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Shellings Early This Morning Land Close to U.N. School for Girls; Interview with Shimon Peres; Ukraine Government Calls 24-Hour Cease-fire; Son of American Battling Ebola Speaks Out

Aired July 31, 2014 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 31st. 6:00 in the East. The bombing and the fight over who is to blame show into sign of slowing in the Middle East. Just in the last hour, Israeli prime minister vowed to continue the operation to take out Hamas's terror tunnels with or without a cease- fire. He says this is just the first phase of the demilitarization of Gaza. Israel now calling up another 16,000 reservists.

Overnight, more shells fell near a U.N. school in Gaza after a nearby building was targeted. This comes a day after another .U.N. school was hit where many are taking shelter.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The United States is still standing by Israel's right to defend itself from militants in Gaza, but also says Israel must do more to limit casualties among civilians there.

Wolf Blitzer is joining us once again this morning from Jaffa with more on the latest developments. A bloody day yesterday, Wolf. What are you looking at today?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It looks like more of the same happening today. I know there are a lot of efforts behind the scenes to get some sort of emergency halt, a cease-fire, a temporary truce, a humanitarian pause, whatever you want to call it. There's lots of efforts under way right now, but as of now it looks like this is going to continue. It's very significant that Israel is mobilizing another 16,000 reservists to get into this battle.

Let's go to Gaza right now. Karl Penhaul is on the scene with the very latest there? Karl, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is certainly no sign of any off ramp here in Gaza either, and this morning we're hearing the fighting ratcheting up once again. I can hear the Howitzer field guns pounding from the Israeli side, hitting targets inside Gaza, points north, east and south.

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse, well, they seem to be doing just that. But let's take a look at what's been going on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PENHAUL (voice-over0: Breaking overnight in Gaza, shellings early this morning landing dangerously close to a U.N. school for girls. Multiple casualties on the street, sparing those inside. It's the second incident in 24 hours in an area where people thought they would be safe.

Rounds tore through U.N. school turned shelter Wednesday after the U.N. says it repeatedly notified the Israeli military and Hamas of the school's coordinates and that the school was being used to shelter 3,000 displaced Palestinians.

It's the sixth time their schools have been hit, according to the U.N. One problem -- weapons have turned up in three abandoned schools believed to have been placed there by Hamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be extremely irresponsible for us to have militants in that school and UNRWA, our people, assure us there was no such presence whatsoever.

PENHAUL: The U.N. says they have strong evidence that Israeli shells are to blame for the 20 lives lost in Wednesday's attack.

More blood was shed during what was supposed to be a four-hour cease- fire Wednesday, sparked, Israel says, by Hamas firing 26 rockets just two hours after the truce. Israel firing back, but apparently hitting this crowded open-air market.

An Al-Manara journalist captured the blast and the devastation that follows. The camera dropped as the photographer is killed in the attack, but a colleague continues filming.

These images a chilling reminder of what life here has become.


PENHAUL (on-camera): Now that attack on the U.N. school yesterday, according to U.N. investigators, caused by Israeli artillery shells. The Israeli military said that in another explosion at a U.N. school less than a week ago, a mortar round fell on that. And also in those market scenes, apparently more artillery to blame for that.

The problem is with artillery, with these field guns, with these Howitzers or tanks that are being used in this fight, these were never intended as precision weapons. These are what are called aerial weapons to bombard an entire area, not a single target, and that is one of the problems here. Hamas is well, of course, with its rockets, apparently no way of really guiding them either. That is why this war is fast becoming dirtier than most, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an awful, awful situation. Karl Penhaul on the scene for us in Gaza.

I just emerged from a lengthy, wide-ranging interview from THE now former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. This is his first television interview since leaving the Israeli presidency, and he was effusive any of his praise for President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry. He also very effusive in his praise for the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. On that issue, he disagrees clearly with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But we immediately got down to the immediate issue at hand.


BLITZER: Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: How do Israel and Hamas achieve a cease-fire?

PERES: I mean, first of all, we have to get rid of the problem of the tunnels. No government, I mean outside (ph) government, can stop the fighting before every mother this country will be sure that, at the night, somebody won't jump out of the earth and kill her and her children. That's impossible.

Now, the second problem is -- ones who should answer this one, who is the leader (INAUDIBLE) government of Gaza? It's not clear.

BLITZER: Hamas was elected.

PERES: Hamas was not elected to govern in Gaza, no, sir. The agreement of peace was signed, Palestinian Authority was signed between the people (ph) and us. Israel on one side and -- I signed on the Israeli side and Abu Mazen on the Palestinian side.

Now actually Gaza was already under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, then Hamas jumped up on the Palestinian Authority. They threw out, from the roof, they killed hundred leaders of the Palestinian Authority and they took it back the polls (ph). Now legitimacy is a major problem in politics. Without legitimacy, there's no politics. The only legitimate owner or sovereign today in Gaza is the Palestinian Authority.

BLITZER: So let's say there's a cease -- let's say they finish, Israel finishes destroying the tunnels. What do you do next to achieve a cease-fire?

PERES: We -- I think what should be done is that the United Nations or the quartet will declare that Abu Mazen is the head address as far as Gaza is concerned. We, like others, we'll participate in (INAUDIBLE) Gaza. We don't want to see in Gaza poverty. We don't want to see in Gaza darkness. Not at all. It's not our idea.

I think Hamas made a priori mistake with the tunnels. It was a waste of strategy and a waste money.

BLITZER: What about the rockets and the missiles?

PERES: The rockets and the missiles, they will continue. First of all, we have defense. And if it continues we should fight back. If they continue to fire rockets, they'll get back rockets. I cannot see a cease-fire with rockets and with tunnels, only a cease-fire without rockets and without tunnels.

On top of it, we must have a responsible address, because they are not responsible, the Hamas. They are divided as the military arm. There is a political arm. And I think there is a candidate for it, and it is Abu Mazen.

BLITZER: That's President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. You trust him.

PERES: Right.

BLITZER: You think he's a good partner for peace with Israel.

PERES: Yes, I know him for 20 years recently (ph), and I'm not a psychologist. I'm not trying now to analyze his character, but I respect by the way he behaved. He got the courage, more than any other Arab leader, to stand up and say, "I'm against terror. I'm against kidnapping. We have to bring -- let the boys that are kidnapped go back. I'm for peace."

And then say -- in English, in Arabic he said something else. So he went to Saudi Arabia in front of the Arab League. He made it in Arabic, clear and loud. And as so, he builds a force with our permission and with UAE aid (ph) of 15,000 men that are policing the territories which are under his --

BLITZER: You would like to see the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas in charge not only of the West Bank but also Gaza.

PERES: Hundred percent. I don't think that two countries can bring peace. Two countries will continue war. I told Hafat (ph) if you left two guns, we will not have one people. We cannot have two guns. There must be trust on government that controls the shooting and build the country.


BLITZER: And President Shimon Peres, he also insisted that, once there's a cease-fire, he's still optimistic that down the road there can be this two-state solution which he strongly supports, Israel living alongside Palestine.

He is grateful, he says, to the leadership of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry. He knows there have been some strains between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government. He says that's inappropriate. He wants to work to make sure that U.S.-Israeli relationship is strong.

We got into a whole bunch of other issues, including the rise of Jewish extremism here in Israel. He's very passionate about that. Much more of the interview coming up later, but as you can see despite the age of 90, he's still very forceful in his thoughts. Guys, back to you.

CUOMO: Well, the clarity of thought was easily understandable, Wolf, and I think thus far it's the best articulation we've heard of the mindset, the motives, and really what the strategy is for Israel going forward. Great interview to have. We look forward of it and we'll be back with Wolf of course throughout the morning.

But we do have news for you as well from Ukraine, a one-day cease-fire called by the government in its battle with pro-Russian rebels there to allow international investigators the time and space it needs to get to the MH-17 crash site. Those investigators are now the closest to the crime scene they have been all week.

Now a CNN crew took the risk and was able to reach the scene Wednesday. Nick Paton Walsh was there. He's live with us this morning. Just to give context to people, Nick, it's been two weeks. There's still a belief that there may be victims' remains on the site and it is still unsecured, so what did you see when you got there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, a very ghostly scene, extraordinary scene. You've been there, Chris, yourself. The Ukrainian cease-fire is just for 24 hours. We're hearing that the OSCE reconnoitering mission, they've got some Dutch and Australians with them, is trying to get to it, but they've been on move now for at least four hours. It's a very complex route, very delicate situation, and as we saw ourselves, violence swirling around that crash site.


WALSH (voice-over); The road to the MH-17 crash site isn't easy. Past shelling, eerie separatist checkpoints, but where it leads is harder still. In a beautiful field of sunflowers lies a horror still unresolved.

It's been 13 days since MH-17 was blown out of the sky. The remains here a monument to cruelty, to how 298 souls, some shipped in parts away on a separatist train, have yet to find complete rest.

(on camera): The silence in the fields is that of a tomb, like sorrow and loss have isolated it from the war around it. But you really have to stand here and see the things that people want to take with them on holiday, and horrifyingly even now smell the stench of decay, to understand the urgency for relatives of those who died here must feel to get inspectors to this site and get some kind of closure.

(voice-over): In the hour we were there, no separatists, inspectors or Ukrainian soldiers at this site, just distant smoke that explains why the inspectors' large convoy has not, for the fifth day running, got here.

God save and protect us, the sign asks. Not here. Still wreaking of jet fuel. The scene of this crime abandoned, evidence tampered with, what must be shrapnel holes visible in the cockpit's remains, a wallet emptied, a cell phone looted. Traces of daydreams that fell from the jetstream into a war whose daily horrors who drowned out that which took their lives, whose blind hatred has yet no space for the minor dignities they deserve.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALSH (on-camera): It's possible, Chris, that the inspectors and the OSCE could get there today, but then you have to ask what can they actually accomplish before nightfall? They need weeks possibly to comb through that massive crash site now. It is in the middle of Ukrainian government offensive called off briefly, but I have to say, I don't think anybody, including the Dutch government in a statement yesterday, has great confidence that the peace will be place in long enough for that forensic work to begin. Chris?

CUOMO: Well, Nick, thank you for taking risk to go there so people can understand the urgency that is still ongoing and that there is need for time, people care about the dignity of the dead. And you hear that both from the militants and Ukraine's military, they're still not doing what they need to do to get the families closer.

BOLDUAN: They don't. And Nick makes the important point -- they don't just need a few hours, they need days and they need to have already been there for days. They are already way behind schedule and they have got to get in there, and they need sustained calm to get any of their work down. We'll get back to Nick a little later in the show.

But coming up next on NEW DAY right now, the people needed most in Africa, many are now fleeing. The Peace Corps pulling out of three countries because of the threat of Ebola. Hundreds of people have died in those countries, many more infected. We're going to talk to the son of an American battling the virus right now, fighting for her life.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Humanitarian organizations are quickly removing their volunteers from Ebola-infected countries in West Africa. The Peace Corps is evacuating its volunteers, but now two members will stay behind in isolation after coming in contact with a person who died from the virus.

Two other Americans will also remain in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, both infected and fighting for their lives.

Joining us now is Jeremy Writebol, Nancy's son.

Jeremy, thank you very much for joining us. Sorry to have to meet you under these circumstances.

What can you tell us about how your mom is doing?


Spoke with my dad less than an hour ago, and mom continues in stable condition, but it's very serious and she's still fighting, as my dad told me. She's weak and working through it.

One good news, piece of good news is, that yesterday, they were having a very difficult time getting an I.V. into her for proper fluids, and dad told me this morning that one of the nurses that's part of the team that's attending to my mom and Dr. Brantly was able to get an I.V. in on the first try. So, we're really happy about that this morning.

CUOMO: That is what we would call a tender mercy in a situation like that, to get something going quickly like that. Word of the evacuations, what does that mean for the care that will remain for your mom on the ground? Does that mean anything for possible evacuation of your mom and dad?

WRITEBOL: Yes. I don't know if evacuation is possible for mom and dad. I don't believe it is, but there's a team of doctors and medical staff that are committed to staying with mom and dad through the duration of this, and so we're very thankful for them and their commitment and their act of love and service to our family and to the family of Dr. Brantly as well.

CUOMO: I know you're a tight family, even though you live so far from one another. How difficult is it for your father being segregated, not really being able to touch his wife, how difficult is it for you not being able to be by your mom's side?

WRITEBOL: It's hard. It's very difficult and we -- we feel the emotion of that. I can communicate with mom from time to time for a few minutes once a day, so that's helping it, but it is a very difficult emotional process for us.

CUOMO: Ten years they have been doing this work, all types of difficulties and pestilence and sicknesses in Africa. That's what brought them there.

Ebola though, is this something they lived in fear of, that they calculated?

WRITEBOL: No. It was -- it wasn't even their mind when they first went to Liberia. I don't think it was on any of our minds, but when the first wave of the epidemic hit in April and we got word of it, we knew that that was a potential that they would have to deal, and so they have obviously been in the thick of that fight.

CUOMO: There was a prayer service, you told us about it, held for your mom at the church in North Carolina. Were you able to tell your mom about that? Did it mean anything to her?

WRITEBOL: I think dad was able to tell her about it, and I know that she is aware of people praying all over the country, all over world for her and for Dr. Brantly, and so, I know that that has lifted her spirits and encouraged her. Both of my parents are people of strong Christian faith and so, they are encouraged to know that the church stands with them all over the world.

CUOMO: I know that you're a family of faith and belief, and that's helping sustain you right now. I've heard you use the number 64, 64 percent is the chance that you can recover from Ebola. What is that number doing in your mind right now in your family? What does that number mean to you?

WRITEBOL: It's actually 64 percent at least are part of the fatality rate.

CUOMO: Right.

WRITEBOL: So, 46 is really the number that we're after, and that's a good number for us. It means there's a strong chance. It helps us -- we hear other news reports of 90 percent which aren't accurate and a little over-sensationalized. And so, this 46 percent, we're confident and encouraged and hopeful in.

CUOMO: See, that's what makes you different. I look at the negative, you see the positive. You're looking at survival rate, not the rate that people lose to the virus, and that hopefully will make all the difference because you probably get all that fighting spirit from your mom.

What do you want people to know about your parents? What do you want us to know about how we can help?

WRITEBOL: Sure. I think one of the ways that you can help is -- and really this is to help the people of West Africa and Liberia. SIM and Samaritans Purse are still working to help, and there are other organizations in our country that are sending and trying to relieve this epidemic, so you can support them. Even financially is a great way to do that.

And, of course, prayers for our family and for the Brantlys and for others who are suffering from this and just asking God to give grace and to save these people.

CUOMO: Jeremy, to be sure we'll be thinking about you and your mom and your dad and the other families affected by this. Stay in touch with us, and let us know what we can do and tell your mom to keep fighting.

WRITEBOL: I will do that, Chris. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

Let's take a break here on NEW DAY. And when we come back, if you had as much to do as Congress does, would your boss just let you go on vacation? That's exactly what's about to happen, as much as the media keeps criticizing. With the world in crisis, your representatives are about to take a month off. One of them Republican Congressman Tom Cole will join us ahead and explain.

And also, shelling overnight near another U.N. school in Gaza. We're going to talk with a leader from the United Nations about the situation on the ground. Whom do they blame?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everybody.

Let's get over to John Berman, in for Michaela for some of today's top stories.

Hey, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Kate.

Overnight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Israel will keep pursuing Hamas tunnels into Israel with or without a cease- fire. This came hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent the U.N. secretary-general a letter claiming that Israel's strikes constitute war crimes.

Meantime, more shells falling near another U.N. school in Gaza. Eight people were injured. This comes a day after Israel launched deadly strikes in an outdoor market following rocket fire into Israel by militants, or at least at Israeli troops by militants.

Breaking news, in Eastern Ukraine, the army announcing a one-day cease-fire near the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Intense fighting has kept investigators from the scene the past four days. Ukrainian officials say they will stop military action today only to allow investigators access to the crash.