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THE SITUATION ROOM
Israel Approves New 24-House Cease-Fire; U.S. Embassy in Libya Evacuated; Hamas Response to Cease-Fire; First Bodies Identified from MH-17 Crash Site
Aired July 26, 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, THE SITUATION ROOM special report, breaking news. The Israeli cabinet has just approved a 24- hour extension of the humanitarian cease-fire. This after the earlier humanitarian cease-fire was broken as Hamas fired rockets ending that initial 12-hour cease-fire. So what happens, next? Stand by. New information coming in.
Embassy evacuated, some 150 Americans ordered to flee the U.S. Embassy in Libya as militant battles rage on in Tripoli.
First victim identified. Forensic experts determine the identity of the first of almost 300 people killed in the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 as more coffins arrive in the Netherlands.
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.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And we're following multiple breaking news stories this hour. Major new developments at the U.S. Embassy in Libya. In Ukraine at the Malaysia Flight 17 crash site, and here in the Middle East where a proposed four-hour extension to the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas would have ended right now, but new information just coming in. The Israeli security cabinet just moments ago has agreed to extend that initial humanitarian cease-fire for another 24 hours beginning right now. It's midnight here in the Middle East, so it would continue for 24 hours.
Assuming -- and this is the condition put forward by Israel. Assuming that they are allowed during this next 24 hours to continue their work, the Israeli military, in going after and trying to destroy those Hamas tunnels going from Gaza into Israel. We're getting new information. Stand by for what the Israeli cabinet has just decided. All this happening as the death toll continues to climb with more than 1,000 Palestinians now reported killed as well as at least 40 Israeli soldiers, three civilians. In fact, only moments ago the IDF announced that two more Israeli soldiers were killed. That brings the number of Israeli soldiers killed to 42. Three Israeli civilians. We're covering all angles of the breaking news with CNN's global resources including our correspondents, our experts, our guests in key locations.
Let's begin with CNN's Atika Shubert, she's in the Israeli City of Ashkelon, just minutes from the border from Gaza.
Atika, we know that sirens have just gone off in Beersheba and Israeli town not far away either. What has happened over these past four hours since that initial 12-hour cease-fire ended, the Israelis extended it for four hours but Hamas began launching some rockets and missiles into Israel?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the last four hours we've definitely seen rockets being fired. In fact, here in Ashkelon just about a little bit more than an hour ago, we saw two rockets intercepted just overhead here and we do continue to hear rockets fired elsewhere and in a number of other areas around the Gaza Strip but even as far north as the southern area of Tel Aviv. So, even though we've seen these rocket attacks, however, it does seem that for now had the Israeli military has held its fire, and it looks like with this 24-hour extension, the Israeli military will continue to hold for a little bit.
But I think a lot of this all depends on how many more rocket and mortar attacks come out from Gaza. And in the meantime, the IDF is continuing to try and destroy as much had of that Hamas tunnel network as it can. It discovered four new tunnel networks in the cease-fire today and is trying to make sure that it closes all of those off -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The pressure, Atika, you're right there, you're in the front lines in Israel, not far away from the border. Certainly if the Hamas rockets, missiles, mortar fire keeps coming in, that's going to put enormous pressure on the Israeli government not to continue what they say has just begun literally this moment another 24-hour extension of that cease-fire. Give us a little flavor of the mood among the Israelis where you are.
SHUBERT: I think really there are two very distinct divisions here. We've got one part of the Israeli society that is appalled by what they're seeing out in Gaza and is really trying to put an end to the fighting there. We've seen thousands of protesters come out in Tel Aviv today trying to put a stop to operation protective edge. On the other hand, there's a very significant part of the Israeli public that wants to keep pushing forward in Gaza and this is because they feel that if the military really goes in there with force, they'll be able to finally stop these rocket attacks and destroy this tunnel network that, remember, isn't just in Gaza but also infiltrating into Israel and near those kibbutzes around Gaza.
And there's a lot of fear that there will be more attacks unless the military goes in and really delivers a lethal blow to Hamas. So, this is the pressure that the government is under. Now, in the next 24 hours, that may change. There may be different political pressures coming in, but it does seem to buy a little bit more time for the Israeli government to clean up those tunnels and maybe decide what they -- what other conditions they want for a truce going forward.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert in Ashkelon for us not far from the Gaza border. Atika, thanks very much. Just recapping the breaking news literally these last few moments the
Israeli cabinet, the security cabinet, meeting in emergency session in Tel Aviv. They've just approved another 24-hour extension of what they call this humanitarian cease-fire contingent on the Israeli military being allowed to continue its efforts to destroy those tunnels, Hamas tunnels going from Gaza into Israel. We'll see what the Hamas reaction is. We'll going to get reaction from a Hamas spokesman shortly here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, health officials are now reporting more than 1,000 people killed in the fighting. CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene for us. What's the very latest, Karl, from where you are?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there have been mixed signals tonight from Hamas. We heard from one of their international representatives based in the gulf that Hamas was ready to match Israel's initial offer of a four-hour extension to Saturday's cease- fire, but then on the ground here in Gaza, we heard that one of the other Hamas representatives said there would be no such deal. There was, of course, as Atika is reporting one message that was loud and clear, and that was once again Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades firing rockets out of the Strip and into Israel.
In fact, at one point just two hours after the expiring of Saturday's cease-fire, al-Qassam Brigades are saying that they fired more than 12 rockets. But in the course of the day, of course, the cease-fire did hold. And this provided an important opportunity for many displaced Gazans to take a look.
PENHAUL (voice-over): Exodus from the front line. Almost nothing left to lose.
HANZA AL-MASHI, DISPLACED PERSON: Where do I live now? Where I go now?
PENHAUL: Bits and pieces bundled on their heads. His mother's photo under his arm, he says he lost her in the 2009 war. Now he's just lost his home. "There's nothing left. Nothing left. It's a massacre," he says. In the end, these men find what they say is the family safe. A life savings up in smoke. Amid the destruction, some creation. Lambs born minutes before the truce began.
(on camera): We're only about 700 meters from the border between Gaza and Israel here and quite clearly there's been close-quarters combat here. These are the cartridge cases from a light machine gun.
(voice-over): Close by a race to drag the dying back from the brink. As Hamas militant gunman saunters off to a new position ready for when the battle begins again. Four hours before the cease-fire, a massive bomb dropped here. Midmorning, rescuers struggled to burrow in. Residents unhappy with this filming as they pull out a survivor. We pulled out seven bodies, one of them still alive, another still under the rubble, he says. Next door the Alzanins tiptoe through the debris. Mohammed has rescued the family patriarch. "My granddad would say
we're in god's hands. We've lost our money, but the most important thing is you're still alive," he says. He salvaged birth certificates, school diplomas, too. People with no state desperate for every scrap of paper to prove they still exist. In the hallway, a female relative begs us to feel her pain. Back in the rubble, a man gestures why. His neighbor believes the answer is simple.
(on camera): Do you think there can be peace between Israel and the Palestinian people?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. Two country for Palestinians and Israel.
PENHAUL (voice-over): But for now all they can do is believe they can rise from their ruins.
PENHAUL: Now, when we're trying to look for reasons as to why Hamas isn't immediately coming out and agreeing to Israel's offer to extend Saturday's cease-fire, there may be two factors here. One in terms of the standards of guerrilla warfare, Hamas' militant wing al-Qassam Brigades seem to have waged a pretty good campaign by their standards, it must we said, during this confrontation, so they may not want to call a longer cease-fire in order not to lose any military momentum on the battlefield.
And on the other side, on the political front, Hamas' political representatives have been pretty emphatic in this, that what they really want to do is not have a temporary cease-fire and then talk, but they really want the world, especially Israel, to take note of its political demands and that basically revolves around ending what they call the blockade of Gaza before there can be an end to this war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul, thanks very, very much. Be careful over there. And once again, we'll get Hamas reaction. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, to the Israeli cabinet decision just reached that they will extend for another 24 hours that humanitarian cease-fire assuming, this is part of the condition that the Israelis have put forward, during the next 24 hours they will continue to try to destroy those Hamas tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. We'll speak to a Hamas spokesman shortly and we'll get reaction from Hamas. Much more on this story coming up.
But there's other breaking news we're following including the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Proved by President Obama himself, some 150 U.S. military and diplomatic personnel driven out by fierce militant fighting in and around Tripoli.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. So, Brian, tell us what happened.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, American diplomats were escorted out of the Libyan capital over land with fighter jets, marines in a v- 22 osprey and even a drone watching over them. Their departure from the chaotic scene in the Libyan capital raises serious questions tonight over whether the Obama administration really has a handle on an increasingly violent Middle East.
TODD (voice-over): An embassy in the cross fire. Now evacuated. With fighting ramped up around the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, over the past several days a convoy of diplomats is escorted out of the capital and over land to Tunisia. They had to move by land because U.S. officials say the airport in Tripoli wasn't an option. Battles between rival militias had intensified at the airport which is near the U.S. Embassy. This video shows an airbus owned by a Libyan airline erupting in flames on the tarmac. Secretary of State John Kerry was clear, the 150 Americans at the embassy were at risk.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are suspending our current diplomatic activities in the embassy. Not closing the embassy, but suspending the activities.
TODD: Former U.S. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey has evacuated U.S. embassies in the Middle East twice.
JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: We try to keep people even when the situation is dangerous as long as possible. But when you do have very clear and present danger, and that was the case in Tripoli over the last few days, you suspend operations at an embassy.
TODD: Nearly three years after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has descended into lawlessness, along with the ongoing violence, the U.S. is still haunted by the 2012 killings in Benghazi of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador. What role should the U.S. play in Libya now?
REP. ED ROYCE (R-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: Having removed Gadhafi, the administration is sort of took its focus off of Libya and things had been getting worse for quite some considerable time now. I do think they should be much more engaged on the ground with the factions in Libya.
TODD: A White House official says, the U.S. has been actively engaged on the ground in Libya and will remain so. The exodus of American diplomats from Libya follows a partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last month as ISIS rebels threatened the city and evacuations of the U.S. Embassies in Cairo and Yemen last year, Damascus in 2012. Has it become too dangerous to keep any U.S. embassies in the Middle East open?
JEFFREY: No. The default position for the State Department and it's the right decision is to keep highly skilled professionals on the ground. Trying to advance our interests even in a war zone even with bullets flying around. We're used to it. We're good at it.
TODD: Still, one U.S. official tells CNN the Pentagon had pressed for weeks to evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, especially after that airport came under attack. That left Americans no way to get out on commercial aircraft, Wolf, and the situation worsened quickly after that.
BLITZER: Yes, this was not what was supposed to happen after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi's regime with extensive U.S. assistance, military and economic, in getting rid of Gadhafi. Brian Todd, thanks very much.
So what is the next move for the U.S. in Libya? The next move in the Middle East as a whole? We'll going to get the latest diplomatic developments. Reaction. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, she is standing by live back in Washington.
We'll also get Israeli and Hamas reaction to the breaking news Israel has just approved a new 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire. We're live here in Jerusalem with a SITUATION ROOM special report.
BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news. Israel has just approved a 24-hour extension of the humanitarian cease-fire in its battle with Hamas in Gaza. Let's get some more reaction.
Joining us now from Washington the State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf. Good news? Bad news? What do you think about this 24-hour extension by the Israeli security cabinet, Marie?
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Wolf, Secretary Kerry remains in constant contact with the different partners here including with Israel to see if we can get an extension here, but more importantly, to see if we can get this seven-day humanitarian cease-fire we've all been talking about for a few days here into place because that's really what we need, to have some time and space to both get some supplies and medicine to the civilians on the ground, but also, then, to hopefully negotiate a longer-term cease-fire to get where we need to be.
BLITZER: But an additional 24 hours that just began a few minutes ago, going through Sunday, that could presumably be extended further. So, I assume you would welcome at least this on the part of Israel. We're going to get Hamas reaction shortly, but this would be an initial gesture on the part of the Israeli cabinet. I assume you welcome that, right?
HARF: We do. And, look, things are happening every minute here, minute by minute, really, and the Secretary has been deeply engaged in this but we do welcome any steps by either side to cease the fighting, to put a pause in what we've seen here, so we can again have some time and space to really negotiate what needs to be a longer-term cease- fire.
BLITZER: As you know yesterday the Israeli cabinet rejected that seven-day cease-fire proposal put forward by Secretary of State Kerry and others. They didn't like the conditions that they thought were too favorable toward Hamas. What was your reaction to that rejection by the Israeli cabinet?
HARF: Well, I think Secretary Kerry himself spoke to that and said that, look, there was never a formal proposal put forward, but we know these are very complicated issues. If they weren't, this would have been done a long time ago. We know there are a lot of moving parts and moving pieces here. That's why we're working with so many different partners. We're certainly working with the Israelis, but also the Qataris and the Turks who can really push Hamas so we can get back to a cease-fire, so that's exactly what Secretary Kerry is doing, trying to find the right formula here, the right framework, to put a cease-fire in place so we can get that space to negotiate hopefully something a little more lasting.
BLITZER: All right, so the Secretary is going to stay in Paris. What are his plans? Is he going to come back here in the Middle East? Do you know? Does he know?
HARF: Well, Wolf, the secretary is currently on his way back to Washington. He has left Paris. He is also I would note making a number of phone calls from the plane to Israelis and other partner as well. And, you know, no matter where he is, whether it's Jerusalem or Paris or Cairo or Washington, he is so deeply engaged in these issues. He's made dozens and dozens of phone calls over the past few days and will absolutely continue to be going forward.
BLITZER: Let me quickly get your thoughts on Libya, on the decision by the U.S. to leave the U.S. Embassy, evacuate U.S. diplomatic and military personnel from Libya. This has turned out, what's gone on in Libya the last couple of years or so since the overthrow of Gadhafi, is a real disaster, hasn't it?
HARF: Well, look, Wolf, we know that these kind of large transitions from decades and decades of dictatorship, trying to move towards democracy, we know those transitions take a long time in many cases. They're often quite difficult. They certainly don't happen overnight. And they really are generational challenges that we need to work on. It's only been three years since the Libyans rose up and tried to pick a better future and we know there will be challenges along the way.
The reason we have temporarily suspended operations at our embassy is because there was just so much severe fighting literally in the vicinity of the embassy that we believed we needed to pull our folks out for now. But I want to be clear, Ambassador Jones and our team will be heavily engaged in the meantime but we'll also get back on the ground as soon as they possibly can. It is critical that we remain engaged here.
BLITZER: Was there a credible and specific threat to U.S. diplomats working in Tripoli?
HARF: No, Wolf, that's not why we took this step and I want to be clear about that. Obviously we know it's a difficult operating environment, but we really did this because the embassy itself is physically located pretty much in the middle of where so much of this very heavy militia fighting has been taking place, so we're just in the middle of a very tough security situation. As you showed earlier, the airport in Tripoli also has come under intense fighting. So, we believed that this made sense timing wise to do this. But, look, we operate in many dangerous places around the world because we believe that there's a role for American leadership to play there. We certainly believe that's the case in Libya. We will continue working with them, and we'll get our folks back in there as soon as we possibly can.
BLITZER: One final question, Marie, before I let you go. I did some checking before the show. The U.S. government spent, U.S. taxpayers, $1.65 billion, with a "b," $1.65 billion, the Tomahawk cruise missiles, the other military expenditures, the humanitarian aid, the economic aid to Libya, to get rid of Gadhafi. Was the money well spent?
HARF: Well, look Wolf, we're helping the country come out of a brutal dictatorship. We are helping the people of Libya get a better future. We believe this is incredibly important to do even despite the amount of money that you mentioned, because we believe this is not just a security issue, but also an issue of American leadership and helping democracies flourish if they can in places where they hadn't before. So, look, this is a tough challenge and people who expect democracy to just spring up from dictatorship overnight, I just think probably aren't familiar with the history or how difficult it is because we believe it's a long-term priority, it's a long-term challenge and we will keep working with the Libyans because, again, we really do believe that it's critical to help give them a chance at a better future. That's why so many Libyans rose up and indeed gave their lives for it.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, I think you make some good, solid points, Marie, but a lot of people will look back and say as bad as Gadhafi and his regime was, and it was awful, it may not have been as bad as the current terrorist regime that could be in place in Libya in the weeks and months and indeed years to come. We'll see what happens. Let's hope for the best. Marie Harf, the state department spokeswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
HARF: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, the first reaction from Hamas to Israel's approval of a 24-hour humanitarian extension of the cease-fire. Is Hamas ready to go along? The group spokesman is standing by live. We'll discuss.
Plus, the first positive identification of a victim of Malaysia Flight 17. We're going live to the Netherlands.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're live here in Jerusalem. And this is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Welcome back. The Israeli cabinet has just approved another 24-hour extension of the humanitarian cease-fire. Let's get the immediate first official reaction from Hamas.
Osama Hamdan is a Hamas spokesman. He's joining us now live from Beirut.
Mr. Hamdan, thanks for joining us.
Is Hamas ready to go along with another 24-hour extension of the cease-fire and see the killing, see the fighting stop, at least for another 24 hours?
OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: Well, Wolf, thank you, first.
Today, it was a real bloody day. More than 117 Palestinians were found under destroyed houses. 21 members of one family were found, just only children and women were killed in their house. Although the Palestinian resistance respected the cease-fire, there was a violation for the Israeli side from the 12-hour cease-fire mainly in the Hosa (ph), in the south, so now there is some talks with the mediators and we are going ahead to clarify our position about the 24-hours humanitarian cease-fire. It's clear that you are going to have a positive position, but at least we need to hear some clarifications about what happened today in Hosa. I believe we have --
BLITZER: I hear you saying --
BLITZER: Hold on, Mr. Hamdan. What I hear you saying that you're not yet ready -- you might be ready, but you're not yet ready to accept the 24-hour extension of the cease-fire, you need clarifications? Is that what you're saying?
HAMDAN: Well, let me put it in this way. We are -- we have asked for some clarifications and guarantees that what had happened today will not happen again, and we are still waiting to have the answer from the other side. Maybe the 20 -- the declaration of the acceptance of 24 hours, it may be a difficult reaction, and we will deal with that as soon as we receive a clear response for this. But I assure you, Hamas was always positive towards the humanitarian cease-fire. It was for the six hours, three hours, and those 12 hours, and will be in a positive situation because the one who is suffering from that is the Palestinians mainly, not the other side, in fact.
BLITZER: As you know, Mr. Hamdan, there was a 12-hour cease-fire. Then the Israelis extended it for four hours. And during that four- hour period there were rockets, mortars coming in to Gaza Israel from Gaza into Israel. Why did Hamas launch rockets and mortars into Israel during that four-hour extension?
HAMDAN: That four-hour extension wasn't declared by any side. Israelis decided to say that. I don't know why they said that. Maybe for their logistics. They declared that, and they want to create a story that they are committed to the humanitarian cease-fire. In fact, they were not. In fact, in the 12-hour cease-fire, humanitarian cease-fire, they did not commit to that. And they, as I said, violated that.
And here is the point. When Israel violated or rejected the cease- fire, the answer will be there was no formal proposal. When the Palestinians have some questions, the question will be -- the answer will be the Palestinians are against the cease-fire. This is not fair. The Palestinians have the same right to ask questions, to have a clear response, and then they can build their position clearly, to know who is violating and who is doing that. Those questions were serious questions, and they are, and we are waiting to have a response. As I said, what was declared is a positive sign but we are still waiting to have the clarification from the mediators and we'll go forward on that.
BLITZER: During this period that you're seeking clarifications, will Hamas, during this period, continue launching rockets into Israel?
HAMDAN: Well, in fact, there is nothing like this now. But we still -- we are still waiting until we have the answers. It will not take a lot of time. It's a matter of minutes, as I expect, maybe as soon as I leave the studio you can have an answer. I don't know. Maybe within 15 minutes. Not more than this. So we're talking about a matter of minutes, not even hours, in this direction.
BLITZER: All right.
HAMDAN: What I want to be clear about it --
HAMDAN: -- that the Palestinians have a clear position about the humanitarian cease-fire, but also they are seeking to have a clear political solution for that. Not only the humanitarian solution, because our cause was not a humanitarian cause. It is a political cause and it's a matter of politics, which is supposed to take its direction on the ground and between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
BLITZER: Mr. Hamdan, this is what I'm going to propose to you, that over the next 15, 30 minutes, whatever it is, you'll stay in touch with our producers, and as soon as you get an official decision on whether or not you're going to accept a cease-fire, you'll come back. We'll book some more satellite time. You're in Beirut, and you'll tell the world -- the whole world is watching on CNN and CNN International -- what the Hamas decision is. So we're going to stay in close contact with you. As soon as you get the official decision, you will let us know, is that OK?
HAMDAN: That will be OK, Wolf. I agree on that. And thank you for following the issue.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Osama Hamdan, the spokesman for Hamas.
He's going to get clarification and, hopefully, within the next half hour or so, we'll get the final, official word whether Hamas is accepting the Israeli proposal to extend the cease-fire for another 24 hours. We'll take a quick break. Much more coming up. We'll go live to Tel
Aviv. We'll get more Israeli reaction to what is going on, including what we just heard from Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman. The breaking news, Israel's cabinet has approved a 24-hour extension to the cease-fire and we're waiting for Hamas to make a final decision. You'll hear it first, right here in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: All right. Let's get the Israeli perspective right now. Joining us the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. He's now a CNN Middle East analyst.
What do you think? You just heard the Hamas spokesman say they are going to consider it. Should get an answer in the next 15 minutes, maybe half an hour, an official reaction to the Israeli cabinet extending the cease-fire for another 24 hours. What's your perspective, Ambassador?
MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. & CNN MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Well, the Israel government extended it for four hours tonight and Hamas violated it. Sirens went all over the southern part of the country, Wolf. A civilian was severely injured in a mortar attack. So Hamas violated a four-hour cease-fire. It will be questionable whether they will keep a 24-hour cease-fire.
What is most important from the Israeli perspective is that the Israeli forces continue to look for the tunnels, those terror tunnels that go under the border that are designed to tunnel under kindergartens, under farms and cafeterias and kill and capture Israeli civilians. So it's very important that Israel has the ability to keep looking for these tunnels and keep blowing them up, even if Hamas somehow managed to keep some aspect of the cease-fire.
BLITZER: Well, you heard the Hamas spokesman say that Israel was violating the initial 24-hour -- the initial 12-hour cease-fire, the four-hour cease-fire. He says he doesn't trust you to honor the next 24-hour cease-fire. To that, you say?
OREN: To that, I say that's like talking to the people who are trying to burn down the American embassies in Libya. It's the same people, Wolf. You are dealing with a radical, racist, genocidal terrorist organization. So, you know, if you are going to interview them and take their word for it, what can I say? Israel declared a democratic state, declared a truce that was approved by a democratically elected government. It kept the truce and Hamas violated it. This is an organization that has fired 2,500 rockets, 80 of them today, at Israeli civilians. Rockets that have one purpose and one purpose only and that's to kill us. That's why they took all their money from their own people and used it to buy those rockets, to build those tunnels, was to kill civilians. There's no equivalency here. And they can tell you whatever they want. They will also say that Jews caused World War II and World War I. Read their covenant.
Very simple. Israel declared a cease-fire. Hamas wants to keep it, they can keep it. If they don't keep it, then the people of Israel are committed, absolutely committed, to restoring their security and not getting involved again in this cycle where cease-fires are imposed and Hamas can then use those cease-fires to build up their arsenal and then to try to kill us in greater force in the next round.
BLITZER: Why did the Israeli cabinet yesterday reject Secretary of State John Kerry's proposals for a seven-day cease-fire?
OREN: Well, not -- I don't know all the details of those negotiations. But what was clear was that seven days could be used by Hamas to regroup, to re-establish their lines of communication, to replenish their armaments, and this is -- this is a war, Wolf. It's about getting Hamas to give up, about getting a victory over Hamas, not to win over Hamas' hearts and minds.
And, you know, Wolf, you know, when I was in Washington for nearly five years, I saw a lot of war weariness in the United States. Americans, who had lived through nearly a decade of war in Iraq and more in Afghanistan, we're tired of war. We've been in a situation of war for 66 years, since the moment of our creation, and we don't have an option of being war weary. It's just not an option for us. And we can't bring our troops home because our troops are home and they're fighting on our soil to protect our homes.
So, the best thing that can happen now would be if the world and international diplomacy would let us work to secure our safety and to defeat Hamas in a way that will send a message not just to Hamas but to all the terrorist groups, including the terrorist groups that are threatening U.S. embassies in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.
BLITZER: Michael Oren is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States. He's a CNN Middle East analyst.
Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation.
Once again, we're standing by for official reaction, hopefully, in the next half an hour or so, half an hour or so from now, when the Hamas spokesman said he'll get back to us and tell us whether they accept the Israeli cabinet's decision, announced just moments ago, to extend the cease-fire for another 24 hours. We'll report it to our viewers as soon as we get it.
Up next, there's breaking news in investigation into the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 15. The first victim's body has been identified. We'll have much more on that, all the breaking news here in the Middle East. We're reporting live from Jerusalem. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor the very intense situation here in the Middle East, but there's some other breaking news involving the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash. Specialists in the Netherlands have now identified the first of the bodies returned from the crash site were now identified. It was too dangerous for investigators to visit the scene of the crash today. Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels are fighting in a pair of cities near where the plane came down. Also today, the final set of 38 coffins carrying passengers' remains arrived in the Netherlands.
Let's go there. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is standing by with details.
Erin, tell us what happened.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. We understand the first victim identified is a Dutch national. Authorities are not releasing the name of that individual due to privacy concerns, but we understand they have notified the victim's family as well as the mayor of the town that the victim is from.
And, as you say, 38 more unidentified coffins arrived here today outside this military base, the last of the human remains that they have managed to collect so far. They were driven through the gates over that way. Thousands of people once again turned out to pay their respects. The make-shift memorial outside the base really growing by the day. People I talk to tell me it is a matter of national pride to be able to come out and support especially the victims' families.
Meanwhile, at the crash site in eastern Ukraine, a team of Dutch forensic workers were stopped trying to find remains. Difficult, impossible to overstate just how important that work is that all of the human remains from the crash site are recovered -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Erin McLaughlin on the scene. What a horrendous situation it is. Thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our aviation analyst, former NTSB managing director, Peter Goelz; also CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, the former assistant director of the FBI.
Tom, how dangerous is that crash site? I ask the question because you worked if the FBI. Would you want FBI and NTSB investigators at the site when you are hearing from rebel leaders that they are getting impatient with the investigation and there is fighting going on very nearby?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think they would want to process the crime scene as long as they have some reasonable amount of protection. If you have a bunch of drunken thugs with heavy weapons running around that is not conducive to professional work at a crime scene.
But there are still human remains in that field at that site. They haven't even brought heavy equipment out, cranes and large trucks. When they lift the giant pieces off the ground, there may be more human remains hidden from view right now. So this is a very horrible situation not being able to have full access, all of the personnel you need and all the equipment you need.
BLITZER: And then, Peter, you have done a lot of investigations of plane crashes. How do you do it when the area is not even secure?
PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it is virtually impossible to do any kind of examination of the physical evidence on the scene. So investigators and the Dutch have at least 20 accident investigators on scene. The British are there. The Australians have sent people as has the United States. They are looking at radar and at the paperwork and the material that they can analyze that's not in the field. But they need to get in the field and they need to get in there soon. But I think the Russians and the separatists are not interested in having an impartial, unbiased investigative team looking at that wreckage.
BLITZER: Yeah, that wreckage has been so compromised over the past several days, who knows what the end result is going to be?
You know, as you look at the whole situation, as you look at the whole situation, Tom, the Malaysian prime minister said his investigators have not been able to access that crash site. What needs to be done right now? Assuming the fighting is going to continue, and as Peter said, the pro-Russian separatists, Russians are not going to necessarily allow free access to the region.
FUENTES: You need to bring in as many experts as you can to process the bodies and the remaining human remains at the scene. You would need to bring in the heavy equipment, flat bed trucks, dump trucks, cranes to lift up and move the pieces that are there. As Peter mentioned, take them to a secure, preferably indoor site where the forensic work on the pieces can be done. They are not even at the beginning point of any of that.
And these European observers walking around are just that, they are observers. They are not really trained technicians to do this kind of really meticulous, gruesome work.
BLITZER: And there is plenty of tampering going around. We have heard from OSCE monitors that they have found debris today in locations that they didn't see yesterday so it is a real, real mess.
Peter Goalz, Tom Fuentes, guys, thanks so much for joining us.
Coming up we will have the latest on the hour's breaking news, the Israeli cabinet has just approved a 24-hour extension of the humanitarian cease fire. We will get Hamas' reaction. We spoke earlier with a Hamas spokesman. He says he is getting official word and will hear what it is. That's coming up in "The Situation Room."
Also, another breaking news story here in the Middle East, the evacuation of the United States embassy in Libya.