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Don Lemon Tonight

White House Looking at Tougher Sanctions on Russia; Remains of Victims of Flight 17 are Being Returned to the Netherlands to be Identified; FAA Lifts Ban on Flights to, from Main Airport in Israel

Aired July 23, 2014 - 23:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. on the east coast, and morning in Ukraine and the Middle East. And we have the very latest on two big stories for you.

The White House looking at tougher sanctions on Russia as two more planes, this time military jets, are shot down over Ukraine.

And meanwhile, the remains of victims of flight 17 are returning to the Netherlands to be identified.

And the plane's black boxes are being examined in the UK. Are we on the verge of finding out who is to blame?

We want to know what you think. Make sure you tweet us using the #askdon. We have a team of experts standing by to answer all of your questions.

And meanwhile, the world pushes for a cease-fire in Gaza. But what do we really know about Hamas? Can it ever co-exist with Israel? We're going to begin this hour, though, in Ukraine.

CNN's Ivan Watson is there for us -- Ivan.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nearly a week after Malaysian flight 17 crashed into these farm fields in eastern Ukraine, the bodies of some of the victims have been transported, returned to the Netherlands, the country of origin for this doomed flight where they were greeted by a very somber ceremony.

The flight data recorders that were on board the plane, they've been taken to the United Kingdom where experts are now going through their contents, trying to learn more about what exactly happened last Thursday. The conflict that nearly everybody agrees directly contributed to the downing of this commercial plane and the deaths of 298 innocent victims, it continues to rage.

Rebels, the rebels who control this area shot down two Ukrainian warplanes about a half hour from where I'm standing right now. The rebels say that they used shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles to shoot down those jets.

And throughout the day, we have heard the distant war of warplanes flying very high overhead. And as for the investigation, there has been a United Nations security council resolution calling for safe access to this place.

We've arrived here, and there is no security to speak of, no experts, no investigators watching this place. And it's clear that even within the last 48 hours, a great deal of the debris that was here has been removed. This so-called crime scene has very clearly been contaminated many times over. Nearly a week after flight MH17 crashed here and all those innocent people died, this crash zone feels all but abandoned.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Grabeva (ph) in eastern Ukraine.


LEMON: Ivan, thank you very much.

Now, I want to turn to a tragic and moving scene in the Netherlands today.

Thousands of people paying tribute to the victims of flight 17. Some applauding, some tossing flowers as a long line of hearses makes its way to a Dutch military base.

Joining me now to discuss this is Robert Chesal, an American journalist who has been reporting on Dutch and international affairs from Holland for more than 20 years. He joins us this evening by Skype.

What was it like in the Netherlands today?

ROBERT CHESAL, JOURNALIST/AUTHOR: Well, you used the right word when you said somber ceremony. It was somber all around in the country. It was beautiful weather and people were dressed for the summer, but, you know, on everybody's faces you could really see that this was a day of recognition, of pain. And you saw it when people were throwing flowers on to the hearses as they passed under underpasses on the highways. You saw it as they lined the streets waiting for the hearses to arrive at the military barracks where the bodies and the remains are going to be inspected and identified.

It's been a sad day for everyone, no matter what your line of work is, whatever walk of life you came from. From the king down to just every ordinary person here.

LEMON: You have a connection to this flight. Tell us about it.

CHESAL: Well, on the morning after the tragedy, I was sitting in bed with my wife, talking, drinking coffee. And our 19-year-old daughter walked in to the room in tears, and we have no idea what was wrong so, we asked her. She said well, Nick, she is referring to her high school friend, his brother had been killed in the plane crash, that he was on the plane. And so, you know, we were very upset and distraught and holding her and talking to her for a while. And about an hour later, she said that she saw on facebook that it wasn't just Nick's brother, but his mom and his stepfather. And basically, what it came down to is poor Nick, this young, very young man, his entire family was wiped out. And he is on his own now.

So it was horrific. And it's been ever since, it's been, you know, a matter of comforting people all over the place, because we're coming across a lot of people that, you know, were affected by it in some way or another.

LEMON: Who do you think the Dutch people blame here?

CHESAL: There is no question who the Dutch people blame here. They blame the people who they call the thugs on the ground in eastern Ukraine, the separatists. And everybody who blames them also blames Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime. They feel that Russia is responsible for perpetrating this conflict and for arming the separatists. And the separatists, you know, the Dutch people see the separatists as just a bunch of drunken thugs, basically.

LEMON: Do you think in the days to come as people start, you know, processing this that there is more anger to come?

CHESAL: Yes. You know, from the very moment that it happened, I started seeing comments from people here in the Netherlands who were calling for military action, which is of course most people here realize is patently absurd and unrealistic.

But I noticed as the Dutch government started talking about economic sanctions, that there is a great dissatisfaction even with that. I don't know if the Dutch people can be satisfied in any way but certainly what they want --

LEMON: That was Robert Chesal. He is joining us from the Netherlands. And he has been an American who has been reporting on Dutch affairs from Holland for more than 20 years. And we appreciate his perspective on that.

Let's move on now and talk about what you are talking about. We want to discuss and answer some of your questions that you have been tweeting us tonight about flight 17. And we have a team of expert here is to answer them.

Joining me now David Soucie, CNN's safety analyst and author of "Why Planes Crash." And also, Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general of the department of transportation, now an attorney for victims of transportation accidents. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, CNN military analyst.

OK, guys, let's get to this.

The first one is to Lieutenant Francona. The question is from Danny. He says Putin has called for a full investigation, but can we trust that he isn't going to withhold any damning information? Lieutenant?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely not. There is no reason for Vladimir Putin to cooperate with this, because I think after all is said and done, the finger is going to be pointed back to if not his forces, his proxies operating in eastern Ukraine. That missile system used to down this aircraft was built in Russia. It had to be -- the operators had to be trained by Russians and operated by Russians. So I think Putin's fingerprints are all over this. We cannot trust Vladimir Putin.

LEMON: And pardon me, I should say Colonel.

So this one, Mary. Here is an interesting question from the man's name is Van Stonehouse. What motives do all these parties have in downing a passenger plane? Was this plane selected or simply a random victim?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think that certainly Russia and the terrorists, the thugs that downed the plane want everyone to believe that it was random. But frankly, you can't close your eyes to the possible reality and shoot wildly at aircraft and say, it was mistake. Well thought it was military.

There are ways to determine between civilian and military. Civilian aircraft has a different transponder than military aircraft. It squawks a different code. And what happened is they simply didn't look. Throughout history, most of the aircraft downed by missiles have been downed by Russian-backed guerrillas, rebels or separatists or thugs. So Russia has frequently played a role in the downing of civilian aircraft. And I just can't call that an accident. I have to call that intentional.

LEMON: Yes. That is a very interesting and nuanced answer, Mary. Thank you for that.

Davis, here is a question from Ramon. Ramon says MH17 is for sure an act of terrorism. What technology is available to track where the missile came from?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, one of the things that we have done in the past actually is try to try track anything from the ground, projectiles from the ground by accessing (ph) the how it goes through the aircraft and from one side of the aircraft.

Earlier today we were looking at images from the accident scene which show the shrapnel going through the aircraft at one side an d out the other. So what can be done at that point is mathematically place the aircraft in the sky using the black boxes, now.

Remember, if we don't have the black box information, we wouldn't be able to do this. But from that point you can trace that back after the accident, you can trace that back mathematically and figure out exactly from the position of the aircraft and how that projectile went through the aircraft, trace that back and you can point at close to where the missile would have come from.

LEMON: All right, Lieutenant Colonel Francona, here is a tweet. It's from Byron. Byron says why doesn't NATO drop 2,000 to 4,000 soldiers around the crash site to fully secure everything?

FRANCONA: If you want to want to send Vladimir Putin into orbit, you mention the word NATO. Go back a few years now. Ukraine was a candidate for NATO membership and had Ukraine joined NATO, we would be talking about a completely different situation.

But geopolitics of the day did not permit it again. Some of the other former soviet states are now in NATO and we're looking at others, Georgia for example. But Ukraine and NATO just don't mix right now. And the Russians would -- that would be a marker to put down, I think the Russians would react very badly to that.

LEMON: Mary, this is something we discussed during 370. It's a tweet from Jared Graves. And you talked to us about how planes break up and if there is wreckage. How were passports recovered without a scratch if the plane was blown to bits?

SCHIAVO: That's the amazing thing about mid-air breakups or any kind of accident. It's really very, very random. Some things survive completely intact and unscathed, and other things are just charred, you know, bits of wreckage.

In the 9/11 and the four planes on 9/11, for example, the two that hit the world trade centers, there were situations, there were occurrences where we found passports just like here completely intact. A lady's pocketbook, some personal effects, things on the street. And yet some people had situation where no remains were ever recovered. So it's very hit or miss and it depends where you are on the plane and the blast forces of the breakup.

LEMON: Yes, it's like a tornado rolls through some towns, the house next door completely intact, and then the one is smithereens.

So David, I'm going to ask you this one. Here is a great tweet. It says we know that the plane was taken down by a missile. Why is that important, the black box? Will it help find out who did this?

SOUCIE: Actually, it kind of will, for a number of reasons. First of all, the one I was saying before about tracing the trajectory back to where the missile is. Now, we know it's a missile and we have radar image of where it was launched from. But to corroborate that evidence, to have other information that ties that as well is very helpful when this goes to a criminal court.

Now, the other thing about the black box that it can tell us, a little bit of information about what the passengers and the victims of this horrible crime were going through at the time should the black boxes be unharmed during the descent of the aircraft, you would have information about if the pilot may have known or didn't know what had hit the aircraft and how he responded to that. So it's difficult to say at this point what the black box contributes, but it's surprising how much it can influence as we go down this process of trying to hold these people to justice.

LEMON: Colonel Francona, here is another great question. How many rebels are there? Thousands? How many different groups? By the way, Holland thanks you for your coverage.

FRANCONA: There are a variety of groups, but there is two main ones. And they have set up their own enclave there's. They have declared themselves to be the people's republic of Donetsk, and another group, the Luhansk (ph) group. Their numbers are in the thousands. But you know, it's kind of murky because one day they are fighters and the next day they're at home doing, you know, their regular daily activities. So it's really hard to put a number on this.

LEMON: Mary, here is another one. Will this be another cold case like MH 370? Will we ever know the true identity of the perpetrators of this crime?

SCHIAVO: Well, I think eventually we will know the identity of the perpetrators, but it will be a long time coming. You know, the problem isn't any kind of a shoot-down or a crash or missile attack with Russian-backed separatist rebels, terrorists, whatever you want to call them or Russia itself, it's hard to get the information because often the people are protected or spirited away back to Russia or in the years past, the old soviet union. And there they sit for a number of years. So I do think eventually it will come out. But it's extremely different to get the information when the old soviet union or Russia is involved. They simply just deny and stick with their denials. And there is no freedom of information act in Russia.

LEMON: First to David quickly. I want all of you to answer this question. Will we ever know who the perpetrators are?

SOUCIE: I'm not as confident as Mary that we will. It's just too convoluted, and the crime scene is too destroyed at this point.

LEMON: Lieutenant colonel Francona?

FRANCONA: I'm going to go in the middle. I'll say we may, and it will be through intelligence or a law enforcement investigation. All the science is not going to help us here. Now we need to talk to people.

LEMON: All right, guys. Stand by. I appreciate you.

Next, in the midst of all this around the world, President Obama seems to be keeping a low profile, and that has his critics crying foul, but are they right? We're going to debate that when we come right back.


LEMON: Bloodshed in Gaza, turmoil in Ukraine, the never-ending issue of how to deal with Russia, and President Obama son a fundraising tour of the west coast. And that has his critics up in arms.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the president keeping a low profile, raising money for Democrats on the west coast, his foreign policy critics have only gotten louder, calling on Mr. Obama to come down hard on Russia.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want the Russian people to feel pain in response to the pain they have caused. I want to put sanctions on their economy so they understand that what Putin is doing is not good for them long-term.

ACOSTA: White House officials counter they have begun to do just that.

TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We have exerted extraordinary pressure on Russia through these sanctions, and we're seeing dramatic impact on the Russian economy.

ACOSTA: The president's top aides note from Ukraine to Israel to Syria and on to Iraq, Iran, and other hot spots, some of these crisis can be connected. The alleged shoot-down in Ukraine and violence Gaza have prompted flight restrictions over Israel and created new worries about arming the opposition in Syria.

The White House is now even more leery of sending service-to-air weapon troy the rebels there. A spokeswoman said we've always been concerned about the danger that those types of weapons could fall into the wrong hands or where pose a risk to civil aviation.

As for Vladimir Putin, senior administration officials stress Russia's help is still needed to rein in Iran's nuclear program. But critics ask whether the White House is showing too much restraint?

MICHAEL O'HANLON, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: I do think the administration is showing signs of a little bit of fatigue.

ACOSTA: Foreign policy analyst Michael O'Hanlon says the president needs some fresh ideas to deal with these crises.

O'HANLON: It's the president himself who is sending strong messages to his team, to his staff that he doesn't want to be very ambitious. And they're hearing that message and they're devising policies accordingly. It's time, frankly, for a little more ambition, because the world senses that this president is too disengaged.

ACOSTA: The public is not happy. The president's approval rating in a new CNN/ORC poll now stands at 42 percent, placing Mr. Obama in the second term company of George W. Bush, well below Clinton and Reagan.

In spite all the chaos on his watch, the president appears determined to stay the course. Just one day before the crash of flight 17, he asked for patience.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We live in a complex world and at a challenging time. And none of these challenges lend themselves to quick or easy solutions.


ACOSTA: With the Obama administration concerned Russia is continuing to arm the rebels in Ukraine, a top White House official says the U.S. is considering expanded sanctions against Moscow, but there is no timetable set and it's not at all clear how far the U.S. is willing to go -- Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Jim Acosta. Is President Obama going to pay a political price for his handling of

crises around the world?

Joining me now -- let's discuss this. Joining me now is Kellyanne Conway, Republican strategist and Sally Kohn, CNN political commentator.

Hello, guys. Doing OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to see you Don.

LEMON: Good to see you.


LEMON: So listen. Sally, to you first. President Obama is in Los Angeles tonight. He is sticking with his schedule of democratic fundraisers despite the crises around the world, around the globe, and there is growing criticism from Republicans. Would you advise the president to keep raising money at this point in time?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, nobody is going to be more critical of the fact that politicians of all stripes have to spend way too much money -- way too much time raising big money from special interests. So, you know, there is no disagreement there.

But the real context here is that literally no matter what this president does, Republicans are going to criticize him. So we can imagine a scenario where the exact opposite happened where he seemingly dropped everything, stopped worrying about all the other domestic policy balls he was trying to juggle and focused only on what say happened in Ukraine, and then Republicans would critique him for ignoring the problems facing Americans back home, right?

The same thing happened around the border. Republicans a few weeks ago criticized President Obama for not going and doing a photo op at the border. The same Republicans three years ago criticized the president for doing a photo op at the border.


KOHN: He can't win.

LEMON: Sally, let me get this in before I bring you in, Kellyanne.

Let's talk about the president's poll numbers or ratings, an all-time low. It stand on. This is a CNN/ORC poll. It says that the president's rating is 42 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove and there is three percent who don't know.

You know, he is not running again, right. So I'm wondering if it's more important for -- I'm not sure how important it is for him it is. More important for Democrats, right?

KOHN: No one -- no Democrat, no president is going to like those numbers, right. The context is that the American people are fed up with the entire

political system. And the only thing that makes those numbers look good is when you look at the approval ratings of congressional Republicans, who I think right now are just hovering around like the cockroach level. Like people really don't like them and really blame them. And they're fed up with the whole system. They're frustrated that we can't get things done in Washington. People should be. And that frustration is getting spread around. But the Republicans aren't getting the brunt of it.

LEMON: Let me bring in Kellyanne.

Kellyanne, I mean, do poll numbers really matters? As I said the president's poll numbers are low right now. He is getting criticized from Republicans a lot? Do they matter?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They matter very much, Don. Yes, they matter very much. This is a president who has two great pollsters. I know them both personally. He is behold tony the polls like many politicians are. And when his poll numbers were 70 percent approval, that's all we heard about is that he's got this huge mandate and he can do whatever he wants.

Look, the 42 percent approval rating is one thing. But the 55 percent disapproval rating, Sally, is earned by this president and this president alone.

You know, you just did, Sally, as much as I love you, doll, you just did exactly what President Obama does every time he has to answer a question. You say the word Republican at least 12 times. When can you just -- can you or he just answer a question about policy, about the situation in Ukraine, about the situation between Israel and Hamas, about the situation at the border without mentioning the word Republican? I feel like it's congenitally impossible.

And Don, here is what is going on here. This president has every right to raise money for his party. He is definitely --

LEMON: It's OK. Hey, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: It's fine. He can do that. But he is seen as feckless and absent.

LEMON: I'm not cutting you off from your argument.

CONWAY: People want their president to be empathetic.

LEMON: Kellyanne, there is a concern with your background because there is an issue with the monitor behind you. I don't think viewers care about that. So let's continue to talk about the conversation.

So Kellyanne, listen. Here's a thing. Ted Cruz is accusing President Obama of trying to push an economic boycott of sorts on Israel by barring flights into Tel Aviv. Do you agree with that?

CONWAY: I agree with what Benjamin Netanyahu and Michael Bloomberg said about it, which is you sort of let Hamas have a victory dance here. And maybe the FAA just overreacted. And mayor Bloomberg made the point of getting on an El Al flight, not a U.S. domestic flight, flying over to Israel and making the point that that airport is one of the safest in the world. And so, look, I respect any time people want to keep other folks safe.

I don't see an economic boycott here. However, I do think I'll defer to Benjamin Netanyahu. I'll defer to Benjamin Netanyahu.

LEMON: Let Sally get in real quick. Sally, quick, because I got to get do a break.

KOHN: Yes, well, look. I mean, this is, again, the same situation. You can imagine if the administration, it's unclear even how involved they were in this decision. But if they hadn't acted and God forbid something had happened, the attacks from Republicans that we hadn't taken the threat of Hamas more seriously. Come on.

CONWAY: Come on.

LEMON: Listen. My producers are going to kill me. So hang on. Don't go anywhere. Stay with me.

When we come right back, President Obama versus Vladimir Putin, whose got the upper hand? We'll be right back.


LEMON: Welcome back.

With the White House considering more sanctions for Russia, are president Obama and president Putin headed for a showdown?

Back now with Kellyanne Conway and Sally Kohn.

Kellyanne, your background, perfecto now!

All right. So, we will pay attention to what you're saying and not what is behind you now.

So, how should President Obama handle Vladimir Putin? Do we really have any leverage at all?

CONWAY: Yes, we do, absolutely. I know the EU senior officials will be meeting tomorrow. And I hope the president is at least part of those conversations, if not formally, again, consider doing what they're doing, which is to really expand the sanctions against Putin and Russia, say the oil and gas and high-tech goods, hit him where it hurts.

I mean, I fear that even in the wake of MH17 being shot down last week and everything that is going on over there, Don, that Putin seems undeterred. And I don't want Americans to feel like the president is unmoved or unfazed. So I think it would be a great time for the president to step up and say that.

LEMON: On the subject of leverage, go ahead, Sally.

KOHN: No I mean, OK. So two points. First of all, that actually has been what the president has been doing. And people need to understand that U.S. economic Russian ties are actually very small part of Russia's economy. But the EU is quite a big influence. And the president has been working his influence with the European, those diplomatic relationships he has carefully rebuilt in order to put that pressure. So if the EU acts and toughens its sanctions, they have been reluctant. The United States via President Obama has been pushing for tougher sanctions, number one. Number two, I really want people to understand the sort of irony of jujitsu-like proportions that Republicans are trying to do here.

LEMON: Jujitsu!

KOHN: Back at home they are literally suing the president, arguing that he is this imperial president, critiquing him for trying to act, because Republicans in Congress won't. But then when it comes to what is happening abroad, Republicans are blaming the president for not being all powerful and, I don't know, being able to take down Putin with his death grip stare you without saying Republican.


KOHN: It just happens to be part of the conversation.

CONWAY: No, it's the only conversation. Look, the president's problems right now at home, if we really want to be candid, folks, are not the Republicans. It's senators like Mark Begich in Alaska who has said, quote, "I don't need the president to campaign with me. I need him to change some of my policies.

KOHN: He is the one not passing legislation.

CONWAY: Hold on, Sally, let's be fair. There are Democrats who are in the swing states where the president is not out there raising money who don't want him with them. That's not a Republican conspiracy. That's part of the 55 percent disapproval rating.

Look, the 55 percent, according to the CNN poll disapproves. That's includes people who voted for the president.

LEMON: So Kellyanne, his problem isn't the members of Congress who said that they weren't going to do anything the president tried to implement, that they were going to make him a one-term president and not go along, that's not his problem? His bigger problem is Democrats?

CONWAY: He's got plenty of problems, Don. Let's not stop at one or two.

KOHN: Ninety nine, I think.

CONWAY: But we can only blame Republicans for a guy who was criticized by a Democratic Congress recently for playing pool and having a beer with the governor of Colorado, that's Henry Cuellar who made the criticism, not any Republican.

He is now being criticize for being a bit absent on some of these international issues, not just by republicans. You know, a lot of independents out there, there a lot of swing voters, there a lot of women, there are a lot of young people who voted for him both times and are not sure bet to reelect democratic. If I were President Obama now, I would -- the job and work --

KOHN: You blame Democrats, I blame Republicans. You say potato, I say potato. You know, I think the American people -- I do think the American people are smart enough to know.

LEMON: One at a time.

KOHN: I think the American people are smart enough to know that the president, for instance, look, the American people, their number one concern, jobs and the economy. So the president puts forward infrastructure bills, puts forward jobs bills, and Republicans don't even bring it up for a vote. Let alone, you know, take a side on it one way or the other. It is literally like Republicans are trying to steer this country in an iceberg, into an iceberg so they can blame him --

CONWAY: My God, he is the president. He has been in for five and a half years.

KOHN: They want to see him fail and by extension, America fail.

LEMON: I also want to ask you guys about -- And Sally, and I love the smirk. You need to trademark that smirk.

OK. So let's talk about, Kellyanne, you first. Another note, President Obama question why Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden who would want to go through, and this is his quote, undignified process of making a is second run for the White House. Why do you think he said that? First Kellyanne and then Sally?

CONWAY: It's kind of rude, actually. Listen, I agree. I don't know why anyone wants this thankless job. But I'm pretty sure Joe Biden does.

No, I think it's -- I don't like when anybody tries to squelch the competition. But I actually think President Obama wants his legacy of hope and change and youth and future to continue. And let me tell you something. You look at Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and you aren't thinking youth and future.

So President Obama was able to defy the expectations that a president should have deep experience in government or in legislative. He was brand-new. So he wants that legacy to continue.

LEMON: OK, good. Go ahead, quickly.

CONWAY: And he also doesn't like his job. He doesn't want to --

KOHN: Who would like this job? Who would like a job where you get criticized for breathing? I mean, that's really what it's sort of boiled down to. Look, come on.

LEMON: No, no. Let her finish.

KOHN: I think it's fair. And you know, maybe we're all complicit in this too. But the sort hyper partisan intransigent nothing gets done literally -- literally both sides. And I do blame Republicans on this. They can't even agree to support President Obama when he puts up conservative measures, Republican measures. Why would anyone want to run for public service? Why?

LEMON: That is going to be have to be the last word. Thank you very much. I've got to go, ladies. Thank you very much. Sally Kohn and also Kellyanne Conway.

I have to go because we have breaking news to tell you about tonight. That incident on the Brooklyn bridge, that's what it involves where somebody placed the bridge's American flag -- replaced the American flags on the bridge with bleached out flags.

WABC news is reporting tonight that police are looking for five men believed to be in their early 20s. One may have been carrying a skateboard. All five were caught on surveillance cameras, but there are no solid leads on their identities. Lots of hipsters in Brooklyn. Lots of skateboards.

Up next, Israel and Hamas engaged in an ongoing battle that has killed hundreds. What do they both want to get out of this? And what might get them to put down their weapons?


LEMON: The showdown between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows no sign of slowing down. What is the end game for each side? And is there anything that could get them to co-exist?

CNN's Paula Hancocks has that.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hamas shows off its military muscle. A promotional video boasting of its fighters, rockets and tunnels. Israel's military releases footage of it destroying the enemy, a show of strength against a group it and much of the west considers a terrorist organization. Both sides have a clear aim, to cripple or destroy the other. But it's a goal neither can currently achieve. So the question is what will it take to silence the bombs this time?

Hamas is clear about what it wants. The leader (INAUDIBLE) said Wednesday, we want a ceasefire but Israel must end the blockade now as a guarantee, then we can negotiate.

Israel withdraw troops from settlements in 2005, but has controlled Gaza's waters, airspace and most borders ever since, claiming they are protecting themselves against a more militarized Hamas. Human rights groups have called Gaza the world's largest open air prison, and also say the blockade should be lifted.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WILSON CENTER: The Israelis may have to ease their restrictions on imports and exports. Hamas salaries may have to be paid by the catteries'. Anything more release of prisoners or a complete end to both Egyptian and Israeli control of the border strikes me frankly as a bridge too far.

HANCOCKS: Hamas' tunnel network has surprised many. Its scope and sophistication. Not only for smuggling weapons from Egypt, but also its tunnels into Israel, giving it immediate access to Israel's civilian population, the Israeli referring to this new battleground as lower Gaza.

DAN ARBEL, FELLOW, CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY BROOKINGS: The terrorists operating in these tunnels are taking with them equipment not only to try and kill Israelis, but also to kidnap Israelis. They're taking tranquilizers with them, handcuffs, et cetera so they can bring back some Israelis as hostages.

HANCOCKS: Israel wants to destroy this network before pulling out, a move the Israeli public supports. Israel also wants to weaken Hamas as much as it can. It has suffered more military casualties in the past two weeks than in the previous five years.

Hamas and other militant groups have lost over 100 fighters while more than 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed. However, more children than fighters have lost their lives so far in Gaza, making calls for a ceasefire all the more urgent.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, New York.


LEMON: So when we come right back, two men with completely different viewpoints on Hamas, what it's all about, and its goal in battling Israel.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone.

Israel and most western governments consider Hamas a terrorist group. But it controls Gaza and has proved to be a formidable adversary. Tonight two viewpoints of Hamas. First off, I'm joined now Abdullah al-Arian. He is an assistant professor at Georgetown University school of foreign service in Qatar.

So here is the question. When leading into this segment before the break, I said can the two sides co-exist. And it strikes me that that may be, you know, a disingenuous question or the wrong question to ask, because can you co-exist with someone whose mission is your destruction, meaning Hamas wants to destroy Israel?

ABDULLAH AL-ARIAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE IN QATAR: Well, I think the context is very important here. And if we really take a very close look at the chronology of events that have led to this latest Israeli offensive against Gaza, we would find that actually Hamas has not chosen the option of a military or violent confrontation with Israel. That in fact if we go back to this past spring when we heard all of the reports of a unity government at a time when Hamas' political standing was quite weak in the Gaza Strip, that in fact they actually came to an agreement with the Fatah leadership in order to actually ease the situation tremendously and to be able to try to transition towards something of a unity position among all of the different Palestinian factions.

And it was Israel and to a certain extent even the United States that undermined that unity government. And it was only after Israel broke the ceasefire, and of course we know all about the reports of the different killings and bombings that Hamas then chose the second option or was confronted essentially with an attempt by Israel to destroy it and Gaza to destroy its presence there.

LEMON: So it's tough to -- as I have said here before, to go through the entire conflict right between these two groups. There is just not enough time. We would be on television for hours.

AL-ARIAN: Sure. But we're only talking about this past few months.

LEMON: I agree with that. But most people are asking can there be peace? Can the two sides co-exist when Hamas' initial mission, that is part of its mission statement is to destroy Israel? How can they co-exist with someone who wants to destroy them?

AL-ARIAN: If you look at their most recent statements and even -- we don't have to go far back in history. We can go back to this afternoon when one of the leaders Meshaal who is based in Qatar said very openly that they're very much in favor of having a truce that could last up to ten years. And in fact, that they've been trying to maintain this truce.

I mean, again, when we think about the military imbalance, Hamas is not in any condition or situation whatsoever to actually be able to carry out these threats against Israel's existence. But in fact the opposite is quite true. And I think the real emphasis here has to be on the humanitarian crisis against the people of Gaza.

LEMON: OK. I don't want to spend the entire time we have together debating this. All right, let's move on now because I want to talk about what is going on there.

You know that FAA ban on flights going into Israel, I'm wondering if that is viewed as a victory for Hamas.

AL-ARIAN: Well, I don't know that it's necessarily a victory for Hamas. But certainly, I think given the kinds of the imbalance in the humanitarian situation, given what is going on in Gaza and the kinds of massacres and the things that have happened there that certainly this is a very interesting kind of contradiction given the fact that Israel has justified the atrocities against the Palestinians on the basis of the fact that these rocket attacks seem to pose such a massive threat. And yet at the same time, the Israeli leaders today are saying, well, actually the rocket threats don't seem to be that bad. And as a result, we should be able to allow the flights in and out of the country. And so, it seems to be massive contradiction in terms. Because it's that supposed threat that Israel has used as the pretext upon which to act against the entire civilian population of Gaza.

LEMON: And Professor, I have to move on. Thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us on CNN this evening. Please come back, OK. Thank you.

I want to get a different perspective now on Hamas. I'm joined now by Musab Hassan Yousef. He is the author of "Son of Hamas." He joins us live.

Your know, your father was a founding member of Hamas and you were groomed to take a leadership position. Eventually you converted to Christianity, rejected their political objectives. Why did you do that?

MUSAB HASSAN YOUSEF, AUTHOR, SON OF HAMAS: Well, for the simple reasons that we see right now in Gaza, that Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians, does not care about the lives of Israelis or Americans. They don't care about their own lives. They consider dying for the sake of their ideology a way of worship. And how can you continue in that society?

LEMON: OK. I'll ask you the same question I asked my last guest. Can you co-exist with someone whose mission is your destruction?

YOUSEF: Well, Hamas is not seeking co-existence and compromise. Hamas is seeking conquest and taking over. And by the way, Israel, the destruction of the state of Israel is not Hamas final destination. Hamas final destination is building the Islamic Khalifa, which means an Islamic state on every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of the movement.

LEMON: Musab, you say in your book that Hamas targets civilians as a of tool of war. Tell us about the Hamas that you know from growing up in the West Bank.

YOUSEF: Well, in the most, Hamas taught us that without shedding innocent blood for the sake of the ideology, we wouldn't be able to build an Islamic state. They were preparing us from the age as young as 5-years-old. This is the ideology that Hamas was feeding us.

And honestly, it's impossible almost for anybody to break through and see the truth and real face of Hamas and be able to leave at some point. As you see in my case, I had to lose everything just to say no to Hamas. And today when I look at the children of Gaza, and I know what they're fed, I know that they have no choice.

LEMON: Musab, thank you. I appreciate you joining us. Next time, we will spent a little bit more time with you. But I have to move one because we have some breaking news tonight that I want to tell you about. And it involves the story that I'm talking about that FAA ban, it has been lifted on U.S. flights. Joining me now CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh. Take us through


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we just received this statement from the FAA. And effective about ten minutes ago, they lifted the ban that they had on U.S. airlines flying to and from the main airport in Tel Aviv.

Now, the FAA doesn't get into a lot of detail as to what changed that led them to lift this ban. I'm going to read to you the language here. They specifically say that they were working with the U.S. government counterpart about as far as assessing the situation, the security situation in Israel. And after reviewing, quote, "significant new information." It's unclear what that new information is, they arrived at this decision here.

So just to recap for you, Don. We now can tell you that the FAA has made the decision to lift the ban on flights to and from the main airport in Israel. Now, if you remember, it was just on Tuesday this week that they put this ban in place. And that initial ban was for 24 hours.

Fast forward to today. They reassessed, and they announced that they would extend the ban again for another 24 hours. But now we see that they're reversing that. They will allow U.S. airlines to fly there. This impacted three U.S. carriers -- United, Us Airways, as well as Delta.

But we should point out, although the FAA is announcing they're lifting the ban, there is no guarantee that these airlines will say that they will go ahead and fly there. We just heard Delta today who said they will be doing their own risk assessments. So we still have to wait and see what happens, Don.

LEMON: We'll watch in the coming hours and days.

Thank you very much, Rene Marsh.

That ban to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv has now been lifted for U.S. carriers. When we come right back, paying tribute to the victims of Malaysia airlines flight 17.