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New Day

U.S. & Europe Hit Russia with New Sanctions; Interview with Thomas Pickering; Violence Continues in Middle East; Israeli Military Continues to Find Tunnels; Ebola Outbreak Claims Life of Doctor; Water Main Break in L.A.

Aired July 30, 2014 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, July 30th, now 6:00 in the east. Kate is on assignment and we have Alisyn Camerota joining us.

ALIYSN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be with you guys.


CAMEROTA: I did, against all odds.

PEREIRA: You are brave.

CUOMO: I heard there was a lot of duress. You're still here and we need you because we have lot of breaking news this morning. We're going to start in the Middle East. More than 75 sites in Gaza targeted by Israel overnight, including mosques.


CUOMO (voice-over): Now the Israelis say these were used to conceal weapons and access tunnels into Israel.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): Also, Chris, just breaking, a U.N. school in Northern Gaza based in a refugee camp has been hit by a rocket. It is unclear at this moment by whom, so let's get right out to Wolf Blitzer. He's live in Jerusalem with the breaking details.


CAMEROTA (on camera): What do we know, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST "THE SITUATION ROOM": We know it was a brutal night once again in Gaza. At least 19 people were killed in that strike on U.N. school. Nearly 130- -


BLITZER (voice-over): They say Israeli shelling is to blame. All this comes a day after the U.N. said more weapons were found in one of its schools in Gaza. This is the third time this has happened in the current conflict, but the overnight shelling was not at that same facility. Let's go to John Voss, he's watching what's going.


BLITZER (on camera): He's in Gaza City with all the latest developments. Another brutal overnight in Gaza, John.

JOHN VOSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The explosions, the air strikes, the artillery just did not let up. It has continued well into the day here. In fact, just moments ago there was an air strike in that direction, in the Jabalia refugee camp, the same place where that U.N. school is located. Where at least 19 people have been killed. Gaza officials have told us here that so far, in just the past few hours, 54 Palestinians have been killed. Almost 1,300 Palestinians have died since this campaign began 23 days ago.


VOSS (voice-over): Gaza once again under siege. Five shells hit yet another U.N. school this morning, this one inside the Jabalia refugee camp. The attack happened at a time of prayer, according to the U.N. Israel defense forces say overnight it targeted 75 terror sites, including five mosques. The IDF says it's continuing efforts to degrade the tunnel networks in Gaza. Tuesday the IDF released this video of the Israeli paratroopers uncovering another tunnel access point, then destroyed it. Efforts to secure a cease fire falling through once again. Hamas rejecting a proposal for a 24-hour truce, demanding an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Hamas- run Al Aqsa television aired this video on Monday, purportedly showing an operation by Hamas militants emerging from a tunnel and then attacking Israeli soldiers. According to Al Aqsa, ten Israeli soldiers were killed, while the IDF reports five Israeli soldiers were killed, along with one of the attackers. CNN cannot independently confirm the video's authenticity.

Attacks from Israel appear to be ramping up. 13 people were killed, including children, when air strikes hit a refugee camp on Tuesday. And Gaza's only power station up in flames, cutting off electricity for hospitals, sewage systems and many of Gaza's water pumps.


VOSS (on camera): And, Wolf, Palestinian officials here say it could be in fact a year before that power plant here in Gaza is operational once again. They can't even get close to it to put the fire out to try to repair it. Now, Gaza without that power plant last night, it was plunged into darkness. They do buy electricity here from the Israelis, but there's about ten transmission lines which go from Israel into Gaza. Palestinians say five, maybe seven, of those transmission lines have been damaged both by Israeli firepower and by Hamas rockets. So right now there's barely a trickle of electricity coming into Gaza. Wolf?

BLITZER: Once the fighting stops, they're going to need hundreds of millions of dollars, probably billions of dollars to fix Gaza and make it livable down the road. John Voss in Gaza. We'll get back to you. So what does Israel have to say about all the overnight strikes? Let's bring in Mark Regev once again. He's the chief spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. First of all, on that power plant, you still deny that Israel was responsible for blowing up that power plant, denying electricity in effect to a million Palestinians.

MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I know for a fact that we were not targeting the plant, and we also asked directly the forces in the area, our forces, both the air force and the ground force, if maybe it was errant fire and everything we said says it wasn't our fire. We're not aware of an Israeli fire on the plant. You have to remember, Wolf, that some 10 percent of all hostile rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, those rockets shot by Hamas, 10 percent fall short, land in Gaza and cause damage. We saw that with the Shifa hospital that was specifically a Hamas rocket. That could have been what happened with the power plant, but we don't know for sure yet.

BLITZER: Is there a full scale investigation that the IDF is conducting on the destruction of that power plant??

REGEV: Every time something like this happens we investigate to see what happened.

BLITZER: What about this latest incident over night, the United Nations Jabalia refugee camp. All these people killed there. Was Israel responsible for that?

REGEV: We're looking into that. We don't target refugee camps, we don't target civilians. Let's be clear about this. We only target terrorists, we only target the Hamas command and control, we only target their arsenals of rockets that they shoot at us, their tunnels and so forth. We don't know exactly yet what happened at this U.N. school. I can say the following. We do know there was a fire fight, that in the immediate vicinity of the school there was combat between our forces and the terrorists, and this is another example of a U.N. facility being turned into a combat zone by Hamas and the other terrorists.

You know, yesterday, since we spoke last time there was a third example raised. The U.N. -- I saw this on "Reuters." The U.N. school for a third time being shown to be used as a place where Hamas stored its munitions, stored those rockets that are being shot at Israel. A U.N. school. Now, if it happens once, you can say it's an aberration, twice you can debate it. This is the third documented example of a U.N. facility being turned into a military facility by Hamas. It says something is terribly wrong and it exposes Hamas' deliberate strategy to exploit U.N facilities for its war missions.

BLITZER: How close are you to a cease-fire right now, if at all?

REGEV: Rockets have been falling, the fighting continues, and it appears that the diplomacy is still in play. I can say the following.

BLITZER: What does that mean, that the diplomacy is still in play?

REGEV: Telephones are being used, conversations are happening. The diplomats are working behind the scenes. But as we can see from this morning's pictures, the conflict continues and Israel will continue to act to defend our people against those incoming rockets and against those terrorists trying to come across the frontier in those tunnels.

BLITZER: We had heard last night that an Israeli Security Cabinet Meeting was postponed, in part we were told, because there was some diplomacy going on behind the scenes. They wanted to convene, the prime minister wanted to convene the meeting once they had another specific proposal. What can you tell us about that?

REGEV: I'm afraid, Wolf, you'll understand I am not going to go into what might or might not be discussed in Israeli Security Cabinets. That information is confidential. I can say the following. Our goal is defensive, its to end the rocket fire in Israel, its to protect our people. That can be done diplomatically. That can be done militarily. It can be done through a combination of both. The goal remains the same. We will act to protect our people. The Israeli civilian population should not have to live in this constant fear of rockets coming in from Gaza or terrorists coming across the frontier trying to kill our people.

BLITZER: Who is taking the lead right now in the effort to achieve a cease-fire? Because yesterday, as we reported, there was a statement from the Palestinian leadership, all Palestinian factions were on board for a 24-hour cease-fire that could be expanded into a 72-hour cease-fire. Then the military wing of Hamas rejected that. Who is taking the lead right now? Is it the secretary of state of the United States, is the special U.N envoy Robert Serry? Who is doing that?

REGEV: Well, you're right, what happened yesterday was astounding. The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank announced a cease-fire and then shortly following that Hamas said, wait, they don't speak for us. And its true. We're not fighting, Israel is not fighting the Palestinian authority on the West Bank. Our conflict is with the terrorists who don't play by the rules, who are brutal in the way they shoot us as and at the same time use Palestinian civilians as human shields in a very, I would argue, brutal exploitative manner, deliberately putting Palestinian civilians' lives in danger by putting their missiles in houses and mosques.

BLITZER: Who is taking the lead, though?

REGEV: The only game in town is the Egyptian Initiative, and I think you've seen the United Nations, the United States, the Arab League, everyone line up behind the Egyptian Initiative.

BLITZER: And so that's still on the table, is that what you're saying?

REGEV: Israel has accepted the Egyptian Initiative. We did so already two weeks ago.

BLITZER: But Secretary Kerry had additional modifications attached to it.

REGEV: I've heard from the Americans, we've heard from President Obama, the Egyptian Initiative is the basis for any move in diplomacy. Let's be clear here. What does the Egyptian Initiative say? It calls for an immediate, unconditional end of all hostile fire, and that for us is what should happen. No more rockets on Tel Aviv, no more rockets on any place in Israel and the end of this infiltration through the tunnels.

BLITZER: And Israel will withdraw its forces from Gaza?

REGEV: We say the following. We cannot allow the tunnel threat to continue, and as part of any cease-fire, Israel reserves the right to continue to act against those tunnels because those tunnels are a real threat to our civilian population. Imagine, Wolf, if you lived in the southern part of Israel, just worrying the whole time of a terrorist popping up from under the ground with automatic weapons, with explosives, with rocket-propelled grenades. A knock at your door and terrorists are barging into your house. We have to deal with those tunnels because they are an immediate threat to our people.

BLITZER: Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Thanks very much for joining us. We're told, by the way, by Israeli intelligence officials they have discovered about 31 of those tunnels. They have destroyed 15. They don't know how many more there are going from Gaza into Israel, but they are looking for more of these tunnels. Back to you guys in New York.

CAMEROTA: Wolf, thank you. It just is not getting any better there. I mean, Wolf is asking all the right questions and the answers are unsatisfying or elusive on both sides.

CUOMO: Until the main points of each side are addressed, occupation on the side of Hamas and Israel seeing itself as being safe from these types of attacks, you're not going to get any movement. This has been going on a long time. I mean, the Oslo Accord now is 20 years old. They were supposed to have a deal in place.

CAMEROTA: Lets hope that John Kerry can get some movement today.

CUOMO: Would be nice, would be nice, that's for sure.

CAMEROTA: There's a lot of news happening so let's check in with Michaela for what else going on.

PEREIRA: Look, there's something big that we're watching in Africa, and it is getting more concerning by the day.


PEREIRA (voice-over): A doctor leading the charge to combat an outbreak of Ebola has died from the very virus he was fighting. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan risked his own life to treat dozens of patients with Ebola in Sierra Leone. He had been hospitalized and in quarantine when he died. In the mean time, two American health workers who tested positive for the deadly virus, they are still fighting for their lives in Liberia.

Breaking overnight, CNN has learned that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl could have his first meeting next week with the lead army investigator looking into his capture by the Taliban back in 2009. Some former comrades have accused Bergdahl of deserting the unit. (inaudible) was freed back in May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Bergdahl is now back on regular duty at a base in Texas.


PEREIRA (on camera): Major problems have been found in a review of decades of forensic testimony by the FBI. "The Washington Post" reports mistakes were found in nearly every case examined, about 160 of them. Botched testimony could have led to hundreds of false convictions before DNA testing became common. The FBI stopped the review last year but resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department. You can be sure we'll be hearing more about that.

The House is expected to approve a bipartisan bill overhauling Department of Veterans Affairs health services today.


PEREIRA: If passed, the $17 billion bill will go to the Senate later this week, this as an internal audit obtained by CNN reveals that half the schedulers at many V.A. hospitals say they were instructed to falsify data to hide backlogs in providing medical services to veterans. In the meantime, a Senate panel unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to head the beleaguered V.A.

PEREIRA (voice-over): We've got to show you this video out of Los Angeles.. An aging 90-year-old water main broke in Los Angeles, sending up to 10 million gallons of water onto the UCLA campus and on nearby Sunset Boulevard. The leak is now contained, but at one point there was a geyser that shot up some 30 feet into the air, sending baseball-sized chunks of asphalt flying. So much water that the steps of Pauley Pavilion turned into a waterfall. Inside the Bruins basketball court ruined just a year and a half after a $136 million renovation. Folks in parking lots had to be rescued by swift water rescue teams. At least one person was rescued after being swept under a car. Let me set the backdrop of this.


PEREIRA (on camera): California, the entire state, is under a drought. They are facing drought conditions statewide, and to have 10 million gallons of water, I mean, it's just cruel.

CUOMO: Big issue is how long it took, also. Was that because of how much water was coming out?

PEREIRA: The DWP, Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles, is getting sort of lambasted for their response. They are coming back and saying, you know, they were trying to find the source of the leak, but that campus is a pretty big campus, and to see that, and the fact that they spent $136 million renovating Pauley Pavilion.

CAMEROTA: I've covered my share of water main breaks, that one is a doozy.

PEREIRA: A big one.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, Michaela.

CUOMO: Take a little break here on NEW DAY.


CUOMO (voice-over): President Obama says Moscow will feel the pain, Europe finally on board joining the U.S. to hit Russia with the toughest economic sanctions. We're going to have a former U.S. ambassador here. He's going to tell us if they will make a difference.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): Plus, investigators are still trying to reach the Flight 17 crash site in Ukraine, but they haven't been able to because of the heavy fighting, so we will talk to a member of the international monitoring team about the status.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a choice that Russia and President Putin in particular has made. There continues to be a better choice, a choice of de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation.


CUOMO: And until that better choice is made, President Obama says he's raising the stakes against Russia.

The U.S. and the European Union are going to deal out the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the Cold War. They will hinder Russia's access to capital markets for its state-owned banks and weapons makers, as well as hindering their ability to tap their oil reserve.

Also, more people in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle are being sanctioned as well.

Meanwhile, investigators will try again today to reach the Flight 17 crash site, which is still shut off by heavy fighting and the lack of invitation from the local militants.

Joining us now, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Thomas Pickering. He also served as the U.S. undersecretary for state of political affairs.

It's very good to have you, Mr. Ambassador.

Help us understand. These latest sanctions targeting the Russian economy, are they of the nature and degree to make a real difference?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Chris, I wish I could be optimistic about that. They are part of the gradual escalation in sanctions, and bringing Europeans along with us is sending a signal.

But there are few signs that Vladimir Putin himself is going to be affected. He's talking about more self-reliance. He's using the whole Ukraine effort to boost Russia nationalism, which has put him up in the 80 percent popularity ratings. I don't think he's going to sacrifice that soon.

There are a few reports of disturbance and unrest inside Russia, and in the long term, real restrictions on their energy supply which are not going to happen soon. Those sanctions are merely cutting off technology flows for developing new energy sources are probably going to hurt him. But look at this in terms of months and maybe even years, and the Europeans themselves will have to figure out whether they will continue to be heavily dependant on Russia for gas which was not for these sanctions, as well as for liquid petroleum.

CUOMO: So, is there a better quicker fix?

PICKERING: I don't think so. I wish I could say so. There's some real effort to continue to separate Russia from the rest of the international community, the isolation. That may help. It may help to build up some Russian backlash, but there are plenty of Russians who are super nationalists who really want to go it alone and Putin has put it this way -- whistling past the graveyard a little bit by saying, gee, this will help us become self-reliant and independent.

The tragedy, of course, from Russia's point of view is he didn't do that many years ago when he had the opportunity and a lot of money to do it.

CUOMO: So, if the key to the change is the domestic mindset, you know, whether the people of Russia want to change, the question is how to access that. Now, you recently said you believe Russians are somewhat embarrassed by this situation and that they may not be in control of the rebels who may have shot down plane.

Why do you think they are embarrassed and why do you think they are not in control?

PICKERING: Certainly, the loss of a civilian airliner with 298 souls on board and a situation in which Putin pretends to be in control except for this particular fact is beginning to show in effect that he has unloosed a whirlwind here, and that's having its own effect.

Certainly, in Europe, it's having a big effect in turning Europeans away from the future of Russia. The whole action of seizing Ukraine and now staying in eastern Ukraine -- seizing Crimea, excuse me, Chris, and staying in Ukraine once again a notion, that up, can't be trusted and, two, is set upon trying to grab more territory, particularly if Russians live there.

These are dangers and they raise certainly the possibility of more conflict and while Russia talks about a political solution, their foreign minister yesterday talked about it. They don't seem to do anything. Putin says, I'm pulling back from the border. He said that weeks ago. Nothing happened. So, Putin's trustworthiness in terms of where he is, the big onslaught

of Russian domestic propaganda to jazz up the Russian society in the direction of what they are doing are all things that in my view that show deep Russian Putin-like willingness to become isolated, to try to become self-reliant and see where he's going.

But the truth is nobody in Russia I think really knows where Putin is headed. It just seems to be more of the worse and continued confrontation to see what he can grab, and until that particular point of view is changed by some significant hurt on the part of Russia, whether it's domestic Russian population or cutting Russia off from outside sources, all of which the president is doing, we won't see change.

CUOMO: So, it's going to take time, period. That's the answer that I'm hearing.

PICKERING: Months ago, it was going to take time. It is still, Chris, going to take time.

CUOMO: So why do you think that Vladimir Putin or another Russian official didn't come out and at least criticize the indignity of the dead and the treatment of the crash site and insist on access? They asked for an investigation into who did it, but why didn't they come out and just decry the situation as everybody else did around the world? That wouldn't be implicating themselves.

PICKERING: No, and they could have said, look, this was an accident, a mistake. They were shooting down Ukrainian airplanes. They didn't have the technology or the information. They made the mistake. It was the separatist fault, we'll take action.

All those are possible. Putin hasn't understood yet I think the notion that once you make a mistake, the more you try to cover it up, the worse it gets. We've seen that in this country over a period of time. I hope we've learn our lesson, but that certainly is a principle and a fact of life in international comity these days that he ought to worry about, and I think the shoot down of the airliner, of course, is another point of major pressure on Putin.

CUOMO: If it's true that Ukraine is shooting short range missiles into civilian areas, gotten reports, human rights watch saying civilians are being taken out, does that undercut the U.S. position?

PICKERING: Doesn't help us, the fact that the Ukraine wants militarily to recuperate the rest of its territory is, of course, self-evident and obvious. But the fact that it's beginning to use military measures, which if not targeting civilians are careless enough to cause significant civilian casualties, that in itself is as we've seen in Gaza certainly a serious problem.

CUOMO: Well, and perhaps the lack of control that you talk about with Russia over the rebels is seen in the fact that the site still isn't being allowed access to investigators.

Ambassador Pickering, thank you very much for the perspective. Much needed. Look forward to calling on you again.

PICKERING: Thanks, Chris. Anytime, nice to be with you.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, we're going to talk to one of those investigators who is trying to get to the Flight 17 wreckage.

Plus, stunning video you just have to see. Take a look at this. Two women running for their lives on an Indiana railroad bridge, an 80- foot drop, the train is coming. No escape. Wait until you see what happened and why it happened.


PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us here on NEW DAY.

Let's take a look at your headlines.

More than 75 sites in Gaza targeted by the Israeli military overnight, including mosques allegedly being used to hide weapons and access points for tunnels into Israel. A U.N. school was shelled in northern Gaza, killing at least 19 people. In an initial review of the shelling, the Israeli military says they were responding to militant fire in the area. This comes a day after the U.N. said weapons were found at one of its schools in Gaza for the third time in just the last few weeks.

New questions this morning about military aircraft security, a disturbing find on the U.S. cargo plane, the body of an apparent stowaway was discovered at the wheel well when the plane landed.