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Cease-Fire Talks Underway; Interview with U.N.'s Robert Serry; CDC Issues Highest Alert; Christians Forced to Flee ISIS in Iraq

Aired August 7, 2014 - 08:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome once again to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 7th, 8:00 in the East now.

And Israeli and Palestinian delegations are watching the clock as they try to reach common ground. Indirect negotiations resume this morning in Cairo with the 72-hour cease-fire set to expire tomorrow.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: For its part, Israel says it will agree to an extension. The Palestinians chief negotiator told us he'd like an extension as well, but a Hamas spokesman refused to make that commitment when we spoke last hour. He said he wanted a full agreement done by today.

So, are they getting closer to any kind of truce or is this just another exchange of fire?

Let's bring in Mr. Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process in Cairo, where he's working to help broker a deal.

Mr. Serry, we know you have a lot of important work. Thank you for checking in with us.

How do you think it's going? Do you think rockets will be fired tomorrow?


Well, I sincerely hope not. I think the parties have now started talking in earnest about the underlying issues, which could produce a more durable cease-fire. I think they will need more time, to give the Egyptians more time for actually carrying these talks into something substantial.

So I expect and I hope that 72-hour cease-fire which will be expiring tomorrow morning at 8:00 will be extended.

CUOMO: Now, the main spokesperson for the Palestinian coalition said that everybody's on board. The Hamas spokesman did not sound like that to my ears during our interview.

Are they in the room? Are they being consulted? Do you believe they are in step with the Palestinian coalition?

SERRY: Well, there is a unified delegation here in Cairo, which includes also factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. So, they will have to take a unified position also to extend the cease-fire.

I believe that maybe they are not yet quite there. I think they are still wanting to hear also from the Egyptians where the talks are.

But as I said before, I really hope and expect that these talks will be given a bit more time, which they probably will need, to actually become substantial and let me be very clear here. Also, the secretary-general has made it very clear yesterday in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, we need to address the underlying issues.

If I can put it in very simple terms, it is -- it is about ending the blockade, open crossings for addressing Israel's security concerns, legitimate security concerns that for instance means if you open crossings, that goods like construction materials will be used exclusively for civilian purposes, that means that you have to think how that can be ensured.

Let me tell you also, Chris, that actually the United Nations has been working for quite some time in Gaza with Israelis in order to allow U.N. projects to be implemented. We have been able to do this without major diversion of our materials to for instance the military tunnel network which was so clearly established during this war.

These are very difficult issues, they need to be addressed now and we cannot have a return to the previous status quo. As my secretary- general said, it cannot be that this is the third war that we rebuilt, we destroy, we rebuild and destroy again. Something needs to change here.

CUOMO: So, even though it's complex and there are many requests on each side, ultimately negotiations like this at least in the short term come down to one big give on each side. What do you think is necessary give on Israel's side and what is the necessary give on the Palestinian side?

SERRY: Well, the necessary give on the Israeli side is that they have to ensure that the international community, under the leadership, by the way, of the Palestinian authority -- it is also very important that if you address the issues in Gaza, it can only work if the legitimate Palestinian authority is brought back to Gaza, that is again not something easy, not happening overnight, but we need to start that process.

So, Israeli side, give that process a chance, open up crossings for the very necessary reconstruction. On the other side, we have to address also at the same time Israel's legitimate security concerns.

CUOMO: Now, the U.N. has gotten wrapped up in this fiasco that's been going on the last few weeks, some allegations against the organization itself that there may be a rogue element in your schools that's teaching Palestinian kids that Jews are wolves, and you had one of your representatives crying when talking about the Palestinian condition.

Do you think that there is a partial treatment of Palestine by the U.N. in this situation?

SERRY: Well, Chris, it is never an easy situation for the U.N. when we are, in times of war in Gaza. Let me also tell you that the secretary-general is enraged about what has happened with repeatedly with U.N. shelters. Coordinates all communicated to the Israeli side many times even, and then to see that these people who actually come for protection to the United Nations are not safe.

I am, of course, also aware -- we are all aware that the way the other side has been fighting closely in these same areas where these schools are located but it cannot -- Israel cannot expunge itself also for its responsibility under international law in these situations.

CUOMO: Do you think --

SERRY: This is not an easy situation. I -- yes?

CUOMO: Do you think Israel has violated international law with its bombing, with its military actions. Do you think that?

SERRY: Well, the secretary-general has asked for accountability. There will be -- there will be inquiries made. I don't -- I don't want to go into that question right now.

CUOMO: How about the question of what's being taught in your schools? Is that a rogue element? Obviously, that's not legitimate doctrine teaching that the Jews are wolves and some metaphor of explaining the Palestinian-Israeli condition.

SERRY: Well, you know, again, you should understand the situation UNRWA finds itself in. There are hundreds of schools and in times of war, it's difficult for UNRWA to really control all these schools. Sometimes we have no access to schools in a war situation.

So, I -- as we have said, every time we found, for instance, weapons which were in those schools, that's a violation of international law from the other side. We've been very clear about it and we have not been shy also to report this immediately to you, to the public opinion.

CUOMO: So, the big question is what happens tomorrow? I know it's short-sighted and I know it's something that has more media focus than it does practical impact in the overall situation, but it does matter, and what would you put as a percentage of confidence that tomorrow there will be sustained peace and continued negotiating?

SERRY: Well, I said it before. I hope and I expect that the parties will continue to use this very important opportunity now under the Egyptian leadership, with the Egyptian good officers to continue talks. Going back to war is no option for either of them.

CUOMO: And we do hear reports that the negotiations have much more civil dialogue, maybe because it's through a mediator of Egypt than we're seeing on television. So, that's promising also, because the rhetoric is pretty hot certainly from what we're hearing from Hamas' side this morning.

Thank you very much, Mr. Serry. Good luck with your work going forward and thank you for joining us.

SERRY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So you heard it, he's hopeful. He believes the negotiations are ongoing, and he expects the peace to continue tomorrow. Let's see what the reality is.

Other headlines as well. Let's get right to Mick.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. It's 10 minutes past the hour.

Breaking this morning: Edward Snowden will get to remain in Russia for three more years. The lawyer for the NSA leaker says his request to extend his residency has been granted. Snowden, of course, as you'll recall, fled the U.S. to Hong Kong, then Russia, after leaking classified documents about NSA spying.

In Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians terrorized and fleeing now for their lives as ISIS militants seized the country's largest Christian city. The local archbishop calling the situation a catastrophe and pleading for the U.N. to intervene. Pope Francis adding his voice now, urging the international community to intervene to end the violence there.

It's not a done deal yet, but Bank of America has tentatively agreed to pay $16.5 billion in what would be the largest mortgage securities fraud settlement to date. The government accused B of A of misleading buyers of mortgage-backed securities about the quality of the loans. The settlement includes $9 billion in penalties and the rest would go to help homeowners.

Closing arguments are underway in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa. The prosecution kicked off this morning, saying Pistorius' version of events lacked any truth and called him deceitful. There's no jury so Pistorius' fate lies in the hands of the judge. You recall the Blade Runner claims he shot and killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by accident, thinking that she was an intruder.

Today, an army investigator will question Bowe Bergdahl for a second day, about the circumstances that led to his capture in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl's attorney says the sergeant was questioned for eight hours Wednesday and answered everything that was put to him. You'll recall, he spent five years as a Taliban prisoner of war before being freed in May. Some of those who served alongside of Bergdahl have accused him of deserting his army unit.

BOLDUAN: And hearing his side of the story is what the Army says they've been waiting for.

PEREIRA: It's the part that's been missing.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right. So, now, they're getting to it.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

Let's take a break.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the CDC issues its highest alert yet over the Ebola crisis. But what does that mean for you? Dr. Sanjay Gupta was there when they issued that alert. We're going to talk to him about it.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is important to remind ourselves this is not an airborne disease. This is one that can be controlled and contained very effectively, if we use the right protocols.


PEREIRA: President Obama reacting to the deadly Ebola outbreak that has already claimed the lives of more than 900 people. The country of Liberia has now declared a state of emergency.

Here at home, the CDC has issued its highest alert for this crisis, a level one.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was at the CDC's emergency operations center when that was announced. He joins us this morning.

It will be interesting to be in the room as that decision was being made. Talk to us about the logistics of that. What does this highest level alert mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really a call I think to public health department, certainly in the United States and around the world of just how committed the CDC is to this.

Keep in mind, Michaela -- they're monitoring several different things all the time around the world with regard to infectious diseases. This says we're going to put much more of our focus now on Ebola solely, going to bolster up some of the troops both in the United States and West Africa, and they're going to pull in higher level people as well from other agencies. So, it's a real focus.

I mean, this hasn't happened since H1N1 back in 2009 and before that, it was Hurricane Katrina. So this doesn't happen very often.

PEREIRA: Certainly doesn't. What does that mean for us, if we're at home across the country, we find ourselves at a health care clinic, maybe at an airport, will we see the effects of this CDC alert?

GUPTA: I don't think you're going to see it directly, no. Some of this is sort of behind the scenes. Quick example, CDC had a call with about 10,000 primary care doctors around the country yesterday, and basically they wanted to establish some sort of consistent guideline on how to take care of people who might be coming back where there's a suspicion of an Ebola infection.

Right now, it's been fragmented and understandably so, because they've never seen something like this before in this country, really this part of the world. I will say that on Friday, tomorrow, the World Health Organization is going to make a determination of whether they declare this a public health emergency of international concern. If they do, that could affect airports and borders and things like that.

But, you know, the CDC has a big task in front of them right now. I want to take you inside and show you a little bit of what they're dealing with.


GUPTA (voice-over): This is the CDC's emergency operation center. Think of it as the nerve center of its response to the Ebola outbreak. Just a few minutes after I walked in, phones and BlackBerrys started buzzing everywhere.

(on camera): While we were here, the activation level just went up to level one, just in the last couple of minutes. What does that mean?

STEPHAN MONROE, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: What that means is just more people and more resources dedicated to the response.

GUPTA (voice-over): In that room, you could feel a quiet determination and a sense of urgency.

(on camera): What you're looking at is what the CDC looks at, a map of the world, trying to figure out what infectious diseases are happening and where they are happening. As you might imagine, a lot of focus on Ebola right now. They're tracking that as well real time. They have been doing it since March.

Take a look in here. This really jumped out of me. Mid-May, they thought things are basically under control, but then look what happens at the beginning of June -- everything takes off. This is on its way to becoming the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

(voice-over): Dr. Stephan Monroe is helping lead the CDC's Ebola response, not an easy task at all.

(on camera): Was there mistakes made? I mean, is there a reason why this outbreak is worse than any other outbreak in history?

MONROE: The initial event, the lightning strike, if you will, was right in this corner between three countries, in a very remote part of each one of those countries and so, it quickly spread across the borders.

GUPTA (voice-over): Here in the United States, different questions. For example, if Ebola is not airborne, then why were there such extraordinary precautions taken for Dr. Kent Brantly and Ms. Writebol? It turns out it was more an abundance of caution rather than a necessity.

MONROE: We're pretty confident that any large hospital could handle an Ebola case if one were to show up at their doorstep, using traditional isolation rooms with negative pressure room and with traditional droplet and respiratory precautions.

GUPTA: And while I suited up in multiple layers while I was in Guinea earlier this year --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can be worn by health care workers when they come into contact with patients.

GUPTA: -- the CDC says a mask, goggle, face shield, a protective gown and gloves can provide all the protection you need for most situations.


GUPTA: So, Michaela, that abundance of caution I think is something that we are seeing play out over here, may lead to testing sometimes that's not always necessary, lead to the isolation units, things like that.

Keep in mind, though, the message we keep hearing over and over again is that science should drive this. This is not an airborne disease and if you think of it that way, it sort of determines how people can protect themselves.

PEREIRA: Sure, but again I don't think anybody will argue with abundance of precaution in terms of the medical professionals taking care of themselves, to ensure that they're not getting sick or passing it on to anybody else.

Here's my question -- any update on these two patients? You have a direct line to Emory.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, we haven't heard much more, and we're respecting the families' wishes to sort of spend time with their family collectively. The doctors say they may have some updates before the week is out. We do know that the son of Ms. Writebol was able to talk to her for a little while. Again, that's a challenging task, given they're in isolation unit, sort of surrounded by glass walls.

He said she was tired but she's doing well. She's obviously medically stable enough to make the flight. We did hear that she was supposed to get the third dose of that experimental treatment yesterday as well. She received two doses in Liberia and supposed to get the third one in the United States. So, my guess is there will be updates later on today or tomorrow. PEREIRA: Yes, that will be interesting to hear how they are

progressing. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. As always, we appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

PEREIRA: Be sure to watch "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." weekends right here on CNN, Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and again Sundays, 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Short break for us on NEW DAY. Ahead with the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas set to expire tomorrow, Egyptian mediators are trying to broker a truce in Gaza. We are going to speak with a former national security adviser about that difficult job ahead of him.


PEREIRA: Here we go with the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

At number one, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators working to bridge their differences in Cairo. Israel says it is willing to extend a cease-fire beyond tomorrow morning but it would appear Hamas will not commit.

The director of the CDC is set to go before members of Congress today about tackling the Ebola threat. This comes after the CDC issued its highest alert for the crisis, a level one.

Bank of America agreeing in principle to pay nearly $17 billion to settle government charges related to the fraudulent marketing of mortgage-backed securities during the financial crisis.

Jury deliberations have started in the murder trial of Theodore Wafer. He's accused of fatally shooting Renisha McBride when she banged on his door early in the morning last November. Wafer could face life in prison if he is convicted.

Folks in Hawaii bracing for a hurricane, a pair of them. Iselle could hit the big island tonight and hurricane Julio could brush the islands this weekend. We'll be watching that.

We always update those five things to know. So, be sure to visit for the very latest.

Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Michaela.

Now, to some breaking news coming to us out of Iraq. Overnight, ISIS militants seized the country's largest Christian city, tens of thousands of Christian -- they're now running for their lives.

Nic Robertson is live for us with much more coming to us out of London.

Nic, what are you learning and what is happening there right now? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of

the reactions we're getting to this, Kate, is that the pope has actually issued a statement appealing to the international community to do what they can to affect those people affected by the violence in the north of Iraq. This comes right after people evacuated that Christian town, about 100,000 flowing down the main highway, west of that or rather east of that town towards the Kurdish area, towards the Kurdish city of Erbil.

What we've seen over the last few days is the forces of the Islamic State formerly known as ISIS advancing from west to east across the country. They've taken control of a Yazidi town, forced 200,000 people from that minority community into the mountains. They've been short of food, short of water. The U.N. appealed for help for them. It appears overnight timely those people in the mountains, some of whom were beginning to die, got help.

Now, the I.S. advanced, the Islamic State advanced, has reached this Christian town, forcing everyone out but what's really concerning now is that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces there in the north of Iraq, that everyone believed to be very strong and very capable of defending against the Islamic State army, they have withdrawn back beyond where this Christian town is, back closer to the city of Erbil, and this is raising concern. Even Kurdish leaders are saying the Islamic State is attacking them now in a very sort of militarily organized way.