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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Latest on the Ebola Outbreak; Crisis in Israel Continues

Aired July 31, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Some breaking news now, the closing bell on Wall Street capping off the worst day for the U.S. stock market since February, the Dow dropping more than 300 points. What's causing this? Concern over the violence in Gaza? Worry over Ukraine or Vladimir Putin?

Actually, no, it's largely because Argentina -- yes, Argentina -- just defaulted on its debt, the second default in more than 12 years. But you can just add it to your list of global crises.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, Israel swears it is not targeting civilians, but the U.S. says Israel is not doing enough to miss them either. So why is the U.S. selling Israel ammunition for weapons that it turns out are not very precise at all?

Also, amidst fears that the worst Ebola outbreak ever could reach U.S. shores, the Centers for Disease Control is raising its travel alert to a level only reached three other times in history. Will that be enough to keep the killer virus out of the U.S.?

plus, a full two weeks have passed since Flight 17 was shot out of the sky. Now a claim as many as 80 bodies could still be lying at the rebel-controlled crash site. Why is the world putting up with this?

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the world lead. In three-plus weeks of aggression between Israel and Palestinians, Gaza officials say 1,432 people have been killed there and that may be just the start. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today the current operation is just the first phase in the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military is calling up 16,000 more reservists to fight Hamas, the group in control of Gaza, a group that the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. Israelis too are under siege. It's just that Hamas is a lot less successful at it. The Israeli military says that today alone 73 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, another 17 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, making day-to-day life in Israel a series of sirens wailing, giving citizens mere seconds to run for shelter; 59 Israelis have been killed in the conflict, all but three of them soldiers.

But 70 to 80 percent of the people Israel has been killing in Gaza are civilians, according to the United Nations, which also blames Israel for the strike on a U.N.-school-turned-shelter. The White House appears to agree with the U.N., while never accusing Israel directly.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It does not appear there's a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident, but the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.


TAPPER: Israel has not admitted to having carried out that strike that killed 20 people at the shelter, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, of course, a group that is firing rockets on Israel, coming out of tunnels to attack Israelis and is accused of hiding behind civilian shields.

But many Israel supporters will not accept any questioning of Israel's methods and whether the vast number of civilian casualties is in keeping with what Israel believes itself to stand for or whether such activities are even in Israel's own long-term best interests, which may be why the Obama administration has so carefully worded its criticisms here, though at the same time the White House condemned the shelling of that U.N. school without blaming Israel, the U.S. was also in the process of selling Israel more ammunition as part of a resupply.

The Pentagon says it's a shipment of illumination rounds and tank rounds. Tank rounds are not precision rounds like smart bombs fired by an F-16 or missiles fired by a drove. Israel has claimed again and again that it is using precision strikes against Hamas and Gaza.

But our own Barbara Starr asks, well, how precise can they be if the overwhelming number of people they kill are civilians?


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another Gaza building destroyed, the people struggling amid the wreckage and carnage, Israeli military videos showing what it says are Hamas rockets firing from civilian areas, a U.N. school hit. A marketplace became an instant killing ground.


STARR: Israel using American ammunition in some of these strikes, even as the U.S. calls for Israeli forces to do more to protect civilians.

EARNEST: The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.

STARR: The Pentagon is resupplying Israel with tank, mortar grenade, and other ammunition stocks, Israel even buying more illumination rounds like these to light up the Gaza sky at night.

MARIE HARF, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: It's not optics we're worried about; we're worried about civilian casualties.

STARR: The blame, Israel says, lies with Hamas using civilians as human shields.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Mark Hertling says selling ammunition is part of U.S. policy for supporting Israel and believes it is doing what it can, but the weapons used were never planned for urban areas.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: For artillery and mortars, you can fire several miles away, but, again, you don't have the resolution of knowing exactly what you're going to hit.

STARR: This school illustrates the awful reality. The Israelis say they were fired on, they fired back, and there may have been stray Israeli fire.

PETER LERNER, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We are operating under the understanding that there are civilians in the area. We are doing that with the knowledge of the commanders.

STARR (on camera): The Israelis say their senior commanders are involved in any decision to strike a target and that they are investigating attacks where civilians have been killed.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

In Gaza, more than 225,000 Palestinians are packed into shelters, according to the United Nations. Most of them don't seem to be able to find clean water. Gaza's only power plant has been destroyed in recent days. And Israel is indicating there are more phases to come in the conflict.

Our Karl Penhaul is on the ground in Gaza.

Karl, you have been talking to people there. What are you hearing from them?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, certainly people are already saying that things are going from bad to worse. There's a growing sense of foreboding here. And, of course, they'd be crazy if they didn't want the war to end.

One elderly man that we talked to this afternoon as he was walking out with his grandkids said it's not emotions, but simple logic that dictates enough is enough. Another lady we spoke to said that there is no hope. She doesn't feel that there is any future right now.

But that doesn't mean to say that people want to have peace at any price. They don't want to go back to the way things were three weeks ago before this war started. They want it to count for something. They want substantial change. Listen to what this man had to say.


SAKHER JOHAM, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): There is no human that wouldn't want this war to end. It should end, but not at the price of Palestinian blood. We are tired and we have had so much loss of life. We want to live with our children a life of dignity, like the rest of the world. We are asking for the most basic of human rights. We back the resistance and we stand by them until they achieve our hopes and dreams.

I fled my home with my children with just the clothes on my back. The most important thing is the children. They should wake up knowing there is no war. This boy is just 2 years old. He says, daddy, look, rocket. This is a child. Just instead of living like the rest of the children in the world, he talks about rockets and shelling and running away.


PENHAUL: Now, Hamas is still fighting. We have seen its rockets go out. We're hearing reports that once again they may have burrowed into Israeli territory. The Hamas fighters are engaging in hand-to- hand combat with Israeli troops on the ground and Hamas' military leaders say there can be no middle ground -- Jake.

TAPPER: Karl Penhaul in Gaza, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the U.S. role in Israel and the Middle East at large with Stephen Hadley. He's a former national security adviser to President George W. Bush and is now a principal at Rice Hadley Gates, which is an international consulting firm.

Mr. Hadley, good to see you, as always.

So, let's talk about these rounds that the U.S. is supplying Israel. The latest shipment was tank rounds and illumination rounds. This delivery comes at the same time that both the Pentagon and the White House have expressed concern that Israel could be doing more to alleviate all the civilian casualties in Gaza.

Explain to us, translate for us, if you will, what it means when the Pentagon and the White House say they're very concerned about this, here's some more ammunition.

STEPHEN HADLEY, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The White House is trying to walk a line between making it clear that it supports Israel and supports Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist groups like Hamas, but at the same time, it expresses concern for the humanitarian cost of what Israel is having to do to defend itself. And it's this difficult road that the White House is trying to walk,

both supporting Israel, but at the same time urging it to do something to limit the humanitarian fallout.

TAPPER: It sure seems odd, the connection there.

Let me ask you. As a former national security adviser, explain to me and my viewers, if you will, what is the military campaign doing? I think everybody can understand or most people can understand destroying the tunnels from Gaza into Israel. Sure, there's a clear security imperative there. What about all this bombing? Is this -- what is it achieving?

HADLEY: It's not clear.

I think what Israel's trying to do, if you look at historically, we have been through this in 2008. We have been through this again with 2012. It's now 2014. Israel does not want to have to keep going through this, Hamas being able to be rocket Israel territory, make Israelis live in bomb shelters.

They want some relief. And I think the model they're taking was the model in 2006, when they went after Hezbollah in Lebanon. A lot of criticism about it, a lot of loss of life, a lot of destruction. But what Israelis would tell you is that the result of that operation in 2006 was that it reestablished deterrents. And the northern border of Israel with Lebanon has been quiet for the eight years since. I think that's what they're trying to do in -- with Hamas in Gaza.

TAPPER: But, obviously, most of the people that have been killed, according to the United Nations, most of them are civilians. Most of them are not members of Hamas.

Israel says they're not trying to kill civilians, they're not trying to target civilians, but so many people who are innocent civilians are being killed. Do you believe that Israel is trying to do, as its critics allege, collective punishment, make it so horrible, that Hamas will be forced by its own people to acquiesce to, for instance, the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, or do you think this is just the imprecision of warfare in an urban environment?

HADLEY: I think it's a third thing.

I do not think that this is anything like collective punishment. Israel knows that this is Hamas' game, to hold up the killing and the deaths of innocent civilians, particularly children, in order to put pressure on Israel to stop. So Israel has every incentive to minimize collateral damage.

But it's hard when you have Hamas doing what it's clear that they're doing, putting their missile launchers and their storage facilities and their command-control facilities right in the middle of civilian areas, under mosques, and other targets, precisely so if it the Israelis go after them, as precisely as they can militarily, they will inevitably result in damage to facilities and loss of civilian life.

And that's then what Hamas uses to try to put pressure on Israel to stop.

TAPPER: Even granting all of those points you made, it does seem as though not every time that a family is killed in Gaza, there was necessarily a Hamas target in that building or even nearby.

HADLEY: It's very hard to know.

I mean, we don't have our own resources there to do the bomb damage assessment. You cannot trust what Hamas says, because this is part of the propaganda campaign. The Israelis are making an effort to try to minimize civilian casualties, for the reasons I say. But this is warfare. Even though they have admitted in a couple instances, even over they did not target something, if there is fire coming at Israeli troops from a particular location, to defend their troops, they are going to shoot back.

And if that location has been put by Hamas in the context of innocent civilians, it means innocent civilians are going to be killed. It's not because of Israel's response. It is because of Hamas' attack. That's the dilemma they're dealing with.

TAPPER: It is horrifying, obviously, in so many ways.

HADLEY: It is horrible.

TAPPER: Stephen Hadley, thank you so much.

HADLEY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Next on THE LEAD: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it's priority number one taking out Hamas' secret tunnels. But will that be enough for him at the end of the day?

Plus, a prediction from the U.S. government, and it's terrifying. The Centers for Disease Control now says it could take six months to stop the killer Ebola outbreak. And that's a best-case scenario. So, in the meantime, what's being done to protect travelers and to protect you?


TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're continuing with our world lead now.

We've seen a lot of the shocking I thinks since the airstrikes in Gaza began more than three weeks ago -- wounded and screaming children, people fleeing homes. But this video of an Israeli airstrike Wednesday that hit the al Sujaya market really brings home how frightening this conflict is for people stuck in the middle of it. The scene was captured by a Gaza-based media agency.


TAPPER: The photographer falls to the ground after that second strike hit. So does his camera. He has shrapnel injuries to his feet and his torso. His assistant then picks up the camera and keeps filming. Let's bring in Dore Gold. He's a foreign policy advisor to Prime

Minister Netanyahu and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He's also president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Mr. Gold, thanks for joining us.

I want to get your reaction to that video. Surely you would never argue that everyone in that video was a member of Hamas.

DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAEL AMB. TO THE U.N.: Well, surely, you would agree that any reasonable human being would have his heart go out to the people in that video and hope that this kind of conflict can be altered in some kind of way so that these kind of situations don't occur again, but it all starts and ends with the fact that Hamas has been launching rockets on the citizens of the state of Israel, and the only reason why Israeli cities don't look like that market is because we know how to defend ourselves.

TAPPER: Well, it's a great thing that Israel knows how to defend itself and certainly nobody wants -- certainly I don't want, certainly others do, but I don't want any more Israeli casualties.

But I think the question is whether or not, what the Israeli Defense Force is doing in Gaza is commensurate with what Hamas is doing when they fire rockets.

We just word from the Palestinian health ministry that nine Palestinians, part of the family that included three children, were killed following an Israeli airstrike on a house in central Gaza. Three more children killed. That's more than 200 children that we know of.

Now, I guess the question is, even if that strike took out a Hamas militant, Israel seems to be saying it is worth it to kill those three children for that one militant. Is that true? Is that a fair way to describe the calculation being made?

GOLD: I think -- although there's a need to see events like this when you get them on film, to begin to try and interpret a battlefield situation so close up within a day is something that is just not really tenable. You know, just two days earlier, at the Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, there was a huge explosion in the courtyard and many people thought, oh, no, what happened. Children were killed and the media accusatory finger went to Israel.

Well, it turned out that what exploded in that courtyard was an Iranian missile that was aimed at Israel and simply the Hamas launch team mishandled it.


TAPPER: Right. I don't want to hold you responsible for Hamas misfires, absolutely. But certainly you would concede that of the more than 1,200 Palestinians who have been killed, most of whom according to the U.N., 70 percent to 80 percent of whom are civilians, most of them were killed by Israel, right? You would concede that point?

GOLD: I do not accept these numbers that are being put on table today, because I've seen it before. I remember we had a big battle in 2002 in a place called Jenin. I remember Saeb Erakat sitting in Jericho saying there was a massacre there in which 500 Palestinians were killed. When the smoke was cleared, it turns out the numbers were closer to 50 and the vast majority were associated with the armed groups of Fatah or Hamas.

So, I'm saying that because in the past, I have seen how situations start out with all kinds of numbers. Now, I am not being cold and my heart is with those people whose lives have been affected and threatened or they've lost their lives as a result of these military operations on the Palestinian side. But I also understand how war situations work. Numbers are going around.

Do you know that Hamas in the past had a special legal department called al Talfiq (ph)? It means documentation. They would gather material, get into the Goldstone Commission or get it to courts in Europe in order to advance their aims.

So that is why we've got to look very carefully at these numbers. We have to understand the tragedies that occur. We shouldn't ignore them. But I don't buy the U.N. --

TAPPER: You don't believe the United Nations when they --

GOLD: Well, it's not the United Nations. It's an official in the United Nations who says something like above 70 percent of those killed are civilians. I don't accept that number. That doesn't happen in the past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. It's way out of line.

TAPPER: Do you have a number of how many Palestinians have been killed?

GOLD: No, that's exactly my point. That's exactly my point. Everybody wants to get the number yesterday.

We're in 24-hour news cycles. You have to know what's happened. You have to tell your audience. But we don't know. I think --

TAPPER: But surely you can see that it's hundreds and hundreds of people and a majority of them are civilians, right? You would agree with that?

GOLD: I don't know that majority -- I don't want to get into the numbers. I do know a couple of things. I know that John Ging, who's the former head of UNRWA, was just on the CBC and attested to the fact that Hamas is firing at Israeli territory everywhere positions next to U.N. facilities. That's an untenable situation. That shouldn't happen.

By the way, we used to have that in southern Lebanon with Hezbollah who learned smartly to fire their rockets from right next to UNESCO (ph) facilities. So you have to analyze the situation. TAPPER: Dore Gold, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much for

coming on the show.

GOLD: Sure.

TAPPER: Coming up next, it's the innocent civilians paying the price for this extended battle. So, why won't Hamas give up these tunnels in order to stop Israeli bombardment?

And later, day after day, for two weeks, armed rebels have kept investigators from the Flight 17 crash site. Today, they made it there. Coming up, my guest tells me what they saw.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We just showed you stunning images of a rocket that hit a market in Gaza. But now, take a look at these, Hamas militants crawling through one of their tunnels with weapons into Israeli territory. The video comes from a Hamas-run television. Hamas claims they killed 10 Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military says it was five. CNN cannot independently verify is the video.

But it does illustrate the fear for Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces would say that this is justification for their strikes. That's what they arguing, right?