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Hamas Spokesperson Talks Mideast Conflict; Russian Media Blames Ukraine for MH17 Crash; Russian Propaganda War Continues

Aired July 23, 2014 - 6:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Jerusalem.

The Secretary of State John Kerry, he's here in Jerusalem. This morning, he's continuing his intense efforts to try to broker some sort of cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

His arrival follows a decision by the FAA back in Washington to suspend all flights to Israel's main airport. That would be Ben Gurion International Airport, just outside Tel Aviv. That after a Hamas rocket landed near the airport about a mile or so away.

Earlier, I spoke with Osama Hamdan. He's a Hamas spokesman. He told international flights not to fly into Israel, saying they would be in danger, and I asked him for his reaction to the FAA decision.


OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: We warned them because we were not willing to have any civilians being killed through this Israeli attack against the Palestinians and the Palestinian resistance reaction, and this warning was because we care about the lives of the civilians. And we shared that responsibility (ph). We hope that can be for the end of the Israeli attack, not just for 24 hours.

BLITZER: You saw that up of your rockets landed about a mile away from Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, destroyed a house out there. Are you deliberately targeting Ben Gurion International Airport?

HAMDAN: Well, it's clear that the Israelis have targeted all the civilian houses in Gaza. We are talking 600 casualties. Most of them they are children, women and civilians. So what -- what the Palestinians supposed to do? To give the next four days, to slaughter them or to try to defend themselves?

We were expecting the international community will protect the Palestinians from the Israelis, will protect the Palestinians from the mentality of Netanyahu who lost his morals and his army also, and he's reflecting a new image for Hitler and the Nazi Army. They are acting in the same way, killing Palestinians just because they are Palestinians, like what Hitler was doing in the last century. BLITZER: Mr. Hamdan, when we spoke last week, you told me that Hamas

had rejected the Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire because you never formally received the paperwork. Do you now have a formal proposal from Egypt for a cease-fire, and will you accept it?

HAMDAN: Let me clarify two points. First of all, we welcome the Egyptian role, but we reject the proposal.

Our position is clear. There is Palestinian demands. We want it to be part of the agreement of the cease-fire, opening the borders and ending the siege on the Palestinians and releasing the arrested Palestinians, were arrested after the fake story of the three settlers in the West Bank, all what has been done based on this story supposed to be stopped because no one knows exactly what happened, except Netanyahu who was in charge and responsible for that fake story.

BLITZER: The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, he was with Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general today. He was in Tel Aviv, they were both in Tel Aviv. And he said, this, Netanyahu said this about Hamas. Listen to this.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Hamas is like ISIS. Hamas is like al Qaeda. Hamas is like Hezbollah. Hamas is like Boko Haram.

This is part of a larger pattern. What grievance can we solve for Hamas? Their grievance is that we exist. They don't even want a two- state solution. They don't want any state solutions.


BLITZER: You want to respond to that, Mr. Hamdan?

HAMDAN: Well, he's very cold when he's lying. He knows that this is lies. He knows that Hamas is different. Hamas is seeking to have an independent Palestinian sovereign state. We have said that clearly.

We give the peace negotiations chances in 2000, 2005 and 2012. We gave those chances, but the one who destroyed the possibilities for two-state solution is Netanyahu himself.

What I have to tell Mr. Netanyahu, you have to the understandings the facts of the life. You can't keep occupying the Palestinian lands, fighting the Palestinians. You have to admit that there is a historical mistake was done by occupying the Palestinian lands.

You have to withdraw your troops. This can be done peacefully. If it's not done in this way, the Palestinians will resist for generations until their lands will be liberated.


BLITZER: The view from Hamas. That's the spokesman, Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan speaking with me earlier from Doha, Qatar. John Berman, back in New York, let's send it back to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Wolf, just the latest development in that conflict, with new developments coming every day. We'll get back to you in just a moment.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, you hear the finger-pointing, you see the flag-waving. They blame the United States. They blame Ukraine. The Russian-backed media in Russia and beyond is blaming everyone but the Russians themselves. We will take on this controversy next.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We are live in front of the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, in Netherlands. This is where MH17 began its journey.

Behind us you'll see row and row of flowers and supports and notes of support to the victims of that flight, and to their families. These are all travelers on their way somewhere, some of them are locals who have come. Friends of those who are lost, all just reaching out in the spirit of unity that is going on in the Netherlands right now.

However, hanging over all of this are the questions of why this happened, who did it, and what will happen next? There are a lot of different theories. A lot of countries pointing fingers, most notably Russia and the U.S. and the West.

I want to bring in somebody now who has a different perspective than what you may have been hearing so far. His name is Peter Lavelle. He works with "Russia Today". It's part of the Russian-owned news operation there. And, Peter, can you hear me?


CUOMO: All right. Thank you for taking time to join us. I want to ask you -- why hasn't Russia, specifically Vladimir Putin, why hasn't he come out and strictly and in a straight way condemned how the crime scene was handled, how the dignity of the dead was abused, how crime scene investigators weren't let in? Why hasn't Russia? Why hasn't Vladimir Putin come forward and condemned how this crime scene has been handled?

LAVELLE: Well, I think the answer to that is very, very straightforward and simple. Ukraine is not in Russia. Vladimir Putin doesn't control a crime scene in a foreign country. I think it's quite ludicrous for you to ask that question.

He's come out and demanded a complete investigation. As a matter of fact, on Monday of this week, Russia gave its assessment of the -- of the reconnaissance and surveillance satellites and what was happening in the crime scene. We don't have that coming out of Washington, so I think that's what you should be asking is why is the State Department relying upon Twitter and YouTube and other social media for its case when Russia's already given its -- or at least part of the forensic evidence that's necessary to solve this horrific crime? CUOMO: Maybe you haven't been following it, but the U.S. is actually coming out with a lot of its own intelligence that connects what happened to MH-17 to the acts of Russian militants and perhaps to the involvement of Russia in either training, equipping, or maybe even assisting --

LAVELLE: What -- what forensic -- what forensic evidence are you talking about?

CUOMO: -- in this horrible operation of brining down this plane.

LAVELLE: What forensic evidence are you referring to? Twitter?

CUOMO: They are releasing intelligence information about the trajectory -- no, not Twitter.

I do not think, Peter, this is something to be flip about. 298 people lost their lives; let's not play politics here, OK?

LAVELLE: No, I think the U.S. State Department has been very flippant about this.

CUOMO: There's plenty of intelligence coming out.

LAVELLE: Very flippant about it.

Where's the evidence? That's what we need to solve this crime.

CUOMO: Listen, I think that --

LAVELLE: It's not coming out of Washington.

CUOMO: Peter. Peter.

LAVELLE: Even intelligence officials are saying they don't know who did this. They don't know where it came from.

The United States spends $100 billion a year on global intelligence and they can't find out? This is extraordinary. There are NATO ships in the Black Sea watching Ukraine like a hawk.

CUOMO: Peter.

LAVELLE: Where's their data? Please, show us the data, then we can move forward.

CUOMO: Peter, Peter.

LAVELLE: And maybe this can help resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

CUOMO: Peter, take a breath, OK, because there, isn't a debate. It's easy to bandy about points and confuse facts. There's no need for that, because I'm not here to debate with who did this, OK?

LAVELLE: I really wish you would stick to the facts.


CUOMO: You brought that up. You want to play those talking points. I asked you a simple question.


CUOMO: Peter, I'm -- everything I'm saying to you --

LAVELLE: You are the one who's playing with talking points.

CUOMO: There is U.S. -- Peter, why are you afraid to hear what I'm saying? I'm not here to fight with you, OK? I just left the crime scene.

LAVELLE: I'm not afraid! I would like you --

CUOMO: The last thing I want to see is more violence of any kind, verbal or otherwise.

LAVELLE: I would like you to ask the U.S. government to release all of its data from satellites and compare it to the Russian's.

CUOMO: They are doing exactly that.

LAVELLE: See where there they matches, where they don't match.

No, they're not!

CUOMO: Peter --

LAVELLE: You're living in a parallel universe.

CUOMO: Peter, Peter, calm down. Take a breath. We've already had something bad happen. There's no need to compound it. You are speaking --

LAVELLE: Ask me an intelligent question. Ask me an intelligent question.

CUOMO: Peter, well, I think I've asked you several. Your answers, I don't know about the intelligence of, but the questions are pretty spot on.

Let me ask you again, because I'm not a representative of the U.S. You seem to be acting like a representative of Russia. And what I asked you is why hasn't Russia come forward --

LAVELLE: Great. Character assassination.

CUOMO: -- and condemned the indignity and disgrace of this crime scene?

LAVELLE: So you went to character assassination in what, five minutes. That's what you did.

CUOMO: France has done it, the U.K. has done it. The U.S. has done it. None of them have sovereign control over Ukraine. Countless countries have come forward. The U.N. has come forward and condemned what was been done at this crime scene, but not Russia specifically. Not Vladimir Putin specifically.

LAVELLE: And Vladimir Putin has come out for a thorough investigation. You're wrong, you're just simply factually wrong.

CUOMO: He did not condemn what's going on.

LAVELLE: He has come out and said there should be an investigation.

CUOMO: Why hasn't he condemned what was done?

LAVELLE: By asking there being an investigation is condemning it.

CUOMO: The suggestion is --

LAVELLE: I wish you could be a serious person about this.

CUOMO: No. By saying that leaving bodies in the sun, by saying leaving bodies in the sun for days, by saying scaring away monitors who want to come in to look --

LAVELLE: Oh, that's Vladimir Putin's fault. That's ludicrous. That's ludicrous.

I'm looking at known facts. Where is the investigation? The U.S. Government and its allies condemned Russia even before the bodies were taken off the ground. What kind of logic is that, what kind of sympathy is that? That's ridiculous.

CUOMO: Peter, this is the logic. Peter, this is frightening what you're saying, and again, I'm not here to argue with you. I just came from the actual crime scene.


CUOMO: What I sound like is a reporter who feels deeply for the 298 lives who were lost, who are not part of this conflict and don't need to be part of your discussion about whether Russia is being unfairly blamed. The reason Russia was brought in right away is because if you go to talk to the self-appointed prime minister of the area where this plane was shot down, he is surrounded by Russian military figures admittedly so, they will tell you that. And if you ask this man whether Russia is helping him, you know what he will say, nothing. He refuses to answer. Why would a man who is desperate for legitimacy and being seen in control of his area, a self-appointed prime minister, refuse to deny that Russia is helping him? Why, Peter? That sounds like a straight question.

LAVELLE: I don't know why.


CUOMO: You need to remind yourself what the job is, my friend. I asked you why Russia hasn't come out and condemned what is objectively wrong. Nobody will take another position. The way that crime scene is unsecured and the way soldiers have gone through and compromised the intelligence.


LAVELLE: It has made it public, it has shown the world.

CUOMO: They have?

LAVELLE: Why doesn't the United States step up and compare evidence, okay? Russia's done the right thing to do to solve this crime and U.S. intelligence has no idea what it's talking about, or it knows what happened and it doesn't want the world to know what really happened. It's in Washington's court right now.

CUOMO: Here's the difference between you and me, Peter. You are obsessed with clearing Russia from culpability, that's okay. I am focused on talking about --

LAVELLE: That's your opinion, not a fact.

CUOMO: How this plane and its victims were treated.

LAVELLE: I agree with you.

CUOMO: I think you need to look up what that word means. All you're doing is denying Russia's involvement.

LAVELLE: What happened? I didn't say that, I don't know. I don't have the evidence.


CUOMO: I agree.


CUOMO: I'm not jumping to any. Have you heard me say that I know what happened?


CUOMO: This is a joke.

We've got to get out of this.

LAVELLE: They didn't even do that. They asked questions about why certain things were happening in that airspace. That's a good question that should be compared. What do the other radars have to say? Let's see if we can see the difference or similarities. Be fair.

CUOMO: Peter, of course we want to be fair.

LAVELLE: Yes. CUOMO: Of course everybody wants the right answer because one thing is

for sure. I think you'll probably even agree with this, the people who were killed on MH-17 had no role in this conflict. They were complete innocents. There was no reason for them to be involved, whether it was a tragic mistake that the plane was shot out of the air or it was an intentional act of terrorism, it was wrong and we need to find out who did it. You know there's a reasonable basis for suspicion about what Russia knew because there are undeniable connections between the Russian militants in this area and Russia itself in terms of assistance and guidance and the personnel on the ground. So, of course, there's a reasonable basis for suspicion.

LAVELLE: You very much overestimate how much control the Russian side has over resistance in Ukraine. It's very difficult. It's very difficult to determine that. If you look at the evidence, okay, it's difficult.


LAVELLE: You deny the agency of people in Eastern Ukraine, you deny them agency. You just think they are puppets of Russia.

CUOMO: I deny them? I sat with the self-appointed prime minister, I sat with him. I gave him the CNN audience. I asked him there is a suspicion that Russia is helping you and your fighters by training you and giving you weapons, maybe the one that was used to shoot down the plane. Is that true? And you know what he says? I'm not going to answer that. Ask Russia. I said but you're the prime minister, you say you're in charge. Are they helping you, or are you in charge?

He says I won't answer that.


LAVELLE: What is the evidence? Evidence is what we need and you're trying to put the blame --

CUOMO: You're going to ignore what I just said. You're just going to ignore that? You choose to ignore that?


LAVELLE: What do you want me to say? To agree or disagree with him? Why should I? Why should I agree or disagree with him?

CUOMO: I don't know, why should you carry water for Russia when you're supposed to be a journalist? Why do you say the U.S. -


LAVELLE: I have my own program and I have my own mandate to do what I want to do, so I don't know carrying water. You carry water for the U.S. State Department.

CUOMO: And Peter Lavelle, your obvious appetite and desire for what to do is represent the best interests of Russia, no matter what the facts are and to shout down people who are asking legitimate questions and I think it's a mistake in fairness to the victims.


LAVELLE: I shout down nonsense and stupidity.

CUOMO: We'll let the audience decide.

LAVELLE: And loaded questions. That's what I do, that's what I do all the time. That's what I do for a living.

CUOMO: They are straight questions. Peter Lavelle, you have to live with what you do for a living. I appreciate you coming on NEW DAY so people can experience your answers and thought process for themselves. Have a good day.

Listen, what is the value to that discussion? There are very different theories about how this happened. There's a different level to the warfare. There's what's going on in Ukraine and then there's an information war that's going on at the same time. The last thing I want to do is to stoke some type of useless conversation. The emotion sometimes gets the better of you, especially when you've been on the scene and you've seen that there are very objective realities that should be addressed and any sovereign would want to reject and condemn what's been done with the crime scene of MH-17.

That said, I apologize for getting involved in what became more about emotion and reason there for a moment, but at the end of the day, the answers matter because of the Calehrs, who you met before, and the countless other families who lost loved ones on this plane, and that's why the questions have to persist and information has to be tested. That's why the U.S. is putting out intelligence and western authorities are trying to get involved with this. Russia says it calls for a full investigation. Russia has to know things. Will it volunteer its own information? Because here again is the undeniable truth. That crime scene has been mismanaged. Those bodies were disrespected. Their dignity was hurt. It was unnecessary and it was counterproductive to the process of truth.

We're following the bodies home because they are who matter most in this situation. 298 people who, without question, were above any point of criticism. Can't say that about the Ukraine government, certainly can't say it about the militants, and you can't say it about Russia either so that is a perspective that's out there. Again, became a little bit too heated and I'm sorry for that because we want to be productive for you. We want you to hear what is out there and to be sure the questions are going to go on.

Now, a couple of things that are just factually true for you to understand from where we are. We don't know how many bodies are coming back today. We believe the first plane may have 20, may have more. They are not sure about the body count. There may still be victims' bodies at the crime scene or in the surrounding area. We don't know because the investigation is so shoddy it's actually almost nonexistent. The black boxes will have valuable information, not the absolute truth of who did this obviously, but that will also take some time to be processed. The Dutch authorities who are leading way have asked the UK authorities to take on that task. We'll let you know more as it happens, and we will take you to the memorial here during this national day of mourning in Netherlands when the bodies arrive here some hours from now. Back to you in New York.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, thanks so much. And I think it's also worth saying there's nothing to be sorry about, Chris, because highlighting the fact that there is a real propaganda war that is part of this crisis, part of this tragedy, it's an important part of this story. It's an important part of actually bringing the facts to light. We've heard that from you, we've heard that from other journalists, we've heard that from our correspondents who have covered many wars over the decades and how this has been, this is a huge issue. We've heard it from Chris (inaudible). Fareed was sitting right next to us about what an alternate universe that many people in Russia are living in because of what is being pushed through Russian media. Highlighting that is nothing to be sorry about.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the facts for a minute. The facts remain in those two data recorders, the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, that took four days to get from the scene into the hands of people who need them and only now six days later are they being looked at by investigators in Britain. Those are the facts.

BOLDUAN: Those are the facts, and the fact is also where the focus needs to be is what you're saying, Chris, is right behind you. The memorial, the flowers, the people you're speaking to and hearing from on the ground. Those lives lost and finding the truth for them. That is what matters, and that's why the conversation is important. Chris, we're going to get right back to you.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to have much more from the Middle East, plus we're going to head back to Amsterdam, of course, for the very latest on MH-17. But coming up next, a major produce recall we want to tell you about. It's involving fruit from Walmart, Costco and other major stores that you very likely shop at. What you need to know. That's coming up.

CUOMO: We're live in Amsterdam from where MH-17 began its journey.


CUOMO (voice-over): And today, finally, the victims are coming home, some 200 of them left in a plane from Ukraine just hours ago. This small nation is clearly in mourning.

UNIDENITIFIED WOMAN: I can do nothing but wait for their bodies.

CUOMO (voice-over): Making it worse, as many as 100 bodies may be missing. This as the U.S. releases new intelligence on who shot the plane down and why.

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. Also breaking, Secretary of State John Kerry now in Israel. But chances for a cease-fire are looking increasingly dim. Flights from the U.S. into Israel still halted after a Hamas rocket came close to the airport. Israel pushing the U.S. to restart the flights. Michael Bloomberg now on a plane in a show of solidarity. We're following it all.


CUOMO (on camera): A special edition of NEW DAY continues right now.