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THE SITUATION ROOM
UN School Sheltering Refugees Struck in Gaza; FAA Clears U.S. Flights to Tel Aviv; Large Pieces of Malaysia Flight 17 Wreckage Recovered; Israeli Spokesman on Possible Cease-Fire; Crisis in the Middle East; Largest Piece of Crash Wreckage Found; Dutch Sending Investigators to Crash Site
Aired July 24, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report. Breaking news, shelter carnage. A deadly strike on a United Nations school housing refugee families in Gaza. Women and children are among the dead and injured.
Flight ban lifted. The FAA clears U.S. airlines to resume flying to Tel Aviv even as a CNN correspondent witnessed rockets continuing to streak through the sky.
Grim discovery, the largest pieces found so far of the wreckage of Malaysia Flight 17, as the U.S. says it has proof Russia is firing across the border into Ukraine.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following the breaking news in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and in Gaza where at least 16 people have been killed and more than 200 injured at what was supposed to be a safe haven.
This was the scene after a strike at a United Nations school housing Palestinians fleeing the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Palestinians called the strike brutal Israeli aggression. But Israel says it may have been the result of a Hamas rocket, noting that several have fallen in the very same area.
We have correspondents and guests standing by with the kind of breaking news coverage you will see only here on CNN. Let's start with the CNN's Karl Penhaul, he's in Gaza City.
Karl, what's the latest, first of all, on this U.N. shelter strike?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have to be very precise about all the information to make sure that we're not reflecting the version of only one of the warring sides, Wolf.
Sixteen dead, as you say, 200 wounded. This was a United Nations school about a mile-and-a-half from the Israeli-Gaza border on the Gaza side, of course, near the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northeastern corner of Gaza.
We do know in that part of Gaza over the last few days there has been intense fighting, including artillery strikes, but also ground-to- ground fighting between militant factions and Israeli troops.
This strike took place around 3 p.m. local time. It was some kind of an explosion that went off in the school courtyard. Now some of those witnesses that were wounded and ended up in hospital spoke of several, three or four perhaps, explosions of what they described as shells.
The United Nations said that in the course of the day it had asked on two occasions to the Israeli military that the civilians from this school who were sheltering there should be allowed to evacuate.
The United Nations says that that was not permitted. However, we've heard a statement from the Israeli military saying they did offer a window for civilians to evacuate that school, a period of about four hours.
We don't know who is telling the truth there or if there is a confusion. We know in the past, in the past few days, the United Nations accused both Israel and Hamas of violating the neutrality of U.N. schools.
They say on two occasions in two separate schools Hamas has stored rockets in U.N. schools. And on two occasions over the past three days, the U.N. says the Israeli military has fired artillery into U.N. schools.
We're trying to look at this. The Israeli military says it is investigating. The United Nations says it is waiting for a full report. We went down to the school after everybody had been evacuated to see what we could find. And CNN teams, including our own security consultant, were down there.
We found a single point of detonation on the cobblestones in the courtyard of the school. We saw a fragmentation spread a lot on a wide area around the school ranging from just a few inches off the ground right up to rooftop level.
But as I say, we saw only one point of detonation and that point of detonation was not very deep. It was only about one inch deep. We did not see any wreckage of a rocket. We also did not see any fragments of what could be described as commercially-made military grade munitions.
We have heard from the Israeli military that there could have been some misfiring of a Hamas rocket. And we hear from Hamas they're squarely blaming the Israelis -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The blame continuing. All right, Karl, thanks very much.
Earlier today, I spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner. He's the spokesman for the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, about this incident at that U.N. shelter in Gaza. Here's what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. PETER LERNER, SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: The IDF does not target U.N. facilities. We knew that there were rockets in U.N. schools. We are having an ongoing relationship, working relationship with the United Nations, operating within the context of the conflict and beyond.
We do not target U.N. We actually appealed to them three days ago, together with the Red Cross, to evacuate this area because we understand that there is extensive Hamas terrorist infrastructure in this area and that they will abuse it, and they will put the people at risk like they have been doing over the last five or six days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Later this hour, I'll get additional reaction from the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. That would be Mark Regev. Also Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman, he will be joining us, as well.
Other aspects of this crisis, though, the first U.S. flight to Tel Aviv was scheduled to leave just a few minutes ago after the FAA in Washington lifted its nearly two-day ban on American carriers flying into Tel Aviv.
Many international carriers are also resuming normal service to Ben Gurion International Airport. But despite continued rocket interceptions in the area, one Israeli official told me earlier today that Ben Gurion Airport is actually safer than an airport that the president of the United States was using today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You welcome the decision by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to reinstate flights to Israel. That was a major setback for Israel.
YAIR LAPID, ISRAELI FINANCE MINISTER: Yes, it was. And it was wrong, you know?
BLITZER: It was a win for Hamas.
LAPID: Listen, LAX is 10 times more dangerous than the Israeli Ben Gurion Airport.
BLITZER: Well, how can you say that?
LAPID: Because the traffic there is so big, comparing to us.
BLITZER: But there are no rockets flying around LAX.
LAPID: Well, there are no rockets flying around the Ben Gurion Airport.
BLITZER: There was one, landed a mile away.
LAPID: There was one landed more than a mile away. Listen, the minute we presented the FAA with the details and the facts of the matter, they say, OK, you can go back flying there. It's totally safe to fly to Israel. And I recommend it, by the way, to everyone who wants to come here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yair Lapid is the finance minister and a member of the prime minister's inner security cabinet.
Let's get some more on this part of the story. Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is standing by. She has got the very latest from there -- Pam.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even as the FAA lifted its ban on U.S. flights to and from Tel Aviv, two U.S. officials I spoke with say the facts on the ground there are the same as they were before the FAA freeze was put into place.
The big change that did happen, according to these officials, is an increase in information sharing between Israel and the U.S.
BROWN (voice-over): Back in the sky, U.S.-based airlines are again allowed to fly to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport. But even this morning, at least one rocket was stopped right in the vicinity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. That one is right over the airport.
BROWN: The FAA offered lots of reassurances but few specifics on why the ban was lifted after just 36 hours.
ANTHONY FOXX, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We have information now that has given us the satisfaction we need to lift it. And that's all I have to say about it.
BROWN: So what changed their minds? Israeli officials say they convinced the FAA it was safe.
GIORA ROMM, DIRECTOR, ISRAEL CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY: We had to demonstrate to the FAA, to give the FAA our basic assumptions the matrix of the planning and some technological variables.
BROWN: U.S. officials tell CNN the threat on the ground is still there, but the Israelis changed some protocols after the ban and shared new information about existing security measures, convincing the U.S. they were adequate.
But at the same time, in the background, accusations the ban was more politics than safety.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I rise today...
BROWN: Senator Ted Cruz accusing the president of using the ban in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands.
Taking his own stand, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel to protest the ban.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The fact that one rocket falls far away from this airport, a mile away, doesn't mean you should down air traffic into a country and paralyze the country.
BROWN: All three U.S. airlines that fly to Israel announced they would resume flights. United Airlines explained why on a conference call today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have consulted extensively with the U.S. government as well as our own people on the ground in Tel Aviv, and that is why we believe it's safe to fly.
BROWN: Some European carriers are flying but not every airline says the airport is safe. Lufthansa canceled flights. And the European Aviation Safety Agency recommends against flying to Tel Aviv, calling it a hazardous situation.
BROWN: And the State Department says there is still no plan to cancel the travel warning. And one of the U.S. officials I spoke with, Wolf, says that officials here at home are watching the situation closely in Tel Aviv, and the ban could be returned if necessary -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown with the latest on that. Pamela, thanks very much.
The Israeli military says it is intercepted five Hamas rockets launched from Gaza aimed at Tel Aviv today. CNN's Martin Savidge is over at Ben Gurion Airport, just outside of Tel Aviv.
Martin, you say you saw some of these rocket interceptions. Tell us what it was like.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you know, it was only a couple of hours after the news had been announced that the FAA was lifting the ban for U.S. air carriers. We had come to the airport to report that news to you when, just as we were setting up, we heard sirens in the distance and then just moments later, you heard the very distinct but rapid explosions.
And those are a signature of the Iron Dome. And so there were a series of those. It got quiet for maybe about 10 minutes, and then it repeated again. So it was really a series of two waves of missile launches that came from Gaza, but they were all intercepted, according to the IDF. Nothing struck on the ground here.
But, you know, it's a clear indication that the air space here is challenged from time to time. It's not to say that something is going to strike the airport here, but remember, aircraft don't just stay at the airport. They're going to take off and they have to make their approaches.
And in any place where they might run into either a rocket coming from Gaza or a defensive missile going up, you can see why they might give pause -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly can. All right, thanks very much, Martin Savidge at Ben Gurion Airport for us.
I'm going to talk about all of this and a lot more with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, an important interview. That will be coming up in our next hour.
Just ahead here, we're going to get Palestinian and Israeli reaction to the breaking news. The Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan is standing by. Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu , is standing by, as well.
And more breaking news, more bodies of Malaysia Flight 17 victims found along with the largest pieces of the plane recovered so far. We're going live to Ukraine.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're coming to you live from Jerusalem where we're following the intense efforts to try to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Let's talk about that and more with Mark Regev, he's the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thanks very much for joining us. So once again, are you close to a cease-fire in Gaza?
MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We don't know, because Hamas apparently says no. We saw the Hamas leader today talk publicly and he put so many conditions on a cease-fire, he makes it impossible.
Israel has shown a willingness. We have said so in the past. We've been ready for an immediate cease-fire, and Hamas makes that impossible. And in doing so, Hamas condemns both the Israelis and the Palestinians, the people of Gaza to continued bloodshed. And Hamas is solely responsible for the continuation of this conflict.
BLITZER: If there's a cease-fire, would you as a longer term process, would you allow international monitors to go into Gaza as part of an effort to demilitarize the Gaza Strip.
REGEV: It should be demilitarized. There's no reason for any rockets or any terrorism whatsoever in the Gaza Strip. You know, we pulled out of Gaza. We pulled out. We took down all the settlements. We pulled back the international frontier, and we hoped at the time that we would be able to live in peace with Gaza, that there would be corporation; there would be commerce, tourism, trade, people going back and forth.
Hamas took over the Gaza strip. Instead of having cooperation, we've had conflict. If the situation was to change, if there wasn't balance from Gaza, then the restrictions we placed on many of them to protect ourselves, they wouldn't be necessary.
BLITZER: Would you pull out all Israeli forces in Gaza, your Israeli troops in Gaza right now? Would you pull out all of those forces and allow international monitors to go in to police, if you will, some sort of internationally guaranteed cease-fire?
REGEV: Part of our ethos is that we defend ourselves. We've never asked the United States or any other country to defend us. Now we cannot pull out our troops as long as those rockets keep firing down on our cities, as long as Hamas keeps trying to kill our people.
BLITZER: But we're talking about monitors not necessarily protecting Israel to observe to make sure that the Gaza Strip would be demilitarized.
REGEV: Well, if Gaza is demilitarized, it would be a major achievement. And you should know, Wolf, there's a Palestinian signed commitment that that should be the case. And the fact that there are so many rockets in Gaza is a violation of signed agreements in the framework of the peace process.
BLITZER: What do you know about the shelling of this school, this shelter in Gaza, Beit Hanoun in Gaza, 16 Palestinians killed, civilians, maybe 200 injured. What is the Israeli government saying about this?
REGEV: Well, our military is still looking into it. It's obviously a tragedy, because some civilians seem to have been killed. And it's a very sad situation. And you can't see those pictures and not be moved. We don't know exactly yet what happened. The U.N. has reported, the U.N. that there was Palestinian rocket fire in that area. So it could have been Palestinian ordinance.
It could have been Palestinian ordinance. It could have also been -- we don't know yet -- Israeli fire, because there were fire fights in that area. We've had continuous examples of Palestinian terrorists, Hamas, using U.N. facilities, U.N. schools as part of their military machine.
The secretary-general of the United Nations who was here two days ago has asked for an official inquiry. Why is it that U.N. facilities have been used to store rockets by Hamas? So when Hamas does this, when Hamas abuses a U.N. facility, when Hamas turns a U.N. facility into a war zone, ultimately, they're responsible for any casualties that happen there.
BLITZER: A U.N. spokesman says on two occasions they tried to get Israel, the IDF, to agree to cede (ph) the coordinates so that Palestinians in that shelter could have an exodus, if you will, could leave in peace, but they got no response from Israel.
REGEV: We've got very good relations with the U.N. bodies. We want to support their humanitarian work. And we today agree that between 10 a.m. local time and 2 p.m. local time, there would be time for a U.N. corridor to let people leave. Unfortunately, our understanding is the terrorists didn't let the people leave.
BLITZER: As far as the start-up again of U.S. flights, U.S. carriers flying to Ben Gurion Airport, as soon as that announcement was made, you just heard Martin Savidge report he was there at Ben Gurion Airport. There were four or five rocket attacks from Gaza that went nearby when central Israel, the Tel Aviv area, not far away from the airport.
What is the reinsurance that you have that it will be safe for international and U.S. carriers to fly in and out of Ben Gurion Airport?
REGEV: Not one of those rockets landed in the airport. Not one of them landed, not on the terminal and not the runway, because that airport is secure. That airport is one of the most safely guarded facilities in my country and rightly so. That airport is shielded by a multilayer defense system of missile defense, and incoming rockets cannot penetrate that the airport.
BLITZER: You know that when experts hear that there are sort of rockets and interceptions in the sky near an airport, they get nervous.
REGEV: They're allowed to get nervous, but then they've got to be rational. I think an Israeli guest before me said that some airports around the world, including in America, who are in earthquake zones, there's a higher probability that you'll have a problem there than you'll have at Ben Gurion Airport. I'd remind you that in Israel we do some things well and we do some things very well. And aviation security in this country we do very well.
BLITZER: How did you convince the FAA in Washington to go ahead and lift that ban after 36 hours?
REGEV: We were totally transparent. We got our airport security professionals to speak directly to their U.S. counterparts. And they had a professional dialogue with security expert, aviation expert, with the aviation effort, and we showed them that Ben Gurion Airport is safe and open for business.
BLITZER: Yesterday, when I spoke to the spokesman for Hamas, Osama Hamdan, he acknowledged that the Hamas rockets are being aimed at Ben Gurion Airport, in part, he says, because there are Israeli air force military activities going on there, as well.
REGEV: Well, first of all, it's not a military airport. And frankly, Hamas is being disingenuous. Hamas has a track record of targeting innocent civilians. Just blows us here in Jerusalem. You remember a time when Hamas was exploding suicide bombers on buses, killing scores of different people.
Hamas shoots rockets indiscriminately into Israeli cities, trying to kill our people. Hamas kidnaps youngsters and murders them brutally. I mean, the Hamas spokesman doesn't say nice things on CNN, but the truth is, they are a brutal, extreme, violent terrorist organization committed to a crazy religious creed, a warped version of Islam. They are the enemies of everyone who believes in peace and reconciliation, tolerance and democracy.
BLITZER: Earlier today, I spoke with a Palestinian parliamentarian, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a man you probably know.
REGEV: I do.
BLITZER: He said right now, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Hamas were on the same page when it comes to a cease-fire with Israel, that Hamas is ready for an five-day cease- fire, but Israel is rejecting that.
REGEV: That's be clear here. There's an Egyptian proposal that's been on the table for a week now, an Egyptian proposal that calls for an immediate unconditional cease-fire to end the violence.
We've accepted that proposal. And that proposal is supported by the United Nations and the Arab League and the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas opposes that cease-fire. And Hamas is directly responsible therefore for the continued bloodshed, because they are the only party that refuses a cease-fire today.
BLITZER: Is Secretary John Kerry coming back here in Israel or is he done with his current leg of shuttle diplomacy as far as you know?
REGEV: I don't know. If he comes back, he'll be a welcome visitor, because the U.S. secretary of state is always a welcome visitor in Israel. We are one of the few countries on the planet that is unabashedly pro-American.
BLITZER: Mark Regev, the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Thanks very much for joining us.
REGEV: My pleasure.
BLITZER: We've got a lot more news coming up, including new images, grim new discoveries. We're going to go live to Ukraine for the latest on what's going on there. Serious tensions involving the U.S. and Russia at the same time. Much more coming up. We're live here in Jerusalem. Our SITUATION ROOM special report continues.
BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem. Lots going on. We'll get Palestinian reaction to the latest clashes between Israel and Hamas.
But there's other breaking news we're following, including the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Investigators in Ukraine report they've come across the largest piece of wreckage they've seen so far. All this comes as the military situation in eastern Ukraine grows more dire.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's getting new information -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is new intelligence today about what the Russian military may be up to, and it is quite concerning. I want to get right to what the State Department had to say today about the latest Russian military moves. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: We have new evidence that the Russians intended to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launches to the separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery -- artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: CNN has learned that it is more than just firing artillery. In fact, U.S. intelligence satellites and radars have been monitoring this firing from Russia for the last several days into Ukraine. Why might Putin be doing this? Of course, the Ukrainian government taking back some territory, pushing the rebels, the pro-Moscow separatists if you will into more of a corner. Putin perhaps now ordering his troops to fire from Russia to open that territory inside Ukraine back up to them.
We have some photos to show you. These are some of the pictures that U.S. intelligence is looking at that they believe may well be Russian artillery just on the Russian side of the border. Pointed into Ukraine. The empty shells firing into Ukraine.
Now about 15,000 Russian troops on that border, Wolf. It continues to be a hair trigger situation.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And certainly could very, very dangerous situation. We're going to be speaking with Marie Harf, the State Department spokeswoman later here in the SITUATION ROOM.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, crash investigators complained today that people they described as lunatics and criminals continue to block their access to some off the wreckage.
CNN's Phil Black is in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. He's joining us now live.
Phil, you were at the crash site today. What was the scene like?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is an eerie scene there because for much of the day it looks seemingly abandoned. There is no one there examining securing the site. There is no one maintain an ongoing operation to try and find bodies and remains, victims.
The only people out there at the moment are the observers from the organization to secure the incorporation in Europe. Some Malaysian experts and today for the first time some Australian diplomats and a forensic expert, as well.
But they're small in number together. They're traveling around in a convoy from one key site to the next. And it's very much an assessment that they are doing. It is not an ongoing investigation. It is not an ongoing search. And the fact that this is not taking place, that no one is still taking responsibility for that site is concerning because this small group of observers and experts, they are finding disturbing evidence that the initial search operation was less than thorough.
On the two days, the last two days of being out there, they have found human remains, new sets of human remains on both occasions. So there is still clearly a great deal of work to be done. We believe that there will be more international experts stepping up there in the coming days. But for the moment, one week since the crash of MH-17, that site, that wreckage is still not being treated with the care that it deserves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we know, Phil, that a freelance journalist for CNN has been detained by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. What can you tell us about that?
BLACK: We're talking about a local journalist here in Donetsk called Anton Skiba. He was working with us out of the MH-17 crash site two days ago. When we returned to this location and we were unloading our vehicle, we were met by a group -- a very heavily armed, very serious pro-Russian militants.
They were looking us up and down very closely. We noticed that man in civilian clothing who had a photo. That photo was of Anton Skiba and within moments they had detained him and were leading him away. As we tried to engage them to intervene, to stop them to find out what was happening, this man told us, and he's a representative of the local pro-Russian militant leadership here, he said that Anton Skiba is dangerous. He accused him of being a terrorist.
Now he'd only worked with us for 24 hours but he is known to a lot of other international journalists here. He worked with them on a freelance basis, as a translator, a guide and so forth. There were a lot of international journalists here in Donetsk that are worried about him because we haven't seen him for two days now. He's been in custody that long. And indeed, other international agencies, journalist protection groups, human rights groups, even the U.S. State Department have all issued statements expressing concern about his detention and demanding that he be freed.
The sad fact is, though, Wolf, the journalists being detained here in the east of Ukraine has been a reality from the very earliest days of this conflict. It has been happening regularly. It still does, according to journalists and protection groups and it is something that affects both sides of the conflict. At the moment, there is a journalist who works for RT, the Russian state network. He has previous -- his name is Graham Phillips. He has previously been detained by Ukrainian government forces.
This Russian network says that he has been retained once again by Ukrainian government forces. So this is happening on both sides, so say observers and journalists here. It is an unfortunate reality of this ongoing conflict -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You knew -- you know this freelancer personally, Phil?
BLACK: Well, as I say, we spent the day with him. He worked with us out at the site for 24 hours and the evening before that, as well. We can't say we knew him particularly well. But he came recommended.
There is a very tight community here in Donetsk of local journalists who are assisting international media with language skills, with directions and these sorts of things, all of these skills helping us do our jobs to cover this story here.
They're an important part of our coverage. They are a tight community. They all know each other, as I say, and they do work for various organizations from time to time. So we worked with him for a day. He was professional. He was -- he performed his duties very, very well. He was then detained but, as I say, he's well-known to the journalists here from various media organizations. And there are a lot of people very worried about his well-being at this time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Phil Black. Let's hope this freelancer is freed very, very soon.
Up next, we're going live to the Netherlands. Dozens more coffins arrive today and the Dutch prime minister now says he won't rest and will do everything he can to make sure whoever shot down the airliner is brought to justice.
BLITZER: Dutch officials say the transfer of bodies from Ukraine back to the Netherlands should be finished by Saturday. 74 more coffins were flown in today and taken by hearse to a lab where the remains will be identified.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin is joining us now live from Amsterdam with more.
Tell us what happened, Erin.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, as you say, today some 74 caskets arrived here in the Netherlands. But that does not necessarily mean 74 bodies. Dutch officials saying that there is a possibility that each bag contains more than one and that is the grim reality of the tragedy this country is struggling to come to terms with today.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying that they have identified so far 203 body bags. And tomorrow, a team of forensic workers expected to make their way out to the crash site to try and find more victims. And I can't tell you how important that is to the families I have been speaking to.
In the words of one mother, she told me it's her human right to be able to bury her son and there will be devastated families out there if they are not successful in identifying and repatriating all 29 victims.
Now tomorrow we're expecting the arrival of 70 more coffins, more arrivals also expected on Saturday, each arrival will be accompanied by the same somber ceremonies that we've been seeing over the past couple of days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How far, Erin, have officials gotten actually collecting all the bodies?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, as I said, Wolf, we simply do not know because they don't know at this moment how many bodies they have. They still need to go through all of these body bags and we're talking about body parts, as well. So they simply don't know. They know that they have 203 body bags. How many bodies, how many victims that means they simply are still trying to figure out.
BLITZER: 298 people were aboard that airliner. The Dutch government, I know they're responding to all of this and it's very somber, very detailed. But officials there where you are, they're pretty angry at what's going on, especially the Russians, right?
MCLAUGHLIN: That's right, Wolf. Today, we heard from the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte actually in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. And he said that he's made a pledge to the victims' families, a three-pronged pledge really first to identify and repatriate all of the victims, all of the bodies in this disaster.
The second to find out exactly what happened to them, what exactly what caused the downing of MH-17. And then the third pledge is to bring the perpetrators to justice. Now that is a tall order for a small European country. But as you say, people here are determined, they're outraged. They want to see justice -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they do. All right, Erin, thanks very much.
Erin McLaughlin reporting for us from the Netherlands.
There's more breaking news we're following. Wreckage of an Algerian airliner that went missing with at least 116 people on board has reportedly now been spotted in the Saharan Desert.
CNN'S Tom Foreman is working the story for us.
Tom, what is the very latest?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest right now, Wolf, is that they think they've found this wreckage and there are similarities between what happened here and what happened over near Taiwan.
Let's look first at the flight track of this plane here that is believed to have crashed here in Mali. Yes, it went down in an area where there had been rebel forces, Islamic extremists fighting for months against the government. So of course that raised concerns early on. But this is just as important to consider. The plane was flying through an area known for producing powerful storms this time of year. And storms were active during this flight. So right in this area, look at what's going on there.
Now let's go over and look at that crash near Taiwan. Again, here is the flight pattern for that crash over there. Over this direction with this way. This time as the plane went down, once again, it was attempting to land amid heavy rains, associated with a typhoon.
We don't know the for certain if weather was the official cause, Wolf. But this it is something they both have in common. And we do know this, if you look at statistics on this chart from Boeing of the causes of worldwide air accidents from a recent 10-year period, this bar over here represents accidents in which the pilot lost control of the aircraft. And many, many of these involved a primary problem of bad weather -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom, aviation safety analyst worldwide, as you know, they're on alert for possible terrorist missile strikes on planes right now. So do investigators still have to consider that in this particular case?
FOREMAN: Well, of course they do in the case in Mali. They have no choice about that. The simple truth is, they have to take to heart the likelihood that terrorism might be involved or that perhaps with an aging fleet in the world that there was an equipment failure of some sort or the people were inadequately trained or distracted.
But as odd as it is for both of these things to happen at the same time, you have to always think about the weather because we do know in circumstances like this that the weather remains one of the biggest reasons that planes go down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman within an excellent explanation as usual. Thank you.
In our next hour, two important newsmakers will join us. I'll ask the State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf about what's happening in the Ukraine as well as here in the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry have a chance of brokering cease-fire.
Plus, U.S. airlines resume flying in and out of Tel Aviv. I'll ask Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas about his charge yesterday that President Obama was playing politics with the FAA and hurting Israel.
BLITZER: We're back with you live from Jerusalem. President Obama, meanwhile, is wrapping up his fundraising trip out west today. Tomorrow, he will be back in Washington, and meeting with Central American leaders. They will discuss the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border.
A new CNN poll, by the way, shows 57 percent of those questioned are willing to let some of those children be relocated in their city or town. However, the poll also shows the crisis is changing. Voter's attitudes about immigration reform.
Let's bring in our senior White House CNN reporter, Jim Acosta -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, White House officials say even with President Obama fundraising out in the West Coast the administration is working aggressively to solve the border crisis but they are very gloomy about prospects that Congress will work out a deal with just a week to go before the lawmakers leave for their August recess.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even with thousands of migrant children still in limbo after flooding into the U.S. from Central America, the White House and Congress are hardly bordering on a solution.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is a problem of the president's own making.
ACOSTA: House Speaker John Boehner said Democrats won't get $3.7 billion in emergency funding for the border crisis unless Republicans can tweak a loophole in the law that offers the unaccompanied minors an enticement of special legal status.
BOEHNER: We've got a president at the table, and the president ought to get engaged in this if he actually wants something to happen.
ACOSTA: A CNN/ORC poll finds the public clamoring for change with 74 percent saying it's extremely or very important for the U.S. to deal with illegal immigration. A 10-point jump over last year.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We must pass the president's request, a supplemental bill.
ACOSTA: Central American leaders are in Washington asking for help. An untold number of their children are being abused on their long journey north as the president of Honduras told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
PRES. JUAN ORLANDO HERNANDEZ, HONDURAS (Through Translator): Young girls, 13-year-olds, the coyotes, the human smugglers give them birth control pills because most of them are going to be sexually abused.
ACOSTA: Texas Governor Rick Perry is calling for the National Guard to be deployed on the border.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I will not stand by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor. We are too good a country for that to occur.
ACOSTA: The White House first dubbed Perry's request symbolic, noting apprehensions of unaccompanied minors are down by half since last month.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It seems to me that a much powerful symbol would be the bipartisan passage of legislation that would actually make a historic investment in border security and send an additional 20,000 personnel to the border.
ACOSTA: Now, it turns out, the Obama administration has its own team on the ground on the border assessing whether a National Guard deployment might be a good idea after all. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ACOSTA: And tomorrow, President Obama will meet with the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The president wants those leaders to do a better job of disrupting human smuggling that works. In return those leaders want financial assistance but without that border bill they may not get it, Wolf. And the secretary of Homeland Security is warning that without the border bill, without that extra money, they may run out of space for these children fast -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, we'll see what happens to that supplemental bill to appropriate funds for this immigration issue.
Are, Jim, thanks very much.
Coming up in the next hour, our SITUATION ROOM especial report. I'll ask the Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas why he thinks the Obama administration is pressuring Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire.
And the spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Kerry standing by. She'll join us live to give us the very latest on the efforts to achieve a cease-fire and the dire situation right now along the Ukrainian-Russian border.