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CNN Sunday Morning

Middle East Crisis

Aired January 04, 2009 - 9:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is a special edition of CNN, "Crisis in the Middle East." It is the 4th day of January. Thanks for joining us everyone, I'm Betty Nguyen.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: And I'm Rob Marciano in today for T.J. Holmes. It's 9:00 a.m. on the east coast and 4:00 p.m. in Gaza where we're following breaking news.

NGUYEN: The violence escalates and the crisis in the Middle East deepens. Israel sends thousands of troops into Gaza after eight days of blistering air attacks. The first wave of the ground assault launched about 22 hours ago.

At the United Nations, Arab countries say the U.S. blocked their demands for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. says a cease-fire must require Hamas to stop those rocket attacks on Israel.

Casualty numbers, well, they're still sketchy. Here's what we know. Since the ground attack began, Palestinian medical sources in northern Gaza say at least 21 Palestinians have been killed. The Israeli military says 30 of its soldiers have been wounded. That's in addition to the earlier casualties. Here's how they lay out. Palestinian sources say at least 460 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 wounded in the Israeli air strikes. Israel says at least four of its citizens were killed by Hamas rocket attacks.

Well, we have deployed CNN's vast resources to bring you all of the angles. Chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem. Paula Hancocks is along the Israel-Gaza border. And Ed Henry is shadowing President-elect Obama as he heads to Washington later today. Several of our other correspondents are also working this story.

So, let's get more on the Israeli troop movements into Gaza from CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. He is on the Israeli-Gaza border.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a heavy pool of smoke from explosions and fire hangs over the northern end of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli defense forces say that they have been operating with thousands of troops pushed slowly into the northern part of the Gaza Strip overnight. They say they are focusing on three separate areas: Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoon (ph), Jabaliya refugee camp. They say they have been targeting 45 different Hamas locations in those operations overnight. They described cog battles with Hamas units between Hamas units and Israeli defense force units during those confrontations, they say. Dozens of Hamas fighters have been injured. Hamas has not commented on their casualties, thus far. The Israeli defense forces saying dozens of Hamas fighters injured.

They also say that they have taken 28 casualties themselves, two of those casualties they say have been serious, most of those casualties, the Israeli defense forces say, have come through mortars fired by Hamas.

Israeli defense forces also say that overnight, the Hamas has fired 10 rockets from Gaza into Israel. They say that no casualties were caused by those rockets. The extent and the breadth of what has now become a battlefield in the northern end of the Gaza Strip is quite large. Explosions, large explosions, small explosions, rockets, missiles have been heard through the night. Now, it is a similar scenario with daylight.

The battlefield changing or the tempo of the battle changing by the minute almost, exchange of gunfire can be heard escalating to crescendos, then dying down but it is a great dynamic and continues to be a very fluid situation.

Nic Robertson, overlooking the northern end of the Gaza Strip, Israel.


MARCIANO: Unavoidable. That's how Israel's prime minister describes his country's decision to pour troops into Gaza. The goal of the mission, he says, is not negotiable. Leave the militant group Hamas unable to fire more rockets into southern Israel.


EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There is no escape from a ground operation in the Gaza Strip to achieve the goals of the operation. The ground operation, as part of the entire operation, was meant to establish our desire to change the security reality in the south. The idea of forces went out to damage the Hamas military infrastructure and to take over the launching areas from which most of the rockets hit Sderot and Ashkelon for the past months and weeks, and Ashdod and Netivot for the last few days.


MARCIANO: There is also reaction from Hamas. Its spokesman issued this warning for Israeli troops. Do we have that sound?


ISMAIL RADWAN, HAMAS SPOKESPERSON (through translator): To the Israeli army: Your incursion to Gaza will not be a picnic, and we promise you that Gaza will be your cemetery, god willing. You have no choice but to end this aggression and this siege without any condition. You will not live in peace until our Palestinian people live in peace. We will not abandon the battlefield and we will stay on the thorny course and we will fight until the last breath.


MARCIANO: And earlier today, British prime minister, Gordon Brown, added his voice to those calling for an immediate cease-fire.

Well, the United States blocked approval of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.


JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT, U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL PRES: We had extensive talks, consultation, about the current situation on the ground in Gaza and in the south of Israel. I must tell you that there was no formal agreement.


MARCIANO: The U.S. says there is no evidence that Hamas will go along with a call for an immediate end to the violence.

NGUYEN: Well, Israelis are reacting to the conflict going on around them, but just how much support does this latest action have? Here's CNN's senior international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, in Jerusalem, she joins us now live.

Christiane, what kind of reaction are you hearing there where you are?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INT'L CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, the support is quite high, it's in the 80 percent for this action, for this war against Gaza and the Hamas rocket infrastructure.

We had a briefing with a senior Israeli military official earlier today who said that they are in control of the northeastern part of Gaza, that they are also other officials have said to me that they are encircling Gaza city, though apparently not in the city of Gaza yet, and that they have been meeting some resistance. They have been meeting the kind of resistance such as mortar fire, IEDs and such, but not much face-to-face combat with Hamas militants.

I had an exclusive interview with the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who told me that also Hamas had tried, but failed, she said, to kidnap a couple of the Israeli soldiers, knowing how very dear those soldiers are to the Israeli society and how far Israel goes to try to win those soldiers' release. In any event, there was a rumor earlier and Tzipi Livni confirmed that yes, indeed, there was an attempt to kidnap some of their soldiers in Gaza, but she says that it failed. She also bristled when I went on to ask her about what many, according to disproportionate Israel reactions to those weapons, to those missiles that Hamas has been firing. Listen to what she had to say.


TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAEL FOREIGN MINISTER: They targeted last week a school in Beersheba, in Israel. Do you think a proportionate action is going to target a school? We are not going to do this. They're targeting civilians. We are not going to do this. So, the only measure that we are taking is to help them understand that this needs to be stop. This is the expression of self-defense, the rights of self-defense of a state.


AMANPOUR: So, what they're saying from all parts of the government and the military is that we know that we are not going to be able to completely wipe out Hamas rocket or other fire capability, but what we're trying to do is affect their capability and their motivation to get them to see that they should not do this in the future, otherwise, they increase an even harder combat from Israel.

Into the future, having neutralized their ability and their will to fire rockets, Israel hopes, then they want to make sure that there is no ability to smuggle any weapons further into Gaza and that they say will require further work and more extensive work.

To this end, there is not a consideration here in Israel of any immediate cease-fire, although diplomacy does continue. The Russians have sent their top Middle East envoy, President Sarkozy of France is due here tomorrow, former British prime minister, Tony Blair and elsewhere an E.U. delegation. They're all here trying to figure out ways in which to be able to bring this to an end.

In the meantime, the humanitarian situation does get worse in the Gaza Strip and humanitarian organizations are really sending out pleas for some kind of humanitarian corridor or cessation to allow much-needed food and medical supplies to get in - Betty.

NGUYEN: Christiane, we are looking at live pictures out of Gaza. We're seeing part of the air assault we've been talking about, the ground assault and as you mentioned the humanitarian situation there in Gaza. Many reports show that it is just deplorable in the sense that there is no electricity, supplies are running out, over a million people are trapped in the middle of this fighting. Are you getting any indication from Israeli leaders as to how long this might take?

AMANPOUR: No. They won't say, but they do say that this is not a short operation. They will not give any kind of timeline and you can imagine certainly not in public. And if you go back to the Hezbollah war, back in the summer of 2006, that lasted at least 30 days. So, that's the kind of thing that potentially one might be looking at, right now.

But when you put the humanitarian situation to the Israelis, as I did to Foreign Minister Livni today, she says there is no humanitarian situation. They claim that they are allowing just enough food and medical supplies to get in to relieve any kind of necessity there. But from the ground, the view is very different, those in Gaza say that it's not just over this period of the attacks which have started last Saturday with the air assault, but even over the past months, weeks and years since Hamas won that province, that territory of Gaza has been strangled and more than 80 percent of the people there depend on international aid. So, this is a big problem in terms of the humanitarian situation, there. NGUYEN: No doubt and it obviously depends on who you talk to as to which story you get. Chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, joining us live from Jerusalem. Christiane, we do appreciate it.

MARCIANO: Well, the explosive situation in the Middle East could land smack-dab on the plate of President-elect Barack Obama if it isn't resolved really soon. CNN's Ed Henry is in Chicago, that's where the president-elect is right now.

Ed, any reaction from Obama on this crisis?

ED HENRY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Rob. It's been pretty much no reaction from the president-elect for days on this crisis. His staff has been putting out a just very simple statements with the same mantra we've heard again and again, which is there is only one president at a time. So, while he's monitoring the situation he doesn't want to get involved, he doesn't want to step on President Bush's toes or send any confusing signals around the world about who's really in charge.

But what's interesting is when you take a close look at what the president-elect has said in recent months, some of his statements have been fairly pro-Israel and that has really alarmed people on the Palestinian side who fear that for all the talk of change that Barack Obama's policy in the Mideast really won't be much different than President Bush's approach. In fact, if you go back to July when Barack Obama visited Israel as a candidate, he got unusually personal while there was some violence on the ground there during his visit in describing his reaction. Take a listen.


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


HENRY: And so, what's interesting is in recent days Israeli officials have used that very comment from this past summer to suggest that Barack Obama is in favor of the Israeli incursion here and how they've responded overall, not just in terms of the ground incursion, but in the recent days, their total response to the situation in Gaza.

Obviously though Barack Obama is not saying anything right now, so everyone's trying to read the tea leaves. And I think what's interesting is that during that summer visit he was somewhat bullish on the possibility of forging Mideast peace if he was elected U.S. president, but given the situation we see on the ground right now, obviously that's highly unlikely at this point and it's expected that, you know, he will be one in a long line of U.S. presidents who grapple with the Mideast peace process. But obviously many of his predecessors have tried and failed to achieve Mideast peace. It's going to be even more difficult now for the incoming president when you see the deteriorating situation on the ground -- Rod.

MARCIANO: It certainly is. And those comments that you played from this past summer certainly answer at least partially a question some people have -- well, Israel did this now before Obama took office because Bush supports Israel more than Obama. It seems like at least by those comments, that Obama certainly would have some support for Israeli's actions.

All right, let's talk about what's on the agenda for the president- elect tomorrow and going forward.

HENRY: Well, interesting, I'll be on his charter plane today going into Washington this afternoon. His wife and two daughters actually flew in to Washington, D.C. last evening to get settled. The children will be starting school, a new school obviously, in Washington this week, so for them a lot of family transition.

But for the president-elect on Monday he's meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to get to work immediately on that economic stimulus plan, something in the neighborhood of $775 billion. So, while obviously national security challenges will be very much at the top of his list, the economy still is issue No. 1. He's going to try to hit the ground running as early as tomorrow to get to work on that -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Well, he don't want to lose focus of that back home. Ed Henry, live for us in Chicago, thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

NGUYEN: And of course, we have much more in-depth coverage of the crisis in the Middle East as we take a look at live pictures of the air assault on Gaza. We understand that Israeli forces have also been on the ground inside Gaza for more than 20 hours now. We're watching it and bringing you the latest.


MARCIANO: Breaking news and escalating violence in the Middle East. Thousands of Israeli troops pour into Gaza. The first wave of the ground assault launched about 22 hours ago.

At the United Nations, Arab countries say the U.S. blocked their demands for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. says the cease-fire must require Hamas to stop those rocket attacks on Israel.

And at the Vatican, Pope Benedict uncharged Israelis and Palestinians to immediately end the conflict. He says war won't end the problems in Gaza.

NGUYEN: Well, soon after hearing about the ground attack, the mayor of New York rushed on to a jet and headed for Israel. Mayor Michael Bloomberg arriving a little bit earlier today and he does join us live now from Tel Aviv.

Mayor, thanks for being with us. First I want to ask you why did you decide to go to Israel?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), NEW YORK: Because I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody that's a victim of terrorism and I feel terribly strongly that if the terrorists can win in one place, they will be emboldened and will attack us every place.

As you know, in New York City we were attacked by al Qaeda twice -- 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the terrible tragedy in 2001 on September 11 when both the towers, with roughly 3,000 people, were brought down. We have to make sure that terrorists every place understand we're united to stop them from attacking innocent people and killing them.

NGUYEN: Mayor, you have said many times that Israel has the right to defend itself. But looking at this conflict, what do you say to those who criticize the effort and site the fact that they believe that this force is excessive?

BLOOMBERG: Well, let me just phrase it for you, something that will bring it home. If you're in your apartment and some emotionally disturbed person is banging on the door screaming "I'm going to come through this door and kill you," do you want us to respond with one police officer which is proportional or all the resources in our command? Just think about it in that context.

There's no such thing as proportional response to terrorism. This is not a game that we're playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. People's lives are at risk. And the fact of the matter is since the Israelis pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas, rather than trying to build up Gaza has tried to destroy Israel for their own political purposes.

Hamas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, and they're trying to, every day, kill innocent civilians in the streets by sending rockets randomly overhead, just trying to kill as many people who happen to be in the way.

NGUYEN: You say people's lives are at risk, but aren't the people of Gaza, their lives, those Palestinians, at risk caught in the middle of this conflict?

BLOOMBERG: Absolutely, and if Hamas wants to continue to kill them, they're going to continue to lob rockets. But you know, it's the ultimate cowardness to launch your attack with humans as shield around you. It's one of the oldest sick things that terrorists do. They take civilians, they surround themselves with civilians, and then they reach over their heads to attack you, and if you defend yourself by attacking back, the civilians get in the way and they say, oh, look, you're killing civilians.

Keep in mind, there is no question what's happening here. Hamas keeps sending rockets over. They've been doing it. Israel just started their response a few days ago. Hamas has been doing this since 2005. I don't know how many days in a row you need to prove that it's one side starting all this. Finally, the other side responds and then you're going to say, oh (AUDIO GAP) first, come on. NGUYEN: Well, let me touch on that. You said Hamas has been doing this since 2005. Let's talk about the timing of this latest conflict. There are those who criticize it saying that Israel is doing this now before the Obama administration takes office because they feel that Israel will get a thumbs up from the Bush administration.

BLOOMBERG: Wait a second. I think maybe you should, before you go saying things like that, check the facts. If you go and look, the number of rockets sent out of Gaza into Israel fell down to single digits per day during the cease-fire. Hamas broke the cease-fire two or three months ago and it's now 800 or 900 a day. That was done starting two or three months ago and it's not the Israelis that have picked the timing, it's Hamas who's picked the timing. Whether they're trying to do that to play domestic concerns in Egypt, in Palestine, in Gaza or in the West Bank, in the United States, I have no idea.

But there's just no question that they for a while didn't send any missiles out, then all of a sudden ratcheted it up two or three months ago to just a level that no government could possibly allow to go on. Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens.

Do you really want something less? I don't. I can tell you, in New York City, we would not do anything but use all our resources to keep you safe and in America, we'd use all our resources to keep you safe. We wouldn't get involved in these ridiculous things like proportionalism. Proportionalism is for the theoreticians. The real world is governments have the responsibility to protect their citizens with everything that they have.

NGUYEN: So, how do you find an answer to this. Where do you find the source of lasting peace in that region? I know you're speaking with the Israeli prime minister a little bit later. What are some of the things that are on the table, some possible solutions?

BLOOMBERG: Look. I don't work for the State Department or for the military, for America or for Israel and it's up to them to find a peaceful solution. But the first ways you do it is you stop going and lobbing rockets and killing innocent people. Then you sit down and we're going to have a new secretary of state coming in and a new president coming in. Maybe that's a good opportunity to get a fresh look at dialogue, get people to think outside the box. Hopefully we'll be able to do that.

I have enormous confidence, as you know, in Senator Clinton's abilities and I think she's going to be easily confirmed by the Senate and be a great secretary of state. We all have an enormous hope that President Obama, an expectation, in fact, that he will be a president for change and that he will be a great president.

And when he was here, he could not have been more clear in what he said. He said, if my daughters were being threatened, I would do everything I could, with all my resources at my disposal, to protect them. I feel the same way about my two daughters that he feels about his two daughters. I hope you do about yours, if you have kids.

NGUYEN: All right, New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, joining us live today. Thank you so much for your time.

MARCIANO: Let's get a little bit of perspective from the other side. CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia Nasr is here to discuss the reaction, there.

You know, Mayor Bloomberg brings up a good point and I'm curious with the Arab world being upset with the attacks on Gaza. Why don't Arabs understand that if you hit me...

NGUYEN: You're going to get hit back.

MARCIANO: You're going to get hit back, you're going to get hit back twice hard, whatever it takes to protect our citizens?

OCTAVIA NASR, SR EDITOR FOR ARAB AFFAIRS: Well, I might surprise you and surprise the mayor as well, many Arabs believe that, too, and that's why they're upset at Hamas for getting their own people into the situation.

What's happening right now is that those moderates that might think this way, and might see a reason for dealing with Hamas in any way that Israel finds fit, are now being alienated. Now they're looking at those pictures coming out of Gaza, and of course we're talking about an Arab world that is watching the news on Arab media, and on Arab media you're seeing reporters from inside Gaza, reporters who are themselves are the recipients of the ground and air and navy assault on Gaza. And basically they're reporting the story from a totally different perspective.

And what you're seeing right now is people focusing so much on the citizens of Gaza, they're saying 1-1/2 million people live in Gaza, they have nothing to do with Hamas, they are hold up, they don't have a choice, they can't leave if they want to, they have no place to go. Border with Israel, the border with Egypt, both closed. They have no way to get even food aid, fuel. They don't have bread, they don't have flour, they're running out of everything. They have no choice. These are the people who are suffering.

So, Arab media right now focusing so much on those people. So, the anger you are seeing in the street is more for those people than necessarily support for Hamas.

NGUYEN: Octavia Nasr, as always we do appreciate your insight. Thank you for that.

We're going to have much more on CNN SUNDAY MORNING focusing on the crisis in the Middle East.



JANE, JERUSALEM RESIDENT: I'm very worried about soldiers being killed, yes, very, very world. Worried about everybody's mother's child who is going into a war. I think it is absolutely frightening.


NGUYEN: Here are some of the stories other that we're working on this morning. In northern Baghdad, a female suicide bomber blew herself up as she stood in a crowd of religious pilgrims gathered near a Shiite shrine. At least 37 people were killed, more than 50 wounded. The bombing comes during one of the holiest times for Shiite Muslims.

MARCIANO: And at least two people are dead after a powerful earthquake rattled eastern Indonesia, it measured 7.6 magnitude. Dozens of military personnel were called in to help people from the rubble. They say no one appeared to be trapped.

Well, Europe's natural gas supply should be temporarily cut off if the energy dispute between Russia and the Ukraine is not resolved soon, that warning from a top Ukrainian official. The two countries are arguing over prices and blaming the other for a drop in supply.

NGUYEN: Well, dozens of people are homeless this morning after a raging fire in a Milwaukee apartment. The situation inside got so bad people were ready to jump from windows, but firefighters arrived in the nick of time and got them out. At least three people, though, were hurt.

And we finally could have a winner in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The state's canvassing board meets tomorrow, it is expected to declare either Democratic challenger, Al Franken, or Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman the winner. The "A.P." reports Franken has a 225-vote lead.

MARCIANO: And be able to put the 2008 election to rest across the board.

NGUYEN: Finally.

MARCIANO: Well we're going to continue the coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, that of course, our top story this morning.



(UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) says stop, that it is not afraid of Israel because it looks like it is Israel that commands Europe. If Europe really wants to show it is strong, it is now or never. It is time to do something, otherwise it's useless.


NGUYEN: Well, the violence escalates and the crisis in the Middle East deepens. Israel sends thousands of troops into Gaza after eight days of blistering air attacks. This video is just in to CNN, the first wave of the ground assault -- I'll try to get that for you, there -- which was launched about 22 hours ago.

And United Nations, Arab countries, they say that they have been blocked by the U.S. because they were demanding an immediate cease- fire. The U.S. says, though, that a cease-fire must require Hamas to stop those rocket attacks on Israel.

And casualty numbers, well, they're still sketchy. Since the ground attack began, Palestinian medical sources in northern Gaza say at least 24 Palestinians have been killed. The Israeli military says 30 of its soldiers have been killed. All of this is in addition to the earlier casualties. Palestinian sources say at least 460 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 wounded in the Israeli air strikes.

Now, Israel says at least four of its citizens were killed by Hamas rocket attacks.

We have deployed CNN's vast resources to bring you all of the angles of this story. CNN's Paula Hancocks is along the Israel/Gaza border, Octavia Nasr, CNN senior editor for Arab affairs, she's offering some perspective for us today, and Karl Penhaul and the developing medical crisis in Gaza, he is covering that.

So, let's take it to the ground now in Gaza, here's CNN international correspondent, Paula Hancocks.

Paula, from where you are, what's the vantage point on what you're seeing?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, over the past few hours the air assaults by Israel certainly seem to have calmed down somewhat as has the shelling, but we're still seeing explosions on the horizon in Gaza and plumes of smoke rising from different areas.

Now, of course we are not allowed into Gaza to be able to tell you exactly where the Israel air strikes and the shelling is hitting, as the Israel government will not open the borders. But we are hearing from our sources on the ground that the Israeli military is trying to dissect the Gaza Strip, so separate different areas from the other to try and stop the militants from reinforcing where the operations are ongoing. But of course that also means that ambulances can't get to different areas to help the injured and also humanitarian aid is not getting around.

So at this point, as we understand from Palestinian security sources, the eastern parts of Gaza have been taken under Israeli control. And certainly we've been hearing from the military what they wanted to do is take the open areas around Gaza itself. Now, it's probably between half a kilometer and a kilometer between the border fence and the densely populated areas of Gaza City and of Han Unis. These are the areas that the Israelis have cleared over the years so that they can operate there.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Paula Hancocks joining us live today. Thank you, Paula.

MARCIANO: Protests stretched across the globe. In London, as many as 10,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square complain about what they call the British government's quiet support of the Israeli offensive. CNN reporter Lonzo Cook has that part of the story.


LONZO COOK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The route (ph) channeled the protestors under the winter sun through the center of the British government. They threw shoes on this very cold day, a sign of disrespect.

As they displayed their scorn for what many of them called the British prime minister's tacit support for Israeli actions. Police barricades kept the demonstration well away from Downing Street. Emotional reactions to Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every single day as soon as we turn on the TV we see children dying, adults dying, their children dying on the floor. Why? Why? Why do children have to die? Why do innocent children have to die on the floor? Why?

COOK: Moved on by police, the protestors continue reaching the destinations for the rally, Trafalgar Square.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't been to a protest for years, actually. I was just so outraged by what's going on. You know, I really thought I had to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and come along and try and you know, and try and (INAUDIBLE) su much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel very strongly about what's going in the Middle East. I think it's terrible that so many people are dying in Gaza. I understand that -- I don't condone what Hamas is doing to Israel, but I think that Israel is reacting in a terrible way, a disproportionate way.

COOK: The crowd poured into the square and numbered over 10,000, according to British police. Decrying Israeli action and calling for western governments to rein in Israel were pro-Palestinian activists, politicians and celebrities like musician Annie Lennox.

ANNIE LENNOX, MUSICIAN: And, I as a mother, as a human being, as a humanitarian, dread to think what kind of images we are going to see from now on...

COOK: The crowd, enthusiastic throughout, the event was peaceful.

(on camera): As the protest rally wound up, organizers claim it had been the largest, ever, demonstration in London in support of the Palestinian people and they called for an even larger demonstration next weekend.

Lonzo Cook, CNN, London.


MARCIANO: We have some breaking news coming out of the Mideast, now. The Israeli army is confirming now that they have lost a soldier. One soldier has died in northern Gaza as a result of a mortar shell explosion, there. Again, the Israeli army confirming their first soldier death in this offensive as their troops make an incursion in Gaza.

Also, some fresh video coming in to the CNN newsroom of people leaving the Gaza Strip. Obviously, plumes of smoke a direct result of the fighting going on there, but people packing up their belongings, this fresh video showing those who choose to make their way out, or at least an effort to, are packing their bags and trying to get out of harm's way. So, that's the two pieces of information we have for you coming in to the CNN newsroom.

NGUYEN: And we also have our e-mail question for you today: How would you solve the Mideast crisis? Well, we're getting some answers. Here's one of them from Dan Foley in Ontario, Canada, who writes: "Redo the infrastructure so that the territory is more spread out and Hamas will be much easier to keep an eye on and the civilians will be out of harm's way. This would also give the Palestinian people jobs and a chance to rebirth their nation."

Again, how would you solve the Mideast crisis? Send us your e-mails,


NGUYEN: The Israel offensive on Gaza is stirring debate around the world and we want to share both side with you. Starting us off, Hanan Ashrawi is an author and Palestinian legislator. I spoke to her a little bit earlier. Take a listen.


How can have you a sustainable cease-fire if you cannot guarantee that Hamas will not fire rockets into Israel and then that being the case, Israel will not fire back into Gaza?

DR HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIANS LEGISLATIVE MEMBER: That's true. There was a sustainable cease-fire for six months. Israel maintained a siege that strangled the Gaza Strip, that fragmented the West Bank, it continued to destroy the economy and the lives of people even under the cease-fire.

For six months Hamas maintained the cease-fire and I'm not Hamas supporter at all and it continued, actually, to act with full impunity -- assignations, abductions, imprisonment, and it destroyed the very foundations of life in Gaza and got away with it.

Now the question is how do you get in peace and quiet when you have a lethal situation called the occupation? So, I'm telling everybody, avoid the spin, get back to the basic issues. You have an occupation, you have a powerful military force, the most powerful army in the region, occupying a largely defenseless population.

Now, you cannot have a normal occupation, there's no such thing in the lexicon. An occupation is by definition a violence and violation of the most basic rights.


If the Palestinian people go free and the occupation...

NGUYEN: Israel says, Ms. Ashrawi, Israel says this is not an occupation, they are going in to take out Hamas militants, they are going in to take out those weapons compounds. This is not an occupation.

ASHRAWI: Yeah. But they are an occupation already. They are re- invading occupied territory. In the West Bank, they are in direct occupation, they have 690 checkpoints, they surround us, they besiege us, they arrest, they kill and they, you know, do anything they want as well.

In Gaza they'd besieged Gaza, they control the territorial waters, the airspace, the land crossing points and they gave themselves overriding security consideration or powers well they have all the powers and none of the responsibilities of the occupying force. And they have been acting without any accountability.


NGUYEN: And with all of that, though, the rockets from Hamas keep going into Israel. So, how do you stop that? How do you stop that without going in? How do you stop that without civilian casualties, if Hamas uses civilians as human shields?

ASHRAWI: By learning -- oh, gosh, Hamas using civilians as human shields. Hamas is a huge party, it's like telling Americans I want to destroy the Republican Party or I want to destroy the Democrat Party. Hamas ran for elections, they have a constituency, they have institutions. They may have a military wing, yes, but they're not sort of an isolated group of militias.

This is something they have to understand. Hamas gained power because the voices of moderation and these were not listened to because all our attempts at achieving genuine and just peace did not succeed because Israel felt that it can use violence, it can oppress a whole nation and get away with it and therefore instead of legitimizing the voices of negotiations and peace it's legitimized violence and ideology, precisely those instruments it uses against us.


NGUYEN: So, there you have one side. For another perspective I'm joined by the Ambassador Reda Mansour, the Israeli consulate for the southeast of the U.S.

OK, so we heard Ashrawi talk about the occupation. Let's start with that, as we get your side of the story. She says it's a re- occupation; these ground troops are a re-occupation because Israel controls the ground, the air and the sea. What do you say to that?

AM BREDA MANSOUR, ISRAELI CONSULATE GEN TO U.S.: You know, it just amazes me time and again when I hear Palestinian speakers or sometimes Lebanese speakers who keep repeating the same old story about occupation. Somebody needs to remind these people that this is not, no news, it's been going on for two years, more than two years. Israel is not in Gaza anymore. We left it. We didn't have until the last 48 hours one soldier inside Gaza. We didn't have one settler there. We're beyond internationally recognized border. They keep repeating the same word about occupation. The same thing Hezbollah does in Lebanon. Israel is beyond the blue line and they're speaking still about occupation.

So, something tells me that they want this to happen. You know, they can't live without blaming the Israelis for all the troubles of Gaza. Gaza is a great place, it should be a very advanced place. Israel was willing to develop it. It opened an industrial zone in the border of Gaza. We want to make it one of the most advanced areas of the Middle East. There could be tourism, there's natural gas, there's so much resources to use in Gaza.

MARCIANO: What do you say to her point that all the borders are closed off, there's security all around, both air and sea. I mean, some people would liken it to being in jail, that it is impossible to make any sort of progress. What do you say to that?

MANSOUR: It's a security protection and monitoring. That's the thing. because people can see here, when Hamas started to fire rockets several years ago, it use to be Khastan (ph) rockets, very primitive means of delivery for maybe two miles.

Now, their idea of cease-fire is they don't shoot for a while, but they stockpile and they improve their capabilities. So, you leave them for three to six months, and here they are shooting now (INAUDIBLE) for 30 miles.

So, if somebody thinks that we should wait until missiles fall in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from Gaza, it doesn't make any sense. So, that's the problem. A cease-fire doesn't mean that we go to our normal life in Israel, to our jobs, to our schools, while Hamas is working with Iran and Hezbollah to improve their range and prepare for the next round. That doesn't make any sense.

NGUYEN: You call it a security measure, but let me ask you this, as the troops go in by ground there's also air assaults that are still taking place. There are people that are being caught in the middle of this, people that, it has been said time and time again that Hamas will use as human shields. Now, we saw Ashrawi chuckle at that, but at the same time, you sat that this is something that's a known practice. If that is known, why go in with this force. Is it excessive force?

MANSOUR: You know, a country with a military can never fight like a guerrilla. What do people expect us to do? To start shooting blind missiles from beyond the border like Hamas does? Or to send suicide soldiers to explode in Gaza?

A country have one way of fighting war. This is a military, it goes in, it tries to be pinpointing the enemy, but we will never operate like Hamas. We operate like a democratic country with a serious military, professional military. And we want to take our time to make sure that we minimize the civilian casualties. But let me say one thing, I wish that Miss Ashrawi and many other Palestinian speakers will do what some of the protestors are doing inside Israel. Israel has been, in the last two days, reading names of Gazans who fell in this war. I would like some speaker from the Palestinian side, from any Arab country to come out and read the list of names, of people in (INAUDIBLE) and Beersheba and all over the (INAUDIBLE) who were targeted in the last eight years.

In Israel, I think we have a great sensitivity for human life. This is a democratic country that understand what means to be a civilian and the other side, I'm afraid, all of us for them, are targets. They don't differentiate between soldiers and civilians. They actually keep declaring every minute they are targeting Israeli cities.

So, when you're facing this kind of enemy, we have to be very careful with this kind of generalization that they're making. But, I really hope they will pay attention to the human story that happens in Israel as we pay attention to the human story in Gaza.

NGUYEN: Ambassador Mansour, thanks so much for your time, today. We do appreciate it.

MANSOUR: Thank you.

MARCIANO: Obviously no easy solution to this problem, so we're posing it to just about to everybody. And the e-mail question is today: How would you solve the Middle East crisis? Here's a couple.

Dee writes, "Moderate Arabs must curtail the militants and terrorists among them. Firing rockets at Israelis for years on end is unacceptable. We would never put up with it in our country, and neither should the Israelis have to."

Stay with us, we're covering the breaking news out the Middle East, there's still much more to come.


MARCIANO: Well, check in with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what's ahead on CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Hi, Howard.

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: Good morning, Rob. Coming up, the press pounces on the racial angle as Rob Blagojevich tries to name a black politician to Barack Obama's Senate seat. Are journalists falling for the governor's scheme? And why has the media world gone bonkers over that shot of the new president in a swimsuit?

Newspaper business is struggling for survival with some folks even writing its obituary. WE'll ask three top editors in San Francisco, Chicago and Washington whether print journalism has a future in the digital age.

Plus, why is Israel banning correspondents from covering the fighting in Gaza and what's the impact on the coverage? We'll talk to a CNN correspondent at the border. That and more ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES. NGUYEN: All right, thank you, Howard. And we, of course, have much more on the crisis in the Middle East.


MARCIANO: Well, we know Israeli troops are on the ground at Gaza, but exactly where is the question.

NGUYEN: Yeah, and how many people are in harms say on both sides of this? Our Josh Levs has been following it.

And what have you find?

JOSH LEVS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, we've been trying all morning to get the details on exactly where these troops are. Israel isn't giving specific positions, but I can kind of give you a lay of the land, so let's go right into the Google Earth imagery, I want to show you.

What we're going to do now is we're zooming in to this area of Gaza, that whole thing you see marked by red is Gaza and we're going to head into an area that's called Gaza City in this northern section.

Now, from what we understand, it's the areas around Gaza City. So just north and just to the right of it, just to the east of it, north and east are where a lot of Hamas militants have used to shoot these rockets from. So, what we understand, Israel has been trying to do and what our folks are reporting, is cutting off that northern section of Gaza from the rest of it so they can control it.

One more thing, we'll end this with this, I want to show you one more Google Earth imagery, because it shows you how incredibly close some of these Israeli cities are. As we get in, we're going to see that Ashqelon is only seven miles north of Gaza, one of many cities that have been hit by rocket attacks and Israel says hundreds of thousands are in harm's way on side of Gaza.

NGUYEN: All right, thank you so much for that, Josh.

LEVS: You got it.

NGUYEN: And coming up next on RELIABLE SOURCES, we will have much more on this conflict, but first, here's a check on this morning's top developments.