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Gaza Violence: Ceasefire Coming?; MH17 Shot Down: Chaos at the Crash Scene

Aired July 25, 2014 - 04:30   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, a temporary peace plan presented to Israel and Hamas. Secretary of State John Kerry trying to stop the violence that left the streets of Gaza bloody and destroyed. The death toll rising this morning. We're live in Gaza.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening now: chaos continuing at the crash scene of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Are pro-Russian rebels cooperating with investigators? This as Russia tries to prove to the world it says it had nothing to do with the crash. It's happening as the bodies of the 298 victims leave the Ukraine for the Netherlands.

We'll take you live and we're covering all angles of this developing story.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

ROMANS: A lot going on this morning. I'm Christine Romans, 30 minutes past the hour.

We welcome all of our viewers here in the U.S. and all of you watching around the world.

A United Nations school in northern Gaza stained this morning by the blood of children. The facility was supposed to be a safe haven. But an explosion in a courtyard killed 16 people there. Palestinians blaming Israel for the deadly attack. Israelis claiming it could have been a Hamas rocket.

Both sides contemplating a cease-fire proposal delivered Thursday by Secretary of State John Kerry. Fighting in the region remains intense. Nearly, three dozen Israelis, more than 800 Palestinians now dead.

Karl Penhaul live from Gaza this morning.

Karl, is there any hope there will be a stop to this violence sometime soon?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's really no indication right now. The Gaza militants seem emboldened because they have had, in terms of guerilla war, a certain amount of success against the Israelis. They have inflicted casualties on them and their tanks and staged commando raids across the border.

On the other side, Israel hasn't achieved their target of shutting down militant tunnels or shutting down their rocket launches. Just before coming to air, another rocket went off over our shoulders.

But what we're also keeping our eyes on is this carnage at the United Nations school yesterday. This simply cannot be put down to war. It needs to be investigated.

The Israeli military said it is trying to investigate what went on the United Nations who were running the school as a shelter for the displaced. They say they are calling for a full report. Both warming sides are playing the blame game. Thought the Israeli military says it could have been a Hamas rocket fired from there. We went to look at the scene and saw no evidence of rocket debris. We saw a big shrapnel field. That's what ripped apart men, women and children.

But what is important is the United Nations said they twice called for a pause in fighting going around the school to allow the civilians to be left out. The military said it did allow for civilians to leave, but they were not permitted.

But now, talking to the United Nations just a few moments ago on the phone, they critically deny that. They do not know what the Israeli military is talking about. They say if the military had allowed those civilians out of the school, this terrible carnage would not have happened. The United Nations incidentally blaming both the warring faction for violating the neutrality of United Nations premises. They said in the past three days that Israeli military have shelled two other U.N. schools. They accuse Hamas of using two schools for storing rockets -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Karl Penhaul for us where for the violence escalates -- thanks, Karl.

HARLOW: All right. Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel-Aviv is busy again at least for right now. The FAA lifting its ban on U.S. carriers flying there after 36 hours. Europe's aviation agency quickly following suit.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz is 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Well, U.S. officials warn the ban could be reinstated if the violence flairs in the region in terms of right around that airport.

ROMANS: More than a week after the downing of Flight 17, investigators at the crash site in Eastern Ukraine are still being denied access to the wreckage. This is according to the Dutch prime minister. That wreckage apparently still contains victims remains. The Russians promising to cooperate with the crash scene investigation being headed by the Netherlands, while at the same time, denying involvement on the attack of the Malaysian jet liner.


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.


ROMANS: President Obama assuring the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that the U.S. will do everything it can to help secure the crash site and bring every victim home as more caskets arrive in the Netherlands this morning. The last of them expected to be on Dutch soil by tomorrow. These images are just heart breaking.

Meanwhile, a journalist working for CNN has been kidnapped by pro- Russian separatist. Efforts by this network to free Anton Skiba unsuccessful so far.

I want to bring in Phil Black, live from Donetsk, Ukraine.

He worked for us for a day. CNN tried to secure his release from the rebels. No luck now. Any progress on the case today?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very little, regrettably, Christine. It's been three nights since he was detained at our base location here at the hotel in Donetsk after returning from the MH17 crash site. When we arrived, we were met by a group of heavily pro-Russian separatists who were watching us closely. They had (INAUDIBLE) on Skiba, they moved in very quickly and took him away.

We haven't heard a great deal. They told us at the time and we tried to intervene that he was a dangerous man. Those are the words that they used. They said he was a terrorist.

We have since been told he may be an agent of the Ukrainian government. These are the allegations made by the pro-Russian militants here. As you say, we worked with him for 24 hours. He's well known to media groups here who have been covering these conflicts for sometime now. There are a lot of journalists are concerned about his well being. Human rights groups and the U.S. state department have called for his release. So far, that still hasn't happened. ROMANS: You know, Phil, it's a reminder that you were in an active

war zone. There's a civil war going on there. I mean, the site behind you looks peaceful, but when you walk into a hotel or you get into a car, this is an area of the country that is controlled by rebels who, you know, don't know what the rule of law -- there is no rule of law. It's a reminder, it's an active war site.

BLACK: Yes, very much so. It may look peaceful. But through the night, we heard shelling in the distance near Donetsk airport fighting really for some weeks. The crash of MH17 made no difference there.

Again, in the distance, there's the constant rumble of heavy weapons being used. On the streets everywhere, the main roads leading in and out, there are pro-Russian militants. They are a constant presence. Regular check points here on the streets. You do see them everywhere.

Yes, the fact that this is an active conflict zone, the fact it is separatist controlled territory, it is, without a doubt, the reason why a week after the accident, there's little progress in terms of securing the site, but also most importantly, ensuring the crash site has been thoroughly searched to ensure the remains of all the victims are returned to their loved ones -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Phil Black, stay safe for us. Thanks, Phil.

HARLOW: All right. Also this devastating news, a passenger plane with more than 100 people on board crashes in a rainstorm. Investigators hoping to soon be able to get to that area of Mali where it crashed to try to dig through the wreckage. We'll take you live with the very latest, next.


ROMANS: All right. Dozens more coffins bearing the remains of the victims of Flight MH17 are leaving Ukraine this morning and they're bound for the Netherlands.

Nick Paton Walsh is there. He is standing by live on the tarmac at the airport in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Nick, tell us what you're seeing.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, behind me, the engines just sparked up on the Dutch C-130. We think it may have some of the 74 coffins being taken out onboard.

The Australian foreign minister says she's just driven up in her convoy to the plane, spokesman to some of the staff onboard and is now moved over around here. See the orange plane? That's the Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans' aircraft. He's also here.

We are not expecting them to speak. But we are seeing a clear presence of dignitaries from two countries who are also at this moment, sending police, potentially the Australians on to this area to try to get to the crash site, maybe 200 of them. Key developments showing how little satisfaction there is amongst the Australians and Dutch about the kind of access they had to the crash site at this stage.

Again, we have to address the numbers of coffins so far. After the planes take off, the Australian C-17, slightly farther away from where I'm standing later on today. They would have been 188 coffins that have departed here in Kharkiv. Expected to be a small shipment going out tomorrow on yet another plane. That doesn't explain the number of people whose remains were able to move on the refrigerated train that left here.

Once the tests are done in the Netherlands of what's been done on the coffins, there could be people whose bodies remain at the crash site. The emphasis is really shifting towards these military police and the police who need to secure the area.

They seem unsatisfied the idea separatists giving them access is, in fact, access. They want access through the government. They want independence. They think the separatists were involved, they said culprits in the investigation, so could be tampering the crime scene here.

But behind me, a photo-opportunity. We've been explained, we are expecting the ministers to speak at this stage, but the Australians and Dutch, the highest level they can, in effect saying good-bye to one of the shipments leaving the Ukrainian territory and heading back, a very tragic and grim cargo back to the Netherlands.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Tragic and grim. Now, a potentially dangerous and tricky operation trying to secure that site. There's still work to be done. Thanks, Nick.

HARLOW: Well, another disaster in the air. The wreckage of an Air Algerie jetliner with 116 people on board, it's located in a very remote part of Mali. The MD-83 disappeared from radar during a rainstorm on Thursday making it the third catastrophic aviation incident in a week. We are told that no one has survived.

I want to go to Al Goodman. He is live for us this morning from Spain.

And, Al, I know that investigators are trying to get there. It's a very difficult place to get. They have seen an up rise in fighting. Not a safe place, a very dangerous place for investigators to get in this remote part of Mali.

Do we know if this plane was definitely brought down by weather?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know that. But the French transport minister in Paris just a very short while ago talking to French television said that certain causes have been excluded. Notably, a ground missile was fired to bring down the target is what he said. He said the technical failures and weather conditions are being considered. And that will be up to investigators.

Now, as you just said, it's hard for investigators to get there. As far as we know, they have not arrived, yet. There may be two or more teams trying to get there. One would be French troops trying to get in there, where the transport minister of Mali said yesterday, that a helicopter had arrived at the crash site, apparently did not stay very long. That helicopter from Burkina Faso from where the plane took off, it was heading to Algiers.

Mali's president is expected to go this day, according to the transport minister of Mali, to show his concern for the government and the people of Mali. So, it looks like there's an effort to get to the site. It appears it would have to be by helicopter. We don't have word they have made it, yet.

There were 16 nationalities of people aboard the plane, including 50 or 51 French nationals, the largest contingent. So, you have governments across Europe and across Africa and the Middle East are concerned and trying to get to the bottom of what happened in this -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. And, of course, Al, all of those six crew members coming from Spain. It is devastating and pretty unbelievable to think we've another large civilian aircraft catastrophe this week alone. Thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. A gunman opening fire inside a hospital killing one caseworker before he was stopped. We're going to tell you how, after the break.


ROMANS: At the White House today, there will be a summit of sorts on the U.S. border crisis. President Obama will sit down with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The goal here is to work together to stem the flow of children crossing alone into the U.S. illegally. Meantime, the White House and Congress are still at odds for emergency crisis. Blame game 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.


ROMANS: There, they are fighting about money and how to pay for it. I can tell you that each of those children are paying coyotes, the families are paying coyotes up to $5,000 to cross the border. The White House claims the number of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.- Mexico border is declining in part because of warnings they'll be sent home. Other observers say it also could be because coyotes prefer early and late summer for this very, very lucrative business because it gets so hot in Mexican border.

HARLOW: Yes, certainly right now.

All right. Well, Republicans pressing ahead with the plan to sue the president over the use of executive power. The House rules committee authorizing Speaker John Boehner to file a lawsuit on behalf of the entire House. The 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 for a year without the consent of Congress.

ROMANS: All right. The president is calling on U.S. corporations to show a little patriotism, economic patriotism. He wants companies to stop merging with smaller business overseas so they can avoid paying taxes here in America. It's perfectly legal. The president says these companies are sort of tax-dodging and they're renouncing their U.S. citizenship. He's threatening to restrict the deal, a move that's getting a lot of resistance from Republicans.

A psychiatrist is being called a hero this morning after shooting a patient who opened fire inside his Pennsylvania office. This scene unfolded yesterday afternoon on the third floor of the Sister Marie Lenahan Wellness Center just outside Philadelphia. Police say Richard Plotts, a patient there, pulled out a gun and killed his 53-year-old caseworker. That's when a gunfight broke out between the unidentified doctor and suspect. Officers say the doctor took out his personal gun, shot Plotts three times, Plotts returned fire, grazing the doctor with the 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 coming from everywhere. I was scared, too, because I have never been in a situation like this.


ROMANS: Plotts is currently in critical condition. The doctor who shot him is expected to make a full recovery. At this point, the police have not released a motive.

HARLOW: All right. Well, Arizona has put a halt to executions for the time being. This follows the uproar over that prolonged death of inmate Joseph Wood, convicted of a double murder back in 1989. The state's correction chief says that Wood did not suffer the nearly two hour execution, also rejects claims it was botched.

Witnesses say, some of them say, it appeared that Wood was struggling to breathe after receiving that lethal drug combination. Others say they didn't say it that way. Officials say he was comatose and never in pain. However, they are reviewing all of that.

ROMANS: It's not supposed to take two hours. HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: All right. Amazon announcing huge sales. Why did stock take a nose dive? An early check of your money, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Let's get an EARLY START on your money this morning.

Stocks in record territory. While you have been waiting for the market to correct, stocks have just kept moving higher. A lot of risk around the world, but the market doesn't seem to care. Futures down slightly right now, with very close records. The S&P 500 closing in on the 2,000 milestone up more than 7 percent this year. S&P 500 inching to the highest level ever. Yesterday, the second record day in a row.

Strong corporate earnings giving stocks a boost this week. But that's not the case for Amazon. Amazon is down, about 10 percent right now in pre-market trading. Investigators are familiar with Amazon's earning routine -- posted big sales numbers, and no profit. But yesterday, $126 million loss was too much for investors to ignore.

And it wasn't a one-time thing. Amazon says it expects further losses next quarter as well. The company has been investing heavily in new product and services recently from Sunday delivery to its first smartphone. A lot of big ideas, but no profit this quarter.

Health insurance refunds are on the way for Americans under Obamacare. Insurers must refund if they spend more than 20 percent of customers premium on administration marketing for the medical care. Total value of those refunds this year, $332 million. That's an average of $80 per family and less than last year as insurers adjust their operation, they have to make sure they are not spending so much on administration and marketing.

HARLOW: I didn't know they had to pay that penalty.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely.

HARLOW: Interesting. Thanks for the update.

Thanks for being with us, everyone.

EARLY START continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROMANS: Breaking news this morning. Could a cease-fire be coming to Gaza? Secretary of State John Kerry presenting a plan to stop the violence overnight. This comes one day after bombs strike a Gaza school. More than a dozen dead. Hundreds injured. We are live with the latest on the ground.

HARLOW: Also happening right now: Dutch investigators still being kept from the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Pro-Russia rebels in control of that site, as Russia remains defiant, denying responsibility for the crash. All this playing out as more victims of the tragedy leave Ukraine for the Netherlands this morning. We have live team coverage straight ahead.