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Interview With U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes; Cease-Fire Shattered; U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq

Aired August 8, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, U.S. warplanes in action launching a new round of airstrikes in Iraq targeting ISIS militants and their firepower. We're getting new information from the region, from the Obama war room. Stand by for that.

We will also show you how ISIS has seized so much land so quickly using brutal and cunning tactics that are terrorizing hundreds of thousands of people right now.

And new warfare in Gaza, Israeli striking Hamas after a three-day truce ended with a barrage of rocket fire into Israel. Is another cease-fire possible?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States 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 the breaking news tonight, at least two new U.S. strikes in Iraq. The Pentagon says some ISIS terrorists were eliminated and their weapons were neutralized.

American fighter jets are in the skies and they're looking for more initial targets a day after President Obama gave the green light to attack. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are trapped by the fighting including these people who raced to get desperately needed food and water from U.S. airdrops. Religious minorities, including hundreds of thousands of Christians potentially could be victims of deadly ask and grotesque acts of violence by ISIS.

We have our correspondent and newsmakers standing by. They are covering the breaking news in Iraq and all across the Middle East and indeed around the world.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He filed this report.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After multiple rounds of U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq, this was all we could see of the president, commander in chief on the phone with King Abdullah of Jordan discussing what's next. Aides insists the mission in Iraq will be limited to protect U.S.

military advisers and diplomats in Irbil and end the siege against Iraqi minorities driven into the mountains by ISIS fighters. But the White House concedes there's no firm timeline.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That president has not laid out a specific end date.

ACOSTA: That prospect of an open-ended engagement is a far cry from the president's initial reluctance to deal with ISIS two months ago, as well as his preference for diplomatic solutions in Ukraine and Syria, after ending the war in Iraq nearly three years ago.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's war in Iraq will be over.

ACOSTA: Mr. Obama is now the fourth U.S. president in a row to launch military action in Iraq.

(on camera): Was he reluctant to make this decision?

EARNEST: I think the president was determined to use military action to protect American personnel who are in harm's way in Iraq. He was determined to use American military assets to try to address an urgent humanitarian situation.

ACOSTA: ISIS is just as determined as one of its fighters told VICE News, we will raise the flag of Allah at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those people are not people. They're monsters.

ACOSTA: Monsters the president apparently brushed off back in January when he said to "The New Yorker," "If a J.V. team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant."

They're not the J.V. anymore.

EARNEST: We do remain concerned about the military proficiency that has been demonstrated by ISIL.

ACOSTA: For now members of Congress are showing support for the airstrikes. But House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement "I am dismayed by ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the great threat ISIS poses to the region. Vital national interests are at stake yet the White House has remained disengaged."

ISIS has threatened one of Mr. Obama's main hopes for his legacy, to get out and stay out of Iraq.

OBAMA: I want to make sure when I turn the keys over to the next president that they have the ability, that he or she has the capacity to make some decisions with a relatively clean slate.


BLITZER: A report from our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Let's stay at the White House.

Right now, Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, is still with us.

Ben, explain that J.V. comment that the president made back in January to "The New Yorker," because was there a failure of the intelligence community to really appreciate what these ISIS terrorists were all about?


I think the fact of the matter is, what we have seen since al Qaeda core have been significantly degraded. You have seen a proliferation of different types of extremists groups across the Middle East and North Africa. And what the president was referring to is we have to have the ability to look at each one of these groups and assess, what is the threat that they pose to the United States, what is the threat that they pose to the homeland and what is the threat that they pose in the country where they're operating?

What we have seen from ISIL is a rapid accumulation of capacity over the last several months because of the open space along the Syrian- Iraq border and because they have been able to get their hands on some heavier weapons as they have advanced across Iraq.

BLITZER: We know these ISIS forces, they pose a huge threat to Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Shiites, all sorts of people inside Iraq. And they pose a threat in the region. How much of a real threat though do they pose to the United States of America?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, to date, we have seen them focused on Iraq and Syria, not focused on the type of homeland plotting that al Qaeda core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has focused on.

That doesn't mean though that they might not develop those ambitions. We're very mindful to be monitoring that. The threat that they pose most acutely now is in Iraq and Syria. And what the line the president drew and is enforcing right now is that we're going to protect our people and facilities in Iraq.

We saw them get close to Irbil. We take shots to make sure that there's a periphery, so that our people are protected and the city of Irbil is protected.

BLITZER: How confident are you that these precision U.S. airstrikes are precise, there's now been two rounds, 500-pound laser-guided bombs, are precise, that they're killing these ISIS terrorists, but they're not killing innocent civilians in Iraq?

RHODES: Well, Wolf, first of all, because of the decisions that the president made in June, we have had ISR intelligence resources above Iraq. We have a pretty good picture of what's happening on the ground. Our military also has a lot of experience from Iraq and Afghanistan

about decoupling civilians from terrorist targets. What you have seen today are targets associated with, for instance, the shelling of the Peshmerga forces or the advance of convoys that could threaten the city. Those are targets that the military has taken out.

The Peshmerga are also in that fight as well against ISIL. We're going to continue to do what's necessary to protect Americans in Irbil.

BLITZER: Ben Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser to the president. Ben, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate your thoughts, obviously critically important thoughts on what is going on.

RHODES: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Let's get an update now on the U.S. military action in Iraq.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is getting new information.

What else are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when you look at U.S. military action, think about what Ben Rhodes just said. This is an enemy, ISIS, that the U.S. is going against that fights like an army, heavily weaponized. They have a strategy and they are executing that strategy.

They are moving over the ground of Northern Iraq. They're taking and holding ground, something al Qaeda never achieved, that kind of weapons and military capability. That's why you're seeing the U.S. airstrikes now especially in Irbil. At the beginning of all of this, there was very little discussion and very little view that Irbil would be the first place the U.S. might have to strike. But ISIS has moved close.

Now we're hearing about defending a city, defending the corridor around Irbil as necessary to protect the U.S. personnel there and to defend the city. A U.S. official telling me a short time ago they feel they cannot let Irbil fall to ISIS, the same thing that happened in Mosul where it fell to ISIS. They cannot have Irbil. That is why you're seeing the airstrikes, three in less than 24 hours, that began with a strike against an ISIS artillery position.

We have now had additional strikes against mortar positions, against convoys, F-18 aircraft flying, pilots at risk over Northern Iraq. We have also had a strike by a U.S. drone. What you are seeing are very precision weapons as you described them going after very particular targets looking to keep that area around Irbil free from ISIS moving closer to the city and to keep Irbil out of ISIS' hands. Will those airstrikes be enough to do it remains to be seen.

BLITZER: The airpower coming from the USS George H.W. Bush, the aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf right now. The F-18s from there, the drones are coming from that aircraft carrier as well, is that right?

STARR: No, actually, Wolf, we don't think they are. These are Predator drones firing Hellfire missiles. They are most likely land- based and they're coming from somewhere in the region. But we're not being told.

You look at the countries on the map around Iraq and around Syria, all of it very sensitive. Many of these Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern countries do not want to publicly be seen as having U.S. military assets on their ground. They just don't want too much publicity about it all. But clearly many areas in that region hosting the U.S. military forces.

BLITZER: And clearly the U.S. military gearing up for a lot more of these kinds of airstrikes, right?

STARR: Absolutely.

I think it is very fair to say that we will see more of these very precision strikes over the weekend. Looking at particular ISIS weapons' positions around Irbil that particularly appear to be threatening where they have moved closer. The U.S. likely will try to push them back. And I think we will also see additional airdrops to those people trapped in those mountains.

That airdrop was successful. But, look, that is only the beginning. As long as those tens of thousands of people are up in those mountains starving and dying of thirst, they are going to need a lot of help.

BLITZER: Certainly will. The Yazidis, this majority religious group in Iraq, they are in danger right now and the U.S. is trying to come to their rescue, dropping badly needed food and water and medical equipment.

All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

Let's some get more now on that dire situation, these tens of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, other religious minorities in Iraq. These are the targets of the deadly attacks and the persecution by the ISIS militants.

Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, he is on the ground in Irbil for us in Northern Iraq.

Ivan, tell our viewers here in United States and around the world what you're seeing, what you're hearing. What's it like there?


We visited a church, for example, that was full of hundreds of Iraqi Christians who are quite literally taking sanctuary from the militants amid the pews of this Chaldean Christian church. And that is just one symbolic example of a much bigger wave of families, of civilians numbering in the hundreds of thousands who have fled the movement of these hard-line Islamist militants and are taking shelter in pretty much any structure that they can find, whether it's a church, whether it's a recreation center or unfinished office buildings.

The Kurdish authorities here are struggling to deal with this wave of displaced people which some are estimating are at more than half a million people into the Kurdistan region, struggling to accommodate and try to feed these people, and provide them water and medical care at a time when they're also dealing with ISIS militants who are quite close.

Listen to an exert from a conversation I had with the Kurdish governor of Irbil earlier today.


WATSON: How far away there are the is militants right now from Irbil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of them might be at 30 kilometers.

WATSON: That's very close.


WATSON: And how is the battle going right now on that side?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course there's Peshmerga forces. They are fighting against them. They will try to stop them.

But it's very important, because they have good weapons. But the weapons, they bring it from -- they take it from the military in the Mosul. They have different kind heavy weapons. Their weapons is different, not like the Peshmerga. For that, it's very important to attack them by the air.


WATSON: Now, Wolf, the Kurdish leadership has been very public in thanking the U.S. for using airpower now to try to stem the ISIS tide, which again, only about half-an-hour's drive away from there -- from here is where those ISIS positions are.

And this wave of humanity that we have seen fleeing them, it is nothing compared to what we would see if ISIS was able to get to the city of Irbil, the city of more than a million people. You can bet that the Kurds that live here would join these hoards of people fleeing ISIS if those militants were able to reach the gates of this city as well.

BLITZER: We know those ISIS forces, they took over the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, not that long ago, a city of some almost two million people. Just after Baghdad, the second largest city, Mosul in the hands of these ISIS terrorists, Irbil endangered right now.

Ivan Watson, be careful over there. Thank you very much.

These ISIS forces they have seized control of a lot of Iraqi territory and they have done so with frightening speed and horrifying brutality. Our Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story. We want to

warn all our viewers that some of the images that you're about to see in this report, Brian, some of these images are so horrific it's heartbreaking to see what human beings can do to other human beings.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's incredible to watch, Wolf, and it just keeps getting worse.

Tonight, we're learning more about why ISIS has been so dangerous and successful on the battlefield. A top U.S. intelligence official tells me they're stronger than ever. It comes from better training, tactics and psychological warfare. As Wolf mentioned, we do have to warn viewers that some might find the images in this story disturbing.


TODD (voice-over): They're ferocious and relentless, capturing huge swathes of territory at a time. ISIS is unlike any other terror group on the battlefield

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: This is not your father's al Qaeda.

TODD: The old militant tactics, hit and runs, ambushes, roadside bombs. When other terrorist groups went to battle against well- trained armies, they were often wiped out.

Iraq combat veteran Douglas Ollivant says ISIS is much more disciplined than militant forces of the past with good unit commanders, better tactics.

OLLIVANT: But for the black flags, this could be a platoon of American army soldiers or Marines circa 2004 or 2005 moving in formation, soldiers throughout the column. We can see the weapons, the machine guns in the vehicles they can use to establish a base of fire.

TODD: Training is a big difference with ISIS, analysts say. They're getting help with that from outside.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: They also now have been bolstered by a significant number of Chechen fighters who have joined their ranks, also foreign fighters from across the Arab world, some with significant experience in urban warfare.

TODD: What also makes ISIS dangerous on the battlefield, the way they get the most from their arsenal.

OLLIVANT: Some of it is primitive like this tank. But, perversely, the more primitive the equipment they capture, the more likely they're able to use it, to maintain it. Simpler is better in their case. Mobile artillery pieces, other pieces of captured armored vehicles, we see several of them here.

TODD: A warning, you're about to see some disturbing video. ISIS units win before they get to the battlefield because of this. Horrific propaganda videos show ISIS militants summarily executing captured opponents, shooting them in ditches, displaying the severed heads of their enemies on poles in the middle of city circles.

CRUICKSHANK: When it comes to ISIS, it's not about what they're capable of. But it's what people fear they're capable of, which gives them this advantage. And they have had a very deliberate strategy of terrorizing the Iraqi military.

TODD: Experts say Iraqi soldiers who have seen the videos often quit and run before the battle starts.


TODD: These videos are much more gruesome and disturbing than what we're showing viewers on CNN. But ISIS still uses them successful as a weapon and we feel it's appropriate to show some of it to give you a better understanding of what this group is all about -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How strange it is that a group would document, film and show the world this kind of brutality?

TODD: We have seen nothing like it to the degree they're doing it. It is strange and it's horrifying. But we have to say in some cases in Iraq, this is very effective.

There's one scene in a video where a Christian is threatened that if he doesn't convert to Islam, they're going to kill him. He converts and they kill him anyway. These are horrific scenes. But these videos have had an incredible effect on the dynamic of that conflict. And we felt for that reason, it's important to at least show at least a clip or two of them.

BLITZER: Certainly terrorized major elements of the Iraqi military. They simply just threw down their arms and ran away, left all the U.S. military hardware behind, abandoned their bases, the warehouses. ISIS has all of that stuff right now.

TODD: They did.

You can argue that really did change the dynamics of that battlefield, at least in the early going.

BLITZER: I'm sure that was a factor.

Brian, thanks very much.

Still to come, we have live reports on the renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas after a three-day truce, what the Israeli military's goals are now. I will ask an IDF spokesman.

Plus, new rocket fire into Israel. Hamas says it's ready to fight, but will it negotiate? The chief Palestinian negotiator is standing by. We will have an update on the peace talks. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Just getting this in from the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden has just wrapped up a phone call with the new president of Iraq, the Iraqi president, Fuad Masum. He's Kurdish. The vice president according to this statement that the White House just released reiterated President Obama's commitment to assist and protect innocent Iraqi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar and to bolster Iraq's ability to fight, to take the fight to ISIS.

The vice president emphasized that the threat ISIS presented to all Iraqis, according to the statement, affirmed the U.S. commitment to support Iraq and all of its citizens, to work to defend the country from this international threat. The new president of Iraq thanked the vice president for U.S. support. That just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

I will have more on what's going on, the U.S. air war in Iraq right now.

But let's move to some other breaking news, the war that is raging between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli militant now says at least 50 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since a three-day cease- fire ended earlier this morning. Israel retaliated with multiple strikes that killed at least five Palestinians, this according to Gaza health officials.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Gaza City for us.

What are you seeing now, Martin? What's the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the airstrikes continue from Israelis.

We have been hearing that very noticeable thump and whump that you get. That's usually pretty heavy ordinance that is coming and delivered by jet aircraft. It seems it's the jets that are being used a little more frequently compared to, say, the last go-round. Last time it seemed it was say more tank fire, artillery. This time it seems that aircraft are being used and aircraft can be a bit more precise when you're operating in a densely populated area of the Gaza Strip and that could account for the fact that the death toll is lower.

I would never say that the death toll is low because we're already approaching the terrible number of 1,900 Palestinians that have been killed since operations began and of course dozens of Israeli soldiers were killed during the ground offensive.

However, Israeli troops have pulled out of Gaza. Much of this, as they would say, indirect fire that's coming in. And, of course, there are rockets going out. There have been many of them starting since 8:00 this morning. It was Islamic Jihad that actually did the breaking of the cease-fire.

The cease-fire expired is what really happened and then one minute later Islamic Jihad decided to launch a barrage of rockets and the two sides have been going back and forth. Israel maintains, if you stop firing rockets, we will stop retaliating. But Islamic Jihad and Hamas have decided that's not the tactic they want to follow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Martin, be careful over there in Gaza, Martin Savidge reporting .

Let's go to Jerusalem right now. Jake Tapper, the anchor of "THE LEAD," has been reporting all week from Jerusalem.

What is the latest there and what are you hearing about the prospects, first of all, Jake, of reviving the cease-fire?


One is, it seems likely or at least possible that this is going to end up just a low-level war of attrition, where this doesn't get resolved and the situation in Gaza in terms of the blockade stays in place and Hamas and other groups in Gaza continue to occasionally fire rockets to Israel, on Israel.

Israel retaliates and it stays a low-level confrontation like this until eventually it ends or goes on in perpetuity. There are those who are hoping and pushing for the reinstatement of the cease-fire. Right now Palestinians presenting a very strong united front publicly -- no one criticizing Hamas for stating that they did not want the cease-fire to continue unless their demands were met. No one criticizing them publicly.

But behind the scenes I'm told Fatah and other Palestinian factions had been pressing for the cease-fire to be extended. It seems unlikely that Israel will grant, as a condition for cease-fire, allowing Gaza to open up its sea port. I think it's possible that the entrances at the borders with Egypt and Israel could be opened at some point as a concession with the Palestinian Authority as security there.

But right now I think both sides are kind of hunkering down, although there's some optimism expressed, given that the Palestinians are still in Cairo and have not left. That's where we are when it comes to looking for a bright side in this horrendous conflict -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We would love to see a bright side. Unfortunately, there are not too many bright sides in this conflict that's been ongoing now for morning for than a month.

Jake Tapper reporting for us, Jake, thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, I will speak about the renewed fighting with representatives from both sides, the spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, the chief Palestinian negotiator. Peter Lerner, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, and Saeb Erekat, they are both standing by.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news.

Deadly new fighting between Israel open Hamas, as a three-day cease- fire expires. Israel reports 70 strikes on militant targets in Gaza. Palestinian officials say those strikes have killed at least five people, including a 10-year-old boy.

Let's bring in the spokesman for the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, is joining us now from Tel Aviv.

Colonel, what's the goal of these new Israeli airstrikes?

COL. PETER LERNER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Well, clearly, Wolf, what happened this morning was Hamas decided they don't want to cease-fire anymore and they began launches rockets almost immediately after the 72-hour cease-fire ended. Israel was left with no choice but to respond. And that's what we've been doing. We are responding to Hamas aggression. That's what we've been doing throughout the day, striking those launching pads, striking those launching capabilities -- the command and control capabilities of the different organizations that are launching these attacks against us.

You know, we've had over 60 rockets fired at us throughout the day and we've been striking back. We have two Israelis that were injured in these attacks. One of them is a soldier and a civilian that was wounded moderately.

BLITZER: So, the tunnels though, you're done with the tunnels. You've destroyed all of those Hamas tunnels going from Gaza into Israel, is that right?

LERNER: You were -- just as we went into the cease-fire we had completed that task and taken that threat off of the table, and that enabled us to withdraw or forces and take up defensive positions along the front here. That's a good development, indeed. There's less friction on the ground and it means we can continue our activities in light of the Hamas aggression and strike Hamas from the air.

But indeed, we are still poised and prepared for potential infiltration attacks that could still happen from the border from the ground.

BLITZER: All Israeli ground forces, correct me if I'm wrong, because I think you said this over the past few days, are now out of -- there are no Israeli troops in Gaza. What would it take to resend those troops back into Gaza?

LERNER: Well, that would, first of all, it would take a decision behalf of the government. We're not interested and we have not been interested in going into Gaza from day one now, from -- it's a month now. That every time we've said calm will be met with calm. We had to go in and deal with those tunnels.

Now, the tunnels are not a threat. We can, you know, we can operate with caution. We can operate based on the defensive capabilities we have. You know, the Iron Dome is an amazing piece of technology that enables us to make those decisions with a cool head based on our defensive interests and based on the idea that we need to be able to defend the people of Israel. BLITZER: What would be wrong, Colonel, with the Israeli militant

opening up a little bit of the borders, the Erez border crossing, for example, from Israel into Gaza as a gesture, if you will, to get the negotiations, restart a cease-fire and then deal with some of the long-term issues in Cairo?

LERNER: Well, as you know, the crossings are open for humanitarian issues, for delivery of humanitarian goods, for access into the Israeli hospitals and there are people from Gaza coming out for treatment in Israeli hospitals even today. So, we established a field hospital on the border with Gaza to enable that.

Unfortunately, Hamas has prevented people from coming out. Hamas has made an active move in order to limit that access. We can only do so much and to let them come. But indeed, that is the type of issue that needs to be discussed in those negotiations. I can't really -- that's really not for the military to discuss that.

But we have to be prepared. We have enabled the access of humanitarian goods. We've enabled the access of humanitarian movement, whether it's international organizations going into Gaza or Palestinians coming out for medical treatment. That is what we are doing.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner of the IDF -- Colonel, thanks very much for joining us.

LERNER: Good evening.

BLITZER: Let's get more on the breaking news, Israel and Hamas at war again.

Joining us from the Jericho on the West Bank, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

I know the U.S. was deeply disappointed, Saeb, that Hamas didn't want to extend the 72-hour cease-fire, the Egyptians, certainly the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority, I assume you were disappointed in the Hamas decision as well.

Why wouldn't -- what would have been so bad to keep it going for another 72 hours?

SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, we don't want rockets to be fired, Wolf. You know that. And we are now, as I'm talking to you, there are ongoing meetings internally and with the Egyptians in order to sustain and maintain and extend the cease-fire.

The situation is very difficult and we're trying, as I said, to extend the cease-fire. But at the same time, Wolf, I would really urge the international community to look at the dire situation, the catastrophic situation in Gaza. Israel should not employ medical supplies, food supplies, electricity and water as instruments of pressure in the negotiating behavior. The Turks were willing to provide (INAUDIBLE) with generators to generate electricity immediately. Israel refused. What does it harm Israel to announce that they're opening the passages in the face of anyone who want to send medical supplies, food supplies, running water and engineers to come in, to start rebuilding the sewage system. Gaza is flooding.

And I can tell you that a formula is being worked out now. We want to extend the cease-fire. And I'm sure you're noticing that in the last few hours you haven't heard any rockets being fired. And we hope that this can be sustained and this can be maintained and this can be extended.

But at the same time, the dire situation in Gaza must be dealt with immediately. And I call upon Mr. John Kerry personally. This gentleman has so much influence in this region.

We need a lot of help in Gaza. Our people, 1.7 million people without running water, without electricity, the sewage is flooding, 480,000 people are without a shelter, without a roofs. They became homeless. Their homes were destroyed with Israeli bombardment.

And today, you know, five Palestinians were killed in Gaza and one Palestinian was killed in the West Bank. We need to end the vicious situation, the dire situation.

BLITZER: All right. So --

EREKAT: So, I think the balance, wolf, is that extension of the cease-fire matched with an immediate alleviation of the humanitarian disaster situation in Gaza.

BLITZER: Is Egypt ready to ease the restrictions on its border with Gaza in Rafah, for example? Is Egypt ready to allow a little bit more free passage for humanitarian, for people to go back and forth?

EREKAT: See, the Egyptian Rafah terminal is for persons. It's not equipped for goods. The one for goods, the Egyptian/Gaza border, is Karam Abu Salem, controlled by the Israelis. But as far as the movement of people from Gaza to Egyptian hospitals and so on, the Egyptians has facilitated.

Now, what we need, we don't want business as usual. We don't want gestures. We don't want easing of the situation. You're talking about 1.7 million people.

If they sponsor by air, by sea, the by land, bridges of supplies required for Gaza, electricity, water, food, medical supplies, whoever can help, temporary shelters, I think the extension of the cease-fire will continue because then the people will be handling their wounds, healing their wounds and their situation.

And this we have to, the day after, focus on one thing. We need to end this abnormal situation between Palestinians and Israelis. We need to end the Israeli occupation. We need to have a new dawn of Palestinians state living side by side in peace and security --

BLITZER: All right.

EREKAT: -- with the state of Israel on the 1967 lines. So, we will stop this cycle.

BLITZER: I think everyone would be reassured, Saeb, and I'm sure you would agree with this, if the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, took charge over everything in Gaza right now. The Israelis would be reassured, the U.S., the Egyptians.

Is that realistic?

EREKAT: We are. We are actually -- actually we have now. There is no more Hamas government, wolf. This is a Palestinian -- one Palestinian government.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Saeb, but let me interrupt. On a practical day-to-day basis, it is still Hamas that is in control of Gaza.

EREKAT: You're right. That's -- you're right. We began the process of reconciliation, we begun the process of reintegrating our ministries. We just began a month ago. So, that's exactly the point I need to mention, Wolf, tonight.

Israel must deal with the national consensus government. There is a government. Abu Mazen's government, Egypt and the border with Rafah. It will presidential guards from Abu Mazen who will man our side of the Rafah terminal.

The same thing is applicable to the five Israeli passages. So, all we need to do is forget everything in the Palestinian people that was submitted by the Egyptians, emanates from agreement time with Israel. Either the immediate passages, the territorial water, the canceling of the buffer zone, and then the airport and the harbor are not Palestinian demands. There are agreements between us and the Israelis. The airport was built and then destroyed by the Israelis, that President Clinton landed in this airport once. And the Dutch and the French began building the harbor and then it was destroyed.

All the Israelis need to do is say through the national consensus government of President Abu Mazen, we will commit -- we honor our agreements in the seaport and the airport, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

BLITZER: Saeb Erekat, I hope that a little bit of the calm that we're seeing right now does lead to a new cease-fire. Without a cease-fire none of the things that you want and everybody else wants are going to happen. The cease-fire right now is critical. Then, all of these other issues can be worked out and discussed if there's a little bit of good faith on both sides.

Saeb Erekat, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck. Good luck. I hope that you views can prevail with the rest of the Palestinians, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad and they will honor a new cease-fire. Thank you so much for joining us.

Up next, an international health emergency declared as Ebola is spreading. Our own Sanjay Gupta is working the story for us.

And we'll also have the latest on the breaking news, a new round of airstrikes in Iraq. Much more coming up.


BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news.

The United States launching another round of airstrikes in Iraq targeting ISIS terrorists and their brutal grab for land and their persecution of religious minorities.

We're joined now by the journalist, the author Carl Bernstein, along with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You know, what if the airstrikes, Carl, don't work. There's a danger the U.S. needs to put so-called boots on the ground. Do you think this president would get involved militarily along those lines after all that has occurred?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST: No. I think he's committed not to put boots on the ground. And at the same time there is a fiction here that this is just about humanitarian assistance when in fact if you talk to people in the White House, they'll tell you this is about trying to halt the advance of ISIS and it's also showing the limits of American power as we keep seeing in this part of the world.

BLITZER: You just posted a new column on this on You've done some reporting on this, Gloria. What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we know about President Obama, as Carl says, he refuses to put boots on the ground, he doesn't want to get involved in the protracted war. The narrative of Barack Obama is that he killed Osama bin Laden and he ended two wars and he wants to stick with that.

But what we don't know about the president is what he would do if there are unintended consequences. As there always are in this kind of a situation, what would he do to avoid mission creep, for example, if this situation gets out of hand, and we don't know also how he defines this action, vis-a-vis actions he did not take in Syria when he was also confronted with another humanitarian issue.

So I think there needs to be some more definition here to the American public, which is we know what you won't do. But we're not quite sure what you will do or when you will act.

BERNSTEIN: I'm not sure if there's any way of telling in the future what it is we can do. What we know is we're dealing with the consequences of a terrible mistaken war that we initiated, that the Bush administration initiated and the consequences of it. And that the last thing that this president and I suspect any future president wants to do is to make things even more horrible as a result of that situation.

And so far, we've been unsuccessful in dealing with non-state actors who have taken over through sheer terror, awful horrible murderous people that we have not found with good reason a way to deal with. We're up against something we've never seen before. So there is, you know, an argument that is being made that we might need to step back and let these forces fight each other in this Sunni and Shiite world.

BORGER: Except when you see a humanitarian issue --

BERNSTEIN: The humanitarian thing, absolutely.

BORGER: -- like you're seeing now. And --

BLITZER: It's a huge humanitarian crisis.

BORGER: Right.

BERNSTEIN: The people on the mountain top, that's one question.

But the question of whether you keep engaging ISIS with American forces is quite another.

BORGER: Well, but if you talk to people like Lindsey graham and John McCain, they believe that the fact that you have not engaged ISIS before this, and the president was, of course, thinking about that back in June, the fact that you haven't engaged ISIS before this leads you into greater difficulty when you have to engage them now. And as you point out, that is exactly where we are.

BERNSTEIN: As we engaged the last time in Iraq.

BORGER: Well, the question is by putting off the inevitable, could have taken care of it earlier? We don't know -- you knew you were going to have to engage ISIS at some point, right?

BERNSTEIN: No, I'm not sure of that at all.

BORGER: They have known about this kind of --

BLITZER: It's a real threat right now.

BERNSTEIN: It's a humanitarian aspect, yes.

BLITZER: Gloria, Carl, we'll continue this conversation for sure. This story is unfortunately not going away.

Just ahead, a new declaration of the danger from Ebola around the world. We're taking a close look at the devastating impact of the epidemic.

First, "Impact Your World".


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her shows usually sell out. But catching Demi Lovato in concert without buying a ticket is possible for students who love to volunteer.

DEMI LOVATO, SINGER: We Day! How are you doing?

CUOMO: They earn their way into these We Day events by helping communities on a local and global level. LOVATO: I feel like it's a movement of tons of children and teenagers

and young adults that are coming together.

CUOMO: Put on by the charity Free the Children, We Day spotlights entertainers and speakers that are making a difference. The goal: to empower today's youth and to encourage them to make the world a better place.

For Lovato, revealing her past may help others take action.

LOVATO: When I was in school, I was bullied myself, and just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you.

I wanted to be a part of We Day because I know that there is someone out in this audience who is being bullied and I'm telling you that this is an issue that we can beat.

If we're able to start training younger and younger audiences to really make an impact, I think the world is going to be a totally different place.

Together, we are changing the world.




BLITZER: More breaking news tonight: the Ebola outbreak has now been classified as a global emergency by the World Health Organization, which says a coordinated international response is essential to stop the deadly virus from spreading. But new cases are being confirmed every day in what's called the hot zone.

Jim Clancy shows us.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ebola may be spreading like wild fire across West Africa, but traffic outside the Liberian capital of Monrovia is going nowhere, after a state of emergency was declared this week, military troops set up check points outside the worst hit communities in an effort to try to contain the epidemic. The roadblocks have angered local residents and cut off families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whole lot of people on this side, there is no way for them to get to the children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since yesterday evening, some of us we can't get water to drink, we can't get water to take a bath.

CLANCY: Traffic may be moving on the streets of Lagos in Nigeria, but a key hospital remained is shut down and quarantined. It was the scene of Nigeria's first Ebola death late last month. Since then, a second person has died, and a handful of other cases

have surfaced, raising fears of a wider outbreak in Africa's most populous nation.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: Once an epidemic occurs somewhere, it doesn't know races or color.

CLANCY: Diplomats from West African states met in Abuja this week to talk about how they can combat the virus in their region and a warning from Nigeria's health minister says Ebola has put the whole world in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone is at risk. Every nation is at risk and every individual is at risk.

CLANCY: Doctors Without Borders has nearly 700 staff trying to save lives in affected countries, like Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Still the aid group calls the response to Ebola too slow and says a massive international effort is needed to reverse the epidemic.

Jim Clancy, CNN.


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That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.