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THE SITUATION ROOM
Cease-Fire Confusion; Weapons in Ukraine; Jews Targeted as Mideast Conflict Rages; Israel, Hamas Agree to 12-Hour Humanitarian Pause
Aired July 25, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report, breaking news tonight.
Cease-fire confusion. Israel rejects a framework for a truce, but there are new reports that a 12-hour pause in the fighting could begin in a few hours.
Plus, day of rage, fears of a widening Mideast war and a new Palestinian uprising, as violent clashes erupt in the West Bank.
And dangerous delivery. The Pentagon is warning that Russia is about to send more sophisticated weapons into war-torn Ukraine.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And let's get right to the breaking news tonight, rising and falling hopes for a Middle East cease-fire. Just hours ago, the Israeli cabinet formally rejected a framework to end the fighting, a framework that called for a one-week truce in the fighting.
But there are late reports that Israel is going forward with a 12-hour pause in the fighting. A U.S. official is quoted as saying that pause would begin Saturday morning. It's now 1:00 a.m. Saturday here in Jerusalem. That pause is supposed to begin in six hours from now.
There's grave concern, though, right now, that the Middle East conflict potentially could be widening, after a huge Palestinian protest and some violent clashes in the West Bank that left at least four people dead.
Our correspondents are standing by. They're covering all the breaking news here in the Middle East and around the world. First, though, we will have more on the spreading violence here in the Middle East and the prospects for peace.
BLITZER (voice-over): A show of rage on the streets of the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians marching in support of Hamas and its battle in Gaza, another front, for Israeli security forces, as the protests turned violent and deadly.
The unrest exploding, just hours after a United Nations shelter in Gaza was hit, killing 16 people, and wounding about 200, mostly women and children. Palestinians blame Israel, but the Israeli military says a Hamas rocket may have hit the shelter. The Israeli military says it's investigating.
The horrifying bloodshed is putting new pressure on all sides to agree to a cease-fire. Just hours ago, the Israeli cabinet unanimously rejected a framework for a cease-fire put forward by Secretary of State John Kerry, while embracing the idea of another humanitarian pause in the fighting.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The whole world is watching a tragic moment after tragic moment unfold, and wondering, when is everybody going to come to their senses?
BLITZER: Even before the formal announcement, Israeli and Palestinian officials made it clear to me there were stumbling blocks.
YUVAL STEINITZ, ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE MINISTER: The top -- the goal should be a real enduring cease-fire. And in order to achieve this, you have to demilitarize Gaza.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The victim is the Palestinian people, and the war is against the Palestinian people. The cease-fire is now really the total responsibility of Mr. Netanyahu.
BLITZER: As peace efforts fail, for now, several thousand Israeli police officers have been deployed, on alert for new violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as Palestinians vent their anger.
The nightmare of attacks and counterattacks goes on. Israel now confirms that a soldier Hamas claims to have captured is actually dead, killed in an intense battle in Gaza on Sunday.
We're getting new information about the pause in the Gaza fighting.
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's joining us now from Aspen, Colorado, where she's participating in a national security forum.
So tell our viewers, Elise, precisely what you're learning.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials traveling with Secretary Kerry told me that Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has said that he would abide by a 12-hour cease-fire, starting tomorrow morning, Israel time, in about six hours, 1:00 a.m.
That's 7:00 a.m. Eastern time. And that he would be willing to go for that 12-hour cease-fire. As you know, Secretary Kerry has been working on trying to get a one-week pause in the fighting, humanitarian pause, while they work on some larger negotiations. And we hear, there's some reports from Reuters that Hamas has actually agreed to this 12-hour cease-fire. So Secretary Kerry said even though he hasn't been able to get that one-week pause in fighting, to get some humanitarian supplies in to Gaza, to get some of the victims and the injured and the bodies out, he's still going to work on this issue.
Wolf, take a listen to Secretary Kerry a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: We believe that Egypt has made a significant offer to bring people to Cairo, the factions, the Palestinian factions, and representatives of interested states and the state of Israel, in order to begin to try to negotiate the way forward.
Now, why are we not announcing that that has been found yet tonight? For a simple reason. That we still have some terminology in the context of the framework to work through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: And, Wolf, now, Secretary Kerry is headed to Paris...
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we just lost our connection with Elise, but I think I know what she was going to say. Secretary Kerry is going to Paris, and he's going to meet with representatives from Qatar, from Turkey, others who are involved. He's still working this issue. The Israeli cabinet, though, doesn't like that specific seven- day cease-fire that Secretary Kerry put on the table. They unanimously rejected it a few hours ago, but they are going to go ahead with this 12-hour humanitarian pause, at least for now.
And Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian parliamentarian, told me in the last hour he believes that Hamas will accept this 12-hour pause as well and won't fire rockets and missiles into Israel during this 12-hour pause. We will see in a few hours if that occurs or doesn't occur.
Let's go to Gaza right now, where the toll from 18 days of fighting is at least 826 people killed and more than 5,200 injured.
CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene for us.
And we want to warn our viewers, Karl, that your report that we're about to show our viewers does contain some graphic images.
But, first, Karl, tell us what you're seeing right now on the ground.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just want to bring you up to date, in fact, Wolf, because just over the last few moments, our Palestinian colleagues who are here working with us, they have all received messages just in the last few minutes, text messages, SMS messages, to their cell phones, both from representatives of Hamas and also the other main militant faction, Islamic Jihad, saying, yes, they have accepted that temporary 12-hour cease-fire.
They do, though, however state that there is a slightly different timetable, from what I understand the Israeli timetable is. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad say that the timetable will run from 8:00 a.m. Gaza time through to 8:00 p.m. Gaza time, a 12-hour window from 8:00 until 8:00, that a confirmation being sent to Palestinians via SMS text message.
Now, that will be welcome relief for medical workers above all. They are the ones who have been at the cutting edge of this violence, trying to tend to the wounded, trying to keep the dying alive for a few moments more. We had the opportunity to go down to a Gaza E.R.
PENHAUL (voice-over): Dead on arrival, the horror, civilians and medics at breaking point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been exhausted. We have been depressed.
PENHAUL: No time to rest. It's a scramble to rescue survivors. Surgeons told us not to film this casualty, a hint, perhaps, he was a militant fighter. But most on the operating table at south Gaza's European Hospital are clearly noncombatants.
(on camera): Their patient is a 23-year-old female, and they have showed me on the X-rays she has a basic fracture on her leg.
(voice-over): They say that was caused by a rocket blast. The surgeons' focus the blink of a patient's eye, the beep of vital signs. Dr. Hasan (ph) is sick of it, sick, he tells me, of stitching bodies mutilated by shrapnel, sick of war.
DR. YOUSIF AL-AKRAD, GAZA EUROPEAN HOSPITAL: We have received 61 patients, injured patients. So we don't have anything (INAUDIBLE) for those patients. We're going to receive more.
PENHAUL: Down the hallway, surgeons patch up a toddler. They say the rest of his family is dead. Bone and brain surgeons do skin grafts. Fighting rages close to the hospital. They just can't transfer him to a plastic surgeon. Medicine and supplies are running low.
HASSAN KHALED YOUNIS, NURSE: If the war is still one more week or more than this, we will reach to we don't have (INAUDIBLE) enough for the injured.
PENHAUL: The fight for Gaza has become a dirty war, no sanctuary for innocent.
DR. HASSEM AL-MASRI, GAZA EUROPEAN HOSPITAL: The situation is very danger. No place in Gaza Strip, not even one square meter is safe in Gaza Strip.
PENHAUL: Dr. Al-Masri is afraid that he like others could be killed at any time, so he carries his I.D. everywhere.
(on camera): So you're preparing for death as well?
AL-MASRI: Yes, we are preparing ourself for death.
PENHAUL (voice-over): Men dazed with amputated limbs, a child with head trauma battling to get up. Many medics tell me only faith can keep them on their feet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to give our -- the power to (INAUDIBLE) even we work sometimes 20 hours continuous.
PENHAUL: But even the call of God drowned out by the agony.
PENHAUL: Now, there is chance for a short letup for medics like those down at Gaza hospitals, because, as we're hearing in the last few minutes, both Hamas and the other main militant faction, Islamic Jihad, are agreeing to what in their terminology they're calling a humanitarian pause between 8:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m. Gaza time.
They're also saying that this must be supervised by the United Nations, but, tonight, at least there has been no letup in the fighting. We have heard artillery bombardments over there on the eastern border with Gaza, and just the last hour, as we were waiting to come up for a live transmission, suddenly, down in the streets below, we heard the ricochet of what appeared to be gunfire from a heavy-caliber machine gun, possibly a .50-caliber machine gun.
Unclear where those shots came from. They could have come from quite a distance away. That is a big machine gun. Just to point out, though, that the danger is not over tonight, not until at least that pause, that lull, that truce comes into effect, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, might not even be over during that truce. Let's see if it holds. And hopefully it will. Karl Penhaul, be careful over there. Thanks very much.
Let's bring in the former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. He's a CNN Middle East analyst.
Are you encouraged that it looks like Israel and Hamas will both honor this 12-hour humanitarian pause beginning in the morning?
MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: Well, the pause is designed to enable people, Palestinian civilians, to buy food, go to banks, certainly care for the dead and the wounded, removing them from the field, but it is not designed specifically to enable Hamas to regroup, to replenish its arms supplies, to reestablish communication lines, which is the reason the Israeli government would not agree to a seven- day cease-fire, which would have enabled Hamas to do precisely that.
BLITZER: Well, what did the Israeli cabinet -- they unanimously rejected that seven-day proposal that Secretary of State John Kerry and others put forward. What didn't they like about that? What was wrong with it? Because last week, they did accept a cease-fire. Hamas rejected it. What's wrong with the current proposal?
PENHAUL: Well, based on press reports, it was that it was -- well, first of all, it was for seven days, which would have been basically a victory for Hamas. Hamas would have used those seven days to, again, regroup, reestablish communications that have been broken off, replenish arm supplies.
And then it would be engaged in a protracted negotiation over some terms of a more endurable cease-fire. Israel has been very specific about what the goals in that cease-fire, the demilitarization in the Gaza Strip, removing heavy weaponry from the hands of Hamas. Hamas is not going to do that willingly, Wolf. You know that. And the only way Hamas...
BLITZER: I think we have just lost our audio with Michael Oren, unfortunately. We will try to reconnect with him. He was joining us via Skype from Tel Aviv. We will see if we can bring him back.
In the meantime, -- Ambassador Oren, it's Wolf. Can you hear me now?
OREN: I hear you fine.
BLITZER: All right, good. We lost you for a second. You were making a point, why Israel did not like, rejected that seven-day cease-fire proposal put forward by Secretary Kerry.
OREN: Again, Wolf, the seven days would have enabled Hamas to replenish its arms supplies, reestablish communication lines, recover from the beating it's taken from the Israeli military. Israel does not want to give Hamas that advantage.
And then Hamas would have engaged in a protracted negotiation over the terms of the more durable cease-fire. And Israel was very specific about the goal it sought, which was the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, removing heavy rockets from the Strip.
Hamas is not going to do that unless it's under tremendous military pressure, up against the wall and put there by the Israeli military. The seven days would have literally let Hamas off the hook. There's also the matter of the tunnels, Wolf. Far more attack tunnels were discovered under the Gaza border, leading into Israeli communities, literally into kindergartens, into cafeterias, and Israel needs time to identify those tunnels and to blow them up.
It's not easy. Some of them go down 85 feet. They are reinforced concrete. They take a long time to discover, a long time to blow up. And, according to the cease-fire, from what I have heard, did not allow Israel to continue that operation of looking for these tunnels.
BLITZER: Michael Oren is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get the Palestinian perspective right now.
Joining us is Saeb Erekat. He's the chief Palestinian negotiator. Once again he's joining us from Jericho on the West Bank.
Have you also heard, Saeb Erekat, that Hamas will honor that 12- hour humanitarian pause that Israel says it's ready to accept, starting in the morning?
SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Yes, I heard that Hamas will accept that 12-hour cease-fire, for sure.
But it's very, very, very unfortunate, Wolf, that Israel rejected the terms down. Secretary Kerry's offer, what Secretary Kerry (INAUDIBLE) today was something that we had worked for, for a long time.
The idea is, you know, in 48 hours, there will go into an effect a humanitarian cease-fire for seven days. And then Israel, Palestinian side and Israeli side will come to Cairo to negotiate all security issues, passages and all the demands, and at the same time, this will be based on the 2012 agreement between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side.
Unfortunately, I heard Ambassador Oren saying things I can't believe that I heard saying about regrouping and so on and so on and so on and so on, which is nonsense. Then why did Israel accept the Egyptian initiative? This is verbatim the Egyptian initiative that they reject tonight.
Was Netanyahu's acceptance tactical because Hamas said no? Now, when Hamas says yes, he says no? Now today in the West Bank, Wolf, we have seven people killed, 400 people wounded, and things are getting outside our fingers like sand. And the whole situation is being pushed down the drain.
And I believe what Secretary Kerry and Ban Ki-Moon and the Egyptians the Qataris and the Turks and the Europeans and the Arab League and Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority, their (AUDIO GAP) was to put out this proposal, which is so, you know, balanced in terms of a cease-fire for seven days, and, meanwhile, the parties, the Palestinian side, the Israeli side, under the auspices of Egypt, will negotiate all terms, all (AUDIO GAP) security, passages, and so on, and to save (AUDIO GAP) and to allow people to breathe.
And this unfortunate Israeli rejection means one thing, that they want to take it to the limits. So they want to reoccupy Gaza and they want to begin another third intifada in the West Bank, because it's a pressure cooker situation. OK. Can any Israeli walk me through the disaster?
What's going on here? This is an American offer that should have been honored by Israel and everyone. This was the result of very, very sincere, decent, relentless, unwavering efforts by Secretary John Kerry, by many, many countries, by us, the Palestinian Authority, to stop this cycle, vicious cycle.
And, you know, today the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza, 860. Wolf, do you know that 90 percent of them are children and women and innocent civilians? And the infrastructure in Gaza is totally devastated; 1.8 million people in Gaza don't know where to go to. No place is safe.
And now the West Bank, you know, it's a pressure cooker situation. People cannot take it anymore. People are on the streets.
BLITZER: I want to get to the West Bank in a moment, but I just want to get clarification from you, Saeb Erekat.
Do you know for sure if Israel would have accepted that seven-day cease-fire put forward by Secretary Kerry? Do you know for sure that Hamas would have accepted it? Because the last time the Egyptians put forward a cease-fire proposal, the Palestinian Authority accepted it, the Arab League did, Israel did. Hamas rejected it. Was Hamas on board this time?
EREKAT: Well, I heard from both Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt and Foreign Minister Khalid Attiyar of Qatar that, yes, Hamas would have accepted it.
And then why would Israel just -- you know, just close the chapter, just throw the piece of paper in front of Secretary Kerry? I mean, I read the proposal. It's really -- it's really very, very balanced. It says, in 48 hours, there will be a cease-fire for seven days, humanitarian.
And, immediately, both sides will sit in Cairo to negotiate all these issues that they both read. And at the same time, the principle that will be guided is the 2012 agreement reached between the two sides.
And then there will be an international monitor (INAUDIBLE) committee, United States, Arab League, U.N., European, many -- whoever wants, in order to ensure the sustainability of this framework of cease-fire, and the alleviating of the economic and social suffering, the (INAUDIBLE) movement, books, political supplies and so on.
BLITZER: How worried should we be, Saeb Erekat ,about a third intifada on the West Bank?
EREKAT: Very worried. I'm very worried.
As I told you, Wolf, it's really a pressure cooker situation. Palestinians are seeing their own people being slaughtered, casualties, the children, the women, the schools, the infrastructure.
And people are out in the streets in waves I have not seen since the first intifada in 1987, 1988. And seven people were killed today. This will add to the fuel. This will add to the whole (INAUDIBLE) and, honestly, I (AUDIO GAP) things are slipping outside our fingers like sand.
I don't know if this can be controlled. I don't know what will happen. And this is a very, very, very dangerous situation. It's a pressure cooker situation that may explode without control any time, any hour. And I know that (INAUDIBLE) there is no hope. It's beginning because Israel rejected the cease-fire tonight, and this will add to that (INAUDIBLE) we know how it will begin and we described, you know, seven people today, and last night another five.
BLITZER: All right.
EREKAT: But we don't know how it will end. We have been there before in 1987. We have within there in 2000. And then we calculated the number of dead.
BLITZER: I remember.
EREKAT: And then at the end of the day is what we need is to sit down again and talk about the two-state solution.
BLITZER: Well, let's see how that 12-hour humanitarian cease- fire, that pause goes tomorrow, Saeb Erekat. I will be working tomorrow night. Hopefully, you will join us again at the same time tomorrow night. We will what is going on. We will reassess the situation.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, joining us.
Still ahead, what's President Obama saying? What's he doing about the Middle East conflict, as his secretary of state is desperately trying to hammer out a cease-fire, a longer term cease- fire? Still no progress, not much progress on that front. Israel's cabinet today rejected that seven-day proposal for a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Israel's Iron Dome has been working overtime to intercept Hamas rockets, so how much is the U.S. spending to keep it running? What's going on, on that front?
Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're back live here in Jerusalem with the breaking news. Let's go right now to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's back in Washington.
So tell us what's going on as far as the president, the White House is concerned. This 12-hour initial humanitarian pause in the fighting as we have been reporting, looks like the Israelis and Hamas have both agreed, but Israel has rejected that seven-day proposal put forward by Secretary Kerry. What are you hearing over at the White House?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have got a pretty speedy reaction to that news from the national security adviser here at the White House, Susan Rice. She was in the Briefing Room just a few moments ago doing an interview, and the rest of us reporters sort of crowded in on her and asked her a few questions about it.
And I'm just going to read you a couple of quotes. She said: "Let's see if it happens. We support the call for it." She said it would be a very modest initial step, but it would be better than it not happening.
But, Wolf, she went on to say, in some ways, she is suspicious of these cease-fires, these short cease-fires, because they don't last sometimes more than a few hours. I think that's an indication, Wolf, that at this point, there is some cautious optimism over here at the White House, but also a healthy dose of realism.
They have seen these cease-fires come and go. As you said earlier, Wolf, sometimes, they just don't last. As for the president, he's been working on other pressing matters today. As you know, he met with those Central American leaders here at the White House, basically told them that many of the children who are in this country are not going to qualify for refugee status and are going to have to go home.
But, at this point, Susan Rice is saying that this may be a good step forward.
BLITZER: Do you know, Jim, if the president called Prime Minister Netanyahu once again? I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke last night with Secretary Kerry to discuss this seven-day cease- fire, which the Israeli cabinet unanimously rejected. Did the president get involved in trying to convince Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet that it was the right thing to do? Because I know Kerry strongly supports the idea.
ACOSTA: Yes, and I will tell you, Wolf, I asked that question earlier this afternoon. They said they had no calls to tell us about between the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
As you know, they have not always had the best relationship. However, one thing that should be said is that the White House -- and I have heard this from a White House official, top White House official not too long ago -- that they really feel that Secretary of State John Kerry is the man who should be working on this at this moment, that he's been given these marching orders and that he's really on a mission to broker some sort of lasting cease-fire deal.
That is something that Susan Rice said just a few moments ago that what they're really hoping for here at the White House is not this 12-hour cease-fire, but something longer-lasting, something the secretary is working on at this moment, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, let's see if he can do that. All right, he is on his way, will be on his way to Paris for more meetings as he continues his efforts. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks for that update. Lawmakers in Washington have been talking about more funding for
Israel's anti-missile Iron Dome system. It's the system that helps protect the country's citizens from those thousands of Hamas rockets and missiles that have been coming in. CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us right now.
So, Tom, I want you to show our viewers how that system actually works.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one of the hallmarks of this conflict, as you know, has been an increased range in the rockets being fired by Hamas, out of Gaza, reaching more towards targets like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, things that they really need to protect in Israel in this whole conflict.
And they're getting confidence out of the Iron Dome system, because they now say it's stopping 90 percent of these incoming rockets. How does this thing work? Let's break it down to three key phases here.
First of all, when anything launches headed toward Israel, the detection system kicks in. That means that basically high-tech radar and camera systems start figuring out, how big is this incoming object, how fast is it moving, where might it be headed?
At the same time, the analysis and targeting phase kicks in. That means that the computers start taking that data and figuring out, if one of these is headed into the water, they let it go. If it's headed to a rural area where there's nothing to hit, they let it go.
But if it turns out that one of these is headed toward a critical target or people out there, the third phase kicks in, the destruction phase. This all happens in a matter of seconds, Wolf. Those same targeting systems communicate with batteries of Tamir missiles, each missile about 10 feet long, a 25-pound warhead of high explosives. Those are launched. They're guided right up to that incoming threat, and they blow apart everything in the airspace.
This is not cheap, Wolf. That's why the debate is going on here. It was developed by an Israeli company to begin with, but the U.S. has already kicked about $235 million into that system and each one of the defensive missiles, about $62,000.
But I can tell you right now, Wolf, even as they debate in Washington, in Israel, officials will say it is money well spent on a system that they now consider essential -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It saved a lot of lives here. I've been in Ashkelon and I've seen the rockets coming in, the missiles coming in. I've seen those Iron Dome interceptors going up. Makes a big boom. Sometimes some shrapnel lands on the ground, but it's a lot better than those rockets and missiles hitting populated areas.
Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
We'll have much more of our special report live from Jerusalem right after this.
BLITZER: We're joining you right now live from Jerusalem, but also right now, there are fears another crisis in another region is getting even more serious. The latest U.S. intelligence shows that the Russian military is providing separatist in Ukraine with powerful new weapons in their conflict with government forces.
Our Barbara Starr is joining us right now from the Pentagon. Tell us what you know, Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is new intelligence, but now there are even more questions about what the Russian military is really up to.
STARR (voice-over): Russia appears to now be shipping heavier caliber, more sophisticated ground rocket systems, like these, across its border, into Ukraine, according to the Pentagon. Weapons that can strike ground targets 20 miles away. The latest shipment is imminent, the Pentagon warned Friday. The rocket launchers are seen by the U.S. as a further Russian military escalation.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are very concerned about the transfer of weapons and material.
STARR: U.S. spy satellites monitoring the border have seen a steady stream of Russian weapons going into Ukraine.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: At a time when, you know, when I think there may be some folks who could convince themselves that Putin would be looking for a reason to de-escalate, he's actually taken the decision to escalate.
STARR: General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, says the U.S. and NATO are updating military plans to be ready if Russia threatens European stability.
DEMPSEY: My fear is actually, you know, if I have a fear about this, it's that Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control of.
STARR: CNN has learned U.S. intelligence satellites and radars have monitored repeated artillery fire from the Russian side of the border, for the last several days. The U.S. now monitoring that border around the clock for any signs of Russian troop movements.
The U.S. ambassador to NATO says there are limits to U.S. military help for Ukraine.
DOUGLAS LUTE, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO NATO: We don't have a responsibility to defend Ukraine, although Ukraine is -- it has been a, has been a close partner. It's not an ally.
STARR: Russia's potential motivation: step up the hostilities to protect the Moscow-backed separatists.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They're being pushed back into a couple of key cities from their positions within the provinces of Eastern Ukraine, and I think they're getting very -- Russia is getting very concerned about this.
STARR: The question now: What will Vladimir Putin order his forces to do next?
STARR: And right now, Wolf, the U.S. estimates there are 15,000 Russian troops on that border, and that number could still grow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks very much.
And joining us now, Jeffrey Pyatt. He's the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. I know you're incredibly busy right now. You've got a lot of tension going on in your part of the world.
CNN has learned that Russia is moving powerful weaponry into Ukraine, potentially today, we're told. Can Russia really claim that the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are not connected to Putin?
JEFFREY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: No, well, Wolf, at this point, Russia is the decisive factor in the instability in Eastern Ukraine. We've been working very hard to define a diplomatic off-ramp, a political strategy for settling this crisis, working with our European partners, working with President Poroshenko.
But at least for now, the Kremlin is pouring gasoline on the flames. And you mentioned the transfers of heavy weaponry, armor, tanks, rocket launchers across the border. We also now have documented instances of units firing heavy artillery across the Russian border. These are units located inside Russia, firing onto Ukrainian territory, targeting Ukrainian troops.
BLITZER: Are these direct acts of aggression by Russia against Ukraine?
PYATT: Well, they're certainly acts that detract from the diplomatic solution that we're trying to achieve. Frankly, they're alienating a lot of Ukrainian citizens. People in eastern Ukraine that I hear from are just tired of the violence. They're tired of the kidnappings. They're tired of the shellings. Most of the civilians, especially in these major cities, are caught in the middle. They just want this to end.
That's what President Poroshenko has proposed to do. That's very much what we hoped Moscow would focus on after this extraordinary tragedy of the Malaysian Flight 17 downing. But as you reported, that doesn't seem to be happening.
BLITZER: Is there any scenario that you envisage right now where the U.S. starts providing weapons to Ukraine?
PYATT: At this point, Wolf, our focus is on our diplomatic and economic support. We're providing $33 million in nonlethal military and security assistance. A lot of that is targeted at the state border guards, so they can harden Ukraine's frontiers against this continued infiltration of equipment. But that's our focus at this point.
And I want to underline, I think most Ukrainians also understand, there's no military solution to this crisis. What has to happen is a political process, a diplomatic climb-down, and there needs to be a political chart that's established to move forward. Vladimir Putin can make that happen with one phone call, as far as we're concerned.
BLITZER: The State Department says the U.S. has proof -- proof -- that Ukrainian military -- the Ukrainian military is being fired upon from across the border in Russia. So what would be the consequences of this?
PYATT: Well, I think -- again, what we have made very clear, that we are prepared to raise the cost to Russia, jointly with our European partners, through sanctions, if Moscow persists in these destabilizing actions.
The irony is, everybody wants to find a political off-ramp here, starting with the people of Ukraine, who have been the victims of Russia's aggression. But that's not going to happen, as long as you have this continued military escalation.
And I want to be very clear, what's happened over the past eight days, since the downing of the Malaysian flight, is not a de- escalation; rather, it's more weapons, more advanced weapons, these documented instances of firing across the Ukrainian border. The persistence of the training camps in Russian territory, where separatists are being trained and equipped. And now, as the Pentagon has highlighted, the imminent risk of the -- of the cross-border movement of newer, heavier and more lethal missile systems.
BLITZER: General Martin Dempsey, the charm of the joint chiefs of staff, has said that Russian President Putin may, in his words, "light a fire he can't stop in Ukraine." Why do you believe Putin is escalating the violence right now, violence he may not be able to stop?
PYATT: Wolf, we just don't know at this point. What is -- what is the Moscow calculus?
We know, of course, that Russia is paying a heavy financial and economic cost for the route that the Kremlin has chosen. We've seen an estimate of $100 billion in capital flight so far this year, planned for 2014. We know that, as I mentioned earlier, Russia has lost a lot of friends among the Ukrainian people. This is a country with deep historic, cultural, linguistic ties to Russia. But frankly, I've never seen Ukraine so united. I've never seen
the Ukrainian people so resolved in moving ahead in their sovereign choice to move towards a closer relationship with Europe.
BLITZER: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just said, and it raised a lot of eyebrows, she said, the reset that she was engaged in, between U.S. -- the U.S. and Russia, she said, the reset works.
Would you agree with that?
PYATT: Well, again, Wolf, fortunately, my piece of the equation is the U.S./Ukraine one.
But in terms of U.S./Ukraine relations right now, we want to find a platform for moving ahead, jointly with Russia, and with Europe, as we build our strategic partnership here. We are convinced that a Ukraine which is politically stable, moving closer to Europe, allowed the space to grow economically, should be good for Russia. It should be good for Russian exports, good for Russian businesspeople.
But Moscow is not running that play right now. What we see out of Russia, since the end of February, is an unrelenting campaign of aggression, targeted at Ukraine, apparently seeking to deny the Ukrainian people the right to make their own sovereign choice about their future.
BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Ambassador. Anton Skiba, this is a Ukrainian freelance journalist, actually worked for a day for CNN. He has now been detained by pro-Russian elements in Ukraine right now.
I know you're working on this case. What can be done to free him?
PYATT: I think we just have to keep the international spotlight on his case, Wolf. We will certainly continue to do so, along with the dozens of other journalists, mainly Ukrainian journalists, reports for Ukrainian outlets who have been kidnapped since the outburst of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. It's outrageous to us that you have this deliberate strategy by these separatist fighters, by this so- called Donetsk People Republic, to abduct and imprison journalists. It's part of a larger campaign of information warfare that has been waged and it has to stop.
BLITZER: Geoffrey Pyatt is the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you and good luck to all your team over there. I know you guys are working incredibly hard.
Our special breaking news coverage live from Jerusalem continues right after this.
BLITZER: We're back live in Jerusalem. As the conflict between Israel and Hamas plays out here in the
Middle East, Jews around the world are watching. Some are feeling a backlash.
CNN's Isa Soares reports of a new rash of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) the suburb of Paris bears the scars of violence directed at the largely Jewish community here.
Last week, it became the flashpoint for anger against Israel. The local synagogue targeted and shops burned and looted. This French-born Jewish shopper refused to show his face on camera for fear of reprisal against his family.
"I'm very worried movement little brother's not going out alone", he tells me. They don't go alone to even buy a baguette. "We always accompany them".
I asked whether he has seen Jews leaving France because of the violence?
"My aunt returned to Israel this summer", he says, and she's made a right decision because in a few days later, the violence erupted. It makes us think we should also leave and I think that's what's going to happen.
Migration from France to Israel are at levels not seen since 1948, since the founding of Israel. And Robert Ejines (ph), the head of the Jewish community in Paris, says there's a good reason. A 40 percent increase in violence against the Jewish community in the first part of the year.
ROBERT EJINES, COUNCIL OF JEWISH INSTITUTIONS IN FRANCE: What we've seen in the past two weeks is something we never lived through. Basically, the demonstrations, which were the demonstration for the Palestine people that ignited the violence against the Jews. But on the side of the demonstration, we've seen a new mob, which decided to attack the Jews, on the idea that were defended for the Palestinian people against the government of Israel.
SOARES: It's a new development, with anti-Israel protests turning against Jews in general.
(on camera): The rising tide of hostility towards Jewish is being felt not just here in France but right across Europe. There are fears that this new form of anti-Semitism, as the French government are calling it, is being fuelled by growing economic inequality, by the growing strength of Europe far-right nationalist parties, and a sense of alienation amongst Europe's Muslim population.
(voice-over): It's certainly not just France. This week, a friendly football game in Austria in turned nasty when Pro-Palestinian demonstrators stormed the pitch and attacked visiting Israeli players.
In Belgium, a shocking display. This sign in the window of the cafe reads in Turkish, "Entrance allowed for dogs but forbidden for Jews.
Hatred has also spread in Latin America. Israeli flags burned in Chile and Jewish families attacked with rocks.
Though Paris may be 2,000 miles from Gaza, for the Jews here, a sense that the conflict has been brought to their doorstep.
Isa Soares, CNN, Paris.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more of our special report. We're live here in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: Just recapping the breaking news: Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 12-hour temporary humanitarian ceasefire starting in a few hours. Let's see if it holds up.
Israel rejected a proposal for a seven-day ceasefire. The Israeli cabinet rejecting unanimously that proposal, thinking it goes too far in making concessions to Hamas, an organization that Israel calls a terrorist organization.
Stay with us. We're going to have complete coverage throughout the weekend. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for special coverage from here in Jerusalem.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. See you Monday THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
In the meantime, the news continues right now on CNN.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.