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Deadly Violence Rocks Gaza; Interview with Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Ambassador and Permanent Observer to the United Nations; Bipartisan Deal to Fix the V.A.

Aired July 29, 2014 - 08:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome once again to NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, July 29th, 8:00 in the East now.

We are following the breaking developments and the two major stories happening overseas.

Overnight, Israel pummeled Gaza with airstrikes. Hamas returning rocket fire, the death toll rising on both sides.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And in Ukraine, investigators still unable to reach the crash site of MH17 because of intense fighting.

Let's begin with Wolf Blitzer, live from Jerusalem this morning.

Good morning, Wolf.


There was a day of relative lull at least yesterday morning, but that quickly ended overnight. Talks of a chief were ongoing but they seem to have gone away at least for now. Those talks all but forgotten at least this morning. Israel launched 70 airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza overnight. Among the sites a radio station and TV station run by the militant group, Gaza's ministry of finance, weapons storage sites, some of them inside or near mosques.

Now, as the death toll climbs on both sides, Israel is warning of a prolonged effort in Gaza as it presumes a network of tunnels built by Hamas stretching into Jerusalem.

Martin Savidge is with me here in Jerusalem. He's looking at all of this.

It looks like it's intensifying by the hour.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is and, you know, it was just yesterday about this time I would have said to you it looks like it's deescalating, that the level of violence was going down, Wolf, but you're right, since then, it has only gotten much worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE (voice-over): Explosions rocking Gaza City throughout the night, accompanied by the sound of Israeli drones circling overhead, searching for more Hamas targets.

This morning, smoke billows from a building housing a Hamas-run radio station that took a direct hit.

During his report on EARLY START, CNN's Karl Penhaul was interrupted by an explosion in central Gaza.

The renewed violence began earlier with two deadly blasts on Monday, the first killing ten people, mostly children, playing on this busy street. The second at Al Shifa Hospital leaving two people injured.

Neither side accepting responsibility for the blood head, a Hamas-run news outlet blaming it on an Israeli military drone, while Israel's military blames Hamas rockets fired towards Israel, the fell short.

BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: The Israelis and Palestinians have a responsibility to stop the fight now.

SAVIDGE: World leaders continue to push for a humanitarian cease-fire which would allow for critical aid into Gaza.

Speaking on television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis to be prepared for a lengthy campaign.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: Hopefully, if we can make some progress, the people in this region who deserve peace can take one step towards that elusive goal.

SAVIDGE: Secretary of State John Kerry, who admitted Monday there were misunderstandings during talks, now under fire for his failure to achieve a week-long truce to stop the rising death toll.


SAVIDGE: The death toll of Israelis by the way rose by ten. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday. The death toll in Gaza is horrific.

You would think the rising death toll would have people want to scale back but it appears both sides, no, they are digging in.

BLITZER: You know, the recent public opinion polls we've seen here in Israel show considerable support for Prime Minister Netanyahu's strategy right now, right?

SAVIDGE: Yes, extremely high, over 80 percent in support of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

BLITZER: Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

We're watching it closely. In the meantime, Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Wolf, stick with me, please? I want to bring in the Palestinian ambassador and permanent observer

to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour to talk about this issue.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for coming in this morning.


BOLDUAN: Of course. From what I understand and what I can gather, you were not happy with the U.N. Security Council's call for humanitarian cease-fire. What were you not happy with?

MANSOUR: Well, with the humanitarian cease-fire, we accept that and we would like to see it put in place but what we were not happy about is the fact that the Security Council was supposed to be in the business of maintaining international peace and security, that it has not acted in such capacity to bring an end to this carnage against the Palestinian civilian people, and we want this aggression against our people to be stopped and stopped immediately.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you a little bit more of what you mean by that, because the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, he said very simply, that when it is quiet in Israel, it will be quiet in Gaza.

Mark Regev was on, Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman saying Israel stopped all offensive action but Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel. How can there be peace if Hamas does not stop firing those rockets?

MANSOUR: Well, you know very well that these stories are not accurate, when you have fighting and confrontation, each party can very legitimately accuse the other one of breaking the cease-fire, but what we need, we need to stop this aggression. We need to end occupation. When occupation to the state of Palestine ends, then we will have quietness and peace for everyone.

I think that's Secretary of State Kerry put tremendous effort during nine months of activities and negotiation. The Israeli side decided to stop it, because they did not honor and respect obligations and commitments between us and them, including to release the fourth batch of the prisoners.

But this current confrontation is very much related to the political objective of the Israeli government of trying to destroy the national consensus government, because this latest confrontation started in the West Bank for two weeks before it moved to the Gaza Strip.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring in Wolf Blitzer. Wolf wants to join the conversation, Mr. Ambassador.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, a couple of weeks or so ago, the Egyptians put forward a cease-fire proposal a couple weeks ago, the Israelis accepted, the Palestinian Authority accepted it, the U.S., the international community accepted it, the Arab League did, but Hamas rejected it. The Israelis now say if that original Egyptian proposal is put forward again without any revisions, they will accept it.

Do you believe that Hamas would accept it, even if it were put forward at this late date?

MANSOUR: As we speak today, Wolf, there is a delegation in Egypt comprised of all Palestinian groups under the leadership of President Abbas, and it is includes Hamas, that are negotiating with the Egyptians, and we hope that this process will continue so that we can put a cease-fire in place.

We need to stop this carnage. We need to stop the this killing of the Palestinian civilians, because as you know, the number of Palestinians killed is more than 1,100, and those injured 6,500, the great majority of them, almost 80 percent of them are civilians and a large number of them children.

Yesterday, in the first day of (INAUDIBLE) eight children were killed in a playground in the Gaza Strip. There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip. We have hundreds of thousands of people displaced. They don't know where to go. We have thousands of people, tens of thousands in U.N. schools, they're not safe.

Where should the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip go? The only way to stop this carnage and to have peace is, number one, to stop this war, number two, to begin negotiation on political horizon, to end this occupation, and to allow for the independence of the state of Palestine, so that we can say that we have a two-state solution. That is the fundamental way of ending this confrontation.

BLITZER: Yes, the two-state solution, of course, would be excellent.

I guess here is the question, spoken to people who were involved in the original Egyptian proposal including Egyptians, U.S. officials, the Israelis, they all make the same point -- if Hamas had accepted that proposal put forward by Egypt then, there might not have been all these casualties, all these deaths, horrific scenes that we've seen in Gaza, and I know you're a Palestinian Authority leadership accepted it.

Was it a mistake for Hamas to reject that initial Egyptian proposal?

MANSOUR: I don't think there's usefulness fixated on two or three weeks in the past. Let us concentrate on how we can put an end to it now. If President Abbas succeeds and it seems that he is succeeding, in speaking on behalf of all the Palestinians and to begin the negotiations with the Egyptians, with the help of the Americans, and with the help of many others to begin the process of having cease- fire, durable cease-fire in place, it could start with humanitarian cease-fire, and then after that, we begin the process of lifting the blockade, because you cannot put 1.8 million Palestinian civilians to suffer the way they are suffering and to have a sustainable cease- fire.

You have to address that issue, to lift the siege, to implement resolution 1806 which calls for that, among other things, and to implement the agreement on access and movement, which was brokered by Condoleezza Rice in December 2005. Once we begin that process, then we will give the Palestinian people in Gaza who are suffering the most, it is not war simply between Hamas and the Israeli army. This is a war between the Israeli army and the entire population of the Gaza Strip, the 1.8 million of them.

If we give them hope by ending this fighting, opening the crossings, lifting the siege, allowing them to go back to some normal life, then we begin the process of something that is durable, good for us, and good for the Israelis.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, one of the most immediate terms sense, the major goal of the Israeli operation, they say, is finding and taking out the tunnels built by Hamas, going from Gaza into southern Israel. We know what Israel believes very strongly those tunnels are used for. What do you believe those tunnels are for?

MANSOUR: I don't know. I am not a military person. I'm a diplomat and I work in politics at the United Nations, but the objective of the Israeli government is to destroy this national consensus government. They want to keep us divided.

Expanding this war in Gaza and going into the ground part of it, and continuing this war, the Israeli government is trying to show that the Palestinians cannot be united. Let's focus on Hamas. Let's focus on Gaza and Hamas alone so that they can succeed in the political objective of keeping the West Bank separated from the Gaza Strip and destroying the national consensus government of President Abbas.

BOLDUAN: But if Israel says this is their major goal here, that they want to finish taking out these tunnels because they're endangering Israelis, would the Palestinian Authority support removing and getting rid of those tunnels if they're not used for anything good for the Palestinian people?

MANSOUR: This is one of the stories that they say that the rockets are endangering Israelis. They say politically the national consensus government is endangering Israelis, because they're saying when President Abbas selected to put the Palestinian house in order, and selecting to have unity government with Hamas, he is threatening Israel, therefore, they keep repeating to us every day and I'm sure that they are repeating that to all in Jerusalem, every day, telling president Abbas, break this government, and then things will be fine.

What will be fine, we will be disunited, we will have the Gaza Strip, we will have the West Bank, we will never have peace. We want to negotiate peace with Israelis to end the occupation of all parts of our homeland, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem and to have an independent state living in peace and security next to Israel, so that we can actualize the global consensus of a two-state solution.

BOLDUAN: Yes, reaching peace is the goal -- where it is right now is not there, and getting there today does not seem like it will happen. MANSOUR: We need to work all of us as a top priority to end this war

to go back to peace.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your time.

MANSOUR: You're very welcome.

BOLDUAN: Wolf, we'll get back to you.

MANSOUR: Bye, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

MANSOUR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

MANSOUR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's go over to Michaela now -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Let's give you a look at headlines at 13 minutes past the hour.

A new Senate proposal on NSA reform that purportedly clamps down on data collection and increases NSA transparency will be announced today. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont will introduce the legislation which has White House support. This comes on the heels of a scathing joint report by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU that says NSA surveillance threatens freedom of the press.

Happening today, more witnesses for the prosecution at the so-called front porch shooting trial in Detroit. Theodore Wafer charges in a shooting death of an unarmed woman Renisha McBride on his front porch last November. He believed McBride was breaking into his whom and his actions were justified. Prosecutors say there was no reason to use deadly force rather than call police.

A private drone trying to capture footage of a northern California wildfire briefly hindered firefighters' efforts to attack those flames from the air. Officials immediately contacted the owners to have the unmanned aircraft grounded to avoid a possible midair collision. Firefighters gained an upper hand on the blaze. So far, it's scorched nearly six square miles and forced hundreds of people from their homes. It's interesting, we talked about drones right here on the set.

BOLDUAN: We did.

PEREIRA: And talked about the fact they're going to face challenges.

BOLDUAN: Commercial use, the private use.

PEREIRA: And the fact that they are great tools for firefighters, this time a drone impeded the work of the firefighters themselves. CUOMO: Two hundred feet is the ceiling for civilian aircraft. The

problem is, a lot of things wind up needing to come into that, rescues, police, and those were a lot of the attractive sites for using the drone.

PEREIRA: Yes, those firefighters, spotters need to get down low and be able to see what's going on, on the ground.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, once again, investigators turned away from the MH17 crash site. The question now is, can Ukraine stop the fighting so inspectors can investigate the site?

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, Republicans, Democrats, they actually agree on a $17 billion fix for the Veterans Administration, but does the proposed plan go far enough? We're going to talk with CNN's Drew Griffin, who first broke the story about the department's major problems.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

In a rare bipartisan effort, leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees proposed a $17 billion deal to overhaul the V.A. The department as you well know has been plagued in scandal since reporting emerged of secret waitlists and veterans dying, waiting for care.

The question is, does this proposed legislation go far enough to fix the troubled department?

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin joins us. Of course, Drew broke the story exposing the massive problems at the V.A.

And I want to get your reaction to the proposed legislation. But, let's run through it first for the folks on the phone. So, let them understand what the proposed legislation looks like, $10 billion for access to non-V.A. care, $5 billion to hire doctors and nurses, $2 billion to lease 27 new medical facilities and require the V.A. to update appointment scheduling, something we know was lacking.

Give me your gut check on this. Does this go far enough or just a Band-Aid, Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, this eliminates any excuse, any possibility that a veteran is going to wait for care or be placed on a secret list. Than $10 billion figure says to every veteran out there, hey, if you've got to wait more than 14 days to get treatment at the V.A., you can have private sector care and the V.A. is going to pay for it.

So, in a way, this is a billions and billions and billions of dollar band-aid. It doesn't really get to the root of the mismanagement problems at the V.A. but it ends this critical need to get rid of these secret lists, waitlists, these veterans literally waiting and some of them as we know have been dying for care.

PEREIRA: Yes, and that's been troubling to so many. Have you seen anything change on the ground? What is happening to a vet that goes in today or even yesterday and says I need medical attention?

GRIFFIN: Well, you know, the V.A. has reacted. Sloan Gibson is the acting V.A. director. We're waiting for a new director to be confirmed. But he went in and he said, hey, we're going to work harder, we're going to step up, we're going to find these veterans who are waiting for care. We're going to get them in and get treatment. That has been a positive, Michaela.

What hasn't changed is all the internal bureaucracy that led up to this fiasco, and Sloan Gibson, I talked to him two weeks ago, he said it's very hard to fire people, still very hard to hold people accountable at the V.A., that's why you have this -- he called it -- this entrenched bureaucracy that has set up a system that allowed this V.A. to get in such a mess.

So, that still exists. The money is going to relieve the pressure immediately, but there has to be a much more long-term fix. I don't see that coming out of Congress. That's got to be leadership from the V.A., from the administration, to kind of revamp how this organization, this health delivery system actually works.

PEREIRA: That's where the new leadership as you mentioned Sloan Gibson, just the interim leader, but when that leader comes in, will face that challenge.

Look, you speak of Congress, we know that their -- what, Friday the August recess happens and they're up against a deadline to make some decisions, this legislation sits before them. Will they decide before they go to recess if this is going to pass or not.

I know, one of the questions is whether the lawmakers will be concerned about the price tag. You were mentioning money before, money isn't necessarily a problem for the V.A.

GRIFFIN: You know that's what's frustrating. The V.A. has gotten every dime it's asked for over the last many, many years. You know, Republicans and Democrats and independents, Bernie Sanders, they all agree on this. The veterans need to be taken care of, and the V.A. has been given oodles and oodles of money. It's the mismanagement of the money that's been the problem.

However, I talked to both sides last night, the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats, they think that they can get this bill through. It's got to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but they think they can actually get this done this week, passed on Friday, and on the president's desk as Congress leaves for their August recess.

So there is movement. They are working on something, and they're doing it together without yelling at each other, so that's a positive. But, you know, there's a lot of work yet to be done. You can't just throw money at this. PEREIRA: We in the media are quick to point out the negative. I

appreciate you pointing out the positive. There is movement. We would all agree our vets deserve more.

Drew Griffin, great reporting. Thanks so much for that.

Short break here on NEW DAY."

Up ahead, tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalating over the crisis in the Ukraine, with the U.S. planning even more sanctions and now, Washington accuses Russia of violating a missile treaty. How will Russia respond?


CUOMO: So, it has now been almost two weeks since MH17 crashed and still investigators are unable to reach the crash site. That means they can't look for additional victims. They can't start the real work of investigating the scene.

Why? Intense fighting, forcing the team to once again abandon efforts this morning. But they are hoping to try again tomorrow. The Dutch prime minister is asking Ukraine's president to provide safe passage for investigators.

Joining us by phone is Michael Bociurkiw. He is the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. You hear us referring them the OSCE. They are part of the team of international monitors trying to reach the crash zone. They've really been the only eyes on the ground to tell us what's going own on and give us a fair appraisal.

Michael, can you hear us?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, OSCE PSOKESMAN (via telephone): Hi, Chris. Good to be connected with you again on this topic.

CUOMO: It is good to hear your voice and know you're safe. Tell us, what is the status of the security situation around the crash site?

BOCIURKIW: Well, today, there were some quite loud explosions close to the hotel in Donetsk. That gives you an idea of the fluid security situation, because up until now, Donetsk has been relatively safe. We today have not yet attempted to access the crash site. However, the day is not yet over yet.