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U.N. Urges Ceasefire; Russia Denies Involvement in Ukraine; LeBron Announces He'll Go Back to No. 23

Aired July 28, 2014 - 05:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: United Nations urging Israel and Hamas to stop the violence, calling for an immediate cease-fire at an emergency midnight meeting. This, as the death toll rises and finger-pointing continues over who is responsible for a deadly attack on a Gaza school. We're live in Jerusalem with the latest, next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking this morning, Russia responding to accusations that it has been arming pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. This as the fighting rages near the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. We are now learning that investigators will be given access to the scene. CNN is with them. We'll have live team coverage on all the angles of this developing story.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. It is 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast, Monday, July 28th.

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

Breaking overnight, fighting between Israel and Hamas continuing, blood spilling on both sides of the battle, despite the U.N. calling for a humanitarian cease-fire. Hamas launching 70 rockets on Sunday. The Israelis conducting 40 separate attacks on Hamas.

Both sides suffering fatalities and now officials in Jerusalem are denying responsibility for 16 deaths at a U.N. school used as a shelter in Gaza. They are confirming there was an errant Israeli mortar that struck the school's courtyard. But they say the courtyard was empty at that time.

Let's bring in Martin Savidge, live from Jerusalem.

Martin, let's get a big picture from you here, because there had been hope, I think increasing hope amongst a lot of people over the weekend when we saw talk of a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire, that this would persist. But from your perspective on the ground, it isn't, is it?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not, Poppy. I'm sorry. The news is grim here, today. You're right, over the weekend, they did achieve a 12-hour humanitarian pause. Many thought it could be extended an additional 24. Israel said it was willing to do that. But Hamas then said no. It was not willing and it fired rockets and mortars at Israel. Then about 12 hours later, though, Hamas said they were ready for that humanitarian pause. Israel felt it wasn't a genuine offer and true to the form, it appears that Hamas launched more rockets and missiles shortly thereafter.

So, any hopes we were going to see a significant end to the fighting faded away when it comes to the light of day here now, Poppy.

HARLOW: In terms of, you know, we know that President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a phone conversation where the president again asserted the U.S. support of Israel's right to defend itself, but also talked about his concern and the country's concern over the increasing number of casualties on both sides of this conflict. Do you get a sense on the ground where you are in Jerusalem that either side is coming closer, politically, to, perhaps, a prolonged cease-fire, to talk about what's on the table in terms of the Egyptian negotiated potential agreement?



SAVIDGE: I mean, the death toll is terribly high. You take a look at the number of Palestinians, it's well over 1,000. It's 1,032. When you look at the death toll of soldiers, 43. That is significantly higher than previous incursions.

So, you would think, with that kind of number, you would think there's a willingness to say, let's pack off. It's reinforcing and driving it forward as if there's so much that's been invested, we can't possibly back down, we can't stop now. An opinion poll done over the weekend of Israelis shows that 80 percent said they were in favor of continuing the operation in Gaza. So, it doesn't feel like public sentiment nor government sentiment, nor the feelings from Hamas is saying, hey, let's stop.

HARLOW: I remember seeing that. That's interesting, because the public support and opinion matters here. Clearly, where you are, they are behind this continuing.

All right. Appreciate the report. Martin Savidge live for us in Jerusalem, thank you.

BERMAN: A team of Australian and Dutch investigators is on the way to the crash site. This, as Ukrainian forces launch a new offensive.

Nick Paton Walsh has been traveling with the investigators trying to get to the crash site with them. He joins us now live really on the road to this site. Give us a sense of what's going on. Are you still with them?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, as you join me, you can't see it, but in a distance, there's a plume of white smoke. That was the first round we heard in a rapid succession of further heavy explosions, perhaps rockets hitting the town. Let me rewind to how we got here. I'm on the road that heads from Donetsk city to the crash site where MH17 came down over a week ago now.

The OSCE convoy, perhaps you can hear that noise in the background of the shelling, but the OSCE with Dutch and Australian police have been moving down this road in a large group. And you can see more white smoke in the background, moving in a large group with separatist escort security. The roads cleared for them. They got to the outskirts and continued.

The media stopped, told to stop filming. At that point, we moved back here, a kilometer away from the outskirt of (INAUDIBLE). But it is clear from talking to people, we fled. Some with tears in their eyes, terrified it seems about the shelling they heard yesterday and overnight and perhaps a little this morning. We can see it ourselves now.

There seems to be an attack going on. The Ukrainian military nearby. A man says, another woman says it's impossible to know who is who. The Ukrainian national guard, they have a mixture of uniforms that the Russian separatists do.

This is all important because it's about accessing that crash site. In this kind of volatile environment, John, it's hard to imagine how the OSCE convoy can be continue with complete safety in their hearts. They have some sort of agreement. They talked communication between Kiev and they are comfortable enough to move on.

What further access do they get and they said themselves, how long will they be at that site? I'm standing here now. While, it's still far away, there's a lot of shells are landing in the background there, now. As I said, we don't know what the objective of all that is. But there seems to be a clear changing of front lines or assault of some description pushing from south to north to the crash site.

We know for the first time, the Ukrainian army has said they are moving in on the crash site today -- John.

BERMAN: So, the investigators the team of OSCE investigators, along with Dutch police, they have continued toward the site, toward the crash site, toward the scene of the fighting, which Nick we can't see behind you, when we do hear those explosions. If they get there, what do they hope to accomplish today, on site?

WALSH: Well, a spokesman said it is going to be limited, the time they have here. That's obvious because it was happening all around them.

They were specific about one particular thing they want to achieve. They want to get to an impact sites they said that was apparently high on their priority list. As I stand talking here, a number of journalists moved away. They want to get to one of the impact sites. They haven't managed to, yet.

But hearing the noise behind me, there must be an agreement they are confident with that they feel they can navigate this kind of fighting to get to the crash site. We are talking an unarmed mission here, the Dutch and Australians and we're talking a war that is picking up in intensity -- John.

BERMAN: Picking up all around you. Nick Paton Walsh, please take care of yourself. We hear the explosions around you. Make sure you and your crew stay safe out there. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right. Well, also this, the United States releasing satellite photos showing Russian forces, apparently, firing across the Ukrainian border in support of the rebels, backing claims Russia is directly involved.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, telling John Kerry they are not contributing to the conflict or the downing of flight MH17. Lavrov just held a news conference in the last few hours and really reiterated the claims.

Our Diana Magnay has the details live from Moscow.

What set out to you listening to what Sergey Lavrov had to say today, Diana?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what was important is the way Russia is positioning itself as being on the side of reason and diplomacy. As opposed to Kiev, which it charges as being backed by the West and the U.S., which is intent on prolonging this conflict.

And that is nothing new. But, to hear Sergey Lavrov outline it in an hour long press conference was interesting. As far as the supply of weapons goes, which is what the West charged Russia with and therefore the allegation that Russia fueled this conflict and is responsibility, be it indirectly for the downing of MH17. Well, in that conversation with John Kerry, yesterday, Sergey Lavrov denied using weapons. And today, he said, we've invited monitors from the OSCE to come to two check points along the border to see for themselves.

We have had international monitors inspect these areas in the past. In an era we live in now, where technology is such that you can prove this thing either way, it should be clear where the truth lies. So, you know, continued policy from Russia denying it's involved, pressing Kiev to sit down with the pro-Russian separatists and try to find negotiated settlement, which takes into account a process of constitutional reform. It's something that Russia has been calling for all along in this process, and saying that Ukraine is the one who is encouraging the conflict and continuing to shell its own civilians and clearly, you know, we are seeing evidence of that on the ground today as nick was reporting.

HARLOW: Yes. And, Diane, I'm wondering if he said anything or if you are hearing from officials there from Russia about these ratcheted up sanctions that we are expecting to come from the U.S., but also particularly the E.U., led by Germany.

Before today, really, sentiment at least in Germany, public sentiment, a lot of concern over what they would do to the German economy and jobs. But, interestingly, a poll that just came out published in "Ders Spiegel" on Sunday said 52 percent of German's backed tougher sanctions against Russia, even if they would cost many jobs. Is there a sense coming from Sergey Lavrov? Did he address that or from other Russian officials that indeed it is likely coming and it is going to hurt the Russian economy?

MAGNAY: Yes, he said that sanctions in general, and this is also something that is a repeated line, that sanctions might do the opposite of what European policymakers and U.S. policymakers are hoping they'll do and actually encourage Russia to invest in their own economy and become more confident and more innovative. That's one line.

He also that said Russia was not going to respond in kind to European sanctions, that there would be no tit for tat approach, almost sort of taking the dignified upper hand against what he said were sanction that were a way of making Western policymakers feel better in any kind of diplomatic solution. So, really, brushing them off.

As you say, it does appear as thought that Europe is more determined to put on wider sectoral sanctions now. But we haven't seen it, yet. So far, we have just had more individuals added to the list of asset freezes and travel bans.

HARLOW: Yes, but clearly, the line there from the Russian government is basically go ahead. We will persist. It is not going to impact us negatively.

We'll see what plays out. Appreciate it. Diana Magnay from Moscow.

MAGNAY: Yes, it's not going to change the policy.

HARLOW: Yes, thank you.

MAGNAY: Thanks.

BERMAN: Eleven minutes after the hour right now. An agreement was reached between House and Senate negotiators to fix the veterans affairs health system. Lawmakers are expected to release details of the plan this afternoon. For veterans who live too far from a V.A. facility or waited too long for treatment, the measure is expected to pay for visits to private doctors. This measure will also earmark billions of dollars to hire new doctors and nurses and to build or release new facilities to help treat veterans.

HARLOW: All right. Time for an EARLY START on money this Monday.

European stocks are trading mixed right now. And Asia, we saw stocks end the day higher. In the United States, futures are pointing lower this morning after a lower close on Friday as well, kicking off a very important week in terms of economic data. Investors will weigh a lot of big corporate earnings. Also, we're going to get the first readings on the second quarter GDP midweek. Of course, the U.S. economy last quarter contracted almost 3 percent. So, that's really going to be in focus. Also, Friday morning, we'll get the July jobs report.

And also, some reports this morning that Malaysia Airlines is considering a name change. The company has been, as you know, part of two major tragedies this year, hurting its brand and image. According to "The Financial Times" this morning, the Malaysian government which owns a major stake in this carrier is looking to rebrand. That could include a name change, restructuring part of the business. We'll see how that plays out.

But, of course, with the government, John, owning it, it's very different here than in the United States, in terms of those decisions that they make how financially they can stay afloat.

BERMAN: It'd be interesting to see what choices they make.

Thirteen minutes after the hour.

A deadly strike from the sky. One man killed a dozen more injured when a rare lightning storm pounds a California beach. We're going to have a survivor sharing his story, next.

And California is not the only state to see devastating storms. Indra Petersons is tracking what you need to know for today, coming up.


BERMAN: Severe storm turned deadly along the California coast. A 20- year-old man was killed Sunday after being struck by lightning at Venice Beach. Thirteen others also injured. But witnesses say the severe weather just came out of nowhere.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, there was a big flash of light and a boom. It felt like someone punched me in the back of my head like right here. It went down the right side of my body and my calf sort of locked up and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was fallen over.


BERMAN: This is kind of storm unusual for this area. Officials say it was sparked by monsoon moisture.

HARLOW: Well, terrifying afternoon in Wolcott, Connecticut. A tornado, take a look at this, a tornado touched down on Sunday, without any warning, taking down trees and tearing off the roof. Luckily, no injuries reported. But dozens of homes lost power.

BERMAN: A tornado ripped through Tennessee Sunday, causing significant damage to homes in Washington and Sullivan counties, downed power lines and debris, blocked roadways. So far, there had been no reports of injuries. Crews on the ground now working to restore power to hundreds of residents in this area.

HARLOW: All right. Also a violent storm damaging at least a dozen homes in Lexington, Kentucky. This happened on Sunday morning. Lexington's fire department struggling to respond to emergency calls because the lightning disabled their communication system. The storm knocked down trees and power lines across central Kentucky, leaving thousands there without electricity.

BERMAN: An early morning hailstorm pummeled central Wisconsin earlier Sunday with hailstones two inches across. Homes and cars damaged by the 15-minute storm that blanketed the street with ice there.

HARLOW: All right. A lot more severe weather in the forecast. Let's get to Indra Petersons with an early look.

That was incredible, two inches across hail in Wisconsin in July.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: In July, and we are still talking severe weather today. We're talking about 6 million people. I mean, this is really, we had a rough week and severe weather. That threat continues today.

Notice today, we are talking Virginia, North Carolina, and all the way back through Mississippi. The biggest threat, of course, is the damaging winds. The thunderstorms would produce an isolated tornado. We saw one yesterday, an EF-0 toward Connecticut.

Now, here's what we're looking at -- the cold front still kind of hanging on, especially lingering into the southeast, but eventually making its way off to the Northeast where high pressure will build in. Things will clear out. Actually, a pretty mild week ahead for most of you.

Yes, scattered showers. A little system is expected to make its way around the lake. But general expecting, conditions will improve after today. We have to get there.

The heaviest rain, of course, we are dealing with the cold front. Still, looking and New England area, about two to three inches of rain still possible there.

The next story is going to be the cool air filtering in again. Not just in the Northeast. We are talking milder temperatures going all the way down, even into the Southeast. This is going to feel great out there. Look at the difference. The temperatures go down from the 80s to the 70s in the Southeast, excessive heat out there.

The change is only a day away. A welcome sight. The temperatures will go back down.

BERMAN: Thanks.

HARLOW: Absolutely. I was telling Berman earlier, this is an insane summer for weather with these storms everywhere.

PETERSONS: And winter.


HARLOW: It was brutal. And you know it firsthand. Indra, thank you. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour. A big announcement for LeBron James, another one. Will Cleveland fans like this news?

Andy Scholes, the star of Jimmy Kimmel's late night show, has more on "The Bleacher Report", next.


BERMAN: The baseball hall of fame has six new members as of this weekend. I have to say, these six people, they are amazing.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, last year, all the talk centering around the hall of fame year was who didn't get in with the steroids with the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clements and Mark McGwire all being shut up. But this year, we got back to celebrating some of the game's great players. The Atlanta Braves dynamic duo of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, they went in together as first ballot Hall of Famers, along with their manager, Bobby Cox. Frank Thomas, he also got in on the first ballot. Managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, they're also enshrined. Torre, he's actually apologetic afterwards because during his speech, he forgot the thank the long time Yankee's owner, George Steinbrenner.

Turning on this morning, NBA fans who already owned a LeBron James jersey can let out a sigh of relief. LeBron announcing on Instagram over the weekend that he is going to go back to the number 23. King James changed his number to 6 when he took his talent to south beach. But he says it's only right he goes back to 23.

All right. I love this story. Jeremy Velez thinks he's there to dance. Behind Philly was his mom. She had been away serving in the Air Force in southwest Asia. She arrived back in America that morning. You can see, it was an awesome moment between mother and son.

Colts owner Jim Irsay is awaiting trial and punishment from the NFL for his arrest for driving under the influence and possession of prescription drugs. He had 29 grand in cash on him at the time of the arrest. Obviously, Irsay is keeping lot of cash on hand. He made it rain at Colts training camp on Saturday.

Check this out. This is Irsay handing out 100 dollar bills randomly to fan who is were there to watch the Colts practice.

Usually, guys, you go to training camp, catch a t-shirt, maybe a mini football, but go to Colts training camp, you get $100 from the owner. How about that?

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE) sort of confused.

BERMAN: An unusual promotion, Andy. Unfamiliar, the t-shirt guns I'm used to, $100 bills, not so much.

SCHOLES: I signed for that, though.

HARLOW: Back to the story about the mom greeting her son on the field. I love that. That is always great to see.

SCHOLES: Those never get old.

HARLOW: Thanks, Andy. We appreciate.

BERMAN: You can see the little boy, I know something about little boys.

HARLOW: You do. You got two of them.

BERMAN: They want to choke up back their tears, but you just see the love in his face. He can't hold back.

HARLOW: Yes, how great.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking news, the United Nations holding an emergency meeting overnight urging an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

But this morning, the violence and the finger pointing between Hamas and Israel, it just rages on. We are live, next.