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Deadly Strike on U.N. Shelter; Interview with Mark Regev

Aired July 30, 2014 - 17:00   ET


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

Breaking news. Shelter hit -- a deadly strike on a United Nations school housing thousands of Gaza refuges draws international condemnation.

Tunnel attack -- riveting video of a daring assault on Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants using one of their sophisticated underground passages.

And crash site mines -- Ukraine warns the Flight 17 debris zone may be filled with land mines, keeping international investigators out for another day.

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: Let's get right to the breaking news. Dramatic new developments in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, including a strike on a United Nations school in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians are seeking shelter. Palestinian health officials say at least 20 people were killed in a pre-dawn strike that's drawing sharp criticism from both the United Nations and the US.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our guests, our correspondents here in the Middle East and around the world.

Let's go to Gaza first.

CNN's John Vause is in Gaza City for us -- first of all, John, what's the latest?

What are you seeing now?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it has been a pretty quiet night here, especially compared to the last few nights. That's not to say there hasn't been any Israeli operations. We've been hearing a continual pounding of Israeli artillery and tank fire from the southern part of Israel.

Most of those areas have, in fact, been evacuated.

We also have heard a number of targets being hit by Israeli air strikes.

Hamas still continuing to fire rockets and mortars. According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hamas has fired 86 rockets today. And those sirens have been heard in South and Central Israel. Some of those rockets fired just in the last couple of hours alone.

And we have this report coming to us from Hamas-controlled media saying that there are clashes underway right now in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, not far from the Beit Hanoun area. That's very close to the Erez border crossing with Israel, these clashes between Hamas militants, and according to this media report, Israeli Special Forces. But there's no confirmation from that on the Israeli side. And as you can see behind me, Wolf, with Gaza's only power station now not operating, it is yet another dark night here in Gaza. Almost 1.7 million Palestinians still without electricity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what's the latest on that U.N. school, that shelter that was attacked, that was bombed?

Twenty people were killed. A lot of people were injured. The United Nations blaming Israel.

What's the latest there?

VAUSE: The U.N. is very adamant here. They say they have evidence. They claim that this was, in fact, an Israeli artillery strike. They say in the early hours of this morning, around 4:30 a.m. local time, that school, which was sheltering about 3,000 Palestinians, who had to leave their homes because of this Israeli military offensive, it was hit by three rounds in that -- the early hours of the morning. It killed at least 20 people. More than 120 others were, in fact, wounded. Many of those casualties were, in fact, men, because they were up for early morning prayers.

Now, the U.N. says this is a disgraceful act. They have slammed the Israelis for this.

Israel, though, saying they are now currently investigating just what happened. An initial IDF investigation says that their troops were in that region at that time, were in the vicinity. They say they took mortar fire from Hamas militants, who had fired from an area around the school. And then they returned fire.

But Israel says an investigation is still underway. No word when that investigation, that full investigation, will be complete -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John.

Thanks very much. John Vause in Gaza City for us.

Be careful over there.

The U.S. is condemning the strike on the U.N. school and the shelter. It's also resupplying Israeli forces with ammunition right now, as CNN has learned.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

She's working this part of the story.

So what are you picking up over there -- Michelle, first of all, about the school, the shelter that was hit today?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, both the White House and State Department were very careful to point out today that they're not assigning blame in this case, the shelling of a school where more than 3,000 Palestinians were sheltering.

What they did in a statement was essentially criticize both sides, but without naming any names. It was interesting. They condemned the shelling of the school, but they also condemned those who would hide weapons inside a U.N. facility.

Now, the first thing is what Israel is suspected of in this case. And the second is what Hamas has been accused of throughout this conflict.

However, now, since the U.N. has come out and said there's abundant evidence that Israel is at fault in this most recent case, the State Department was questioned repeatedly today, well, aren't you, essentially, criticizing Israel now?

The response, though, was there still needs to be a full investigation, although the administration did say that they have been very clear that Israel does need to do more to live up to its own standards of protecting civilians.

And, Wolf, I think, one of the best examples of this kind of walking the line was today when CNN, in fact, asked over and over again at the State Department, why don't you just condemn all targeting of U.N. facilities?

But they didn't want to go that far. They said, well, it's complicated because of these allegations of hiding weapons inside these facilities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Michelle, our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara So there are, has been reporting that the Israelis asked the United States to help resupply Israeli forces with ammunition right now. And the Obama administration said yes. And they're resupplying Israel with ammunition.

Tell us a little bit more about this.

KOSINSKI: Yes, well, we're not hearing from the White House yet on this. But what these U.S. Defense officials told Barbara Starr was that this was not an emergency resupply, that Israel isn't almost out of ammunition, although they have used quite a bit over the weeks now of this conflict. But they said that some of the ammunition in this U.S.-owned stockpile kept in Israel for Israel's use during an emergency was nearing its expiration date.

So the decision was made to make that sale now.

They also said that Israel requested more ammunition that wasn't within that stockpile, but they didn't want to give away details before that deal was finished -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The U.S. has, for years, been stockpiling weapons, ammunition in Israel for emergency purposes. So the...


BLITZER: -- excuse me -- the U.S. doesn't have to do an airlift in an emergency situation, if Israel is in a war.

All right, Michelle.

Thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this with Mark Regev.

He's the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mark, thanks very much for coming in.


My pleasure.

BLITZER: This -- the killing of these Palestinians at this shelter, this U.N. shelter, the United Nations put out a very strong statement.

Let me put it up on the screen.

"Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school. The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli Army 17 times. I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces."

They say this is the sixth time Israel has attacked a U.N. shelter.

REGEV: Well, first of all, Israel does not attack U.N. facilities, U.N. schools. We respect the important humanitarian work that the United Nations does in Gaza.

What's our problem and what apparently happened today?

First of all, it's not clear to us that it was Israeli fire, even Israeli errant fire, that hit that U.N. facility. What we do know is that terrorists -- Hamas terrorists were shooting at our forces. And there was a firefight. And they were shooting at us from the immediate vicinity of that U.N. school.

Now, if our forces are in the field and being shot at, right, it's only natural that they would return fire to save their own lives.

Now, we don't know yet that it was Israeli fire that entered the school and killed those people. We'll investigate. We'll get to the bottom of it.

But we have seen here a consistent pattern of behavior by Hamas of brutalizing U.N. facilities, turning them into war zones. We've got three documented cases, not that Israel says so, that the U.N. itself says so, that weapons, Hamas rockets were stored in U.N. facilities. And now we've had two cases at least where U.N. facilities have been turned into sort of a shield for Hamas terrorists as they shoot at our forces.

We had -- we lost one of our soldiers on Saturday, who was taken out by a sniper, who was either inside or immediately outside a U.N. facility, using it as a shield.

BLITZER: You know, the U.N. says in their preliminary investigation, they looked at the remnants of this mortar shell and they say there's no doubt this came from Israel.

REGEV: First of all, we'll be interested to hear what they say and we'll be cooperate in investigations if need be, because we'll be totally transparent. If it was our fault, if it was errant Israeli fire, then we will, of course, come clean.

In the past, we have admitted when we've made mistakes.

But let's be clear -- and here the secretary-general of the United Nations has been very clear. He said when terrorists put weapons or use a U.N. facility for their military purposes, they are responsible, because they are endangering the lives of everyone who's at that facility. And it was clear today that our forces were taking fire from terrorists in the immediate vicinity of that school. Therefore, it's Hamas who has turned this area into a war zone and they bear responsibility.

BLITZER: As you know, the Obama administration is not saying yet who was responsible for the killing of these people in this U.N. shelter. But both the State Department and the White House today did both say Israel needs to do more to protection civilians.

Your reaction?

REGEV: Well, first of all, we are doing a lot. And we're always checking ourselves to see if we're living up to our own very high standards.

We don't target civilians. We don't target U.N. facilities. This is a very different -- difficult combat operation. We don't want to see a single Palestinian civilian caught up in the crossfire between us and the terrorists.

What's our challenge?


REGEV: What do you do when you're getting shot at from -- from a U.N. facility?

What do you do when a U.N. facility is storing weapons?

What do you do when a U.N. facility is storing rockets?

What do you do when snipers are shooting out of U.N. facilities?

Obviously, it's a very challenging situation. And the blame, the responsibility, the accountability is with those terrorists who are brutalizing U.N. institutions, turning them into war zones.

BLITZER: So when the U.S. says you need to do more, what else can you do, in your opinion?

REGEV: We are always holding ourselves to a high standard. We're always checking to see is it possible to do it better? because we don't want to hit innocent civilians. We hold ourselves to

the highest international standards.

The chief of staff of the Israeli military, speaking to Israelis the day before yesterday in Hebrew, he wasn't speaking to CNN. It wasn't public relations. He was speaking to the Israeli public.

He said, every time an innocent civilian is killed in Gaza, it pains me. Now, that's the highest man in Israeli uniform. And I think he was giving the Israeli ethos. We don't want to see Palestinian civilians caught up in the crossfire.

BLITZER: The commander of the Israeli Southern Command, General Sami Turgeman, he said today that Israel is very close to completing its work in destroying those Hamas tunnels. So let's say it's very close.

How close are you, presumably, to accepting a cease-fire arrangement?

REGEV: Look, Israel has accepted a whole series of cease-fires. We accepted a permanent cease-fire two weeks ago when we accepted the Egyptian proposal that was supported by the United Nations and the Arab League. I mean, theoretically, had Hamas agreed with this, fighting would have stopped two weeks ago and all the people who have been killed in the last two weeks, it wouldn't have happened.

We've also accepted, and we're willing to accept more, humanitarian cease-fires, you know, for a few hours, 12, four, eight hours. We've done that in the past. We're willing to do it in the future.

What's the problem?

Up until now, when there's been cease-fires, Israel ceases fire. But Hamas does not. They continue to shoot rockets. They continue to try to come in through the tunnels. They continue to try to kill our people.

Hamas has to understand that a cease-fire is a two-way street. A cease-fire means that Hamas also ceases fire. And up until now, they've been unwilling to do so.

BLITZER: They say you must also simultaneously ease what they call the siege of Gaza, so people can breathe a little bit there.

You say?

REGEV: The restrictions on the Gaza Strip are there because of the violence, because they're shooting rockets. No one from Gaza can come to me and say you should have an open border with Israel when they're trying to kill us, when they're shooting rockets.

Now, if the violence ends and Prime Minister Netanyahu has said this -- if we have a sustained period of quiet, of course we can discuss easing restrictions, easing the sanctions. Of course, we'd like to see a situation where Israel and Gaza have a more normal relationship.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.

Thanks very much for joining us.

REGEV: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Up next, we're going to get Palestinian reaction to all the breaking news. My interview with the Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan. That's coming up straight ahead live.

Plus, the latest on efforts to stop the fighting. We're going to get a cease-fire update from the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf. She's standing by live, as well.

We're here in Jerusalem.

And this a THE SITUATION ROOM special report.

But take a look at this -- live pictures coming in from Gaza right now. You see the flares going up, presumably Israeli flares. They could be Palestinian flares, but they're probably Israeli flares. These are live pictures coming in from Gaza right now.

The latest on the fighting and much more when we come back.


BLITZER: Check out the live pictures from Gaza City right now. Just moments ago we saw some flares light up the sky over Gaza City. We don't know what's going on right now. No flares right now, but our people there on the scene, John Vause, Karl Penhaul, they'll update us shortly on what is going on. But that's what we just saw a little while ago. Presumably Israeli flares lighting up the skies over Gaza City.

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. Right now, the breaking news, the strike at a United Nations school and shelter in Gaza, killing 20 people, according to Palestinian health officials; helped push the death toll in Gaza to more than 1,300 people in the three weeks of fighting, that according to Palestinian health officials in Gaza.

Let's bring in the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf, who's joining us from the State Department right now. Marie, thanks very much for joining us. I know earlier today you declined to condemn either Israel or Hamas for that strike on that U.N. shelter which killed so many people.

Do you have a better sense now who is responsible, especially since the United Nations has directly said it was Israel, Israeli mortars that killed these people?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, Wolf, we did condemn both the fact that there was a strike on this U.N. school, unfortunately, and we've seen reports of a number of people killed.

We also condemned the fact that Hamas has, throughout this conflict, kept rockets in these kinds of schools.

But we are still gathering more information. We do know that the U.N. has put out a statement, but we need to get our own facts before we go any further. But to be clear, we do condemn this, because the U.N. is neutral, obviously. The neutrality that the United Nations has in these conflict zones is really of the utmost importance. So obviously, that's something we're very concerned about.

BLITZER: You're specifically condemning Hamas for potentially keeping weapons in some of these U.N. schools, and the U.N. itself has said that they do do that from time to time. But at least for now you're refusing to condemn Israel directly for killing these people in that U.N. shelter. Is that right?

HARF: Well, we're condemning whoever took this strike on this U.N. school. We're still gathering the facts before we assign responsibility here. Look, as you know, Wolf, there are many conflicting reports about these situations. We've heard a few even just today of people you've talked to. So we'll get some more facts, and going forward we'll be very clear about what we know here.

BLITZER: You do say that Israel can and should do more to protect civilians in Gaza. What do you mean by that?

HARF: Well, look, we know this is a conflict zone. We know Gaza is very densely populated, and we have said repeatedly that Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have also said that they need to take more steps to prevent civilian casualties.

We've seen the pictures on your network and elsewhere of the scenes here, and it is tragic. If you just look at the photos. Obviously, we know that more needs to be done, and we've communicated that to the Israelis throughout this conflict. BLITZER: Because the Israelis say they do everything they possibly

can to avoid civilian casualties, and they don't want to go after civilians, but you say they're not doing enough. Is that right?

HARF: Yes, Wolf, that is. We do believe they could be doing more. And again, the reason Secretary Kerry is so focused on getting a cease-fire in place is so Israeli citizens can stop being threatened by these rockets coming in from Gaza and also so the civilians in Gaza won't be in harm's way either. So everything the secretary is doing is really underpinned by that notion.

BLITZER: As you know, our Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, is reporting now that the Obama administration, the U.S. has accepted Israel's request for a resupply of ammunition, some weapons stockpiled in Israel for Israeli use right now in this war. That's presumably going to cause diplomatic headaches from the United States if some of those weapons, some of those munitions, wind up killing civilians, for example, in Gaza. Are you concerned about that?

HARF: Well, Wolf, we've said, not just in this conflict, certainly, but in this entire administration that we are going to stand by Israel and do a number of things to help it defend its security and to help it, whether it's Iron Dome, which is, of course, a defensive system or helping the Israelis with security funding. We're going to stand by them as they fight this threat.

But that doesn't mean that when we think they could do more we won't say that. And I think the secretary has been very focused on the diplomatic efforts. He's in India today, as you know, but has already made a dozen phone calls to partners to see if we can get a unilateral -- excuse me, an unconditional, not unilateral, unconditional, temporary cease-fire put in place so we can stop the fighting, so we can take some time to see if we can negotiate a longer term cease- fire.

BLITZER: Have there already been protests -- demarks, as they say at the State Department -- of the U.S. decision to resupply Israel with munitions in the middle of this war right now? Have some of the U.S. friends, allies in the Middle East or elsewhere, started complaining to you?

HARF: Not that I've heard of, Wolf. And I think that our military to military relationship, Israel is well known and it's a very long- standing one. So again, we are going to make very clear, though, when we believe Israel could do more, even despite that relationship.

And the reason we need to see a cease-fire in place as soon as possible so civilians on both sides aren't put in harm's way so we can get humanitarian medicine, and food and supplies into Gaza. And so we have a little time and space to negotiate a more lasting cease-fire, which is in the best interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

BLITZER: As you point out, the secretary is in India right now, which of course, is a very important country. I'm sure you've got important meetings, but in the midst of a crisis like this, is that the kind of message you want to send, that instead of being in the Middle East, for example, trying to get a cease-fire, stop the killing. He's done a major visit to India right now?

HARF: Well, we can do both, and you saw him last week be in Cairo, be in Jerusalem, be in Paris trying to work toward the cease-fire, but I would note that on the way to India on the plane, and since he's been there, the secretary has already made over a dozen calls with partners, with the Qataris, with the Turks and with the Israelis to see if we can get, again, an unconditional, temporary cease-fire in place so we can have some time and space to get the parties to Cairo to negotiate a longer term cease-fire and to get some supplies that are much needed into Gaza.

So the secretary, as you know, doesn't sleep very much and will work as hard as he can, even though he's in India, which is an incredibly important relationship, to be clear, the first meeting with the new government there, but trying to get a new cease-fire at the same time.

BLITZER: A cease-fire would be good. Let's hope he and everyone else can get that cease-fire, which has been so elusive so far, three weeks now; fourth week in this war. Marie Harf at the State Department, thanks very much for joining us.

HARF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still ahead, dramatic video of Hamas militants launching a deadly tunnel attack on Israeli forces.

Plus Ukraine now warning that land mines may have been laid at the Malaysia Flight 17 crash site. Our CNN crew made it there today, even though international investigators could not.

We're live here in Jerusalem. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem. We're following the breaking news. A deadly strike at a United Nations school and shelter in Gaza that killed at least 20 people, the U.N. blaming Israel. Israel says a Hamas rocket may be to blame. They say they're investigating. The two sides continue to fire on each other.

CNN's John Vause in Gaza City was dangerously close to one airstrike in Gaza. Watch this.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. Let's start with that unilateral...


VAUSE: It's over, as you can tell.

What we have now is smoke which is coming from an earlier airstrike in downtown Gaza City. That's a gas station, a petrol station, which was hit, according to Palestinian officials.

What that other target was hit, at this point, we don't know. They are now responding to that -- to those Hamas rockets, which, to be fair, Fionnuala, have continued fire from Gaza.

Just over here. This building just over here which has just been hit, OK, people are now scattering beneath in the streets below.

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Do you need to go, John?

VAUSE: No, we're OK. We're all good, but we are just trying to work out exactly what's happening here right now. OK. Everyone's taking cover right now. OK. So that was pretty close. That's a building not far from our location here, obviously.


BLITZER: That was John Vause earlier, a few hours ago.

John is joining us now live from Gaza.

Tell us what it was like, John, to go through that awful experience because it was obviously very scary, very dramatic.

VAUSE: Yes, indeed.

It was very close to the office here in Gaza City that we have been operating out of. It turns out that the strike on the building just to my right, that actually was just what they call a knock on the roof, a warning to the people inside to get out, that there was, in fact, quite possibly an airstrike which was yet to come.

That airstrike never happened, and there were a couple of those knocks on the roof, if you like, in buildings around where we are. But we have also learned a lot more about the end result of at least one of those airstrikes. What happened here today was that Israel had essentially announced what was a unilateral cease-fire for four hours, a humanitarian window.

They said that they would respond though if Hamas continued to fire upon Israeli soldiers and continued to fire the rockets into Israel. Hamas never agreed to that cease-fire. They fired 26 rockets and then finally Israel responded, which were the airstrikes that we saw and one of those airstrikes did hit downtown.

It hit a marketplace in the area of downtown Gaza City. Very grim, graphic images that we saw from that marketplace -- 17 people, at least, were killed. That's according to health officials here in Gaza. More than 200 people, Wolf, were hurt in that airstrike. And that brings the death toll for Wednesday, just for Wednesday, to 129 people.

The overall death toll stands at 1,340 Palestinians. According to the U.N., most of those are civilians -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John, John Vause in Gaza City with a dangerous assignment, clearly, doing an excellent job for us. John, thanks very much.

Despite the constant threat of incoming rockets, the growing military death toll, the Israeli public is overwhelmingly, at least for now, accepting -- against accepting a cease-fire with Hamas, at least for now.

Our correspondent Sara Sidner is near the Israel-Gaza border and she's joining us now live.

Give us a little sense of what's going on, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have moved inland a bit here to Ashkelon, where in a 20-minute period, for example, today as we were sitting here the sirens going off and at least four rockets coming over our head.

We heard the Iron Dome go off and knocking those rockets out, but people having to run for cover. And this is an example of why Israeli Jews who were polled are so adamant that now is the time to crush Hamas. They are fully supporting, the majority of people polled fully supporting what Israel is doing with Operation Defensive Edge.


SIDNER (voice-over): From the Tel Aviv seashore to the Israeli-Gaza border and beyond, the show of support from Israeli Jews for Netanyahu's war effort is clear: We're with you. Hebrew signs say it with words. The people prove it with deeds.

Volunteers cook free meals. The sound of war booms behind them in easy striking distance from Gaza.

(on camera): This is who they're doing it for, the soldiers on the battlefield. The message, we are with you.

(voice-over): Two opinion polls done to measure support for Israel's Operation Protective Edge revealed that up to 95 percent of Israeli Jews are against a cease-fire and what they really want is Hamas dealt with once and for all.

REZY MERY, RESIDENT OF ISRAEL: Hamas is terrorism. And terrorism, they hurt every corner in the world. We just have to put -- think them out from Gaza.

SIDNER: Rezy Mery says he is happy living side by side with Palestinians in Jaffa, but Hamas is a different thing.

Netanyahu's plan to destroy the tunnel network in Gaza got a pat on the back in Tel Aviv.

SHULY SEVY, RESIDENT OF ISRAEL: We have to continue because we have a lot of work to do there. Otherwise, they will find a way to come inside, you know, all the tunnels, and I don't know the name, and we have to destroy everything.

SIDNER: For this young lady, it's deeply personal. She is to be married soon, but her fiance is a soldier on the front lines. He's in Gaza somewhere. "And we're afraid. We're afraid," she says. "We shouldn't stop fighting. We shouldn't compromise."

We sat down with a former head of Mossad, Israel's top intelligence agency, about what it would take to fulfill the sentiment of those polled.

DANNY YATOM, FORMER MOSSAD HEAD: It calls for conquering the entire Gaza.

SIDNER (on camera): Does it mean reoccupation?

YATOM: Which means reoccupation, no doubt.

SIDNER (voice-over): Danny Yatom says the price of that will be high, perhaps higher than the public realizes, costing lives and money.

YATOM: It means that we will have to stay in Gaza with relatively largely deployed forces for two, three, four years.

SIDNER: The former spy chief initially did not support Netanyahu's decision to put Israeli boots on the ground in Gaza, but he admits something to us spy chiefs rarely do.

YATOM: Now I understand that I was wrong, because only with this ground operation we could discover those tunnels.

SIDNER: Political analyst Marcus Sheff says the support for Netanyahu and his defense and army chiefs is remarkable.

MARCUS SHEFF, POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't remember a military operation which has had so much support from the Israeli people.

SIDNER: But the polls did not include Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, sometimes referred to as Israeli Arabs. Those we spoke with wanted to stop the offensive.

But even Israeli peace rallies demanding an end to the war have been met with protesters in support of pounding Gaza until Hamas is crushed.


SIDNER: Now political analysts warn, though, the longer this goes on, the more Israeli casualties, the better chance that the Israeli Jews who were polled may start to withdraw their support depending on how long this goes on.

And you heard from the former head of Mossad just there, Mr. Yatom. And he said if they really want to crush Hamas, this could take years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sarah Sidner in Ashkelon for us in Southern Israel not far away from Gaza, thanks very much for that report.

Up next, riveting video of a daring assault on Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants using one of their sophisticated tunnels.

Plus, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh makes it to the Malaysia Flight 17 crash site even as the threat of land mines keeps international investigators away.


BLITZER: Israel says its top priority is taking out those tunnels Hamas is using to launch attacks potentially on Israeli territory.

Our chief national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has more now on the tunnels and one especially bold attack.

What are you find out, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have been speaking to the Israeli military and they tell us that since the start of the Gaza offensive, there have been six attacks inside Israel using tunnels. And there is new video that shows one of these attacks, a deadly one that killed five Israeli soldiers as it happened on Monday this week.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): It's a riveting insider's view of what both Hamas and Israel say was a daring, deadly attack on Israeli forces in broad daylight. In the video that aired on Hamas' Al Aqsa TV, the attackers emerged from a primitive tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel.

They approached the Israeli outpost filming every step and then fired on one soldier and another, who appears to scream as he's taken down. Hamas claims their fighters killed 10 Israelis. The Israeli Defense Forces say five were killed, plus one of the attackers. They later returned to safety through the same tunnel.

Israeli leaders have identified this growing network of tunnels as the main target of the ongoing offensive in Gaza, which they say will not stop until the tunnels are finally dealt with.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children.

SCIUTTO: During Israel's military operations in Gaza, Israeli forces have discovered some 30 different tunnels and have destroyed about half of them so far. The tunnels run as far as two miles from Gaza into Israel. They burrow deep, as far as 100 feet into the ground, and are very narrow, about six feet high and 2.5-feet across.

Retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling, who worked regularly with Israeli forces, says the tunnels are a growing threat to Israel's security.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We like to use the word asymmetric. It isn't normal battlefield operations, so it's a way to defeat a better prepared enemy. You know, with the Israelis having the kind of technological edge that they have, this is Hamas' way to attempt to counter that.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Some more details on this attack from an Israeli official. I am told, Wolf, that these attackers, these are diversion tactic before they attack this base from behind, firing an anti-tank missile.

I'm also told that they attempted to take a dead Israeli soldier with them, but they prevented that when they took fire from Israeli troops and, as you know, Wolf, these tunnels used for a lot of things, smuggling weapons and people, and also even packing explosives under Israeli positions and blowing them up is another way to attack inside Israel from tunnels inside Gaza.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I know it's been tough for the Israelis to find all these tunnels. Is there some specific technology that they can use to detect these tunnels?

SCIUTTO: Our military analyst told me that there is something and it's kind of similar to what oil exploration companies will use, sending seismic pulses into the ground but the trouble is you really virtually have to be right over the tunnel or very close to it to detect it. There's no equivalent, Wolf, of the kind of Iron Dome underground like Israel has in an Iron Dome over the sky. So it's very difficult for them. It's a very effective tactic from Hamas.

BLITZER: Yes. As the Israelis will tell you, and I was down in one of those tunnels the other day, they don't know what they don't know. They know where the tunnels are that they found, that they detected, but if there's others that they're not aware of then obviously they're still in business.

The southern commander, though, of the Israeli military said he thinks they're getting close to destroying those tunnels, finding those tunnels but even he is not 100 percent sure.

All right. Jim, thanks very much for that.

We're live here in Jerusalem. We're also watching the other breaking news including Ukraine. Ukraine now accusing pro-Russian rebels of planting landmines on a road leading to the Malaysian Airlines crash site.

A CNN crew made it to the debris field today. We're going to show you what they found.

Also, at the top of the hour, I'll speak with top officials from the Palestinian community as well as the Israeli military.

Much more of the breaking news coverage coming up. We're live here in Jerusalem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Live here in Jerusalem but we're also following the breaking news in Ukraine. Ukraine's government today accusing pro-Russian rebels of planting landmines on the road leading to the Malaysia Airlines crash site.

For the fourth straight day, international investigators couldn't reach the debris field. But our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh and his crew made it there safely. Nick is joining us now from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Did you see any landmines while you were there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf, no evidence of what the Ukrainian government is saying about the latest measures by separatists to keep inspectors away. Separatists militants we came across comparatively welcoming. They did eventually wave us through. And we got to a site that was eerily abandoned.


WALSH (voice-over): The road isn't easy, past shelling, eerie separatist checkpoints. But where it leads is harder still. And beauty nothing surely could spoil, lies a horror still unresolved.

Twelve days since MH-17 was blown out of the sky, it remains here, a monument to cruelty. To how 298 souls, some shipped in parts away on a separatist train have yet to find complete rest.

Questions left, what or who else did they love? What did they feel in their last moments?

(On camera): And the silence in these fields is that of a tomb-like sorrow and loss have isolated it from the war around it, but you really have to stand here and see the things that people want to take with them on holiday and horrifyingly, even now, smell the stench of decay to understand the urgency for relatives of those who died who must feel to get inspectors to this site and get some kind of closure.

(Voice-over): In the hour we were there, no separatists, inspectors or Ukrainian soldiers at this site. Just distant smoke that explains why the inspectors' large convoy has not for the fourth day running got here.

God save and protect us, the sign asks. Not here, still wreaking of jet fuel. But you can see the heat of the inferno they fell from the sky in. Strangers have tried to mourn. The scene of this crime has been abandoned, evidence tampered with.

What must be shrapnel holes visible in the cockpit's remains. A wallet emptied, a cell phone looted. Traces of daydreams that fell from the jet stream into a war whose daily horrors drowned out that which took their lives, whose blind hatred has yet to find space for the minor dignities they deserve.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALSH: It's a much easier task for us in one small car to go through the winding country roads and get to that site but it is for OSCE and inspectors to take their large convoy and set up there for a matter of weeks potentially and do their lengthy and painstaking job.

And the Dutch today said they're worried that security situation means they may not get there for a number of days. They can all try again tomorrow but I think there are some perhaps cynically who think the war now means that until the Ukrainian government get control of that area that's only when the inspectors will be able to start doing their jobs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a horrible situation that is out there.

Nick Paton Walsh, thanks for your report.

Coming up, anger and outrage over the deaths at a United Nations shelter in Gaza. Stand by for an up close look at the damage.

And is there any progress in getting a ceasefire that will hold? We'll get the very latest from an Israeli Defense official and a top Palestinian negotiator.