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Jerusalem Under Fire; Israel Preps Tanks, Troops; Petraeus Gives Testimony; Jerusalem Mayors Talks Rockets Hitting Jerusalem; Oil Rig Explosion, Fire in Gulf of Mexico; Senate, House Leaders Announce Progress on Fiscal Cliff; A Lot at Stake for U.S. in War Between Israel, Palestine
Aired November 16, 2012 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining me today. "CNN Newsroom" continues with Ashleigh Banfield.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is 11:00 on the East Coast. It's 8:00 on the West Coast and it is 6 p.m. in Jerusalem where air raid sirens have been blaring within the past hour, Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv.
Authorities are reporting that Hamas rockets have now hit outside of that city. This is huge. It is the first time since 1970 that rockets have been fired at Jerusalem.
This new escalation, that's according to the "Haaretz" newspaper in Israel, but this new escalation comes after a failed ceasefire between the Israelis and the Palestinians earlier today.
Israel had said that it held off the bombing for two hours because Egypt's prime minister was inside Gaza meeting with Hamas leaders. The Palestinians for their part are denying that. They're disputing it.
This week's fighting, we know this, has left more than 200 people injured. Three Israeli soldiers are dead. There are reports there are civilian Israelis dead, as well, 24 Palestinians killed in Gaza.
Israel is amassing tanks near the border with Gaza and has called up 16,000 army reservists.
Let's get you straight to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is live in Jerusalem at this hour.
This is extraordinary, this development, Fred. What do we know? Where did the rockets land near Jerusalem and what is being said about this?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Ashleigh, you're absolutely right. It is absolutely extraordinary and very much out of the ordinary here in Jerusalem. These air raid sirens went off, as you said, a little less than an hour ago. We could actually hear them here and then you heard sort of a thud a little bit later on.
Now, what we're hearing from the Israeli military is apparently that this rocket or missile hit somewhere south of Jerusalem. They're actually still looking for the impact site. They haven't found it yet. They believe that it landed in an unpopulated area, possibly a field.
Hamas, however, has already taken responsibility. They said that, yes, they did launch rockets or a rocket at Jerusalem and I can tell you from the people that I have been speaking to on the ground here, they were absolutely terrified of what's going on.
Because, as you said, this is something that so uncommon here in the city. The last time that this place has been hit by rockets was in the 1970s. There were some rocket alarms here or air raid alarms in the 1990 Gulf War.
However, the people here are simply not used to this. If you look at the people around Gaza and the Israeli cities there, they have this in a common place, but the people here, I would say, somewhat in a mode of panic.
Now, as I said, the rocket appears to have hit an empty field, but certainly, what we can say is that it appears as though both sides in this conflict are upping the ante. They're not taking their foot off the gas. This conflict is escalating rather than deescalating.
BANFIELD: And, you know, Fred, I just want to correct. I said that there were three Israeli soldiers who were killed. They apparently were injured and not killed.
Do you have any updates on the numbers who have been killed or injured in just the last few days of fighting?
PLEITGEN: Yeah, well, we have 24 Palestinians who were killed, including several children and an elderly woman. That, of course, is inside the Gaza Strip. Also, as you said, more than 200 people were wounded in those ongoing air raids.
And I can tell you I spent last night on the border with Gaza and you could see that place was lit up the entire night and we were hearing Israeli warplanes flying over there the entire night.
Now, as far as the Israeli side is concerned, you're absolutely right. It is three soldiers who were wounded today when had a rocket struck their vehicle and three people were killed yesterday who were inside an apartment house when a rocket struck that apartment house.
And, again, it appears as though both sides are firing at each other and non-stop today. There was that little ceasefire that was going on when the Egyptian prime minister visited Gaza. That did not hold and now things are back to the way they were. And one of the interesting developments, of course, Ashleigh, is also the fact that you have those ground troops amassing around Gaza that could lead to an Israeli ground offensive.
BANFIELD: Fred Pleitgen, live from Jerusalem, thank you. Also, stay safe.
You know, soon on this program, we're going to be able to have a conversation with the mayor of Jerusalem. We're working that interview out for you, live.
Again, the extraordinary development here, rockets fired at Jerusalem. It is not the capital at this point, but it is the disputed center of the universe, so to speak, when it comes to Israel and for the first time since the 1970s rockets now fired at that major city just two hours drive away from Tel Aviv where they have been enduring several days now of this.
And the air raid sirens are now going off in both of these cities, so this continues and we will stay on it throughout this entire hour.
Also, I've got to get you to Washington because we have so much news breaking. This is what we call in the news game "the stakeout." Take a look at these four pictures, live cameras so near and yet so far from major news that is basically in the cooker.
Just steps away behind closed doors, David Petraeus is giving testimony to the Senate intelligence committee and, at the same time at the White House, President Obama's closed door fiscal cliff talks with leaders of Congress is ongoing.
But they all have to come out sometime and, when they do, we are set with open mikes ready to hear what they all have to say about these incredibly important, but top secret meetings, it seems.
We think, as one might inspect of a military leader turned spy chief, that General Petraeus knows a thing or two about traveling under the radar. I also want to clarify that his back-to-back testimony before the intel committees of both the House and the Senate is not necessarily about the affair that he has admitted to or the fallout from this affair, but it is more about the attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that attack that killed our ambassador and three other Americans on September 11th. This year's September 11th.
CNN's Dana Bash is live now from Capitol Hill. Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon and, Dana, I want to begin with you.
We heard from one of the lawmakers in the House committee at one of those stakeouts when the first round of questioning began and the suggestion was that it was tough. Can you enlighten us?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We were told by Democrats and Republicans coming out and, of course, this is a classified briefing so there is only so much they can say, but they did some talking and they talked about the fact that, yes, there were some tough questions asked of David Petraeus. The most important question or most important issue and Barbara Starr reported this yesterday going in that a source close to Petraeus was saying that he really wanted to try to clear up the fact that he was here, he, Petraeus was here, in the days after the attack and, apparently, according to some lawmakers, seemed to suggest much more that it was the result of a demonstration after this anti-Muslim video ran in the Middle East.
He wanted to clear up the fact that, no, that's not the only thing that it was. There was also another stream of intelligence that did mention the fact that there was an extremist element here.
And, so, that was what he went in with the goal of, but listening to Democratic and Republican lawmakers coming out, boy, did they get different impressions.
Listen to Peter King, first, and the Democratic vice-chair of this committee, Dutch Ruppersberger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: General Petraeus' testimony today was that from the start he had told us this was a terrorist attack, that there were terrorists involved from the start.
I told him my questions. I had a very different recollection of that. The clear impression we were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it was -- arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and was not a terrorist attack.
REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is all about your perception and the information that you received.
My -- when I was there and Chairman Rogers was not -- he was at another function -- my recollection is that we felt it was as a result of a protest and that was the beginning.
So, the first thing you hear is maybe what you retain, but he also said that in the group there were extremists and some al Qaeda affiliates and that was said that in the very beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, what you see, I think, seems to depend on where you stand on the political spectrum, Ashleigh. There's no question.
One other thing I want to mention is that the controversy also is over the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used when she was on the ...
BANFIELD: Dana, let me interrupt you for just a moment. John McCain has just emerged from the Senate select intelligence committee meeting and let's listen to what he has to say.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED) SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: ... ability to make judgments about what is clearly a failure of intelligence and who described the actions and that of his agency, their interaction with other agencies and I appreciate his service and his candor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, did his story change (INAUDIBLE) just after the incident?
(END LIVE FEED)
BANFIELD: So, as the Senator walks away from the reporters who are amassed, he is with the armed services committee, so it's unlikely that he's been able to be privy to the closed-door meeting of the Senate intelligence committee.
I don't know, Dana, can you shed light on that? I didn't get to hear what he said, unfortunately.
BASH: Yes. He actually has been in the intelligence committee meetings. You're right. He is not a member, officially, of the intelligence committee anymore, but he used to be, so there are privileges for people like him with his kind of seniority.
They get to sit in on these intelligence meetings and he has been going to most, if not all, of these important meetings and including the one yesterday.
I think the gist of what he was saying was not much because it was a classified briefing, but he said that he was candid in his assessment of what he knows now versus what he initially knew in the days following the attack.
Remember, part of the reason why these lawmakers wanted to hear from David Petraeus is because he only came to Congress once to brief them.
After that, he took a trip to Libya and, so, he didn't have a chance to give them his trip report which is really crucial. As one senator told me, it was a big stone left unturned.
BANFIELD: OK, and got another question I need to ask you. The star person in this entire day, whether it is the Senate or the House intelligence committee hearings, is General Petraeus.
Normally, we get, you know, some kind of view of people walking into these meetings, walking out of these meetings, whether they stop for the cameras or not is up it them. Today, however, nothing. We never saw him anywhere and that is unusual.
BASH: It is unusual, but it's not for lack of trying, I can tell you that, Ashleigh. At the beginning you showed the various cameras around, that's not even the half of it. There are cameras all over the capitol complex, not just ours, our competitors, as well, trying to get a picture of David Petraeus.
We are still trying because we believe he is still sort of down the hall behind me on the senate side. I'm going to actually -- want to -- and we have a member of the armed services committee coming here up to the stakeout, so I should be respectful and toss it back to you, but let me just tell you something very fast.
And that is the interesting thing is that David Petraeus did at the beginning address the fact that he had to resign because of an affair in the House briefing, but he made clear that had nothing to do with the Benghazi issue at all. They were completely separate and that was the only time it was mentioned.
And I'm going to toss it back to you.
BANFIELD: OK, I'm going to let you listen in and if you could just give us a summary of the briefing going on behind you, Dana. Thank you.
This is a very live and rolling show. Let me go to Barbara Starr who's at the Pentagon right now.
Let's talk about the Benghazi affair and the discrepancy in the terrorist attack and the reporting of it. Let's just start there.
One of the issues is the use of the word "terrorism," the use of the word "spontaneous" and how this may have been qualified by General Petraeus on the 14th and by General Petraeus today.
Can you help sort this out?
BARABARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, I've talked to someone who has directly spoken to him about his Benghazi assessment, someone who's up here and knows his thinking very directly on this matter.
What we are told is General Petraeus is trying to make the case that there are two streams of intelligence here. One was about responsibility. Who was responsible for the attack? What did the spy agency think about that question of responsibility?
The second stream of intelligence was on motivation. What was the motivation for the attack?
Some of these things, you know, in the world of intelligence begin to overlap. It may not be a clean difference at the end of the day.
What Petraeus believes, we are told, is that pretty soon afterwards he comes to understand that al Qaeda sympathizer group, Ansar al-Sharia, a pretty murky, fluid group all on its own, had fighters there at the consulate compound that night.
He gets a lot of intelligence that that Islamic video, the anti- Islamic video, may have sparked some of that activity outside the consulate, but that is all disproved, we're told.
But the problem is they aren't able to really disprove or toss out the notion that the video had a lot to do with it into well after he briefed Congress back on September 14th, well after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice made her comment.
So, there's a lot of murkiness and it was kind of a moving train, if you will.
BANFIELD: Yeah. All right, Barbara, thank you.
And there's also something often called the "fog of war" to consider, as well, so to that end, Barbara, we're going to speak with General "Spider" Marks later on in the program to see what his take is to basically piece together information when you do have something that is like a war zone developing.
So, that's coming up ahead and a whole lot more, as well, from the White House, all in a moment.
BANFIELD: It's very busy day, especially for Friday in Washington, D.C.
At the White House, a six-week push to beat the January 1st deadline starts now, officially really.
President Obama and top congressional leaders all meeting this morning and their mission? To negotiate this fiscal cliff. Because, if no deal is reached, $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts take effect immediately upon the new year.
Listen to what the president had to say just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do. We've got to make sure taxes don't go up on middle-class families, that our economy remains strong, that we're creating jobs and that's an agenda that Democrats and Republicans and independents, people all across the country, share.
So, our challenge is to make sure that, you know, we are able to cooperate together, work together, find some common ground, make some tough compromises, build some consensus to do the people's business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Let's take you live back to the Senate intelligence committee microphone. This is Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota, the Democrat on the committee. Let's listen to what he has to say.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
SENATOR KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: What is very clear is that Ambassador Rice used the talking points that the intelligence committee had all signed off on. That is very, very clear.
She used the unclassified talking points that were signed off on by the entire intelligence community, so criticisms of her are completely unwarranted. That is very clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you able to say whether the CIA thought it was a terrorist act within the first 24 hours and did it include al Qaeda?
CONRAD: I don't think I should respond to that question because of the questions of classification.
Again, what is very clear is Ambassador Rice used the unclassified talking points, the unclassified talking points that the entire intelligence community had signed off on, so she did completely the appropriate thing.
Now, there are other things that are classified. That's a totally different subject and I can't talk about that now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you able to say whether General Petraeus contradicted anything that you heard yesterday?
CONRAD: Look, General Petraeus as director of the CIA has been completely consistent.
(END LIVE FEED)
BANFIELD: And, as Senator Conrad makes his way away from the gaggle of reporters and, again, this is a bit like whiplash today. We were back to the Benghazi hearings and the Senate intelligence committee.
He said and he reiterated it very clearly twice, almost as though it was a prepared statement, that Ambassador Susan Rice used talking points -- unclassified, he clarified -- unclassified talking points signed of on by the intelligence committee.
And then he went on to say there are other things that are classified that he could not discuss. This is critical. There's been so much criticism of Ambassador Susan Rice going on in the Sunday morning talk show circuit after this September 11th attack on Benghazi and suggesting that this was a spontaneous attack as a result of an offensive Muslim movie, an anti-Islam movie.
That clearly now has not become the narrative and this was the reaction from Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota having just emerged from a closed-door Senate intelligence committee with General Petraeus.
He added, General Petraeus, the director of the CIA, was, I think he said, completely truthful. I will have to go back to the transcript on that one. Been busy.
I want to go back to the White House now. We're going to hopscotch all around Washington where Jill Dougherty is standing by.
So, Jill, take me through what we can expect from this -- I like to call them "The Big Six." It's the leaders of the House, the leaders of the Senate. It's Joe Biden and the president, all getting together to try to stop a crisis, a financial crisis in the way of the fiscal cliff.
Where do we stand and what's today going to accomplish that we haven't been able to accomplish up to now?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, you can't really say what they will accomplish because right now we're hearing what we have heard all along.
And you played that piece of tape from the president, pretty much what he said all along about protecting middle-class Americans, et cetera.
I think where you're seeing a little hint perhaps of some shift is on the Republican side where they are talking about revenue. They're not talking specifically -- well, they're saying that they're open to increasing revenue. They are not talking about taxes, but they're talking about tax rates.
And, if you translate all of that, it means that they believe that, number one, they have to get more money in. How do you do that?
They don't want to raise tax rates, but they do say they'd be open to kind of what you heard during the campaign, in fact, closing loopholes, closing deductions, but they are open to that part of the equation, getting more money in.
Then on the Democratic side, of course, you have that difficulty of how do you cut back on some of the entitlements when some of the Democrats don't want that to happen?
The president says that he is open to it, but again, how? That's -- you know, the fine print is what we need.
BANFIELD: All right, Jill Dougherty, live for us at the White House. Thank you so much.
Keep an eye on that for us because I know there will be additional talking points likely today. We do have that stakeout position ready to go with what we like to call a "hot mike."
We're going to take a "hot break" and come right back after the break.
BANFIELD: Some stunning news as air raid sirens blare in Jerusalem within the last hour. Israel is reporting that Hamas rockets are hitting outside of that city, Jerusalem.
Israel has been amassing tanks near the border with Gaza and has called up 16,000 army reservists, but don't forget Jerusalem is near the West Bank. It actually is part of the West Bank. Part of Jerusalem is in the West Bank.
So, now, this is without question, spreading and those rockets represent the first time since 1970 that rockets have been fired at Jerusalem and, with the pounding of Gaza, rockets targeting Tel Aviv and now Jerusalem is there any way through all of this without an all- out war?
Martin Indyk is an expert on Arab and Israeli relations because he's the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and he joins me live right via Skype from Abu Dhabi.
And, Ambassador Indyk, thanks so much for being with me. I just want to get your reaction it this news within the past hour of these rockets, these Hamas rockets, being fired at Jerusalem now and landing nearby.
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well, it's clearly a provocation and it's designed to, I think, get Israel to react.
I suspect at the moment that Hamas would have actually liked the Israelis to bring it on, to go in on the ground in a way that they think they can benefit from, particularly in terms of international condemnation.
The rockets on Jerusalem is also a way of symbolically sending a message to other Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Arab world that they are somehow working to liberate Jerusalem, although it is hard to imagine how a rocket falling there would do that.
But I think that Hamas has calculated that they benefit from escalation which is not what the Israelis imagined at all.
BANFIELD: And Mr. Ambassador, give us a bit of a geography lesson just in terms of Gaza being quite a distance away from Jerusalem and, thereby, it would stand to reason they did not come from Gaza, but instead came from the West Bank which is under different leadership.
Am I mistaken in this assessment?
INDYK: Yes, I think so. I don't believe ...
BANFIELD: Does this mean there is a unification of sorts now in this all-out effort between the leadership in the West Bank and the leadership in Gaza?
INDYK: I think you're mistaken. I do not believe that those rockets came from the West Bank. They can reach Jerusalem from Gaza. If they can reach Tel Aviv, they can reach Jerusalem.
INDYK: I would be very surprised if they're coming from the West Bank.
BANFIELD: OK, thank you very much. I appreciate that, that clarification.
So, if you could explain for me at this point when you see the amassing of these troops, the calling out of the reservists and the tanks that are headed to the border between Gaza and Israel, is it likely that there is going to be this full-scale ground war?
Because the only suggestion we had that a trigger would be was increasing rocket attacks and we just saw that.
INDYK: Yes. Actually, as I say, I think that Hamas, at this point, is actually doing something that we would regard as counter-intuitive, but I suspect that they actually want to provoke a ground war.
They want Israel to come in because that will inevitably involve an increase in civilian casualties in Gaza as a result of the Israeli operations and I suspect that Hamas thinks they benefit more from that and by showing that they're resisting Israel than they do from a grouping to a ceasefire on the kinds of terms that the Israelis would insist upon.
BANFIELD: And, now, of course the neighbors are all in such a different state since the last time there was this kind of escalation, so there are so many more questions I have, Ambassador Indyk, and I have to cut it short there because we have a number of different interviews set up and we have a lot of news breaking here on our shores, as well.
Thank you, sir. Do appreciate your time and I hope to speak with you again soon.
You don't want to miss this. The Israel's ambassador to the United Nations was with us but we're also going to effort the mayor of Jerusalem. We're trying to line up that interview for you as well. And we do have a lot more, not only in this story, but on our fiscal cliff and on our issues with Benghazi and a lot more, in a moment.
BANFIELD: If you're just joining us there is breaking news, pretty severe development in the situation in Israel. The battle raging in Gaza just reached outside of Gaza and now has made its way all the way to Jerusalem. In the last hour, rockets fired by Hamas have landed to the south of that city and that would represent the first time since 1970 that rockets have been fired upon that city. Part of that city actually lies in the West Bank as well, and it is quite some distance away from Gaza. This, as tanks and soldiers and reservists are lining up along the border. And there is a threat of all-out ground war if the escalation and rocket attacks continue.
I am lucky to be joined on the telephone by Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem.
Mr. Mayor, can you hear me?
NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM (voice-over): Yes. Hi, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Could you give me the latest on the developments that these rockets, and how many have landed if the barrage continues, or if it was just this one incident?
BARKAT: Well, we're very alert. The rockets are all around Gaza, from Gaza, in indiscriminate ways to major cities in the country, to Tel Aviv and south of Jerusalem. We have an issue with an enemy that wants to destroy Israel. And unfortunately, they have no ethics, no values. They would shoot rockets, they continue shooting rockets indiscriminately. And Israel has had enough of this. And the government said enough is enough, and we're going after the people in charge.
BANFIELD: Mr. Mayor, can you tell me where the rockets landed, if they have affected any damage, if there are any injuries?
BARKAT: No, we usually don't say where exactly they land. But no damage made. And I think that -- we're, of course, arranged in Jerusalem. We're ready for it. We're using all the emergency rooms and making sure that people remind themselves and we remind them what people have to do in case of an emergency.
BANFIELD: And the people of Jerusalem are not as use to this as people in Tel Aviv are. When the air raid sirens go off in Tel Aviv, it is a drill that's very familiar. When the air raid sirens go off in your city, what is happening? What are people saying? And are they aware of what's going on?
BARKAT: Yes, they are. And basically, it is a very simple rule. You have you to find a place -- use your common sense and find a place protected from rockets. And people everywhere in the city and all over the country are very much aware of what they have to do in case they hear the sirens go off and
I have to admit that the major challenge we all have -- and Israel is now united behind Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government and the army -- to go after the people in charge, to go after their warehouses and eliminate their ability to try and terrorize Israel.
BANFIELD: Can I ask if you have had a chance at this point to speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since these rockets fell?
BARKAT: No. He has his job to do. We trust him to do the right job.
I think the Israeli army has demonstrated that, rather than indiscriminate firings on civilians and cities, the Israeli army is focusing on very, very targeted use of force. And the message that we have to the people using force against Israel, that we will hunt you down. We will not enable you to try to terrorize our cities.
You know, Ashleigh, imagine for a second what the U.S. of A would you do if Florida started getting rockets from Cuba or anywhere else? Can you imagine that day after day after day? What would the U.S. government do? What would the people of America expect from their government to do if indiscriminate fire lands in cities in the United States? I assume I know what the public in the United States would request or demand from its government. It is absurd that the world is enabling -- unfortunately, some of the world enabling indiscriminate fire at cities and people. And, by the way, the rockets fall on kindergartens, on hotels, on civilian houses.
BANFIELD: Right. Well, Mr. Mayor, I appreciate you taking the time, and I wish you the best for the people in your city tonight. And I hope, for the sake of everyone inside those borders, whether they're in Gaza or the West Bank or in Israel, proper, that you all come to some kind of resolution and the bloodshed stops.
Thanks for joining us, Mr. Mayor.
That is the Mayor Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, joining us.
I want to take you to other breaking news. And that is in the gulf. Our breaking news from the Gulf of Mexico, if you can believe it now, there is apparently an oil rig that is on fire in the Gulf of Mexico at this time. There are reports coming out that there could be death and injury. The U.S. Coast Guard is telling CNN the rig is owned by Black Elk Oil that it is on fire, and that it is off the coast of Grand Aisle, Louisiana, and that it exploded earlier on today.
Ryan Tippets is a petty officer with the New Orleans Coast Guard and he joins me live on the phone.
Officer Tippets, can you hear me?
Officer Tippets, can you hear me?
RYAN TIPPETS, PETTY OFFICER, U.S. COAST GUARD (voice-over): Yes, ma'am.
BANFIELD: Sir, can you give me the latest that you have on the situation that's developing in the gulf with this rig?
TIPPETS: OK. Our initial reports are that they -- a rig exploded approximately 20 nautical miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. Four people being commercially medevaced and two people are missing possibly overboard. Several Coast Guard assets are en route to assist the situation.
BANFIELD: This is currently burning. Is the fire being fought at this point?
TIPPETS: I can't confirm on the status of the fire.
BANFIELD: But at this point, do you know if there is oil spilling into the gulf?
TIPPETS: We haven't received any reports of any kind o of oil being released into the water.
BANFIELD: But that doesn't tell me whether that's something that can be known at this time if you said there are vessels, Coast Guard vessels en route. Is there even an assessment that's been made whether there is a spill?
TIPPETS: Right. I can't tell you for sure right now if there has been any assessments. The Coast Guard assets are en route and they're going to investigate the same and assist in any way they can.
BANFIELD: We were just looking at a photograph from our affiliate, WVUE, of what it currently looks like, and the smoke. Have you had an assessment of any kind? Helicopters or live transmissions of images? Do you know the scope of this fire, because from this purview, it looks fairly big?
TIPPETS: We haven't seen any image from the fire yet. We have Coast Guard helicopters en route to assess the area.
BANFIELD: And when you said two are missing at this point, is there any inclination that they may be found? Are there efforts right now in the water nearby? What are the efforts to find the two missing at this time?
TIPPETS: Right. There are several commercial vessels on scene and also Coast Guard vessels are en route to assist in the search of the missing personnel.
BANFIELD: And what kind of rescue teams are on board the vessels?
TIPPETS: Those Coast Guard assets have crews trained in search and rescue situations.
BANFIELD: How many people were on this rig, do you know?
TIPPETS: I know six, for sure. I don't have an exact number of how many people on board.
BANFIELD: Six people that you know of, but we don't know at this point the whereabouts of two.
Sir, thank you so much. I appreciate your time with us.
We're going to continue to follow this live as the developments come in.
I also want to take you back to the live camera positions. This is outside of the White House. John Boehner taking the microphone. And let's listen in.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: -- by significant spending cuts. And while we're going to continue to have revenue on the table, it is going to be incumbent for my colleagues to show the American people that we're serious about cutting spending and solving our fiscal dilemma. I believe that we can do this and avert the fiscal cliff that's right in front of us today.
HARRY REID, (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This isn't the first time we have dealt with these issues. We feel we understand what the problem is. And we felt very -- I feel very good about what we were able to talk about in there. We have a cornerstone to being able to work something out. We're both going to have to give up some of the things that we know are a problem. And so it is like when we arrive at a point where we all know something has to be done, there is no more "let's do it some other time.". We're going to do it now. I think there is we feel very comfortable with each other and this isn't something we're going to wait until the last day of December to get it done. We have a plan. We're going to move forward on it. We're going to work during the Thanksgiving recess. And we're going to meet with the president when we come back the first week, at least that's as I understand it. I think it was a very constructive meeting. I feel very good about what we were able to talk about.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (D-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Go ahead, Nancy.
NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Thank you.
It was a very constructive meeting. It was a -- we had a recognition that every person in America knows that we must reach agreement. We had -- the speaker spoke about a framework going into next year. I was focusing on how we send a message of confidence to consumers, to the markets in the short run, too. That is to say that we should have a goal in terms of how much deficit reduction. We should have a deadline before Christmas. We should show some milestones of success so that confidence can build as we reach our solution. Because if we do not reach agreement, not only will we miss the opportunity for doing something good for our economy and lifting the spirits and the confidence in our country, we he will have an economic downturn that must be avoided. We understand our responsibility there. We understand that it has to be about cuts. It has to be about revenue. It has to be about growth. It has to be about the future. As we cut investments and as we talk about revenue, we have to do so in a way that promotes growth and supports the future.
It was good. I feel confident that a solution may be in sight.
MCCONNELL: Yes, I can only echo the observations of the others that it was a constructive meeting. We all understand where we are.
I can say on the part of my members that we fully understand that you can't save the country until you have entitlement programs that fit the demographics of the changing America in the coming years. We're prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we fix the real problem. Even though most of my members, I think, without exception, believe we're in the dilemma we're in, not because we tax too little, but because we spend too much.
Just one final observation on another issue. I had a chance to talk to the president yesterday about his trip to Burma, a country that I have had a longstanding interest in over the last 20 years. I want to commend him for going. I think it is an important step for him to take.
BOEHNER: Thanks, everybody.
BANFIELD: OK. There you have it. Boy, was it ever good that we had the mics ready to go. Wow, has this ever been a busy hour.
Look, I write fast, but not fast enough. I missed some of the comments that John Boehner made. But let me give you a quick summary of the highlights here. And let's call them highlights because, finally, Kumbaya. Let's hope it lasts.
So the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, suggested that both of us -- we're both going to have to give up what we want and call this the cornerstone of working something out. That sounds good. Then Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, saying that this has to be about cuts. This has to be about revenue. This has to be about growth and that she is confident a solution is in sight. Sounds good, too. And then the House minority leader, or rather the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, is also suggesting that this was a constructive meeting and that we are prepared to put revenue on the table.
So they just emerged from the meeting. It looked like they were going right back in. Maybe they were going to have lunch. I don't know. They sure deserve it if they were able to come to rhetoric like that in any case.
Going to take to you break for a moment. hopefully, I can scramble up Wolf Blitzer. But given the fact we're so busy with breaking news, he is probably busy as well.
Back in a moment.
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BANFIELD: A thunderous night of bombs and rockets lighting up the sky -- Israel into Gaza. And now Jerusalem embroiled in a dangerous escalation of violence right now that is threatening to explode into an all-out ground war as rockets land near Jerusalem and troops amass near the border with Gaza. And make no mistake, there is a lot at stake for the United States as well.
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, is here to talk about this impending crisis.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for taking the time to see us today.
RON PROSOR, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thanks for having me.
BANFIELD: I want to get your initial reaction to this news in the last hour of these missiles landing near Jerusalem for the first time since 1970.
PROSOR: Well, it shows you what we are up against. Missiles in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv. Hamas is indiscriminately throwing missiles at major population centers in Israel. It's basically committing a double war crime. It takes and shoots from Palestinian neighborhoods into Israeli cities, from Palestinian schools into Israeli schools. And we will do everything we have to do in order to protect our civilians. We cannot play Russian roulette with the lives of our citizens.
BANFIELD: I'm sure you have heard the arguments for decades on the other side. These strikes that are happening in Gaza, while it is said that they are surgical, we've seen the evidence of children bleeding, of mothers that are dying as well. How surgical can they be? Some say it's a sledgehammer approach to the problem that you are facing when there is this kind of collateral damage.
PROSOR: Well, first of all, it's hard. But secondly, one has to remember that Hamas is using highly civilian population areas in order to shoot at Israel. What did we try? We withdrew out of Gaza in order for them to organize Gaza as a prosperous place. That didn't work.
BANFIELD: Americans also engage in war zones that are in populated places as well.
BANFIELD: And the efforts are always to ensure that when you are in an urban community and you are engaging in combat in an urban community, that there can't be indiscriminate bombings, that this can't go on like this.
PROSOR: This is not -- Israel is targeting the military infrastructure of Hamas. We are going after what Hamas -- look at the amazing piles of missiles that they have. 500 missiles just today, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv. Instead of them allocating resources to the welfare of the people, they have put money and changed Gaza into a launching pad against Israel, a terrorist hub where all global terrorism comes over, and a munitions dump to weapons coming from all over the world. No government, no nation can stand with something like that taking place against its citizens.
BANFIELD: So what happens next? If this is going to be the -- listen, what we have been told is that the trigger for this ground assault and the breach of the Gaza border would be increased missile attacks. And I just reported it. These attacks have now taken a new perspective near Jerusalem. Is that the trigger? And if that trigger has been pulled, what's happening next? What is this going to look like, and how far is this going to go?
PROSOR: I'm going to tell you, it's very simple. If it's going to be quiet in Israel, it's going to be quiet in Gaza. Hamas are the enemies of peace, not just towards Israel. They are the enemies of peace also on the Palestinian side. And they create regional instability. Hamas --
BANFIELD: It's difficult to hear enemies of peace because when you talk to Palestinians, they say the Israelis are the enemies of peace. Everyone wants peace. Everyone has children. They want piece on their terms, and there's a lot of an intransience on both sides.
PROSOR: It's very simple. Missiles are falling --
BANFIELD: It's not very simple.
PROSOR: No, it's not very simple. But missiles are falling on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Just think if missiles would be falling in the middle of Manhattan, London or Paris.
BANFIELD: And if Manhattan, London and Paris were occupied and didn't have their own autonomy --
BANFIELD: -- their own state, their own recognition --
BANFIELD: -- they would feel as though they had to fight too.
PROSOR: No one, no country, no nation, and no government can withstand that. We are doing everything we can to hit the infrastructure of Hamas. And believe me, the minute they would be weakened, we have better chances of talking with more moderate people in order to achieve comprehensive peace --
BANFIELD: Ah, you moved me to the next question.
PROSOR: -- that we really need --
BANFIELD: These people that you want to negotiate with -- we saw the targeted killing, the assignation of the military leader of Hamas earlier this week that has led to what we're seeing now. Are there other military leaders, are there other political leaders of Hamas that are now in the crosshairs of the IDF?
PROSOR: I would first like to say that Mr. Jabri (ph) is not exactly Mother Theresa. The guy is a mass murderer.
BANFIELD: He is one of the military leaders.
PROSOR: He has murdered women and children.
BANFIELD: Are there others?
PROSOR: And people like that, when they are -- the world is a better and safer place without those people. And we have better chances without people like that of achieving peace.
BANFIELD: Are there others who are -- are being targeted as well, other leaders?
PROSOR: Israel will do whatever it takes to make sure that Israeli civilians are not in harm's way by people whose only issue here is to hit indiscriminately against --
BANFIELD: Does that mean the leadership? Does that mean additional targeted leadership?
PROSOR: I'm not going to get into military operations, but I can tell you that we'll do anything it takes to protect our citizens from this indiscriminate rocket attacks. And I have to tell you today, when I see Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and when I talk to my family, as an Israeli, I really feel that enough is enough.
PROSOR: We have to set a line in the sand and say enough is enough. We will do anything it takes to protect our citizens.
BANFIELD: And I hope that both sides in this combat can reach some kind of resolution soon. And my best to, not only your side, but the Palestinians as well.
Ambassador Prosor, thank you so much for being with us today.
PROSOR: Thank you.
BANFIELD: And Godspeed.
PROSOR: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Back after this.
BANFIELD: I want to give you an update to the fire that we've been telling you about. One of our many breaking stories this hour. A rig that's just breaking off the coast of Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. In an interview we heard just earlier on in this program we learned that there are two people missing. Four people who were being medevaced. The knowledge of the Coast Guard officer that I spoke with was that there may have only been six people on the platform, but there is still a lot to assess with this Coast Guard fire. It's about 20 nautical miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. And at this point Coast Guard vessels are en route to the platform. Coast Guard helicopters also en route. Rescue teams a part of this as well. We are being told the fire at this point now is being fought. And also at this point we're told that there is no oil leaking into the water. Although, in my earlier interview, there was quite a bit of assessment that would need to be done clearly before that could be determined 100 percent.