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Israel Will Keep Targeting Hamas Tunnels; Investigators Reach Flight 17 Wreckage; House Approves Obama Lawsuit; Ebola Sparks Peace Corps Changes

Aired July 31, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Electricity is almost non-existent now, and that means that the water pumping systems are also failing, so many houses are going to be left without running water, and in fact, when I talked to the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief Agency yesterday, he said that the U.N. facilities are almost at breaking point now, and if this goes on and if tens of thousands of Palestinians continue to flee their homes, simply the Israeli military will have to take the responsibility for looking after them.

But let's take a look at what's been going on.


PENHAUL (voice-over): 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: Now, adding to that sense of growing foreboding on the Gaza strip, the news we're hearing that possibly the United States getting ready to supply its ally Israel with more munitions, included in the list of munitions, we see 120 millimeter mortars and grenades for grenade launchers. It has to be said that those are area weapons designed to cause maximum casualties against the enemy. They are not precision weapons, raises the question, are we in for even more civilian casualties -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Karl Penhaul, thanks very much.

Indeed the U.S. for many years has kept the stockpile of weapons munitions inside Israel. It's run by the United States but it's available to Israel in case of a war, in case of an emergency to preclude the need for a U.S. emergency airlift which was the case in the 1973 war.

And, you're right, Barbara Starr reporting the U.S. has now accepted Israel's request for some munitions needed in the Israelis say they need in terms of dealing with Hamas in Gaza.

Now, all of this is underscoring the very unique relationship that the United States and Israel have. Listen to this exchange I had, just a little while ago here in Jaffa with the now former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. s


BLITZER: The White House and the State Department both have said Israel can do more to prevent civilian casualties.

SHIMON PERES, FORMER ISRAELI PRESIDENT: To the best of my knowledge, Israel is trying to do so. I spoke with many pilots, many fighters. They're unbelievably aware of it, but know their place is dense, it's a small place, extremely densely populated.

And they made every place a part of their front. They planted mines. They put in explosives in houses. If you touch, the house explodes. I mean, it's unbelievable.

BLITZER: Is the criticism here in Israel of President Obama and Secretary Kerry and their role in this current crisis justified?

PERES: Look, I know President Obama quite well, and also I know Secretary Kerry for many, many years. The president is a responsible friend of Israel. He answers many of the questions about the domain of defense and security. So if he has a remark, he may have his remark, but we shall not forget

that basically is a great friend and a good friend, and I trust him, and I don't mind, I hope he doesn't mind to hear. I mean, friendship is not just that all the time flirting (ph), but basically I think is he an outstanding person. I think he tries to bring an end to all the wars.

And Kerry is a friend of his. I've known him for many years.

So, I believe America is a friend. I think friendship is more important than gossip.

BLITZER: Do you think the current government and Israel led by Prime Minister Netanyahu is still committed to a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine?

PERES: Yes, for man years. They think that -- I mean what I hear from the prime minister is the things that Abu Mazen is not capable of doing it, and here my view it's totally different. I think we should not find a better man to do so.

BLITZER: You disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu on that issue?

PERES: Yes. I notice that Prime Minister Netanyahu recently also is beginning to change his mind, vis-a-vis Abu Mazen, too, but I say it with certainly. I know the man. I experienced -- look, I wish that everything would be done in (INAUDIBLE). But unfortunately, life is more complicated.

I didn't choose my optimism and I think that Hamas wasted money, wasted goodwill. It's not a surprise that they are isolated not only by us.


BLITZER: Very strong statement by the now former president of Israel, Shimon Peres, about Abu Mazen, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. He trusts him. He says he's a man Israel can and should deal with.

Also, you heard, guys, very strong statement of support for President Obama and the Secretary of State John Kerry, even though both of them recent days have gotten severely criticized by some elements in Israel, including some members of the prime minister's own cabinet.

Back to you, guys.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting insight, yet still no clear path out of the situation they're in right now, Wolf. We'll be back to you in a live bit. Stay safe.

We do have welcome news out of Ukraine. International investigators have finally reached the MH17 crash site. Just hours after the Ukrainian army declared a one-day cease-fire, they journeyed the many hours through ongoing battles, munitions, still exploding around them, and made it to the site to finally begin the all-important work of identifying any victims and investigating the wreckage.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh went to the site and joins us now.

Nick, tell us -- how risky is it to get there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty messy and certainly easier for us as one car than the four or five vehicles they must have been in. It seems to took them, the OSCE mission and four Dutch and Australian experts, six hours. It should have taken three. They had to cross through enemy lines across the front lines twice to get through there. They say that tomorrow, they hope to go back and begin the task of recovering what human remains there are there.

When they got there they had a minute of silence, a somber site there indeed.


WALSH (voice-over): The road to the MH17 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 MH17 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 had such trouble getting 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 jet stream 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.


WALSH: This is really entering a new phase, Chris. Now, they have got access, probably going to grow in confidence. They do have now authorization from the Ukrainian parliament for up to 700 armed personnel, Dutch or Australian potentially to go with this inspection mission to the site that's going to massively raise the temperature of further missions to there. Remember, they need weeks, possibly months to do their job and the frontlines constantly change.

The political nature of this mission enormous in this civil war, both sides I think it's fair to say trying to use it to make the other look bad -- Chris, Kate.

CUOMO: The upshot is, Nick, thank you very much for the reporting, stay safe there. They both look bad in this situation. Because you have this shelling that's so close around. They know that makes the scene unsecure.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We even heard that from the OSCE monitor this is morning.

CUOMO: Right.

BOLDUAN: They are on site but they're hearing the shelling going on around them.

CUOMO: It's too close. I'm hearing from families now who are waiting, waiting to have their loved ones identified. Just being in that kind of limbo is unfair to them in this conflict. You hope the two sides recognize the dignity of the dead.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right.

Let's get back over to John in for Michaela for today's other big stories.

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

The Republican-led House of Representatives voting to go ahead with a lawsuit against President Obama. This lawsuit claims the president exceed his constitutional authority with unilateral changes to the health care law. Democrats say it's a political stunt designed to placate conservatives who really want to see the president impeached. Of course, Democrats raising money off that very fact.

A chilling warning recorded by a U.S.-born suicide bomber before he blew himself up in Syria earlier this year, the video from Moner Mohammad Abu Salah just surfaced, he warns America, quote, "We are coming for you, and you will never defeat Islam." Abu Salah was a college dropout from Florida who went to Syria for jihadist training. "The New York Times" now reports he later returned to the United States, but decided to go back to Syria to carry out his mission.

House Republicans rushing to act on the border crisis. The House scheduled to vote on a $659 million to speed the return of thousands of undocumented children in Central America. Republican leaders are also planning additional legislation that they say will block the president's plan to grant work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.

So, this action in the House today not clear whether the Republican leadership has the votes to get either measure through. So, it will be very interesting to watch. BOLDUAN: Exactly right and also clear already, the white house

threatened to veto it if it does whatever they're going to be putting through.

BERMAN: Exactly, and, Harry Reid, what's going on in the Senate, no one knows either. There's like a day and a half left before they go on break.

BOLDUAN: I would argue, though, they have plenty of time, just stay in town. Washington wonderful this time of year.

CUOMO: You put the pin in the balloon. Representative Cole says maybe we'll keep it pro forma and not officially adjourn. That's great news. Tell them what you told me.

BOLDUAN: They're not going to recess and you have the recess appointments issue but it is true and it's happened in the past they stay in a pro forma session, if they do reach a deal they can pass anything by unanimous consent in a moment with a voice vote.

CUOMO: Just because they're gone doesn't mean they're gone.

BOLDUAN: They can get it done if they want to get it done, plain and simple.

CUOMO: It's interesting how saying the same thing twice makes it sound different. They're gone, they're not gone, if they want to get it done, they get it done. It's good. It's pretty simple.

BOLDUAN: It's pretty simple actually.

CUOMO: Now I get it. Coming up on NEW DAY, Ebola is spreading in West Africa, and there are fears that the virus could land on our shores. We're going to talk to a doctor from the National Institutes of Health, what we can do to stop it and what happens if it does come here.



JEREMY WRITEBOL: She is aware of people praying all over the country, all over the world for her and for Dr. Brantly. So, I know that lifted her spirits and encouraged her.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

That was Jeremy Writebol earlier on NEW DAY, talking about his mother, Nancy, one of two Americans fighting for their lives after getting Ebola in Liberia. Now, major humanitarian organizations are starting to pull their people out of three countries in West Africa, that is except for two Peace Corps volunteers now who may have come in contact with the virus. Meantime according to World Health Organization, the number of Ebola

cases tops 1,300, with more than 700 deaths. The rising numbers have put a spotlight squarely on how easily the virus could spread beyond Africa.

Take a look at this. Flights out of major airports in the affected countries arrive in 39 airports including three here in the United States. So how worried should Americans be that the disease could spread here to the United States?

Let's bring in Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Fauci, always great to see you. Thanks for your time.


BOLDUAN: Of course.

So, what is your latest assessment of the threat level in terms of Ebola making it here to the United States?

FAUCI: Well, certainly, it's conceivable that someone could get infected in West Africa and be without symptoms and get on a plane and come to the United States. But the spread of it would be highly, highly unlikely that there would be spread. It would be unlikely someone would get here but it's feasible that they would.

But when you look at what's going on in West Africa, the reason for the spread is the inability to contain and take care of the people who are infected, because of the conditions of needing to have personal protective equipment and to protect yourself from the bodily fluids.

If someone happened to get infected and come to the United States, we are totally equipped to be able to handle that, so that's why I say, and the CDC says with some confidence that there really is very, very little threat that there would be spread here if, in fact, someone did come here who was ill.

BOLDUAN: That's reassuring obviously for anyone here in the United States. But can you give me more detail, how is the United States more prepared to prevent from a spread if it would make it over here?

FAUCI: It has to do everything with the health care system and the ability to isolate people and to follow the strict protocols that the CDC has put in place of how you handle diseases like Ebola with the very strict protocols to handling bodily fluids to protect yourselves with what we call personal protective equipment. So those are the kinds of protocols if, when followed, are easy to contain the virus.

The reason we're having the real difficult and frustrating situation in the West African countries is they're really not equipped to be able to do that in the large numbers that they're seeing.

BOLDUAN: So now we know that aid agencies are beginning to pull some of their people out of those countries but at the same time we keep talking about, we are not seeing travel restriction being put in place, leaving those countries coming into the United States. Do you think, even though after what you've just said, do you think travel restrictions would make any difference here?

FAUCI: Well, I think we have to leave that up to the CDC. Right now, they are watching the situation very, very carefully. They're at what's called, when you talk about people going there, you're talking about a level two, and you could consider level three.

Level two means not restricted, but really be very careful and staying away from people who are sick. Level three would mean only very essential travel. So, right now, we're at level two, but you can consider going to level three, but that's always on the very dynamic, active consideration, because they're watching the situation very carefully.

BOLDUAN: We are hearing from our reporters at the State Department that the United States is in ongoing kind of discussions and consideration of medevacing the Americans who have been stricken by this out of those countries.

What goes into those suggestions? What would that mean?

FAUCI: Well, first of all, I don't have any information about the hypothesis that you're talking about, about this going on. But, for example, if someone who was exposed were hypothetically to come here, certainly there would be a big red flag, people very alert in getting people, if appropriate, under the appropriate type of isolation for the period of time beyond which you'd be very confident that they are not infected and would not spread.

So I want to emphasize that when I've heard that and people are talking about that, there are very strict protocols of isolation of how to handle people, if, in fact, someone were to be airevaced here. So, it's not done haphazardly. It's done under strict protocols with isolation.

In fact, there's an example of people in the past who have had hemorrhagic fevers. One as recently in Minnesota in March of this year, when the person came over with a fever called Lassa fever, similar to Ebola, not exactly, which was handled perfectly well by the Minnesota department of health, as well as by the CDC. So there is some experience about how to handle that.

BOLDUAN: And in addition to that, I think it's been important also to point out and Sanjay Gupta was talking about it a little earlier in the show, doctor, the difference here and the important distinction with Ebola of it being highly infectious and contagious.

FAUCI: Right. Well, first of all, an infection, an infectious disease is one that's caused by a microbe. You could have an infectious disease that you don't transmit to another person. Contagious disease is an infectious disease that you can transmit from one person to another. So that's the difference that sometimes gets confused between an

infection and a contagion. So I can have an infection, but unable to transmit it to someone, but there are many infections that you can transmit. Those are called contagious infectious diseases.

BOLDUAN: So bottom line, you think what is happening right now in terms of the part of the United States, things are being handled with great care and well.

FAUCI: Oh, I think so. I think the CDC is doing an extraordinarily good job, as they usually do, as they always do, actually, in monitoring this very carefully on a real time basis, and making the appropriate decisions when the decision points come up.

BOLDUAN: And that's obviously continued to watch on a moment by moment basis.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, it's always great to have your advice. Thanks so much

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Now, if you'd like to learn more about organizations working to help those affected by the Ebola outbreak, go to and get all of the information there.

Let's take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, the Detroit front porch murder trial takes a bizarre turn. Should the victim's blood alcohol level on the night she died be a factor in the case? Our legal experts are here and the debate will begin.


BERMAN: Time for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Number one, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the operation to take out the Hamas terror tunnels will go on with or without a cease-fire. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Israel's airstrikes amount to war crimes.

Investigators finally reached the Flight 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, this happened hours after the Ukrainian army stopped military action to help them get there.

House Republicans getting a green light to a lawsuit against President Obama. The suit accuses the president of abusing his constitutional authority in implementing the health care law.

The Peace Corps has moved hundreds of volunteers out of West Africa over fear of the Ebola virus. Two Peace Corps volunteers have been placed in isolation after having contact with a person who later died of the virus.

So, it is 43 on 41, former President George W. Bush has written a book about the life and career of his father George H.W. Bush.