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July 15th, 2014
03:54 AM ET

Israel Accepts Cease-Fire Plan; Hamas Rejects It

Israel says it has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas. But without the militant group signing up as well, there may be little hope of seeing an end to the near constant exchange of fire that has so far killed more than 190 Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli security cabinet met early Tuesday morning and released a statement that said, "The cabinet has decided to reply positively to the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire at 9 a.m. (2 a.m. ET)."

The plan calls for all sides to cease hostilities in Gaza. It also calls for the opening of border crossings, once the security situation is stable, and for high-level talks among those involved.

Hamas officials did not immediately respond to the cabinet's decision. But since the cabinet's announcement, only one rocket was fired from Gaza into its territory, the Israeli military said.

Earlier, Hamas mocked the proposal in public, with a spokesman describing it as a "joke."

"We did not receive this declared paper from the Egyptians ... which means it's an initiative for the media. It's not a political initiative," said Osama Hamdan.

Speaking on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," he continued: "It's not really an initiative. It's not really an idea, what they are trying to do is to corner the Palestinians and to help the Israelis more."

Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said it hadn't received any formal or informal request about a cease-fire. But it said it rejects the proposal, describing it as an initiative of "kneeling and submission."

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Filed under: Israel
July 14th, 2014
04:56 AM ET

Palestinians Struggle to Find Safety as Israel and Hamas Continue Attacks

One bomb dropped on a center for the disabled. Another wiped out 18 members of the same family.

By Monday morning, the death toll from nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had reached 172 - all of them Palestinians - with more than 1,250 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel has so far shrugged off international calls for a cease-fire, saying it will continue the offensive as long as the militant group Hamas keeps firing rockets into its territory.

And Hamas shows no sign of letting up after already launching almost 1,000 rockets at Israel.

Caught in the middle are the residents of Gaza. While the Israeli attacks have killed some militants, around 70% of the fatalities were civilians, according to the United Nations. Of the dead, more than 30 are children, the U.N. reported.

"All sides ... must respect the sanctity of civilian life," said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

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Filed under: Hamas • Israel
July 11th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Rocket Fired Into Northern Israel from Lebanon as Gaza Conflict Continues

Israel faced attack from a second front Friday, but it is unlikely that a rocket fired from Lebanon signifies the widening of a conflict that has left at least 100 dead in Gaza.

The rocket launched from Lebanon landed near the northern Israeli town of Metula, which sits right by the Lebanese border, and no damage or injuries have been reported. It was not immediately clear who fired the rocket.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the attack, but concerns that Israel will face a two-front conflict are unlikely to be realized.

Hezbollah, which operates in Lebanon and is caught up in other conflicts in the region, probably does not have the appetite to start a war with Israel.

Thousands of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel during a war in 2006, but rocket attacks since then have been sporadic. Tensions are always high between Hezbollah and Israel, but Hezbollah's involvement in Syria's civil war means that a fight with Israel might not make sense.

Nonetheless, Israel responded with artillery that landed in the vicinity of the Lebanese town of Kfar Shouba. No casualties were reported, the Lebanese army said.

Israel continued to weather rocket attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, but virtually all of the casualties in the conflict have been suffered on the Gazan side.

Though menacing, nearly all the Hamas rockets have been intercepted by the Israeli air defense system or struck empty areas. Airstrikes by Israel in Gaza, in contrast, have been blamed for at least 100 deaths, including 22 children and 20 women, a spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Health said.

Hospitals in Gaza are unable to take care of the wounded - who top 700 - and patients are being treated on the floors because emergency rooms are overcrowded, medical sources told CNN.

The same medical sources said that medicines are running low and that the scenes at the hospitals are not unlike the chaos witnessed at Syrian hospitals during its civil war.

CNN staff in Gaza reported there are rolling blackouts, and there are water shortages in some areas because airstrikes have damaged pumping stations.

The Israeli military, meanwhile, said that some 100 rockets were fired at Israel today, including one that was intercepted over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Lebanon
July 10th, 2014
04:23 AM ET

New Wave of Israeli Airstrikes Hammers Gaza

A new wave of Israeli airstrikes battered areas of Gaza early Thursday, continuing the deadly onslaught aimed at stopping militant rocket fire into Israel.

The days-long aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed 76 Palestinians, including women and children, and injured more than 500 since it began Monday, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the offensive would be expanded and continue "until the firing at our communities stops and quiet is restored."

But there was no sign that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza were backing down as rockets continued to streak over the border into southern Israel. No Israelis have been killed so far in the rocket attacks.

Some Israeli officials have hinted at the possibility of a ground offensive in Gaza, although questions remain about the government's appetite for such a conflict.

Netanyahu didn't specify what the expansion of the current operation, which began Monday, would entail, but he said Israel's military "is prepared for all possibilities."

Ground offensive?

President Shimon Peres, whose role is largely ceremonial and is not involved in setting policy, said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Becky Anderson that he believed a ground offensive "may happen quite soon" unless Hamas stops firing rockets at Israel.

"We warned them. We asked them to stop it," Peres told Anderson. "We waited one day, two days, three days and they continued, and they spread their fire on more areas in Israel."

While Peres was speaking on his own and his position may not outline an official government policy, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz earlier told CNN that a ground operation "might become necessary."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

"This war is not against Hamas or another political party but it is against the Palestinian people," he told the media afterward. "What do you call this crime? What is this crime known under international law? To kill entire families, is this collective punishment?

"This is called collective genocide."

A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Israel's threat to launch a "stupid" ground offensive didn't scare anyone, and fighters from Hamas' military wing were ready to face off with Israel's "coward" soldiers in Gaza.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel
July 7th, 2014
04:50 AM ET

Netanyahu: 'The Murder of Your Son is Abhorrent'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday spoke with the father of the Palestinian teenager who was burned alive in Jerusalem last week, expressing shock at what he called an "abhorrent" murder.

As anger continues to boil over the killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khedair, Netanyahu spoke by phone with the father, Hussein Abu Khedair, telling him that the killers will be brought to trial and "will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law."

Police have arrested several Israeli Jewish suspects in connection with the killing. They said there was a "strong indication" that the attackers may have been motivated by a desire for revenge over the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found a week ago in a field in the West Bank.

In a region that has experienced decades of fighting and mistrust, the past week's events have still managed to shock - and to further embitter relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being," Netanyahu told the teenager's father on Monday.

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July 1st, 2014
04:33 AM ET

Israel Hits Back After Teens Found Dead

Nineteen days ago, three Israeli teenagers, trying to hitchhike home from the southern West Bank, disappeared.

Monday afternoon, volunteers from a nearby Israeli settlement discovered their bodies in an open field not far from Hebron, a city in the southern West Bank.

The teens' disappearance - which Israel blamed on Hamas - had already worsened relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The discovery threatens to make it worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the students had been "murdered in cold blood" by people he described as "animals."

"Hamas will pay," Netanyahu warned.

Hamas, the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization that operates in the West Bank and Gaza, denied it was behind the abductions.

If Netanyahu "brings a war on Gaza," the group warned, "the gates of hell will open to him."

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Filed under: Hamas • Israel
Are There Clues in the Flight 370 Satellite Data?
May 27th, 2014
04:26 AM ET

Are There Clues in the Flight 370 Satellite Data?

Data from communications between satellites and missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was released Tuesday, more than two months after relatives of passengers say they requested that it be made public.

Malaysian authorities published a 47-page document containing hundreds of lines of communication logs between the jetliner and the British company Inmarsat's satellite system.

The information provided isn't the whole picture but is "intended to provide a readable summary of the data communication logs," the notes at the start of the document say.

Some passengers' families, unsatisfied by official explanations of the plane's fate, say they want an independent analysis of the complex information, a process that could take some time.

"The first thing we're going to expect feedback on is does the data look right," said Sarah Bajc, whose partner, Philip Wood, was on the missing jet. "Is it as complete as we're being led to believe it is?"

She said, though, that she was "annoyed" that Inmarsat and Malaysian authorities hadn't released the raw data in its entirety.

"I see no reason for them to have massaged this before giving it to us," she said.

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Filed under: Flight 370 • MH370
April 7th, 2014
06:01 AM ET

Malaysia Flight 370: New Signal Sounds 'Just Like' One From a Plane's Beacon

After weeks of searching vast swaths of ocean, investigators now have their "most promising" lead yet in finding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

A pinger locator in the Indian Ocean has detected signals consistent with those sent by a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder, the head of the Australian agency coordinating search operations said Monday.

The sounds were heard at a depth of 4,500 meters (about 14,800 feet), retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said.

"We've got a visual indication on a screen, and we've also got an audible signal. And the audible signal sounds to me just like an emergency locator beacon," Houston said.

"We are encouraged that we are very close to where we need to be."

But it could take days before officials can confirm whether the signals did indeed come from the plane, which fell off the radar on March 8 with 239 people on board.

"In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast," Houston said. "I would ask all of you to treat this information cautiously and responsibly. ... We haven't found the aircraft yet."

At least one investigator has described the search not as finding a needle in a haystack, but rather trying to find the haystack.

"It's very exciting, very exciting," forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg said Monday. "I think we have finally found the haystack."

And Malaysian authorities are hopeful there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours, acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters Monday.

But some relatives of those on board haven't lost hope, despite Monday's news of the promising signals.

"If the plane is there, its there. We can't change it," the husband of one passenger said. "But I am still hoping for a miracle to happen."

But time could be running out in tracing the sounds. In a few hours or days, the pingers aboard the plane stop transmitting for good.

The batteries inside the beacons, which are designed to start sending signals when a plane crashes into water, last about 30 days after the devices are activated.

Monday marks the 31st day of the search.

What happens after the Malaysian plane's pingers die?

New flight details

While searchers may be getting closer to the plane itself, a fresh mystery has emerged about what happened during the flight.

The aircraft skirted Indonesian airspace as it went off the grid and veered off course, a senior Malaysian government source told CNN on Sunday.

After reviewing radar track data from neighboring countries, officials have concluded that the plane curved north of Indonesia before turning south toward the southern Indian Ocean, the Malaysian source said.

Whoever was flying the plane, the source said, could have been trying to avoid radar detection.

But why?

Like most details in the case that's baffled investigators ever since the plane dropped off Malaysian military radar, it depends on whom you ask.

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes cautioned against assuming a nefarious reason for steering the plane around Indonesia's airspace.

"I think the plane's being intentionally flown there, but I think it's still a mystery as to why. ... I think they would probably guess they're not avoiding anybody's radar, because there's a lot of radar in the area," he said. "I think they're avoiding getting shot down or colliding with another airplane."

CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien said the new route includes designated waypoints that pilots and air traffic controllers use.

"This particular route that is laid out happens to coincide with some of these named intersections," he said. "So what it shows is an experienced pilot somewhere in the mix on this."

Investigators haven't said who they think might have flown the plane off course or why.

But Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, said Monday that Indonesian military authorities told the chief of the Malaysian defense force that they had "no sighting" of the plane the night it disappeared.

The possibility that the plane was hijacked by someone who knew how to fly a commercial jet is still on the table. Authorities have also been investigating the plane's captain and co-pilot. And they haven't ruled out mechanical problems as a possible cause of the plane's diversion.

So far, no physical evidence of the plane's eventual whereabouts has been found, leaving many relatives of those on board trapped in uncertainty.

Zeroing in

The HMS Echo, a British navy ship equipped with advanced detection gear, sailed into the area of the southern Indian Ocean on Monday morning (Sunday afternoon ET) where a Chinese crew had detected two audio signals.

The area of detection is roughly 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) west-northwest of Perth, according to coordinates reported by Chinese state media.

The arrival of the Echo will be critical to the search for the missing Boeing 777. It has state-of-the-art sonar and is capable of mapping the ocean floor, which is about 4,500 meters (2.8 miles) deep in the focused search area.

It should be able to help determine more confidently whether audio signals picked up on Friday and Saturday by the Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 came from the plane.

The Chinese said the electronic pulses - detected only 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) apart - were consistent with those emitted by pingers on an aircraft's black boxes.

Sounds travel long distances underwater, Houston said, making it difficult to ascertain their sources. If detectors were near a pinger, they would pick up the signal for a more sustained period.

Houston also said that search authorities were informed Sunday that the Ocean Shield, an Australian naval vessel equipped with sophisticated listening equipment, has detected "an acoustic noise" in another area of the ocean to the north.

'Most promising lead'

The Ocean Shield, which has a high-tech pinger locator borrowed from the U.S. Navy, will continue to pursue the sound it heard. If that lead turns cold, it will move to the other detection area, a journey that will take at least a day, officials said.

On Monday morning, the Ocean Shield was "continuing investigations in its own area," Australian authorities said.

"At the moment, the most promising lead appears to be the one associated with Haixun 01," Houston said.

The pulses registered by the Chinese ship are of particular interest because they occurred in an area that fits with the latest calculation by experts of roughly where the plane is likely to have entered the water, Houston said.

April 4th, 2014
06:21 AM ET

Underwater Search in 'Area of Highest Probability'

The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has penetrated beneath the waves as searchers race to catch pings from the missing plane's flight data recorders before they fall silent.

But the area of the southern Indian Ocean where British and Australian naval ships are deploying sophisticated listening technology remains nothing more than an educated guess at where the plane may have hit the water.

The British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Echo and the Australian naval supply ship Ocean Shield began searching the ocean's depths along a single 240-kilometer (150-mile) track Friday, said retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the search efforts.

The Ocean Shield is equipped with high-tech gear borrowed from the United States: the TPL-25, a giant underwater microphone that will listen for the pings from the flight data recorders, and the Bluefin-21, an underwater robot that can scour the ocean bed for signs of wreckage. The HMS Echo also has advanced sensor equipment.

Time is running out in the efforts to detect the pings as the batteries that power the recorders' beacons are expected to expire in the coming days.

"If they do find it, I think it'll be remarkable," said Bill Schofield, an Australian scientist who worked on developing flight data recorders.

Nearly four weeks have passed since the jetliner vanished with 239 people on board. With investigators still apparently stumped by the case, information in the flight recorders could help them unravel the mystery of what happened the night the plane dropped off radar.

But there are no new clues behind the area where the underwater search is concentrated. It's based on the same kind of analysis of radar, satellite and other data that investigators have used to determine a series of shifting search areas in recent weeks.

"The area of highest probability as to where the aircraft might have entered the water is the area where the underwater search will commence," Houston said at a news conference Friday. "It's on the basis of data that arrived only recently, and it's the best data that is available."

March 28th, 2014
06:17 AM ET

Australia: New Search Area for Flight 370 is 'Most Credible Lead'

Nearly three weeks after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the focus of the hunt for the missing passenger jet has moved yet again.

Search teams have shifted to a different part of the southern Indian Ocean after Australian authorities said they received "a new credible lead" about the jetliner's most likely last movements.

An analysis of radar data led investigators to move the search to an area 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) to the northeast of where efforts had been focused previously, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Friday.

It described the new information, which indicated the errant jetliner didn't fly as far south as previously thought, as "the most credible lead to where debris may be located."

That means the huge, isolated areas of the ocean that ships and planes had combed for more than a week - and where various satellites detected objects that might be debris from the missing plane - are no longer of interest.

"We have moved on from those search areas," said John Young, general manager of emergency response for the Australian maritime authority.

The new search area is "considerable" and conditions there "remain challenging," acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters Friday.

The sudden change of geographic focus is the latest twist in an investigation that has so far failed to establish why Flight 370 flew dramatically off course or exactly where the plane and the 239 people it was carrying ended up.

"To me, it's not a game changer, it's a reset," David Gallo of theWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution said of the shifted search.

'We have not seen any debris'

Australian officials also played down the significance of hundreds of possible objects detected by satellites in the previous search region, some of which had been described by authorities as important leads.

"In regards to the old areas, we have not seen any debris," Young said at a news briefing in Canberra, the Australian capital. "And I would not wish to classify any of the satellite imagery as debris, nor would I want to classify any of the few visual sightings that we made as debris. That's just not justifiable from what we have seen."

Officials had repeatedly cautioned that the objects seen in the satellite imagery could just be flotsam that had fallen off cargo ships.

But Hishammuddin said the new search area "could still be consistent" with the idea that materials spotted in recent satellite photos over the previous search area are connected to the plane. The materials could have drifted in ocean currents, he said.

Some analysts raised their eyebrows at the search coordinators' readiness to move away from the satellite sightings.

"Really? That much debris and we're not going to have a look at it to see what that stuff might be?" said Gallo, who helped lead the search for the flight recorders of Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

Others lamented the amount of time, money and resources that were spent sending planes and ships out to the now discounted areas for more than a week.

"This is time that has been wasted, there's no question," said CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

But Young disputed that suggestion, saying the previous searches were based on the information authorities "had at the time."

"That's nothing unusual for search and rescue operations," he said "And this actually happens to us all the time - that new information may arise out of sequence with the search itself."

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