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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken; Crisis in Israel; Ebola Fears; New Cease-Fire Announced in Middle East; Israel, Palestinians Agree to 3-Day Cease-Fire; Hamas Leader on Fighting & The Future
Aired August 4, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: Ebola fears hitting very close to home for Americans. A patient in New York City now, he's undergoing tests for the deadly and rapidly spreading virus. We're standing by for an update from the hospital.
Also, a new Middle East cease-fire proposal. Israel and the Palestinians are signing on just after Israel vowed to forge ahead with its assault.
And U.S. relations with Israel take a turn for the worse, with the Obama administration saying it's appalled by the latest strike on the U.N. shelter. I will talk to the president's deputy national security officer, Tony Blinken. He will join me live this hour.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
We're following two breaking stories this hour. The deadly Ebola outbreak may be reaching New York City. A patient at Mount Sinai Hospital recently traveled to West Africa, now being tested for the virus. We just learned it take be a day before the health officials get the results.
In the Middle East, there could be another pause in the fighting soon. Egypt has unveiled a new three-day cease-fire proposal. Israeli, Palestinian and Hamas officials they're all saying they agree to the terms. But we have seen truces fall apart before, nearly a month into this deadly conflict.
We have our correspondents and newsmakers standing by as we cover the breaking news in the United States and around the world. That new Egyptian-brokered cease-fire is supposed to begin about seven hours from now. It comes after Israel declared its own brief humanitarian truce earlier today, but that was marred quickly by bloodshed.
BLITZER (voice-over): The cries of children. And the ruins of a Gaza refugee camp. New flash points in the warfare between Israel and Palestinian militants. Israel confirms it launched an airstrike on the U.N.-run camp in Gaza City, saying it was targeting terrorists from Islamic Jihad. Palestinians say an 8-year-old girl was killed.
It happened just two minutes into a seven-hour humanitarian cease-fire declared by Israel. Israel says the operation was under way when the truce began, so it wasn't a violation. Israelis also in danger. On the streets of Jerusalem, the Palestinian driver of an earth mover overturns a passenger bus and is shot dead by police. Only the driver was inside the bus. He was hurt and an Israeli pedestrian was killed.
Hamas is praising the attack as punishment for Israel's assault on Gaza. Israel now says it's almost done with its top priority in Gaza, destroying tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Gaza operation won't end until long-term calm is restored and his citizens are safe from Hamas rocket attacks.
BLITZER: Just hours after Israel vowed to press ahead with its Gaza assault, there is now a new humanitarian cease-fire agreement as we have been reporting. Israel, Hamas and the Palestinians they all say they're on board. Will it happen? What does it include? Did tough new criticism of Israel by the United States have anything to did with this new agreement?
Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott. She's joining us from the State Department -- Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's unclear whether Israel real agreed to the cease-fire because it had already met the goals of its operation and was ready to wind down or because of this biting U.S. criticism over its tactics.
LABOTT (voice-over): The U.S. said it was appalled by the Israeli shelling on the U.N. shelter that killed at least nine people and made clear its patience is running thin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day the world is watching, as innocent civilians are killed, as children are having shrapnel pulled out of their back. I think we can all look here and make an evaluation that there's more that can be.
LABOTT: Israel's ambassador to the U.S. pushed back.
RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: She does not know all the facts. And when she knows all the facts, maybe she will make a different statement.
LABOTT: U.S. officials say the harshest criticism of Israel since the conflict began reflects a growing consensus in Washington and abroad, with civilian casualties mounting, it's time for Israeli operations to end. But despite the tough talk, the U.S. still supplies Israel with much of the weapons and ammunition used in Gaza. Newly revealed documents by whistle-blower Edward Snowden reportedly
detail how NSA programs assist Israeli attacks against its enemies, a sharp contrast to 1990, when then President George H.W. Bush backed his words with policy, cutting off $10 billion in loan guarantees to Israel over then-Prime Minister Shamir's refusal to stop settlement construction.
His secretary of state, James Baker, gave Israel the White House switchboard number.
JAMES BAKER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When you're serious about peace, call us.
LABOTT: Israel blames Secretary of State John Kerry for negotiating the last week's cease-fire that Hamas violated within hours. Officials confirm in a testy phone call afterwards with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned, "Don't second-guess me again when it comes to Hamas." Shapiro made no apologies for the U.S. working with Qatar and Turkey to bring Hamas to the table.
DAN SHAPIRO, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: We would never put our trust in a terrorist organization, but through the communications that we had, there was clarity about what the terms were.
LABOTT: And, Wolf, cautious optimism here at the State Department that the fighting could end. One senior U.S. official just said to me, we have been here before, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly have. Let's hope it holds this time. Elise Labott at the State Department, thanks very much.
Let's bring in the president's deputy national deputy adviser, Tony Blinken, who is joining us now from the White House.
Tony, thanks very much for joining us.
Give us your sense. Will this Egyptian proposal that apparently the Palestinians, including Hamas, have accepted, the Israeli government -- Mark Regev, the spokesman for the prime minister, says Israel accepts. Is the U.S. on board? What does it entail? What's your understanding?
TONY BLINKEN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, we are on board.
This is a real opportunity. We strongly support the initiative. By all accounts, the Egyptians have proposed a 72-hour pause, and that will create time and space to see if we can get to a more durable cease-fire. Israel said yes immediately.
I heard your report that Hamas said yes. We don't have confirmation of that. But this is an important initiative. It's needed. It's exactly what Secretary Kerry was working toward just a few days ago. BLITZER: Is this the same Egyptian proposal that was put forward
three weeks ago that Israel accepted, Hamas rejected because Hamas said they never got a piece of paper outlining the proposal?
BLINKEN: Wolf, my understanding is this is a temporary humanitarian pause with no conditions, and again that would create some time and space to see if they can negotiate the conditions for a more enduring cease-fire.
That's the objective. But, look, Israel has accomplished its objectives in Gaza. We have seen it deal with the tunnel problem that posed an acute threat to its citizens.
BLITZER: Tony, hold on for a moment, because there's a news conference.
I just want to -- I want you to listen together with me if you have a minute with me in New York. A patient is being tested for Ebola.
DR. DAVID L. REICH, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: Good evening.
A patient came to Mount Sinai's emergency room in the early morning hours with symptoms of fever and recent travel to a West African country. The patient was promptly isolated and placed in a strict isolation facility at Mount Sinai, such that we could protect patient and also any staff and other patients in the facility and all visitors.
We're very confident in that our work with the federal, state and local authorities will lead to a prompt evaluation of this patient and that we will be able to hopefully find that there is a more common cause of fever and other symptoms that the patient has, but using an abundance of caution, we're going to work carefully with the CDC to make certain this person does not have the Ebola virus disease.
DR. JEREMY BOAL, MOUNT SINAI MEDICAL SYSTEM: Thank you.
With that, we would open it up to questions.
QUESTION: How long is it going to take you to determine whether or not he has Ebola? Is it two days, three days, four days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. The first thing we'd like to stress is that odds are this is not Ebola. It's much more likely it's a much more common condition.
We're ruling those things out as well. In conjunction with the CDC who's been guiding us on the testing protocol, we're sending specimens down to them, and we expect an answer hopefully in the next 24 to 48 hours, although we can't guarantee it.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What happens then?
REICH: The treatment of Ebola is a symptomatic treatment process. And so we already have this patient in a special facility where all supported treatment could be given, as would occur at any hospital in the nation.
REICH: No, we believe that the care that could be provided here would be sufficient for any patient with that disease, but we're, of course, hopeful that there will be a rapid recovery and this turns out not to be Ebola.
QUESTION: Have you already sent samples to the CDC? (OFF-MIKE)
BOAL: The samples are in process right now.
BOAL: My best guess is it will be some time tonight or tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: Is there any testing being done of those who were in close contact with this gentleman? His family, friends, people he was with?
REICH: The patient was isolated very promptly in our emergency department, so we don't feel that any testing is necessary for anyone who might have come in contact casually with the patient for a few moments in a waiting room.
However, we will be working with the patient's family members and advising them to the CDC recommendations for screening, which are basically checking for fevers twice a day for a certain number of days.
QUESTION: Can you explain how the disease is transmitted, for those who might not know?
REICH: Well, the disease is transmitted not by casual contact. It's by contact with bodily fluids. And although I don't want to go into great detail, in the African nations where it is prevalent, it is something where people who have been in contact with funeral arrangements, with dead bodies or have been in touch with major bodily fluids are potentially at risk.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.
Sanjay, the good news is the physicians think, they this is unlikely that is in fact Ebola. But they want to err on the side of caution so they're sending the lab work to the CDC in Atlanta, where you are. Give us your analysis of what's going on here.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have sort of several things that are sort of being pieced together. Someone who has a fever, someone who has gastrointestinal or abdominal symptoms and I think most relevant to this particular story, the patient also had recently traveled to West Africa. Piecing those things together, the patient sounds like came to the emergency room and because of that history was put into isolation and blood was drawn to test for Ebola. They mentioned that those test results will come back in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Interestingly, Wolf, they said that they didn't think any casual contact, people who may have been next to him in the emergency room, someone who may have been next to him in a car or a cab or something like that, any of those people they weren't concerned about those people.
They said family members, people who may have had more prolonged contact, they're not going to recommend they get isolated. They are going to recommend they get their fever checked twice a day my guess is for 21 days because that's how long the incubation period for Ebola can be. But that's really about it.
It's worth pointing out again, Wolf, you and I talk about this before, but I think there have been about six people who have fallen into this pattern, returned from West Africa, they have had systems and as a result they got tested for Ebola. All six of those patients, their testing has come back negative.
There's obviously heightened concerned given what's happening in West Africa right now. But still somebody who has a fever and gastrointestinal or abdominal problems, there are many more things that are going to be more common than Ebola that would cause that. I think those things are still more likely to be a cause here as well.
BLITZER: Just to give it some context, what, about 1,400 people in West Africa by and large they are confirmed to have Ebola. And, what, 700 or 800 of them are already dead. Is that right?
GUPTA: Yes, that's roughly correct. The mortality is roughly somewhere between 55 percent and 60 percent. Awful numbers, no question, Wolf. Keep in mind, mortality rates for Ebola have been as high as 90 percent in previous outbreaks.
If there's any good news, it's that the patients who do get some sort of care earlier, which is usually the replacement of fluids or blood products, they do tend to do better. We're seeing that reflected in some of those numbers, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Sanjay, that patient who's at Emory University Hospital, we saw that patient being flown in on this special jet, being treated there at Emory University Hospital. What do we know? What's the latest on him?
GUPTA: Well, we saw the patient walk off the ambulance yesterday, or Saturday now, Wolf, as you know. That was a very good sign. We hear the patient is continuing to do well. There haven't been any specific updates overall.
We do know the patient received an experimental serum or medication while in Liberia and we think that medication is being continued here. The medication in Liberia seemed to have a profound impact on him. He was quite sick, even close to death, according to some reports.
Within 20 minutes to an hour after receiving that medication, he had significant improvement. As you might imagine, Wolf, that's got a lot of people interested in just how this might work and how I think, most importantly, it could become more available to people who need it all over the world.
BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as usual, thanks very much.
Quickly, I want to go back to Tony Blinken, the president's deputy national security adviser.
Tony, I know this has been a big issue for the president, top officials in the administration. You guys are watching this Ebola virus, the potential for spread very carefully, aren't you?
BLINKEN: Wolf, we're doing more than watching. We're surging support to the countries that are affected by this in West Africa, expertise, equipment, protective gear.
Here at home, we're taking every precaution with protections, the protocols that you have heard about, to make sure that there's no problem here. So, this is more than watching. It's acting.
BLITZER: The president is hosting a major summit of African leaders who are coming this week here to Washington, as you well know. I assume this is going to be on the agenda, right?
BLINKEN: It will be on the agenda. With regard to that, again, we have taken every precaution. And there's every protocol in place for that.
But this summit is a very, very significant thing. This is the largest engagement of an American president with Africa in history, 50 heads of state coming to Washington with business leaders, civil society, young African leaders. And there is a major opportunity here, because we're demonstrating that we're investing in Africa's future.
And I think you will see over the coming days significant achievements being rolled out on our efforts to help power Africa going forward, to deal with the health security, to deal with food security, to deal with peace and security issues, good governance.
And what we're hearing, too, Wolf, is that we have a lot of business leaders in town for this, and there is a real thirst to get more involved and invested in Africa. Six of the 10 fastest growing economies of the world are in Africa. The president is taking advantage of that. This is a major undertaking.
BLITZER: Very quickly on the Israel/Gaza proposed cease-fire, supposed to start 8:00 a.m. Israel, in Gaza, tomorrow morning. Do you think it is going to work this time?
BLINKEN: Look, Wolf, it should. The fact is, Israel has achieved its core objectives in Gaza. It's dealt with the tunnels. You have heard the Israelis say that.
It's able now to deal with the rockets from outside of Gaza if it has to. I think the burden is going to be on Hamas to demonstrate that it will live up to the cease-fire. And then there's an opportunity to see if they can get to a more durable cease-fire and then deal with some of the underlying issues.
It has to start with Israel's security, dealing much more definitively with the rockets, with the tunnels over time, but also dealing with the development of Gaza, so that people can live under different conditions.
BLITZER: Tony Blinken is the deputy national security adviser to the president.
You guys have got a lot going on over there. Tony, we will stay in close touch with you. Thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BLINKEN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And let's hope that cease-fire does hold, 8:00 a.m. Israel, Gaza time, tomorrow morning.
Coming up, we're going to more on the Middle East cease-fire agreement. Also, is there really any hope for a long-term deal? I will speak with a chief Palestinian spokesperson. Saeb Erekat, he's standing by live.
BLITZER: Let's go to Martin Savidge. He's in Gaza City for us.
I understand there's been rocket fire over the past 30 minutes. Martin, I know that 8:00 a.m. your time, tomorrow morning, there is supposed to be a cease-fire. It looks like everyone has agreed to this new Egyptian proposal. What are you hearing, Martin? What are you seeing?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it actually had quieted down a little bit. We had this seven-hour pause, humanitarian pause, and it wasn't a complete cease-fire, but it did at least seem to knock back the violence quite a bit.
Then, after that expired, it was around 5:00 local time, and that's when we saw a renewed burst of activity on both sides. It was artillery that began from the Israeli side, we saw flares coming in as well. Sounded like there was some mortar fire, even aviation strikes. There were outgoing rockets. That all seemed to die down, especially when the news of this protracted potential cease-fire was being worked out.
But, as you say, half-an-hour ago, another burst of rocket fire headed out of Gaza. Looks like it was headed north and we heard a couple of moments later that sirens were sounding in southern Israel. It appears we may be starting the cease-fire in about six-and-a-half- hours, but some people want to get in their last shots before that actually happens. We are hoping and very hopeful that this will hold.
But, as you know, Wolf, there have been many attempts at this already in this ongoing conflict. I think there are going to be a lot of people holding their breath at 8:00 in the morning local time.
BLITZER: Let's hope it works this time, Martin Savidge in Gaza City.
I want to bring in a man who's been working feverishly to achieve a cease-fire, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. He's joining us from Jericho on the West Bank.
Saeb Erekat, I know you want this to work. You wanted the earlier cease-fires to work. Here's the question. Do you believe everyone is on board as far as 8:00 a.m. your time tomorrow morning, no more Hamas rockets going into Israel, no more Israeli airstrikes? There will be a cease-fire?
SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Yes, Wolf.
Just minutes ago, I was on the phone with Mr. Azzam al-Ahmad, head of our delegation Cairo, and with General Majed Faraj, our intelligence chief, and they both told me that everyone, everyone, in this unified delegation, on all Palestinian factions in Gaza are fully on board for the cease-fire.
Look, Wolf, last time we spoke about the last cease-fire, there was a loophole where Israel reserved the right to destroy the so-called tunnel. We as Palestinians reserved the right to self-defense. So it was friction.
What we need to do tomorrow as of 8:00 in the morning is to sustain the cease-fire, to avoid the friction. And what we need to do is sustain and extend. Sustain the cease-fire for the 72 hours and then meanwhile work to extend the cease-fire beyond the 72 hours. So it is to sustain and extend. That's what's needed.
Wolf, words cannot describe the human suffering, devastation, destruction, loss. It's a huge, huge mess in Gaza. It's total devastation.
So what I'm going to appeal tonight -- I was in touch with Secretary Kerry. I want to appeal to the international community beginning with the U.S. that what's needed as of tomorrow is a huge humanitarian aerial bridge from all nations, Arabs, Americans, Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, whoever can.
We have 10,000 people wounded in Gaza. It's beyond the capabilities of our hospitals, medical supplies, and our doctors. We don't have electricity in Gaza. We need to help put a new generator and also the water installations. And we need to begin this process of alleviating the suffering of Gazans, Palestinians there.
There are 450,000 people have taken refuge and shelter in UNRWA schools. When they are going to go back to their homes tomorrow, they're not going to have homes. There are no more homes. It's total devastation. So what we need is to create and to find temporary shelters, and that depends on the will, the goodwill and the good efforts and donations of the nations who can do it.
What we need to do in the 72 hours is to show the international community -- and I really urge the international community that can, from Europeans, Americans, Arabs -- is to make sure that there limitless supplies of medical supplies, food supplies, temporary shelters, electricity grids, water supplies to the people of Gaza, so we can alleviate, deal with the human suffering. The situation is really, really total devastation, as I'm telling you.
BLITZER: Hold on a second. When you spoke to Secretary Kerry about this, what was his answer to you.
EREKAT: He wants to sustain it. He wants to hold it.
He has done everything humanly possible in the last 28 days to make sure that we reach a cease-fire from day one. Mr. Kerry was working so hard, as did many, many others in this region. President Abbas is on the hour every hour, sleepless for 28 days.
What we need to do tomorrow, what we need to see tomorrow -- and we can do it -- sustain and extend. That's the strategy we need to do here.
BLITZER: Saeb Erekat, I believe that all of the factions represented in Cairo are on board, the Palestinian factions. The Israelis say they're on board. We heard Tony Blinken, the president's deputy national security adviser. He's on board. The Egyptians are on board.
What about the military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, Mohammed Deif of Hamas? Will they support this cease-fire, stop sending rockets and missiles into Israel?
EREKAT: Believe me, before the Egyptians conveyed the proposals to the Israelis about 10 hours ago, everybody, everybody in Gaza was contacted.
And I can tell you everybody, all factions in Gaza are on board. Everybody is on board. I hope the Israelis will also be fully on board, will not use any pretext, any excuses tomorrow. We need to give this a chance. We need to give this a chance, sustain the hour every hour for 72 hours, and then we are going to have to extend the 72 hours.
But at the same time, parallel, what we need to see is a very, very, very huge humanitarian relief supplies, efforts to alleviate the suffering of the 1.5 million people who are in full national disaster. Gaza is a national disaster area. There's a human disaster, a humanitarian disaster in every aspect of life in Gaza.
What need to do in parallel, sustain, work on the extension second and at the same time in parallel we urge the international community to provide everything humanly possible, temporary shelter, medical supplies, food supplies, electricity, water, so Gaza can see that things are beginning to change and that the international community is standing shoulder to shoulder with them and no one is abandoning them.
BLITZER: What do you make of Prime Minister Netanyahu's public proposal? All of that stuff can work, all the airports, the seas, the blockades, the siege, as it's called, of Gaza will be lifted. Their condition is the demilitarization of Gaza. What do you think of that proposal?
ERAKAT: Well, I think at this stage what we need to have Mr. Netanyahu do is to sustain the cease-fire, extend the cease-fire, open the passages in Israel in order to get the supplies needed to Gaza immediately.
And then what do you want to do the day after, Mr. Netanyahu? This is a question for him. Are you going to continue business as usual? Are you going to continue with your settlement activities and dictation? Isn't it time for you and for us to reach an end for this occupation and end of conflict and get to the two-state solution once and for all? Or do we need to go back and do what you did in Gaza every three or four years? It's up to him.
I mean, if he wants to speak of a Palestinian state, and that was banned (ph), Gaza and Jerusalem's capital on the 1969 line. To live side by side with the state of Israel, ending his willingness, his announcement today.
I am on board. I'm saying tonight, on behalf of all Palestinians, we accept Israel right on the 1967 line. Israel has a right to exist. So we need the Israeli prime minister to stand tall. I've said the solution is not going to be military. The solution is going to be a political one. I've organized (ph) the state of Palestine. Right to exist and live in peace and security on the 1967 line.
But I want the state to have one authority, one rule of law. And that's what Palestine will be all about. So we have to link this to the political horizon, to the end game, to the process of achieving the end of occupation and having a Palestinian independent state whose rule will be authority, one gun, and the rule of law.
BLITZER: Saeb Erakat, let's hope when we speak tomorrow at this exact same time, 24 hours from now, that cease-fire that's supposed to begin 8 a.m. Local time will have held,. There will be no rockets, there be no more deaths. It will be quiet, and the process that you want to begin in Cairo, an Israeli delegation coming over, the Palestinian delegation, the U.S. , all others get involved and see the end of this once and for all. And hopefully lead to that kind of peace process that you've worked on for so many years together with so many others.
Saeb Erakat, we'll continue this conversation tomorrow. Thanks, as usual, for joining us. Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator joining us live from Jericho on the West Bank.
More of the breaking news when we come back. We'll check in with our own Jake Tapper. He's now in Jerusalem, got a special report for us. Also, tough questions for the Hamas political leader. CNN's Nic
Robertson has an exclusive interview with Khaled Mashal.
BLITZER: We're following a major breaking news, a new truce between Israel and Hamas, both sides agreeing to a three-day humanitarian cease-fire to begin a few hours from now.
Let's go straight to CNN's Jake Tapper. He's in Jerusalem, watching what's going on. What are you hearing in Jerusalem right now? What's the sense?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously both sides have agreed to the cease-fire, which begins tomorrow morning, and so there are still military operations ongoing. We've heard about rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel. We've heard about the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, continuing with operations in Gaza.
But as of now, as you got from your show and I got from my show, both sides, including Hamas, which was the sticking group in the original negotiations a week or so ago and then three weeks ago with Egypt, agreeing with peace. I'm not hearing a lot of optimism, all said, from Israeli government officials, in terms of whether or not they think this will be abided by.
But for now, people are making plans and preparations for the cease- fire to begin tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: Let's hope it works this time. I know you were down there along the Israel/Gaza border today. You went to a kibbutz in the area. I saw your report on "THE LEAD" earlier. Tell our viewers a little bit what it's like down there. You see tanks, armored personnel carriers, leaving Gaza coming back into Israel, right?
TAPPER: It's really -- it's really quite remarkable because, on one hand, you're living your life and Israelis are living their lives. And you stop and you have food and you get gas and you're just driving down the road.
But on the other hand there is a war going on, for want of a better term. And there were those armored personnel carriers and tanks being driven away from the border. There were then other moments you'd be driving and you could see off in the distance maybe 20 tanks sitting there, doing who knows what, waiting for orders perhaps.
So the sense by which -- it's difficult to convey to people who haven't ever been to a war zone, especially in an urban environment, as I know you were when you visited Baghdad and I was there, as well, but it really is quite remarkable seeing that there's a real disconnect.
BLITZER: Quickly, in Jerusalem today, two incidents as you well know. It scared a lot of folks listening to what was going on. You got back to Jerusalem after those incidents, is that right? TAPPER: That's right. We were -- we were out shooting, and then when
we came back -- on our way back we heard about the incident, the one with somebody, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem with a large machine, a tractor trailer, tractor of some sort, moving a bus, killing an Israeli and then being killed by Israeli police himself.
And then the other incident involving a gunman on a motor bike shooting an Israeli soldier at the university campus and then getting away. And then as far as I know, he's still at large, that shooter. Alarming. I think one of the tasks in the coming days as the cease- fire begins, and there's a real testing of it will be when there are individual instances like that from individual extremists, whether Israeli or Palestinian, how much does the other side consider that to be a violation?
If one random Palestinian fires a mortar and doesn't hurt anybody but it wasn't sanctioned by Islamic Jihad or Hamas, just to give an example of what could happen. Does that count as a violation? And I suspect everyone is going to be really on edge. I know at the border, you visited there. When you were here I was there earlier today. All those individuals who live in the kibbutzes close to Gaza, they moved there 25, 30 years ago. When you could go to the beach in Gaza, when people could walk back and forth, when people worked together. Obviously now a very different situation. But how much is that going to strain the cease-fire or even break it?
BLITZER: Jake's going to be back in about a little bit more than three hours from now, 10 p.m. Eastern. He'll be having a special at 10 p.m. CNN tonight on what's going on over there, and of course "THE LEAD" 4 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, an exclusive interview with the head of Hamas' political wing, facing some tough questions from our own Nic Robertson.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news: Israel and the Palestinians agreeing to a three-day cease-fire proposed by Egypt, supposed to start in a few hours.
CNN's Sara Sidner was at the border today.
Sara, what did you say where you were?
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We saw quite a bit of troop movement, plenty of tanks, actually troops moving a little bit back from the Gaza border. We also talked to quite a few people that live there on the border, as rockets actually went over our heads during the initial cease-fire that Israel called for today but that Hamas rejected. There was plenty of action going on, although for a couple of hours it was quiet. I don't know if you know Horace Hill, Wolf, but when you're there looking over Gaza, there was quiet for two hours and then sirens sounding in places along the southern Israel border.
We also talked to quite a few people who were concerned about their children but had gotten so tired of having them sort of holed up in the house, they decided to take a chance and take them out today to the playground. But still, just overhead, while we were at one of those playgrounds, the sound of rocket fire and the Iron Dome firing off and intercepting that.
We've also heard in the last hour and a half or so, another sound of the Iron Dome going off, two rounds coming from the Iron Dome knocking out two rockets that had come over from Gaza. Very close to here in Ashkelon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, you've been down in the south, Sara, because I was there, you've been there for days now. What's it like? Are those sirens going off all the time, middle of the night, early mornings?
SIDNER: Yes, I woke up to one at 6:45 this morning, which isn't all that unusual. They aren't all concentrated in one area, of course. It's sort of in different spots. If you happen to be there, then, you know, you try to take cover. You go to -- many houses actually on the border that are very close to the border have rooms so they can go into that are fortified. When they shut the door, they can take a rocket attack.
We were at a kibbutz today that all the homes had these rooms they could go into that are shelters. They close the door and they have actually been struck by rockets in the past and there has been no damage on the inside, everyone OK on the inside, a bit of damage on the outside. You hear from people that they become used to it.
I mean, one of these kibbutzes, you could walk up to the border, a few hundred yards. If you were able to cross it, you could do it by foot. And a lot of people, though, have left. The fear of the tunnels has really created some of that, but there have been -- there's been more fighting I think when you talk to the people on the border than they've seen ever, really.
And so, quite disturbing to people. But certainly there is he a sense that this could be the time. Wolf, we know we keep going through this. The longest cease-fire that was called for, the longest cease- fire was 12 hours that both sides agreed to. That didn't last very long, really minutes. The firing never really ceased during that one.
And then, you had Hamas asking for one, Israel refusing that. Then, Israel asking for one. Hamas refusing that. And now, we're seeing this new one for three days. We'll just have to see how long it lasts. But last time it was agreed to, it lasted an hour and a half -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If something works this time, that would be good all around for everyone, Israelis and Palestinians. Sara, thanks very much.
Let's bring the spokesman for the Israel police forcer, Micky Rosenfeld. He's joining us from Jerusalem.
Two incidents, Micky, today in Jerusalem. What with do we know about the two incidents? Specifically, were they tied to Islamic Jihad, Hamas, were they just lone wolves, as they say? What can you tell us? MICKY ROSENFELD, ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESMAN: Well, what took place just
afternoon in Jerusalem, in fact, in one of the more or less built-up neighborhoods where a lot of religious people are living, there was an Israeli Arab -- local Israeli Arab who took his tractor and in fact made his way on an area which was very crowded at the time. Luckily the members of the public managed to flee the area, but unfortunately, one Israeli man was killed when the Palestinian took his tractor and in fact overturned a bus on its side. Police units that were in the area in fact responded very, very quickly, and the suspect was shot and killed at close range.
Obviously, the police units in the area heightened security immediately and then just about three hours afterwards at 4:00 in the afternoon Israeli time, there was another shooting which occurred almost a mile from where the first terrorist attack occurred. And, unfortunately, a soldier was shot in his stomach and upper part of his body and injured seriously and taken to nearby hospital for medical treatment.
So, those two incidents, there is no specific intelligence that we had about a terrorist attack that was going to take place inside Jerusalem today. But what I can confirm is that over the last few weeks, there's been tension in and around Jerusalem. And our police units have dealt with local incidents, disturbances, stone-throwing incidents in Israeli-Arab neighborhoods which we deal with almost every evening.
BLITZER: That second incident, the one near the Hebrew University in Mount Scopus, is the shooter still at large?
ROSENFELD: That's correct. Police units are continuing to search both in around the different Israeli-Arab neighborhoods, as well as the possibility of the West Bank area as well. Different units are being deployed and working as we are talking right now. During the evening, during the night in Jerusalem. And at the same time, we have heightened security in general over the next 24 hours in Jerusalem as we have the Jewish fast which was taking place the night of until tomorrow evening. So, there's thousands of people visiting the old city and at the Western Wall.
BLITZER: Micky Rosenfeld, the spokesman for the national force in Israel, we'll check back with you tomorrow, Mickey. Thanks very much for that report.
Just ahead, tough questions for the Hamas political leader. Our own Nic Robertson, an inclusive interview with Khaled Meshaal, stand by.
BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive. The leader of Hamas's political wing facing tough questions about the current fighting and the future from our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. Nic is joining us now from Abu Dhabi.
This is an interview that was powerful, Nic. What did Khaled Meshaal tell you, bottom line? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, bottom line, Hamas is united and they are going to continue until their demands are met. This, of course, in the face of a lot of questions while all of this fighting has been going on in Gaza, he is so far away. Is he really in control?
ROBERTSON (voice-over): As Gaza was being targeted by Israeli missiles, its prime minister was implying Gaza's top politician is out of touch.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: He is roaming around five-star hotel suites in the Gulf States having the time of his life.
ROBERTSON: Critics good further, accusing Meshaal of losing control of Hamas's military.
Not so says the leader in an exclusive CNN interview, in the Gulf state Qatar Saturday.
KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS LEADER (through translator): This is not true. Hamas is a movement of institutions. It has respected leadership. All the members of Hamas, whether they're in a political or armed wing, are disciplined.
ROBERTSON: As Friday's short lived troops collapse in bitter recriminations, the question again is, Meshaal really in control?
MARK REGEV, NETANYAHU SPOKESMAN: Once again, Hamas has broken commitments it made.
ROBERTSON: Meshaal's answer, Hamas wasn't to blame. He says he never signed up to a tunnel-targeting condition Israel attached to the truce.
MESHAAL: We refused this Israel position and we told that to Mr. Kerry.
ROBERTSON: So when Israel introduces a unilateral cease-fire Monday, but leaves troops in Rafah, as it did Friday and Hamas fails to sign on, they appear not to want to risk blame for truce breaking again. As the cease-fire ends when Israel said it would, seven mostly quiet hours later, Hamas appears to have observed it.
Meshaal has said two days earlier, he supports such short pauses.
MESHAAL: The people of Gaza need humanitarian aid from all of the international community lead by the United States.
ROBERTSON: In a similar confrontation in Gaza in 2008-2009, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, Meshaal was accused of being marginalized.
When I interviewed him in 2010, after that conflict, he denied any rift. Again now, he insists he and Hamas are united that U.S. officials know this.
MESHAAL: They know that Hamas is very credible, in that if the leadership promised something, it will fulfill its promises and the fighters on the ground will follow that.
ROBERTSON: You know what is important here, of course, for Khaled Meshaal is that he says that Hamas is united, because if he gives any indication there are any breaks in leadership, anywhere down the line, that's a sign of weakness and that means Hamas's demand are less likely to be met, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Abu Dhabi for us, good work as usual. Thank you.
Finally, this note, one of the United States most prominent gun control advocates has died. James Brady was President Ronald Reagan's press secretary. He survived a shot to the head when a gunman tried to assassinate President Reagan here in Washington back in 1981. He and his wife Sarah went on to start the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
James Brady is a terrific, terrific guy, excellent press secretary, wonderful human being. Unfortunately, he passed away today at age 73.
That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.