Transcript for Malaysia Flight 17 Update: At Least 1 American Confirmed Dead
This is an ABC news special report a disaster in the sky. Now report. Good morning and we come on the air at this hour because President Obama is about to speak on two major international stories unfolding in the last 24 hours of course as you know we've been reporting. -- the downing of that Malaysian flight and -- seventeen and of course as we were getting our first pictures of that building smoke from the plane. We also learned of Israel's dramatic escalation its ground offensive into Gaza. The death toll rising on both sides there Israeli military saying seventeen militants killed overnight and one Israeli soldier has died 40000 dozens displaced. 270 dead the president watching that unfold as the White House also follows the fast moving developments after that jetliner was shot down over Ukraine. And here's -- we know on that front right now 298 people killed. Including three newborns eighty children in all according to the UN. No Americans yet confirmed on board and we now know that at least one American investigator with the NTSB is on the way US authorities believe the plane shot down. By what appears to be a surface to air missile. And we're learning this morning that US intelligence officials now -- that that missile was fired from rebel held territory on the Ukrainian side of the border. We have our entire team with us our chief White House correspondent Jonathan -- right there at the White House awaiting president John we're expecting to hear from the president on both fronts this morning. Yes David the bulk of his comments will be about that downed aircraft -- this comes just after -- ambassador to the United Nations and Samantha powers did a very. -- emotional statement about this that pointed the fingers at the Russia at the Russian pro Russian rebels and also at Russia itself. And here's the president. The president approaching the podium. Fumble and -- -- hear about it. Yesterday. Malaysian airlines flight and -- seventeen. Took off from Amsterdam. It was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken. Men women. Children. Infants. Who had nothing to do with the crisis -- Their deaths -- say. Outrage of unspeakable proportions. We know at least one American citizen. Quinn not Lucas -- man was killed. Our thoughts and prayers are with -- family for this terrible loss. Yesterday I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine Malaysia and the Netherlands. -- told them -- our thoughts and prayers -- -- -- all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time. Later they'll be speaking with prime minister habit of Australia. Which also suffered a terrible loss. By far the country but lost the most people on board the plane was benevolence. From the days profound and reduction of close friends and stalwart allies the United States of America today I want the -- people. To know that we stand with -- shoulder to shoulder. In our grief and in our -- -- determination. To get to the bottom of what happened. Here's what we know so far. Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by surface to air missile. That was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian backed separatists inside of Ukraine's. We also know that this is not the first atomic plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks Russian backed separatists have shot down -- Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter. And they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support. From Russia. This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons. And it includes anti aircraft weapons. Here's what must happen now. This was. A global tragedy. An Asian airliner was destroyed in the European skies filled with citizens. From many countries so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. The UN Security Council has endorsed this investigation and we will hold all its members including Russia. To their work. In order to facilitate that investigation. Russia. Pro Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease fire. Evidence must not be tampered -- Investigators need to access the crash site. And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately. And the United States stands ready to provide any assistance that is necessary. We party offered the support of the FBI and the National Transportation. Safety Board. Which has experience in working with -- international partners on these types of investigations. There are on their way personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board. In the coming hours and days -- continue to be -- close contact with leaders from around the world as we respond to this catastrophe. Our media focus will be on recovering those who lost investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts. Want to point out -- will likely be misinformation. As well. I think it's very important for folks to sift through. What is factually based. And what is simply speculation. No one can deny the truth that is revealed in the awful images that we all have seen. In the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine. And we are going to make sure that the truth is out. More broadly. I think it's important for us. Recognize that. This outrageous event. Underscores. That it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine. For months we support a pathway to peace. And the Ukrainian government has reached out to all ukrainians. Put forward a peace plan and lived up to a cease fire despite repeated violations by the -- Violations that took the lives. Ukrainian. Soldiers and personnel. More over time and again Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to -- escalate the situation. I spoke to President Putin yesterday. In the wake. Additional sanctions that we had imposed. He said he wasn't happy with -- and I told him. That. We have been very clear from the outset that. We want Russia to take the -- That would result in peace in Ukraine but so far at least Russia has failed to take that path. Instead it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It is also it failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by cease fire. That's why together -- our allies we've imposed growing costs on Russian. -- -- -- a somber an appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look. At what has happened. Violence and conflict inevitably lead to on perceived consequences. Russia. These separatists. And Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting. Meanwhile the United States is gonna continue to lead efforts within the world community to. To stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work. To strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about. How they should move forward. Before I take just a couple questions -- -- remark from 1 other issue this morning I spoke. We're live prime mister Netanyahu of Israel about the situation in Gaza. We discussed Israel's military operation in Gaza including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels. Into Israel. Reaffirm my strong support for Israel's right to defend itself. No nation should except rockets being fired into its borders. Or terrorists tunneling into its territory in fact while I was having the conversation with prime mister Netanyahu. Sirens went off in Tel Aviv. I also made clear that the United States and our friends and allies are deeply concerned about the risks. Of further escalation in the lost. Of more innocent life. And that's why we've indicated although we support. Military efforts by the Israelis to make sure the rockets are not be fired into their territory. We also have -- that our understanding is the current military. Ground operations are designed to deal with -- tunnels and we are hopeful. This -- will continue to. Approach this process in -- way that minimizes. Civilian casualties. And that. All of us are working hard to return. To the cease fire that was reached in November of 2012. Secretary Kerry is working to support the Egypt's initiative to pursue that outcome. Told prime mister Netanyahu -- John is prepared -- the region following additional consultations. Let me -- by -- one additional comment. On board Malaysian air lines flight -- seventeen there were apparently nearly 100. Researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference. In Australia dedicated to combating aids HIV. These were men and women who -- dedicated their own lives to save -- lives of others. And they were taken from us in senseless act of violence. In this world today. We shouldn't forget. In the midst conflict and killings there are people like these. People were focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed. People were focused on. How they can help people that they've never met. People define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common. It's important for us to -- them -- and to -- Their lives. And it's time for us to keep your example. The United States America's gonna continue to stand for basic principle that people have the right to live as they choose -- nations have the right to determine their own destiny. And that when terrible events like. This occur the international community stands on the side of justice and on the side of truth. So that when we take just couple questions also would you -- it's just. That has happened. -- -- -- Military hospital. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Change your help us in terms of what the US house. Well. I think it's too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions. Those who might have launched them. The surface to air missile might have had. Bill investigations of the on going and I think what -- see is additional information. Surfacing. Over the next 44 us 72 hours next week the next month. What we know right now. What we have confidence is saying right now is that a surface to air missile was fired and that's what brought project -- We know. We have confidence -- saying that that shot was taken within a territory that is controlled by the Russian separatist. But I think it's very important for us to make sure that. We don't get out ahead of the facts. And at this point in terms of identifying specifically. What individual or group of individuals. And personnel. -- -- the -- how it came about those things that I think there's still going to be subject to additional information that we're going to be gathering. And were working with the entire international community. To make sure that the focus is on. Getting to the bottom of this thing being -- and then my concern is obviously that there's been a lot of misinformation. Generated from eastern Ukraine generally. -- -- -- -- -- -- to attention and make sure that we don't have time for propaganda we don't have time for games. We need to know exactly what happened and and everybody needs to make sure that were holding accountable those who who committed this outrage. -- respect the second question. As you're aware before this terrible incident happened we had already ratchet up sanctions against Russia and I think we're concerned not just. Russian officials -- the markets about. The impact of this could have on the Russian economy is it -- for -- to -- I made cleared of president for. That our preferred path as to resolve this diplomatically. But that means that he. And the Russian government have to make a strategic decision are they going to continue to support. Violent separatists. Whose intent is to undermine. The government of Ukraine. Or are they prepared to work with the government of Ukraine. To arrive at. Cease fire and a piece that takes into account the interests of all ukrainians. There has been some improved language at times. Over the last month. Coming from the Kremlin and coming from president -- but what we have not seen is an actual transition and different actions. That would give us confidence that that's the direction of -- want to take. And you'll we will continue. To make clear that. As. Russia. -- You know engages in efforts that are supporting. The separate us that we have the capacity to increase. The cost that we impose on. And we will do so. Not because were -- in. -- Russia for the sake -- -- Russia but because we believe in standing up for the basic principle that. Country's sovereignty and territorial integrity has to be respected as not. The United States or Russia. Or Germany or any other country that should be deciding. What happens in that country -- We don't see him US military role. Beyond what we've already been doing in working -- Our NATO partners. And some of the Baltic States giving memory assurances that we are prepared to do whatever -- is required to meet our alliance obligations. -- -- Coverage went -- this you -- Push your. We don't know exactly what happened yet and I don't want. As I said before get out of the head of the facts. But what I do know lawyers is that we have seen today. -- up of violence in the eastern -- That despite the efforts. Ukrainian government to. -- -- by a cease fire and two. Reach out. And agree to negotiations. Including with the separatist. That has been rebuffed by -- separatists. We know that they are heavily armed admit they are trained. And we know that. That's not an accident that's happening because a Russian support. So. You know it. It is not possible for these separatists to function the way their function. To have the equipment that they had. Set aside what's happened to. -- respect to the Malaysian airlines. A group of separate -- can't shoot down. Military. Transport planes or they claim. Shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment that's -- training and that is coming from Russia. So. We don't yet know exactly what happened with respect to -- Malaysian airlines although obviously were beginning to draw some conclusions given. The nature. The shop there was fired. They're only. Certain types of anti aircraft missiles that can reach up 30000. Feet and shoot down passenger got. We have increasing confidence that it came from areas controlled by the separatists. But. Without having -- definitive. Judgment. On those issues yet. What we do know is is that. The violence that's taking place there is facilitated. In part in large part because of Russian support and they have the ability. To move those separatists in a different direction. That mr. -- makes a decision that we are not going to allow. Heavy armaments. It and and the flow of fighters. Into -- across. The Ukrainian Russian border that it will stop. And if it stops then the separatists. Will. Still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to. Arrive at the sort of political accommodations that. Mr. prove himself says he wants to say. He has the most control over that situation. And so for at least he is not exercise. Well. I think that. This certainly won't be a wake up call. For. Europe and the world that. There are consequences. To an escalating. Conflict in eastern Ukraine that it is not going to be localized it is not going to be contained. You know what what we've seen here is. Just in one country alone or are great allies. The Dutch. 150. Or more. Of their citizens. Being killed. And that I think sadly brings home the degree to which. The stakes are -- for your. Not simply for the Ukrainian people and that we have to be firm in our resolve to make sure -- We are. Supporting. Ukraine and its efforts to bring about. Just cease fire. And that we can move towards a political solution to this. Make this last question we -- former. -- -- -- -- -- We. We have been pretty methodical over the last. 24 hours and working through the flight manifests. And identify. Which passengers might have had a US passport. At this point. The individual that I mentioned. Is the sole. Person that we can definitively say was a US or -- officers. Because events are moving so quickly. I don't want to. Say -- absolute certainty. That there might not be additional. Americans but at this stage having worked through. The less. Been in contact with the Malaysian government which. Due process the passports. You know as folks were -- This is our best assessment. The number of Americans that -- -- obviously. That does nothing to lessen our outrage. About. Almost -- regardless of nationality. It is citizen -- corporation about. What -- -- effective sanctions on the economy. We have. Consistently tried to tailor these sanctions in ways that would have an impact on Russia. Their economy on their institutions or individuals that are. Aiding and abetting and the activities that are taking place in eastern Ukraine. While minimizing the impacts on. Not only the US economy but the global. It is a relevant. Consideration. That we have to keep in mind. The world economy is integrated. Russia is a -- economy. There's a lot of financial. Flows between Russia and the rest of the world. But we feel confident that at this point the sanctions -- we put in place. Are closing costs on Russia. That their overall impact on the global. -- is minimal. It is something that we have to obviously pay close attention to but I think treasury. In consultation with our European partners have done a good job so -- -- -- -- President Obama in the briefing room talking of the nearly 300 men women and children infants who had nothing to do with it. Conflict on the Ukrainian border with the victims of this he says it's -- -- of unspeakable proportions. You heard him there just moments ago saying he knows of one American citizen who was on board his name is Quinn Lucas chance been. A US Dutch citizen the president also saying that he can say with confidence that this was a surface to air missile. And that it's believed it was fired by Russian backed separatists in that part of Ukraine. A whatever -- chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz because we heard the president their call for an immediate cease fire. What they want a cease fire for immediately is so they can look at the area where the plane. Crash they need to gather that evidence they want a cease fire during that period because you'll have investigators going in there and they want to keep those investigators safe. Already we're hearing reports that warning shots were fired. Over some people going to the area by -- so this is very very important that they secure this scene. And -- the president made it clear. That the evidence cannot be tampered with. I absolutely cannot be tampered with and and you know we're hearing a lot about the evidence Samantha Power the UN ambassador spoke a little bit about the evidence earlier today. And she said that early Thursday a western reporter -- separatists. Before the incident with an -- eleven system at a location close to the site. Where the plane came down I know President Obama didn't want to say anything definitive they're not gonna say anything definitive but that there is quite a bit of evidence here all right. Martha Raddatz in our Washington bureau let's bring in our chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross also tracking this over the last 24 hours and you heard the president say there. -- a group of separatists cannot shoot down -- a military plane or -- commercial plane without sophisticated training sophisticated equipment. Right he said both had been provided by the Russians to the separatists many of whom actually are former Russian soldiers. Brought in from Moscow to operate in this region and affect the -- that he did not want to get ahead of themselves but it would appear he was drawing meddling. Absolutely and some of the intercepted phone conversations even stronger evidence of their involved skip right to our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl who was right there. In the briefing room and John the president calling for an immediate cease fire here -- making it very clear. That he's putting everyone on notice to make sure that this evidence is not tamper with. That's right measured approach by the president but very much drawing a line on that question once the international team of investigators to get there including. US that is offered support -- that investigation. To get to the bottom of exactly what happened but he made it clear. Did the evidence says that -- -- missile appears to have been fired from territory controlled by. Pro Russian separatists in Ukraine and that they probably needed some technical assistance a very sophisticated. Surface to air missile system that's what would would seem to -- as a Samantha powers of the UN made quite clear possibly support from Russia itself. He also was -- this was a wake up call to the world to Europe that the conflict to Ukraine is not contained to Ukraine. One thing the president to not address -- the we have heard just. Shortly before from Samantha Power -- you when his UN ambassador. Who said the perpetrators of this must be brought to justice that would seem David to imply something beyond an escalation of sanction. Sorry John stick with -- here because -- want to bring in colonel -- -- a former fighter pilot himself who's been with this every step of the way and Steven you've heard the president say that he can he can say with confidence that this was in fact to surface to air missile. You have been talking about that for about 24 hours here on our air what kind of capability -- a missile of that size have. David is very interesting what we've been talking about as an -- eleven it's -- it's a Russian service to air missile system very very sophisticated very capable. And he did confirm that was issued down so I think the next thing we need to think about is where -- the rebels get the surface to air missile system. This is not something can buy in the street replied by in the black market. So they could've gotten it from Ukrainian stocks have been overrun a base. I think what the evidence is pointing to at least right now is that somehow the Russians provide them with both of -- weapon system itself. And some training. Back on June 30 about two weeks ago general breedlove was the commanding general of NATO. Was very specific he said that NATO intelligence was showing that the Russians. We're helping the rebels. To learn how to shoot these tactical mobile sales. And the differentiation there was it really concerned and that. The altitudes at the service to air missiles can reach his way above the normal altitudes that that we would normally over fly a conflict area. And so he was giving a heads up there and so I think it's going to be very interesting to see whether the -- Points directly back to the Russians obviously the president was quite careful today. Not the point that finger just yet. But I think that that's -- leading us down that path. Christina can't help but think -- in the nearly 300 people who were on that plane and you were telling me yesterday about the cloud cover that it would have been virtually impossible. For the pilots in that cockpit to see a missile coming at them certainly at that speed but even to see it with the cloud cover and good to hear anything at all or did they just have no idea this was coming. Had no idea David you know you think about her naral and highly you're not a combat pilot you've got the auto pilot on your 33000 feet you're thinking about heading to -- -- -- flying over cloud layer there's no reason for you be looking out the window there's no reason to expect that -- air missile attack is about to occur. I'm sure that there was just a sudden impact. Nobody had any idea what was going on and there was a quick end to this flight but it was just one of these -- -- if an airline pilot in your worst nightmare you wouldn't imagine that you would be attacked. By surface to air missile -- just extraordinary now that we've seen the pictures emerge with daylight today of the passports and that. Ukrainian field the children's playing cards at one of the eyewitnesses told me about in the last 24 hours. Just illustrates the magnitude. Of this disaster and the innocent lives lost and as we look at these pictures -- want to bring back and her chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz because those were very. A strong words from the President -- who continue to say along the way in that press conference that he did not want to get ahead of himself but it. It appeared to meet Martha that he was beginning to draw the link. Would those separatists he simply could not have done this without sophisticated training sophisticated equipment and so the question is where did the training come from. And and he said that as well he said they couldn't have done that that training is coming from Russia and is as Steve -- pointed out. General breedlove also mentioned that on June 30. So I think they've been very well aware that the Russians are training the Russian separatists in how to use this sophisticated system. They apparently didn't trained them very well. Because the theory is that they were looking for a military transport plane in fact they boasted on social media. According to Samantha Power that they had shot down a military plane and they put up video that video is now connected. They shoot down of the Malaysian airliner. That that social media they had deleted that after it was learned that it was a civilian airliner if they had gotten proper training. I think probably couldn't tell the difference between the civilian airliner and a military. Aircraft perhaps pulling it down as you point out Martha perhaps because they have recognized this was an accident on -- what I want to bring in. Our chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross has been digging into the audio -- you heard that. But Ukraine's foreign minister on -- with me -- -- on world news telling us that this is the evidence this is the smoking gun if you will. And you looked at the conversation very closely and you can hear the people on that phone call saying that they've recognized this was an accident. -- report we've shut something down and as Martha Hussein the leader of their group. Tweeted out a message we shut down a military aircraft shortly thereafter that was to -- when they realized actually -- shut down the Malaysian air and there. -- what's more than any weapons there conversation goes -- just toilet paper towels and passengers effects and then what was a Malaysian air airplane doing there were at war. So it's clear they realize it was a horrendous mistake made you can hear the shock actually in their voices when they ask why was a commercial plane in the years to -- in linguistics actually is an acknowledgment that they shot down. Howard and -- -- -- much deeper dive into those tapes tonight on world news in the meantime we would be remiss if we didn't mention the other major breaking story at this hour. And this one is unfolding in the Middle East in the last 24 hours to ground incursion into Gaza. By Israel and I want to turn to our foreign correspondent -- McDonald who was on the ground in the region for the latest. On that this morning as we move into the afternoon on a Friday -- is what can you tell us. We'll David President Obama really -- -- what we're seeing and hearing. Here on the ground about is that the focus of this ground operation. Inside the Gaza -- his own identifying and then destructing. The tunnels that are used by the Hamas militants. To effectively infiltrate Israel we've seen pictures of this. In recent days when Israel has taken out a number of militants that would trying to getting. -- the country. That now on the ground -- have nice site thousands of soldiers. Inside the Gaza Strip not very far it must be said -- -- -- said. Regions of the -- but they all they asked that working furiously to identify the. Tunnels -- famous McDonald on the scene for -- as you have been from the very start we appreciate your reporting. Again this afternoon and I want to bring back in our chief. White House correspondent Jonathan Karl because you heard the president there say that he spoke. With prime minister Netanyahu and U. Be hard pressed to remember a time in this administration when they've had -- two major breaking international stories happening. That the same time job. It incredible David and you heard the president referred to being on the phone with prime mister Netanyahu. Wall hearing. Air raid sirens in the background in Tel Aviv. Citing those -- rocket attacks from from the Gaza Strip fired by Hamas so. -- the president is deeply concerned and he said it again here about the escalation of that conflict. He is re affirming Israel's right to defend itself to that quite strongly but make no mistake the administration. Was hoping that we'd see something entirely different yesterday when it came to Gaza. The president had come out just the night before and said that he was working towards a cease fire. And his own spokesperson at the State Department Jen -- had come out just hours before. Just about two hours before that invasion started saying that she was optimistic that a cease fire would hold and in bang. You had the Israelis going into Gaza that was. Certainly not what this administration was looking. -- -- Martha Raddatz also looking at these pictures as we're looking at -- these were among the first images to come in once we have learned of the ground offensive that was under way -- that you were just back from that region in fact you were telling me about how -- your plane was diverted because of -- -- I -- -- credit quite a coincidence that this other plane as well that that was flying right over conflict zone at 33000 feet and didn't take noted that when we flew into Tel Aviv. The plane. Took a very unusual route if she stayed far north. Of the Gaza have Gaza does not usually the way you fly and -- went very far inland and then came back around. Because they were aware of the threats from rockets looking at these pictures David it reminds me what I was looking out last Saturday. Standing on a hillside looking over Gaza and you could see the Israeli airstrikes one after another after another. Also saw those tanks lined up at the border ready to go. Israeli defense force officials I spoke to. This week said that there was a graduated. Plan a gradual plan for going in on the ground. Clearly they have said on this one they're just concentrating on the tunnels. But you can be certain that they can go for work for forward if they want to with this plan and go further -- -- got its fifth. Feel it's necessary -- Martha Raddatz Jon Karl Brian Ross him -- McDonald are extraordinary teamwork in all of this throughout the day we'll have. A special edition of world news coming your way later today and we appreciate you watching us here and ABC news digital. You can follow us all day long at abcnews.com. And tweet us at any time I know you have a lot of questions at home and we hope to get. Many of them answered tonight a little later on world news until then. I'm David -- --
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