problem here.

Also, President Obama assuring the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that the U.S. will do everything it can to bring every single victim home. This as more caskets are set to arrive in the Netherlands this morning. The last of them expected to be on the soil by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian journalists that had been working for CNN as a freelancer has been kidnapped by pro-Russian separatists. Efforts by this network to free Anton Skiba have been unsuccessful so far.

I want to bring in Phil Black from Donetsk with the latest.

So, Phil, let's begin first off with the latest on the crash scene. It's unbelievable to people, that now, more than a week later, the scene has not been secured. Is it pretty barren at this point and time? Are there many people around trying to recover any of the last remains of those victims?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Poppy, there's almost no one there. It's a really strange atmosphere, I should say really quite eerie. Over a week now since this very major air disaster, that site, much of every day is pretty much empty. There is no one is securing it or no one really examining it, and crucially no one maintaining an ongoing search for the victim's bodies and remains, across this very wide area. And there is every reason to believe there are still bodies to be found.

All you see out there, occasionally is a small group of international accompanied with some international experts who are traveling from one part of the crash site to the other in a convoy. They are small in number and they are nowhere near adequate in terms of right sort of response to a disaster of this scale. But there are indications this could be changing in the near future.

As you've mentioned, the Dutch are sending in 40 military police to the region. They believe that will happen today. And the Australian government is talking about deploying a large number of police and says that it is very close to achieving a deal with the Ukrainian side. We're not sure if they are talking the government or we're talking about the local pro-Russian militants here.

But they believe there's every chance they could get big numbers of their people on the ground here to secure the site as well. They are even talking about the possibility that some of the police officers could be armed.

When you think about it, this is quite an extraordinary situation. We are talking foreign countries sending in their own military or policing personnel into an active war zone of a sovereign state. It is an extraordinary situation. It is not easy to achieve. And it goes toward explaining why a week after the accident, the site is not yet secured. But there is clearly strong will from these countries that have been most affected by this accident to get in here and start doing the job properly, Poppy.

HARLOW: You can understand why, to honor the victim, to give them the dignity they deserve.

Before we let you go, what can you tell us about Anton Skiba? I know he was a Ukrainian journalist working for us here at CNN, taken from outside of a hotel there in Donetsk by what is believed to be pro- Russian rebels.

What do we know at this point in time on his -- how he is, where he is?

BLACK: Well, we know that it's been three nights in custody of the pro-Russian militant groups there. Secret Services, if you like. Beyond that, we know unfortunately very little.

You are right. He was picked up here after working with us for one day by pro-Russian gunmen. They made accusations against him, accusing him of being dangerous and a terrorist, possibly a Ukrainian government agent.

People who know him well and who have worked with him for an extended period of time, they don't buy that. They believe that he is straight, that he has nothing to do with the accusations being made against him. And, increasingly, there are calls from human rights groups, press freedom groups, and even the U.S. State Department for him to be released, as quickly as possible, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely. Our thoughts with him, his family. And, of course, everyone is making every effort they can to find him. Thank you, appreciate your reporting this morning.

ROMANS: CNN had been working to try to get him released, working with the rebels, talking with the rebels, pleading with the leaders. When it's not working --

HARLOW: Failed.

ROMANS: -- when that failed, took that public.

All right. Tragedy aboard Air Algerie flight, crashing in a rainstorm with more than 100 people onboard. Investigators soon to comb through the burned wreckage. We're live with the latest right after the break.


ROMANS: The wreckage of an Air Algerie jet liner with 116 people on board has been found after crashing in a remote part of Mali. The MD- 83 disappeared from radar during a rainstorm Thursday, marking the third major aviation disaster in just a week. There were no survivors.

I want to get the latest this morning from Al Goodman live from Madrid, Spain.

What happened here? Does it look weather related, do we know?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are getting more details. Now, they know that the plane has gone down in Mali. And of the 116 aboard, 16 different nationalities. So, we have a lot of countries involved.

Approximately 50 of them were French national. Paris, France is involved. The French transport minister to this day saying that it's very unlikely, if not impossible that there would be any survivors. We earlier heard that report from some African countries, from Mali, we've heard from that transport minister saying that a helicopter from Burkina Faso, that's the country where the plane took off from. It was going to go up north to Algeria, a helicopter landed at the crash site to confirm there was a crash but apparently did not stay and did not see survivors.

The president of Mali is going to the crash site this day to show how concerned the government is and how much the people of Mali care about this.

Now, back in Burkina Faso, a top official said clearly the pilot asked to divert to change routes because of bad weather but there may have been other factors said this official. That, of course, alluding to the conflict zone that is going on on the ground in Mali. There are Islamic militants fighting, there are other armed groups fighting for local interest. The French troops are in the area.

So, it is clearly a dangerous area. But if French troops go in today and if the Mali president goes in, that might indicate that right at the site of the crash, that there is not an ongoing conflict. We don't just know.

ROMANS: All right. Al Goodman for us this morning in Spain, thank you.

HARLOW: Well, a gunman opened fire at a Pennsylvania hospital. Tragedy unfolding, but it could have been much, much worse. We'll explain right after the break.


HARLOW: Well, in just a few hours, the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, those countries at the other end of the U.S. border crisis, will meet with President Obama at the White House. They are discussing working together to try to stem the flow of children crossing alone into this country illegally. The administration claims those numbers are declining in part they say because of warnings that those children will be sent home.

Meantime, the White House and Congress are still at odds over emergency funding for this crisis. The blame game -- well, it is in full swing.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is a problem of the president's own making. And then he tries to -- says he wants to solve the problem to stop the influx, but then he changes his mind. We've got a president that's AWOL.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: We are committed to addressing their humanitarian needs. We are committed to due process for them. In order for it to happen, we must pass the president's request.


HARLOW: Well, the White House is said to considering refugee status for Central American minors fleeing gang violence in their home countries as a way of addressing the influx at the Mexico-U.S. borders.

ROMANS: Republicans moving forward with a plan to sue the president over his use of executive power. House Rules Committee approving a resolution, authorizing Speaker John Boehner to file a lawsuit on behalf of the entire House. A vote on that resolution is expected by next week. The lawsuit will focus on the president's decision to waive the employer mandate in Obamacare without the consent of Congress.

HARLOW: Also, President Obama calling on U.S. corporations to show what he's calling economic patriotism. He wants companies to stop merging with businesses overseas just in an effort to avoid paying big taxes here in America. Even though this is perfectly legal, according to U.S. Tax Code.

Now, the president is saying that companies that do that are really tax-dodging and they are, quote, "renouncing their allegiance to the U.S." He's trying to restrict the deals in moves that is getting a lot of resistance from Republicans and some of those companies.

ROMANS: It's a trend that's picking up actually and they're buying smaller companies, merging with small buying or merging --

HARLOW: We've seen big pharma doing it.

ROMANS: Yes, they're going to U.K., they're going to Ireland, they're going to places where they think they can get a lower tax bill.

Time for an EARLY START on your money.

Turmoil around the globe, but new highs for stocks. Futures are down a bit now. But, look, the stocks very much in record territory. The S&P 500 inched up to close at the highest level. The second highest day in a row. The S&P closing at 2,000, 2,000 for the S&P, up more than 7 percent this year.

Not all stocks are at record highs. Amazon is down 10 percent in pre- market trading. Investors are familiar with amazons. Earnings routine, pose big sales numbers and no profit. But, yesterday, $126 million loss was too much to ignore. It's easy to see where the company has been spending recently, rolling out products and services from delivery, to its first smartphone.

A lot of big ideas from Amazon. And now, big selling this morning from investors. We'll watch that one.

HARLOW: We will, for sure.

All right. Now this, what a story -- a psychiatrist being called a hero this morning after shooting a patient who opened fire inside his Pennsylvania office. The scene unfolded yesterday afternoon on the third floor of Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center, just outside of Philadelphia.

What police is that Richard Plotts, a patient, pulled out a gun and killed his 53-year-old caseworker. That is when a gunfight broke out between the unidentified doctor and the suspect. Officers say that the doctor took out his personal gun, shot Plotts three times. Plotts returned fire, grazing the doctor with a bullet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police came in droves. They locked down everything. They chased everybody on the inside, then we seen the SWAT team come in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cops from everywhere. I was scared, too, because I have never been in a situation like this.


HARLOW: Well, Plotts is currently in critical condition. As far as the doctor, he is expects to make a full recovery. At this point, though, police do not know what could have motivated this.

ROMANS: My goodness.

All right. Arizona's attorney general putting executions on the state on hold temporarily. It follows controversial, prolonged execution of death row inmate Joseph Wood who died one hour and 57 minutes after his execution began. Witnesses say it appeared Wood struggled to breathe during the process.

But Arizona's correction chief dismissed the claims the execution was botched. He said wood was comatose and never in pain during the lethal injection process.

HARLOW: All right. Ray Rice suspended for the first two games of the season by the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens star running back will also forfeit more than $500,000 in pay. This for knocking his fiance unconscious last February in an Atlantic Hotel elevator. Critics are already charging the punishment is way too lenient. Rice is one of five Ravens players that's been arrested this off-season.

ROMANS: All right. Wreckage of a plane piloted by an Indiana teenager has been found off the coast of American Samoa. Seventeen- year-old Harris Suleman and his father were on their way to Hawaii Tuesday night when their single engine plane crashed after taking off from Samoa. Rescue teams trying to recover more of the plane from the ocean floor. They were flying around the world on a tour to raise money for schools in Pakistan.

HARLOW: Well, a tornado tore through a campground in Virginia, killing two people, injuring dozens more. Look at the wreckage from that.

This twister hit cherry stone camping and RV resort in Northampton County on Thursday morning, packing winds up to 100 miles per hour. The tornado damaged structures along an eight mile trail in the Chesapeake Bay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was devastation everywhere. Trailers turned upside down. Trailer destroyed. And you can hear people were yelling, "Help me, help me, help me." We went toward where there was a bunch of screaming and yelling. A tree had fallen across the tent, full of children. I'm sorry, I can't go any further. That's where the fatalities occurred, where the tree fell on the tent, the children.


HARLOW: It is incredibly upsetting. The two people killed from this are a couple from New Jersey. They died when, as you heard, a tree fell on their tent.

ROMANS: All right. Thousands of people in Washington state are without power this morning. A dangerous storm system ripping through the area, 75-mile-an-hour winds, knocking down trees, power lines, causing significant damage to homes in Riverside and Spokane. The fast-moving storm also dropped hail forcing vehicles off the road.

HARLOW: Now, the weather has just been extreme for a few weeks. But it does look like it may be clearing out for most of the country.

Let's get an early look at the forecast with Chad Myers.

Good morning, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine, Poppy, good morning.

A beautiful day across the Northeast today, scattered showers across the Southeast. But other than that, very good, get-out-of-town weather for this afternoon for everyone. New York City, a high of 83, low humidity, absolutely perfect.

Almost fall-like weather with the humidity out of the air, 79 in Chicago and 93 in Denver. Now, for tomorrow, for your Saturday, a few showers and storms are going to pop up across the Ohio Valley, all the way back to Chicago, maybe Nebraska. That's the next front that is going to cool us off, one cold front after another. This really is a pattern that we would see much later in the season,

certainly not July. Now, the dying threat, we get down here to the Gulf of Mexico, didn't paint it in because it is dying. There are showers across the Gulf Coast there. Maybe not the greatest beach day with scattered showers and storms across Florida as well on your Friday afternoon.

Ninety-one Atlanta, 94 in Memphis, 95 in Kansas City, the heat is still in the south and southwest. Still hot into Vegas as well. El Paso, you get to 100. Dallas tomorrow, all the way to 101.

Guys back to you.

HARLOW: Chad, thanks.

Look, it's only up in the Northwest that you can get anywhere in the 70s. It is going to be a hot one. Finally, the storms are clearing out, which is great.

All right. Turning back to our breaking news this morning, are Israel and Hamas ready to stop the violence? Secretary of State John Kerry presenting a cease-fire deal overnight. But will the two sides agree? We'll take you live to Gaza, next.