Return to Transcripts main page


Passengers' Remains Moved by Train; U.S. Sees Russian Role in Shoot down; Expecting Handover of Black Boxes; Gaza Officials Say 550 Palestinians Killed; Interview with Min Yuval Steinitz; Defending Commercial Airlines

Aired July 21, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, this is a SITUATION ROOM special report.

Breaking news -- the remains of hundreds of Malaysia Flight 17 passengers are being moved in Eastern Ukraine, en route to Amsterdam.

Dual crises -- President Obama grapples with the air disaster and the escalating fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Soaring death toll -- the number of Palestinians killed tops 500. And Israeli forces have seen more than two dozen deaths, as international pressure for a cease-fire clearly grows.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the two major breaking news stories -- the fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas is Gaza and the soaring death toll. Also, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

A train carrying the remains of hundreds of passengers is scheduled to arrive this hour in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. From there, they'll be flown to Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, United Nations Security Council has just unanimously approved a resolution demanding international access to the crash site. And pro-Russian rebels have agreed to hand over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian investigators in Eastern Ukraine.

We're covering all the breaking news with our correspondents and guests in Israel, in Gaza, in Ukraine, in Washington and beyond.

Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, begins our coverage with more on these dual crises confronting President Obama -- Jim, what's the very latest? JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And today, President Obama ramped up the rhetoric on Vladimir Putin, calling on Moscow to get a handle on those pro-Russian rebels at the crash site in Ukraine. But at the point where we stand right now, it is not at all apparent that the Russians are listening.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In his most forceful comments since the crash of Flight 17, President Obama accused pro-Russian rebels of essentially engaging in a cover-up.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As investigators approached, they fired their weapons into the air. The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question, what exactly are they trying to hide?

ACOSTA: The burden, the president said, is now on Russia.

OBAMA: Russia, and President Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to the compel them to cooperate with the investigation. That is the least that they can do.

ACOSTA: Russian officials are sticking by their own version of events, just today saying their records show a Ukrainian warplane might have been flying near Flight 17 when it crashed.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): No one should have the right to use this tragedy to achieve selfish political objectives. Such events should not divide, but unite people.

ACOSTA: The West, which is starting to form a united front, isn't buying it.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia and put an end to the conflict in Ukraine before any more innocent lives are lost.

ACOSTA: The White House says the president will keep up the pressure on Putin, even as he's traveling out West this week for a series of fundraisers, risking more criticism from Republicans that he's not fully engaged.

JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If it becomes clear there's a need for him to come back to the White House in order to fulfill those functions, then we'll make a change in his schedule. Right now, it's not apparently that that's the case.

ACOSTA (on camera): At this point, you're not changing the schedule?

EARNEST: Correct.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president has another searing crisis to deal with -- the Israeli military operation in Gaza. The severity of that mission seemingly questioned by Secretary of State John Kerry in a hot mic moment.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a hell of a pinpoint operation.

ACOSTA: Still, Mr. Obama seemed to back that up, noting his own worries about the bloodshed.

OBAMA: We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.


ACOSTA: And the White House is now calling for what it calls greater steps to reduce civilian casualties.

As for Russia, the administration says it's running out of patience -- Wolf, I just walked out of a background briefing with senior administration officials here at the White House. They were issuing some very tough talk aimed at Russia. At one point, one senior administration official said, quote, "The Russians are doing themselves grave harm with these absurd statements," referring back to Russian explanations as to why Flight 17 came out of the sky -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House.

Thank you.

The president certainly has some persuasive new evidence to back up his harsher tone about Russia's role in the Malaysia Airlines disaster.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's got new information -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, one of the key unanswered questions is this -- were there Russian personnel there when the plane was shot down?

Could they have possibly launched the attack themselves?

The U.S. intelligence community looking for any evidence that might have been the case. They don't know the answer yet, but the dossier on Moscow is being assembled.


STARR (voice-over): The U.S. intelligence on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 now pointing to Russian involvement.

OBAMA: We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons. Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They certainly have blood on their hands, at the very least. STARR: The U.S. dossier to prove it assembled by military and intelligence analysts scouring data from spy satellites, radars and phone intercepts.

It began when, unknown to the world, Russian rebels secretly moved a heavy arsenal of weapons into place -- weapons that would lead to the shoot-down, according to U.S. intelligence.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There was a convoy several weeks ago of about 150 vehicles with armed personnel carrier, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, artillery, all of which crossed over from Russia into the eastern part of Ukraine and was turned over to the separatists.

STARR: Within minutes of Flight 167 dropping off radar, the U.S. suspected a shoot-down. Experts narrowed in on two pieces of critical intelligence.

First, a surface to air missile system had been activated in a separatist controlled area in Eastern Ukraine. A moment later, a U.S. satellite captured the heat signature of a mid-air explosion.

KERRY: We detected a launch from that area. And our trajectory shows that it went to the aircraft.

STARR: The conclusion?

A Russian supplied Buk, or SA-11 surface to air missile launcher, shot down the flight.

The evidence?

U.S. verified telephone intercepts concluded the separatists had an SA-11 system as early as Monday, July 14th.

And further evidence of a Russian connection, U.S. intelligence has now identified a facility just across the border, inside Russia, where rebel fighters have been trained on surface to air missile systems.


STARR: So is there any chance it could have been a missile launcher owned by Ukraine?

The United States says no. Ukraine has a similar system, but none were in that area at the time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very incriminating evidence, indeed.

Barbara, thank you.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

We're awaiting a potentially huge development in the crash investigation. CNN's Phil Black is joining us now from the eastern Ukrainian city where pro-Russian forces are expected to hand over the Malaysian airliner's black boxes.

What's the very latest there -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil -- Wolf, we are still waiting. We've been invited here to the headquarters of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic. It's the headquarters of the pro-Russian rebels. We were invited here to witness the handover of those voice and data recorders from the rebels to Malaysian officials, who've traveled here and who've negotiated this handover.

It was supposed to happen two hours ago. There is a crowded room full of frustrated journalists waiting to see this. It still has not happened.

But the expectation is that it will happen tonight, at some stage, because that is what the Malaysian prime minister himself has announced -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's both black boxes, right?

The flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, both black boxes, as they're called, is that right?

BLACK: That's what we believe, yes, which is interesting, because only yesterday, the leadership of the of rebels were saying we have some technical items that might be the black boxes, but we're not sure.

Their language has evolved over the last 24 hours. It seems they both they and the Malaysians that have negotiated the transfer believe very strongly they're about to get those voice and data recorders.

BLITZER: And, Phil, tell us about the train carrying the bodies that have finally been recovered.

What's the latest with that?

BLACK: It's heading north out of this region that is controlled by the rebels, and that's really significant, because that's what they've been trying to negotiate for some days now. It's heading north to the northeast city of Havkov (ph), as close to the Russian city that is under the control of the Ukrainian government.

From there, they're going to be loaded onto military aircraft and flown to the Netherlands. And that's where that important work of analyzing, cross referencing DNA samples, and ultimately identifying and returning those remains to the correct families will take place -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Black on the scene for us.

Let us know when that handover of the black boxes takes place.

We're also following more breaking news. We're going go live to Gaza, where the fighting is escalating, the death toll is climbing.

Plus, my interview with the Israeli intelligence minister. I'll ask him about a report that the United Nations, that some U.N. workers actually handed over rockets to Hamas.

And we're live here in Jerusalem.

This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza health officials now say about 550 Palestinians have been killed since this latest conflict began, 70 percent of them civilians.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Gaza for us -- first of all, Ben, what are you hearing about these unconfirmed reports there could be a cease-fire announced in Cairo as early as tomorrow?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've checked with Hamas officials here in Gaza this evening, who referred us to a position paper they put out earlier, saying they are not ready, at this point, to the accept anything along the lines of the Egyptian mediation, the Egyptian cease-fire offered a few days ago.

They say they welcome an Egyptian role in trying to mediate some sort of cessation of hostilities, but nothing from them at this point.

We do know that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president in Ramallah, is in contact with Qatari and Egyptian officials, and, of course, Secretary Kerry is on his way to Cairo.

But here in Gaza, not a lot of upbeat talk about any possibility of the fighting coming to an end in the immediate future -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that -- I've checked with my sources in the prime minister's office here in Jerusalem and they're suggesting that these reports may be very, very premature, as well.

The Israeli military operation clearly continuing.

And on the ground where are you in Gaza, Ben, there seems to be no end in sight, at least right now, right?

WEDEMAN: No. And at this very moment, outside our window, it is quiet.

However, there have been a series of strikes in Gaza City this evening on a building just a few hundred meters up the street from us, where 11 people were killed, more than 40 people wounded. We've seen fairly intense bombardment on the Shujayea neighborhood, the northern and southern parts of it, as well. So real -- no real letup. The death toll well over 550 at this point. Almost -- about 3,500 wounded. So talk of peace may be encouraging some people to hope for a change, but the reality outside is quite the opposite -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And Israeli -- the Israeli Defense Forces announced today there are seven Israeli soldiers who were killed today. That brings the number of Israeli soldiers killed to 25.

Ben Wedeman, thanks very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin.

He's a senior national security correspondent for "The Daily Beast" -- Josh, you're reporting for "The Daily Beast" that the U.N. Relief and Works Agency gave, what, 20 rockets they found in one of their U.N. schools in Gaza over to Hamas. The U.N. denying it, saying they were given to some sort of -- some bomb disposal experts.

So tell our viewers what precisely you're hearing.


First, a quick clarification.

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt. He's meeting right now with the secretary general of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon. And we're awaiting the readout of that meeting.

As for the situation with the U.N. agency in Gaza, they announced last Wednesday that they found 20 rockets that -- I have learned that they gave them over to the local bomb squad, which is run by the local police.

There's a dispute. The U.N. says that those local police report to Palestinian authorities in Ramallah. The Israeli government privately, but not publicly, is telling everybody that they actually report directly to Hamas. And there's at least a good chance that those rockets are back into circulation and could be fired against Israel.

The significance, of course, is that these civilian areas and international organization buildings inside Gaza are alleged to be places where Hamas is storing and firing weapons from.

On the other hand, they're also places where Palestinian civilians are seeking relief and hope and pray that they are safe from the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

BLITZER: Josh Rogin with that report.

Josh, thanks very much.

ROGIN: You bet.

BLITZER: And joining us now, Israel's minister of intelligence, Yuval Steinitz.

Minister, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the current situation. It's an ugly situation.

You've said -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- you said Israel will take whatever is necessary to bring that security to Israel, including the possibility of retaking all of Gaza.

What does that mean?

STEINITZ: Look, nobody is enthusiastic. Actually, we didn't have any interest in this round of violence.

It started two weeks ago, out of the blue. Hamas began barrages of rockets into our territory.

And then it was a (INAUDIBLE). One week ago, there was an Egyptian proposal for an immediate cease-fire. Hamas rejected it and continued to fight -- to -- to launch rockets on our cities.

We have the right and the duty to defend ourselves.

BLITZER: Including reoccupying the Gaza Strip?

Because you know what that means.

STEINITZ: I hope we will be able to avoid it. But if Hamas (INAUDIBLE), you know, if they would continue to launch rockets against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Beersheba and Ashdod day after day, night after night, in the end, we will have no choice.

Let me remind you, Wolf, (INAUDIBLE), that Gaza was supposed to be completely demilitarized, that when we pulled out of Gaza, there was clear Palestinian commitment by Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, that there will be no hostilities, no rockets, no missiles, no hostilities whatsoever once Israel is out of Gaza.

There was the Oslo agreement signed on the White House lawn -- a clear Palestinian commitment that Gaza would remain forever demilitarized.

BLITZER: All right...

STEINITZ: This is the core of the problem.

BLITZER: All right, so you're not ruling that out, the reoccupation of Gaza?


BLITZER: All right, let's talk about another potential threat from the north. Hezbollah now threatening to come to Hezba -- to Hamas' support and start firing rockets into Israel from the north. You're the minister of intelligence.

Is that a credible threat?

STEINITZ: I hope not. We are following very carefully. Hezbollah is now heavily involved in the civil war in Syria, with many casualties.

But, you know, we in Israel, this is the little Jewish democracy's attempt to survive in the middle of the Middle East, in the middle of the most difficult, problematic neighborhood on the face of Earth.

We are prepared for everything, and if needed, to defend ourself, also, in the north, and to strike back there. The IDF readiness is -- is very strong and clear.

BLITZER: So you're saying, yes, the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, would be ready for a two front war, if necessary?

STEINITZ: If certain things have passed. I hope it won't happen now. Actually, we hope sooner or later to end this round of -- of violence in Gaza. But we will defend ourself come what may.

BLITZER: How much of Hamas and its rockets, its missiles, its military, is funded or directly supplied by Iran?

STEINITZ: Look, most of the missiles, not all, but most of the rockets that are -- 2,000 rockets, just to remind you, in the last two weeks, that were launched from Gaza into Israel on our cities and towns are Iranian-made rockets. Some are produced in Gaza itself.

So far, we've managed to deliver a very heavy blow to Hamas' military infrastructure, to the rockets, to the rocket industry, and to the tunnels, you know, the terror tunnels between Gaza and Israel.

But Hamas is still there, still (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Twenty-five Israeli soldiers already have been killed.

STEINITZ: Yes, that's a very heavy price. Many Israeli (INAUDIBLE) and many were injured. I visited today some of the soldiers.

BLITZER: Are they stronger than you thought, the Hamas and their IEDs, their -- they've been preparing for this potential assault by Israel for a long time.

STEINITZ: No, we -- we were very aware since we withdraw from Gaza. Instead, you know, we pulled out from Gaza. It was extremely painful. People tend to forget, nine years ago, we uprooted all the Jewish settlements in Gaza. Then we pulled out.

We hoped to promote peace and coexistence. And instead, in Gaza, Hamas established a terror army, violating all the demilitarization commitments. And now we have to fight back.

People have to -- to bear this in mind. The core of the problem is not with their launching missiles. Why do they have thousands of missiles in the first place when, according to the Oslo agreement, it was supposed to remain totally demilitarized?

BLITZER: A very quick question on the number of missiles and rockets they have. The Israeli intelligence community -- and you're the minister of intelligence -- thought they had about 10,000. They've used 2,000 already. Israel says apparently it's destroyed another 3,000.

So do they still have 5,000 in their arsenal?

STEINITZ: I think this is -- this is what we estimate, that approximately we destroyed about 50 percent over the last week, 50 percent or less of the rockets. And also we destroyed maybe about 50 percent or more of the tunnels. So this is a very heavy blow to their military infrastructure.

But they still have the capacity to launch rockets, as you saw today.

BLITZER: There's a report that the United Nations operation, UNRA, in Gaza, found about 20 of these rockets. Instead of destroying them, they gave them to a police force in Gaza.

Do you know anything about that?

STEINITZ: Yes. They reported it also to us.

BLITZER: Who reported it to you?

STEINITZ: The U.N. and I...

BLITZER: What did they say?

STEINITZ: We saw the pictures. It's very clear. You see many missiles in a classroom. But this is not the only case. You know, what is so ugly about this war is not only that Hamas people, this is a terrorist organization, by the way, with very similar basic ideology like al Qaeda and Al-Nusra or ISIS in Iraq.

But they are not only eager to hit and to kill Israeli civilians, they are eager, also, to increase the number of Palestinian civilians. You know,

The people of Shujayea -- several times, we announced it once and again, leave the neighborhood because we will have to operate against underground tunnels in your neighborhood and -- and rockets, stockpiles. Leave the neighborhood.

BLITZER: They say they have no place...

STEINITZ: Save their lives.

BLITZER: -- there's no safe place to go in Gaza, it's such a small area. STEINITZ: No, you -- there are enough other neighborhoods that we didn't attack. We asked them to leave. Most of them left. But Hamas asked them to stay and in some cases...

BLITZER: All right...

STEINITZ: -- they even threatened them, don't leave, stay and wait for the Israeli operation.

BLITZER: We're out of time.

But what -- what did the United Nations do with those missiles they found, those rockets?

Did they hand them over to a Hamas police force?

STEINITZ: I can tell you they didn't destroy them and they didn't deliver it to us.

BLITZER: Do you know what they did with them?

STEINITZ: My -- I -- I have to check. I assume that this is what has been done, that they simply asked them to take them out of the classroom.

But, look, let me -- I want to reemphasize one thing again. Hamas is shooting rockets and missiles and refused to accept the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. This is true. And they're responsible to the suffering of most Israelis and Palestinian civilians on the other side of the border.

Once Gaza will be demilitarized again, this will be the end of a lot of suffering, not just in Israel, but also in Gaza.

But Abu Mazen cannot be exonerated. He gave a clear commitment that Gaza will remain demilitarized. He said I'm in charge. There will be no hostilities once Israel is withdrawing from Gaza. And look what the results are.

BLITZER: Well, Hamas won that election and they took charge.

STEINITZ: Minister, unfortunately, we're out of time.

But thank you so much for joining us.

STEINITZ: You are most welcome.

BLITZER: The minister of intelligence of Israel, Yuval Steinitz.

Appreciate it.

And coming up, we're going to get Palestinian reaction to the breaking news. I'll speak live with a key member of the Palestinian parliament, Dr. Marwan Barghouti. He's standing by live in Ramallah on the West Bank. We'll talk about this growing crisis.

Also, could an anti-missile defense system have saved Malaysia Flight 17?

Should they be on all commercial aircraft?

We're going to take a closer look.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM live from Jerusalem.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Significant breaking news just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

The U.S. State Department has just issued a warning about the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. And the warning cites this, ongoing hostilities. That's a direct quote. The State Department is recommending that U.S. citizens, in the words of this warning, defer what is described as nonessential travel to Israel and the West Bank.

And it also reaffirms the longstanding warning against travel to the Gaza Strip. So, once again, the State Department just issuing a travel warning, warning American citizens this is not a good time to come to Israel, the West Bank, certainly not to the Gaza Strip.

We're also following the other breaking news, the increasingly deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas; 57 percent of Americans asked think the Israeli offensive in Gaza is justified, this according to a brand- new CNN/ORC poll that has just been released; 39 percent feel Israel is using too much force in Gaza; 12 percent say too little force; 43 percent feel the Israeli action is about right.

We just spoke to the Israeli minister of intelligence.

Now let's get the Palestinian perspective.

Joining us, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He's a key member of the Palestinian Parliament, a founder of the Palestinian National Initiative.

Dr. Barghouti joins us from Ramallah right now.

First of all, Dr. Barghouti, I'm anxious to get your reaction to those poll numbers, this new CNN/ORC poll, American attitudes to what's going on. What's your reaction?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, it's unfortunate that the American public thinks this way.

But I think, unfortunately, the American public is a victim of the media in the United States, which is to a large extent dominated by the Israeli narrative. They keep receiving the same narrative. And that's why I think this is unfair to Palestinians and unfair to the American public itself, which is entitled to knowing the truth.

And the truth is that the Israeli government is acting in a criminal way against its own people, against the Israeli soldiers who are killed, and against the Palestinian population. What happened in Gaza during the last 10 days is nothing but a massacre; 550 Palestinians have been killed so far; 150 of them are children.

And we are now losing Palestinians, mostly civilians, at a rate of 100 per day. This has to stop. By the way, let me tell you, I have just received information from Gaza that people in Gaza and everybody there are asking for a humanitarian cease-fire, which was presented. And Israeli is still not responding to have -- because they have so many bodies under the rubble that they cannot take out.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you about that, because there are these reports that a cease-fire could be announced in Cairo as early as tomorrow. You're hearing that that is possible? Would Hamas, which rejected the earlier Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire -- Israel accepted that one -- would Hamas accept this new cease-fire?

BARGHOUTI: Hamas has just told me that they accept the cease-fire, but Israel still did not give an answer.

That's the truth and that's the reality. And they are still waiting for an answer from Israel. Meanwhile, let me tell you that, in the West Bank, things are exploding. We have just received information that the Israeli army have shot with live ammunitions 25 Palestinians who were peacefully protesting in Hebron.

And two Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army, one in (INAUDIBLE) Jerusalem also during a demonstration, and another civilian Palestinian was shot by the an Israeli settler in Hebron.

And the number of people killed now in the West Bank is increasing, not just in Gaza. And the root of the problem is, unfortunately, overlooked by Israeli ministers, which is the fact that we are under occupation. And solving the problem of occupation by increasing the occupation now and reoccupying Gaza is not a solution.

This would only complicate the matters further. And what is happening is totally unacceptable. They're trying to dehumanize Palestinians. And claim that they are inviting the Israeli army to kill them is unacceptable.

Also, a comparison is very clear, 560 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, vs. 27 Israelis killed; 25 of them are soldiers. And all these rockets did not kill anybody. I don't want any Israeli or Palestinian to be killed. But this must be stopped. War is not a solution.

BLITZER: All right, Doctor.

BARGHOUTI: Aggression is not a solution.

BLITZER: I want to get back to the news that you're sharing with our viewers around the world right now. And I want to be precise, Dr. Barghouti, because this is potentially

very significant. What you're now saying is, you have heard through the -- I guess your sources, through the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, that Hamas is now ready to accept an immediate cease-fire that has been put forward by Egypt? But what you're saying is, Israel has not yet responded?

Is -- I just want to be precise on that.

BARGHOUTI: No, no, you didn't get me right.

I'm saying that there is -- there are negotiations now about a humanitarian cease-fire, which would be for several hours, until negotiations continue about an overall cease-fire. And this humanitarian cease-fire is very much needed, because there are so many bodies under the rubble that Israel has caused.

And the people, the first aid people and ambulances are unable to reach these people. And maybe there are many injured there who cannot receive treatment. So there is a need for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. And Israel still has not responded.


BLITZER: How long would that humanitarian cease-fire last?

BARGHOUTI: Meanwhile -- it should start in the morning and last until 3:00 p.m., as I understood.

But, meanwhile, negotiations continue about cease-fire and a lasting cease-fire, which would include also lifting the siege on Gaza, because the siege on Gaza is causing a very severe humanitarian crisis. We are talking about a situation where 90 percent of the people cannot get drinkable water.

We are talking about a situation where most of the people do not get electricity more than six or eight hours a day. Now about 300,000 of them don't get electricity at all; 90 percent of the educated young people in Gaza are unemployed because of the siege. And the poverty level is very high.

There is a need to end not only the war, not only to have a cease- fire, but also to lift the siege that is imposed on Gaza.

BLITZER: All right. We have got to leave it there.

Dr. Barghouti, I will check back with you tomorrow, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti joining us from Ramallah on the West Bank, with word that Hamas is ready to accept a humanitarian limited number of hours cease- fire as early as tomorrow morning.

We will follow up with Israel, get reaction.

Dr. Barghouti, thanks very much.

Also coming up: Should U.S. airliners, commercial passenger planes, follow the lead of Israel's El-Al, and equip those passenger planes with missile-deflecting technology? The idea is getting a lot of talk right now. We're about to take a closer look.

Also coming up, we will have a special report live from Gaza, as the death toll there jumps higher.

Stay with us, lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news here in the region, also the breaking developments in Ukraine.

The deaths of 298 innocent people in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is generating a lot of talk on whether U.S. passenger jets and other passenger jets around the world should be equipped with missile-avoidance systems.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's got details. Brian is in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the kind of technology that only a fuel large passenger planes have today, including Air Force One.

But important questions are now being raised. Are more passengers now vulnerable to this new threat and can they be protected?


TODD (voice-over): As crews sift through the wreckage of Malaysia Air Flight 17, concerns are growing that more commercial airliners could be vulnerable to attacks like this.

CAITLIN LEE, WEAPONS EXPERT: Of course, after this attack, there's going to be increasing pressure to build -- put some kind of defense system on commercial airliners.

TODD: U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is worried about the safety of American passengers, calling on the FAA -- quote -- "to install countermeasures on commercial planes."

Those systems could have prevented this, a November 2003 attack on a DHL cargo plane over Baghdad. It managed to land safely.

Israel already has counter measures on its El-Al planes developed after terrorists launched a shoulder fired missile and barely missed an Israeli passenger jet taking off from Mombasa, Kenya in 2002. On the Israeli planes a laser fired from a (INAUDIBLE) moves toward a missile and deflects it away. But those are designed to counter only simpler shoulder-fired missiles.

To fend off more sophisticated radar guided missiles, like the one apparently fired at the Malaysia Airlines jet, one possible countermeasure according to experts in various reports, could be fired from the commercial plane in a canister. That canister would burst open and send out what's called chaff, metal confetti.

CAITLIN LEE, WEAPONS EXPERT: Reflective aluminum particles create a cloud much larger than the aircraft. This cloud distracts the missile because the radar cross section of the cloud is much bigger than that of the aircraft. And so the missile is thrown off target.

TODD: But experts say it's only for a few seconds before the missile could lock back onto the aircraft.

And installing and maintaining these systems would be difficult. They could easily pull planes off the tarmac and cancel flights when they malfunction. They're enormously expensive.

LEE: And sort of the low ball estimate on that is about $1 million per aircraft to build such a system.


TODD: And former fighter pilots tell us it is not safe for commercial pilots to deploy those chaff canisters. Once that shoots out and distracts the missile, they say the pilot of the commercial plane has to take very abrupt evasive maneuvers. That's practical in a fighter jet but on a huge commercial plane, that could endanger the passengers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd with that report. Thank you.

So is equipping airliners with these missile defense systems the answer to keeping all of us who fly safe in the sky?

Let's bring in our aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Should passengers, Richard, passenger jets, have these missile defense systems?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No in a word. They are expensive. They are extremely complicated. And the operation of them requires skills and technology that are most unsuited to commercial pilots and to commercial airlines.

The simple fact is, when do you deploy the chaff? When do you use the counter measures? And it's by the time a missile is coming up, it's too late. And certainly a commercial pilot is not in a position and if you're going to have the plane doing it on its own, well, that's another kettle of fish completely.

In short, Wolf, it's a very bad idea.

BLITZER: Switching gears, what about that area where the Malaysian Airliner crashed, was shot down? Has that entire search air effectively been compromised?

QUEST: I think it's certainly been compromised. Whether it's being compromised to the point of uselessness, I don't think that's the case. The Australian foreign minister speaking at the United Nations said there will still be sufficient residue. There will still be sufficient evidence to reduce the number of options. It would take a lot more contamination before we would be able to say it was no longer of any purpose.

No, they're going to find out what happened here, Wolf. And they will find it through the residue on the bodies, the way of the bodies, and also on the debris that's there.

BLITZER: Richard Quest, thanks very much for that. Always helpful on these issues.

Coming up, more of the breaking news in our SITUATION ROOM special report. We're going back live to Ukraine. We're going back live to Ukraine. We're awaiting the handover of the flight's black boxes and we're also live here in Jerusalem following all the breaking news.


BLITZER: We have much more ahead on today's two breaking -- major breaking news stories in Ukraine as well as here in the Middle East. We're also hearing exclusively from former President Bill Clinton who warned us that peace negotiators will have a very hard time getting as close to a deal as he did late in his presidency when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. And he had a surprising answer when CNN's Anna Coren asked about his wife's political future.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now the question on everybody's lips, is Hillary Clinton, your wife, going to run for president in 2016? Can you answer that?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No, I don't know. This has been the first free time she's had in a long time. We reached a point in our lives when we think you really shouldn't run for office if you don't have a clear idea of what you can do and a unique contribution you can make and you can outline that. And I'm proud of her, whatever she does is fine with me. I'll support whatever she does.

COREN: What's your advice?

CLINTON: She hasn't asked me yet.


COREN: Really?


COREN: Well, let me ask you, what sort of president would she be?

CLINTON: She would be really good. She's the ablest public servant I ever worked with. It's a decision that only she can make and I'm not going to try to jump the gun and if she decides not to do it, I'll be happy, too.

When I left the White House and Hillary went into the Senate in New York, I told her, I said, for 26 years, you made a lot of sacrifices for my public life. So I'll give you the next 26 years, and if I'm still around, then we'll fight about what we're going to do after that. So we're just a little over halfway through the second 26 years and whatever she wants is fine with me.


BLITZER: President Clinton speaking with our Anna Coren.

Coming up, much more of our SITUATION ROOM special report. We're going back live to Ukraine where the bodies of hundreds of Malaysia Flight 17 passengers are now being moved.

And we're live here in Jerusalem. We're monitoring conflicting reports about a possible, possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.