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Central Gaza Under Siege; Israeli Airstrikes Pounding A Residential Neighborhood

Aired July 29, 2014 - 05:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get an EARLY START on your money this morning. European stocks are down right now. Asian shares ended the day higher.

Futures here in the United States lower this morning. Stocks barely moved yesterday because there's a lot of big economic news slated for later this week. We'll get the latest GDP report and the jobs numbers on Friday morning. So, investors are waiting to see what those are.

Meantime, Southwest Airlines in the headlines today slapped with a hefty fine. The FAA announcing plans to fine that carrier $12 million for repairs violations on its Boeing 737 jet. The violations come from back in 2009. This is when Southwest flew planes the FAA says after notice the aircraft were not in compliance with all the safety regulations. The airline, though, says the issues were addressed years ago and are now affecting any planes that are currently in use.


HARLOW: Breaking news overnight: the death toll rising in Gaza with no end in sight for this conflict. Hope for a cease-fire crushed. Israel promising a prolonged battle on Hamas, as the violence intensifying this morning. The White House tries to assure the world it stands behind Israel. We'll take you live to Gaza for the latest developments on that.

BERMAN: Happening now: investigators that were trying to get to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 turned back. The fighting between pro-Russian rebels making the journey too dangerous. This, as world leaders finally gather to issue real powerful punishment to Russia for arming the separatists in Ukraine. We are live with the latest.

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

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Christine Romans today who is on assignment. It is Tuesday, July 29, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

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

And we begin this hour with this -- more bloodshed and more finger- pointing in Gaza. An explosion at a refugee camp killing 10 Palestinians, eight of them children. Then, a devastating blast to Gaza's biggest hospital complex. Hamas blaming Israel for both of those attacks.

But the Israelis insisting they carried out no strikes in those areas, blaming misfired Hamas rockets for that carnage. Prospects for a cease-fire fading fast this morning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing the offensive in Gaza will be a lengthy campaign. Also said there will be more, quote, "difficult days ahead."

Let's go to straight to Karl Penhaul. He's live for us in Gaza this morning.

And, Karl, watching you on the air last night, at moments having to stop, having to move out of the camera because the blasts were so close to you. It was quite a night of fighting there.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you had been with us just about a minute earlier, Poppy, you would have seen the same -- OK, I'm going to move out of the way, Poppy, and we're going to get a camera shot --

HARLOW: Let's have him move as far away as he can. Folks, you can see how incredibly close that blast was to Karl Penhaul. He described a blast last night at the further behind that taller white building, telling us that was about 500 meters away. So, obviously, this blast was closer.

Karl, tell us. Are you all right? And also --

PENHAUL: Yes. That blast, Poppy, I'll explain -- yes, let me explain to you what's going on there. That building is about 200 yards away from where we are now.

From what I can see on the corner of that building, some kind of missile has gone into the top story of that building. That building is also being used as a residential building. I can see people's washing hanging out from the balcony's lower down. I can now hear people screaming. Let us wait, because I can also hear F-16 fighter jets overhead.

There could be another strike going on. We can see a person hanging out of the top window shouting down to street level from the sixth floor. That is a little bit around the other side of the building from where you just heard and just saw that massive impact going in.

What I'm going to do for you, as well, given this is going on right now, I'm going to get our cameraman to move his camera closer to the window. So, just stay with this shot so we can get a better view of what is going on there.

I suspect in the next few moments, we may see people evacuating that building. There seems to be an entrance on the other side as well. Unclear what Israeli air power would have been targeting in that building. In the days that we have been here, we have seen nothing suspect going on there, no signs of any rocket launches there.

We do know that since last night, the Israeli military have also been looking for weapons, dumps to destroy and also the homes of Hamas fighters and senior officials. That could be their intended target there, but certainly a large explosion.

As I was saying, just about a minute before we came to air with you guys there was also another explosion at a building just beyond about 400 yards away. I thought that may be the target of the strike just now. But, certainly, this strike much closer to home.

That is pretty much on par with what we have been seeing throughout the night -- heavy strikes in this area of central Gaza City.

Let us see if we can get down to a shot for you now, Poppy. Take a look at this, then I'll explain what's going on.

These are the people that are starting to evacuate that building that you just heard and you just saw getting hit. They are down there in the street, evacuating that building. It was clearly quite populated.

There were apartments in that building and we can also see people's washing hanging on the balcony's there, another sign that regular folk were living in that building. That is what is now being targeted. Again, you can hear more explosions going off in the distance. We'll get our camera man to focus in on that.

BERMAN: Karl, it's John Berman --

PENHAUL: Smoke going in there. The Israeli strikes are continuing. This is in a densely populated and heavily built up area of central Gaza City. That last strike going in less than 200 yards from where our bureau is.

The reason, of course, why we have to duck in addition to the sheer surprise of what is going on is because a large bomb if it explodes that is close to us can send shrapnel fragments flying and it can also send pieces of concrete flying as well. So, we have to duck down behind cover.

And now, we are seeing a little bit, the aftermath of that down in the street. More people, we can see men and women evacuating that building that you heard and saw just being hit, Poppy.

BERMAN: Karl, it's John Berman in New York. Please, you and your crew take whatever precautions you need.

But while we have you, let me ask you this. We understand that residents of Gaza, in the north, were sent text messages, they were given cell phone calls told to evacuate their homes because of a greater intensified Israeli offensive that was planned.

But you are in Gaza City. Explain to me how this works. This was not the area residents have been told to get out en masse right now.

So, who lives in this neighborhood where you are working? What are these buildings that are surrounding you? What sense do you have of this area where this missile or bomb struck, you know, about three minutes ago directly behind you?

PENHAUL: In terms of the area immediately surrounding us, John, it is a residential area, some offices. About 500 yards away is a multistory building, which was the headquarters of Al Aqsa Radio, the Hamas-run radio station. That was hit three times by Israeli bombs during the night, at least once while we were on air.

But for the most part, what is around us, a little bit of business on the first level, street level, small stores, their apartment buildings, there are some office buildings as well. From that building that you just heard and saw being struck, one block away, are two schools. Two schools that are being used as shelters for displaced people that have fled from other parts of Gaza because of fighting, raging around their own homes.

That will, of course, terrify people who are already terrified and crammed into conditions. There are more than 180,000 Gazans sleeping in these temporary shelters and they have to be protected.

Now, in addition, you mentioned a good point about these SMS and text messages going out from the Israeli military to people living in northern Gaza. That happened yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening, telling them they were in harms way, that they must flee to safety toward Gaza City.

And then, having funneled those people toward Gaza City, now, it is Gaza City that is under attack and has been under attack since last night. Gaza City is already full of people. In some of these houses that you are seeing round about us, I guess, including the building that you just saw evacuated, there are two, three and four families in the same house, extended families.

We have a Palestinian friend who has been helping us out over the past few days. She lives in a 1200 square foot apartment. And now, that is home to more than 60 members of her extended family. That pattern is repeated across the areas you are looking at now. And so, if these air strikes go in, the effect of evacuating is cramming more people into even a tinier space, John.

HARLOW: And I think, Karl, it's important to remind our viewers, when you talk about the situation in Gaza, the inability of people there to really leave, right? They have often been directed to go to Gaza city there, but they cannot cross over into Israel. They cannot cross over into Egypt.

So, many of them, the civilians are saying where are we supposed to go? That's an important point in this. You know, as John was saying earlier in the show, despite increased casualties on both sides. We know five more Israeli soldiers were killed overnight. We know that over 1,100 Palestinians have been killed thus far in this battle. But the Israeli population has been strongly supportive and continues to be supportive of this offensive.

From the people that you are speaking with on the street there in Gaza, do they remain whole heartedly behind Hamas in this battle, in this fight?

PENHAUL: Well, I think you make key points there, Poppy. To take the first one, you are absolutely right. Gaza strip, to put it in perspective is about the size of metropolitan Las Vegas, imagine a wall around metropolitan Las Vegas, not allowing anybody in or out and shelling it and bombing it from the air, the sea and eastern border.

Of course, we know this expression of shooting fish in a barrel. This is worse than shooting fish in a barrel. It's shooting sardines in a barrel because they have been crammed together. They have been crammed together from other parts of Gaza already displaced, multiple extended families living in the same buildings. And this is why I use this sardines-in-a-barrel analogy. I'm trying to bring it home so you get the picture here.

You make a good point as well. Surely, the impact on the civilian population, that has got to sap Hamas support. And in peace times, Hamas -- well, a lot of Gazan people, a lot of Palestinian people reject Hamas' orthodox, rigid, political and religious style. It is a very firm, militaristic, hierarchal organization.

But what seems to often galvanize the population, what seems to make them forget their differences is they unite behind a common enemy. We see that between the military factions here in the Gaza Strip. It isn't just Hamas and jihad.

There are a number of other Islamic factions and other militant factions that normally would be bickering among themselves. Let's get this fight on with Israel. They clearly plan for it. We have seen that in the tactics, the urban guerilla warfare tactics that they have been waging against the Israeli military and inflicting casualties on them.

But, of course, for any guerilla army or being a guerilla army that is listed as international terrorist, they do need some support in the civilian population because there is nowhere else for them to be except in these urban areas. So, what we have seen from the population is some say that we have to finish this war. Civilians should not and cannot afford to pay this price.

But then, when we say to the civilians, OK, should we end it now with a cease-fire, civilians will turn and say no, we cannot return to the way things were before. We can't go back just simply living how we were living three weeks ago. Things in Gaza must change, once and for all.

And the common man, the man and the woman in the street say what they need is for Gaza to become an area to move freely in and out through free borders, open borders, goods and services can flow so they can get their medical needs and all their other daily needs tended to and this is why it is difficult to say simply that casualties of this war have stripping away from Hamas and the militant factions because we haven't seen that reflected on the ground, Poppy.

HARLOW: On both sides of this conflict, they have the strong support of their people. We appreciate your reporting for us.

Karl, please, you and your crew stay safe. Thank you.

BERMAN: And it is important to note, you know, that Israel knows the pictures are going out around the world right now. They know even where CNN crews and cameras are, but they think this effort in Gaza, these missile strikes are worth it, because of the tunnels right now --

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: -- beneath the border into Israel, because of the continued rocket strikes into Israel, Israel willing to have this publicity out there in the world, willing for the world to see these pictures, because they believe, truly, what they are doing is worth it for their own security.

This does continue this morning. We are going to stay on it for you all morning. The breaking news: the explosions in Gaza happening right before you on our air. The death toll rising as the violence between Israel and Hamas rages on.

We'll have more after the break.


BERMAN: We are following the breaking news from a conflict zone in Gaza right now. Our reporters are really right in the middle of it. Central Gaza City under siege. Israeli airstrikes pounding a residential neighborhood, forcing residents to flee into the streets.

Just moments ago, our Karl Penhaul was delivering a live report here on EARLY START when a blast rocked the area. Listen.


PENHAUL: Poppy, you would have seen --



BERMAN: More than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed in this month's fighting. Ten more, including eight children died when a refugee camp was hit by air strikes. I should note, Karl and his crew are fine, but that strike, you know, 100 yards to 200 yards behind his live shot right now, Karl says. It's a residential building, and just moments ago, he's seeing people on the streets running out of that building.

HARLOW: Yes, evacuating, of course.

We are going to get back to, of course, the breaking news in Gaza in just a moment.

But, just some other news now. I want you to look at this tornado touching down just north of Denver. This is one of two twister that is hit the area yesterday. Another one coming within eight miles of the Denver International Airport, forcing a 30-minute operational shutdown of that airport. We're getting reports of businesses damaged, though. Thankfully, no injuries.

Let's get an early look today's forecast with meteorologist Indra Petersons. It's finally looking better.


But you know what's so interesting is yesterday, we did have a severe weather outlook. But, again, it was really focused on the Carolinas toward Mississippi. And yet, we had two reports of tornadoes really out there, one as you just mentioned in Denver and another one really outside of Boston.

So, remember, always want to be aware. We have systems making their way through this time of year, still talking about things nonetheless improving. That cold front that spawned off a lot of activity continued to make its way offshore. But meanwhile, we are talking about colder and drier air filing in. So, a lot more stability should be out there.

But not to say it's perfect. We are talking scattered showers. A couple waves make their ware around the lakes. So, here and there you could see the light showers, but the bigger systems should kick out of here.

One of the big things you'll notice is how mild it is. Look at these morning temperatures. We're talking 50s out there as the cool air is making its way through. So, the morning, we are staying cooler and the afternoon. We are not seeing the average temperatures this time of year.

And we're not just talking around the lakes. We are talking cooler air spreading all the way, even in towards the Southeast. Notice, the next several days, we are talking temperatures five and 10 degrees below normal. It's definitely going to be mild out there. You are going to enjoy that.

Do want to just point out that we are going to be watching the Atlantic now. It is hurricane season and 70 percent chance over the next couple of days we're going to see some development there.

HARLOW: All right. Thanks, Indra. Appreciate the update.

BERMAN: Coming up for us next, he may have a Super Bowl ring. But could Payton Manning make the cut on "Dancing with the Stars"? The Broncos quarterback busted a move and our man, Andy Scholes, has the details next in "The Bleacher Report".


BERMAN: A Yankee's fan coming to the rescue of a Red Sox fan. And, frankly, we need all the help we can get.

HARLOW: Would you do that?



Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report". Andy, pretty nice save, even Berman might make (INAUDIBLE) Sox fan.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, it certainly was. Manhattan restaurant owner Luigi Militello, he was in his establishment's restroom when he found a nice, big, shiny Red Sox World Series ring sitting on the sink. And as big time Yankees fan, Militello just could not believe what he had just found. It turns out, Drew Weber, the owner of the Red Sox minor league, had lost the ring while eating at the restaurant. Weber called in a panic looking for his ring. And after giving him a hard time because of the whole Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, Militello, he told him that he in fact did have the ring. As a thank you for returning the ring, Weber says he's going to take him to the Yankees/Red Sox game, which could be Derek Jeter's final game.

Speaking of the Yankee's captain, he had himself quite a game last night in Texas, going three for four. And this was single in the seventh inning, Jeter passed Carl Yastrzemski for seventh on the all- time hit list. Jeter now has 3,420 hits, with 11 more, he will pass Honus Wagner for sixth all time. The Yankees ended up beating the Rangers 4-2.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, just got pummeled at home last night by the Blue Jays. Milky Cabrera with two home runs in the game. The second one went over the green monster and into the parking lot into the street, shattering a windshield.

Clearly, sometimes it's better to park a mile away than have that VIP parking. The Blue Jays ended up beating the Red Sox, 14-1.

Trending on this morning are some of the worst dance moves you will ever see. Peyton Manning getting his groove on dancing to "Rocky Top." His alma mater fights on. Teammate Wes Welker joining in. Clearly, the Broncos are definitely over the Super Bowl. They look like they are having a grand old time getting ready for the season.

BERMAN: Maybe the severe neck injuries explain what is going wrong here.

SCHOLES: Do they look a little stiff?

HARLOW: I don't think he looks good at all. I would like to see you do that, John Berman.

BERMAN: Please? I can dance as well as Tom Brady.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: Have a good one.

HARLOW: All right. Now, to much more serious news. The explosions we have been showing all morning in Gaza, a blast a few moments ago, just 200 yards from our reporter Karl Penhaul who is on the ground in Gaza. Violence intensifying in the region. We go back live there, straight after this break.