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Israelis and Palestinians Suffer Under Bombardments

Aired December 31, 2008 - 15:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This is what is making news right now. As attacks continue, who really started it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Israel broke the ceasefire.


SANCHEZ: But Israelis say not true. We will fact check it fairly, honestly.


GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: This is about Roland Burris as a United States Senator, not about the governor who makes the appointment.


SANCHEZ: Defiance -- an appointment to the U.S. Senate some senators say they won't accept. Now what?

"Vanity Fair" hits the newsstands today with this George Bush was "Sarah Palin-like" and was "manipulated by Cheney," all in quotes. White House secrets revealed. What do you think? Tell me on Twitter, On the air, on the Web, your national conversation begins right now.

And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez, and here we are. Happy almost new year from the world headquarters of CNN. A lot of stories to get to, but obviously, the big story that we're going to be talking about today is still what's going on right now because things seem to be amping up there in Gaza with the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Let me take you through the scene as I set things up for you. While I do this, I want to show you a series of videos that pretty much tell the story of what's going on today. Let me begin with this. That 48-hour ceasefire that we told you about yesterday, that was being considered by the cabinet -- no go. Essentially, they have rejected it.

Now, I want to show you a series of videos. This is an IDF attack. This is in Gaza. Go ahead and go to that, if you got it, Dan (ph) -- 390 people dead so far. The last number we got -- and we're checking this just before going on the air -- 1,600 people so far have been wounded. This attack you're looking at right now is in Gaza. It was at a refugee camp that's in the south. When I say refugee camp, it is really more of a city than a refugee camp.

Let's go to the tanks now. This is our count (ph) of tanks that we're been showing you. They're positioned and primed. They're right there on the border. We understand, at least according to one interview that's been done with an Israeli commander who would not give his name, that they are still preparing to move forward with a ground assault. Maybe the word I should use is "possible" ground assault, as we look at these pictures.

I've also learned that the weather will be more favorable tomorrow than it was today. Is that a possibility, that it will lead them to do something? We don't know. We obviously will be checking into that throughout this newscast.

Take a look at this, though. This is what Israel says is the reason that they're doing what they're doing, these series of tunnels. There's about 200 of them. And there you see what is tunnels. You notice how the explosions are in a line. These are tunnels that are being taken out. This is military video from the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force. And you can see there a tunnel that's been taken out -- 200 of them. There are some in Egypt, and then are some, of course, that connect Gaza with the rest of Israel. So that's an important thing to consider, as well, as we move forward in this story.

Let's go Jim Clancy. He's joining us now from CNN International. Is the tunnel enough of a reason for Israel to use to justify what's going on right now in Gaza?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the tunnels are the source of a lot of the weaponry. You know, what we've seen over the course of the last 48 hours is, suddenly, we've got Katyusha rockets being fired. Where did those come from? Those aren't homemade rockets in your garage.

SANCHEZ: So what you're saying is those -- that type of weaponry may be coming in from the tunnels through Egypt, which is what the Israelis have been saying.

CLANCY: Yes. Well, there seems to be no doubt about it. Fuel has been coming in there. There was a massive explosion that they showed the video of, Rick. So it's known this is part of the whole system that Hamas is using to bring in what it needs to either manufacturer those missiles, or as we've seen, just bring them in there outright.

SANCHEZ: Although Palestinians will say those tunnels are used to bring in humanitarian goods to help the people in Gaza.

CLANCY: It's a whole business. It's a whole business, Rick. I mean, that is...

SANCHEZ: Is it both? CLANCY: Yes. It's how -- every tunnel is probably used in more than one way. One tunnel we know was used exclusively for fuel, to bring fuel into the Gaza strip. They have no other way of getting it. Legitimate businesses say, We can't even work -- we can't even work anymore because there's so much on the black economy that's coming underground.

SANCHEZ: but this is important, and this something I want to break down for the viewers. Yesterday, you and I were sitting here, and we had a conversation with Mustafa Barghuti, who's an independent legislator, Palestinian legislator.

CLANCY: Right.

SANCHEZ: And he said that most news organizations have ignored the possibility that the people who actually broke the ceasefire was not the Palestinians, not Hamas in Gaza. What he said -- in fact, let -- I think we've got it. Dan, play this, and then we'll give you some more information on it. Let's go ahead and go to that.


MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: The world press community or media community is overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative, which is incorrect. The Israeli spokesperson have been spreading lies all over. The reality and the truth is that the side that broke this truce and this ceasefire was Israel. Two months before it ended, Israel started attacking Rafah, started attacking Hanunis (ph), and never lifted the blockade on Gaza. Gaza remains without fuel, without electricity, with bread, without medications, without any medical equipment for people who are dying in Gaza -- 262 people died, 6 people because of no access to medical care. So Israel broke the ceasefire.


SANCHEZ: And you know what we did? I've checked with some of the folks here at our international desk, and I went to them and asked, What was he talking about, and do we have any information on that? Which they confirmed, two months ago -- this is back in November -- there was an attack. It was an Israeli raid that took out six people.

Now, let me refer you -- it's not just us. We've checked in other periodicals. Johnny (ph), go over my shoulder, if you can. Here we go. "The six-month ceasefire started coming apart at the beginning of November after Israeli commandos killed a team of Hamas fighters during a raid on a tunnel they suspected was being dug for kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. That raid set off more Palestinian rocketing." That's "U.S. News and World Report."

I got another one for you, I believe, here. OK, this is "The Guardian" -- questionable, but nonetheless. "A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today" -- this was actually reported when it happened -- "after Israeli troops killed six gunmen in a raid in the territory." That's important to report.

And here we go, as well, from the, and the point of contention here is this one. Johnny, one more. "The last straw came in November, when Israelis killed six gunmen it said were digging tunnels to launch a raid onto Israel, spurring Hamas to respond with a barrage of rockets."

So the question as to who started this -- and we've been hearing that the Israelis say they had to do this because, suddenly, the ceasefire had been broken in Gaza by the Hamas and the Palestinians. Is this now a little more in question?

CLANCY: You know, that is absolutely true. But just as true is the fact that if Israel hadn't started shooting first in this case -- and Israel said, We had security reasons, imminent security reasons. There was no real deal here between Hamas and Israel. Israel still reserved the right to go in to do any attack where there was a primary security interest there. And they said, Our soldiers were going to be kidnapped. We had to do it.

SANCHEZ: But you know, I guess what it is -- Americans, we like our order. We want things delineated for us. We like to see a quid pro quo. They're saying this happened. Are they right? And they're saying this happened. Are they right? It's almost like we're left -- when you talk about the Middle East, you're left with such subtleties that sometimes everything is a vagary.

Let's do this. I want to hold you for just a moment. Ben Wedeman has just become available to us. He's live in Jerusalem. He's been following the story today.

Ben, first of all, if you would, bring us up to date on what -- yesterday during this hour, you were talking to us about a rocket attack. Have been there more of those rocket attacks today?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there have been about 40 rocket attacks onto southern Israel so far today. Now, in most cases, causing no casualties and no significant damage, but what we've seen is the significant development over the last 24 to 48 hours is that the range of these rockets is farther than we've seen yet, several hits on the town of Beersheba (ph), which is about 25, 26 miles from Gaza. That sort of range has not been seen before.

And this comes after four days, five days now, of intense Israeli air attacks on Gaza. And we've heard Israeli officials saying they have been successful at destroying all the workshops that make those rockets and at hitting rocket launching squads. But here we see nonetheless, despite this air offensive, these rockets keep on coming.

SANCHEZ: You know, what's interesting? And by the way, let's go over to MySpace real quick, if we can. Johnny, give me a shot of this MySpace thing. "Just like children -- He started it, No, he started it. Sad. They both need to own up to their actions."

Sometimes it looks this way. In actuality -- and I got to keep you on with this, Ben, and I want to ask you, too, Jim -- is it possible that what's going on over there will end up being good in kind of a strange way for both sides? Hamas was down to, like, 17 percent approval among Palestinians. That's how little they thought of this organization. That's bound to go up as a result of this now. And meanwhile, the political situation there for this particular prime minister is also bound to go up because he comes across as a tough guy. Am I wrong?

WEDEMAN: No, you're not wrong. This is often the case. The Middle East is the land of unintended consequences. Israel is launching this operation with -- one of their goals is eventually to destroy Hamas. What they're doing is strengthening Hamas. You've seen pro-Hamas demonstrations throughout the West Bank, which is a stronghold of Hamas's rival, the Fatah movement. You've seen pro- Hamas, pro-Gaza demonstrations throughout the Arab and Muslim world. And the allies of the United States, the so-called moderate Arabs, are on the defensive because they are being seen as turning a blind eye to the current Israeli offensive. So it's utterly ironic.

On the Israeli side, we see Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who's been disgraced by repeated investigations into corruption, but nonetheless, here he is working on his legacy, showing the Israeli people that he's a strong leader who can take decisive action. So as I said, it's the land of unintended consequences.

SANCHEZ: Ben Wedeman, live from Jerusalem. Let us know if anything happens there, and we'll bring it to our viewers right away.

Meanwhile, you got Bebe Netanyahu standing back, Jim, saying, You know what? I'm the real tough guy here. And he's leading in the polls. Will this thing change that?

CLANCY: Well, you know, he's also -- he's in this one, too. He's saying, We st and together and I support what they're doing. What this is really -- they're looking for a validation of the policy of using force, armed force, to try to get their way here.

SANCHEZ: Is this going to backfire?

CLANCY: Well, very likely -- I mean, this was the narrative that we saw in Lebanon in 2006. It backfired badly. I don't think it's going to backfire as badly as that was, but one has to wonder how this ends up and how they profit.

And you know, a different way of asking that question -- answering that question you just asked Ben -- you know, it may be great for the street -- so-called street opinion, it may be great for all these politicians, Hamas versus Fatah, and the Israeli politicians vying for the top office -- for the people of the region, Israeli and Palestinian alike, this only ends badly.

SANCHEZ: Well, here's what we're going to do. When we come back, there are people actually inside who are experiencing this -- not politically but really experiencing it. And they're blogging, so we've reached out to them and you're going to hear from them live on the phone. One of them is an Israeli who's having to deal with this massive rocket attack that you heard Ben Wedeman describe just moments ago, and another one is a Palestinian who lives in Gaza. And we'll explain what life is like for them right now, right here. And we'll have that for you in just a little bit. Plus your comments. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez here in the world headquarters of CNN, joined by my colleague, Jim Clancy. We're going to be taking you through this situation going on, this conflict right now in Gaza. Last count, 390 people dead, 1,600 people have been injured. And we are getting a lot of reaction from you as we take you through this hour. For example, on the Twitterboard, if we could, Robert (ph) or Johnny -- "Kind of irrelevant who's to blame for starting this." Talking about the discussion you and I were having a moment ago, Jim. "But what is important is the innocent lives, including children, that are lost."

All right, let's talk about that a little bit, and let's do it by talking to people who are actually there and who are experiencing this thing firsthand. We've got two. We have joining us in Gaza, Hasan. He is a Palestinian living in Rafah. We're not going to give his last name because he feels threatened, and we're going to honor that. We're also going to have Karen Zivan. She's an American who is working in southern Israel, where some of these Hamas rockets have been hitting the ground. And she's going to be -- or affecting people, I should say. And she's going to be joining us, as well, together.

Let's start -- let's start, if we can, in Gaza. We know that things are difficult there. Hasan, are you there?

HASAN, RAFAH RESIDENT: Yes, I'm hearing you.

SANCHEZ: Describe to us what it's like, what you've been seeing and what the experience is.

HASAN: Actually, I want to talk about just the moment right now. I'm hearing now -- I'm listening -- I'm hearing the drones actually all over. And the drones, you know, they create horrible atmosphere here because when you heard them, they are -- you fear that they are just about to strike.

SANCHEZ: And you said -- and you said -- and Hasan, you said drones, as in these planes that are without pilots?

HASAN: Yes, drones without pilots...


HASAN: Actually, they use them to specify their targets exactly. Then they start sending F-16 or Apache to strike as (INAUDIBLE) And you know, after each -- actually, after each time we listen to -- we hear those things, we have five rockets or ten rockets. And the problem is that you don't know where are they targeting, where are they striking right now? They strike each and every thing there.

SANCHEZ: Where are you?

HASAN: I'm in Rafah. I'm in a camp in Rafah, in the poorest camp in Gaza strip. It's called Shabura (ph). And you know, it is -- as I told you, this is the poorest place. The houses there is -- you know, they are old houses. Actually this camp, it was created -- it was established in 1967. And the people, they have not been able to reconstruct or to build anything in Rafah for the last two years.

SANCHEZ: No, but I really...


SANCHEZ: I understand. What I'm really more interested in -- and I think a lot of Americans are looking at your situation, as well as Karen's, and wanting to know, What's it like to be in that situation? How often, for example, do you see or feel attacks? And what's the effect on you and the people around you? And by the way, I'm very interested in how the children are reacting to this.

HASAN: Good. The idea (ph) here -- I want to give you just one example, but for the last five days, I have not been sleeping at all because I, my wife and my three children, my three kids -- 4, 3 and 8 months -- we are sleeping in one bed, and I'm trying all the night to just -- when I hear F-16, I try to put my hand, my fingers in the ears of my daughters. Just now (INAUDIBLE) when F-16 struck, it has very loud sound. It has -- they are all terrified. You know, they are traumatized inside my home all the time. They are talking just only about F-16. All the time they are talking about destruction. All of them are talking about children that they have seen on TV, and they have seen children, they got out of them like -- they got them out of the rubble like pieces, you know?

SANCHEZ: The cost of war. Hasan, stick around. Can you hang on for just a minute?


SANCHEZ: I want to hold you for just a moment. I want to bring in Karen Zivan. She's an American. She's been working in southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been striking. Karen, are you there?

KAREN ZIVAN, RECENTLY IN HASHMONAIM: Yes, Rick, I am there. I wanted to tell you I was only in Sderot because I was volunteering therapy for children, and I was only there for one day.

SANCHEZ: Have you heard, have you felt...

ZIVAN: And of course, when I...

SANCHEZ: While you've been there -- while you've been there, have you heard or felt the bombings or the rockets firing?

ZIVAN: Absolutely. I had quite an experience for the day that I was there with my son. The minute we got out of the car, the siren went off, and We found ourselves in a bomb shelter probably no bigger than your bathtub, urine-soaked, absolutely disgusting, but with the loudest boom you had ever, ever imagined. When we looked out, there was smoke and ambulances and police and everything because the rocket had hit just across the street from the police station that we were...

SANCHEZ: What did you feel -- I'm thinking as you heard that, as you experienced that, and I imagine you got reaction from a lot of Israelis -- what did they say? Who did they blame? Who were they angry at? What is their reaction?

ZIVAN: There is so much trauma there, Rick. There is so much panic. There's so much fear. I can't really say there's blame. There's faith in God and there's a lot of fear. There's trauma, and that's what we were treating. Anger? I don't know. I can't really tell you. I -- there was anger, of course, anger with the situation. But these people have been living with it for years.

SANCHEZ: Do you personally -- or did you talk to people there who are angry specifically at Hamas for this?

ZIVAN: They blame Hamas because the rockets are landing in their back yards and Hamas is sending over the rockets.

SANCHEZ: Hasan, are you still with us?

HASAN: Yes, I'm still...

SANCHEZ: Did you hear what she said?


SANCHEZ: Would you understand why Israeli citizens are extremely angry?

HASAN: Let me just one...

SANCHEZ: Go ahead.

HASAN: Just let me say one thing. Just one thing, that luckily, that you have bomb shelters there in Israel. But me, myself, I'm living, and me and most of the people in Rafah are living, you know, in asbestos houses, and it's not concrete even. It's just asbestos houses. And they are very old houses just in case...


ZIVAN: There are many, many people who don't have bomb shelters.

HASAN: ... and 15 houses are, you know, collapsed...


SANCHEZ: Go ahead, Hasan.

HASAN: The apartment complex...

SANCHEZ: Hasan, hold on for just a moment. We want to give Karen a chance to respond to you. HASAN: It's OK. Yes.

ZIVAN: No, when I was in Sderot, there were many, many, many apartments without bomb shelters. The apartment building that was targeted when I was there did not have bomb shelters. They went into their bathrooms. That was the only place they could go.

SANCHEZ: Do you, Karen, understand or have a sense of either sympathy or empathy for the Palestinians who are in Gaza right now?

ZIVAN: That question is to me, Rick?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yes, Karen.

ZIVAN: Oh, of course. And I feel for their pain. I would -- I would invite everyone in Gaza who doesn't want to be in Gaza to my home. But if my home is in the south, they wouldn't want to be there because rockets are landing there.

SANCHEZ: Hasan, let me ask you the same question. Do you feel empathy or sympathy for Israelis who are dealing with this rocket fire?

HASAN: You know, I'm human. I'm human and I feel -- I have been under this -- I've been living, you know, in this situation for a very long time. And I know suffering. I have suffered, you know, a long (INAUDIBLE) here. So I really sympathize with all the people who are suffering all over the world because I lived it, because I feel it because -- it is from time to time, it is just -- you know, you are living (ph) the moment (INAUDIBLE) this is really scary. And the night is -- from here to the morning, we spend it all shivering.

And I want to tell Karen just one thing, that it is here because of the bombardment -- all our windows are open in case of bombardment.

SANCHEZ: My best...

HASAN: And they don't warn anyone.

SANCHEZ: My best...

ZIVAN: Absolutely. Everyone in the south drives with their windows open...


HASAN: ... exactly like you.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting. That's interesting. Let...


SANCHEZ: Let me stop you guys there because we're running out of time. But it's interesting that you would use those words Hasan, I'm exactly like you. There seems to be almost a kinship that develops suddenly between two people who appear to be at war with each other. Karen and Hasan, my thanks to both of you for talking to us.

What do you make of that, Jim?

CLANCY: That's the human side of it. And why wouldn't they feel empathy for the others? They're experiencing the same thing, the Palestinian because of the increased casualties there, because of the size of the blasts that are going on -- the Palestinians are feeling it also because they're living in a very congested area.

SANCHEZ: But it's interesting to get the ambassadors that you and I have talked to over the last couple of days, and the diplomats and the spokesmen for the Israeli government and the legislator for the Palestinian -- it's interesting to suddenly turn that around and talk to the people who are actually in it. And they don't talk politics, they talk human emotions.

CLANCY: They do. And it's politics that is -- and the politicians that have divided them and that have produced the conflict and maintained the conflict for decades.

SANCHEZ: Maybe a lot to learn from that situation. And we'll continue to try and connect with that situation as it develops, since it seems to have, at least at this particular moment, no signs of letting up.

Secrets from inside the George Bush White House, including this one, somebody inside saying he was, quote, "Palin-like," as in Sarah Palin. We'll bring you that report in just a moment.


SANCHEZ: I want to welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez. That was an interesting segment we brought you moments ago, and it really revealed what people on the ground are thinking, like this. This is a tweet we just received moments ago here on Twitter from one of the 38,662 people who are right now following this show. By the way, we'd like to get that number up to 40,000. So if you want to join us and you're not joining us just yet -- show them that number right there -- 38,662. And it's CNN -- I was going to give them the wrong one. It's Just go there, join us and you'll be a part of this conversation.

And that's what they say. I have a feeling -- let's take that now, Robert -- I have a feeling that the civilians on the ground in this tweet on both sides -- seeing that right there? -- could care less about politics right now. What they care about is survival. Interesting comment.

Here's something else that I'd like to take note of today. When Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris held that news conference announcing the U.S. Senate seat appointment, we again allowed you, our followers, speaking of Twitter, to share your instant reaction on air as it happened.

And here's what Mediabistro wrote about our show. "CNN viewers had another opportunity to make themselves heard during today's three- ring circus -- scratch that -- the announcement from Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. The indicted governor appointed former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to the Senate seat once held by President-elect Barack Obama. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, who has more than 38,000 followers on Twitter" -- they noticed -- "aired some of the tweets." Hey, thanks for noticing.

On the topic of tweets, there's something else that you may have read this week. My pal, Ovaltine (ph), AKA Anderson Cooper, tells "The Los Angeles Times" in an interview he's not as Twitter-friendly as me. But you know what else he told them? He says that he wants me to give him a lesson on how to Twitter. Can you believe that?

All right, here's the deal. Assuming that Kathy Griffin doesn't get you fired tonight, Anderson, you're on. This ought to be good! I'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. Wow. That -- that segment we did a moment ago, talking to people inside of the complex, had a bit of a very much effect on people, and it is becoming obvious.

Let's go to MySpace, guys.

"Hi, Rick, thanks for having the two people on from the Middle East, it was touching to hear their experience. It comes down to human emotion. We have to wait to see that hopefully it will settle down soon." I think that everybody is hoping for that.

Let's go over to the Twitter board as well.

Mademoiselle: "Watching the show, my heart simply goes out to the man on the phone with you, all of these attacks are senseless."

Reaction is continuing to come in and we will continue to follow it on Twitter and MySpace and Facebook.

Now, remember the "Wizard of Oz"? In the "Wizard of Oz" there was somebody behind the curtain who was the puppet master in all of this. Who has been the guy behind the curtain during the Bush administration? It is an interesting question that may be answered by a story in "Vanity Fair" that hits the newsstands today. It is an oral history of the George W. Bush years.

Here is our reporter, CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A president with blinders on, and an inner circle who manipulated him. In a new so- called oral history, "Vanity Fair" magazine disperses some stark if not dark assessments of the White House.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department on the assemblage of Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld early on as the president's security team: "It allowed everybody to believe that the Sarah Palin-like president, and let's face it, that is what he was, was going to be protected by this national security elite."

We asked the White House for a reaction to that remark.


TODD: Larry Wilkerson says that Cheney was the root of those early perception. Quote, "He became vice president well before George Bush picked him. And he began to manipulate it from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him."

An aide to the vice president called that another false assertion from a long-time critic of the administration.

(on camera): Wilkerson is one of several former aides who later turned on the White House given prominent space in the "Vanity Fair" piece.

(voice-over): But as the writer points out, they also spoke to people with no ax to grind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And who speak in many cases to the president's good qualities, his enormous sense of loyalty and kindness and work on aids in Africa.

TODD: But one former aide describes the handling of Hurricane Katrina as a low point.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, Brownie, you're dong a heck of a job.

TODD: Former pollster, Matthew Dowd: quote, "Katrina to me was the tipping pint. The president broke his bond with the public."

Former counsel to the public, Dan Bartlett, a consistent defender of Mr. Bush, says of Katrina: "Politically, it was the final nail in the coffin."

JOHNDROE: As the president has stated many times, the response at first was not, was not what was need, but that is why he made repeated visits to the region to help with Gulf Coast recovery.

TODD: There are several inflammatory quotes about the Iraq war in the "Vanity Fair" piece. The former Canadian defense and foreign minister says that Donald Rumsfeld, quote, "Was not about listening and being cooperative. Mr. Rumsfeld was about getting the way of the United States, and don't get in my way or my juggernaut will run over you."

When we contacted his office, an aide to Rumsfeld said they had no comment.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And on it goes. By the way, my pal, Ovaltine -- Robert, you've heard that expression, right? You're as old as I am. Johnnie B. Goode, you've heard that right? You've heard that. My Pal, Ovaltine. It was a commercial for many years? Anderson -- all right, fine. This is MySpace, "I loved Ovaltine Happy new year everyone -- peace and love."

Lot's of comments have been coming in and we will continue to share those with you, as we will the rest of the news, including this story. Democrats say, "We are going to reject whoever Blagojevich sends to us." So, can they really do that? Or, are they bound by law to accept this person if he meets certain requirements. We have checked into this and we know what the requirements are and have a constitutional lawyer to take us through this when we come back. Stay with us, my pals, Ovaltine.


SANCHEZ: And I welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez, and I have been telling you about the situation in Gaza. We will continue to follow it for you. If there are any updates -- obviously, we have some of the finest correspondents following the story on both sides, and we will bring them to you.

In the meantime, the other story a lot of people are talking about is Rod Blagojevich. He decided yesterday, defiantly, to do what he was essentially told not to do by his fellow Democrats and Republicans, and some prosecutors as well. He went ahead and named someone for the vacated position by Barack Obama. In fact, let's take a look at that once again.


BLAGOJEVICH: The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States Senators represent them in Washington, D.C. As governor, I am required to make this appointment. If I don't make this appointment, then the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate voice and vote in the United States Senate.


SANCHEZ: OK. That is his story. Here now, with the rest of the story is CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If this guy was a sacrificial lamb thrown to the wolves in an ugly political scandal, he was not letting on about it. As far as former Attorney General Roland Burris was concerned, it was a high honor being appointed to Barack Obama's Senate seat.

ROLAND BURRIS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I welcome the challenge that awaits us in the 11th Congress. JOHNS: Just two weeks ago, Burris was voicing his disgust with the Blagojevich affair.

BURRIS: The evidence that's been presented is pretty appalling should that come out to be the case of what our governor was attempting to do. I find it just reprehensible.

JOHNS: But now, here he was on the stage, accepting the appointment from the very same guy accused of scheming to cash in on the president-elect's senate seat.

Blagojevich, for his part, was pretending that his legal problems somehow won't mean problems for his appointee.

BLAGOJEVICH: I am absolutely confident and certain that the United States senate is going to seat a man of Roland Burris's unquestioned integrity, extensive experience and his long history of public service. This is about Roland Burris, as a United States Senator, and not about the governor who makes the appointment.

JOHNS: Pretty much on cue, people started trotting out Roland Burris' political contributions to the governor who, by the way, was pushing the limits to gin up support for his guy, even calling on an African-American congressman from Illinois who then teed up race as a potential factor.

REP. BOBBY RUSH, (D), ILLINOIS: We need to have many African- Americans in the U.S. Senate, so I applaud the governor for his decision. And I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee, as you try to castigate the appointor.

JOHNS: Burris was the first person elected African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois when he was appointed as comptroller in 1979, but not forgot here is how an African-American congressman from Illinois, Jesse Jackson Jr., could have been the appointment himself, except he got slimmed in the scandal with Blagojevich's own words, allegedly caught on tape and reprinted in the governor's complaint.

Still, as usual, it was Washington, D.C. that seemed the most disconnected from fairness and reasonableness. Fifty U.S. senators in the Democratic caucus say they will oppose any Blagojevich appointee, even though Burris was named by a sitting governor who, at least, so far, has not been convicted of anything and says he is not guilty.

Barack Obama says he agrees with the caucus, because the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government free of taint.

Joe Johns, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: What a mess. So what happens now? Blagojevich names him, and he is a Democratic, apparently in good standing. Does the senate have to accept him? Well, the only way to get answers to something like this is to talk to a Harvard man, so let's do it. He is a professor at Harvard University, and he is Mark Tushnet. In fact, he clerked for Thurgood Marshall.

You have some good stories, professor.


SANCHEZ: Let me ask you a question, can the senate do what Dick Durbin and Harry Reid said yesterday, "We're going to reject this guy. We won't accept this guy, period.

TUSHNET: Well, as with all sorts of constitutional questions, the real thing you have to say is that it is complicated. Certainly, they can take steps to slow down the appointment process or not accept Burris when he shows up. Whether, in the end they can reject him, I think, is a very complicated question.

SANCHEZ: Is your nose OK? Did one of the students give you a pop in the nose after failing him or something?

TUSHNET: No, I just had a wart removed a couple of days ago.

SANCHEZ: OK. I am glad it is as minor as that.

Let me ask you this. I was doing research -- well, my staff was doing research -- I shouldn't take the credit. The senate has refused to seat just four members in direct elections -- since direct elections were instituted for the chamber since 1913. So this is not something that happens often, but it has happened in the past, right?

TUSHNET: That is right. The Constitution does give the senate power to be, as it says, the judge of the elections returns and qualifications of the members. In the prior cases, there have been questions about the fairness of the elections of the members.

SANCHEZ: But there's one professor who says, look, the only thing they can judge him by is age, citizenship, and residency qualifications and, outside of that, they may have to accept this guy. Is that true?

TUSHNET: Well, I don't think that is right. I think, for example, if somebody showed up and had a certificate saying that I won by 100,000 votes, and there is no question about it, but the claim was that voters had been intimidated, scared away from the polls, I think that the senate could say that was not a fair election, and wouldn't have to seat the Senator.

I think that the question here is whether there's the same questions about the fairness of the appointment process that you might have in the situation that I just described.

SANCHEZ: So they may be able to do this. That is interesting.

Professor Mark Tushnet, a Harvard man from the law school there. Thank you, professor. Appreciate you're being with us.

TUSHNET: You're welcome.

SANCHEZ: Women who are angry at Facebook. Why? This one has to do with breastfeeding. Our take when we come back.


SANCHEZ: We thank you for coming back. I'm Rick Sanchez, with one more thing that I want you to take note of right now. This one deals with a web site that we use everyday on this program, Facebook. You have heard us. The powers that be have decided they will no longer allow photos of women who are breastfeeding to be used on profiles. Say what you want, because the issue of breastfeeding has been debated, and plenty of good arguments over the years. But now in this age interconnectivity you see on this show, this issue that becomes more complex. Facebook says they have a corporate standard code of conduct and, as a user, you are compelled to follow it. What do you think? I want to know what you have to say about this. Go to, and let me know.

Ahead, George Bush, Sarah Palin-like? That is a quote from inside of the White House. We will explain.


SANCHEZ: We thank you for coming back. I'm Rick Sanchez and we will tee it up now by telling you a story now that is difficult to share, probably difficult to watch as well. What would children say if you could ask them questions about being recruited to become suicide bombers? We are going to take you now inside one of the detention centers where children have been taken in, who had planned to do this very thing.

Here now is CNN's own Atia Abawi.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They may be teenagers, but to the Afghan authorities, they are dangerous criminals accused of violent acts and even murder.

These boys are held in a juvenile detention facility in Kabul. Shakirullah is one of them, just 14 years old and seized before he could kill himself and others.

SHAKIRULLAH, DETAINEE (Through Translation): I have been detained for trying to commit a suicide attack.

ABAWI: Shakirullah tell us he kills time remembering his life in northwest Pakistan before he was recruited by fanatics.

SHAKIRULLAH (through translator: I was studying in a madrassa when I finished reciting the Koran. A mullah came to me and told me, now that you have finished the Koran, you need to go and commit a suicide attack.

ABAWI: He didn't understand the Koran, which he learned to recite in Arabic and he didn't want to go. But without a chance to talk to his parents, he was driven to the Pakistan-Afghan border and handed over to strangers. Weeks later, he was arrested while being trained as a suicide bomber.

(on camera) Shakirullah is not the only boy here accused of planning an attack. Three others are too.

(voice-over): Including one of his cell mates. Both seem to be leaders in their bloc. When the television is on, the two boys quickly order the channel to be changed to a reading of the Koran. Still, very pious, Shakirullah says he was cheated by his recruiters. Now he's hearing a different take on Islam at the detention center.

MIR FAYAZ AH-DIN, MENTOR (through translator): The teachers educate them on Islam and explain to them that the acts they were doing are not right for them and for others. The way you want to kill yourself and someone else, it, in itself, is a big offense in Islam.

ABAWI (on camera): The U.N. and other agencies are working here and in Afghanistan to gather data on child recruitment, saying it's seen a growing trend in the use of children among armed groups and national forces.

CATHERINE MBENGUE, UNICEF REP., AFGHANISTAN: As we see in many places in the world, children are being used. The recruiters of child soldiers, they're being recruited for armed groups. And the phenomena is now in passing against Afghanistan.

ABAWI: Shakirullah is now forced to wait, wait to hear from his family.

SHAKIRULLAH (through translator): I miss my parents, my mom and dad.

ABAWI: And wait to see what his future holds.

Atia Abawi, CNN, Kabul.


SANCHEZ: Does Barack Obama have a Middle East policy regarding Israel and the Palestinians? And if so, why isn't he telling anybody? That's next.


SANCHEZ: And what a year it's been with your help. Now this. Interesting story. Barack Obama hasn't exactly explained to anyone what he's going to do about the Middle East, about Israel or about the Palestinians. Everyone to wants to know. He says wait. But some aren't willing to wait.

Here's Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After shooting hoops with buddies at his old high school, President-elect Barack Obama was greeted by adoring fans. But back in his rented beach house, a handful of pro-Palestinian protesters were reminding him of the challenges of his new job.

ANN WRIGHT, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT: Maybe we can catch him on the way out.

HENRY: Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat, who resigned in 2003 to protest the Iraq war, declared Mr. Obama should do more to halt Israel's counterattacks.

WRIGHT: We're here to say to the president he's -- we know he's got a lot on his plate, but we expect that he will take this on very seriously and really get moving to stop the killing.

HENRY: But technically, Mr. Obama is not president yet, which aides have used to justify why the president-elect has not spoken publicly about the crisis.

WRIGHT: But he's speaking out on every other issue. He's talking about jobs, how many jobs he's going to create. He's talking about all kinds of domestic policy and refusing to speak out on this. And I think that silence says a lot.

HENRY: At issue is whether for all the talk of change for Mr. Obama, his Middle East policy will be a carbon copy of President Bush's approach.

During a July visit to the region, candidate Obama got unusually personal, invoking his daughters to express vociferous support for Israel.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: If somebody were sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop them. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

HENRY: Israeli officials are now using those words to justify their actions this week.

EHUD BARACK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (Through Translation): And there he said if someone were to fire a missile on my house while my two young daughters are sleeping, I would do everything I could to stop him.

PROTESTORS: Stop the killings. Stop the war.

HENRY: A sticky situation for the president-elect, his unwavering support of Israel threatening to alienate some of the large anti-war vote who helped put him in office.

WRIGHT: He has to be called out for being a pro-war president and not an anti-war president, like he's sort of pretended to be as he, you know, campaigned. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Suzanne Malveaux hosting a New Year's Eve party. We're going to be telling you about that in just a little bit. She may not have known about it though.


SANCHEZ: Matt says he just started watching five minutes ago and he's become a fan for life. Isn't that nice? A Facebook fan already. As they continue to come in.

Hey, speaking of a new year, how is the market going to close today? They were in business.

Stephanie Elam lets us know.

What's going on over there?

STEPANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rick. We're looking pretty good. Looking like we're going to have a two-day rally here at the end of the year, which is always a good thing. In fact, over the last two days, we've gained about 325 points. I guess there's one little silver lining for everyone who has been watching what has been a brutal 2008. And you know...

SANCHEZ: To say the least.

ELAM: To say the least. And I figure we should point out a couple of things that are good. Wal-mart and McDonald's, two stocks that are finishing in the green on the Dow 30.

Happy New Year, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks to you. But it's up, 139.

And I understand you're hosting a party. Suzanne Malveaux, about to begin with that very thing. It's a "SITUATION ROOM" New Year's Eve Edition, right?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a party here. A happy new year Moscow. It is almost midnight in the Russian capital. We're watching those pictures. People are celebrating right now. They are counting down to 2009.