Return to Transcripts main page


Russian-Backed Rebels Hand Over Flight 17 to Malaysian Authorities

Aired July 21, 2014 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: Hi, good evening. Thanks for watching our special extended 360 coverage tonight at 9 p.m. here in New York, 4 a.m. in Eastern Ukraine. We're just a short time ago.

Russian-backed rebels handed over Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to Malaysian authorities. A fancy ceremony for what should have been and almost always is a routine part of any air disaster investigation, nothing about this though has been routine. An aviation tragedy is after all rarely sparked action at the U.N. Security Council as this one did today. The members even Russia adopting a resolution demanding full access to the crash site.

We're going to talk in this hour about Russia's role in particular and in general. The question being has President Putin gone too far even for some Russians. And as always, we'll bring you the stories of the lives of some of the 298 people who boarded Flight 17 and are being so deeply mourned tonight. In addition all throughout the hour, we'll be showing their names at the bottom of the screen.

But first tonight, a freelance journalist Noah Sneider on the ground, I spoke to him just a short time ago.


COOPER: You're in Donetsk. The black boxes were handed over by the so-called prime minister of Donetsk to Malaysian authorities. What was the scene like there?

NOAH SNEIDER, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Well, it was surreal and to another surreal day here in Eastern Ukraine and Mr. Borodai that -- prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republican flanked by a group of his armed guards. They're both Mr. Borodai and the Malaysian senior representative spoke quite extensively before handing the boxes over and a strange ceremony capped by an agreement signed and stamped with the Donetsk People's Republic stamp. The boxes were placed into a white satchel and handed over.

COOPER: You have been at this crash site from the beginning. You've seen the situation there. I'm unclear exactly at this point from international teams who is actually there doing any investigating.

SNEIDER: I think the investigation, to be completely honest, is a bit of a phantom at this point. There hasn't been a proper investigation and the sense of crime scene investigation or collection of evidence by any extensive group. Most of the work so far has been focused on the bodies and on recovering these black boxes. I think only now will people begin turning attention to that evidence that may or may not remain at the site of the crash.

COOPER: And you were at the scene where the bodies were placed onto these refrigerated train cars, have they now left toward Ukrainian controlled territory or what's the status of the victims?

SNEIDER: The train is now located as far as we know in Donetsk. It left from a small town train station in Torez around 7:00 p.m. local time. Completely unceremoniously, there was no send-off, there was no delegation, there was only a small band of hard scrabble rebels waiting to see the train off, there were train station employees and there was a pile of personal assets (ph) that have been essentially left on the platform as the train rolled off into the distance.

The final destination as far as we know is the Ukrainian City of Kharkov which is located in Ukrainian controlled territory and from there supposedly the bodies will be taken back to the Netherlands for further examination and repatriation.

COOPER: And while all of these this happening, I understand fighting has also intensified in border -- in areas around some of the crash site stay, is that correct?

SNEIDER: Indeed. And just as the train in fact was pulling out of the station, we saw two fighter jets slide overhead and dropped a payload off on the horizon. The war here hasn't stopped and it's an important point and something that's easy to look past as the tragedy and its consequences unfold. But folks are -- folks continue die here in Eastern Ukraine everyday, local civilians, fighters, there was shelling on the north - north western side of Donetsk today quite heavy shelling in fact and four civilians are reported dead. Ukrainian forces seemed to be using this moment to really press their offensive.

COOPER: Noah Sneider, I appreciate you being on. Thank you, Noah.

SNEIDER: No problem. Thank you very much.


COOPER: And there are new developments as well in the intelligence from the growing case against the pro-Russian rebels and the emergent picture of their working relationship with Moscow. With the latest on that, we're joined by Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. So, this issue whether Russian personnel were actually there at the missile launcher when the plane was shot down. You say that's now the key question.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is the key question. It's an alarming scenario but it is something that U.S. intelligence officials are looking at very closely where Russian soldiers or agents there when the missile was launched or even possibly pulled the trigger. That's still the question. What is not a question though in the view of intelligence officials is one, that this weapon system is so-called (inaudible) system was supplied to the pro-Russian rebels by Russia and that they were trained by Russia to use this system. So, really the question now, Anderson, is not how much Russian culpability again in the view of U.S. officials but not a question of if there is Russian culpability but how much.

COOPER: But the Russians obviously are still blaming the Ukraine. Though you pointed out in our last hour that there was possibly kind of a -- or something of a trial balloon floated earlier today at the U.N.

SCIUTTO: It's interesting. And at the first opening, I've certainly heard from Russian officials who across the board have denied any involvement and it floated a whole host of crazy theories as to why this plane came down, including the idea that this was an assassination attempt on the Russian president because his plane was in the area at the same time. But this was eventually jerking the Russian ambassador to the U.N. said this afternoon and speaking to reporters. He said, "So, if they thought they shot down a military jet, it was confusion. It was confusion. It was not an act of terrorism." He's talking about the pro-Russian rebels there.

He then in the same conversation went on to say that, "Well, the Ukrainians may very well have shot this thing down as well." But just by using those words, maybe it's a trial balloon as you say for a Russian excuse so to speak -- so to say about why this plane came down. In other words, it was not intentional, it was an accident and maybe this is a way out but it's the first we've heard and we'll have to see if Russian officials continue to repeat it.

COOPER: All right. Jim, I appreciate the update. Thanks. And whatever the degree of hands-on Russian complicity, if any, there's no question this tragedy has increasingly raised the question of how to handle Russia and Russia's president. I want to dig deeper now on that angle with David Remnick, who edits the New Yorker magazine and has written extensively about Russia from the old Soviet days to today.

I mean, given all you know about Vladimir Putin, does it surprise you at all that he continues to put the blame elsewhere?


COOPER: And what other alternative does he have really?

REMNICK: Well, he put himself in this box. If you got to Russia today and I was there two weeks ago for a week and turn on television, state television which is all encompassing and it's how everybody gets their news and their picture of the world with rare exceptions. You're being told that possibly there were already corpses in the plane.

COOPER: Right. There was a plane full of dead bodies already there left ... REMNICK: All kinds of crazy conspiracy theories and at the same time

you're in for a big dose of what about ism. The implication being, "OK, maybe we did this without that being said but what about when the United States shot down an Iranian airliner? What about United States' behavior in Iraq? What about what about?" And of course these things are rooted in truth, in history and it goes to the sense of deep resentment that Vladimir Putin has against the west that's accumulated ...

COOPER: Since the fall of the Soviet Union?

REMNICK: Since the fall of the Soviet Union but it's accumulated in himself much more recently. Remember, when he first came into office in 2000, Putin talked about possibly joining NATO. He wanted nothing more than to be part of the world economic system. I -- look, he was no westernizing Democrat. There were moments when he sounded really tough authoritarian theme but that emphasis has gotten more and more and more and it's -- ever since those demonstrations on the street in Moscow two years ago, directed against Putin and not only by liberals and he was deeply offended by that and cracked out enormously and that's the drama we're seeing taking place in these last two years.

COOPER: So, when the United States talks about Vladimir Putin being isolated on the world stage, does that matter to Vladimir Putin?

REMNICK: Not as much as you would hope. In other words, that's that the choice that Putin has to make now. To recognize reality and know that I have to be a member of the world community, the economic community, I'm after all -- this is no longer the Soviet days, I'm knitted in to the world economy. I have to sell my gas to someone and my oil to someone. They're practically giving it away to the Chinese now. They did that really as a kind of gesture to us, to flip us the bird in a certain sense.

But if they become more and more isolated, that's bad for Russians and this furfur (ph) will give way. It can't last forever. This is not a popularity based on a solid thing. Yes, there's no question that taking Crimea was popular. Crimea has always been even in the hearts of many liberals in Russia, an aching question ever since Khrushchev unaccountably kind of gave it away, the Ukraine, many years ago. But other factors are going to get, I think, more serious.

COOPER: But unless European nations step up and, you know, take firmer stance in terms of sanctions. I mean, the isolation that Vladimir Putin faces is muted.

REMNICK: Well, ironically, one of the nations in Europe that has been most ambivalent about things like sanctions is the Netherlands.

COOPER: Right.

REMNICK: It's been hard.

COOPER: And now, they have this huge loss, so will that change things, the UK? REMNICK: Right. I think, politically, I don't see how a Dutch politician could be ambivalent anymore. This is an absolute outrage that's been visited upon the Dutch people. This is an act of horrendous - a horrendous crime.

COOPER: But even in the UK and firmly Germany -- I mean, a lot of countries are benefiting financially from relationships with Russians. I mean, there were huge Russian ...

REMNICK: That's why global politics is incredibly complex. These are not just simply moral questions and then you act on them. There are also questions of -- to harden those interests and this is very complicated. Now, the United States has less of an economic interest with Russia. So, it can act relatively freely when it comes to sanctions. By the way, I'm not so convinced that economic sanctions on their own change behavior if it all and certainly not rapidly. The Russian officials have been affected by this in Russia. Have done their best to laugh it off. They've made their choice. They've cast their lot with the fate of Vladimir Putin, their fortunes, their political lot.

Overtime, what will be interesting to see if the people on the second tier stay loyal to Putin. Once they start to see the economy erode and not only -- and not because of the sanctions but overall. If Russia becomes more and more isolated from the world, if its image in the world becomes damaged, if people want to invest less, if the capital flight begins to happen more and more, I'm not so sure the business class is going to be so excited about Vladimir Putin and Crimea over the long term. I see Vladimir Putin becoming isolated. And even at home, despite his popularity rating, I don't see that lasting forever unless he finds a way out of this.

COOPER: David Remnick, thanks for being here.

REMNICK: A pleasure.

COOPER: Just ahead tonight, how the rebels and everyone else at the crash site have compromised the investigation, it's a serious challenge that's next.


COOPER: Again, the breaking news tonight, Russian-backed rebels have turned Flight 17's black boxes over to Malaysian authorities and again, this is not the way these things usually happen or supposed to happen, not the way crashes in general are handled.

We've gotten used to pictures of investigators at crash sites carefully, gently and respectfully making their way through pieces of wreckage and frankly through human remains. We're not accustomed to seeing armed thugs posing for cameras with personal effects, a child's toy in that case, even chasing away recovery cruise. That reality has set off a global storm that may also have compromised the investigation, more on that now from the Aviation Correspondent Rene Marsh.


RENE MARSH, AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Crash investigators usually raised to accident scenes for one reason, evidence disappears.

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH AND CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all of which faces the question what exactly are they trying to hide?

MARSH: In this case, it's a crash site in chaos as new satellite images showed debris spread over miles.

MARK DOMBROFF, AVIATION AND TRANSPORTATION ATTORNEY: We don't know what's been removed. We don't know what's been disturbed. It's -- in a sense, it's significantly important in terms of how the aircraft broke off, did it completely break up in flight, or did it break up after impact with the ground?

MARSH: Further indication in the scene is not protected on live TV. A Sky News reporter rifles through a passenger suitcase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really.

MARSH: Armed pro-Russian rebels allowed some journalist but blocked investigators from the scene immediately following the crash. Rebels were caught on camera removing what appears to be at least one of the black boxes. They've now handed them over to Malaysian investigators. The concern is some questions may never get answered.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That is not just access to this site. In any investigation, you're going to want to talk to the military personnel who were in the unit that fire the missile. Number two, you're going to want to talk to the villagers in the area in which that plane came down.

MARSH: Meanwhile, the question remains, why when U.S. airlines were told to steer clear of nearby Crimea, they were not warned to avoid the combat zone where Flight 17 was shot down. The secretary of transportation defended the FAAs action to CNN today.

ANTHONY FOX, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: We made it very clear to carriers to be very careful to take extreme care in that region and we found that many of them didn't. Thank you.

MARSH: This April, the FAA did warn airlines to exercise extreme caution in the region. But former NTSB Chairman James Hall says that isn't enough.

JAMES HALL, FMR NTSB CHAIRMAN: I have no idea what extreme caution means that 33,000 feet in a commercial airliner that has no protection against any ground air missiles. I don't know what the FAA is saying there. That's their responsibility. They're the regulatory authority and the regulatory organization. They need to air on the side of caution.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARSH: Well, the rebels handing over the black boxes is small progress, but criminal investigators say it's still will not answer the key question of who fired the missile. Anderson?

COOPER: Rene, thank you very much.

Joining us once again our panel, let's bring in Aviation Correspondent Richard Quest, Safety Analyst David Soucie, Philip Mudd that we saw on Rene's report, he ran counterterrorism operations to CIA and FBI, also Former Transportation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo, currently she's an attorney for victims and families of transportation accidents.

David Soucie, we saw in Rene's report that video of someone taking a power saw basically to the wreckage. Does that in any realm resemble anything that's remotely appropriate?

DAVID SOUCIE, SAFETY ANALYST: No. There's no reason for that other than trying to take what's their away in pieces and hide evidence. That's the only reason I can see them do that. The only time we've ever had a saw in sight is when we're trying to extract the personnel or the bodies from wreckage. I don't see that that's what they're doing there. To me, what that looks like is they're trying to just cut the pieces off that had to come off and I'm just appalled by what's going on ...

COOPER: Mary, as Rene Marsh just reported the challenges at this crime scene really are extraordinary. Out of all the issues you've heard about, what's your biggest concern right now?

MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, the biggest concern and my biggest concern was the black boxes which had been handed over and now it's getting the ability to see if you can even get any of the missile residue, any of the shrapnel from the missile, anything that will tie in with the downing of the aircraft. But actually I think probably the important thing will come off site and that will be interviews and frankly I've put up a reward if I was running in an investigation for information.

COOPER: Well, Philip Mudd, you talked about that in Rene's piece but again I come back to the difficulty of that given the reality of this situation. This is an active war zone. There has been shelling, fighting in the areas today. Do you think it's actually possible to -- I mean, is this really a situation where interviewers are going to be able to get human intelligence to be able to do interviews on the ground?

MUDD: No, I don't. But part of this depends on what your perspective is on time. I guess, I come from a perspective watching terrorism cases for example where it might have taken years or a decade or more to bring somebody justice. After a while, we're talking in New York City about bringing some of the perpetuators of the 9/11 attacks to justice. Were 13 years out.

So, if your window is -- are we going to see moving on things like interviews with villagers in the next week or two, I'd say no. Are we going to see somebody in the court of law as a result of witnesses interviewing? I think Mary is right. I think rewards would be helpful sometime in five to 10 years. I wouldn't bet against that.

COOPER: Richard, do you see it coming to that?


COOPER: I mean Fareed Zakaria in our last hour made the point. Russia is not part of the international criminal court nor is the U.S. nor is Ukraine frankly.

QUEST: No. But we'd never thought with KAL007 that they never get the black boxes. The fall of the Soviet Union led to a treasure troubled information that nobody ever expected was going to be handed over of what was happening then. So, we can't really know. But what's interesting is what the Netherlands said today. The Netherlands' Foreign Minister said, "We will not rest until justice has been done." Now, they've got to back this up, the Europeans have got to back this up. Tomorrow on Tuesday, there is to be a European meeting to decide what their reaction will be.

COOPER: And that's going to be probably significant because as we know, the Europeans have not exactly been bold in instituting sanctions against Russia.

QUEST: Well, I think you're being polite.

COOPER: Well, I am being polite that given that English. I didn't want to offend you here but -- but I mean, there's no -- there is a ton of Russian billionaires running around London, you know, and the British certainly seems to drag their feet and not doing anything.

QUEST: Right, which is why when I asked the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, if Europe doesn't do something then Europe stands for nothing. He agreed. But the question is will Germany be onboard, will Poland be onboard, will these other countries that have a say and have large amounts of details, will they go along with it?

COOPER: Philip, the electronic data that currently exist there -- I mean, there's a lot we know about thus far, do you believe there's also a lot that's still being poured over that we simply have no public information about?

MUDD: Anderson, I dispute what you say. I don't think there's a lot we know about. I think from ...


MUDD: ... my career as an intelligence officer, we have information that the government has chosen to reveal because it helps explain their confidence that Russia is somehow involved in this.

If you look at the volumes of information that eye witness being collected both things like telecommunications intercepts and also satellite imagery of vast geographic spaces, they've got to have a ton of stuff. We've seen at best the tip of the iceberg. And as I've said earlier, you do not put the president and secretary of state out based on a few snippets of intelligence like there is a little bit of training for the rebels or maybe we saw a few trucks.

You've got to have a whole lot more if you're an intelligence professional to put the president and the secretary of state out with this level of confidence. I think they know a lot more than what they're telling us.

COOPER: So David Soucie, I mean, again, you've investigated crash sites even if there is this electronic information, signals intelligence, I mean, we just heard Philip saying he believes only the tip of the iceberg is known at this point what the U.S. and others may have. How important is that crime scene? How important is the actual physical evidence?

SOUCIE: It's extremely important because even with that intelligence is surmising at saying, because this, we know this, we know this. What really ties all that together is the chain of evidence and the chain of custody of that evidence ...

COOPER: And so you argue that black boxes are incredible important.

SOUCIE: Absolutely, as is any of the physical evidence on the site. For example, the evidence that the shrapnel went through the aircraft from the outside in, that's extremely important and that could definitely be compromised here.

COOPER: Mary, in terms of the bodies of the passengers, the victims here, you've represented families and victims and tragedies like this before, I can not even imagine what these families are going through, seeing their loved ones not dealt with, treated in this way, loaded on to train cars. I mean the family members I've spoken to, for the most part, a lot of them say, "Look, I can't even go there. I can't even, you know, start to think about the reality of the last four or five days." What is being done for these families at this point? How does that actually work in an international case like this?

SCHIAVO: Well, it's very difficult in an international case. Each country and depending upon the laws or in some cases just the good will of their airlines have different standards of things that they have to do for passengers.

I think the United States, of course, has the most extensive list and ours is embedded in the law which was passed by the way by families of persons we had lost, persons in plane crashes. And ours are as extensive about, you know, the support, the transport to the accident or in this case the murder site, what kinds of funds you have to provide, even -- it goes so far as to how the memorial is to be set up. But other countries have no such laws and really happy just to depend upon the government or the airline for their assistance and whatever they choose to give of them. And hopefully some of laws that we have on the books can be continued to be exported around the world.

COOPER: And David, I mean beyond the dignity of this, beyond the important turning these victims to their families, to their countries and I don't want to get too technical or morbid here. But I mean, there is evidence also that can be learned from the victims themselves, is there not?

SOUCIE: Absolutely there is. There is. We talked earlier. Mudd was talking about if the aircraft came apart of the sky or if it didn't and let that kind of important information or I think it was Mr. Hall and to know that, it's amazing what the families of the victims really want to know as well. I've sat with them and ...

COOPER: They want to know the truth. They want to know ...

SOUCIE: They want to know everything. I mean, more of the things that we would never think that they'd want to know, but they'd want to know every second of the way everything that that family member experience, they need to know.

COOPER: Mary, have you found that as well in you representing the families of victims that they -- I mean, beyond how horrible it is. They want to know what their loved one went through.

SCHIAVO: Yes, and I can't tell you how many times I've been -- and working with families of victims, and they've said to me, they said, "Don't you sugarcoat it, you tell me everything." You know, I've been concerned about that because I certainly don't want to add anymore grief or stress to their lives but they say no and they become incredibly strong with the truth. They say, "As long as you're telling me everything, tell me everything, make the government tell us everything, make the airlines tell us everything." That's what they want, they want the facts and every last one of them and they do want their remains and their loved ones' property back from the crash site which of course the second part of that can never happen here.

COOPER: Yes, of course. Mary Schiavo, I appreciate your expertise, Philip Mudd, David Soucie, Richard Quest as always, thanks.

Next, honoring 298 lives lost by bringing some of their stories to light.


COOPER: As we follow the investigation of the downing of Flight 17, we want to remember that this is first and foremost a story about people, the 298 people onboard and the countless family members and friends who are now mourning them.

Here's a look at what we know about some of their lives, some of the lives of the few of the passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 54-year-old Irene Gunawan was traveling to her native Philippines with her Indonesian husband Budy with two children Sheryl and Darryl. They were on their way to a family reunion, all four died onboard. Darryl was 20 and Sheryl just 15.

Glenn Thomas worked with the World Health Organization and was headed to a global AIDS conference in Melbourne. He is described as brave, adventurous person who is passionate about public health issues and wanting to do great work in the world. Glenn was planning his 50th birthday celebration. Sister Philomene Tiernan was a Roman Catholic nun and a beloved teacher who was returning home to Australia after a trip to Europe. One of her former students wrote that Sister Philomene's entire existence was to bring good to this world. She was 77 years old.

The only American onboard Quinn Lucas Schansman held dual citizenship, was born in the United States while his father was working for the Dutch Embassy. Quinn was avid rugby player who was studying business in Amsterdam. He was traveling to Indonesia to meet his family for vacation. Quinn was just 19 years old.

COOPER: 19 years old, Quinn's grandfather Ronald Schansman joins me.

Mr. Schansman, again, I'm so sorry for your loss. Can you tell us about Quinn, what was he like?

RONALD SCHANSMAN, QUINN LUCAS SCHANSMAN'S GRANDFATHER: Yes, I saw him last -- the latest been though we had in east of (inaudible) at his father's house in Holland and then listen he's a teen now of 19 years old. He was born in Fort Lee, New Jersey and his father was working right at the Dutch Embassy in New York.

COOPER: I've heard so many great things about him, somebody said that he could make a joke to end any fight. Is that the kind of person he was?

SCHANSMAN: Yes, he was a very lovely person. He was already big for his age also. He's very strong boy, it's just an incredible loss for the family. It's also for me to specifically the first grandchild that I'm losing, so that is extremely hard to accommodate.

My son Thomas called me yesterday very quietly and I think I'm leaving tomorrow for Holland. He will collect me at the airport. I said it doesn't matter. I wouldn't bother you but he said, "I have to do something instead of waiting for news about the bodies where they are coming"

He -- Thomas is the father and the family, we are traveling in Indonesia at that time on a trip and Quinn was supposed to join them in Surabaya and continue for a week with the family to Bali at the end of the holiday and that didn't work unfortunately.

COOPER: Had Quinn been able to travel a lot?

SCHANSMAN: Yes, he had been to Malta you know, and he has been to Portugal I think. The children today they travel much more than we did in our time. Of course I am very angry about the whole situation and I'm not really only angry with the rebellion group but also with the Ukraine government who had been too weak after three months not to be able to silence. I hope President Obama finds a way to punish the responsible people for this hideous act. That's all I hope.

COOPER: Well, Mr. Schansman, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us in this moment of great sorrow and loss for you and your family, thank you very much.

SCHANSMAN: Hey, I'm glad and I'm honored that you had me on this show.

COOPER: Well, coming up with more breaking news. Now, the death toll rising in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians have now been killed, only dozens of Israeli soldiers. What the United States is doing to broker a cease-fire, what Americans think about the conflict. Next.


COOPER: Well, breaking news tonight, the state department issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens, Israel, the west bank in Gaza as the death toll continues to grow. Some 565 Palestinian and now 25 Israeli soldiers have died. The United States is pushing for cease-fire. John Kerry arrived in Cairo today for talks with key officials and announced $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

This is the latest CNN ORC poll of Americans shows that 57 percent of those polls say Israel's action in Gaza is justified, 34 percent say it's not.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has been reporting from Gaza. Here is part of what he found in one Gaza City neighborhood during a shaky and short lived cease-fire.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: My son is in the house Amira Henliz (ph) tells me. He is wounded. I called the Red Cross, I called for an ambulance but no one came. Can you help me?


WEDEMAN: He wouldn't have gone to look, but -- go back, go back, shouts this man he said, the tank was about to open fire. Everybody ran. Few blocks away, house after house flattered by shelling (ph). And ambulance blown to spreads. Another is window shuttered.

COOPER: A short time ago, I spoke with Ben along with both Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.


Ben, there are reports -- I want to stress reports as now CNN hasn't confirmed them from Israel Channel 10 that site Palestinian sources that cease-fire is being drafted between Israel and Hamas tomorrow in Cairo. We do know his first age on Kenny Rogers today, any reason to be optimistic about this point?

WEDEMAN: One should on this be optimistic about these things to understand. But probably because Palestinian sources are coming out of Ramallah not out of Gaza where Hamas has been fairly adamant so far that they're not ready to see -- sign on to any cease-fire unless they're long list of demands is met.

In fact, Hamas put out an article in one of there websites today saying that they're not ready to accept anything along the lines of the Egyptian proposal that was made a few years -- rather days ago. However, they are willing and welcome and it get continued the Egyptian role. So, this terror in Gaza itself we're not hearing much from Hamas official on this.

COOPER: Wolf, have you heard any but it sees far away you are?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, I checked with sources in the Prime Ministers Office, Prime Minister to Netanyahu's office and they just waited me. They didn't think any cease-fire was about to be signed or anything they're not even close. They do know that each of this working hard to come up with some sort of cease-fire agreement. They know that the U.S. through Secretary Kerry wants it. Ban Ki- moon, the U.N. Secretary General, he'll be in Israel on Tuesday. He wants it, others want it, but apparently they're not -- if there's no deal yet, there's still a long way to go.

COOPER: And Wolf you spoke in Netanyahu yesterday. I want to play just a bit of that conversation for our viewers.

BLITZER: You see this painful pictures, you know, this Palestinians children and this refuges thousands of them playing their homes. It's a horrendous site what's going on right now, if you look at the end images heart wrenching, what goes to your mind when you see that?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I'm very sad. When I see that, I'm very sad. We're sad for every casualty. They're not intended. So, this is the difference between this. The Hamas, deliberately targets of civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians.

They embed the racketeers, the racket casuals, their other weapon from where in which they fire for which they use the foreigners in civilian areas.

COOPER: Wolf, what is Israel now saying about the strike on a hospital earlier?

BLITZER: They say that they try to avoid civilian casualties. They do the best they can. Although, given the proximity of civilian locations in the mid that where - they say Hamas is fires rackets in Israel or builds underground tunnels that go from Gaza to Israel. Obviously, there a lot of civilian casualties so there been a huge numbers civilian casualties over the course of the last several days specially since Israel moved around forces in.

They say, they try to avoid it but sometimes it happen the prime minister another is really official say they do the best they can. But this is a war and they realized they are going to be civilian casualties.

COOPER: Ben, what kind of options do civilians have for trying to escape attacks that there is really say or in - at militants and also now with that hospital being strapped, what sort of facilities do they have for dealing with casualties?

WEDEMAN: Well, but there are other hospitals in the Gaza strip. But certainly, this case of the hospital in (inaudible) which is so severe, somewhat problematic because this is really army told CNN that there is missile attach near by. But given the level of precession that - out this really weapons as we are told, it's somewhat surprising that a missile hits the third floor of a hospital killing one patient and four people who were visiting relatives in the hospital. There's really no facility for people to go to where they can be absolutely safe.

So frankly, there's no where they can go. And they just cross fingers and ask they do here in Gaza they pray to God they'll survive this. Anderson?

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate the reporting, Wolf Blitzer as well. Thanks.


Up next, President Obama dealing with the crisis in the Middle east and the downing of Flight 17 to crisis and playing a criticism about how this handling them later from Senior White House corresponding Jim Acosta and our Carl Bernstein next.


COOPER: First as you can get to choose on a policy crisis will erupt since President Obama struggling two of them the downing of White 17 in the battle that's raising in Gaza, either one not his own is a heavily left certainly both carry high stakes. And President Obama critics are watching closely. Jim Acosta reports tonight.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is the most forcible comments since the crash of Flight 17, President Obama accuse for Russian rebels of essentially engaging in a cover up.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since investigator approached, they fire their weapons into the air they separatist are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which base the question, what exactly do they trying to hide?

ACOSTA: The burden, the President said is now on Russia.

OBAMA: Russia and President Putin in particular as direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation that is the least that they can do.

ACOSTA: Russian officials are sticking by their own version of events just today saying their record show you Ukrainian were playing might have been playing your Flight 17 when a crash.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one should have the right to use this strategy to achieve selfish political objectives such event should not divided but unite people.

ACOSTA: The West which you starting a former unite at front isn't buying it. DAVID CAMERON, UNITED KINGDOM PRIME MINISTER: We must do what is necessary to standup to Russia and put an in to the conflict in Ukraine before anymore and this is lives are lost.

ACOSTA: The White House says the President will keep up the pressure on Putin even as he's traveling out west this week for a series of fund raisers risking more criticism from Republicans that he's not fully engaged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it becomes clear that there's a need for him to come back to the White House in order to fulfill those functions, then, we'll make a change in the schedule. Right now it's not apparent that that's the case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this one you're not changing the schedule correct?

ACOSTA: But the president has another searing crisis to deal with. The Israeli military operations in Gaza. The severity of that mission seemingly questioned by secretary of state John Kerry in a hot might moment.

JOHN KERRY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a hell of a pinpoint operation.

ACOSTA: Still Mr. Obama seemed to back that up noting his own worries about the bloodshed.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES: We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.

ACOSTA: Now, president Obama scheduled to leave for that scheduled trip out west tomorrow mainly to do some fundraising but these dual crises are having an impact on these planes. The White House was looking to have the president appear on the Jimmy Kimmel show while he's in Los Angeles but now White House Official said that is not happening at least -- not on this trip, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Political commentator, journalist and author Carl Bernstein joins me now. You know, President Bush used to get criticized when he was at Crawford Ranch, Ronald Reagan when he was in his ranch in California. President Obama is now being criticized for continuing fundraising trips. Is that fair?

CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR: Obama has been criticized and vilified unlike any president at the same time. He is not leveraging the powers of the presidency. It hasn't for a couple of years now the way that we expect our president's doing.

COOPER: How do you mean?

BERNSTEIN: Meaning that he hasn't brought in a real relationship with the Democrats on Capitol Hill with the Republicans. He hasn't formed a consensus and yet in crisis, look at the economic crisis, he handled it quite well. If we have done what the Republicans wanted him to do, he'd still be in a depression. At the same time, he's got people around him who are isolating him.

He's gone long with it, he's become insular. He's not dealing with all the cards that a president has to play because of his own failures to lead and build the kind of consensus even with purulent (ph) opposition that he has. It's very troubling to Democrats as well as Republicans and it's same time a lot of he's called caution that he's criticized for -- let's look at what happened in Egypt while he was kind of right being cautious about Egypt given what has happened since.

COOPER: Whether...

BERNSTEIN: Let's look at what happened in Libya. Since, you know, he's caution -- he's very smart about knowing intrinsically often what to do but you're...

COOPER: It is...

BERNSTEIN: ... being controlled by events too often. Look at health care. First time around he was waiting for Ted Kennedy to get him health care. Ted Kennedy got sick and he damn near lost it and then rolled out was a disaster. So he's being whipped around instead of weeding (ph).

COOPER: It is interesting how he hasn't credit for some things like which nobody thought he could actually pull off I mean for all the criticisms of the health care roll out. The enrollment now obviously exceeds numbers. Even in Syria, we came in a serious criticism for not being more muscular in terms of trying to get chemical weapons. He's actually succeeding getting rid of chemical weapons without any involvement by U.S. forces.

BERNSTEIN: Well, you're really on to something. We need to avoid these over simplified judgments about the president especially. We need to look at the complexities. And at the same time, he has not used all the powers of he's command to build the kind of presidency to move ahead of events. You can't do it totally.

COOPER: He does (inaudible) different idea of the uses of American power perhaps pretty good presidents in this room -- the Republicans go on.

BERNSTEIN: Thank God. It's not the same as what God has sent to Iraq. So if that's the kind of rejection of American power that some people were talking about that's a disastrous enterprise that he's avoided those kinds of disasters. But then, look at Afghanistan, he had the whole brook around him who knew really more about that situation and probably anyone that he could ever call upon. He froze them out. The people around him froze him out.

He hasn't found a way to be as effective as he ought to have been and at the same time, he hasn't capitulated to his enemies which is good.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, good to have you on. Thank you very much. Be right back with the looking how the victims of MH17 are being remembered.


COOPER: All from leaders and nations and families and friends, people all over the world are speaking out about the 298 Flight 17. We want to leave you this hour with some of their words and scenes from the memorial gathering where people are going to mourn and to remember.


OBAMA: Over the last several days our hearts have been absolutely broken as we've learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost. Men, women, and children and infants who were killed so suddenly and so senselessly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't understand this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's family from us are -- who were in the plane. We lost them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I take our ticket to Kevin four weeks holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I want to remember one thing of my brother is that he believed very much with -- his conviction was that conflicts like this are not solved by tough words. We're not solved by military intervention but our solved by dialog. And the last thing he would have wanted is his death or even the tragic incidents that caused his deaths to contribute to even a more difficult situation there in the conflict.


COOPER: I'll tell you more about the victims upcoming days. Stay with CNN throughout the night for continuing live coverage of the shoot down of Flight 17, CNN Tonight starts now.