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Gaza Violence No End in Sight; Kerry Under Fire; Fierce Fighting Near Flight 17 Crash Site

Aired July 29, 2014 - 05:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, Israel vows a prolonged assault against Hamas. The -- the violence intensifies in Gaza, our reporter right in the middle of it as hope for a ceasefire all but disappears completely, at least for now. This as the White House tries to assure the world that it does stand with Israel.

Live team coverage ahead.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also happening right now, international investigators in Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 just turned away once again unable to reach that crash site. Fighting between pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine's military rages on all around them. This as world leaders try to force Vladimir Putin's hand with much tougher sanctions on the way.

We'll take you live to Kiev.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow, Christine Romans is on assignment.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's 31 minutes past the hour, a very busy morning here and we welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

We're following the breaking news from the conflict in Gaza. Right now central Gaza under siege. Israeli airstrikes -- Israeli airstrikes pounding a residential neighborhood. Moments ago, our Karl Penhaul was in the middle of a live report when this happened. Watch.




BERMAN: Again, that's just a few minutes ago. There's no end to the violence right now in Gaza. The fighting between Israel and Hamas does seem to be intensifying. An explosion at a refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, eight of them children.

Prospects for a ceasefire fading fast. This morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing the offensive will be a lengthy campaign with more difficult days ahead.

I want to go now back to Karl Penhaul live from Gaza.

First off, Karl, you and your crew, tell us you're doing fine. Tell us how you are doing and place this explosion we saw behind you in the larger conflict.

PENHAUL: Yes, we are fine, John, and thanks very much for that. As you saw on that picture, though, when those explosions go off so close to our vantage point, we are ducking down. Now, of course, that is surprise if something goes off that big behind your back, it is going to surprise you. But we also have to duck down for safety reasons because something that goes off that close, and that explosion was between 100 and 200 yards from where we are, can spread shrapnel in a very large area around it. It can also break up bits of concrete and brick and send that at almost ballistic speed.

What we've also done in this bureau, in this office where we are, we've taken out the windows. And what that means is that when we get shockwaves from those kinds of explosions, it's not going to send glass flying all over the place. So we are taking precautions, we are fine. And that of course is just one explosion in a much wider offensive that has been going on since last night.

That began when we saw illumination rounds dropping down into the Gaza night sky. It was a moonless night and so the Israeli military those illumination rounds up so that the drones ahead could check out the targets on the ground. The drones of course sounding something like giant lawn mowers. And then after that, a couple of hours of that, that is when the artillery began to pound. That's when F-16 fighter bombers started to fly over and pound targets. The closest last night about 500 yards away from us.

The target there, Al Aqsa radio station, that is the Hamas-run radio station, but also throughout the night, mosques being targeted. Those are what the Israeli military say it suspected being Hamas militant weapons stores, although we have no independent confirmation of that. The Israeli military said it tried to take the Hamas radio station off the air because they say that that is the radio station that is broadcasting propaganda, especially telling the Palestinian people how its militant fighters are doing in the commando raids and guerilla- style attacks on the Gaza Strip.

So that is a little bit the picture and that is carrying on this morning. Airstrikes in Gaza City, but also in other points north and south of the Gaza Strip as well -- John.

BERMAN: In Gaza City, of course, a very densely packed populated area. And not the area, primarily, Karl, that residents of Gaza have been told to evacuate. In fact, in some cases people leaving the north and other regions closer to the border for what they thought would be the relative safety of Gaza City.

PENHAUL: And that's a very important point, John. Because in the course of this three-week confrontation, the Israeli military has given advanced warning, sometimes by pamphlet, sometimes by SMS text message, telling people to clear out of certain areas for their own safety. Now people really don't have anywhere to go and the United Nations schools that have been set up as shelters are now called a bursting point. More than 180,000 people sleeping in those.

But it's where the people have come and fled to Gaza City, until now, they've been told that that was going to be one of the safe areas. And certainly last night, that has not proved to be the point. Gaza City is very much under attack. And it seems a tragedy that people are being funneled from the north of Gaza, telling to come to an area that is safe and that that supposedly safe area is under attack.

Added to that, not only displaced people in United Nations shelters, but some of them have simply gone to the apartment blocks of their extended family members. We have a friend, for example, who now in a 1200-square foot apartment, has more than 50 family members in that one space. And so that is why a strike on those types of building could be so devastating and around this here, in this area of Gaza City, some of the buildings you see are commercial buildings, office space, street levels and small stores.

But there are also a lot of apartment buildings as well. And when you saw that airstrike go in just a wee while earlier, then we heard immediately afterwards people screaming in panic. We saw clothes on the balcony hanging out to dry so quite clear that families were living there. And then a short while after, as we saw on live TV, we saw men and women beginning to stream out of one of the exits of that building.

So that building also quite clearly very packed with people trying to flee this war and they are getting an airstrike on that target as well -- John.

BERMAN: Karl, we appreciate you being right in the middle of it for us.

Karl Penhaul, in Gaza for us this morning. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: Secretary of State John Kerry facing fierce criticism this morning from a growing number of Israelis who believe that he is favoring Hamas in an attempt to broker a ceasefire between Gaza -- between Hamas and Israel.

Now the White House, along with House speaker, John Boehner, are trying to send a clear message, that message that the U.S. stands firmly behind Israel.


JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: 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.


HARLOW: Let's go live now to Jerusalem. I want to bring in Martin Savidge. Martin, where is this criticism coming from? Because it certainly has

ratcheted up and been very focused on Secretary of State John Kerry who has just been in the region trying to help broker a peace agreement. Where is it coming from and why is it ratcheting up in the last 24 hours?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a complicated question but if you try to narrow it down, first of all, it should be pointed out that Israeli's support of the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza is extremely strong. People here believe that this is exactly the right thing to do. Although they lament of course the horrible rise in the cost of civilian casualties, they also said they cannot tolerate rockets and tunnels that are threatening Israelis.

I think that the way it was described to me by a representative of the Israeli Foreign Ministry is the relationship, say, between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that they speak the same diplomatic language, but they don't see things the same way.

One of the criticisms the Israelis have is this reliance upon Qatar, the nation of Qatar, to act as the kind of go-between when it comes to dealing with Hamas. The U.S. does not talk directly Hamas so that's complicated these negotiations. The Israelis don't trust the Qatari government. They don't trust them at all.

Another government that could possibly intercede is Turkey but the Israelis don't respect or don't really trust the current regime in Turkey as well. So what I'm pointing out is that many of what had been the traditional people to step in and help negotiate a ceasefire aren't in the minds of Israeli's trustworthy anymore.

And that is a result of the dynamic of change that is sweeping across the Middle East with governments. So the Israeli government says you can't go back to what it was just a week before the conflict began. And interestingly enough, Hamas agrees the same way. It's one of the only points on which these two sides agree. You can't go back to the way it was. And that's perpetuating the violence that's continuing now -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely, Martin, and what is that path forward and when will a ceasefire agreement come? It is looking less and less hopeful, especially this morning.

Thank you for the update, Martin.

BERMAN: We are going to move now to our other big story this morning. The violence in eastern Ukraine. Fierce fighting near the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has forced a team of investigators from Australia and the Netherlands to abandon their efforts to reach the crash site again this morning. This as Ukrainian officials confirm that data recovered from Flight 17's black boxes indicate a missile did indeed take down that jetliner.

We want to bring in Ivan Watson now live from Kiev.

And, Ivan, these investigators, very frustrated that for a second day in a row they cannot reach that site.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, this is the third day, third straight day in a row, John, that this team of dozens of Dutch and Australian investigators have not been able to travel to the crash site. And already Monday, they were talking about being frustrated, about being deeply disappointed.

The reason they can't travel there is they're currently in the rebel held city of Donetsk and the Ukrainian military is engaging, is involved in fierce battles with the pro-Russian separatists in two key towns that are on the main road towards the crash site. So clearly, it's not a safe road for the investigating team to travel on to try to get to that site.

Now during the first week after this airplane disaster, after Malaysian Air Flight 17 went down, the accusation was against the separatists. That they were not allowing investigators to travel to the scene. They clearly started opening the road and started cooperating more and more with each passing day. Now it's the Ukrainian military offensive that has complicated efforts to try to get to the crash site.

The Ukrainian military, a spokesman just coming up in a briefing that's going on as we speak right now, making the accusation that Russian artillery and rockets are, again, firing at Ukrainian military positions inside Ukraine from across the border, from Russian territory. That's an accusation that has been made multiple times by the U.S. government and by the Ukrainian government which accuses the Russians of arming and funding and supplying the Russian backed separatists.

As for the leader of the separatists, their prime minister, as of yesterday, was in Moscow having talks about humanitarian issues, according to separatists, their official Web site, and the defense minister for the separatist region. He is also a Russian citizen. He informed journalists last night that he had evacuated at least 20 wounded fighters to Russia for treatment as well as doctors and guards. So there's clearly a very close tie between the separatists and Russia, even though Russia denies arming and funding and supplying these separatists -- John.

BERMAN: A new stage in this conflict as more serious and perhaps for the first time real sanctions issued by Europe against Russia.

Ivan Watson in Kiev for us, thanks so much.

Fast and ferocious tornadoes tearing through the streets. We'll tell you who was hardest hit and where these fierce storms will strike next. That's right after the break.


BERMAN: Look at this. This is a tornado touching down just north of Denver. One of two twisters to hit the area. Another one came within eight miles of Denver International Airport, forcing a 30-minute operational shutdown. We are getting reports that businesses were damaged but luckily no injuries.

HARLOW: Also, big shocker right outside of Boston. More tornado damage in a Boston suburb where a twister ripped rooftops off homes. Sixty-five homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by that. Close to 3,000 power outages there. The twister packing 120-mile-per-hour winds carving a path of destruction two miles long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty scary. This is the kind of stuff I usually 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 -- it's crazy.


BERMAN: So what's going to happen today? Let's get a look at the forecast with Indra Petersons.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Conditions finally improving. I mean, this same cold front has been lingering and hanging around but still making its way offshore, just really now lingering right down around the gulf.

But the bigger story is actually going to be that milder air is moving in, in the form of temperatures. Colder and drier air is going to be making its way in. Sounds confusing. We still talk about scattered showers kind of around the lake and blowing a couple of waves of energy make their way through. But again, really talking about things calming down, not looking for that big severe weather threat.

Big story, look at these temperatures in the morning hours. We're talking about 50s out there. And it's not just in the upper Midwest. This cool air is making its way all the way even down into the southeast and it's going to be hanging around day after day.

You can tell most of us looking at below normal temperatures but the eastern half of the country even as we go towards the end of the week. It's going to be feeling a lot better out there.

We are going to be watching one thing and that is going to be out toward the Atlantic now. Seventy percent chance here for development. This could potentially be bertha that it becomes a named storm.

BERMAN: Keep our eye on that bertha.


BERMAN: Thanks, Indra.

HARLOW: Thanks, Indra.

All right. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: A suspected sex offender featured on CNN's "THE HUNT WITH JOHN WALSH" killed in a shootout with police here in New York City.

Charles Mozdir had been on the run for two years when cops got a tip on his whereabouts. Officers confronted Mozdir at his job at a smoke shop in Greenwich Village. Two U.S. Marshals and an NYPD detective were wounded in the shooting.

John Walsh spoke out about the capture with our Don Lemon.


JOHN WALSH, CNN HOST, "THE HUNT": There's many times sociopaths have no remorse whatsoever. But when they get cornered, like a rat, sometimes they are very violent. And I think that the marshals believe that he knew he was on "THE HUNT" and that they were closing in on him. And I think he probably thought he'd not do very well in prison.


BERMAN: Mozdir was accused of molesting a friend's 7-year-old son in California. After an episode of "THE HUNT" aired over the weekend, a tipster contacted authorities and gave Mozdir's cell phone number.

HARLOW: All right. Well, a big fine from a major airline for not making proper repairs. The FAA handing down a $12 million penalty. We'll explain next.


HARLOW: Welcome back, everyone. Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning.

European stocks are trading higher right now in midday trading. Asian shares did end the day higher as well. And here in the U.S., futures pointing just a little bit lower.

There's some big economic news slated for later this week, including the latest in first reading on second quarter GDP. Remember this economy contracted a lot last quarter. Also we have the jobs report coming on Friday morning. The business world will be, though, squarely focused on the Federal Reserve meaning that kicks off today, and of course, on what those tougher sanctions against Russia from the U.S. and Europe, what will they include. That will also be squarely in focus.

I mean, this headline, Southwest Airlines slapping -- slapped, rather, with a big fine. The FAA announcing plans to fine the carrier $12 million for repairs on its Boeing 737 jets. The violations were back in 2009 when Southwest flew planes after notice that the aircraft were not in compliance. The airline says look, those issues were addressed years ago and they are not affecting any of the planes currently in use.

And listen to this. Some pretty good news for Medicare this morning. Financially, its long-term outlook has improved, thanks to slower health care spending. Medicare trustees now project that the trust fund which part A that covers seniors will be short by 2030. But guess what -- and only able to pay part of the projected benefits, but guess what, even though that sounds pretty bleak, it's actually four years longer than they were predicting last year.

Why is that? They are not entirely sure but they did note, it's not clear how much of it is due to Obamacare and how much of it is due to just a weaker economy and other changes. But that is good news for Medicare.

BERMAN: Thanks so much for being with us, everyone. A lot of news this morning.


BERMAN: "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. It just gets worse. A reporter yards from a blast in Gaza as Israel ramps up attacks against Hamas, 70 targets overnight. Benjamin Netanyahu now warning of a prolonged campaign.

Wolf Blitzer live in Jerusalem.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning, investigators again stop from reaching the MH-17 crash site. This as the U.S. accuses Russia of violating an arms treaty. New harsher sanctions set to come today. Will Russia blink?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: They got him. A shootout in New York City after a fugitive featured on CNN's "THE HUNT" is found by police. The accused child molester now dead, three cops injured.