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Deadly Violence Rocks Gaza; Kerry Under Fire; MH17 Shot Down: Investigating the Crash Site; Judge Rules in Favor of Shelly Sterling

Aired July 29, 2014 - 04:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Death and destruction in Gaza, violence intensifying overnight as hopes for a cease-fire is crushed. Israel vowing for a long battle against Hamas, this as the White House tries to assure the world it stands behind Israel.

Live team coverage, the latest this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a dangerous journey for investigators of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, traveling back to the plane's crash site. Fighting with pro-Russian and Ukraine's military is raging all around them. This as world leaders get ready to punish Russia for its role in the conflict. Stronger punishments than they have seen yet. We are live with the latest.

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

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow, in today for Christine Romans.

We welcome our viewers both here in the United States and around the world. And we begin this half hour with this.

There is no end in site to the deadly violence that is raging between Israel and Gaza. The fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifying. An explosion at a refugee camp killing 10 Palestinians, eight of them children. Another blast crippling Gaza's biggest hospital complex. Hamas blaming Israel for both attacks.

The Israelis insisting they carried out no strikes on those areas, blaming did not fire in that area. Conflicts for a cease-fire are fading fast. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing the offensive in Gaza will be a, quote, "lengthy campaign", also vowing more difficult days ahead.

Let's go straight to Karl Penhaul who's live for us in Gaza.

Karl, you were on the air last night here and there were moments when you just stopped speaking so people could hear the explosions behind you and we heard the loud, loud drones, the Israeli drones over the area.

What have you seen in the hours that have ensued overnight? Has there been a lull in this intensified fighting?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you are actually right, Poppy. We worked silent to allow viewers to hear what was going on in the air around us. There were also times when we had to duck for cover because the air strikes were going into buildings like that he white building behind me, only about 500 yards away. And that means a big bomb was in there and shrapnel could have been tossed right into the building where we are. You might notice here, as it prevented. We have taken out the windows and window frames. That way, if there's a shock wave, it's not going to send shards of glass flying around the place.

But let's listen to the sounds of the explosions from last night. I think we have it.


PENHAUL: You know, that was preceded by the night sky being lightened by illumination rounds. The Israeli military sent illumination flares into the night sky and they drifted down slowly, lightened up all of Gaza City. And once the drones were above, they were whirring around close to where we were. They sounded like a giant lawn mower going off. And they were looking for targets beneath.

They have put those illumination rounds up because it was a moonless night. Once the drones spotted targets, it was relentless. This morning, we continue to hear artillery fire. I'm hearing some of that now. Down south, a ways down south, a huge plume of black smoke going up because a Gaza power station has been hit. We're told that Gaza is now without power.

But then, you know, there's a lot of military ordinance going off. There's a lot of explosions. What we cannot afford to do is forget the human face of this war.

And yesterday, we saw how a residential street had been ripped apart by an explosion. The warring sides are arguing among themselves who shot the ammunition there. We don't care about their excuses anymore. Young children should not have to see what they saw.

As to the body of one young boy, Mohammed, was taken to his front door for his mother to give him a final kiss. I spotted a 12-year-old neighbor and I said to her, I said, was this young man your friend. She said, yes. His name was Mohammed. He was top of the class in math and he was a football fan.

He loved Barcelona football club and he loved the star striker Lionel Messi. That was his hero. Well, you'll never get to meet Mohammed, he was buried yesterday, Poppy.

HARLOW: It's so important to keep a focus on the human toll on both sides of this conflict. We appreciate the reporting throughout. Karl Penhaul, thank you.

BERMAN: Secretary of State John Kerry is facing fierce criticism from a growing number of Israelis who believe he is favoring Hamas in an attempt to broker a cease-fire in Gaza. The White House, along with the House speaker, trying to send a clear message that the U.S. stands firmly behind Israel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Israel is our friend and Israel's enemies are our enemies.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Here is one thing you never have to worry about: America's support for the state of Israel.


BERMAN: I want to go live now to Jerusalem and bring in Martin Savidge.

Martin, whenever you hear U.S. officials defending the relationship with Israel quite so vehemently, it does, you know, highlight, really, the tension that exists between the two nations right now.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, when you have conflict like this, it is always a trying time for Israeli-American relations. The United States is uncomfortable and unhappy with the rising civilian death toll, particularly amongst children and women in Gaza. That is something it simply does not want to see. Israelis would say they do not want to see that, either, but they also don't want rockets and tunnels coming and threatening to their own population.

So, you know, I had a conversation with the representative from the Israeli foreign ministry to sort of try to get an assessment of, you know, where things stand in the relationship with the United States. When it comes to Secretary of State John Kerry, it was said he and Benjamin Netanyahu speak the same diplomatic language, but it's clear right now, they don't necessarily see things the same way. The U.S., of course, is relying on the Qataris to act as kind of interlocutor here to negotiate on behalf of Hamas, because the U.S. does not talk directly to temperature. The Israelis don't trust the Qataris m at all, historically.

Another country that might act as a negotiator would be Turkey and Israel does not trust the current Turkish leadership at all.

So, the problem is here, because of the shift in currents within the region, you have taken away some of those who historically in the past have worked to help end crises like this. And the list of those people now available is pretty short, if non-existence -- John.

BERMAN: Martin, whatever the rest of the world thinks right now, there is strong, strong support in Israel to continue this campaign as they uncover more of these tunnels into their nation, as the rockets keep flying out of Gaza. And again, that's despite what the rest of the world thinks.

Martin Savidge, live for us in Israel, thank you so much.

HARLOW: All right. Let's turn now to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, it is persisting fierce fighting near the wreckage of Malaysia Flight 17. With this just in to CNN, a team of investigators from Australia and the Netherlands on their way there, again, today, they were turned back, once again. Just like yesterday. They cannot reach the crash site.

This, as Ukrainian officials confirm data recovered from Flight 17's black boxes indicate a missile did take the jetliner down. Officials will release more of their findings on Friday.

I want to go to Ivan Watson. He's live in Kiev.

So, Ivan, let's talk about what happened. It is unprecedented to have a situation, frankly, like this, where you have such a tragedy, 298 innocent lives lost and more than a week later, international officials with no stake in the game in this conflict cannot reach the site where some of the victim's remains still stand. What do we know?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPODENT: In fact, Poppy, what we have seen is the access to the crash site was pretty good last week. But, it has basically been shut down by a Ukrainian military offensive within the last couple days. The fierce fighting on the road to the crash site is preventing this team of Australian and Dutch investigators from reaching the site. Investigators say their top priority was to try to go and recover the remains of dozens of victims still believed to be missing and also to begin recovering the belongings of the 298 innocent people.

So, they have been forced to turn back now for the third straight day, as you have reported. We heard here on Monday, the head of the Dutch rescue recovery mission expressing great disappointment and frustration of the fact they are not being allowed to reach this site and with every passing day, that makes very critical and important work they have to do.

Again, recovering the remains of people who were killed a week and a half ago much, much harder to do -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. And then, also, Ivan, it's important to discuss the political moves made here that are -- it is hoped by the United States and the European Union will shift the balance and really weigh on Russia in terms of its support of the rebels there in eastern Ukraine sanctions.

So, right in Brussels today, at this hour, you've got European Union officials talking about leveling the tougher sanctions against Russia along with the United States. Do we expect that to come down today and what do we expect it will entail?

WATSON: Well, it's always difficult to bring the European Union and 28 member states together on a policy, but it appears the momentum started to move forward after a pretty unusual five-way video conference where you had the leaders of the U.S., Britain, Italy, France and Germany all agreeing additional measures have to be taken against Russia because they continue to accuse Russia of supplying those rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Not a lot of talk about Malaysian Flight 17 anymore. Now, it's the accusation Russia is stepping up the delivery of missiles and heavy weaponry to the individuals engaged in the deadly struggle with the Ukrainian military on the ground there.

The rebels have conceded they have pretty strong ties with the Russians. For example, the prime minister of the breakaway separatist republic there has been in Moscow for the past, at least day or so, having discussions about what are described as humanitarian supplies. The defense minister is also a Russian citizen and he has told people last night that he's evacuating more than 20 wounded fighters to Russia as well as doctors and guards.

So, when the Russians and the rebels deny they are receiving weapons from Russia, they are certainly using Russia as a safe haven to ship their wounded people to. The government here in Ukraine, which accused Russia of basically arming and funding and training the rebels, it says it's been taking artillery fire from across the border from Russia.

So, this is a complicated cross border phenomenon they are dealing with right now. And the idea now is that the Europeans and the Americans think that additional sanctions may convince the Russians to stop supporting these rebels in eastern Ukraine. That remains to be seen right now -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It certainly does. I mean, it hasn't to this point. And even Sergey Lavrov from Russia yesterday saying, go ahead, basically, bring on tougher sanctions. It's not going to change things for us.

So, we will see if this does make a difference. Appreciate the reporting, Ivan. Thank you.

All right. Now to this, in the U.S., the Center for Disease Control taking no chances combating the potential spread of Ebola to the United States. The CDC has issued a level two health alert, advising doctors to check patients travel history, to learn more of their symptoms, anything, symptoms about Ebola. They acknowledge the risk of the deadly virus reaching our shores is low, very low. That's important to stretch. An outbreak has spread across Western Africa, killing 700 people and infecting two American aid workers.

BERMAN: Is the NSA a threat to freedom of the press? That's what Human Rights Watch and the ACLU claim in a joint report after interviewing 90 journalists, lawyers and current or former senior officials. The report says government officials have concerns about dealing with the media because any interaction leaves a digital trace that can be used against them. The Justice Department criticized the report saying it relied too much on opinion instead of fact.

The White House reportedly considering granting work permits to allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally. President Obama says he will take executive action if immigration reform legislation continues to stall in Congress. Later today, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from the director of citizenship and immigration services.

HARLOW: All right. Time now for an EARLY START on your money.

European stocks are mixed in trading right now. Shares in Asia did end the day higher. Here in the U.S., futures are pointing slightly lower this morning. Stocks barely moved yesterday ahead of big economic news slated for later this week. We'll get both the latest GDP report and those job numbers on Friday morning.

Today is the first of a two-day Federal Reserve meeting. Investors look to central bankers for any hints about the time line in terms of raising interest rates. Brand-new on CNN Money, get this, probably expected this. A third of Americans are delinquent on their debt. This new study finds 35 percent are so far behind their account has been put in collections. That is 77 million Americans. The average amount owed is $5200. Those late payments have long lasting effects on consumer credit scores.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-three minutes after the hour now.

Donald Sterling losing the battle to -- at least this stage of the battle, to keep his wife from selling Los Angeles Clippers. He claims he will not lose this war. We'll explain, next.


BERMAN: Lawyers for disgraced L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling say it is not the end of his fight to keep the team. But a California judge ruled in favor of his estranged wife Monday, giving Shelly Sterling the go ahead to sell the team for a record $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Let's get more now from CNN's Stephanie Elam.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Poppy, Shelly Sterling came to this courthouse here to get its blessing on her right to sell the Clippers. In a packed courtroom, the judge agreed with her, ruling that she was the sole trustee of the Sterling family trust, which she worked out a record $2 billion deal to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The judge also ruled in favor of Shelly that no further litigation by Sterling could hinder the deal with Ballmer.

But Donald's lawyer Bobby Samini said the fight isn't over.

BOBBY SAMINI, DONALD STERLING'S LAWYER: His reaction is very calm. He didn't see this as the final battleground. So, this is, you know, one stage of a long war. This is one battle.

ELAM: Shelly Sterling openly wept as her victory sank in. Outside the courtroom, she told me she won the honest way and so did Los Angeles.

SHELLY STERLING, PLAINTIFF: We have the best new owner that anybody could ever find and I think it will be even better than it was before.

ELAM: Ballmer's lawyer says they expect more grenades from Donald in a form of appeals but Ballmer is optimistic. ADAM STREISAND, ATTORNEY FOR STEVE BALLMER: He's really, really

excited about the team, about this city and about, you know, bringing dignity back to the Clippers.

ELAM: The NBA issued a statement saying it looks forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible. The deal with Ballmer is expected to close around August 15th.

John and Poppy, back to you.


HARLOW: As you were saying, John, you don't think this is over?

BERMAN: This isn't over just yet. Maybe by the time the season starts in the fall.

HARLOW: Maybe. Let's hope there's some clarity by then for everyone.

BERMAN: Well, Doc Rivers, the coach of the Clippers, says he won't play for Donald Sterling or coach for him.

HARLOW: This is a big hurdle for them to cross.


HARLOW: All right. Coming up here on EARLY START, they were fast, but ferocious. Tornadoes tearing through streets this morning. Communities trying to pick up the pieces. Which areas were hit hardest, what severe storms will strike next -- we'll tell you, straight ahead.


HARLOW: Tornadoes touching down north of Denver yesterday. It's one of two twisters. Take a look at that. Wow. One of two twisters that hit. Another one coming within eight miles of Denver International Airport. That forced a 30-minute operational shutdown. You wouldn't want to see that outside the plane's window.

We are getting reports of businesses damaged. Luckily, though, no injuries there.

BERMAN: All right. Tornado damage to tell you about in the Boston suburbs where a twister ripped rooftops off homes, 65 homes or businesses damaged or destroyed. Revere, the area that got hit the hardest, close to 3,000 power outages. A twister packing 120-mile-an- hour winds carving a path of destruction two miles long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty scary. This is the kind of stuff I see on TV that happens in other parts of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The backyard, all the fences are down, trees are everywhere. It's just crazy. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I have never seen anything like this in this area. There were two injuries were reported including a baby in a car hit by flying glass.

HARLOW: All right. The forecast looks less threatening today. Thank goodness. Let's get an early look with Chad Myers.

Hey, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Poppy. Good morning, John.

Nice cool weather across the Northeast, all the Midwest really for that matter today. Partly cloudy, a couple showers, but nothing organized like we had yesterday across parts of Massachusetts and the like. Showers will be in the Rockies. A lot of lightning out here, too. Some of that lightning could spark wildfires. We hate that when that happens out there, when there's not enough rain in the thunderstorm to put the fire out, that the lightning created.

Eighty-one Denver, 87 in Albuquerque, 81 in Salt Lake City, so quite mild out there, 78 in San Francisco, warm with an east wind there.

Here goes the front now for tomorrow, pushing almost all the way down to Cuba. So, that cool air sinks all the way back into the Ohio Valley, all the way down to the Deep South. You may not notice it is cooler, but you will notice, it is drier. It's not the stifling muggy mess that we always have here down in the South. High pressure does that out of the north, it brings at least cooler and slightly drier air.

Seventy-seven for Chicago tomorrow, 82 Minneapolis, 80 degrees in L.A. and 93 in Albuquerque.

Enjoy your day. Guys, back to you.

BERMAN: Our thanks to Chad for that. A very nice day to fly.

On that note, hello, Christine Romans, who was watching us from an airport today.

Hi, Romans, we are making sure everything is in place.

HARLOW: She didn't have to wake up in the middle of the night once.

BERMAN: No, no. It all works well for him.

HARLOW: A much deserved break.

All right. Coming up here on EARLY START, a major airline slapped with a heavy fine. We're talking millions of dollars for repair violations on its Boeing 737. We'll give you the details, next.