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New Explosions in Gaza City

Aired November 19, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone. We're coming to you tonight live from Gaza City, where today, we have seen continued violence in what was day six of this conflict.

We begin tonight with breaking news at this hour. New explosions rocking the city of Gaza. Just moments ago off in the distance, in what sounded like rolling thunder, the sound of explosions in -- somewhere in Gaza, not in the actual area that we can see so it must be on the other side of the building where we are right now.

Earlier also in the past hour, we saw a number of rockets being fired from Gaza City toward Israel and we saw Israel's Iron Dome air defense system actually take out some of those rockets in midair. So it doesn't seem like they actually reached across the border into Israel and actually land in Israel.

We've seen explosions really over the last several hours, though not as active as we saw last night, but it was a very busy day here in Gaza, a day -- a deadly day as well. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Day six of the battle between Hamas and Israeli defense forces. Day six of rockets crisscrossing the border, despite efforts to broker a cease-fire, the specter of an Israeli ground invasion is still very real.

This strike occurred Monday around 2:00 a.m. when we were live on CNN.

(On camera): Also two media centers -- whoa. That was a rather large explosion. That occurred -- just look out here. I can't actually see where the impact of that was. It's actually set off a number of car alarms but that was probably the largest explosion that we've heard just in the past -- really in the past hour.

(Voice-over): By daylight, the results of that strike were clear.

(On camera): And this is the results of the explosion that we witnessed last night. It's the police station or a police station in Gaza City. Local people say it was still being built so there weren't a lot of police officers or anybody inside. Two people were injured, they say, it's not clear who those people were. But the building is pretty well destroyed. It will take quite awhile to rebuild.

(Voice-over): All day and all night, IDF drones fly over Gaza looking for targets but it hasn't stopped the rockets from being fired into Israel.

(On camera): That's a rocket that's just been fired up there. You can see the smoke trail in the sky. That's about the fifth rocket we've seen being fired in the last 20 minutes or so.

(Voice-over): CNN's Fred Pleitgen on the Israeli side of the border experiences the terror that's the reality for those living in the rockets' range.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have an alarm going off right now. I'm going to have to seek cover. We're going to go over here. Let's take the camera off the tripod. All right. Seems like something impacted in the distance. Not sure how far away.

There, over in the sky, you probably won't be able to see it here, there's an interceptor missile taking off right now. That is the Iron Dome interceptor right there. If you just saw the flash in the sky, that was a rocket coming out of Gaza that was just intercepted right now.

COOPER: Back in Gaza, a targeted strike on the second story of a building that houses various media groups. Two people are killed, one of them an official from Islamic jihad rent an office in the building. Islamic jihad is a group that Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization.

(On camera): Regular life here in Gaza City is pretty much ground to a halt. Stores are closed and shuttered. Streets which would normally be filled with people are largely empty. Most people just try to stay indoors as much as they can, only venturing out when they absolutely need to in order to buy supplies for their families. Otherwise, it's just too dangerous to go out.

(Voice-over): These days, for Israelis along the border and residents of Gaza City, there is no such thing as regular life. As the battle enters its seventh day, casualties, rage and grief grow on both sides of the border along with the fear that the worst may be yet to come.


COOPER: And I'm joined by Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem, also here with Ben Wedeman and Arwa Damon.

Arwa, yesterday you were at the scene of probably what was the most controversial attack, a strike on what Israeli forces said was a building owned by a Hamas official, commander of the -- of an artillery unit. They say initially he had been killed, then they stepped back from that. A number of members of the family, at least nine members of a family were killed.

What was the scene like?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was very intense. There was a lot of anger, there was a lot of frustration and there was also a certain sense of resignation. People here have been through this before and they fully expect to have to go through it once again.

People were frantically digging through the rubble, some of them even using their bare hands, screaming for shovels, for anything they could possibly find. They were hoping to find survivors but of course we now know that that was not the case.

COOPER: We have some of your report. Let's play that.


DAMON (voice-over): The large slab of concrete and mangled metal finally gives way. Buried beneath it, another lifeless body. It's the second child we've seen. There was also a baby. Others in the neighborhood say the blast killed all 10 people who lived here.

The rescue efforts are not always so hopeless. Not far from here, just the day before, 11-month-old Ahmed and his 4-year-old sister, Shahata (ph), both survived a multiple missile strike on their home.


COOPER: And obviously an attack like that just -- it accentuates people's anger toward Israel here in Gaza.

DAMON: Of course it does. It most certainly does. In this other house we went to visit, that family that actually did survive the airstrike, that we were speaking with the mother and she was the last person to be extracted from the building, and she was saying that, you know, yes, on the one hand she does want revenge but at the same time, she was saying that more important than that, she wants peace. People are so exhausted, they have been through this so many times.

COOPER: Yes. Ben Wedeman was at the funeral for that family today, that family of nine. Let's play some of his piece.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The body of 5-year-old Yusef Dallu was held aloft as calls rang out for revenge. In life, Yusef was a child known only to his family and friends. In death, yet another potent symbol for the cameras and the angry crowds.

Their bodies were carried through the street to the sound of gunfire, under the banners of Hamas, to the Sheikh Radwan cemetery. When the crowd leaves and the chanting stops, the real mourning begins. Friends and relatives quietly pray for the dead. Quiet tears are shed for the latest to die so suddenly without warning. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How hardened have the positions come now on both sides of this border?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly they are harder than I have ever seen before. I mean, in Israel, there really is sort of an exhausted anger at the fact that these rockets have been coming over for so long and now for the first time, this time they're hitting places like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. On this side, there's a real sense of hopelessness that, you know, they've gone through the Camp David Accords, they've watched their leaders go into talks time and time again with Israel.

Now they're ruled by Hamas, much more rejectionist than the PLO was years ago. But they feel that, you know, the best they can hope for now is not peace or a solution, but just a period of relative calm.

COOPER: Wolf Blitzer, you were in Ashkelon earlier today. And I think we have some of that report. Let's play that.

I'm told we don't have that. We'll have that later on.

What did you see in Ashkelon? Because obviously that is a town that has been hard hit and people unfortunately have become very used to having to run for cover when some of these rockets are fired into Israel.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: It was pretty eerie, I got to tell you. It's a city of about 100,000 people, Ashkelon, and it just literally when we got there, we went to a high school where there had been a rocket that was -- that hit that high school earlier in the day. We wanted to see what it was like as we were pulling into the parking lot for the high school.

All of a sudden, these sirens went off and we realized that a rocket or a missile or whatever was heading towards our way, and then these Israeli soldiers came running out and said get in, get in, follow us, 30 seconds, 30 seconds, and we followed them into a shelter where it was crowded inside. Israeli soldiers, civilians.

Then we were in for a couple of minutes and then we finally emerged and we did hear these loud -- these loud thumps in the sky, and then we saw these plumes of cloud. It was one of those Iron Dome anti-missile systems that had destroyed the incoming rocket, coming into Ashkelon. As a result there was nobody hurt. But it was a terrifying scene. A lot of people were scared, especially the young kids were very scared, and this goes on all the time.

They get about 1,000 of these rockets that have been launched in the past six days from Gaza into Israel. The Iron Dome has worked pretty successfully, Anderson. About 90 percent of the missiles, the anti-missiles that were launched worked, and they only use it when they sense that one of these rockets or missiles is heading toward a populated area or a strategically important area. If it's just going to a farmland or rural area, they're not going to use it. But it's been pretty successful so far. It's probably saved a bunch of lives but it's a very tense situation here in Israel and I sense even as the Israeli cabinet meets, this thing could go either way, a cease-fire or all-out Israeli ground invasion.

COOPER: We're going to talk to a member of -- a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in just a few moments.

Ben, explain how the level of sophistication of these rockets that Hamas and other groups here in Gaza have, has increased and also how are they able to get rockets in?

WEDEMAN: Well, they are much more sophisticated than they were, say, six years ago. I went to a rocket factory here and it's very crude. No guidance systems, made with basically fertilizer propellant. Now they're getting these rockets, some of them through the tunnels in the southern border with Egypt. Some of them, the Fajr-5 is more than one stage. It's a long rocket. Has to be disassembled and brought in, and this has increased the range of the rockets fired by Hamas and the other resistance organizations as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That is real significant change. Really the most significant change we've seen in the conflict between Hamas and Israel for quite some time.

COOPER: You and I were also on the scene about four or five blocks from here earlier in the day when three Israeli missiles hit the second floor of the media center. Again, explain what happened there earlier.

WEDEMAN: Well, that was about 3:20 in the afternoon and we saw three rockets hit the building. One hit the front, we saw great big ball of flame coming out. Very quickly, a large crowd of journalists, of course, and first responders, the fire department, the ambulances, showed up. They did bring out a man on a stretcher, his body was completely charred. He appeared lifeless.

COOPER: His clothes had been burned off, everything.

WEDEMAN: Completely. Absolutely. And we do believe that he is this member of Islamic jihad who is the leader of their so-called military media office.

COOPER: And so the Israelis are saying that he was among -- one of the targets. They said a number of people from the Islamic jihad was in the building and he was the one that was killed.

WEDEMAN: Yes, that's right. But in addition to him, there was a shop keeper in the building who died of a heart attack as a result of the blasts. So another victim.

COOPER: And, Arwa, you've been talking to people, you both are fluent in Arabic, obviously you've been talking to people in the marketplace. For regular life for people here has really -- and I think we're about to hear it, we just saw the sky light up, just heard another explosion off in the distance there, pretty distant, though, because not a huge -- not a huge sound.

Regular life here has pretty much ground to a halt as it has on the Israeli side of the border in some of these border towns.

DAMON: It most certainly has. And you walk through the streets here feel as if --

COOPER: And again, you can hear -- you probably picked up that one. That was actually a little bit closer. It almost sounds like rolling thunder, kind of echoing in this densely populated city. Go on.

DAMON: It does. And it is -- you know, sounds like that. Experiences like this that have effectively driven people indoors because they do believe as if they have no way to keep themselves safe other than try to stay well inside. You drive through the streets here, at any time of day, and they are completely deserted, especially after dark, when people tell us that the -- that is when strikes are really intensifying.

When you drive through here during the day, you feel as if you're almost in any other war zone because it's so deserted, the shops are closed, but the reality is that the people here have not fled. They have nowhere to go. And a lot of the families that we're talking to are saying that the best thing they can do is really sit at home and pray. Tonight we were in a home where 30 members of one family had crowded together, the children were all underfoot because they felt that their own neighborhoods were quite simply too dangerous for them to stay in.

COOPER: And again, we hear this on both sides of the border. The regular life for families, for children, for women, very much affected by this, obviously. Appreciate your reporting. We'll continue to have more from Ben and Arwa and also Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

I want to bring in Vigal Palmor who is a spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Palmor, appreciate you being with us. There's been a lot of talk, a lot of rumors over the last 24 hours about a possible cease- fire, about some sort of negotiated settlement. I know the Israeli cabinet met earlier this evening. What's the latest on that?

VIGAL PALMOR, ISRAEL FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: I can't say because, obviously, while negotiations are going on, we're not going to disclose any details. All I can say is that our contacts, and we are trying to explore diplomatic ways to end this, but as we have stated since the beginning of this operation, the only objective of this operation, the only objective we are trying to achieve is to stop rocket fire on Israeli civilians but not just to obtain a short-term truce that will be broken again and again by Hamas, but to obtain the cessation of rocket fire for a long period, for a very long period.

Now we have tried to explore diplomatic ways by alerting the Security Council, by trying to file official complaints with the Security Council and hoping that they will take a stance or do something, and as that didn't work, we had to use the army, we had to launch the operation. Now, if there's a diplomatic possibility to stop rocket fire through some sort of arrangement or agreement or anything of the sort, then of course, we will not shun it. We will try to explore that. Otherwise, if that fails, we will continue to use military means to try and stop rockets.

COOPER: Hamas is saying they're insisting not only on cease-fire by Israel, but also opening up of the virtual blockade of Gaza for any kind of peace deal can be made. For Israel, what are the minimum requirements for a deal to be made? You say clearly, obviously, the stopping of firing of rockets by Hamas and other groups here in Gaza. Is there anything else?

PALMOR: The firing of rockets needs to stop and it needs to stop for a long time and there need to be many guarantees for that. Of course, because we're not going to just take Hamas' word for it or the Islamic jihad's word for it. Nobody would. Now, how exactly to do that, that's a tough question and I'm not going to go into the details of the negotiation.

I think that by going out to the media, Hamas officials who are disclosing or apparently disclosing details of the negotiation are trying to influence it so I'm not going to comment on that. I think that we'll have to leave the negotiators to do their business and you know, what happens behind the scenes stays behind the scenes until we see an agreement that we can all come out with, I'd rather not talk about details, about conditions, about requests and so on.

COOPER: How concerned are you that Hamas may come out of this stronger than they were before, with greater influence than they had before, particularly over the other group that's in control of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority and group Fatah?

PALMOR: I think that Palestinians can see for themselves what Hamas has brought them. Ever since Hamas took power over the Gaza Strip, by expelling through blood and fire the representatives of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, but Palestinians, Gaza has been sinking and has been sinking into a situation of hopelessness. It has become a sort of platform for rocket launching and attacks and bombings on Israelis and of course, its future looks terrible. Ever since Hamas is in power.

I think that after this conflict is over and Palestinians in West -- in the West Bank and in Gaza will think about what has happened, they will understand that none of this would have happened had Hamas not adopted this -- you called it a rejectionist policy. It's not rejectionist. It's a holy war policy. Their only project is holy war until the bitter end, until they destroy Israel, and this is something the Palestinians need to think about very seriously.

Is this what they want for Gaza, for the West Bank, for themselves, or do they want to find a path to negotiate peace with Israel and co-exist peacefully in two separate independent secure states. I think it's for the Palestinians to make that choice and until then, if our security is threatened, if Israeli civilians come under fire, then we will take whatever measures are need to protect them.

At the same time, we are still willing to discuss and to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority a peace deal. We are willing to talk any time without preconditions and this situation, this conflict in Gaza has not changed that fundamental position.

COOPER: Vigal Palmor, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

When we come back, I want to show you what it was like up close as we went to the scene of the multiple rocket attack on what was a media center, but also a place where Islamic jihad, a number of Islamic jihad officials were congregating, according to Israeli officials, and one of them was killed in the strike. We'll show what it was like up close when we come back.



PLEITGEN: There, over in the sky, you probably won't be able to see it here, there's an interceptor missile taking off right now. That is the Iron Dome interceptor right there. If you just saw the flash in the sky, that was a rocket coming out of Gaza that was just intercepted right now. So it appears as though at this point in time there is another barrage being fired from Gaza into this part of Israel, close to the Israeli border.


COOPER: When those Iron Dome anti-aircraft missiles are fired, you can actually see them in the night sky, even sometimes during the day. A few hours ago we saw a number of rockets being fired from a position just a couple of blocks from here in -- in the center of Gaza City, and we saw the Iron Dome anti-missiles go up and take them out.

So it's a very effective system. The Israelis say about a third of the thousand or so rockets that have been fired into Israel have been intercepted. They also say about more than 100 or so of those rockets have even fallen elsewhere in Gaza, never even made it as far as Israel.

And we talked about a little bit earlier on but I wanted to give you kind of an up-close look at the multiple missile attack that we saw earlier today on the media center which is a building about four blocks from here, a building that had been hit on Sunday when Israeli forces said they were targeting a Hamas antenna on the building.

Today, the target was very different. Three missiles were fired into the second floor of the building. Take a look, seeing it as we saw it when it happened.


COOPER (voice-over): From our vantage point, we clearly saw two of three rockets slamming into a nearby building. Seconds later, we were in our vehicle racing to the scene.

(On camera): Two to three rockets hitting a building that's about three or four blocks from our location. Looks like the building is on fire right now.

(Voice-over): Emergency personnel had already begun to rope of the area. In Gaza City they have a lot of experience responding to these kind of incidents.

(On camera): Saw two rockets go, one actually from this direction, looked like one on the other side of the building. The building is on fire now. They've gotten ambulances here pretty quickly. They've got a fire truck on the scene as well.

(Voice-over): From the damage it's clear the rockets were aimed at a lower floor.

(On camera): This is the building that was hit yesterday and houses various media groups. Israeli defense forces yesterday has said they were aiming for a Hamas antenna that they said they took out. Not sure what they were aiming for today.


COOPER: Two injured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two people injured, yes.

COOPER (voice-over): Local officials say two people were killed. One, an official from Islamic jihad which Israel and the United States considers a terrorist group. He had an office in the building. Within an hour, another location nearby was also hit.

Talk about negotiations and cease-fires, today this was the reality on the ground.


COOPER: And I'm joined once again by Ben Wedeman, who was on the scene as well for that attack. Also former CIA officer Bob Baer joins us, he's also a CNN contributor, also Barbara Starr, Pentagon correspondent.

Bob, let me start off with you. In terms of the weapons we're seeing Hamas and other groups used here, and increasingly sophisticated rockets that are being used, where are they coming from? Where are they being smuggled in from?

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They are coming from Egypt through tunnels under the desert. Most of the components for the rockets for Fajr-5 are from Iran. Iran has been building up Hamas' capabilities for two decades now. They're getting more and more sophisticated. Some of the smaller weapons are being smuggled the same way but they're coming from places like Libya. So there's multiple sources. And I think what we're seeing with the weaponry from Hamas, it's getting better and better. COOPER: Ben, you have spent a lot of time here. You've been to rocket making factories as we discussed at the top of the program. But the technology of how the rockets are being fired has changed.

WEDEMAN: Yes. Before, what they were doing was these quick launches, they had three minutes just to set up the rocket, light it and leave, aiming really didn't come into it. Now they have automated remotely controlled launching systems that are buried under the sand in some of these empty lots just around here, and so they can -- they've been there for awhile and somebody just presses a button and off they go. And much quicker, much easier, much safer for the Hamas fighters system to use.

COOPER: But certainly dangerous for any residents who are living in those areas, living nearby.

WEDEMAN: Definitely. Because oftentimes, there is a return strike from the Israeli Air Force and those are some very big blasts out there in some very crowded parts of town.

COOPER: Barbara Starr, we heard earlier from an Israeli official who said that the preparations are pretty much complete for a ground offensive by Israel into Gaza if they decide that's necessary, correct?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anderson. Ambassador Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, told a small group of reporters today that they are done with the planning and the training, that they are in fact ready to go, only awaiting the orders.

The ambassador went on to say he hopes it doesn't happen, that somehow a diplomatic solution with Hamas can be found here, but they are now ready. CNN correspondents have seen it with their own eyes across southern Israel, the troops are in place, the equipment's in place. He says they're ready to go.

COOPER: Bob, we've seen ground offensives before, 2008, 2009. What would that look like this time?

BAER: Well, Anderson, you've been there a lot. And you know invading and holding on to Gaza is a nightmare for Israel. It's a warren of groups, refugee camps, buried weapons caches. The Israelis do not want to go back in with a ground force. There's no benefit from it. But on the other hand, if Hamas is going to continue these rocket attacks, they're going to have to.

But I think at the end of the day, what Hamas would like to do is draw sympathy for the Palestinians and draw the support of countries like Egypt. You know, what's left of Syria, Jordan and the rest of it. And I think they're continuing to look for some sort of Arab backing, hoping to get something out of it.

COOPER: Ben, I want to ask you, I talked to the Foreign Ministry spokesman earlier and asked him, he sort of demurred on the answer. But does Hamas come out of this stronger than they were before and stronger than the Palestinian group which controls the West Bank?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly. If you look at the experience of, you know, the last 20 years, yes, it probably will. You look at Hezbollah after the 2006 war, they emerged stronger. Hamas has -- came out of the operation four years ago with even more power here. What they've done is they've shown the Arab world, the Arab street that they can fight, that their rockets are getting better, that their methods are getting better, and they're winning praise for it.

They've got the support of the Egyptian government, not militarily, but they have the sympathy of the Egyptian people. Other Arab capitals have had demonstrations in support of the Palestinians, much more so in fact than four years ago.

COOPER: And how does Mahmoud Abbas, who controls the West Bank, part of their territory, come out of this?

WEDEMAN: He's sort of been sidelined by the entire thing. He has been in touch with -- Hamas leaders here in Gaza, but in a sense, he's not really a player. It's the Egyptians who are really the critical intermediary between Hamas and Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is really on the sideline.

COOPER: Bob, is there a military solution to the conflict here? I mean is this something -- can Israel cut out all the rockets? Can they stop all the rockets just through military means? Doesn't seem like it.

BAER: No, absolutely not. You know, if they continue to get better, what Hezbollah's learned to do and the Iranians have is to swarm these batteries.

If you fire enough rockets in one direction, the iron dome simply can't take them all down and that's the dilemma for the Israelis. If they just let this go on without a solution, they'll be worse off in two or three more years. They've got to find a diplomatic solution to this. Militarily it's not winnable.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, if I can actually add something to that. I mean, the iron dome is quite a development technologically, but in a sense, it's a technical remedy for a political solution.

Without a political solution, Hamas will change tactics. Don't forget that in the '90s, the early 2000s, they were using suicide bombings. That sort of didn't pay any dividends.

They switched to rockets. The rockets don't work. They'll switch to something else. What's needed is a political solution.

COOPER: Long term, not just the immediate ceasefire. Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Bob Baer, Barbara Starr as well.

When we come back, more from this region and also more from Israel, what we're seeing on the Israeli side of the border. Our coverage continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Our live reporting from Gaza city and Israel continues in just a moment. We'll take a look at if a military solution is not possible to resolve the conflict here, the likelihood of a political solution and what the premiers of that might be.

We'll talk to David Kirkpatrick of the "New York Times," Anne Marie Slaughter from Princeton University and the Hoover Institution's Fouad Ajami. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Israel continues to hit multiple targets every single day. They say they hit more than 120 targets yesterday alone, according to the Israeli Air Force.

But they're finding it harder and harder to hit actual rocket batteries. They're now targeting buildings. This was a government installation that was still being built that was hit yesterday. They are also hitting property owned by Hamas officials.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage live from Gaza city. Also from Jerusalem and other points in between, that something I shot earlier today, one of the buildings that was hit yesterday by an Israeli artillery barrage.

The situation obviously is very different than it was back in 2008-2009. The Arab spring has changed the geopolitics of the region as many governments, which are more Islamist based are now sympathetic to Hamas in this region, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood led government in Egypt.

Back in 2008-2009, Hosni Mubarak was in charge in Egypt and obviously, that situation is radically different. Now with Mubarak gone and more freedom of speech, Egyptians demonstrating in support of Gazans, demanding Egyptian government intervention on behalf of Palestinians.

Egypt's prime minister went to Gaza Friday, expressed his support for Gazans. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is in Cairo asked for a diplomatic solution. Here's what Israeli President Shimon Peres said today to Piers Morgan about Egypt's role.


PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, ISRAEL: We have two surprises. The positive is the constructive role that the Egyptian president is playing right now and we appreciate very much his efforts.

The unpleasant one is the Iranians. They are trying again to encourage the Hamas to continue the shooting, the bombing. They are trying to send them arms. They are out of their mind.


COOPER: And obviously, Piers Morgan will have that complete interview on his show at the top of the hour, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

I'm joined now by "New York Times" Cairo Bureau Chief, David Kirkpatrick, Fouad Ajami of Stanford University's Hoover Institution and also Anne Marie Slaughter of Princeton University, formerly with the U.S. State Department.

Fouad, what do you make of what you have seen over the last 24, 48 hours here on the ground and most particularly the possibility of some sort of negotiated settlement?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, I think Israeli President Shimon Peres had it right. There are some good words to be said about President Mohamed Morsi. Mohamed Morsi is caught on the horns of a dilemma.

He's caught between his own public opinion, which is very, very antagonistic to Israel, and the needs of diplomacy and the needs of his ties to the Americans. So he is trying to do it as best he can.

He made this remark when he said, look, Egypt of today is not the Egypt of yesterday. The Arab world of today is not the Arab world of yesterday. But I think there are some real limits as well on the Egyptians.

One thing that we have to say since we're really beginning to talk about diplomacy, our president is I think now in Cambodia. He has with him his secretary of state and he has with him his national security advisor. It's a remarkable development.

When you ask what is the role of the United States in this crisis you are always told. They're on the phone. So it is phone diplomacy for the United States and that's about all.

COOPER: Ann Marie Slaughter, do you agree with that? Should the U.S. be doing more here?

ANNE MARIE SLAUGHTER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF POLICY PLANNING, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, at this point, it's not really clear what the U.S. can be doing, because although the Egyptians and the Turks all have a big incentive to see a ceasefire that lasts and I think the U.S. does, too.

None of us can want it more than the Israeli and the Palestinians do. You can't create a settlement unless the principles actually want a settlement, then you can work out the details of how you're going to get there.

But from where I sit, right now, both Hamas and this Israeli government are gaining more from continuing the conflict than they are -- than they see that they would get from a settlement. That could change. I don't think Israel wants a ground war, but right now, Hamas is actually, as you heard, Palestinians are saying well, at least Hamas is fighting back. At least we have a government that can fight back.

We've had the Israelis invade us plenty, but we are fighting back, and on the Israeli side, you know, Bibi Netanyahu has elections coming up and overwhelmingly, there is support for taking out the rocket launchers.

COOPER: I should point out we are also hearing more again distant explosions not here in Central Gaza, but off in the distance. It sounds a bit as I often say like rolling thunder, but not actually seeing any of the impact zones at this point again, another one right then.

David Kirkpatrick is joining us on the phone. Your view from Egypt, obviously very changed situation in Egypt. Fouad Ajami saying there is rhetoric in support of Hamas. In the end, Egypt may not come (inaudible) like many here in Gaza would hope. What do you see?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF, "NEW YORK TIMES" (via telephone): I think that's right. There is only so much that Egypt could do. What they're trying to do is getting more and more complicated. President Mubarak used to hold himself out as a kind of honest broker between Hamas and Israel.

He wasn't, really. He was on the Israeli side, more or less, and all the discussions were handled through the intelligence agencies here within the Egyptian government. Now we see the intelligence agencies talking to the Israeli side where they have long-standing contacts.

And the office of the president, President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood who of course is a long time fellow Islamist ideological ally of Hamas, handling the other side. So there are all these talks within the Egyptian government to parallel the talks between Hamas and Israel.

What we're seeing the Egyptian government begin to do, which is I think really very new is try to speak out on an international stage to public opinion and say look, you know, you're being unfair to the Palestinians here, to defend the Palestinians in various ways.

At the same time that they're saying, now that said, all we want is regional stability and we still want to be an honest broker. Our first priority is to end the bloodshed. That's quite a tight rope to walk.

To say we are here so to speak as a representative of the Palestinians in the world, to speak for the Palestinians and to defend what Hamas is doing, and then to say that the Israelis, please, sit down, let's talk.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami, to Anne Marie Slaughter's point about both sides, Hamas and Bibi Netanyahu's government both keeping this going, if that is in fact the case and even if there is ultimately some sort of ceasefire agreement for this immediate conflict, do you see any real road map or any real commitment to developing a longer term peace agreement?

AJAMI: You know, Anderson, I really don't see it. Those of us who grew up with the Palestine conflict with look with sorrow and we can see the past again. This is all familiar.

When you hear that the Hamas people will come out with a victory, these are the victories that have undone and burdened and scarred the Palestinian people for the last 60 years. There has always been someone, a gunman who tells the Palestinians they can win this one.

And all what Hamas has in Gaza is a reign of plunder and a reign of terror. In fact, the Palestinian issue was complicated enough to begin with for so many years then Hamas adds a complication.

It conquers Gaza and you have two Palestinian governments, one in Ramallah and one in Gaza. They are dependent on the welfare of the world and the sympathy of the world and this victory, if it is to be had by Hamas, will be a pyrrhic one. There is nothing that Hamas can offer the people of Gaza except sadness.

COOPER: Well, Fouad, we have to leave it there. Anne Marie Slaughter as well. David Kirkpatrick, appreciate your time as well.

Again, more explosions we're hearing as just Fouad was talking. We got to take a quick break. We'll have more with Arwa Damon, Ben Wedeman, Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

We'll also take a look at President Obama's trip to Burma, officially known as Myanmar. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're reporting live tonight from Gaza City. I'm not sure if you can hear it very well, but there's still the steady sound as we've heard for these last six days now, going into day seven, of Israeli drones overhead.

It's a constant buzzing sound. It sounds almost like a distant lawn mower or swarm of mosquitoes off in the distance. Obviously, it can have far deadlier consequences than any of that. It's a very eerie sound.

We're going to have more of the situation from here, but I want to check in with our Susan Hendricks with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama is in Cambodia tonight, the last stop on his three-nation tour of Asia. Earlier today, he became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar. He met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and with Myanmar's president as well.

The U.S. Army is asking an appeals court to deny a request by Major Nidal Hasan that he be allowed to keep his beard. He claims he grew it for religious purposes. Army regulations prevent facial hair on soldiers in uniform. He is accused of murdering 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.

Indianapolis police say a major explosion that destroyed several houses and killed two people is now a homicide investigation. That explosion 10 days ago was so powerful, that more than 30 neighboring homes were severely damaged.

It looks like there could be hope for Hostess although the company shut down its baking operations on Friday. A federal bankruptcy court judge will mediate a meeting tomorrow between management and the striking bakery workers union to see if their differences can be ironed out. We'll see. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much. We'll have more from our Ben Wedeman and Arwa Damon and Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem coming up. We'll be right back.



SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You look to your left, destruction, people picking out things that -- anything they can find. If you look to your right, destruction, the building next to it blown out, and we are standing on what was the roof of a three-story building.


COOPER: That was Sara Sidner reporting from Gaza. I'm back with Arwa Damon, Ben Wedeman, and Wolf Blitzer from Jerusalem. Just for some final thoughts, Wolf, your thoughts, now entering the seventh day of the conflict?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": I think the next day or two we are going to know if the Israelis are going to move into Gaza. I know they don't want to move in on the ground. They don't want to have that burden.

It would be a disaster from everyone's perspective, given the dense population there, a lot of civilian casualties. The Israelis don't want to do it. They are threatening to do it. They mobilized already 30,000 troops. Another 40,000 potentially could be on the way.

Let's hope, Anderson, there is a ceasefire that stops this bloodshed and then they can begin the really important and necessary work of trying to start from scratch for all practical purposes and see if there can be a diplomatic solution.

Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, that is going to take a lot of work, a lot of hard work, and the U.S. is going to have to be strongly involved, unlike the past year or so, where the U.S. has not necessarily gotten involved all that much ever since George Mitchell gave up his job as the special U.S. envoy. COOPER: Yes. Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon joining me here in Gaza city. I mean, opinions are so hardened on both sides of this border. Hearts are hardened, opinions have been formed, and the lines are so clear. Are you optimistic at all not just for any sort of negotiated ceasefire for this thing, but any kind of long-term solution?

WEDEMAN: Not really. I think what's interesting is that tomorrow, the Arab league secretary general and several Arab foreign ministers are coming here and what we are going to see, whether optimistic or pessimistic, is a different thing all together.

But we're going to see now that the Arab countries as opposed to four years ago are much more engaged in this process, and it's a new equation. It's a new equation. We don't know where it's going to lead.

But Israel, the United States has to pay much more attention to what Arab leaders are saying because they are in a sense reflecting what their people feel.

COOPER: Arwa, you obviously have been covering the region for a long time as well.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I would have to say that I do agree with Ben. I think there are a lot of dynamics in the region that most certainly have significantly changed. Those have had their own impact on this battlefield that exists here that has existed for decades.

I do have to say going back to what Wolf was talking about when it goes to the possibility of an Israeli invasion people here are absolutely dreading even the notion of that.

They know that the last time the Israelis invaded, it wreaked utter devastation upon them. Over 1,000 Palestinians were killed in that alone and a lot of families we have been talking to tonight saying that they most certainly hope that that is not the direction that this takes right now.

COOPER: Ben, a lot of questions I get from people in the United States is how popular is Hamas here. There are some people saying look, they are firing rockets from civilian areas, you would think some civilians would be outraged about that. What do you hear on the streets here?

WEDEMAN: Civilians are outraged. It's not as if there's unanimous support for Hamas. Lot of people here want no part of it. They just pay the price in terms of lost jobs, destroyed homes, dead friends and relatives. They also want it to stop, but they also feel that there's a need for a solution to this problem.

COOPER: Day seven of this conflict begins anew. Ben Wedeman, thank you. Arwa Damon, Wolf Blitzer as well. Our coverage continues on CNN. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.