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Violence Continues in Gaza; Investigators Turn Back from MH17 Site; Interview with Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson; Plane Hits Father & Daughter On Beach

Aired July 28, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Israel is still trying to take out those tunnels, stretching from Gaza into southern Israel.

U.N. Security Council overnight held an emergency meeting calling for an immediate end to the conflict, an immediate cease-fire. But will the words of warning be enough to bring about a lasting cease-fire?

Martin Savidge is live in Israel with all of the latest developments.

Martin, what is the latest from the ground?


Well, the Israeli foreign ministry is saying right now Israel is observing what they call an unlimited cease-fire, which sounds very good, except it is also a bit hard to decipher exactly what it means. Israel saying it will only fire back when fired upon and only firing back at where it was fired upon, but continuing other operations that is not likely to please Hamas one bit.

So, after a weekend of high hopes, we're back to dashed dreams.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Early this morning, the United Nations Security Council convening an emergency meeting calling for a renewed ceasefire that would allow the delivery of urgently needed assistance into Gaza. But neither sides accepted, both agreeing to only a few hours of peace and rejecting previous deals for a truce.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We had a ceasefire, they violated it. Now they're violating their own ceasefire. Obviously, we'll take whatever action necessary to protect our people.

SAVIDGE: The Israeli military detonating explosives in two tunnels that they say Hamas uses to get fighters into Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry heading home empty handed after six days of exhaustive diplomatic meetings.

On Sunday, President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone condemning attacks from Hamas against Israel and also stressing the need for an immediate ceasefire.

Outrage continues to grow over the number of civilians caught in the crossfire including grade schoolchildren injured in Thursday's mortars strike at the United Nations building used, which was being used as a shelter for Gaza families.

Israel Defense Forces confirm a single errant mortar landed in the courtyard of the school, but they denied responsibility for any deaths pointing to their footage of the strike and claiming the courtyard was empty at the time of the attack.

Officials from the U.N. and the Palestinian government report 16 people were killed and hundreds wounded. A CNN team visited the shelter several hours after the attack and found evidence of badly injured civilians.


SAVIDGE: The death toll in Gaza continues to rise. It stands at 1,032, most of those are civilians. The Israeli death toll also rises, 43 Israeli soldiers. That's the most killed in any operation in some time. It's also three civilians in Israel have been killed as well, Kate.

So, both sides appear to be just digging in.

BOLDUAN: Difficult to decipher what really is happening on the ground, Martin. That's why you're there. Thank you very much. Martin Savidge on the ground for us in Jerusalem.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have more breaking news to tell you about, this time from Ukraine.

An international inspection team that was trying to get to the site of the mh-17 wreckage was turned back. A statement from the Dutch led team says no safe passage to that site was possible because of the intense fighting in the rebel held area. This comes as Russia has been firing back at critics denying any role in the MH17 disaster or the chaos right now reigning in eastern Ukraine.

Despite new American satellite photos that allegedly show Russia launching attacks into Ukraine.

CNN's Matthew Chance live in Kharkiv right now with more.

Good morning, Matthew.


Right, it was possible news to the international investigators trying to get to the MH17 crash site for the second day in a row. They have attempted to -- through the fierce fighting that is under way in that rebel-controlled area. And for a second day in a row -- they have failed to arrive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): After a weekend of intensive fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels, the international investigation into the MH17 crash had been brought to a virtual standstill.

In the nearby Ukrainian town, pummeled with rockets leaving at least 13 people dead including two children, both sides blaming each other for the bloodshed. Elsewhere, too, violence blocking access to the site, turning away dozens of Dutch and Australian forensics experts, here to collect human remains and evidence from the wreckage.

But government forces confirm they are now fighting to retake areas near the wreckage despite earlier assurances of a ceasefire. Meanwhile diplomatic pressure on Russia is being ratcheted up. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging Russia's foreign minister to cut off the flow of weapons into Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department also releasing satellite images purportedly showing Russian forces firing rocket launchers and using artillery strikes on Ukrainian military forces across the border.

But Sergey Lavrov says there have been no unlawful border crossings, inviting OSCE monitors to see for themselves. The fighting in this region intensifies, there seems no let-up either to the war of words.


CHANCE: Dutch investigators say they're not giving up on their mission to get to the crash site. They need to repatriate the bodies they haven't found yet and get clues to find clarity on what happened to missing flight -- the crash flight of MH17.

BERMAN: Yes, you got to get to that site. Matthew Chance for us in eastern Ukraine, thanks so much.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, we're going to dive into the breaking stories overseas. We're going to speak with a key State Department official what is being done now by the Obama administration to work for lasting peace in both Israel and Gaza, also Eastern Ukraine.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

We have been covering the raging crisis overseas this morning, from the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East, to the red hot tensions going on between Russia and Ukraine right now. How does the U.S. respond to everything that is going on? Where do things stand today? There are a lot of moving parts.

So, let's get the answers straight from the State Department -- the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

Jen, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Good morning.

A lot to get to. Let's start with what's going on in Israel right now between Israel and Hamas. A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry told me this morning that Israel is currently observing as he described it an unlimited cease-fire, that they're not taking any more offensive actions. Is that what the State Department sees on the ground?

PSAKI: Well, Kate, let me first say that a week ago before Secretary Kerry went to the region, we weren't talking about temporary cease- fires and there wasn't enough engagement with the parties. What we're looking at right now, what we're trying to focus on is short-term cease-fires that can build on each other.

The secretary has been closely engaged with prime minister Netanyahu, with the Israelis, and encouraging them to agree to short-term cease- fires. We are encouraged by this statement and we'll see what happens over the course of the day.

BOLDUAN: Do you see a -- an unlimited cease-fire happening right now on the ground?

PSAKI: Well, that is certainly our goal. But it's no question the situation open the ground not just what is happening with the rocket fire, but also what is happening politically is incredibly challenging. There is deep mistrust that goes back for years with the parties. That's why we have been so engaged with not only the Israelis and President Abbas, but with the Egyptians, with the Qataris, with the Turks because there needs to be an international effort to push for a cease-fire. And you're seeing that really build at this point in time.

BOLDUAN: Many view the work that the Secretary of State John Kerry left without being able to reach any real progress, that his efforts up to this point failed, though he spent quite some time there trying to broker a solution.

Why have his efforts not worked to end this conflict?

PSAKI: Well, Kate, two reasons. One is you've seen the international community build support around a cease-fire, calling for the parties to agree to that over the course of the last several days. That's grown just in the last couple of days, the secretary was traveling, he was in Paris, he stood with the U.N. He stood with the Arab League. He stood with a range of countries that are all putting this pressure on.

Second is we're seeing short-term cease-fires, there is more work we need to do. And the parties need to take that action. We need Israel. We need Hamas to take that action.

But we have made progress from where we were a week ago. We need to do more from here. BOLDUAN: Is that now the new measure of success from the viewpoint of

the State Department, just 24 or 12 hour cease-fire, the short-term cease-fires are what the State Department views as success right now?

PSAKI: Well, Kate, historically what happened in past cease-fires is that the short-term cease-fires have built on each other. What we want are measures of success, will be an end to the violence. It will be seeing an end to civilians being killed, seeing an end to mothers mourning their children, seeing an end to the fear and the bloodshed that we're seeing in the region.

BOLDUAN: Yes, but, Jen, it doesn't even think that both sides can agree on if there is a cease-fire happening or not, Israel says they're not taking part in any offensive actions, only responding if rockets are fired on them.

But Hamas seems to believe that a cease-fire is not happening. We were speaking with a Palestinian -- the Palestinian negotiator earlier and he says that Israel is not telling the truth, that they still have offensive action going on the ground because troops are still on the ground in Gaza.

PSAKI: Well, Kate, there are some longer term issues here that are not going to be resolved in a short-term cease-fire. What our goal is here is to have a pause in the violence for long enough to have a negotiation about those tough issues. The Egyptians have offered to host that. And we're encouraging both sides to participate in that.

And we absolutely agree that these are issues that are not going to be resolved over the course of a couple of hours. But we need to keep at it and keep working to have a longer term in the pause in violence.

BOLDUAN: One big issue that I think is an important one to take on today is the issue of the tunnels. Israeli official told me this morning that they have uncovered now some 36 tunnels going from Gaza into southern Israel. Does Secretary Kerry, does the State Department support Israeli continue effort to take out the tunnels even if it means stepped up ground operations?

PSAKI: Well, Kate, we recognize the threat that the tunnels pose to the Israeli people. I can't imagine waking up every morning and fearing a member of a terrorist organization is going to come through a tunnel into your city. That's what they're facing.

They've been addressing it. There is no technological fix to this, like with the Iron Dome that is able to push back on rocket attacks. And they're working to address it. We think that can be done without combat and without escalating ground operations.

BOLDUAN: Has enough already been done in taking out those tunnels from the State Department's view?

PSAKI: Well, look, it is the Israelis view it hasn't been done, that there hasn't been enough done yet. This is one of those issues that needs to be discussed as a part of this process and part of this negotiation. But we do recognize the threat that is posed to Israel from access that comes through the tunnels.

BOLDUAN: If I can turn our focus and turn our attention to the situation that is going on the ground in Ukraine, we just heard this morning that investigation team was turned back because of explosions and because of continued violence. International monitors, the same thing we're told has happened to them. It seems the situation could quickly return to being out of control. What is the view from the State Department? What is going on there right now?

PSAKI: Well, our view, Kate, is that international monitors, the investigation team, absolutely needs to have access to the site. The security situation on the ground is incredibly challenging as you've seen. We have been working with counterparts from other countries around the world including the Dutch, including the Australians, and including the U.N. to put together an international police force to better guard this area.

But I think we should not forget what the root cause of this here, and that's the Russian separatists, their aggressive action and the actions they have taken to take over and this part of Ukraine. That's how we reach this point we're at now.

BOLDUAN: But for any part that Ukrainian government has in this fighting, obviously, they believe they want to start retaking control of this area. Do you think that most immediately the fighting should stop so the investigation and the monitors can get the -- the investigators and monitors can get in? Is that what the State Department is calling for?

PSAKI: Well, we certainly support a cease-fire as we long have, and one that would be monitored through the OSCE and through the international governing bodies.

However, the Russians have mastered the art of saying one thing and doing another. And they have called for cease-fires, they have said they abide by them, they're even claiming now they have nothing to do with the weapons. And we know that the opposite is true.

So, the challenge is we can't have a unilateral cease-fire where the separatists are not abiding by it. That's what we have seen time and time again.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about the part of the Russians. The foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, he made it clear that the Russians say there has not been evidence presented that shows Russian involvement there.

Is more evidence needs to presented? What is Secretary Kerry saying to Sergey Lavrov in the meetings since it seems like they're looking at two different realities.

PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry spoke with foreign minister Lavrov yesterday and he made clear to him that the notion that the Russians have nothing to do with what is happening with the separatists, with the action, the violence that we have seen in eastern Ukraine is just not credible. We know the Russians are funding, supporting, supplying the separatists and that's how we have reached this point. We have put out a range of evidence and a preponderance of evidence,

including satellite images just yesterday about artillery coming over from the Russian border.

So I think, again, this is a case where the Russians are hoping they're going to claim they have no engagement or involvement with this, when the facts and the evidence really says the opposite.

BOLDUAN: Jen, one final point, I want to get your take. Also this morning, Sergey Lavrov said the sanctions that the United States and the European allies would be putting on Russia, that they're not going to work. He essentially said they're not really worried about it, that the Russian economy can handle it. Is that a problem?

PSAKI: Well, there is no evidence of that in the Russian economic data, including downward spiral of their growth rate, including $100 billion in capital flow out of the country.

We're seeing serious impact of just the sanctions we have put in place to date, the Europeans want to do more. We expect they'll do more.

So, the question for the Russians is, do they care about the economy and how it is impacting their people. Are they just going to be in denial about what impact these sanctions are having?

BOLDUAN: Just one final question, and any travel plans you want to tell us about as the secretary planning to travel to Ukraine or back over to Israel this week?

PSAKI: Well, right now we're actually planning to head to India tomorrow for an important visit. It is our first visit there since Prime Minister Modi was elected. The secretary, as you know, has a range of issues that he's juggling at the same time, but he has remain engaged, he's been on the phone all weekend and I expect that will continue.

BOLDUAN: Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department, thanks so much, Jen. It's great to see you.

PSAKI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's take a look at your headlines at 19 minutes past the hour.

The Libyan government is appealing for international help after oil tankers caught fire during fighting at the international airport in Tripoli. The convoy of British diplomats fleeing violence have made it safely into Tunisia, their vehicles were fired upon during that trip. All of this after the U.S. embassy in Libya evacuated its personnel, fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi is at its highest level since the revolution three years ago. Happening today, we expect the chairman of the House and Senate

Veterans Affairs Committees to reveal details of a deal to reform the V.A. health system. The agreement is expected to address short and long-term needs of the agency following the wait list scandal, exposed by CNN. Both chambers need to approve the deal with congress' summer recess days away.

Closing arguments begin today in Donald Sterling's suit to block the sale of the L.A. Clippers. Sterling's wife Shelly claims Donald is mentally incapacitated and she is trying to sell the team for $2 billion. A judge could rule on the case as early as tomorrow.

Donald Sterling also sued the NBA, trying to stop that sale initiated after his racist comments became public. So some developments there we'll be watching here at CNN for sure.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Michaela.

Coming up next on NEW DAY: two tragedies to tell you about on American beaches. A very rare, so unusual lightning storm in California, leaving one person dead, at least a dozen injured. We're going to be covering that for you.

BERMAN: And a plane in distress kills a man on a Florida beach. His daughter this morning fighting for her life. We'll have details next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone.

Beaches on the East and West Coast the site of tragedies on Sunday -- a rare lightning storm hit the California coast, killing one and injuring at least a dozen others. On Florida's Gulf Coast, a family beach outing turned tragic. A father was killed and his daughter badly hurt when they were hit by this plane as it made an emergency landing.

Alina Machado following the developments and the details of this just awful story from Miami.

Good morning, Alina.


Yes, this is an awful story, and something that really gives you reason to pause. Just think about it -- this man and his daughter were going on the beach for a walk, something we have all done at some point, when the unthinkable happened.


MACHADO (voice-over): A young father and his daughter hit by a small plane while walking on a beach in Venice, Florida.

ZACK ARCENEAUX, WITNESS: The dad looked in very bad condition. They were performing CPR on him. He has blood on his face. MACHADO: The pilot of the plane forced to make an emergency landing after sending a distress signal to authorities.

ARCENEAUX: Definitely not something you expect going on the beach, having fun with your family. It's terrible to have something like that.

MACHADO: The man struck on the beach identified by authorities as 36- year-old Ommy Irizarry was killed at the scene. His 9-year-old daughter Oceana airlifted to a children's hospital and said to be in critical condition. Both a pilot and passenger in the plane uninjured.

ARCENEAUX: It's got to be devastating. My prayers are definitely with them in this time.

MACHADO: Videos from the scene shows the 1972 Piper Cherokee on the sand feet away from the ocean, the front landing gear destroyed. According to local reports, preliminary evidence suggests the plane may have lost power. Authorities are still looking into what caused the fatal crash.

WENDY ROSE, SARASOTA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We don't know exactly what caused the crash, but the NTSB is on route to Venice and will investigate fully.


MACHADO: We're told this man was from Georgia, in terms of how long this investigation will take, we just don't know yet -- John and Kate.

BERMAN: Our hearts go out to that family. Alina Machado, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Next up for on NEW DAY, investigators turned away from the Flight 17 crash site in Ukraine as more violence fighting breaks out in that region. We're going to go live on the ground for the latest.

BOLDUAN: And he claims he shot a teenager by accident. But did a Detroit man have ulterior motives. We're going to break down this trial with our legal team coming up.