tv At This Hour With Berman and Michaela CNN September 26, 2014 8:00am-9:01am PDT
chicago's o'hare airport, also midway. you can just imagine what that means for those very busy airports there. also the ripple effects felt across the entire country. it all seems to have a strange and suspicious beginning. i want to go to ted rollins at o'hare airport a busy probably frustrated airport. ted, how did this start? >> reporter: john, it started at an air traffic control facility about 40 miles away from chicago in aurora, illinois. this is a facility that basically shepherds the planes in and out of both o'hare and midway airport and this morning a contracts employee at that facility attempted to kill himself by cutting his wrist and apparently starting a fire inside the facility. that, of course, triggered the evacuation of the facility. that individual did survive his self-inflicted wounds. they are questioning him, the
police, the fbi, and the atf. at this point there's no indication this was a terrorist act on any level. in fact, there was just a news conference held a few minutes ago out in the aurora area and the local police chief there said don't go there, this is not terrorism. at this point there's no indication. now, we don't know that individual's motives but we do know the effect of what he did apparently and that is this. you can see literally thousands of people just here at o'hare, the same scenario is taking place at midway and realistically at airports around the country because the planes here that have -- should have been coming and going have been stuck for hours now and there's no indication from the faa when flights will resume. the -- right now there are a few flights coming in being handled by indianapolis's control center and the hope is that other cities, indianapolis and minneapolis, kansas city can help out o'hare and chicago and get flights moving but at this point these passengers are not
being told when they can leave and as you mentioned, a lot of frustrated and, quite frankly, sad people in line hoping to start their weekend. >> so no information about when the ground stop might be lifted. the line not moving, the planes on the ground not moving. ted rollins, appreciate you being there. thanks so much. so many flights go through chicago. more than 800 flights have been canceled there today so far and, really, this could have an impact throughout the entire country. i want to check in with jennifer gray right now. jennifer, give us a sense of the bigger picture. kind of the scene from above. >> this is huge. this is impacting a lot of people across the entire country. and one thing just to update you on, we just found out, john, the ground stop has been extended for one more hour so best case scenario the ground stop could be lifted by noon eastern time, of course, that could be updated closer to noon and extended farther out. so one thing to note it looks like for at least another hour the planes will be on the
ground. this is o'hare and you can see major, major delays. this is flightaware's misery map. not only affecting o'hare and midway, you have these planes that can't get on the ground to turn around and go to other cities. so you have places like denver, san francisco, l.a.x., dallas, atlanta, houston and d.c. among other cities feeling the delays. so people sitting in airports across the country and cannot get out. you have seen a thousand delays with midway and o'hare with planes coming in and going out so far this morning. a thousand cancellations, that is. and you can see from flight explorer, chicago and all the areas surrounding it. this is the facility that controlled the entire region so you not only have those two airports, you have regional airports, smaller airports being affected so, folks all across the country affected in a huge way. >> if we can keep that picture up, you can see the area over chicago where there are no planes flying.
that blank area. you never see that over chicago because it's one of the busiest flight areas, one of the busiest airports, two of them, midway and o'hare, in the country. this will take some time to untangle this mess. several hours of ground stops. jennifer gray, thank you so much for that. if you are flying today you must, must check with your airline to find out the status of your flight, particularly in chicago but not just there, all around the country. a lot of questions about how this could happen. remember, it didn't happen at the airport, it happened at a facility about 45 miles away. i want to bring our aviation expert mary schiavo in charleston, south carolina. let's start with what kind of place this is. an air traffic control facility, not a tower, it's about 45 miles away. >> that's right, john. this controls traffic already up in the air. this doesn't give planes instructions to take or land but it brings traffic from all around the country to the chicago area. it controls traffic passing over
the chicago area and then gets planes after they've taken off out of the chicago area. it's what's called an en route center. they can switch it off to other en route centers but this was a busy time and travel and our air traffic control facilities are already operating not at capacity but pretty close so to transfer all of the aurora center traffic to another en route center is a big job and it's difficult and they have to ground the traffic so there's no dangers of collisions. >> you would think there would be backups for the system, backups for the backups, backups for the backups for the backups. is that what's going on? it's just taking time to shift down the line? >> they're supposed to have a system that operates, a second backup system for maintenance at all times and a third emergency system. but they don't all function and what we have found over the years is they don't operate in realtime. so if one system has to be switched it takes the other system time to catch up. you don't just flip a switch and at once someone else is
controlling the traffic. it takes much more than that. now we have subsequently learned that there was some damage to the communications systems. a radio communications because of the fire. so it's taking a little longer to sort it out. it wasn't as initially reported just a fire in the bathroom, it's much more serious than that. but the controllers have to be first and foremost -- they're trained for their particular areas, they're trained for the aurora center, et cetera. so when you hand the traffic off, sometimes they increase separations between the planes to add a margin of safety and that's going on as well, too, so that's adding to the delay. but the delay on the ground stop is what's keeping everyone safe right now. >> you want to be careful. on the subject of being careful, you know, what about security concerns at these types of facilities? this wasn't an employee. that was contractor. if a contractor can cause this much mayhem, does that raise concerns about security at facilities like this? >> well, it does but it shouldn't. see, now, the faa has many more contract employees than they
have actual employees. if you look at inspectors, we have 3,000 to 4,000 inspectors but we have many times that in contract employees and others. same thing with air traffic control. we have persons on the payroll of the federal aviation doing air traffic control and then we have contractors for a couple reasons. one, they're considered by the government to be less expensive and, two, they hire what they need for the job and they're not on the permanent federal payroll but they are supposed to go through that background, not a full field background check but a rudimentary background check just like everyone else, we're supposed to know who they are, that they're citizens, lawful green card holders and we're supposed to know who those employees are on facilities. but as even with pilots, not everybody that works in federal aviation administration has any kind of mental evaluation or evaluations to really see how stable one is. that just doesn't go on. people think it does but those employees don't have to submit to that. >> it does raise questions.
mary schiavo, thank you so much for helping us understand this. the headline at the this hour, a ground stop in chicago because of this fire at an off site facility there. no word yet on when the ground stop might be lifted so there will be serious travel issues for thousands and thousands and thousands of people over a big part of the country today. stay with us, we'll bring you updates as they come in. ahead for us at this hour, not necessarily isis but the al qaeda linked khorasan group that might be the main concern for the fbi right now. worrying that that terror cell filled with al qaeda veterans could attack the u.s. at any time. so why did the pentagon say u.s. air strikes against khorasan were so successful? plus, the u.s. bombing its own equipment in iraq, equipment it gave the iraqi military but is now in the hands of isis fighters. ♪
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new developments in the war against isis. u.s. central command says fighters and drones have launched ten new air strikes against the terror group in both syria and iraq. military vehicles in a bunker the latest target. denmark became the latest coalition to try to destroy isis. the danish prime minister announced she will send seven f-16 fighter jets to take part in these air strikes. right now, british lawmakers are debating whether they, too, will join the offensive. >> does he accept that without the iraqi army being able to take and hold ground there is a real risk that air strikes alone will not just prove in effective but could become counterproductive, especially
civilian casualties mount and especially isil actually uses the fact that they've withstood the might of the west and still held its ground spins that story which it has so far managed to do? >> well, i would disagree with my honorable different on this basis, that the air action that's already taken place by the americans and to a degree by the french has already made a difference. lives have been saved. christians, yazidis and other minorities who otherwise would be butchered has been saved by that action. quite rightly, i'm not prepared to put our own combat troops on the ground. we should be working with the iraqis, working with the kurds so they become more effective. but we can't wait for that and allow minorities and others to be butchered and for the risk to our own country to increase without taking action. >> this will not be solved, every matter will be made worse, extremism will spread farther and deeper around the world just
like happened as a result of the last iraq war. the people outside can see it but the fools in here who draw a big salary and big expenses cannot or will not see it like the honorable lady with her asinine intervention. >> the passion of open debate. in the united states, the fbi saying they are not convinced air strikes have wiped out the al qaeda-linked khorasan group. that's the terror cell that's been trying to perfect a non-metallic bomb that could evade airport security. fbi director james comey warning corazon could attack the u.s. at any time, tomorrow, the coming weeks or months. we'll talk about that in a second but first just a moment ago we showed you sound and pictures of the debate in britain going on about the war. there's no small irony that a nation that still has a queen is actually having a legislative debate about war while a congress of the united states took a pass and went home to campaign. but not only that, the speaker
of the house now says a vote will not come right after the election. no, john boehner wants to wait until january because what's the rush? joining us, our political commentators, republican strategist margaret hoover and daily beast editor and chief john avalon. look what they managed to do in britain. a debate in the house of commence. >> well, there's a difference between a parliamentary system and the kind of representative democracy we we have here. they don't have elections and there's the rub. so what we're going to see is -- i don't think we are going to see -- we were talking about this there is a deficit of interest in paying proper attention to syria and making sure we beat isis in our congress there is a massive difference of opinion about how to go after them. even members of the house of representatives who voted not to arm the syrian rell bens many of them believed the reason we shouldn't arm them is that our forces should do it ourselves. so we're seeing a retreat to
isolationisim in the united states but i think because of our system we're not primed to have an open and honest debate eight weeks before our election or 45 days. >> you said there's a difference in the system so one of the differences we have a constitution and in that constitution, john, it says that congress shall declare war. i agree with margaret here, this isn't a retreat to isolationism. this is just fear of facing the political consequences of saying what you think out loud. >> that's exactly right. so they punt a provision of the constitution until after the election. i mean, the problem with what john boehner is saying, of course, is that you don't get to take on issues of war and peace and constitutional responsibility at a time when it's politically convenient and that's transparentally what's occurring here. a lack of desire to take a tough vote before a tough midterm election. a lack of desire to put in the front of a lame duck session and see where things are come the 114th congress. it just -- it strains
credibility. it actually probably adds a little bit of insult to the injury that's been done to the constitution on this issue. and, frankly, lame duck is the only time this divided dysfunctional congress has been able to get anything done the last couple years so it's not a profile in courage moment. >> john, let's be clear, though. the president isn't going to congress saying "you guys have to vote" because guess what? the president believes he has constitutional authority from the 2002 authorization for military force in iraq. and what's the most ironic about that is that specific provision is a provision that two months ago susan rice sent a letter to the congress encouraging congress to repeal that provision. the provision that they're relying on in case they need to go to iraq which speaks to what is really a bungling of a strategy in foreign policy by this president which i think what his 38% approval ratings in foreign policy are about and that it means, frankly, he's lost credibility and faith in the american people and being able to handle this situation strategically and effectively.
>> if you think he's bundled it so badly, congress, vote on it. let's move that aside for one second, john, because there's something interesting going on in the world right now. you have britain voting in to get in on these air strikes, denmark is saying they will join. belgium, the netherlands, you have this coalition of five arab nations. it almost seems like countries are lining up now to take part, at least in the battle in iraq. that's a phenomenon the united states hasn't seen too much of over the years as it engaged in these types of operations. >> no. and while the bush administration cobbled together a quote/unquote coalition of the willing, it involved not a lot of major powers or major arab powers that that particular time in contrast to the first gulf war. so this is significant and it's a test of the president's attempt to create a muscular multilateral alternative to the unilateralist rhetoric and philosophy of the first bush administration. and the fact that five arab nations are involved in these strikes is so significant in terms of creating a broader coalition against isis so that it's not dismissed as the west
versus the arab world, it's a significant step and a hopeful sign, frankly, when you see arab countries standing up to isis, to terrorist organizations, that's a major step forward for stability and civilization. >> john, you and i both know this is not just good will. they're not doing it because it's the right thing to do, it's because it's in their country's national security interest. guess who's also vulnerable? denmark, the uk, all the countries in europe. this should be a huge wakeup call to americans that thises seriously in america's national interest. >> stand by. margaret hoover, john avalon, i have a remarkable picture i want to show you both. i believe we have pictures right now from inside syria. what you're looking at right there, live pictures of isis engaged in fighting right now. we are going to take you to this battle which is going on at this moment just ahead. can this decadent, fruit topped pastry... ...with indulgent streusel crumble, be from... fiber one.
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there's something remarkable happening right now, something i have not seen before, i don't think any of us have seen before. breaking news from the syrian-turkish border where our cnn crew is seeing isis fighters engaged in a battle right now. i want to go to phil black on the turkish side of that border. phil, set the stage, what are you seeing? >> john, we are just on the turkish side of a border on a hill top surrounded by a crowd, understandably so. what we are seeing, as you say, is extraordinary. we're zooming in slowly and steadily to a ridge line just across on the syrian side of the border and you should make out figures on the top of that ridge line. they are, we're pretty confident, isis fighters in
action. what those fighters are doing has been part of a broader offensive in h this region for the last week or so, moving through this northern region of syria through what is largely ethnically kurdish territory towards the town of kobani. the reason why this is important is because it's triggered an enormous exodus. hundreds of thousands of refugees heading across the board interturkey in the last week also because of fighting like this. these fighters have been on that ridge line for the better part of the afternoon trading small arms fire with their kurdish opponents on an opposing ridge line. it appears they have been driven back slightly. earlier in the afternoon they were making their way down the hill. they received incoming fire and were driven up that hill and a cnn photojournalist saw some of those spotters take casualties on the top of the hill. still seeking shelter, trying to use that territory to their advantage and protect themselves from incoming fire from their
kurdish opponents. as i speak there is small arms fire being traded. i'm not sure if you can hear it over our microphone bus that's been going on in the last few hours negotiation that, we're hearing heavy artillery fire as well. mortars, one not far from that isis position about ten minutes ago or so. dusk is falling now. it's getting harder to make out what's going on at that distance so i apologize for that and the fighting itself appears to be slowing as well. as it stands at the moment, those isis fighters appear to have been stopped or at the very least their advanced slowed down at that location by the fighting of their kurdish opponents. the thing i think is quite striking, watching those isis fighters. i'm being told, john, that one of those fighters at the top of the hill was just injured. they've just taken casualties at the top of that hill. that information from cnn
photojournalist claria, operating the camera. i think you can see it as well. the fighting is ongoing even as dusk falls right now. and this is the fighting going on throughout syria. as i mentioned the town of kobani earlier, it's the major town here. that's what they're trying to advance towards. those kurdish fighters on the ground are telling us isis is not just advancing from the east where we are but also from the south and the west as well. the local fighters have been able to slow that advance but over the last couple days isis has still made progress. what i think is quite striking as you see those fighters on the top of that ridge there is that they are being -- they are not being interfered with at all by any form of air power and that's really a crucial point that the fighters on the ground have made to us and the many refugees
we've been talking to crossing into turkey. they've been asked the question "where is the coalition air fire striking positions elsewhere in syria, elsewhere in iraq but not here on the ground where isis is still advancing." still trying to claim new territory. refugees tell us they have been killing innocent civilians. that is the scene here. an extraordinary scene as dusk is falling here isis fighters in action. we saw traces of fire move across the skyline there. something of an ooh and aah. this crowd of turkish kurds. when they have seen fire, they've been cheering their kurdish brothers on the other side. so what is clear is dusk is falling but the fight is very much continuing. >> stick with me if you can, please be as careful as you need to be in this situation because
we have seen what i believe to be tracers or some kind of fire going by on the pictures as well as the gunfire we can hear. this raises several important issues all at once. it shows the enormous range these isis fighters are operating in across syria and iraq as well. [ cheers and applause ] people here are cheering as the battle is being take on the isis right now. i think the people where phil is, these refugees who have been driven out by isis, the human toll from these isis fighters right now. and the other thing it illustrates, phil, as you say is the failure of you are the i do act, turkey not part of this. and the coalition partners with the united states not willing i think to go after these isis fighters perhaps near the turkish border. phil, if you're still there, tell me what you're seeing right now. >> sure, john.
you make the point about the turkish military. they are here patrolling this heavily fortified border. they have checkpoints here, armored vehicles patrols. what you were hearing was, yes, the crowd cheering as they have been through the afternoon as their kurdish brothers, the ethnic population stretches across the border between turkey and syria. these are largely turkish kurds but they are here watching their kurdish brothers fight at isis in the distance and wherever it has looked like the kurds have been taking the fight directly to isis, scoring a hit somewhere close to that isis position then, yes, the cheers have very much gone up. the turkish military at this stage is just watching. we're seeing armored vehicles patrol this border area regularly, particularly through this afternoon. the greatest concern, i think, has been keeping these crowds from the turkish side from getting too close to the border and on the kurdish side what we've been hearing for a couple
days now is "where are these air strikes?" they said they are willing to cooperate and provide targeting information to the international coalition because they believe that would be the decisive factor. they believe they are outnumbered and outgunned. they're appealing for the international coalition to come to their aid. they also make the point they've seen an influx of isis fighters over the last day or so they they think that could be because isis fighters are being driven from other areas in syria where there have been coalition air strikes. so it is complex but what we are seeing here on the ground, as i say, isis fighting in the open going up against some local fighters who have small arms, little else, although they appear to be operating a mortar this afternoon, not terribly effectively, i'd have to say. but they say they are fighting as hard as they possibly can to slow down this advance but they do not belief they will be able to stop it without the
assistance of some sort of air power from above. john? i want to welcome our viewers around from around the world as well as here in the united states. what you're looking at right now is a live battle. you're looking at isis fighters engaged in a battle right now with forces that are believed to be members of a syrian kurdish fighters. they've been fighting in several areas around the town. the kurdish fighters have pushed isis toward the turkish border where our phil black is standing with several dozen, perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of syrian refugees who have been trying to get into turkey. they are watching this battle right now, cheering on those who are fighting isis. you can see some of the rounds flying across the picture right there. we've heard the gunfire. those are what we believe to be the isis fighters there up on that hill top. phil, if you're still there, give me a sense who have the people are right now engaged in this battle with isis.
>> absolutely. so isis has been moving into this northern region of syria over the last week. it is a region that has been controlled largely by the ethnic kurdish population hear what have not played much of a part in the ongoing civil conflict that has been tearing apart syria for three years, more than three years now, i should say. so now that isis has started to move into this territory, really isis' reputation has sent a shock wave of fear through the kurdish villages and towns in this region. that is what triggered an enormous refugee exodus into turkey over the last week. estimates put it at somewhere close to 200,000 people moving into turkey in just a few days. literally picking up whatever they can carry, moving through the dusty landscape and then queueing to move across the boarder to safety and security and to what we have to say is an uncertain future in refugee camps. what they have left behind 1 a small fighting force of kurdish
fighters who say they are armed and prepared to fight very hard to try and slow down this advance and they say they have managed to do that successfully to some degree. but they have been reporting to us each day that isis has been making progress. a few more miles each day. just take a look up on that ridge line right now. [ cheers and applause ] what you are seeing is tracer fire moving in to that ridge line that is currently occupied by isis forces. and around me the kurdish crowd is cheering. take a listen. john, it's getting dark here so increasingly difficult to make out the figures on the ridgeline itself but we can see from that tracer fire that they are still receiving incoming fire and it is at that position that our
photojournalist claudia auto has seen isis fires take casualties, take hits. they've received injuries and they're seeing other fighters carrying their wounded away from that location. this has been the scene through the afternoon. small arms fire and some heavier artillery as well. mortars, i mentioned earlier. we haven't seen any of the heavy or heard any of the heavier arms for about an hour or so now, i think. but as you can see from from the tracer fire moving across the sighli skyline, that fighting is still going on. >> phil, because it isn't completely clear by this picture right now, how far away from you that where you are right now. those fighters we believe to be isis fighters standing on that ridge taking that fire. how far away are they from you and this crowd of refugees who are cheering on those battling isis right now? >> it is an estimate, john, and i'll give it my best.
we're on one hilltop. in between us is the border. the border cuts through a valley. that is the opposing hill top from where we are standing. i think it's a distance of two or three miles. it's not far. and when the light was much better today we could clearly make out the isis fighters on that ridge line as well as their opposing -- the opposing kurdish fighters on an opposite ridgeline as well. we have seen not just fighters on the top of those ridges but also in the hills behind them. we've seen their support teams moving in ammunition, vehicles, that sort of thing to support the fighters who are directly engaged in the fight that is taking place between the tops of two hills. just a narrow valley between them, john. >> as you explain, the people fighting isis right now, syrian kurdish fighters, but it's just short a short distance from where you are, phil black. you're standing on the turkish side of the border.
you say there are turkish troops in turkish armored vehicles where you are. give me a sense of what is keeping these turkish troops and turkish forces from engaging in this battle? it wouldn't take much for them to eliminate these isis fighters. >> well, it is unclear i guess precisely what their orders are. the rules of engagement for the turkish military is if they receive any incoming fire on to this side of the border then they are to respond in kind. now, we have been told by some of the local turkish people on this hillside that a couple mortar rounds did, in fact, land on the turkish side of the border earlier today. we didn't see that. that is what we were told happened but they have also told us that so far turkey has not responded. it has not returned fire as yet so what we are seeing is just turkish military vehicles patrolling at this border area. there are a number of outposts
and points where the turkish military is dug in along this border. it's quite heavily fortified, no doubt about that. but the turkish role as it has been through much of this conflict has been to assist the refugees in getting over but it has not gotten involved in the fighting really for the duration of the syrian civil conflict and we are not seeing that again today. so far it's not getting directly involved. not supporting those kurdish syrian fighters who are trying to rappel isis. and i think you take the point earlier, turkey for all its interest is not a member of this international coalition that is taking direct military action against isis. now, turkey has a lot of concerns about what is going on here. it has suggested setting up an international buffer zone in syrian territory. that idea hasn't gotten traction internationally i don't think. >> it says it's engaged in continuous talks with the united states about the situation in turkey and the situation with
isis in particular but making the point it's not part of the international coalition launching direct military action against isis. it has not commented specifically why but you can look at a couple of key important factors, i think, here. one is simply its proximity. turkey effectively as we are showing you now control -- shares a border with isis-controlled territory. what this raises are real security concerns for turkey. turkey would not be like other members of the international coalition that can fly over, drop their ordnance, return to base while giving orders from countries that are really a great distance from where all of this is happening. turkey is directly intimately involved in what is taking place here on the border. its borders are incredibly porous as we've been talking about. hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring across at a time and there's been a constant flow over the last few years which is why there are now 1.5 million syrian refugees currently in turkey dealing with those refugees and that refugee
burden is turkey's biggest problem in dealing with the crisis in syria. but i think if there's a reason why it isn't taking the fight directly to isis at this stage it is because that would be to provoke isis and turkey is vulnerable to isis retaliation in a way that the other members of this coalition simply are not, john. >> phil black, i know you're losing light there, it's getting dark where you are. i know you're losing battery power on some equipment we're using there right now. we'll try to keep you with us as long as we possibly can. what you're looking at, everyone, is a battle raging right now. those are believed to be isis fighters right now. they're on a ridge. behind them on a different ridge we believe there are some syrian kurdish fighters pushing them back. you saw a tracer bullet flying across the screen right there phil says there have been mortars shot, poorly, i might
add. you've been talking to the refugees on the border, the thousands streaming across from syria. for several days now into this u.s.-led coalition effort to attack isis inside syria what are the refugees telling you about this effort? kr v they seen any appreciable difference since the united states and their arab allies have started the attacks inside syria? >> they haven't seen in the h this region. when we talk to kurdish fighters by phone across the border in syria as well they mention this also they want to see that air power being deployed here in this region where isis is advancing because they make the point if isis is under fire in other parts of syria here they are clearly not just operating openly, not just operating in a way where they are not being interfered with, they are just advancing. they are making progress. effort they are claiming more
territory despite the efforts of those kurdish syrian fighters. we can hear gunfire still going as i speak to you now. small arms fire still being exchanged. this is a real point for these syrian kurds that have been fleeing this fighting, fleeing in fear because the reputation of isis is such that they don't want to stick around as isis approaches their villages and towns in that this region. that is why the influx of refugees has remained constant through the week, they say, because isis has been claiming more territory day by day, a few miles here, a few miles there visiting more villages. some of these syrian kurds have been holding out, trying to hold out for as long as possible before making the dash for the border with their families, their livestock, whatever belongings they can possibly carry with them. we've seen truly desperate seens and we've spoken to people who are experiencing absolute tremendous grief because they say isis has killed their family
members in recent days, they have shot them, some say, executed them some say. others say their family members were killed by artillery fire. these refugees, particularly the ones moving over in the last few days have made the decision at the last possible moment to leave so -- with their experiences with isis have been much more intimate than those that have crossed earlier. they've lost loved ones, lost their homes. they have seen the violence firsthand in many cases. john, as i speak to you now, our photojournalist claudia otto says it appears up on the ridgeline and with very little daylight left it looks like those isis fighters are now pulling back down the hill on the other side. it's more difficult now because we're moving into nighttime here. it's difficult to make out what's going on. claudia is fairly certain what
she is seeing now suggests that those isis fighters retreating from the individualline where we have seen them fighting from and seeking shelter and taking casualties through the afternoon, john. >> we have seen very clearly on the ridge which is covered mostly in darkness these isis fighters engaged in a battle with syrian kurds. we've seen tracer gunfire. we've heard gunshots, also mortar fire also around where our phil black is standing on the turkish side of the border surrounded by thousands of refugees from syria trying to get out of syria into turkey. they've been cheering. they've been cheering as this battle has been going on. these syrian kurds who are taking on isis right now and have forced isis to this hill top, phil, what kind of assistance are they getting and who exactly is behind the assistance? are they getting assistance from the iraqi kurds? is it the u.s. that has armed them directly and if so, with
what? >> what you are seeing is tracer fire moving into that ridgeline that is currently -- >> i think we lost phil black. again, phil is on the turkish side of the border. what you're looking at right now file video of just a few moments ago when it was still light out. a battle between isis fighters on a hill top, syrian kurdish fighters. we heard gunfire, we heard occasional mortar blasts. you also heard, which was remarkable, cheering from kurdish refugees, syrian kurdish refugees, thousands of them trying to get into turkey. this is so interesting. this was, while we could still see it, a live battle with isis fighters there. i'm joined by lieutenant colonel rick francona in the studio with me. when you look at this small group of isis fighters, clearly they're somewhere where they don't want to be.
they've been separated from whatever main group they were with. they were pushed back toward the syria-turkey border. obviously they can't go over the border. the turks would stop them. >> this is dramatic footage. you can see what isis is trying to do. they're trying to take that entire turkish border. they want to cut them off so they're probably trying to cut behind the lines and go right down the border and cut off any escape route for these people. obviously they're not being successful, otherwise the cheers we wouldn't have seen that so isis was probably not successful in this particular endeavor. they keep trying as phil said everyday a few miles more. a few hundred meters more. >> a few miles more, a few meters more despite fact that the united states has led this new effort with its arab allies to go after isis inside syria. >> this is where you need boots on the ground because you can't call in air strikes here unless you've got people -- with eyes on the target otherwise you risk killing friendly troops. >> you say that, you risk
killing friendly troops but this ridge is clearly visible to our eyes right now so explain to the audience why not. why couldn't a u.s. warplane watching cnn right now -- military leaders say hey, there's a battle going on right now, a pocket of isis fighters, why would that not be an inviting target? >> the military is not going to put iron and steel on target without their own eyes on the ground, either friendly forces or an american team. >> fair enough. what about the turks? this is a few hundred meters away. phil says there are armored turkish vehicles going back and forth. heavily armed turkish military members right there. >> the turks are just looking to keep the integrity of that border at some point the turks are going to have to get involved in this. they have a humanitarian disaster on their hands they'll have to deal with but we expect to see the turks jump into this. >> explain again why the turks don't want in. what's the reluctance to get
involved with a direct fight with isis. >> it's complicated. turkish politics come into play in this. they've gotten a islamist government in turkey but not radical islamist as we see with isis. they have been for a long time supporting many of these units that are fighting in turkey. a lot of the the islamic forces that are across the border fighting in syria receive turkish support. virtually every person now fighting in the north there came through turkey. that border as we see is very open. although the turks try and control it. there has to be some turkish acquiescence to allow people through. >> we woke up tuesday morning with the news that this u.s.-led coalition started attacking isis inside syria several more nations will join that coalition with fighters right now so we're several days into this expanded operation.
>> well, we can deal with them on the iraqi side much more effectively because we can call air in where we know there are ground troops, unfortunately, we've seen this over the past few days, john, just how bad shape the iraqi army is in. a unit overrun just the other day, soldiers killed because they couldn't get reinforcements there. the entire command structure has broken down. so the status of that is not good. we've been able to blunt the offensive in iraq but we have not been able to stop in the syria as we're seeing right here. the isis is still moving and as phil said taking more territory everyday. this will not stop until we get some sort of boots on the ground, friendly forces, moderate syrian rebels, somebody that we can work with inside syria. >> give me a sense of what you
think we will see for the next week, the next few days. will these air strikes be like they have been, picking off a humvee there, a truck there, an oil refinery here. >> going after fixed targets, buildings where they think isis is located. they'll fly drones looking for targets to prevent themselves. but you're using a hellfire missile to blow up an armored humvee or maybe a toyota with a machine gun mounted on the back of it. it's a very expensive, very ineffective way to this. >> there's something remarkable about the pictures we've been looking at. moments ago on the ridge not far from the turkish/syrian border. those are we believe isis fighters engaged in a gunfight right here on tv. we can see it with syrian
kurdish forces. there were tracer fire, we could hear the bullets, also mortars fired. a remarkable sight. if isis is engaged right by the turkish borders right before our cameras, they seem to be doing this out in the open without much fear. what do they fear? >> well, they don't fear -- they believe -- these are true believers, if they think they're about to be killed, it's almost as if they don't care, and that's the problem when you're dealing with these people that have what they believe is the true faith, and them dying in battle just gives them the mort mortardom that many of them seek. >> i think we have phil black, again, who is on the border between syria and turkey. just a short distance from where he has been watching a battle between isis fighters and syrian kurdish forces. give us an update. what are you seeing? >> reporter: well, john, it is now almost pitch black out there, i think, from that ridge
line which you might just be able to make out now with very little light that we have left, that is where the isis fighters were positioned through the afternoon, fell back to it, where they were seeking justice, saw them taking casualties. it was where a short time ago she saw them, it would seem, pull back from, pull down the other side of that hill, and i should say that there's been a little bit of tracer fire over the last five to ten minutes or so. but we're not hearing the very constant small arms fire that we were hearing for the last few hours. it appears that the fire fight for one of a better expression has ebbed off a little i think. certainly no more use of mortars, no more of the small arms fire. the occasional tracer shot across the sky. and the last thing that our photojournalist was able to make out clearly was it appeared to be the isis forces at the top of that hill pulling back to a position somewhere on the other side, john. >> and phil, is this the first
you have seen of isis from your vantage point, from the turkish side of the border? it seems so close to turkey. >> reporter: yeah, no question. this is the first we have seen. it is the first time we've seen them. it is certainly -- and also the first time we've been able to broadcast images like this live. to see isis in action at this distance is really quite extraordinary. really. as we've been spending a lot of time at the refugee camps on this side of the turkish border over the last few days. we have on occasion heard artillery fire in the distance, but nothing like this. we have not seen the figures, themselves, on the hillsides running up and down seeking shelter, firing and taking fire in return. it has been running through the course of the afternoon. as we've been talking about, it has attracted a large crowd of people here, onlookers who are cheering on really for the kurdish sides, whenever they have scored a hit close to that ridge, where the isis fighters were located, the crowds here
went up with very loud cheers, at one point even letting off some fireworks as well. happy but conflicted scenes, i think. they're happy to see their kurdish brothers across the other side taking on isis in this way, but concerned about what they are seeing as well. concerned that isis is making progress day by day and day by day the number of syrian refugees flooding on to this side is increasing because isis is taking control of more territories. homes, villages. kills innocent civilians we are told by the refugees that are crossing over. there is a huge human cost to what we are seeing. it is not just a spectator sport at a distance here. it is war that we are witnessing. and it is war with enormous humanitarian consequences. we've seen hundreds of thousands of people flee this fighting in recent weeks. and they have brought with them terrible stories of sorrow, suffering, and loss. not only have they faced the indignity of having to flee from
their homes, drop everything, pick up what they can, run with their children through the dust, to the border, wait in line to be crossed over to be allowed to cross over, searched and then given very basic food, watewate and shelter. some of those people have had intimate experiences with isis, as they have advanced through this territory. they have seen fighting. they have heard the artillery and as i mentioned earlier, some of these people have told us terribly sad stories about losing family members to the fighting as it has raged around them. so what we have been seeing today on the ground here is really, john, so very extraordinary. and it is not just some men in the distance on top of the hill. it represents one small part of the isis advance through this territory that has created such an enormous humanitarian catastrophe. john? >> the most poignant sound not the sound of gunfire but the sound of syrian refugees cheering when someone does take the battle to isis. we have a minute left.
i'm here with retiredco francona. >> is isis trying to drive the refugees into turkey or cut the border off and prevent them from freeing? >> reporter: it appears that they're not concerned with the refugees specifically, what they are trying to do is claim territory and move toward the town of kabani, the major town just over the border, due east of this position i think by about seven miles or so. and what we've been told by fighters on the ground, by telephone, is that they believe isis is advancing from three directions. from the east where we are, the south and the west as well. they're simply concerned with trying to take this territory. the fact that the refugees are fleeing before that, there's no sign that they are too concerned with that or that they are targeting these refugees in any way directly. what they are concerned with is taking territory and it would seem moving toward that central town which has a population i think, many tens of thousands of people. it is a significant settlement,
and when it was daylight here, we could see it very clearly in the distance and i think it's just worth noting that beyond this current ridge line where they are fighting now, it is flat ground all the way to kabani. this would appear to be the last piece of high ground that they are are trying to take before moving on that major town. >> phil black, sit tight if you can. you are doing amazing work for us. witnessing this fight that's going on right before your very eyes. please, stay with us. we're going to take a short break. "legal view with ashleigh banfield" picks up right after this. she's still the one for you.
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hello, everyone, i'm ashleigh banfield. some remarkable images coming off of the border between syria and turkey at this hour. for the last half hour or so, we have been watching live pictures, something up until now we've only been really able to see through isis propaganda videos. it is actual battle between turkish forces and isis forces as well. all of this happening in front of a cnn camera where our phil black is stationed among a number of refugees who have been watching this dramatic battle that's been taking place as well. it is nightfall now. 7:00 where you are, phil black. at least give me the scene setter of what we've been seeing on camera for the last 40 minutes or so? >> reporter: where we are standing is on t