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Violence Continues Between Israel and Hamas; Interview with General Jim Jones; Investigators Reach Plane Crash Site in Ukraine; House Passes Bill to Sue President Obama; Two Americans Battling Ebola; Peace Corps Withdraws Volunteers from West Africa

Aired July 31, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Difficult to see, that's for sure.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's one thing to see a puff of smoke, it's one thing to hear the numbers, but if you want to understand the reality of what happens there during conflict, you have to see it on the ground. That's the reality. That's what happens there. It's the same thing what happens when one lands and explodes in Israel, so that's the reality. And I think it really brings home exactly what people are living with right now.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right.

CUOMO: All right, let's get to Wolf Blitzer. He is in Jaffa, Israel, covering the situation. Wolf, we were just showing that present impression of an actual artillery shelling in a site in Gaza and what happens and all that goes with it. You know that situation all too well, but important for people to understand so the stakes are kept very clear in human terms.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes, it's so critically important that they get a ceasefire and stop those kinds of images which are so painful for all of us to see, not only in the region but indeed around the world. And I had a chance to talk about that specific issue in an exclusive interview I just conducted a little while ago here in Jaffa with the now former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. Listen to this exchange.


BLITZER: When you see the pictures of what's happening in Gaza right now, the enormous number of civilians, children, elderly, women who have been killed over the past -- this is now week four of this war, the criticism of Israel is that it's reacted disproportionately. You see --

SHIMON PERES, FORMER PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: I don't know in that case what is a proportion. Imagine that you see a child on your knees, and somebody is shooting at your child and yourself. What is a proportion? Not to shoot back? I mean, they put before us an impossible question, but we cannot escape it. We wish you wouldn't have to do it. We have nothing against the people. We don't like to see anybody being killed. It's not our purpose. But if they put it in the homes with the children, and there they plant the rockets and the different weapons they collected, what the can we do?


BLITZER: Let's bring in retired U.S. general Jim Jones, the former NATO supreme allied commander and the former national security adviser to President Obama. General Jones, the criticism of Israel coming from the White House and the State Department is that Israel could be doing more to protect innocent civilians. You've been in warfare. You know what it's like. What do you say? Could Israel be doing more to avoid these kinds of scenes that we just saw?

GEN. JIM JONES, PRESIDENT, JONES GROUP INTERNATIONAL: The IDF is a superbly trained army, technically very, very competent, but this is warfare and mistakes happen. But I -- knowing the Israeli Defense Force as I do, I do not believe that the Israeli Defense Force would ever purposefully target men, women, and children who are living in the U.N. buildings or otherwise.

So I think that they will get -- they will get to the bottom of this. They will conduct an investigation and we'll see what happens. But I agree with former president Peres. This is a -- once the shooting starts it's really messy and it's horrible, and it's horrible on both sides.

BLITZER: So you clearly don't agree with the critics of Israel who some are going so far as to say that Israel is now engaged in war crimes.

JONES: Well, I think this is playing out on the world stage and people on different sides are going to grab what -- what they want to prove their point. But, you know, I -- I -- again, I'd be very surprised if the IDF is intentionally causing civilian casualties. That would surprise me greatly, especially given the technological competence and the PGM's, precision guided munitions that are available today.

BLITZER: What needs to be done, General Jones, to really achieve a ceasefire, because the Israelis say, you've heard it many times, that as long as those rockets and missiles are coming into Israel, as long as there are these tunnels in which Hamas militants can go in these tunnels, capture and kidnap Israelis or Israeli soldiers, they are going to continue to deal with this problem. How do you get to a ceasefire right now given what's going on?

JONES: Well, as you may recall I had the privilege of serving as the special envoy for Middle East regional security from 2007 to 2008, and got to know quite a few senior Israelis both in and out of government, spent some time with former president Peres. I wish people had listened to President Peres because I think his wisdom is absolute.

There's no question in my mind personally that the two-state solution is the only way out of this. It's the only long-term solution, but for that to happen every administration has relied on the goodwill of the leaders on both sides. And until that happens we're chasing the rabbit all over the place. And I think, you know, this is not just the regional conflict. This has global ramifications. And I believe that strong American leadership with our moderate Arab friends and Europeans and the two players have to come to, you know, an agreement on what it is that is going to bring about an end to the violence. But if we simple wait for the prime minister of Israel and President Abbas of Fatah to come to an agreement, I think we'll be waiting a long time, unfortunately.

BOLDUAN: General, Kate Bolduan in New York. I want to ask you also about the situation, the other crisis that everyone is keeping an eye on, the crisis in Ukraine. Ukraine has said that it's stopping all military action in the area of the crash site for a day to allow investigators to get in. We know the monitors have reached the site, but they need much more time on the ground than just a few hours or even just a day. The United States has called on Russia to influence the separatists to stop the fighting. Does the U.S., do you think, need to do more to push Ukraine to also stop fighting in that area?

JONES: Well, I think, yes, I think that clearly Russia and the U.S. and the Europeans really need to come together and say, you know, this is -- this type of activity in this day and age is an abomination. And I honestly believe that the onus is on Moscow more than anybody else to understand that it does have influence and to use that influence to bring this -- this particular aspect of this conflict to a logical and fair resolution.

There was an atrocity committed here. Almost 300 people died in a horrific shoot-down. And I think it's up to the President Putin to step forward and do the right thing and work with people that have tried to be helpful to Russia in the last 15, 20 years in Europe and in the United States and to stop this unnecessary bloodshed.

BOLDUAN: The question, of course, then, General, is how does the U.S. get Russia to do that, because if you look at Russia, Putin's actions and response to this point, they have denied involvement. He has overwhelming support in Russia. And there's also an overwhelming view in Russia, according to the most recent poll, that Ukraine is behind the downing of this plane, so you can see where the mindset is of the kind of PR offensive in Moscow. How does the U.S. force Putin to change?

JONES: Well, I think the first thing is that you have to -- I mean, you know as well as I do the information that the Russian public is getting is bizarre and extreme. So they are not being -- they are not being told the truth, we just have to say that.

Secondly I think that the recent sanctions that the Europeans have joined with, particularly with regard to energy, defense, and capital markets, if they are enforced and go into effect then I think that that will be -- that will, first of all, show solidarity across the trans-Atlantic partnership.

And I think there's still more that can be done. I think that world leaders should get together and see this thing through. We're coming up on an important NATO summit, I think, in my view, historical NATO summit where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can rally around these types of activities in Crimea and the Ukraine. And I think we can fix some things that show -- that reassure, particularly the eastern Europeans, Baltic states, and the U.S. forces should be more visible, on display, and we should do things to help the financing of NATO which everybody agreed to back in 2002 and nobody has done.

So I think NATO is at a turning point, and if the nations rally to this mission, and I'm not talking about warfare, but I'm talking about messaging and solidarity under American leadership, then I think you have a chance of changing behavior. But Mr. Putin is the kind of leader that only understands one thing. He doesn't do nuance very well.

BOLDUAN: And all the while families around the world waiting for answers of where their loved ones are and who is behind the atrocity. General --

JONES: That's absolutely outrageous, and -- and most of the people I know in Russia even today I'm sure feel the same way.

BOLDUAN: General Jim Jones, thank you so much for your time, really appreciate it.

JONES: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

CUOMO: We do have breaking news on the issue of what's going to happen to the dead from MH-17. Two weeks to the day since the shoot- down of that plane, international investigators have finally reached the crash site. This after the Ukrainian army declared a one-day ceasefire to help create a window of access. Joining us on the phone from the actual crash scene is Michael Bociurkiw. He's the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. You hear us refer to them as the OSCE. Michael, can you hear us?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, SPOKESMAN, OSCE: Yes, can I hear you loud and clear.

CUOMO: All right, great. So you're at scene. I assume you had safe passage there. What's the situation?

BOCIURKIW: We did, Chris. We had safe passage. And you know the site well having been here. We're standing right next to the big tail section, the cone section where the aircraft came down. It's right next to the tail section and across from a horrific, horrific burnt out area.

Now, just to tell you live as we speak, now we did have safe passage, and it was very calm, but as I'm speaking to you in the distance we're hearing very, very loud explosions and seeing smoke. And it seems to be in the direction of Donetsk. I'm not sure, but it's very, very loud. Right now I'm looking at the debris field and for the first time, for first time we have very senior Australian and Dutch experts combing the field. Now the number is small. We had about eight of our own monitors from the special monitoring mission for Ukraine, and we brought along four Dutch and Australian experts. They are here as part of the lead team of 60 that are back in Donetsk city. And it goes well today and then we'll be able to bring the other ones in because we have proven this work today.

CUOMO: OK. Well, that's good news. The key questions are, one, do you have the people on sight who are able to look around and see if they can find more victims, because that's obviously the most pressing concern? And then do you think you'll be able to secure the scene and get regular access so the investigative work can actually be done so we can get some hard conclusions here for everyone who is waiting for answers?

BOCIURKIW: Yes, to answer your second question first, we passed the front line at least two or three times today. That's how tricky, intense it was. We were on the road for about six hours, and we went from rebel hands to the Ukrainian side, and from the Ukrainian side back to rebel hands. And I must tell you, Chris, that the very heavily armed gentleman with us right now are very different from the ones we got to know. But nonetheless they are allowing a very good look around.

And then on to the remains, you know, there is that stench of the remains here that we've all become familiar with. So difficult to realize that here.

And the gentleman I talked to, the experts, they're having a very, very close look. And what they will be doing is assessing over the next few hours -- we'll spend the whole day here, if we can -- to see what exactly is required when we hopefully get back here tomorrow. Chris, they are -- I must emphasize -- they are authorized to collect the remains. They have the proper equipment to finally give those remains that have been lying here for almost two weeks now the proper care and dignity that they deserve.

CUOMO: Listen, it's almost -- it's certainly difficult to say, but what you are picking up there from the environment is actually a sign of hope for so many families though. If you can get the right forensic people on the ground, anything that they find that is a memory of their loved ones, part of their loved ones, will mean so much to them. So difficult work to be sure and not safe.

Any sense of what will control conditions going in there? Is it Ukraine shelling that is closing out the window of opportunity? Is it the militants at checkpoints? Are you able to identify that?

BOCIURKIW: Almost impossible to identify that, Chris. All I know is very loud and unexpected but, you know, we could tell that when we crossed from one side of the line to the other, that there was a very, very high level to allow this OSCE monitoring mission to happen today.

The guns remain silent. There are no real checkpoints. But as I said, right now in the distance, very, very telling. And I've just been told it could be as close as ten kilometers from where I stand.

There's no doubt about it. This is a somewhat risky mission but the determination was certainly there. We assumed some risk to get here, and I can tell you from a personal point of view, seeing these men in uniform from these two countries that have taken such a big hit, combing these fields, there's obviously in a very somber mood but they're glad to be here. And I know that, this being two weeks today, Chris, that we're here, we're also going to take a moment of silence and just, you know, pay our respects to those who did perish.

CUOMO: I'm sure that will mean a lot to the families. There's so many people waiting on their loved ones. And, of course, as you know, Michael, I don't have to tell you, this is your profession, but the last thing we need is more loss of life, more violence surrounding what happened there. So, please, be very safe, thank you for joining us. We'll check in with you again.

That's Michael Bociurkiw; he's with the OSCE, the monitoring agency. He's shepherding the people from the Netherlands and Australia to do the all-important work of identifying the dead and getting real answers about what happened to MH-17. So our thanks to him and hopefully they're safe on ground.

Lots of other news as well. Let's get right to John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You've heard all the breaking news going on all around the world in Ukraine and the Middle East. But what's going on here? House Republicans voted to sue President Obama. In a party line vote, the House approved a resolution authorizing this suit. It accused the president of overstepping his constitutional authority, particularly in how he implemented or didn't implement parts of Obamacare.

Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash live in Washington. Dana, explain to me exactly how this suit works.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The answer is we don't have an answer. What House Republicans did was give this vote to authorize, and they're not exactly sure what the next steps are. In many ways, this is unchartered territory.

What they are going to do is formally put together a legal team that will make the final decisions about where to file suit and when to file suit, but it is unclear whether or not whatever federal judge gets it will even say that they have standing to sue. So it might be thrown out. Let's just say for giggles here that it isn't thrown out, that it is processed and they go through the courts. This could take months, even years. And that means that could be going on when President Obama isn't even in office anymore, John.

BERMAN: So it does seem there's a political theater aspect to this. But political theater is something that both sides know how to do in Washington.

BASH: Oh, yes, big time. I mean, let's get real. Undeniably this is also political. Republicans insist that if you look at it, it's not John Boehner versus Barack Obama. This is the House -- the Republicans -- excuse me -- the House versus the executive branch, the legislative versus the executive branch; it's a constitutional struggle. But we are three months before an election. This is all about

motivating the conservative voters that tend to be the most important in mid-term elections. And so there's no question that's part of it. But you're right. It's not just Republicans. Democrats are seizing on this. They're stoking this, and this is actually helping them get their Democratic base out, because they are sending out e-mail notices, fund-raising, really making clear to Democrats who are already not thrilled with Republicans that they should be angry. And they say that it's working. They are raising a lot of money.

But you know what else they are doing, Democrats? They are taking it a step further. They are saying this isn't just about a lawsuit. This is just a prelude to impeachment, which, you know what, some conservatives have given Democrats an opening to do that because people like Sarah Palin are really pushing it. And some Republicans are pretty frustrated. John Boehner has said we're not going to do this, we're not going to impeach. But the message is a little bit muddled because of some talk out there of impeachment. John.

BERMAN: Ah, the I-word. Ah, Washington. Dana Bash live for us in that city. Appreciate you being with us.

BASH: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever, growing this morning The Peace Corps pulling out of danger zones after two Americans are infected with the virus. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be joining us with the very latest



JEREMY WRITEBOL, MOTHER BATTLING EBOLA: It wasn't even on 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 with.


CUOMO: Welcome back. That was Jeremy Writebol earlier on NEW DAY, he was talking about his mother, Nancy, one of two Americans fighting for their lives after contacting Ebola in Liberia. Now volunteer organizations are rushing to get their people out. The Peace Corps is pulling out of three countries in West Africa, except for two members who may have come in contact with the virus.

Meanwhile, how bad is it? Well, according to the World Health Organization, the number of confirmed cases of Ebola now tops 1,300. It's more than 700 deaths involved. They expect the numbers to go up.

We're also look at how easy it could be for Ebola to find its way out of Africa. Now according to, flights out of major airports in the affected countries arrive in 39 airports, including three in the U.S.

So let's bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with an update on the Peace Corps volunteer. What do we know about the two who may have to stay behind?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they appear to be doing fine now. The story is that they were doing work out there unrelated to Ebola, and they came in contact with somebody who subsequently died of Ebola. And then they went back and found all the people that that person may have been in touch with, and two of them were these Peace Corps volunteers.

So what happens at this point is they go into isolation, so obviously trying to stem any spread of this, and they also just have their temperature monitored every day for 21 days. If you don't develop a fever within 21 days, it's unlikely they contracted it. But that's sort of the process for them. And as you mentioned, Chris, the rest of the colleagues, 340 of them, are now being taken out of the country.

CUOMO: Now, when we were talking to the son of one of the two Americans who were infected, he was saying, look, you know, we are aware it's 64 percent failure rate here, that you succumb to the virus. But that means you still have a chance. What do we know about the Americans?

GUPTA: Well, they appear to be doing a little bit better today and you always want to be a little cautious as you give these reports. They were quite sick. Over past few days, they had some deteriorations. Both Dr. Brantley and Nancy, whose son you just spoke to. They -- but then they had a little bit of improvement. So I think it's going to be a little bit of up and down for the next several days and they're just sort of keeping an eye on it.

The idea of evacuation has been raised but it's tough. First of all, you need to have the right craft to be able to do this, to get the person out without potentially infecting other people. You've got to make sure that the person is medically stable enough. And you've got to be clear on where you're going and what that place has to offer that they don't currently have.

CUOMO: What do you think of the CDC considering a warning that no non-essential travel to those West African nations? Smart?

GUPTA: I think it's more psychological than pragmatic, and for that reason it may be smart. I think ti serves as a reminder to people of what's going on there.

Now, you may say, well, doesn't everybody know that there's Ebola there and isn't that of real concern? Let me just point out again, and it's important to understand the transmission of this when the CDC is making these decisions.

This isn't a flu; it's not out in the air. It's not going to be in airports, being spread by people shaking hands. People become contagious or infectious with this when they are quite sick, so they're not up walking arm. They're usually in bed, oftentimes in a hospital. It is people who come in contact with them that are then most likely to get infected. Health care workers, family members. Tourists from other countries very unlikely.

So I don't know that it will make a big difference from a pragmatic standpoint but psychologically I think it serves as a reminder both in that region and around the world of what is happening there.

CUOMO: If you take a look at what the status is, though, how do we explain the rapid increase in cases? Does it go to what kind of prevention's being done? Or, you know, whether or not we know what we're doing when it comes to Ebola? How do you explain it?

GUPTA: Again, with Ebola, there's no specific antiviral or specific treatment, so that's been the case, you know, since 1976 when this first started. We've gotten better at giving fluids back and replacing things to help the blood clot, but nothing specific.

I think the rapid increase is for a few different reasons. I was there in Guinea a couple months ago. It's a different world. You've got people moving around more than before. This used to be relegated just to smell villages and remote areas of Africa; people didn't leave those areas and they died before it could be spread at all. It's changing in that regard.

There's also a mistrust of the medical establishment, you know. If people don't trust the medical establishment, they stay at home and even as they are getting sick. People come visit them, they spread it to friends, to relatives, because they don't go in and get isolated. That's part of it as well.

So, you know, there's a bunch of different factors probably at play but those are two of the big ones, I think, Chris.

CUOMO: Well, obviously, the big concern for people here is if the virus comes over with somebody who doesn't know they have it and it gets here, hopefully it won't be completely by surprise to our governmental health professionals, that they will be ready to deal with this situation, right? Because that's the biggest fear, is it comes here, you get caught flat-footed, and cases start to spread.

GUPTA: Yes, no question. In some ways, I would not be surprised at all if we hear a headline within next period of time that a case of Ebola is now in the United States. That has not happened as of yet.