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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. General Killed in Afghanistan; U.S.-Africa Summit; Another Edward Snowden at Work?; Truce Holding Between Israel, Hamas; Israeli Government Official Responds to Hamas Remark; Explosions Near City Center; Second American Ebola Victim Arrives in U.S.
Aired August 5, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Plus, first on CNN, sources reveal a new mole in the federal government who is believed to be exposing national security secrets. Could this be on the scale of the NSA leaker scandal?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to breaking news, the highest ranking American killed in this country's longest war, a U.S. major general gunned down in a military training facility in Kabul by a man believed to be an Afghan soldier.
We just learned his identity, and he's Major General Harold Greene. Eight other Americans are among the wounded. Stand by for new details on the attack.
It's driving home the very dangerous situation in Afghanistan as the U.S. mission winds down after more than a decade of war, billions and billions of dollars spent and more than 2,000 American deaths. Our correspondents are standing by. We're covering breaking news in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and around the world.
But first, let's go to chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, for the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, every death on the battlefield is followed by the sad task of notifying family.
We're told that that task is complete, the family of Major General Harold Greene informed of his death today. The shooter, an Afghan soldier, one of thousands the U.S. has been training there in this attack, now claiming the most senior American officer since the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was a brazen attack killing the most senior U.S. officer since 9/11. It began with a routine trip to Afghanistan's premier training facility for Afghan military officers. A delegation of senior American and coalition officers was visiting
the Marshal Fahim National Defense University outside Kabul when disaster struck. An Afghan soldier opened fire with a Russian-made light machine gun, a U.S. general was killed. Fifteen coalition soldiers, including eight Americans were injured, some seriously. Forces responded killing the shooter.
Pentagon officials tell CNN the shooter was an Afghan soldier who had been with his unit for some time, and had completed a rigorous seven- step vetting process to ensure he was not a Taliban fighter.
(on camera): We're months away from the U.S. handing over security responsibility for Afghanistan to Afghan forces like these. Does this undermine your confidence in their ability to take over that role?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The Afghan national security forces continue to perform at a very strong level of competence and confidence and warfare capability. They have had a good year securing not one but two national elections.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): So-called "green on blue" attacks when Afghan soldiers attack their coalition partners have been an ongoing and grave problem for the U.S. and coalition forces. After peaking in 2012, coalition death interests such attacks dipped last year in, part due to new security measure. But today's attack made clear the risk remains.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: As we turn more and more of the security responsibilities for these installations over to Afghan troops, I think the risk will rise because since we don't control who the Afghans assign to these duties, it is very easy for the Taliban to infiltrate these people. As we draw down our force, the chances for this to happen increases, not decreases.
SCIUTTO (on camera): I also asked Admiral Kirby whether attacks like this have eroded the trust between U.S. soldiers and their Afghan partners. He said actually, in his words, it's getting better and better. The numbers support that to some degree, green on blue attacks peaked in 2012 and they have come down significantly since then. But Kirby also made the point the measures they've taken to reduce the risk, they only mitigate the risk, they don't eliminate it. And, Jake, as you and I both know very well, Afghanistan is still very much a battlefield.
SCIUTTO: Officers of this rank would normally travel with a security detail. The military has also deployed so-called guardian angels in response to this very threat, and instituted other changes as well, allowing U.S. forces, for instance, to carry their own weapons into Afghan ministries.
While these steps and others have greatly reduced this kind of attack in the last two years, Wolf, they have not eliminated them. As officials keep telling me, Afghanistan very much still a battlefield.
BLITZER: Certainly is.
All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Let's go our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has traveled with the U.S. military brass to Afghanistan. She has been to these training camps.
Barbara, tell us what it is like when you go into Afghanistan. You are hanging out, let's say, with a two-star general.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Wolf, on this level these generals often -- they do have security details around them. But often they ask them to move back just a little bit. They want to be with the Afghan soldiers. Very much what the U.S. military wants right now is that side-by-side profile. They are training the Afghans. They are side by side with them in this fight.
You will find from the most junior soldier to the most highest ranking officer, they are right alongside them. What we don't know in this case is where exactly the general's security detail was. How many people were standing there? Did they still have their helmets and vests on or did they feel so safe at this training compound, which they often do, they might have gone inside, gotten out of their vehicles and taken off their helmets and vests?
That's a possibility we do not know. These are some of the questions that investigators will be looking at. What you find with these officers is, is this fundamental issue they want to show that there is trust, trust between the U.S. troops and their Afghan counterparts. But this is a very difficult situation. If someone wants to engage in an act of violence, it may in some cases just not be something that they are able to stop.
BLITZER: We saw you walking on that video with General Eikenberry back in 2006.
An incident like this where a soldier who may have been aligned with Taliban or al Qaeda, we don't know, we don't know the information, it is certainly going to undermine any confidence that remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan might have. About 30,000 there right now. Supposed to go to 10,000 or so by the end of the year.
STARR: This becomes something even more difficult, when you look ahead. You look at that video. We walk through towns and villages with top generals. We have done it, all of us, many of us at CNN, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, General Petraeus, General McChrystal, General Eikenberry.
These are the most senior guys and they want to show trust. They take off their helmet, they take off the their vest and you go walking through a town. The security is there, but not terribly visible. It's back just a little bit. But now as we come down to having just a few thousand troops in Afghanistan, how much more difficult is this, because the troops are much more isolated, if you will, for them to go out of their bases, to walk around like this. There are so few U.S. troops. And they all have to have some level of security with them.
Armored vehicles, security forces, military police. It is going to be very tough in the months ahead to maintain the level of security and get out and about as much as they may want to, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure it'll be. Barbara Starr, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now on the U.S. major general who was killed in that ambush in Afghanistan today.
Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been looking into this part of this development.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, General Greene was a very respected, highly decorated career Army man. He was commissioned as an engineer officer 34 years ago. He has been rising in the ranks ever since to take his most recent post, helping lead the military transition in Afghanistan.
MAJ. GEN. HAROLD GREENE, U.S. ARMY: Certainly we all know we have a change in times, change in strategy.
BROWN (voice-over): Major General Harold Greene speaking here at an Army symposium last year, now the highest ranking American officer to be killed in the war on terror since 9/11.
The highly decorated two-star general had been helping the Afghan soldiers take over the reins from coalition forces in Afghanistan when he was shot dead today by one of those Afghan soldiers.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today's tragic incident is a painful reminder that our service men and women are still serving and sacrificing in Afghanistan. And they are facing significant risks to protect our country and to protect American citizens all around the globe.
BROWN: The New York state native, a husband and father, devoted most of his life to the Army. Promoted to the prestigious rank of a two- star in 2012, his wife and daughter by his side. Greene's wife, a colonel in the Army, pinning two fresh stars on her husband's soldier at his promotion ceremony.
She's a professor at the Army War College in Pennsylvania. Greene, a former cadet in the Army ROTC who earned two master's and a Ph.D in engineering, was the deputy commanding general for combined security transition command in Afghanistan.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Secretary Hagel extends on behalf of the men and women of this department his heartfelt condolences, his thoughts and his prayers to all those affected by this tragedy, most especially the family of our fallen soldier. BROWN: Colleagues describe the Army veteran as a man of wisdom,
humility and dedication.
EARNEST: The thoughts and prayers of those of us here at the White House are with the family of the general, are with soldiers and the family of those who were injured in this attack.
BROWN: And an official at the Pentagon says General Greene was an expert in infrastructure improvement and a true leader in the training command over in Afghanistan. Wolf, we do know his family was notified by the U.S. military some time today he had been killed in this attack on the military training academy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences to his family. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and Vali Nasr. He is a former State Department senior adviser, and he's now the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University here in Washington.
When you heard this, Vali, earlier today that a two-star major general was killed probably by an Afghan soldier, at what is being called the West Point of Afghanistan, you have been there, you served the country. What did you think?
VALI NASR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It's bad news, largely because we are putting a lot of stock on the discipline within the Afghan military as our exit strategy from Afghanistan.
We are telling the Afghan people they should trust this military. We are telling the American people they should trust this military. When something like this happens, in the least, it creates a crisis of confidence for Afghans and us. Obviously we want to minimize how widespread this is. But this is a sign of worry.
BLITZER: This is an enormous problem for the U.S. because the Obama administration, the president wants U.S. troops out of there from 30,000 now to 10,000 at the end of the year and zero in 2016.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
As Vali said, not only is there this lack of trust now in these -- there's been a lot of talk about that these Afghan forces are not trained, that there's been infiltration. In April the Pentagon came out with a report that says the so-called green on blue attacks are decreasing, but they are still happening.
And this is really eroding a lot of the trust. In this symbolic place, Wolf, as you said, West Point of training the Afghan military, if the U.S. forces are not safe to train them there, if they can't be trained, they're still rocked by illiteracy, lack of training, trust, professionalism, there is so much more to do before the U.S. troops are going to be withdrawn.
And that's really why the president is keeping some 10,000 troops there, to train these forces. But if they can't do the job...
BLITZER: They will be pretty vulnerable, the 10,000 troops. You don't have the force protection you have let's say when you have a hundred thousand troops in Afghanistan.
NASR: Absolutely. First of all, there is a question of how can we make sure this doesn't happen again, because every time it happens, not only it's an American life, but it creates even greater distrust and lack of confidence. And, secondly, how do we convince the Afghans themselves that actually they should bet on this military, they shouldn't switch sides, they shouldn't be expecting to Taliban to be winning?
And it creates actually a situation of pressure on the administration to be able to defend...
BLITZER: Vali, I read everything you write. you have written that the U.S. is "just washing its hands of Afghanistan, leaving it with a shaky security force."
What do you mean by that?
NASR: I mean that we obviously are operating on the basis we have created this great army in Afghanistan. It's doing a great job. We can just leave and go down to 10,000 people and out by 2016.
But many people don't believe that this army, this military is really up to snuff yet, that it can actually stand up to the Taliban. The Taliban have proven today that they can infiltrate this force at will. The discipline we are seeking or that we are claiming is not there. And I think it is very difficult for the administration to be able to say that everything is going according to plan and as if this is just an isolated incident and we can just leave.
LABOTT: And it is not just this incident, with this training facility. As attacks on U.S. forces have decreased, attacks on civilians, journalists, aid workers have increased. It's clear there's a lot more work to be done.
This is all in the throes of this really political chaos going on, that we have been talking about in Afghanistan. There's not a clear government that's go to be in change and that creates a lot of uncertainty among the Afghan people. And that creates some kind of vacuum that the Taliban can exploit.
BLITZER: We will be speaking shortly with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister. He's one of two candidates who may be the next president of Afghanistan after Hamid Karzai. But it is a mess right now.
Even though Secretary of State Kerry has been trying to mediate, if you will, between the runoff candidates, there's no clear-cut decision emerging.
NASR: There is no clear-cut decision emerging as to who will rule Afghanistan. Whoever becomes president will be weak, because going to be the product of a contested election, and we want that person to be signing a security deal.
If I were Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani, I would be wondering when is it that an Afghan fighter could be doing -- could be killing me if I signed a deal with the United States? When is it that the army that U.S. is leaving behind may actually crumble or attack the political force?
And winning these wars as we have been trying to do in Afghanistan needs the population to believe that you're winning. And that's not happening right now.
BLITZER: The U.S. spent more than $100 billion just on reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. A lot of that money, as we all know, totally wasted. Hundreds of billions on combat operations in Afghanistan. We don't know what end result of that will be and 2,000 American troops are dead. And so many more came home injured. The U.S. has made a heavy, heavy investment there.
We will have to see what happens in the few years ahead. Thanks, guys, very much, Vali Nasr, Elise Labott. Guys, thanks very much.
Still ahead, the Obama administration's reaction to the deadly ambush in Afghanistan, what it means for the U.S. mission and the security of U.S. forces. And we will go live to the Middle East. We will get an update on the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and whether it's holding.
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news.
U.S. Major General Harold Greene shot dead in an ambush in Afghanistan, apparently by an Afghan soldier. We're told the White House is closely monitoring the situation.
Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent Michelle Kosinski is standing by.
Michelle, what was the reaction over there at the White House to this horrible news in Afghanistan?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Wolf.
President Obama was briefed on this early today. He then called the U.S. general who commands both the U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. You heard the White House call this a painful reminder of the sacrifices that U.S. troops continue to make over there. But we then asked, isn't this also a painful reminder of how volatile Afghanistan remains and will they even be able to handle their own security once U.S. troops leave? The White House acknowledged that, yes, Afghanistan remains a
dangerous place, still a war zone, and they say what different now is that lawless areas that were controlled by terrorist no longer are. The base of operations for core al Qaeda no longer exists.
They did say that the president is very concerned about the safety of U.S. troops going forward and he is open to recommendations from the Department of Defense on any additional protocols that they might see as necessary. What he's not open to, though, Wolf, is keeping additional U.S. troops there longer than planned.
BLITZER: I'm looking at arrivals at the White House behind you, Michelle. A major dinner, a state dinner tonight for a lot of African leaders.
KOSINSKI: Yes, absolutely. The topics here focus on economics, on building relationships with Africa, even though some might say we're well behind other nations like China, even like Brazil. President Obama kind of laid it out today that U.S. business, the trade we do with all of Africa only equals the amount that we do with one other country, Brazil.
He wants to change that. And he is announcing billions of dollars in additional commitments and investments with various countries in Africa. Other topics are big right now too in the news. Ebola is one. He briefly mentioned that today, but the White House today said the U.S. is focused on sending resources there and working with organizations like the WHO and the CDC, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the White House, the arrivals will continue.
Let's get back to the deadly ambush that's raising so many questions about screening of Afghan troops and how some soldiers who were trained by the United States have actually become a deadly threat to U.S. forces.
CNN's Brian Todd is here. He is looking into this part of the story for us -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this attack on what is called the West Point of Afghanistan, as you said, drawing very serious, very urgent questions tonight.
The questions deal with how the Afghans do their own background checks on soldiers and within those ranks whether they guard against corruption from terrorist groups.
TODD (voice-over): So far, the Taliban has acknowledged but not claimed responsibility for the killing of an American general, saying in a statement, "The attack took place while invaders' military personnel were checking the quality of training of their Afghan puppet forces."
Experts say the Taliban will get a propaganda bounce.
SETH JONES, SENIOR POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORPORATION: I think the Taliban will certainly seize on this, whether this was a Taliban operation or not.
TODD: Tonight, the Pentagon isn't commenting on the possibility of Taliban involvement, saying the Afghan military and international force are in the early stages of the investigation. Pentagon officials went out of their way to say the incident would not change the relationship between U.S. and Afghan forces.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I have seen no indication that there's a degradation of trust between coalition members and their Afghan counterparts.
Seth Jones has advised U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He says the vetting of Afghan troops to make sure terrorist don't infiltrate the ranks has improved in recent years. It had to, he says, after the 2012 spike in attacks by Afghan soldiers on coalition forces.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of what is taking place is we are transitioning to Afghan security. And for us to train them effectively, we are in much closer contact, our troops are in much closer contact with Afghan troops on an ongoing basis.
TODD: Those attacks, often called green on blue, have dramatically dropped since then. Now Jones says every Afghan soldier's name and background are run through databases shared with Afghan intelligence and military agencies. Soldiers in some units get psychological screening. And they revisit those checks periodically throughout their careers.
JONES: If they pop up in intelligence collection as supporting, talking to in any way the Taliban or other groups, that obviously causes pretty serious concern and re-look at an individual and in some cases it has meant the arrest or the throwing out of these individuals from the Afghan national or even in some cases local security forces.
TODD: But there are gaps, Jones says. Some Afghan units may not come back and rescreen soldiers as often as they should for signs of corruption.
JONES: Taliban could have gotten to someone with bribe or extortion or grievance if something was done to this person's family.
TODD: Jones says with the killing of an American general, the whole vetting process will be reassessed, maybe overhauled. He said the two militaries may even look at the possibility of never looking a rank and file Afghan soldier near a top American officer ever again, Wolf. This is going to change the equation.
BLITZER: I'm sure it will. All right, Brian Todd, thanks, very, very much. Let's get more on the deadly ambush in Afghanistan, the death of a
United States general, from one of the candidates of Afghanistan's contested presidential election.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is joining us now from Kabul.
Dr. Abdullah, what happened today? Because a soldier wearing an Afghan national uniform went out there and killed a U.S. general and several other coalition partners. To the best of your understanding, what was going on?
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the enemy's infiltration one way or another.
And all the context of the situation is not known as of yet. But, unfortunately, this sort of tragic incidents have taken place earlier as well. But that shows enemy's infiltration into the institutions, which led to this tragic event.
BLITZER: When you say enemy, these are members of the Taliban who infiltrated the Afghan army? Is that what you're saying?
ABDULLAH: Sometimes, they get through with the Afghan national army uniform.
Yes, members of the Taliban. It may lead to members which are al Qaeda-affiliated or associated with al Qaeda like any groups like the others. But I'm not here to judge which group of the Taliban. But there is no doubt about this Taliban infiltration into that academy.
BLITZER: As you know, there are still about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan. They will go down to about 10,000 by the end of this year. What can be done to prevent these kind of attacks?
ABDULLAH: There have been tens of thousands of U.S. troops and international troops in Afghanistan. And there have been one or two or three tragic events as such. So it is not a common trend throughout.
But, nevertheless, the scope of the incident and the tragic sense of it is such that everybody has to be more vigilant, more cautious, but there is a very friendly atmosphere between the Afghan national forces and their trainers and their partners throughout the country, in the rural areas of Afghanistan and the urban areas.
There is a spirit of partnership and working together. But, unfortunately, from time to time, such tragic events have taken place and this one was really a tragic event. And so it's for our intelligence institutions to be more focused when it comes to the areas where Afghan and coalition or Afghan and international partners or U.S. partners, their soldiers and officers are working together.
BLITZER: Did you know the American general who was killed?
ABDULLAH: I didn't know the American general that was killed. But I have heard from our minister of defense as well as from many other senior Afghan officers that he was a remarkable person, and he was doing his work with passion. And it is very unfortunate that we lost him. And here I express my condolences to his family, to his friends.
BLITZER: As you know, Dr. Abdullah, the U.S. over these years has spent more than $100 billion on Afghan reconstruction programs. That does not include what the U.S. has spent in terms of combat in Afghanistan. That's hundreds of billions of dollars more.
And a lot of Americans are asking, was that money well spent? And should any more money be spent, U.S. taxpayer dollars, in Afghanistan? I want you to tell us what you think.
ABDULLAH: I think it was a joint investment by our American friends, international community, as well as the Afghans.
And all of us have made sacrifices. And the U.S., as lead partner, has made contributions in blood and treasure. And Afghanistan was the safe haven for al Qaeda, and it was because of al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan that they were able to hit the heart of the United States on 9/11.
And without U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, the whole region would have been conquered by al Qaeda, had it not been for the U.S. engagement. So there is no doubt that there have been a lot of missed opportunities in the past few years, and the opportunity was not utilized in the best way.
But there is no way that we can question the instance of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and U.S. investment in Afghanistan. It has been an investment in peace and the stability in this part of the world and in well-being of our people, which Afghan people are appreciative.
BLITZER: Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, thank you for so much joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Afghanistan.
ABDULLAH: You're welcome, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get the latest on the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The rocket fire, airstrikes, they have now stopped, but the war of words is raging on.
Plus, we'll go live to the hospital where two American Ebola patients are now being treated. The first cases ever in the United States. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by live.
BLITZER: First Edward Snowden. Now sources tell CNN the government believes someone else is leaking U.S. national security documents. Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is working on the story for us. So they think they have another major leaker on their hands, right?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, this popped up today with the website called The Intercept, which is done by Glenn Greenwald, who was the first to publish the Snowden leaks last year.
And the website had these -- this article based on documents, which were -- were government top secret. And so the government now believes that whoever leaked that -- that document to The Intercept was obviously somebody inside the government who had access to computers that only -- that only a few people would have access to.
BLITZER: Given the uproar after the Edward Snowden leaks, people are wondering, how is it possible this could this happen again? I thought they were tightening up all the security.
PEREZ: Well, they did. And that's what's so interesting about this, is that they clearly tightened us some of the restrictions on -- on who can access the computers. And they can track who accessed what on these computer systems. But clearly, whoever did this was able to escape those new restrictions.
BLITZER: Evan Perez with that report. Thanks very much.
Now then, let's get to the conflict in the Middle East right now. It's bene more than 17 hours. So far the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas set to last for three days. That cease-fire so far is holding.
Israel says all of its troops are now out of Gaza, and both sides say they're ready for indirect talks in Cairo. Egyptian officials say an Israeli delegation has now arrived in Cairo.
CNN's Martin Savidge is standing by in Gaza. "THE LEAD'S" Jake Tapper is in Jerusalem.
Jake, the cease-fire, as we say, seems to be holding. What are you seeing there? What are you hearing in Israel? What are you seeing on the ground?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": Well, good news; cautious optimism that this actually will hold, that both Israel and the group of Palestinian leaders who came together in Egypt will actually work to try to make this extended beyond the 72 hours.
Just in the last few minutes we heard that the Israeli delegation has touched down in Cairo to meet with the intermediaries from the Egyptian government and other Palestinian factions, as well as Hamas, the group that the U.S. and Israel label as terrorists, which was elected to govern the Gaza Strip and try to come up with plans beyond the 72-hour period. One of the initial goals, of course, is to try to extend the 72-hour period, because nobody thinks that any sort of peace discussions or peace talks will be quickly resolved -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by. I want to go to Martin in Gaza.
Martin, you had a chance to walk around Gaza today. What did you see?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gaza City, Wolf, had a totally different feel today. It's as if everyone woke up and felt like, "You know what? Maybe this cease-fire, the ninth one by my count, really is going to work.
There were a lot of people out on the streets. There were a lot of stores that were open. And those stores seem to have a lot of product to sell. A lot of trucks on the streets delivering things like flour, like fuel, like goods that were being used.
I think there was a sense that many people felt like, all right. Let's start going home. Some of them began leaving those U.N. shelters and schools. Although, it wasn't clear where they're going to go. It said that there were 10,000 homes that had been destroyed or severely damaged.
And then you go into those neighborhoods that are closer to the border with Israel, and you find that the devastation there is remarkable. It looks like it had been in some kind of earthquake or natural disaster. But of course, this was man-made. This was the result of conflict, weeks of it. The United Nations saying rebuilding could cost 4 to 6 billion and take over a decade -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Martin Savidge in Gaza. Jake Tapper in Jerusalem. Guys, thanks very much.
In the Middle East conflict radical factions, entrenched views, old hatreds, they help make for a struggle that has been very, very long- term, with peace very, very difficult to achieve.
I asked the Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, about some shocking comments he made to a Palestinian TV channel about the Jewish people. Listen to some of that heated exchange here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You believe that Jews would kill Christians to mix their blood, to bake the holy matzos on Passover? Is that -- is that your belief, Mr. Hamdan?
OSAMA HAMDAN, SPOKESMAN FOR HAMAS: Well, Wolf, let me answer that freely. Don't cut me, because it's very, very, very important to be clarified.
First, I was asked about the statement published by the deputy speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Moshe Feiglin, who published a plan to have a complete -- it's under the name complete destruction of the Palestinians in Gaza. And in this plan, he suggested to put all of the Palestinians in a concentration camps. He is talking about genocide.
BLITZER: So do you believe that Jews used to slaughter Christians, mix the blood to bake the matzos?
HAMDAN: You cut the words. Not you. The Israelis. They cut the facts and they start this propaganda to say that they are innocent. They want to cover the genocide, which is happening in Gaza now.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We pressed this on Hamdan to answer the question. He never really did answer my question. Instead, as you heard, tried to deflect the question by bringing up the statement by Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset.
Feiglin has reached out to us, asking to respond. He's joining us now from Jerusalem.
Moshe Feiglin, thanks very much for joining us.
So he says you support the genocide of the Palestinian people. We checked the open letter you published on August 1. You don't call for genocide, but you do call for removal of all Palestinians from Gaza, 1.7, 1.8 million Palestinians. You want to put them in tent encampments in Sinai. Is that right?
MOSHE FEIGLIN, KNESSET MEMBER: Well, first of all, let me talk about what he said. I think that talking about concentration camps is exactly like talking about mixing Christian blood on Passover. It's the same logic. It's the same basic anti-Semitism, and it's ridiculous.
What I was talking about is that Israel has to win this war. And not only for Israel. Israel has to win this war against the extreme Islamic terror, not only for ourselves but for the entire world.
And in order to do so, in the most humane way, I said that we should give the Arabs in these territories, where they're launching the rockets and digging the tunnels and fighting, using -- fighting against us, using their own children as a human shield, we should give these civilians eight hours to move to a sheltered -- sheltered places. That's what I was talking about.
BLITZER: Let me be precise, Mr. Feiglin. Let me be -- let me be precise, because it did arouse an enormous amount of concern, this letter. Do you want to kick all the Palestinians out of Gaza and move them to what you call tent encampments in Sinai?
FEIGLIN: I want to give the Arabs in the Gaza Strip three choices, three very simple choices. Those who are fighting against us should be killed. Should be dead. Those who launching these rockets from kindergartens and so on should be shot. It is very simple.
Those who want to leave, and most of them, according to their survey, more than 80 percent of them, wishes to leave, should get from us and from the entire world all the help and support to find their future in a better place. Those who want to stay can stay.
This is exactly what I wrote, and this is exactly what I mean. The problem is, what really bothers this Osama, the Hamas spokesman who very much care about the human life, of course, what he really worries about, that this is a plan to win. And Israel has to win this war.
BLITZER: Hold on a second, hold on a second. Mr. Feiglin, hold on one second. I want to be precise, because I got the letter you published on August 1, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In the letter -- and I'll read it to you -- you say, "The formerly
populated areas will be shelled in Gaza with maximum firepower. The entire civilian and military infrastructure of Hamas will be destroyed entirely."
And then you say, "Those who insist on staying will be required to publicly sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel."
But getting back to the original proposal, you say they all have to leave and go to tent encampments in Sinai. Are you -- are you standing by that?
FEIGLIN: No, I did not say in Sinai. You know something, Wolf? I think that the Germans in Dresden or the Chinese [SIC] in Nagasaki would have loved to get such an offer before -- before they were bombed by -- by the British and by the Americans.
I'm talking, again, about the most humane way to win this war. And because we did not win this war, and because we shook the hands of the evil people 20 years ago in Oslo, you got -- September 11th in New York -- you should realize...
BLITZER: Hold on, hold on, Mr. Feiglin.
FEIGLIN: Let me finish my sentence, please. You should realize what kind of -- realize what kind of war we are dealing with.
BLITZER: I understand. I understand the nature of war. But let me read the sentence that you wrote and you tell me if this is accurate.
"The IDF will designate certain open areas on the Sinai border, adjacent to the sea, in which civilian population will be gathered, far from the built-up areas that are used for rocket launches and tunneling. In these areas, tent encampments will be established until relevant immigration destinations are determined. Electricity and water supply to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected."
Are those your words?
FEIGLIN: Definitely. We should understand, Wolf, this is a war between evil and good, between light and darkness. And this darkness, if you don't want it in Washington, should be a win. And the only way to flourish the Gaza Strip is to do exactly what we did in Jaffa 19 years before.
There will be only peace in the region and under the full sovereignty of Israel. We should understand that after 20 years of trying to give these terrorists any kind of sovereignty in the land of Israel.
And this plan, I'm saying again, is the most humane plan and the only plan that will bring peace and will flourish the region.
When you give these people money, billions and billions of dollars, they don't build homes. They don't build kindergartens. They don't build any kind of economy. All they do is bring more bloodshed to the region. This is the plan to win the war with the less of casualties there can
be from both sides. And once and for all, bring peace to the region.
BLITZER: Moshe Feiglin is the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset. He's a member of the Likud Party.
Mr. Feiglin, thanks very much for joining us.
FEIGLIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're following some disturbing new developments in Eastern Ukraine where at least two loud explosions have been heard near a major city center as jets fly overhead.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Donetsk for us.
What's the latest? What are you seeing and hearing, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you joined me in a very tense moment. The last few hours progressed, we heard two loud explosions a few hours ago in the distance, but in the last hour or so, intense -- not intense but pretty sustained gunfire in the city center itself.
There seems to be militant on the street around here, obviously edgy, firing at something. Doesn't appear to be an exchange of fire. But certainly a sign of greater attention in the city center. And that marries with what we know is happening way in the distance behind me, which is the Ukrainian military move need a southwestern edge of the city to deaden those clashes and they are moving on a main road toward city center.
So, very tense time here in the city -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are you OK over there? How secure do you feel?
WALSH: We're fine at this particular point where we are now. The gunfire is intermittent. But it all feeds into a broader picture of heightened tension here in Eastern Ukraine.
As we know, the Russian military almost doubled the number of troops it has on the border in just the last week.
WALSH (voice-over): Almost doubled in the week, Russian troops, seen here, in airborne exercises, flexing Moscow's muscles last week near the Ukrainian border, now at 20,000 set one NATO official up by a thousand. Special forces, anti-aircraft, armor, logistics, a lot that could seriously interfere in eastern Ukraine.
(on camera): It is definitely quiet here in central, but on the skyline, visible, there's been smoke, local residents and local officials saying there's been fighting out in one of the southwestern edges of this city, street level gunfire, fears that the Ukraine military advance to city center has begun.
(voice-over): No coincidence perhaps, but now, the Ukrainian army is moving fast into Donetsk. But inside the city on Monday, great disquiet reigned. Shelling has pushed some underground into cellars, half-built basements in this government building, where dozens of women and children eek out a life sleeping on mattresses they carried down here. Twins who find the nightly explosions scary, loud.
And in this dim labyrinth, they believe the separatists when they tell them the Ukrainian army are American-backed fascists set on attacking the ethnic Russians here.
"They crush us, the damn Americans," she says, "What are they doing? Where there is world in the war, they have a part. Look, these little ones here."
They say they can't afford to leave. Have nowhere to go.
"All the women of the world," she says, "raise your voice against these murderers."
Streets torn up. Ukraine's army have used a lot of artillery in their fast advance and as Rima returns to her home for the first time, it's unclear who fired the shells here that shattered her windows.
"If I'd been asleep here, I would have died", she said.
She was staying at her daughter's when the shells hit. Here, where shells landed, two people were killed. Quiet, intimate lives flattened into blank faces of loss.
They buried their loved ones.
This sense of the violence entering the final phase buys no comfort when tragedy has already come and is permanent.
WALSH: Wolf, you have to forgive me whispering, but, of course, it's so quiet in this city, you can hear some of the militants shout in neighboring streets. Rising tension. The Ukrainian military closer and closer. You can just hear small arms fire over there.
The key question, separatist militants are clearly on their back foot. Does Moscow intervene or are they going to face the Ukrainian military on their own? Wolf?
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Nick. Thanks for that report. We hear the gunshots right behind you.
Just ahead, we're going live to the hospital where a second American Ebola patient has arrived from Africa and is now being treated. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by live.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Extraordinary precautions as a second American health care worker infected with Ebola arrived back in the United States from Western Africa to be treated for the deadly virus.
Let's go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's is at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Both Americans infected. What's the latest about their condition, Sanjay?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we hear Nancy Writebol is settling in. She needs to be assessed to see how much of an impact this viral disease had on her body, assessing her heart, her lungs, Wolf, her kidneys, and her liver.
The doctors, nurses, the whole health care team that will be taking care of her, they do have to implement these pretty extraordinary precautions. Just to give you an idea, you've seen the suits that they wear, obviously, to go and take care of the patient. Oftentimes they use a buddy system as well. Someone literally inspecting the other person to make sure they're suited up properly, and then going in basically two at a time to make sure that no mistakes are made.
And also, another little tidbit, Wolf, they have to do a simple thing, just simply check their temperature twice a day to make sure they're not developing any early signs of viral disease themselves.
But over the next few hours, Ms. Writebol will probably get a chance to visit with her family and also get the final dose of that experimental serum we've been talking about, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sanjay. I know you have a lot more later tonight. Thanks very much.
We'll take another quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.