CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SATURDAY

ISIS Well Equipped and Dangerous; Iraqi Minorities on the Run; White House's Statement On Situation in Iraq; Hawaiian Big Island Facing Unusual Storm; ISIS Creating Its Own State; College Athletes Will Start Getting Paid; Shadowy Figure of Hamas Military Chief; Leanna Harris Believes Herself To Be Victim

Aired August 9, 2014 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Take a nice deep breath. It's Saturday.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it is.

PAUL: And we need it with all that's going on in the world today. We are so glad to have your company, though, I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. 6:00 here in the East here in the U.S. This is "NEW DAY Saturday." Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We continue our coverage of the two major stories in the Mideast. U.S. air strikes in Iraq and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

PAUL: But let's start in Iraq this morning with some stunning new video of the first U.S. air strikes targeting ISIS fighters. Take a look here.

BLACKWELL: These images from the U.S. military show F/A-18 fighter jets keying in on an ISIS mobile artillery unit and then the explosion. There it is.

PAUL: There it is. Yeah.

Those are 500-pound laser-guided bombs let loose on the terror groups. That's 4,000 of Iraqis who run for their lives. Now, later, a U.S. drone targeted an ISIS mortar position and an ISIS convoy.

BLACKWELL: And the attacks happened near Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region where hundreds of U.S. military and diplomatic personnel is stationed. Now, west of Erbil, U.S. military planes have dropped more food, more water over Mount Sinjar.

PAUL: These are the packages here. See those, ready for distribution. 2,000 of members of the Yazidi minority who fled to the mountains under pressure from ISIS militants to convert to radical Islam, they say, or die.

BLACKWELL: OK, you see the packages here. Look at this. We've got the night vision video here that shows the pallets being hoisted, just slipping off this cargo plane. So far, the U.S. mission has dropped more than 36,000 meals, almost 7,000 gallons of water, too. PAUL: And take a look at this aerial view showing the bundles parachuting to the ground there. The British government now says that it will also conduct air drops. In the meantime, the United Nations is urgently trying to clear what it calls a humanitarian corridor to help those Iraqis get away from the violence.

BLACKWELL: And the U.S. blames the warplanes patrolling northern Iraq right now are keeping an eye, a really close eye on possible ISIS retaliation from the ground.

PAUL: Pamela Brown has been investigating the terror group's arsenal. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, U.S. officials I've been speaking with say ISIS may be one of the most well-equipped jihadist groups in the world with its cache of weapon who are using tanks, rocket-propelled grenades, humvees, mounted with weapons and small arms. And it's believed the dangerous jihadist group has the capability to threaten aircraft in the area. One U.S. official says with the fire power it has, ISISIS obviously emboldened by its heightened lethality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: ISIS fighters seen here using weapons seized from the Iraqi army. Parading around on armored tanks showcasing ISIS's signature black flag and hauling a massive missile through the streets of seized Iraqi territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISIS is more of a threat to the United States now than al Qaeda was prior to September 11th.

BROWN: Perhaps ISIS's most lethal weapon, the capture of this massive dam in Mosul. The U.S. itself warned during the Iraq war that its failure could create 20 meter waves and result in a significant loss of life and property.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just better have our eyes wide open about the possible range of potential casualties here.

BROWN: A source telling CNN the Islamic militants attacked with an American-made M1 Abrams tank like this. ISIS has been stockpiling artillery ever since it began commandeering Iraqi territory. Taking some American-made machinery left over from the war and weapons dropped by fleeing Iraqi troops as senior administration official tells CNN, ISIS is well resourced and well organized militarily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's also entirely possible that the ISIL or ISIS group has found various kinds of either anti-tank weapons. Or anti-aircraft weapons. And mounted them on vehicles to have maximum mobility.

BROWN: Based on ISIS videos posted online, experts believe it's possible ISIS could have access to portable air defense systems which has a range of approximately 10,000 feet. And 37 millimeter anti- aircraft guns with a range of approximately 27,000 feet. High enough to bring down one of the U.S. planes dropping humanitarian relief. The Navy jets involved with air strikes fly at around 40,000 feet. On Friday, the FAA banned U.S. flights over Iraq, citing the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Officials say the Kurds who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq are outgunned by the Islamic militant group. But a senior administration official saying the U.S. is expediting assistance to the Kurds. Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right, so what would it take it to knock out ISIS? That's the question, of course.

PAUL: Yeah, let's bring in Professor Peter Neumann, he's the director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College in London. Professor Neumann, thank you again for being with us. We also have CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona with us as well. Peter, I want to go to you real quickly, because we just heard representative Peter King say that ISIS is more of a threat now than al Qaeda was prior to 9/11. Do you believe that to be true?

PETER NEUMANN, KING'S COLLEGE: I think it's true in the sense that ISIS now holds territory. And, of course, we know that a terrorist group holding territory, being able to train people there, being able to have people there that are gaining experience, skills, organization, is the basis for the kind of attack that we saw on 9/11. You cannot do an attack on that scale if you're not holding territory. That's really the lesson from 9/11. You can never let terrorists to hold territory anymore. And that's what's happening now. That's why it's so important to push back ISIS.

BLACKWELL: All right, let me come to you, Colonel Francona. I want to read for you something that Douglas Ollivant wrote for cnn.com about the U.S. air strikes. He's the former director for Iraq of the U.S. National Security Council. And here it is. Let's put it up on the screen if we have it. There it is, air power is incredibly potent when properly used, but nearly useless in the wrong situations. ISIS will present both of these alternatives in Iraq. Put very simply, air power is incredibly effective against an enemy who's on the offense. If an enemy, be it a person or vehicle or a weapon system is on a move and - or fighting they create a signature that is easy to spot from the air. So, how easy will it be, the central question here, or difficult to knock out ISIS? Is that a realistic expectation or is containment now the goal?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as long as ISIS's functioning as a conventional army, which is what they've been doing lately, they present themselves as a very lucrative target from the air. Now this is going to factor in that they are planning, because they are going to change tactics. As soon as they see how effective American air power will be against this conventional formations, they will revert back to a more guerilla-type operation, which is more what we're used to seeing in a terrorist environment. So, I think they will change their tactics, but air power can be effective, as he said, if useful properly. ISIS probably is not fully aware of American air power yet. They soon will be.

PAUL: And it will be interesting to know what ISIS does know about America. Because Peter, one of the ISIS fighters told VICE News, and this is a quote. "We will raise the flag of Allah at the White House." How threatening are they to the U.S. and do you think that the U.S. administration or the intelligence committee has underestimated ISIS's threat?

NEUMANN: I think they will be a threat to the United States in the short to medium term. Now, of course, now that U.S. is in direct conflict with ISIS that may speed up the process. But you should also recognize that as for the time being, ISIS is actually very busy building this Islamic state. Fighting against the Kurds, the Iraqis, trying to expand into Jordan. But now, of course, that the U.S. is going to be part of that puzzle, it may well turn out to be that they're soon going to expand and direct the operations directly towards the U.S. So, I think that will become more likely now.

BLACKWELL: Colonel, the U.S. has obviously committed to protecting fiercely the Kurdish region of Iraq. We've seen ISIS over a period now take significant amount of Syria. What would be - help us understand the effect of ISIS potentially taking that region as well?

FRANCONA: Look at what they've done. If you look at the map, and you see where they've come from Syria into Iraq, they're coming down the Euphrates Valley. They're starting in Mosul. They're coming down the Tigris Valley. And once down toward Baghdad, they're going up the Diyala Valley. They're trying to control all of the rivers and hence all of the electric power generation. And as Peter said, they're trying to create this state and they are setting up the trappings of a state and that requires infrastructure.

So, they're trying to consolidate all of this territory that they own, and once they have that territory, then I think as he said, they become a threat to us because then they set up their training camps. And they're actively recruiting Westerners, Americans and Europeans who have that passports that allows them to travel.

PAUL: Rick, real quickly, we know several hundred military and diplomatic personnel are stationed in Erbil. Why not evacuate them yet?

FRANCONA: Yeah, that's a really good question. You know, they were sent up there because that was supposed to be a safe haven. Get them out of Baghdad. Get them up where they can be safe. Well, the problem with that is now they're under threat. I think you would send the wrong message, if you pulled out, especially the troops that are advising the Iraqis up there, and also if you close down the consulate there, that just says that we are - we don't think we can defend this. And it kind of tells the Kurds you're on your own. And I think that's the wrong message to send right now. We need to be showing strength to the Iraqis, especially if want the Iraqi government to come together and be more inclusive. That's the goal of the U.S. We'll see if that happens.

BLACKWELL: All right. Colonel Rick Francona and Peter Neumann, thank you both. We'll continue this conversation throughout the morning.

PAUL: Despite the air strikes in Iraq, President Obama said there will definitely not be any American boots on the ground. Listen to what he told "the New York Times" Thomas Friedman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They squandered an opportunity. And I've been I think pretty clear about the fact that had the Shia majority seized the opportunity to reach out to the Sunnis and the Kurds in a more effective way, pass legislation like de-Baathification, that that would have made a difference. I don't think that can be disputed. The flip side of it is, if they had done exactly what they did, and we had had 10,000 troops there, that would not have prevented the kinds of problems that we've seen anyway. The difference would be we'd have 10,000 troops in the middle of this chaos as opposed to having a much more limited number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right, CNN's Erin McPike joins us live from Washington now. Erin, we understand the White House has released a statement from the president. What does it say?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, this is his weekly address. And we just got the text of those remarks into us this morning. And I want to point out that the overwhelming discussion in Washington yesterday is just how reluctant President Obama is to get dragged into another messy situation in Iraq. So, in this statement, this address, he says that as commander -in-chief, he does not want to get dragged into another war.

And he goes on to say, and I'm going to read this to you, well, what we will do is continue our broader strategy in Iraq. We will protect our citizens. We will work with the internal community to address this humanitarian crisis. We'll help prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven, from which to attack America. And we'll continue to urge Iraqi communities to reconcile, come together and fight back against these terrorists so the people of Iraq have the opportunity for a better future. The opportunity for which so many Americans gave their lives in Iraq in a long and hard war.

But Christi and Victor, I would also point out that we did hear from the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest yesterday. And in that briefing, he said we have not laid out a specific end date. In other words, this could go on for quite some time. And we don't know what it will look like.

PAUL: All right. Erin McPike, we appreciate the update today from the capital. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Erin. Also, more death and destruction. And the other big story in the

Middle East we're watching there in Gaza. Just one day after the latest ceasefire ended. We're headed live to the Middle East for the latest developments on the ground there. Plus.

PAUL: Hawaii's Big Island, surviving tropical storm Iselle. Now it's on the watch for another storm, believe it or not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: 15 minutes past the hour right now. Gaza has once again become a dangerous bloody deadly war zone. Just one day after peace talks failed, Hamas and Israel again this morning ...

BLACKWELL: The Palestinians officials say they're now digging to retrieve the bodies of at least three people who died when an Israeli air strike hit a mosque. They say two others were killed in a separate strike. It was one of 30 targets Israel hit in Gaza today. Five rockets have been fired from Gaza.

PAUL: Let's go to Gaza now. CNN's John Vause is monitoring the developments on the ground there. And John, you told us something that I think is perplexing to a lot of people, that the rockets fired from Gaza recently are rockets that Hamas is not taking responsibility for?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's correct, Christi, what we understand is that so far, since that ceasefire ended 8:00 a.m. Friday local time, more than 24 hours ago, all of the outgoing fire from Gaza, at least from the claim of responsibility point of view is being claimed by another militant group here in Gaza, known as Islamic Jihad. They're a smaller group, they are often rivals with Hamas. They have the capability to fire rockets as well into Israel.

There are a lot of militant groups here in Gaza. There are some small ones. There's, of course, Hamas which runs Gaza because their political wing was elected many years ago. They had their military wing. I know it's confusing. I know there are a lot of strange- sounding names here. But you have to understand this is not just one big militant group which is responsible for all of the rocket fire which is outgoing. So, what we've seen over the last 24 hours or so, since the end of that ceasefire, Islamic Jihad has been claiming responsibility for all of the rocket fire.

And keep in mind that today, since midnight local time, only five rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. And, again, all of those claimed by Islamic Jihad. Nothing being claimed by Hamas. The Israelis, though, continue on with their military offensive. You mentioned that mosque which was hit a few hours ago. At least three people have been killed there. Another two were killed on a motorcycle. That is an indication from the Israelis that that was some kind of targeted strike against militants. Which group they're from, we don't know. They could have been from Hamas. They could have been from Islamic Jihad, they could have been from somebody else. But so, the Israeli military offensive is ongoing. Five people killed

so far today. And then yesterday, after that ceasefire ended. And it ended with a barrage of rockets coming from Gaza into Israel and the Israeli military offensive kicked off after that, five people were killed on Friday. So, so far since the cease-fire ended, five people here - ten people here in Gaza have been killed. A soldier on the Israeli side has been slightly wounded and a civilian has been moderately wounded on the Israeli side, Christi.

BLACKWELL: John, we're listening to the numbers and the rockets being fired over one side of the border and the other. But give us a sense of how life now after this ceasefire compares to life just before it?

VAUSE: Yeah, well, it does seem that we're not back to the level of cross-border firing, of the military operations that we saw before the ceasefire came into in effect last week. There certainly seems to be scaling back. The Israeli air strikes continue, but they're less frequent than they were. And obviously, with the rocket fire, that, too, is less frequent than what we saw in the weeks leading up to that 72-hour ceasefire.

So, whether that's an indication that something else is going on behind the scenes and maybe there's some kind of diplomatic moves on the way right now to try and deescalate the situation, we don't know. There are reports out there that maybe the Israelis are heading back to Cairo. We've spoken to the Israeli officials there. And they have refused to comment on those reports. Which is not unusual. They don't often tell us when the Israeli delegation are coming or when they are going. That kind of stuff. Hamas, for its spot, we've reached out to them, and again, no comment from Hamas on any talk of that. Maybe they're trying to resurrect the ceasefire. Victor.

PAUL: All right. John Vause, we so appreciate it, sir. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Iselle, the tropical storm roars ashore on Hawaii's Big Island. We're going to take you live there to show you the damage it left behind.

PAUL: And later, a king-size homecoming rally. King games, look at them there. On the ruler of the world, it looks like he's saying. Tens of thousands are welcoming had him back to northern Ohio. Find out why Cleveland fans have even more reason to get excited about his return now, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Tropical Storm Iselle moving farther away from Hawaii, fortunately, but oh, did it leave its mark.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, meteorologist Jennifer Gray has more for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Churning waves, heavy rain and gusty winds as Iselle made landfall on Hawaii's Big Island. The state had prepared for a potential devastating one-two tropical cyclone punch, but for now it's all clear even though Hurricane Julio is still out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good news is we've dodged a bullet. We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. And we got more of the best.

GRAY: The biggest threat this morning, rain and flash flooding. Iselle has already dumped 11 inches of rain on the Big Island. And another foot is expected. That's taking rivers and creeks to dangerous levels. Along with the rain, high winds knocked down trees and power lines. More than 22,000 homes were in the dark. And hundreds of people hunkered down in storm shelters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did have some strong burst of wind at time. The rain came. And then it quiet down again. And then a little more came back again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it been like cleanup here all afternoon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been pretty hectic because the wind was really strong last night. In fact, all the way through this morning, there are debris all over the road.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: So Jennifer joining us now from the extreme weather center. Extreme weather?

GRAY: Yeah, this was unprecedented, and we've never had a direct hit on the Big Island before.

PAUL: Yes.

GRAY: And so, a lot of rain for Hawaii, there will be cleaning up for days and days. Could have been a lot worse. But yeah, they had a direct hit from Iselle. Now we're watching Julio. But the good news is, it is going to pass to the north. The forecast is becoming more confident, and so this is a bigger storm with it passing to the north, Hawaii will just see indirect impacts. We're going to see increased surf. Some monster waves out there the next couple of days. But I think the impacts from this next storm are going to be minimal compared to what we saw from Iselle.

PAUL: Thank goodness. We love Hawaii.

BLACKWELL: We do.

PAUL: We do love Hawaii.

BLACKWELL: This is not something that happens for them very often?

GRAY: No. No. They've only been impacted directly by three storms that we know of. And so, this is the first direct impact for the Big Island that we know of.

PAUL: All right, Jennifer ...

GRAY: The books.

PAUL: Thank you so much for watching it. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: A message this morning from one of the Americans infected with Ebola. Dr. Kent Brantly is still in an isolation ward out in Atlanta hospital, but he wants the public to know how he's doing.

PAUL: Plus, a tsunami survivor everyone feared was dead. The incredible story of how one family got back their daughter who had been missing for nearly, get this, ten years.

BLACKWELL: Wow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: It is the bottom of the hour right now. I hope you are just sitting back and relaxing this morning - lazy Saturday. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. We've got a lot going on, though. Let's start with five things you need to know for your "NEW DAY."

PAUL: Number one, one of the American infected with the Ebola virus said he's growing stronger every day. In a written message, Dr. Kent Brantly shares his gratitude for all the support and the prayers that he's received. The other American infected with Ebola, Nancy Writebol, he husband says, she is not yet in the clear, but she is "in very good hands." They are both being treated, as you know, at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

BLACKWELL: Number two, the mother of the Georgia toddler who died after being left in a hot SUV for hours, seven hours says she's also a victim. In a statement, Leanna Harris writes the media and the public has rushed to judge her. Her husband Justin Ross Harris faces murder and child cruelty charges. Police say he left this 22-month old son Cooper strapped into the SUV there for seven hours in a car seat as he went to work back in June.

PAUL: Number three, the death of Ronald Reagan's former press secretary James Brady has been ruled a homicide. Brady died this week at age 73, but the medical examiner said it was due to wounds that he sustained way back in 1981 when he was shot during an assassination attempt on President Reagan. Brady spent the rest of his life partly paralyzed in a wheelchair. The shooter John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

BLACKWELL: Number four, a game changer ruling. That's what is being called, the U.S. federal judge has decided against the NCAA, writing that the collegiate governing body violated anti-trust laws by agreeing with member schools not to pay athletes, although players' names and images are used to generate revenues. And this could mean that basketball and football players could start getting paid for college sports.

PAUL: Number five, oh, my goodness is this being called the miracle from God. A young girl thought to be dead, swept away nearly a decade ago in the Indian Ocean tsunami has been found alive. Her family thought she was dead, killed, of course, when they were separated by the disaster. But according to a German newspaper, she was spotted by her long lost brother while walking on the street. And she has now returned to her family. I want to know more of that back story.

BLACKWELL: Turning back to one of our big time stories this morning. And there are several. Deteriorating situation there in Iraq. The U.S. has completed two air drops of humanitarian supplies. We're told that more than 36,000 ready-to-eat meals, almost 7,000 gallons of water have been dropped.

PAUL: That's only enough, though, to feed a fraction of the 200,000 people who have been forced from their homes. They're running into the mountains to escape the violent militants formally known as ISIS.

BLACKWELL: Now, hundreds of others have gathered inside a Christian church in the Kurdish territories, sleeping in pews, on the floor because there really is nowhere else to go. CNN's Ivan Watson is there. He gives us a look inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are on the run right now. And hundreds of them have taken shelter here in a place of worship. This is St. Joseph's church. It's in the Christian town of Ankawa, which is in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan. And this is where hundreds have of people have been sleeping for the past two nights after quite literally running for their lives with little more than the clothes on their backs. The scenes that we're seeing here, it is just a drop in the bucket.

Across the city, across this Kurdish safe haven, we have seen similar scenes in youth centers. In other churches. In gas station parking lots. People are running for their lives. And according to the patriarch of the Chaldean Christian community of Iraq, among the exodus are more than 100,000 Christians who tell us, that they've been given a choice by the militants from the Islamic states of Iraq and Syria, either convert to their brand of violent, harsh Islam. Or face the sword.

(on camera): You're going to stay here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WATSON: For how long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I don't know.

WATSON: This is a bad situation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WATSON: This is very bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very bad. Food, a little. Water, a little.

WATSON: And no future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No future. Future, if USA can help our people to go to the USA.

WATSON: You cannot stay in Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. No.

WATSON: It's too dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, like in Iraq.

WATSON (voice over): Christian leaders in Iraq are warning of the threat of genocide against this ancient Christian community. And it's not just the Christians who are under threat. Basically any religious or ethnic minority. That includes Yazidis. That includes Shiite Muslims that includes the Turkmens, the Bashak. And they are all on the run right now, terrified of the strict and very violent interpretations of Islam implemented by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS. And this is the situation right now, woman like Ikhlas (ph) and her family have slept for the second night in this church, with their 40-day-old baby right here. And sadly this is probably just the very beginning of this humanitarian crisis. Ivan Watson, CNN, Ankawa, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

PAUL: You just feel for those people.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: Also, of course, the other story this morning. We're talking about more air strikes across Gaza this morning after a short-lived cease-fire fell apart.

BLACKWELL: We're headed live to Jerusalem to talk with the United Nations about what the renewed violence means for the children there stuck in this conflict.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Palestinian officials say they're digging to retrieve the bodies of at least three people who died when an Israeli air strike hit a mosque. They say two others were killed in a separate strike. Now, it was one of 30 targets Israel hit in Gaza today.

PAUL: Enemy number one for the Israelis is the mysterious leader of Hamas' military wing. And as Paula Hancocks shows us, this shadowy figure has alluded capture for decades.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have, of the Hamas military chief, and even this image is believed to be 20 years old. Mohammed Deif is a shadowy figure. The commander of the Izz ad- Din al-Kassam Brigades, Israel's number one enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed Deif was this - a young guy, a fighter, someone who studied in the university and was drafted into the military force. Deeply religious and deeply committed to the cause of Hamas. He was a close student of Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder of the Hamas movement.

HANCOCKS: Sheikh Yasin was assassinated by Israel back in 2004 as were previously military chiefs, Salah Shehade who Deif succeed in 2002. And Ahmed Jabari, one of Israel's most wanted men in 2012. But Deif has always eluded Israel becoming known as the man with nine lives. The Israel has tried to kill him several times. Each time injuring him severely. According to reports, he's believed to be in a wheelchair. Deif is considered to have Israeli blood on his hands. Being part of Hamas operations for well over 20 years, planning suicide bombings, rockets and tunnels. This audio statement one week ago was attributed to Deif. And on Hamas television, he called for a lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza, saying the truce, quote, "will not take place unless the siege is lifted and the border crossings are all open. But some question if Deif is still calling the shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I presently believe that he's much more of a legend than he is a full functioning human being who's commanding the forces there. Hamas needs someone like that they can follow and be inspired by. And Israelis very much like to identify a person as the enemy, as the arch evil terrorist who is responsible for everything that's going on.

HANCOCKS: If Deif is still alive, he's in deep hiding. His secretive lifestyle, one reason he survived far longer than any of his predecessors. Paula Hancocks, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Of course, we'll go back to the conflict there in just a moment. But also, we want to get you up to date on the case out of Georgia. That toddler who died in a hot car. That child's mother says that she is a victim, too. Her lawyer sat down with me for an exclusive interview. Hear him explain why Leanna Harris is struggling to put her life back together. And why she believes she also is a victim.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Michael Sam takes another step toward making football history.

PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) Ali has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.

PAUL: How are you?

BLACKWELL: Very well, how are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, good, good. OK, the St. Louis Rams rookie defensive back Michael Sam makes his debut in the team's first preseason game. He becomes the first openly gay player to participate in an NFL game. Sam hit the field with five minutes left to play in the first quarter. He ended the night with one tackle and one quarterback hit, but caused a lot of disruption against the Saints. Sam said he's confident he needs to play the game on a professional level.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SAM: I can play in this league. That's the most important. I was kind of nervous to get some nerves out today. It was a very good learning experience. And I can play in this league.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: LeBron James has officially reclaimed his kingdom. An estimated crowd of 30,000 fans packed the University of Akron stadium for a homecoming rally last night. The basketball superstar saved the biggest moment for last. He said he plans to play the rest of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending the last four seasons in Miami. King James assured the people of northeastern Ohio quote, saying, "I don't plan on going nowhere. How about that?"

Tiger Woods will have the weekend off. He missed the cut at the PGA championship. It's only the fourth time he's failed to qualify for weekend play and of gossip at major tournaments, since turning pro in 1996. Tiger dropped to six over par, five shots off the cut line. Rory McElroy starts today third round at the top of the leaderboard at 9 under. Rory is aiming to when his third straight tournament including the British Opened. So, good for Rory, bad for Tiger.

BLACKWELL: You know, that loment with LeBron, too much like 2010. He stands up there, you've got the fans. Just go in, say, listen, I've come to do my job. I'm going to do my best.

PAUL: That's not what they want to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

PAUL: He's giving the people what they want.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, come on, home is where the heart is. Home is where the heart is. And he's back home. So, I think that's a great thing.

BLACKWELL: Also, he should go to his house.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: Right there.

Yeah, there should be 30,000 people, go -- do your job. Stay humble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, man.

PAUL: I'm a Cleveland girl.

BLACKWELL: The hard - you know.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just play the game.

BLACKWELL: Play the game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

PAUL: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

PAUL: We're going to be right back. Stay close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be very honest, I always thought I would never date a tennis player. Just kind of - that's kind of the funny thing I would say about our story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When mixed double spare Michaela Krochik (ph) and Martin Imridge (ph) met in 2013, they soon realized it was a perfect match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the second of week of January, I started planning the proposal. Especially with the ring, it took me a while, and then I wrote down three papers. Corrected them all. Practiced like 30 or 40 times in the bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After months of practice, Martin knew just the place to spring the big question at the tournament where they first met.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Mike is all yours.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw him the first like five, ten seconds, he started having really tears in his eyes. Really teary-eyed he was, and then I thought, uh-oh, it's going to happen now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I ask you in front of all of these people. Do you want to marry me?

(CHEERS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: The mother of a Georgia toddler who died after being left in a hot SUV for hours says she is also a victim. In a statement, Leanna Harris writes, "The rush to judgment by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society." Police say Harris was behaving strangely in the days before and hours after the death of her son Cooper. And her husband, Justin Ross Harris, faces murder and child cruelty charges. They say that he left his 22-month-old son Cooper, police say this, they say he left him strapped into a car seat in his SUV for seven hours while he went to work back in June. He's pleaded not guilty. Leanna Harris' attorney Lawrence Zimmerman told me his client is afraid. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE ZIMMERMAN, LEANNA HARRIS'S ATTORNEY: I think at some point in time, there will be a time and a place for her to say something publicly, if she chooses, there will be that time. But the time is not right today as we sit here.

BLACKWELL: Do you think it will be before, or during or will it be after any trial?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know yet when that time and that place will be. Or when it was right. But when we feel it is right, then we'll make those decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now, we learned that Leanna Harris believed that she was the victim. She filled out this victim statement. And in the category where it says relationship to victim as related to the charges of child cruelty and felony murder, she wrote the word "self."

PAUL: I would write mother.

BLACKWELL: Mother? You know, next of ...

PAUL: Parent?

BLACKWELL: But she wrote that she was the victim in this case.

PAUL: It will be interesting how that pans out. I don't know if you've seen this family speak. Because I understand we are from California, but their teenager died after smoking one hit of synthetic marijuana. And they are sharing these really almost jolting, but really emotional pictures of him. To try to help other families so they don't end up in the same situation. 19-year-old Connor Eckhart died last month as they said after smoking just one hit of what is known as spice or K-2. It's a synthetic pot. Kind of went into a coma shortly after smoking the drug. And I talked to his parents about their ordeal and what they are doing now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, you know, we weren't parents who had our heads in the sand. We paid close attention to what was going on in the world around us, who our kids are with, who their friends are and felt like we were on top of things. And yet, we weren't aware of spice and just the lethal horrible things that could come from even a single hit of that. So I'd encourage parents one, take advantage of every moment to love on your kids and educate them and talk about things. Use our story as a way to bring awareness to the dangers that are out there. This is a substance that you can get at your local smoke shop. Your local 7-eleven store in your neighborhood. And while we can't think that we're going to change maybe drugs and battle the drug battle. What we can do is raise awareness. And the demand for a substance changes when people, you know, realize what it is and steer clear of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Well, you just see them with him there. And by the way, as you heard him say, that is right, it is legal. So they've created a Facebook page to try to warn us about the dangers of synthetic pot. They say the message is getting out. His page has gotten a huge response worldwide. And we wish them the very best.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, the challenge here is that the moment that one compound, one makeup is made illegal, you changes one small element.

PAUL: It's one little component that they modify and then all of a sudden, it's back out there again. So, please, please be careful and kids, just you have enough respect for yourselves to know what you're doing. Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of your "NEW DAY" starts right now.

PAUL: We are just about a minute away from the 7:00 hour on Saturday morning. And so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. This is "NEW DAY Saturday." And we welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We are starting in Iraq. And we've got some remarkable new video of the first U.S. air strikes targeting ISIS fighters. Look at these.

PAUL: Yeah, take a look at these images. This is from the U.S. military showing F/A-18 fighter jets keying in on an ISIS artillery unit. And then the explosion right there.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and those were the 500 pound laser-guided bombs, I think there's another one here, you'll see it. Unleashed, there it is, on the terror group that now has thousands of Iraqis running for their lives.

PAUL: These attacks took place near Erbil, that's the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region and a home base for U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. West of Erbil, as you see on the map, over Mount Sinjar, U.S. military planes have dropped more food and water to those folks.

BLACKWELL: And these are the aid packages that are being prepped to see him here in this warehouse. For members of the Yazidi minority, they're trapped in the mountains by ISIS militants who are demanding that they convert to Islam or die.

PAUL: And I want to show you this night vision video, too. Those are the pallets dropping off a cargo plane.