tv BBC World News America PBS July 17, 2014 3:59pm-4:31pm PDT
hat can we do for you? >> and now "bbc world news america." >> reporting from washington, this is "bbc world news america." malaysian airline plane with 295 people on board crashing in eastern ukraine. debris falls from the sky. while there are reports it was shot down. both ukrainian government and pro-russian rebels deny involvement. the clash fight is a scene of destruction. and israel's prime minister has instructed the military to begin a ground offensive in gaza, escalating the conflict even farther.
welcome to our viewers on public television in america and also around the globe. tonight we come on the air tracking two breaking stories. israel has started a ground offensive in gaza. we will have more on that story in just a moment. but first a malaysia airline passenger plane with 295 people on board crashed in eastern ukraine. there are reports that it was village near the grabovo. they blamed an act of terrorism. here's the latest. >> the horrific moment when the crashed plane burst into flames just over the horizon and then the black smoke starts billowing. from another angle, the eerie sight of debris falling. closer up, burning wreckage and other charred fragments that
have turned these ukrainian fields into a scene from hell. so how on earth could this have happened? as firefighters and emergency services moved in, locals described what they saw. translator: i heard two explosions. i jumped out and saw the smoke, says this man. everything was black. there was fighting and i heard shooting in the sky, says this man. several shots and then some loud bang. i was scared, i looked up and saw fragments flying in different directions. in some places the remnants were twisted and burnt out of recognition. in others pieces were broken clean off, like this wing with the clear markings of a malaysian airliner and poignant reminders some of the 295 victims on board, on their way
from the netherlands to malaysia, were going on holiday. it's still not clear the plane was shot down, but if it was, who did it? for weeks russian-backed separatists had been fighting ukrainian government forces in exactly the part of eastern ukraine where the crash happened. in kiev, a visibly shocked president called it an act of terrorism. other members of his government were more blunt, accusing russian-backed rebels of shooting the plane down with a russian surface-to-air missile. in recent days and weeks, the rebels have managed to shoot down several ukrainian military aircraft. and earlier today, a social media site attributed to a prominent rebel leader did claim they downed a ukrainian army transport plane in the same area. but that's all denied by the moscow-backed rebels, who argue their fighters don't have the
long-range weapons needed. they blame the ukrainian army. already this ukrainian crisis has plunged russia's relations with the west into a freeze. tonight president obama spoke to president putin about it. >> the united states will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. and as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families and passengers from wherever they call home. >> tonight reports suggest rebels in eastern ukraine may call a truce to let an investigation go ahead. possibly the horror of this crash will achieve a peace that diplomacy has so far failed to bring. but whatever the cause, it could also widen the abyss and make the spiraling conflict much more dangerous. bridget kendall, bbc news. >> and for more on this unfolding story, i'm joined now by mackey, director of the woodrow wilson centers cannon
institute. so president putin apparently is pointing the finger at ukraine, the country whose air space happened bodes responsibility for it. this tragedy would not have happened had military operations not been resumed in southeast ukraine. what do you make of that? >> i think his position all along has been consistent with what i expect to be the russian position on this tragedy and that is plausible denyability. the idea of what's going on here is conflict between ukrainian forces on one side, mainly pro-european fascists and ukrainian forces on another side, pro russian, patriots who want to protect russian language in that region. i think there are enough layers of ambiguity he can continue that line. we don't know if the weapon systems was acquired in ukraine or russia. we don't know if it was launched from russian or ukrainian territory. he can maintain his position. >> will an investigation clear up the ambiguity? >> what kind of investigation? at the moment we understand where the plane went down at least is in rebel-held territory.
so ukrainian officials are not getting in. international officials are not getting in. what i have been reading and this is through social media, is the rebels -- giving the lie by the way to putin's position he doesn't control them, are sending the data to moscow for analysis. >> what do you think the impact of this is going to be then? this crash in which so much international passengers have died, dutch, british, malaysian, australian. >> yes. the tragic proportions i think are undeniable. i think what that meanings s. of course, there's going to be a deepening of the emotionalty arrange this conflict, which is already quite significant on the russian side. on the european side, it's been largely a side show for western europe. that i think will change in the immediate future and i think what's likely to happen on the u.s. side, my prediction, predictions are always dangerous, is the united states is going to move further on punitive sanctions and isolating russia. because the position all along has been russia is making this happen. >> there were more punitive sanctions announced yesterday. u.s. officials seemed to be telling reporters this was a
surface-to-air missile that brought down the plane. they're not saying who it was fired by. where would a surface-to-air missile like that have come from? who's got them? >> we know for sure rebels have them because they're using them already. they used them to take down ukrainian military transports and attempt to take down ukrainian fighters. the question is where do they come from? are they being sent recently across the russian border or are they equipment ukrainians had all along because they inherited from the soviet union? . the data i have seen again, social media, not necessarily reliable, statement from the donetsk people's republic saying last week their military captured a ukrainian air offense position which included the so-called buk system which has this capability. >> what sort of position do you think this puts the rebels in now? of course, we don't know who brought down the plane but -- >> it's a big messup. in fact the recorded phone calls now being released online between rebel commanders and their superiors who may in fact
be russian, we don't know, are acknowledging it was a mistake. >> do you think it's possible that the fighting will cease as a result of this? could that be one result? >> if we get a cessation of fighting three, four days, that means the lives that would have been lost in that fighting wouldn't be lost. that's positive. there might be room for diplomacy. on the other hand the overall atmosphere here probably will not be conducive to compromise. >> how a about a government in kiev, what impact will this have on them? >> my concern about the ukrainian government's position is there's tremendous pressure on them to be seen to be doing something. typically their options in terms of what they can do are limited to force on the ground and that's what they have been doing so far. that comes with huge risks. missiles and artillery can go in the wrong place. they can kill civilians. that's happened. their operations can fail and their own soldiers can get killed. that's happened. thirdly, what they do can preclude diplomat sifment so i would be very cautious, i would exercise restraint if i were poroshenko now but there's going to be huge, huge pressure on him. >> thank you very much indeed
for joining us. >> thank you. >> 154 dutch passengers were on board the downed airline and relatives of those on board the plane had been arriving in amsterdam where the flight started. airport officials say they're being taken to a special area to await any news. president obama said the united states was working to establish whether any american citizens ere on the flight. our european correspondent matthew price reports. >> at skip ol airport this evening, grim procession of family and friends of the passengers. strangers now bonded together by a horror so unimaginable, they barely spoke. they had left their loved ones on this curb side just a few hours earlier, bound for holidays or home. loved ones who will not be returning. well, this really will not have sunk in for any of them yet but
those are the first few relatives here at the schiphol airport now being taken away and they must, of course, all fear the worse. inside no staff at the malaysian desk but there was a family who decided to switch airlines at the last minute. started st -- we getting -- your heartbeat starts to go. >> it's a feeling like we were supposed to be on that flight and obviously, something came over us and said no, don't get on that flight. >> this is a photograph of the plane as it took off this afternoon. brits, americans, malaysians, dutch on board. the french foreign minister says at least four from his country. translator: there must be an
inquiry, this is an absolute tragedy he added. officials here are offering help but in reality, there's nothing anyone can do. the geo political tremors of this disaster, immense as they may well be, will one day fade. the personal tragedies, however, will never vanish. matthew price, bbc news, schiphol airport. >> just a brief time ago i heard from matthew at the schiphol airport in amsterdam and i started by asking him from what we knew about who was on board the plane. >> well, the c.e.o. of schiphol airport has just given a particularly harrowing press conference inside this terminal billing in which he has outlined the fact that the majority of the people on board were of dutch nationalty, 154 dutch. we also know 27 australians, 23 malaysians, 6 british people on board, some belgians, french and other nationalities as well. so the dutch prime minister, who
was in belgium during the day, cut short that visit and came back to the nation's capital, the hague, during the late afternoon. i don't know if there's any later statement from him at this stage but he had already, of course, sent out his condolences and feelings to those relatives and friends of those on board. >> matthew price, at schiphol airport. thank you for joining us. and following news of the crash as we mentioned, the ukrainian military and pro-russian rebels immediately acudesed each other of shooting down the plane. several theories emerged about the likely cause. major airlines including lufetansia and air france said their planes would be avoiding eastern ukrainian air space. correspondent richard west cot -- wescott had this analysis. >> right now it's claimed this is the weapon most likely to have brought the aircraft down. russian-made buk and one of the missiles in the region capable of reaching that height, more
than 30,000 feet. but even after that height, experts say a well-trained operator would easily recognize a civilian airliner. so did the missile system fall into the wrong hands? >> the russian military i can't believe would have done this. the question therefore is has the russian military given the kids to the babies, given it to the goons who have enough technology to switch it on but no one -- no understanding of what they're doing? >> why was the aircraft flying over a conflict zone? the malaysian flight was flying on a well-traveled route. think of it as remote way for airliners between europe and asia. a few days ago ukrainian authorities restricted flights in the same area after attacks on military aircraft but crucially they only stopped planes from flying below 31,000 feet. this airliner was flying at around 33,000 feet, well above the restricted danger zone.
not only was it meant to be safe up there, but plenty of other major airlines were flying on the same route too. >> they were choosing the most economic flight route possible to keep their costs down, which is something we expect as customers. and they were no different than many other international airlines coming out of the u.k., coming out of europe. >> as for malaysian airlines two tragedies in less than six months has left them reeling. the search for missing flight mh-370 resumes next month. so what happens now? well, all major airlines have stopped passing over eastern ukraine, which could add some time to flights, especially between europe and asia. there are reports tonight that they found the aircraft flight data recorder. it should at least reveal if the crew got any warning. >> and the other big story we're covering today, within the past couple hours israeli forces launched a ground offensive in
gaza. the operation came after ten days of intense fighting between israel and the militant palestinian group hamas. israeli army said the feafpksive was meant to strike a significant blow to hamas and its terror infrastructure. israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu said he took the decision after hamas rejected a cease-fire plan brokerred by egypt. this report from our rrespondent in tel aviv, quentin summerville. >> under the cover of darkness, israel's grand vision of gaza began with a huge aerial bombardment. eyewitnesses said they saw israeli commandos on the beach banked by tanks, artillery and israeli air force. this was the scene earlier today -- soldiers and armor for what we know will be a considerable ground attack. it's expected to last many days. israel said it's taking the action after hamas rejected a peace deal brokerred by egypt.
>> after the last ten days we have been struck offensively by hamas and terrorist organization in the gaza strip with over 1,300 rockets. and several attacks from land and sea which warranted the reason for us to mobilize. >> complained the deal offered it little but this is the other reason for the israeli action. palestinian gunmen in the morning caught on military surveillance attempting to infiltrate israel. they were heavily armed and it's thought intent on attacking in nearby ca buttes. and this was gaza earlier today, another funeral and yet more children killed by an israeli air strike. they were hit by shrapnel as the attack came while they were feeding pigeons on the street. more than 250 people have died in gaza already. a ground invasion will likely mean many more will die and greater numbers than before on
both sides. gaza tonight is under the most intense attack of the 10-day conflict. israel said it reserves the right to expand the operation. this conflict isn't ending any time soon. quentin summerville, bbc news, tel aviv. >> the bbc is on the ground in gaza and described the situation there for us a short while ago. >> about two hours ago we received a warning message from the israeli defense forces that everyone staying on this side of the coastal road along the mediterranean had to leave immediately. all of the hotels, buildings here being evacuated. we were told to take refuge here so this is now a place where there are dozens of foreign and gazan journalists as well as anyone else staying along this beach road. in the run-up to the warning, we heard a lot of naval shelling, flares in the air and reports a ground incursion was imminent. the message was conveyed by the prime minister's office that was under way. now, we have just spoken to
someone who's come from the main hospital, a hospital in gaza city who said the injured are starting to arrive from the east as well as from the north where we have been told at least 10 tanks have crossed over into the gaza strip and we're getting reports that there's intense shelling all around the edges of the gaza strip. >> what is the mood amongst the people of gaza as this israeli ground offensive begins? >> well, it's ten days into this escalation that israel calls operation protective edge. and throughout this time the gazans have either been getting leaflets dropped from the air or recorded telephone messages. most of the people living in the north of the gaza strip telling them to leave their areas, telling them they should not, to use their phrase, be in close proximity to any hamas targets because they would come under attack. about a week ago, some 17,000 gazans fled their homes. they took up refuge in some 20
schools operated by the u.n. agency. those warnings came again a few days ago but when we went to visit one of the areas, people hadn't left. he said why? we simply cannot keep moving because we have nowhere else to go. indeed throughout date today, gazans kept telling us that they were getting repeated messages from the israeli defense forces saying, leave your homes, your area could come under attack. so much so people didn't know where which area, which part of the gaza strip would be safe tonight. people are nervous, they hear the shelling, they hear, of course, missiles going out into israel as well. we heard a lot of people going out immediately after -- don't forget a humanitarian pause for five hours today which allowed people to stock up on food and that will end up being absolutely crucial because reports we're getting is this could go on for days and even longer. >> and israelis want hamas to agree to a cease-fire.
but what impact do you think this will have on hamas? will it just make them more determined? >> well, if the last two wars 2009, and one two years ago in 2012, we covered both of them, but when israel steps up its attacks, hamas steps its attacks as well. growing defiance. we received an s.m.s. message from a hamas spokesperson who said this escalation was very dangerous one and certain to try to keep firing rockets the harder israel pushes. once israel is inside the gaza strip, we are hearing they will go after the tunnels and go after those positions where the rockets are being fired into israel. this is just the start. >> thank you very much indeed. lisa as always in the very center of the action, this time in gaza. and for more on the announcement of the israeli ground offensive i spoke a short time ago with a senior fellow at the council on foreign relations.
robert, what is israel trying to achieve with this offensive? >> i think so far what we know from what the prime minister of israel has announced in launching this operation is that they're going after the infrastructure of the groups in gaza. and they're trying to instill some quiet. but i think it has to be seen in the context of talks taking place in the last 24 hours. those talks did not succeed beyond reaching a cease-fire this morning. for five hours. but the hamas rejected an open-ended cease-fire and negotiators are in cairo right now talking through the egyptians. so i think we're seeing a brinksmanship here on both sides. >> but is this operation really about israel going after the tunnels that connect gaza to israel that the israelis are so worried about because they say they used smuggling weapons to attack israel? >> as we saw this morning, israel intercepted an operation taking place using these
tunnels. i think though it's important to keep in mind we are not seeing full-on invasion necessarily. these are limited -- this could be very well limited operation by israel as it ratchets up the pressure evermore trying to get hamas basically to agree to stand down. >> don't you think this will make hamas less likely to agree to a cease-fire? >> it all depends how much pain hamas is feeling. are they really feeling that they can withstand this and they want an israeli incursion in order to really get some israeli casualties start to even scores? we have only seen one rurally death so far, ground invasion will be much messier. will likely require or bring about israeli casualties as well as palestinian. and that might be hamas' goal here. >> is this offensive into gaza happening with the full support of the u.s.? >> i think the united states has made clear it really doesn't want a ground offensive but at the same time the united states had supported the egyptian call for a cease-fire that israel
accepted. so i think the united states had a difficult cal right now in how it articulates its position. on the one hand supports a cease-fire israel accepts and hasn't wanted israel to go in on the ground. but after a day like today where ireland's taken over 100 rockets, it's hard to basically ask them not to go in. >> you were in the region in 2008 and 2009 when the last full scale ground offense happened. i was in gaza too immediately afterwards. yet the fundamentals of this problem remain the same, don't they? >> that's right. this is now the third round we're seeing in which israel is going after hamas inside gaza trying to get them to stand down, trying to basically bring about a status quo ante. it's what some in israel call mowing the grass, which means maintenance operation trying to limit hamas capabilities. but the political objectives are very limited. they're not to change anything fundamentally on either side. and that's what makes this whole situation somewhat tragic.
it's not going to bring about a dramatic change. >> robert, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> reminder of our top story tonight -- malaysian airline passenger plane with 295 people on board crashed in eastern ukraine. there were reports it was shot down. ukrainian officials immediately blamed russian-backed sprastists and called it a terrorist act. russian president vladimir putin says ukraine bears responsibility for the crash of the airliner. among the dead, we know that 154 were dutch, 23 malaysian, 11 from indonesian -- indonesia and 6 from britain. you can find more on our top stories about the israeli incursion into gaza and the tragedy of that plane crash. they will be on the bbc news website. that brings today's show to a close but you can find much more on the news by our website and you can reach me in most of the bbc team. go to twitter. from all of us here at world news america, thank you for
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