Return to Transcripts main page


Israel: Soldier Captured by Palestinian Militants; Ebola Patients Coming to the U.S.

Aired August 1, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report. Breaking news. Cease-fire shattered. Deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas resumes as the truce crumbles within hours. President Obama says he blames Hamas.

Soldier captured. Israel launches an intense search. It says Palestinian militants abducted one of their troops following a suicide attack.

Next phase. Newsmakers from both sides analyze the crisis for us this hour. And look at how the next deadly chapters are likely to unfold.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, deadly new fighting after the sudden collapse of what was supposed to be a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The U.S. blames the Palestinian militants for what officials are calling outrageous and barbaric violations of the truce.

We're also following the capture of an Israeli soldier. Israel says Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was abducted after a suicide bombing that killed two other soldiers. However, Hamas denies it's holding Lieutenant Goldin.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our correspondents, our guests and CNN's global resources. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto begins our coverage.

Jim, what's the very latest?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The secretary of state, John Kerry, spent the day on the telephone, trying to revive this cease-fire deal.

The Egyptians, who were to host talks this weekend in Cairo on a more lasting agreement, saying that invitations are still open, but on the ground with an Israeli soldier taken captive in the very opening moments of the cease-fire, the prospect for talks are very dim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): The fleeting calm over Gaza lasted barely 90 minutes. Soon after the planned 72-hour cease-fire began, the fighting returned in a hail of explosions. Both sides blamed the other.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We've had attack on our troops inside Gaza. We've had mortars on the border, and we've had rockets into southern Israel. This clearly is Hamas violating this U.N.-sponsored cease-fire.

OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: The side who violated the cease-fire was the Israelis. They bombed the houses when the people came back after one hour and a half.

SCIUTTO: Israel says that, while its soldiers were working to destroy Hamas tunnels in southern Gaza, so-called defensive operations allowed under the cease-fire agreement, a militant detonated a suicide bomb, killing two of their soldiers and leading to the capture of 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. In an interview with CNN, Hamas flatly denied the capture.

(on camera): Does Hamas claim responsibility for this capture of the Israeli soldier?

HAMDAN: Certainly not. It appears that the capture of the soldier is an Israeli story, and now there is nothing from the resistance saying that there was a capture.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Still, the Israeli response was immediate and severe. Israeli shells near the location of the attack killed some 40 Palestinians and wounded more than 200.

(on camera): On the ground, all sides quickly declared the cease-fire over.

Today, President Obama raised the possibility that Hamas itself did not order the operation, though he still held the group responsible for the activity of all Palestinian militant factions.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they sign onto a cease-fire, they're claiming to speak for all the Palestinian factions. If they don't have control of them and moments after a cease-fire is signed, you have Israeli soldiers being killed and captured. It's hard for the Israelis to feel confident that a cease- fire can actually be honored.


SCIUTTO: The president identified a serious concern there. Hamas may not have control over the various militants factions operating inside Gaza, and there are many of them.

But Wolf, just in the last few moments, we're getting additional denials from some of those militant factions that they have this soldier. Just recently Islamic jihad telling CNN it is not holding him. The Palestinian Islamic jihad, as well telling CNN it does not have

him in addition to, of course, the Hamas spokesman earlier today, who I know you're going to speak to very shortly here. So those are just denials at this point. Nothing confirmed, but there are many factions there right now.

The real question, then, if these factions are telling the truth when they say they don't hold him, who is holding this Israeli soldier? Still an open question.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, don't go too far away. Thanks very much.

Let's go to Gaza right now where health officials say dozens of people have been killed in renewed Israeli strikes. CNN's John Vause is in Gaza City for us.

John, what are you seeing? What's the latest there?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, ever since that cease-fire collapsed, there's been the renewed sound of Israeli artillery as well as tank fire. They seem to be targeting the area east of Gaza City. We have heard that all day long. But it seems the focus of this renewed violence is in -- down south in the southern area around the town of Rafah.

I went down there today, and residents and witnesses told me the area had been pounded by Israeli artillery as well as tank fire. That was an Israeli response after one of their soldiers was captured and, according to Hamas officials, that response killed at least 63 Palestinians in Rafah alone, left hundreds more wounded. And once again, thousands of Palestinians are on the move, trying to get out of harm's way.


VAUSE (voice-over): They couldn't stop killing each other for more than two hours. By midmorning Friday, the cease-fire was shattered and the war picked up where it left off, with heavy fighting around the border town of Rafah, many headed to this U.N. school.

"They told us there was a cease-fire," this woman told me. "We returned home, and they targeted us again."

Israel warned people here by text messages or robo calls to either stay indoors or find somewhere safe.

(on camera): Many of the people say their phones stopped working. They decided to come here to this U.N. school because they thought it would be safe.

They heard the Israeli explosions, the sound of artillery. They saw the jets overhead, and they thought they should come here because this would be much safer than staying at home. Others decided to leave in overloaded cars they sped north away from Rafah, reluctant to stop and talk even for a few moments. "They will target us. The planes, thanks and missiles. This area is

being targeted, he says, we must go to Khan Yunus (ph). And this is why they're leaving. At Khan Yunus (ph) Hospital doctors are standing in blood, treating the wounded.

Fracture injury, open wound, cut, amputated the lower limb.

And amputated legs?


SCIUTTO: Like everywhere else in Gaza, supplies are running low, a three-day cease-fire would have been a chance to restock, maybe rest. But not now.

And once again, Palestinians in Gaza like Umh Ahmed (ph) this woman and her six children are trying to find somewhere, anywhere that's safe.

"They killed 45 members of my family, she says. They've destroyed our homes, my aunt and uncle, all of them killed.


SCIUTTO: Hamas also continues to fire rockets here Wolf, we're told at 38 since that cease-fire came to end. For a day that started with a glimmer of hope, it now seems this conflict is escalating. Palestinian militants are holding an Israeli soldier. The Israelis are warning of a crushing response.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect it's going to get much more intense in the coming hours and days. John Vause, thanks very much. Let's talk about all of this with Mark Regev, spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Are you sure that it's Hamas that is holding this captured Israeli soldier?

MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Our statements were clear. We said terrorists have kidnapped him and are holding him. That is our working assumption.

Now, if it's Hamas or one of the allied groups to Hamas, it makes no difference. Hamas rules Gaza with an iron fist. It's not a democracy. It's not a coalition government. No one can do anything in Gaza without Hamas giving a green light. Hamas can't subcontract out terrorism and say they're not responsible. Hamas is responsible for all hostile activities emanating from Gaza. They control the Gaza Strip. That's their responsibility, and they are accountable.

It must be made clear: we were told as we were negotiating this cease- fire that was supposed to start this morning, that there had been assurances, that Hamas had said that this is for all the Palestinian factions. And for them to come out and say, "Well it wasn't us; it was someone else," that's simply mendacious.

BLITZER: Because all these other factions now are denying that they have this Israeli soldier, as well.

REGEV: Once again the Palestinian system is either mendacious or dysfunctional or a combination of them both. It's clear we've got an Israeli soldier who's been kidnap. And it's clear we're looking for him and hopefully we'll find him.

BLITZER: Osama Hamdan the spokesman for Hamas, we'll be speaking with him shortly. He says it was Israel that first violated the truce. He says you're using this story of this captured Israeli soldier as an excuse.

REGEV: It's -- I don't know what to say. It's not serious. The cease-fire kicked in at 8 a.m. this morning. We honored the cease- fire. We ceased all offensive operations against terrorist targets in Gaza. Our soldiers were in a defensive mode with orders only to return fire if fired upon. Hamas out of the blue target add Israeli force allowed to be in Gaza according to the cease-fire agreement, killed two servicemen, kidnapped this young officer, injured other people. We've even barrages of rockets into southern Israel. We've seen mortar shells on the frontier. Hamas is clearly responsible. I've seen it said, some people are saying, well, the cease-fire fell apart. No, that's not true. Hamas destroyed the cease-fire. That's what happened.

BLITZER: He specifically says, Osama Hamdan of Hamas, that Israel moved thanks two and a half kilometer inside Palestinian land, which was a violation of the cease-fire.

REGEV: On the contrary. Any movement that might have happened before 8, and that was allowed under the cease-fire. The cease-fire kicked in at 8 a.m. And I challenge anyone to show a single Israeli violation of the cease-fire after 8 a.m. this morning.

I know because when we give an order to our forces and that's spread out, we know that order is enforced. And Hamas had enough time. The cease-fire was what announced ten hours before it kicked in, before that negotiations had been going on for days.

So Hamas can't claim it didn't know. Hamas can't claim, "Oh, this came as a surprise." Hamas was mendacious. They gave assurances to the United States and to others, and they broke their commitments. And they have to be held accountable for that.

BLITZER: Are Israeli troops going house to house in that Rafah area right now, searching for this missing lieutenant?

REGEV: Whenever you have a kidnapping like this, the operational behavior pattern is clear. You try to seal off the area of the kidnapping. And then, as you say, you go house to house or maybe tunnel to tunnel in the immediate area to try to locate the kidnapped individual.

Why? Because if they manage to get him out of the area into another part of Gaza, your chances of fighting him are dramatically lowered. So there's a very intensive military operation under way as we speak to try to find him. BLITZER: Are you prepared to negotiate for his release? In other

words, release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for this young lieutenant?

REGEV: The focus now is to try to find him, and that's where the effort is. What will happen after that, I don't know. I hope we find him.

BLITZER: Any chance a cease-fire can be restored?

REGEV: Look, it's very difficult. And I want to praise the secretary-general of the United Nations and, of course, Secretary Kerry. There was a lot of effort. This cease-fire that started this morning was worked on for days. Endless phone calls, endless meetings, endless consultations. Slowly but surely Secretary Kerry and Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, put together this package, painstakingly talking to the different parties who deal with Hamas and so forth.

In the end we had a package, and then Hamas just rips it up and throws it out. And let's be clear here. The package was designed first and foremost to give the people of Gaza humanitarian relief, humanitarian relief that they badly need.

And who destroyed the package? Who is preventing the alleviation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza? Hamas, the same organization that says it speaks for Palestinians.

Well, the truth is I think it's been proven; it's been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hamas doesn't give a hoot about the well- being of Palestinians. It has itself now deliberately prevented humanitarian support coming to the people of Gaza.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel, thank very much for joining us.

REGEV: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, we're going to get the other side of the story. My interview with Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan. He's standing by live. We'll discuss what's going on.

Plus, more on the capture of that Israeli soldier. I'll talk to the man who helped broker the release of another Israeli soldier who was held by Hamas for five years.

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


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news. Fighting between Israel and Hamas once again raging with the quick collapse of what was supposed to be a three-day or 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire. Also, the capture of an Israeli soldier, 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin,

abducted by Palestinian militants according to the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces.

CNN's Tom Foreman is working this part of the story for us. What are you finding out, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is where the Israeli military says that that soldier went missing, kidnapped, they say, even though no group, including Hamas, has claimed any responsibility for any such action.

Rafah is home to about 70,000 Palestinians and the site of the main crossing to Egypt.

And we're hearing conflicting accounts about precisely what happened here and when. First, let's look at the Israeli version, which we've already heard a bit from your earlier guest.

Israel says as part of the cease-fire, it was understood that they would continue destroying the vast network of tunnels used by Hamas to move goods, weapons and fighters. Israel says it was doing just that when a suicide bomber emerged from a tunnel, detonated his bomb. Two Israeli soldiers were killed, and the third was dragged back into the tunnel by opposing fighters. This is the Israeli version.

They say at the same time, rockets were being fired -- around roughly the same time from Rafah into Israel in violation of the cease-fire.

Now, Hamas officials tell a very different story. I'm sure we'll hear more from your next guest. They say five hours ahead of the cease- fire, the Israeli troops pushed a mile and a half into Palestinian territory, somewhere down in here. That there was no agreement for the tunnel deconstruction to continue and yes, Hamas fighters engaged those Israeli fighters but they say that was before the cease-fire began. Furthermore, they make references to an attack on Rafah by Israeli forces that killed 40 people and left 250 others wounded with missiles there.

The main thing that both sides agree on above all else, Wolf, is that each side blames the other for violating the terms of the cease-fire and provoking the violence that occurred down there in Rafah.

And even as some western allies are standing by Israel's version, the United Nations is saying sadly, it's impossible right now to know who is telling the truth but the cease-fire is decidedly a casualty -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's get Palestinian reaction right now. The Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, is joining us from Doha.


TAPPER: We've lost Wolf Blitzer via live link from Jerusalem. So just while we wait to get that link up again, reminding viewers we're speaking now with a spokesman for Hamas, Osama Hamdan. He is in Doha, Qatar.

Thank you again for joining us. Now I just want to clear up some confusion. You and I spoke earlier in the day. You denied that Hamas captured Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, the Israeli soldier captured in southern Gaza. Can you confirm that? Do you continue to deny that Hamas was not involved in any capture of an Israeli soldier?

OSAMA HAMDAN, SPOKESMAN FOR HAMAS: Well, as I said to you early morning, this is the Israeli story to now. We don't have any story from the -- our people in the field. They did not say anything about capturing an Israeli soldier or officer during the combat at 7 a.m. early morning one hour before the cease-fire start.

TAPPER: So Wolf, I believe we have Wolf Blitzer now back. Wolf, you hear Osama Hamdan continues that denial from earlier in the day. I know you have questions for him, as well.

BLITZER: I do. Mr. Hamdan, who does -- who do you believe has that missing Israeli soldier? Is it another Palestinian group like Islamic Jihad?

HAMDAN: Well, I believe there is only the Israeli story. They are talking about a missing soldier or a missing officer. But there is -- there is no one claiming or saying that he was captured by him. So it's not the only possibility. He may be killed. He may be injured. He may be removed. He may be hidden by the Israeli forces to cover what they have done in Rafah. All those possibilities are available.

So unless the Palestinian side confirmed that this soldier was captured by him, you can't only buy the Israeli story. You have to be aware of buying the story because there is a lot of lies that have been said by the Israelis in that war. They claim that the Palestinians have kidnapped three settlers and everyone knows now it is a lie. And who knows what will happen with this soldier issue after that.

BLITZER: You probably have heard the president of the United States in his news conference earlier today at the White House. He basically accepted completely the Israeli version of what happened and strongly condemned Hamas. And he says Hamas is responsible for Gaza and is responsible for the release of this soldier. He says you must release had soldier right away. What do you say to President Obama?

HAMDAN: Well, this is sad, Mr. President. I expect that you may talk about the 70 Palestinians who were killed in Rafah today and this soldier was participating in killing them.

Before being missed, 40 Palestinians in Rafah were killed by the officers and the soldiers who were working with him.

I expect from the United States president to be more fair, more balanced, especially when he's in the situation. I expected him to say there of the a missing soldier, but there was also 70 civilians in Rafah who were killed by the Israeli soldiers, by the bullets which was provided by the United States and we are sorry for that.

BLITZER: He did say, if you listen closely to what he said, he said that Hamas is responsible in part for the deaths of those Palestinians because Hamas deliberately places its weapons, its rocket launchers in heavily populated areas of Gaza to which you say to the president?

HAMDAN: Well, I'm saying that it's totally wrong, Mr. President. In fact, I wish if you can, force Israeli to withdraw from the occupied land. Your secretary of state, Mr. Kerry, have worked hard for nine months to create a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the failure was because of the Israelis. You know that and you know that the Israelis are not willing to have peace.

If they are not at least force them to the draw from the Palestinian occupied lands, give the Palestinians guarantees that there will be in no Israeli attack against them. And then you can ask the Palestinians why they are doing that.

The second point, Mr. President, Israelis claim there was rockets in some schools. And they bombed the schools and they killed 19 Palestinians. Most of them they were children. And the United Nations a few days ago said that the Israeli -- the Israelis were lying about that. And there was no weapons, no militants in those schools. Please, President Obama, be balanced and hear from both sides before having the Israeli story. You are not supposed to read only from the Israeli pages.

BLITZER: You say, Mr. Hamdan, that you supported the cease-fire. You wanted the cease-fire. You were encouraged by what you heard from Ban Ki-Moon and secretary of state John Kerry.

Did you fully understand that one of the terms of the cease-fire is that Israel would be allowed to continue to destroy those Hamas tunnels going from Gaza into Israel? Did you fully appreciate that that was one of the conditions can of Israel's going along with the cease-fire?

HAMDAN: I actually knew that was not one of the conditions. The condition was the militants will stay wherever they are. There will be no militant actions from both sides.

Our answer was clear. They can stay wherever they are, but any militant action will be -- will create a reaction. That was the agreement.

The Israelis in fact, did not bomb Tunis. They were invading Rafah. They went through Rafah for 2 1/2 kilometers, more than 1.5 miles. That was the situation. And the combat happened inside the Palestinian lands with those forces, and it happened one hour before the cease-fire came on in.

So the situation was not a violation for the cease-fire from the Palestinian side. I believe the Israelis, they thought they can come in and they can stay there, and then they may start an operation without any reaction from the resistance. In fact, it was a kind of underestimating what is going on the ground and they felt for a while that they can do that and they can win that. I believe now they know what may happen if they violated the cease-fire another time.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Mr. Hamdan. But I just want to hear once again, you're saying that Hamas does not have control of this missing Israeli soldier. Is that right?

HAMDAN: We are saying that we don't have any information about that issue. We can't confirm, we can't deny unless we have solid information. This is a real position. If that soldier was captured by any other organization, we don't have any information. So unless we have our own information, we can't say yes or no. And I believe everyone has to respect this position because we are honest and we are saying what we know exactly.

BLITZER: Osama Hamdan, spokesman for Hamas joining from us Doha, Qatar tonight. Mr. Hamdan, thanks very much.

Coming up, how might Israel negotiate the release of its captured soldier? I'll talk to the man who helped broker the release of another soldier who was held by Hamas for five years.

Plus, U.S. Health officials are now preparing to bring two Americans with Ebola back from Africa for treatment in the United States. We're learning new details of the extraordinary medical mission.

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


BLITZER: Live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news. Israel reporting that one of its soldiers, 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, has been captured by Palestinian militants following a suicide bomb attack that killed two other Israeli soldier.

Let's get some more. Joining us is Gershon Baskin, he's an unofficial Israeli negotiator who helped broker the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years in Gaza. He's also the founder of the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information.

Gershon, thanks very much for joining us. You believe this is a game- changer. The capture of this Israeli soldier. Tell us why.

GERSHON BASKIN, UNOFFICIAL ISRAEL NEGOTIATOR: Israel's about to wind down this war and figure out its end game with the 72-hour ceasefire. That was the hope that once it completed its mission of finding and destroying the tunnels that went from Gaza into Israel, they would be able to withdraw and deal with the remaining rocket fire as it fell on Israel with the Iron Dome and with military action against the shooters of the rockets.

Right now, Israel is forced to stay in Gaza until they find the soldier and bring him home dead or alive. And that's going to require them to increase the military operations that they're already engaged in around the city of Rafah in the south part of the West Bank. This is why I think it's a game-changer, rather than de-escalation we're going to see escalation, we're going to see a lot more violence, civilian casualties and probably more Israeli casualties, as well.

BLITZER: You just heard the Hamas spokesman deny knowing anything about where this missing Israeli soldier is. What do you make of that?

BASKIN: Well, he was very careful in his words saying he didn't say that they did it or they didn't do it. He said he had no information which is not a surprise to me because I think that the military wing of Hamas which is functioning basically underground in Gaza doesn't have a lot of communication with Osama Hamdan (INAUDIBLE) right now, which is usually in Beirut, and with other spokespeople of the Palestinian Hamas leadership which are outside and out of touch with the people that are on ground doing the military battles of Hamas against Israel.

BLITZER: You worked very hard behind the scenes to broker that deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, that Israeli soldier who was held for five years. And Israel released some -- more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Do you see a similar scenario playing out this time?

BASKIN: No, I don't think there will be another Gilad Shalit negotiation as it was in the past. I think that the mood has changed in Israel entirely with regard to prisoner exchanges. And I think the situation is quite different because we have some 40,000 or 50,000 Israeli soldiers in Gaza right now and they're not going to leave without the soldier. So I don't think there's a negotiation on the table in the making at all. I think that Israel will refuse to negotiate with Hamas on this deal and they will use the military means they have to try and find the soldier.

BLITZER: Gershon Baskin, thanks very much for joining us. CEO of the Israeli/Palestinian Center for Research and Information.

Up next, President Obama speaks bluntly about U.S. actions in the wake of 9/11. Plus we have new details of the mission to bring two Americans stricken with Ebola back to the United States for treatment. We're live here in Jerusalem. And this is the SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem following the breaking news, the collapse of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

President Obama spoke about it just a little while ago back in Washington.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski was there. She has details. So tell our viewers what the president said -- Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. You know, this week, we heard some criticism from the White House of Israel. And that was surprising, but on this, on the breaking of this ceasefire, the White House comes down firmly on the side of Israel. The president saying that they unequivocally condemn Hamas for killing

Israeli soldiers virtually minutes after the ceasefire went into effect and said that Israel is entirely right to want to dismantle those tunnels from Gaza, adding, though, that there is a way of doing that to reduce the bloodshed at the same time and acknowledging the Palestinians also have a right to live their lives.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those are costs that are avoidable if we're able to get a ceasefire that preserves Israel's ability to defend itself and gives it the capacity to have an assurance that they're not going to be constantly threatened by rocket fire in the future and conversely, you know, an agreement that recognizes the Palestinian need to be able to make a living and the average Palestinian's capacity to live a decent life.


KOSINSKI: So how does a ceasefire happen now? Well, the president acknowledged it will be hard. He said there's a volatile mix of anger and despair. But that the U.S. will keep trying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He also spoke very bluntly, Michelle, about that controversial U.S. actions immediately after 9/11. Specifically what's called those enhanced interrogation techniques. Tell us what he said.

KOSINSKI: Right. I mean these are the strongest words we've heard so far on those techniques after September 11th. Listen.


OBAMA: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened.


KOSINSKI: And then he took it a step further. He said that he believes any like-minded person, any fair minded person would also feel that those methods were torture that they crossed a line and that the U.S. should take responsibility for them so that they don't happen again.

Now when he said that he sees there was a reason for this he explained that there was this sense of horror after the attacks and enormous pressures put on the National Security Team to deal with them. He also came down in full support of CIA director John Brennan even as this report is about to be released from the Senate that is very critical of CIA techniques -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're certainly right on that, Michelle. Thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the SITUATION ROOM special report on the broken truce, the captured Israeli soldier and this deepening crisis here in the Middle East.

But up next, we have other breaking news. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta's been to the hospital where two Americans infected with the Ebola virus will be brought for treatment.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem but we're also watching a number of breaking developments in the fast-spreading Ebola epidemic. CNN is being told that the first of two American Ebola patients probably will arrive in the United States tomorrow afternoon.

Here's CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The high stakes return of Ebola infected health care workers is underway. This Gulfstream jet equipped with an isolation pod touching down for refueling early Friday at this remote Portuguese air base in the Atlantic before continuing on to Liberia.

That's where Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol continue to fight for survival. Both are said to be in serious condition but evaluated to be stable enough to travel. They'll be brought to Emory University in Atlanta.

DR. BRUCE RIBNER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We have been informed that there will be in fact two patients ultimately coming to Emory. The first will come in the next several days and then a second patient will be coming a few days after that.

BROWN: Emory is one of four facilities in the U.S. with a highly specialized isolation unit to treat people with serious infectious diseases. The head of Centers for Disease Control tells CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta that the U.S. can treat the infected health care workers and contain any spread.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: What we'll ensure is that there is no risk of spread during the transportation process and then we'll be supporting Emory in their isolating the patients.

BROWN: Americans in the three Ebola-stricken countries are fleeing the epidemic after the U.S. government warned against nonessential travel. Like Jerrel Giliam, who cut short his research trip to Sierra Leone. The Penn State fellow talked to CNN from Sierra Leone's airport where he'd just gone through enhanced screening.

JERREL GILLIAM: As soon as you get into the arrivals area you are prompted to fill out a form asking if you've been showing any symptoms of Ebola over the last two weeks or so. After you fill out the form, a gentleman in full medical gear with a breathing mask and gloves looks at the form and then he takes your temperature.

BROWN: But the screening is not full proof. The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and the process heavily relies on the honor system. The CDC predicts it will take at least three month to contain the epidemic in West Africa and said in that time some 10,000 people will have traveled from those countries into the U.S.


BROWN: But none of the passengers returning will be tracked, so instead it will be up to the passengers to report to their health care provider if they're feeling any symptoms.

But again, Wolf, we expect that both of the Ebola stricken Americans to be on U.S. soil within the next few days with at least one of them here by tomorrow afternoon we're learning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown with that report. Thanks very much.

Let's get a little bit more now on the precautions to keep the Ebola virus from spreading to the United States.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us.

Sanjay, you visited the Emory University Hospital's top official today. Give us a sense of what is going on here from your perspective.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this doctor, Dr. Bruce Ribner, is the doctor we just spent time with. He is -- going to be the doctor-in-charge. You know, he got a call basically saying, can Emory accept two patients with the Ebola infection? He's never received a call like that before because Ebola has never been in the western hemisphere, never been in the United States. So it's quite a call for him to get.

We had a long discussion, Wolf, about all sorts of different things, his own concerns, what the other fears within the department. They pretty much say that they're ready and they're doing preparation. The unit is in lockdown right now. But I asked some specific questions about the why, why is this happening.

Take a listen.


GUPTA: People in Atlanta are really concerned and they're mainly concerned by saying look, we get it, we know that the risk is small. But it'd be even smaller if these patients did not come here. If you don't have anything magical to provide, why take the risk at all?

RIBNER: I think you've been in that part of the world and you know the level of care that can be delivered. These are Americans who went over there to supply humanitarian mission of medical care for these individuals. And our feeling is that they deserve the best medical care to try and resolve this infection that they can get.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: The best way that I think we can characterize it, Wolf, that they -- it's the same type of care, it's the support of care providing fluids, providing blood products. It's just the implementation of it is so much more rigorous here. And they have many more resources, Wolf. So that's what they think a place like this has to offer versus where those patients are now.

BLITZER: Let's hope that those patients are going to be OK. I know that Emory University Hospital, one of the best in the United States.

Sanjay, thanks very much for that.

Coming up, a SITUATION ROOM special report, the collapse of the latest truce, the missing Israeli soldier. Is there any hope for reviving peace talks -- humanitarian ceasefire at all? We've got full coverage.


BLITZER: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report, breaking news tonight. The U.S. joins Israel in blaming Hamas for shattering the ceasefire. Israel says one of its soldiers has been captured.

This could be the darkest hour yet in this deadly conflict. We're going to get live reaction from both sides as the devastation widens, the fighting rages and the death toll climbs.

Plus a stunning statement by President Obama, his strongest criticism yet of America's terror fighting tactics after 9/11.


OBAMA: But we tortured some folks.


BLITZER: 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: and the breaking news tonight, President Obama demanding the quick and unconditional release of a captured Israeli soldier to preserve any chance of ending the fighting and the bloodshed in Gaza.