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Netanyahu: Israel Goes Full Scale Against Hamas; George Mitchell Talks Mideast Peace; Ebola Infected Doctor Arrives in Atlanta; Netanyahu Says Israel Will Act on Security Needs; Tunnel Operation Stands in Way of Cease-Fire; Fate of Captured Israeli Soldier Unclear; Palestinians in Cease-Fire Talks in Cairo

Aired August 2, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report. Breaking news the Israeli prime minister declaring that an all-out assault on Hamas continues but says that troops will regroup after destroying the tunnels.

On the ground in Gaza as the devastation spreads we'll go live to the war zone. We'll hear words of defines from the leader of Hamas.

An Ebola patient arrives understand extraordinary conditions an American with a very dangerous virus infection is transferred from abroad to a special isolation facility in Atlanta.

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."

We're covering every angle of the increasingly bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing only a little while ago that Hamas will pay what he calls an intolerable price if it keeps firing rockets into Israel. Fifty people are reportedly killed today in Gaza. Israel is accusing Palestinian militants of seizing an Israeli soldier. The fate of that soldier identified by the Israel defense forces as second Lieutenant Hadar Godin remains unclear. Just a little while ago the world watched as Netanyahu lashed out at Hamas calling the group, "murderous terrorists."


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through a translator): Many in the world understand what is Hamas. The organization which together with Qatar promised the American secretary of state, Mr. Kerry and the Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki-moon cease-fire and actually deceived both of them. Terrorism does not have borders. Today it threatens Israel. Tomorrow it will threaten your countries. I would like to stress once more we have nothing against the peaceful citizens of Gaza. We are very sorry for every and each citizen who was hurt or killed during this operation. We encourage the international organizations, international system, to help and support the rebuilding of Gaza together with the disarmament of the terrorists in Gaza. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Netanyahu says he will do everything possible to bring that captured Israeli soldier back home safely. Hamas meanwhile is slamming the prime minister's latest remarks. A senior Hamas leading telling CNN Netanyahu's statement is an admission of failure, defeat and confusion.

I want on bring in our correspondent John Vause who is joining us from Gaza City right now. John, you are getting more reaction from Hamas. What else are you learning?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we went down to the main hospital here that's because that's one area in Gaza where there is still electricity. We've been without power now for five days. Many gathered around satellite trucks so they could hear and look at the prime minister as he made that statement within the last couple of hours. And there was sort of like a resignation. Many people there said, well, this is just more of the same. We've heard this before. There was some hope that maybe there would be an announcement coming from Mr. Netanyahu that this was all coming to an end, that there would be some kind of unilateral withdrawal, but that did not happen.

Others said, you know, bring this on, let's keep this war going, until we get something out of it, we want something to show for all of the dead and for all of the destruction here in Gaza. And we have seen some troop movements here in Gaza in the north. We know that the Israelis have started to pull back there. The IDF allowing Gaza residents to return to what is left of their homes. But even then, Wolf, people aren't rushing back. A few people are going back to have a look. But for the most part they're staying away and we're told they're too scared to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the general mood there, because, you know, as we're hearing these reports that some Israeli troops are beginning to withdraw from Gaza now that those Hamas tunnels seem to be, at least most of them, destroyed. Is there a sense, though, that in the coming days maybe they'll be able to go back to their homes at least in the northern part of Gaza, John?

VAUSE: Well, certainly that is happening right now. And there is some reports coming from Palestinians that Israeli forces around the town called Unis (ph) are also starting to move back towards the Israeli border. That is not confirmed by the Israeli military as yet. But we also know that -- remains a close military zone. As Israel continues to search for that missing soldier and there has been a lot of fighting in the south as Israel continues to look for that soldier. Overall we're told by Palestinian officials here that the death toll has now passed 1,700.

Almost 9,000 people have been wounded. But have to admit this is an area which is incredibly shallow. We're getting some really disturbing numbers coming through from the U.N. They are telling us 10,000 homes have been destroyed. They're saying there's an outbreak of diarrhea and scabies in those U.N. refugee shelters. We're told that about a quarter of the population has now been displaced. They're warning that water is simply running low. There's not enough here to drink and they are warning that unless something is done soon that this will be a humanitarian disaster -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Vause reporting for us from Gaza City. Thanks, John, very much.

Let's get some Israeli reaction to what's going on in Gaza. Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister of Israel is joining us right now. It's pretty alarming that the United Nations is saying that, you know, widespread disease could erupt in Gaza within a matter of, what, days. So, what can Israel do to alleviate that?

MARK REGEV, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER SPOKESMAN: Well, we agreed -- as you know, Wolf, we agreed to a three-days cease-fire for humanitarian purposes. It had all been organized by Secretary Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Secretary Kerry of the United States and we were told as of yesterday morning we were supposed to start a three-day humanitarian cease-fire for the people of Gaza so that they could receive the immediate and important humanitarian support that they so badly need. Who torpedoed that? Hamas that deliberately undermined and destroyed the cease-fire. And so I think if there's a terrible humanitarian situation there in Gaza there is only one address for that complaint and that is Hamas that destroyed the chance of a humanitarian cease-fire that would have allowed aid to reach the people of Gaza immediately.

BLITZER: Hamas is part of a Palestinian delegation that's now in Cairo getting ready to meet with Egyptian officials to talk about a cease-fire. I take it no Israeli delegation is going even though the Egyptian government invited an Israeli delegation. So, why not send a delegation to Cairo to see if maybe those cease-fire negotiations can be revived?

REGEV: You know, we've had since this crisis started, we've had seven attempts to negotiate a cease-fire indirectly with Hamas through the United Nations, through the Egyptians, through others. And every time it fails. Either Hamas outright rejects the cease-fire or Hamas violates the cease-fire and continues shooting at Israel and we've had as you know more than 3,000 rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. So, Hamas has to understand a cease-fire means they also cease-fire and they haven't got it yet.

BLITZER: But maybe they'll change their mind. Is it worth a try?

REGEV: Well, you know, we've been waiting quite a long time. The truth is, I think the most people disappointed with Hamas are those diplomats people like John Kerry, people like Ban Ki-moon who put in the time and the effort and then just have Hamas slam the door in their face. Let me be clear here. Israel is currently conducting a military come pain against Hamas to stop those missiles, to deal with the tunnels. But I think if you look at what we're doing is see we're already vacating parts of the Gaza Strip where we've completed the operations.

BLITZER: Withdrawing troops.

REGEV: We're redeploying where we've taken out tunnel, where we've destroyed missiles and other Hamas terror targets. We are pulling back, redeploying. Ultimately it's quite possible that understanding that Hamas is not a partner for any sort of arrangement that Israel will act to defend itself, that we will redeploy in positions that we can defend our people, and we'll have to see if Hamas wants to continue shooting rockets into Israel, Hamas will pay the price.

BLITZER: It sounds like a humanitarian nightmare potentially could develop for 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.

REGEV: And it's the last thing that Israel wanted and that's why we did agree to this humanitarian cease-fire but what can we do? How can we have a cease-fire if Hamas keeps shooting rockets into Israel? A cease-fire means Hamas to also cease fire and that's something that they just don't seem to understand. Repeatedly they have torpedoed, they have thrown away chances for humanitarian cease-fires supported by the U.N. supported by the Red Cross.

BLITZER: Do you think the new Egyptian government, President al-Sisi, this Palestinian delegation is now in Cairo can convince them to accept a cease-fire and if they do, would Israel follow suit?

REGEV: I think at the moment we are banking on our own moves. Once again, we're finishing up the operation against the tunnels. That's crucial for Israel because those tunnels are really like a knife on our neck and we have to remove that knife because those tunnels are a strategic threat to the people of Israel. So, that's being finished as we speak. We've been dealing with the rockets and the other terror targets in Gaza. We can when it's the right time for us redeploy as I say take up positions that we can protect ourselves against aggression by Hamas, against the terrorist attacks and hopefully we can achieve some sort of stability and if not, if Hamas continues to attack, so we'll continue to act against Hamas to defend our people.

BLITZER: And if Hamas stop sending rockets and missiles into Israel, you will --

REGEV: Of course. If we've dealt with the rockets, if we've dealt with the tunnels, if we have redeployed and Hamas keeps the border quiet, that's a new ball game.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, a spokesman for the prime minister, thanks very much for joining us.

Later this hour, we're going to hear from the Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, he tells CNN's Nic Robertson why he believes Israeli troops shouldn't be allowed to stay in Gaza at all to destroy tunnels or anything else.

Also, ahead I'll talk about the difficulties of negotiating peace in the Middle East, with the former U.S. special envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: One man who knows firsthand the very difficult challenges of pursuing Middle East peace is the former U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. He served more than two years as President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, that service followed his 15 years as the United States senator from Maine and in his post-Senate role as the architect of the so-called Good Friday accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland. Senator Mitchell is joining us now live.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. So, what do you believe it's going to take, first and foremost, right now to simply stop the fighting, stop the killing, and get some sort of peaceful environment at least for a short time?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY: Well, I think the combination of the two events ongoing today, Wolf, one which you've been reporting continuously may lead to that, Prime Minister Netanyahu used the word regroup. That was at least the English translation of what he said. And you've also reported on Israeli troops beginning to withdraw from Northern Gaza. At the same time in Cairo, the Egyptian government officials are meeting with various Palestinian groups, and hopefully, although the two events are occurring separately, they will combine to produce some lull in the fighting that will take hold and end the violence and hopefully enable the restoration of some calm.

BLITZER: What I'm told, senator, and you know the region well, is that the Egyptian government right now, the new Egyptian government of President al-Sisi, they're going to try to convince this Palestinian delegation which consists of the Palestinian authority but also includes members of Hamas, Islamic jihad, some of the other Palestinian factions that they have to stop the fighting right now. They have to have some sort of humanitarian cease-fire so that at least people in Gaza can have a chance to regroup, if you will, and then you can start dealing with some of the major issues affecting the Palestinians in Gaza. Here's the question. Is Egypt -- does Egypt have enough influence with the Palestinians to at least convince them to accept a cease-fire and stop launching rockets into Israel?

MITCHELL: Well, you can make an argument, Wolf, whether or not it's persuasive, I don't know, that Hamas, while it's been unable to achieve its ultimate objective, that is, a withdrawal of Israeli forces combined with an end to the blockade, that's really what they're after. They've achieved some political legitimacy. If you go back just a few weeks ago, they were at a relatively low point in terms of internal Palestinian politics in comparison with the arrival of President Abbas, the Palestinian authority, and the Fatah party. The fighting has now tended to reverse that circumstance, although at great cost to the people of Gaza.

Israel, on the other hand, has also been unable to achieve its ultimate objective which is the removal of Hamas and the end of any threat to Israel's security from Gaza, although it has severely degraded Hamas' military capability at the moment. So, I think an argument could be made to both sides that you can't get your ultimate objective now, you've made some significant gains in one case from a security standpoint, in the other from a political standpoint, so why not end the violence now and permit a period of calm to take hold. Then we'll see what happens. As you know, Wolf, you're there and you know the region very well, this is the third round of fighting of this type in the past five years. And the hope is that this will be the last one, although that's a very difficult thing to predict at this time.

BLITZER: What should the U.S. role be right now? What should the president of the United States, the secretary of state, what should they be doing?

MITCHELL: I think he should be encouraging independently the two sides to move in the manner that I've just suggested. Wolf, I do want to make one point here, that it's been repeated all over and over again about criticism of Secretary Kerry and the failure of the United States to bring about an end to this conflict. The United States as the dominant military and economic power has unparalleled opportunity to influence events around the world, but we do not have, and I don't think ever will have, the ability to completely control events around the world.

We have to do the best we can to support those and the people and the principles which are consistent with ours to end suffering and help people where we can. But we can't dictate to everybody exactly what they can, cannot, will or will not do. And so I think we have to keep that in mind as the administration pursues the objective of first trying to end the fighting and the misery. Then do the things I've suggested in addition to providing some assistance to the beleaguered and desperate people of Gaza. That I think is also a high priority for the administration.

BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. Always good to have you here on CNN.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the Middle East situation coming up in a little while.

But also coming up we're following other breaking news. An American infected with nightmare virus is now back on U.S. soil, but does bringing him back more put more people at risk?

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're live here in Jerusalem. We're following all the breaking news in Israel as well as Gaza.

But there's other breaking news we're following as well including an American patient who was infected with one of the deadliest viruses in the world, Ebola. That patient has now touched down in Atlanta. He was whisked inside Emory University Hospital. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is on the scene for us.

Sanjay, let's take a look at the video, again, of Kent Brantly as he was brought in an ambulance and he brought over to the Emory University Hospital, a hospital you know quite well. You perform surgery there. How did it all look to you? How did it go down?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was quite a logistically, you know, impressive feat, you know, obviously the plane himself bringing him back and then the ambulance picking him up at the Air Force Base, Wolf, I'm not sure what images we're looking, you are seeing right now. But I was pretty struck by the fact that Dr. Brantly was able to get off the ambulance sort of his own power there, just sort of walked off. He had some assistance obviously. I think when he got inside they may have put him in a wheelchair to wheel him up to the containment unit. We know that in days past his condition had been described as grave.

And just before he took off to come here -- been talking to a few doctors about that. They say that, you know, patients with the Ebola infection can have ups and downs that are pretty considerable. A considerable amount of flux. We heard he was even able to shower, take a shower in Liberia before he got on the plane. So that bodes well for him medically. He's likely to respond better to the treatments here given that he seems to be in better shape I think than most people already predicted. But the feat of getting him here, Wolf, was quite extraordinary and it seemed to all come together.

BLITZER: How much risk were the doctors, the nurses, the others who are helping him, how much risk did they really have to go through?

GUPTA: Well (audio gap) body fluid from the patient, were to get on someone else's skin, that could be a source of infection. And, Wolf, we talked about this, but even a small amount, just even a droplet getting on someone's skin could potentially be a problem. That's why they wear these suits, that's why he was in sort of this bubble if you will on board the jet that was bringing him back from Liberia, so I think the risk is pretty small. Also, Wolf, what's important to point out that this is not airborne as well unlike the flu.

People here in Atlanta I know monitoring social media and other outlets, people have a lot of concerns here. And you can see why this would strike fear into people. But I think the real risk is so small of anybody in the general public getting sick. The health care workers, obviously they're the most at risk. They just have to be extraordinarily careful when dealing with this patient.

BLITZER: There's no known cure. There's no real therapies I take it for Ebola. So what are they going to do? How are they going to treat this Dr. Brantly?

GUPTA: That's a great question, Wolf. And, you know, there is no magic pill here or panacea awaiting him because there is nothing approved yet. A couple of things. One is if you think about how you can treat patients with these types of infections, what you are really counting on the body ultimately is going to fight the infection. You've got to support the body in the interim. The body is losing fluid. You give fluid back. Body is bleeding. You replace some of that blood. Those are the -- that's what supportive therapy is all about. Certainly they can do that to a degree in the field in Liberia, implement it much more -- and strongly here in a big hospital in the United States.

As you heard, Wolf, 60 percent to 90 percent, but that was always because of the patients getting care in remote villages. The doctors here have strongly believe that they can improve on those statistics at a big hospital here. I should also say, there are a couple of experimental vaccines, Wolf. We know that the doctors here have been in touch with the doctors at the NIH, the FDA, I just spoke with Anthony, Dr. Fauci, this is well from the NIH. There is a possibility that one of those experimental vaccines could be made available for these two missionary workers. Not sure yet, but that's another option as well.

BLITZER: Yes. And unfortunately it's awful, awful, awful virus. I think about 14 or 1,500 people have come down with it and seven or 800 of them have already died. So, it's a really deadly, deadly virus. Sanjay, thanks very much. Sanjay Gupta our chief medical correspondent reporting for us outside of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Still ahead, the leader of Hamas now speaking directly to CNN about why leaving Israeli troops in Gaza during the cease-fire in his words was, quote, his word was unacceptable. Tell you what he had to say. We're live here in Jerusalem. This is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We're here in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the world, told his country, that the Israeli military will, in his word, "regroup after it destroys all the tunnels in Gaza." He suggests that that task is almost done but says the battle will go on until Israel can guarantee quiet for its people.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: (through translation): We'll continue to operate until this goal will be reached, no matter how much time it will take and how much force it will take.


BLITZER: Netanyahu said he wants a diplomatic solution to end the nearly month-old conflict but Israel will act based on its security needs, he says, and only its security needs.

Let's bring back John Vause. He's at Gaza City for us.

John, there have been reports of Israeli troops starting to withdraw from Gaza. I'm told that some Israeli forces are moving out because they think they've almost completed the destruction of those tunnels going from Gaza into Israel. But what are you hearing there on the ground?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that certainly is the case, especially in the north of Gaza around the areas that were declared closed military zones, which meant the residents had to leave while they carried out those military exercises to search not just for the tunnels, but also for the rocket launchers and the storage area for weapons. Earlier, on Saturday, a message went out to the Palestinians who lived there that, by 2:00 local time, they would be allowed to return to whatever might be left of their homes. Many people, though, seemed reluctant to do that. A few have done that. Others are staying away at least for the time being. And also the word that maybe Israeli troops are redeploying, according to Palestinian witnesses, and that's confirmed by Israelis at this point.

Many people here did, in fact, get to watch the speech by the Israeli prime minister. Some gathered at the hospital, because it still has electricity. It's running off generators. There are satellite trucks there. People gathered in and watched the prime minister as he made this speech, not just to the Israelis but I guess to the Palestinians as well. Many were disappointed. They said this is just more of the same. They've heard it all before. And others were resigned. And some, though, said that, despite the bloodshed, despite the violence, despite everything they've gone through, they are still standing with Hamas.


UNIDENTIFIED PALESTINIAN (through translation): Netanyahu and all the Israelis no matter what they do to Gaza, no matter if they end the operation or not, we remain steadfast and we stand by the resistance and with all of its demands.


VAUSE: And, Wolf, just keep this in mind, this has been a relatively quiet day at least from our point of view but the operations continue in Rafah as they look for the missing Israeli soldier. The latest death toll Saturday alone from the Gaza health ministry, 112 people killed.

BLITZER: John Vause reporting for us from Gaza City. John, thanks very much. We'll get back to you.

The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says any full-scale military action will continue until all those tunnels from Gaza into Israel are destroyed. But according to the leader of Hamas, the tunnel operation is what's standing in the way of any significant cease-fire.

Nic Robertson is our senior international correspondent. He traveled to Doha, Qatar, where the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, lives in exile. Nic joins us live from Abu Dhabi.

You had an interview and Khaled Meshaal. He laid out his conditions for a cease-fire. Give us the upshot, Nic. What did he say about stopping the fighting with Israel in Gaza?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, he said, look, a humanitarian cease-fire, pause, is something that's pretty easy to do. He said tht he was ready for that but he does have pretty tough and hard-to-reach conditions for Israel to achieve for their -- for Hamas to stop their rocket firing and to stop their military activities. He said absolutely Hamas will stop their rocket firing, but he said that Israel needs to relieve the pressure, relieve the blockade of the borders of Gaza. He wants the airport open. He wants access to the sea. He said he wants the people of Gaza to be able to lead normal lives, as everyone else does around the rest of the world. Those are terms and conditions we've heard before. They've not been acceptable before, but that's what he says is on the table. He sent a team to Cairo to deal with that.

But it was interesting what he said about the breakdown in the cease- fire that ended this 72-hour truce before it had barely begun. Hamas had been blamed for breaking the truce. I put that to him. And this is what he said.


ROBERTSON: There was a very clear understanding that Israel would be able to, during that truce, destroy the tunnels, and that's what they say they were doing. They say that you broke the cease-fire by coming out and attacking their soldiers. They were only doing what was agreed in the truce. They blame you.

KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS LEADER (through translation): The Israelis have told Mr. Kerry this, but we refused this Israeli position. And we told that to Mr. Kerry, and you can even check with him. We told him through the Qatari foreign minister that the Israeli position is unacceptable. This is because a truce is a truce. But the presence of the Israeli forces inside Gaza and destroying the tunnels means it is an aggression because they are inside the Gaza territories. Therefore, we told Mr. Kerry that the Palestinian resistance has the right to self-defense and the right to deal with the invading Israeli forces who are inside our Gaza territories with the necessary means. We did not deceive Mr. John Kerry and we did not deceive the Israelis. We fight honorably. We told everyone that this is our position. Therefore, they are the ones who should be responsible for this. Mr. Kerry listened to our position carefully.


ROBERTSON: Yeah, his point there that he had said -- Hamas had said in advance that the terms that Israel would stay and continue to destroy tunnels was not acceptable to them. That was his position.

I asked him about the missing soldier, again, he said, well, we've heard that the unit that was involved in that clash that killed two other Israeli soldiers and that potentially abducted the second lieutenant, he said their whereabouts were unknown. I said what are you saying that, therefore, we should just believe that he is dead at this stage? He said, no, if this unit reports back to us, then we will have more information. But he categorically would not say that Hadar Goldin is, in fact, dead. He would not say that -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah. There's a big mystery about the fate of Hadar Goldin, the Israeli second lieutenant, who is missing, and the Israelis are searching for him.

Nic, I checked. This is what John Kerry said. After the U.S. and the U.N. issued that announcement about the cease-fire, Kerry, at that statement that he made -- he was still in New Delhi, India. He said flatly, "Neither side will advance beyond current locations. They will stay in place. Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for tunnels behind its lines." That's what John Kerry said after the agreement for that 72-hour cease-fire was issued. So, I guess Kerry assumed that Hamas was on board because everybody -- he said all parties had agreed to that.

I assume you pressed Khalid Meshaal on what John Kerry himself said.

ROBERTSON: Yeah, what he said -- obvious -- he's very clear. He says we're not talking directly to John Kerry. We're talking through the Qatari, through the Qatari foreign minister. He said Hamas had passed back the message that they do not accept that Israel can be in Gaza destroying tunnels as part of the truce. He said a truce is a truce, and that position was not acceptable to them, and they wouldn't accept it and they made that very clear. Again, this sort of sounds -- when you push this issue, it sounds like there's been a misunderstanding somehow, because he believes, if you go to John Kerry and ask him what he heard from Hamas, that John Kerry heard from Hamas, then it would all become very clear. So, he firmly believes this position, Wolf, that Hamas was clear, that what the Israelis wanted was not an acceptable part of a 72-hour truce that, otherwise, they were prepared to go along with and were going along with -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah, because in Kerry's statement, he clearly differentiated between what he called offensive military activities by the parties, which were unacceptable, but then he said Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for tunnels behind its lines. So, clearly, you're right. There probably was some ambiguity there. And Meshaal saying to you he never bought into that, he told the Qataris, but maybe there was miscommunication as they conveyed it to the secretary of state, the U.N. secretary-general. We'll try to figure it out, because it's obviously an important and sensitive issue.

Much more of your interview will be airing tomorrow on "Fareed Zakaria, GPS." We'll look forward to that. It's 10:00 a.m. eastern in the United States and, indeed, around the world.

Nic Robertson, good work.

Nic has just wrapped up an interview with Khaled Meshaal, who is now in Abu Dhabi, but he was in Doha, Qatar.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would, quote, "Do everything to bring our kidnapped soldier home." Coming up, we're going to talk about his options. What, really, are they?

We're live here in Jerusalem and this is a "Situation Room" special report.


BLITZER: We're back live here in Jerusalem, where the fate of a missing Israeli soldier remains unclear right now, Second Lieutenant, Hadar Goldin. Israel believes he was kidnapped by Hamas militants during an attack in which two Israeli soldiers were killed.

I want to bring Gershon Baskin. He was the initiator of a secret back channel used to negotiate the release of another captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years by Hamas in Gaza. Gershon is also the former advisor to two former Israeli prime ministers. He founded the Israeli/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Gershon, compare the case of Gilad Shalit and Hadar Goldin. Give us your analysis of these two very different, maybe very similar, cases.

GERSHON BASKIN, CEO & FOUNDER, ISRAELI/PALESTINE CENTER FOR RESEARCH AND INFORMATION: I think they're very different. The case of Gilad Shalit was an across-boundary raid into Israel to an Israeli army base back in 2006 where an attack was made on an Israeli tank. And at the end of that battle, two soldiers were killed and they abducted one soldier and carried him off to Gaza. Israel had left Gaza the year before, disengaged from Gaza, as they called it, and removed all the army and settlements from Gaza, and this was a surprise attack across the Israeli sovereign borders.

In the current case, in the midst of a war taking place with 40,000 or 50,000 Israeli troops within the Gaza Strip, this is obviously part of the strategic goals of Hamas, was to abduct an Israeli soldier, at least an Israeli soldier as a big prize in their battle against the mighty Israeli army. This is one of the tactics that they can use without having the air power and the tanks and the artillery that Israel has. One of the ways that they've learned they can hit Israel well is by abducting a soldier.

Israel, at the end of the day, with Shalit, had to negotiate a prisoner release because there was no military solution. I would say with the case of Hadar Goldin. with so many Israeli troops in Gaza, the city of Rafah being surrounded by the Army and the army going into the city row by row of buildings checking every house and every building, knocking a lot of them down at the same time, they are in a completely different position to try and at least relieve this issue through a military option.

BLITZER: And what do you make of the fact that no one has claimed responsibility on the Palestinian side, whether Hamas, Islamic jihad or any other faction, for that matter, that they say they have him right now? What should we read into that, if anything?

BASKIN: Well, there are a couple of things. There was a very curious announcement earlier yesterday morning from one of the senior Hamas people located in Cairo, in which he said they had abducted an Israeli soldier. And he also mentioned the name of the soldier. A few hours later, or even less than that, he released another statement in which he said he was wrong and he corrected himself and said we have no information about the soldier, sorry. He's originally from Rafah, the city that's -- where the attack took place. And apparently, he did have some information. It is likely that Hamas leadership outside has no contact with the

cell that did the attack and captured the soldier. It could be that the soldier and the people who abducted him were killed in an Israeli attack trying to find him. It could be that the cell is alive and well and they're completely cut off and have no way of getting out or making contact with the outside world. And it could also be, from a psychological warfare point of view, that Hamas enjoys the situation of creating this confusion, this ambiguity, of creating the anxiety within Israel. The soldier's family's appeared in a press conference before the whole Israeli nation today, and every member of the family spoke. It's already a personal kind of contact between the people of Israel and the family and the soldier. And this lack of knowledge creates that anxiety that they hope will raise the price for his return.

BLITZER: And do you think anything will emerge positively from the Palestinian delegation that's now in Cairo meeting with Egyptian officials, including representatives of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic jihad. Israel's not going to Cairo, at least for now. Anything positive could emerge from those talks?

BASKIN: I don't think so. I think that Israel has decided that it's not going to accept any kind of negotiated deal that Hamas will be part of. Israel is certainly willing to talk with the Palestinian Authority, with Abbas, and with the Egyptian president, el Sisi, but they're not willing to make any deal now that involves Hamas directly. So I think there's a value in Mahmoud Abbas being able to represent the Palestinian position to the Egyptians so that the Egyptians can work out some sort of deal with Israel, but it won't be a negotiated agreement that Israel is part of.

BLITZER: To recap the headlines that I've been reporting now, Israel believes most of those tunnels from Gaza into Israel now have been destroyed and, as a result, they have already started withdrawing some of their troops from Gaza. They are about to enter, I'm told, a new phase in the operation. We will see what that is.

Gershon Baskin, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Go ahead, Gershon. You have another point you want to make?

BASKIN: I want to issue a point. I think I would prefer to call it redeploying. They are pulling some troops out, but military activities around the city and area of Rafah are intensifying. And they will continue to intensify until they find this soldier or learn what happened to the soldier.

BLITZER: Yeah, that is in the south. But in the northern part of Gaza, they are beginning to redeploy, or "regroup," which is the translated word that the prime minister used at the news conference earlier today.

Gershon, thanks as usual for joining us.

Egypt says its cease-fire plan offers a real chance to stop the bloodshed in Gaza. Up next, we are going to Cairo.

This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.






BLITZER: We're back here live in Jerusalem. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting.

And we're following all the latest developments in Israel, Gaza, Cairo, elsewhere.

Let's go to Cairo right now. CNN's Reza Sayah is standing by.

Reza, a so-called unified Palestinian negotiating team has arrived in Cairo with cease-fire talks with Egyptian leaders. What do we know? I'm told also that no formal Israeli delegation is coming to participate, at least not now. What do they realistically hope to achieve?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Wolf. One side is here, the Palestinians. The Israelis are not. According to state media, a five-member delegation representing the Palestinians arrived overnight. They represented the Fatah movement as well as representatives of Palestinian intelligence agencies. It is not clear if representatives from the Hamas and Islamic jihad have arrived yet.

But the bottom line, if you want to have negotiations in the conflict, you need the other side to be here. Israel has made it clear, at this point, they are not prepared to make this trip to Cairo and sit down across from the Palestinian representatives. I think a lot of people were eager to see what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would say in his speech, in his statement. Would he suggest that Israel is considering reviving these truce talks? That hasn't happened.

We should also point out that earlier today, Egyptian President al Sisi held a news conference. In that conference, he mentioned the Egyptian peace proposal, the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. He said that is the best way to move forward. But you will recall back on July 14th, Hamas rejected that proposal, saying that they had not been consulted. So no truce talks at this point. No indication that they will be revived anytime. But a lot of people still hopeful.

BLITZER: Let's see if the Egyptians can do something in these talks with the Palestinians.

Thanks very much. Reza Sayah, in Cairo for us.

Much more of our special coverage of the crisis in the Middle East coming up. I'll speak with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ereket, and also with Dori Gold, a senior foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Lots more of the breaking news right after this.