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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

IDF Spokesman: More Than 700 Killed In Israel Since Hamas Surprise Attack; Israel Declares War; Israeli Official: Hamas Has Fired 4,000+ Rockets At Israel. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Just a few hours from sunrise in a country deeply wounded right now, still in shock, and now at war.





COOPER: New video tonight from Ashkelon, just north of the border with Gaza, Israel's Iron Dome defense system engaging Hamas rockets. They are part of a wave of strikes across the country tonight, including the suburbs here around Tel-Aviv, and according to Hamas, Ben-Gurion Airport.

One of those rocket strikes hit a building in Ashkelon, but -- and that is a city which is used to seeing rocket attacks. It's become a way of life there. People have very hardened shelters. There are hardened daycares where children go that are hardened against rocket attacks. But it was attacks on the ground that made what happened here so extraordinary, and attacks by air, paragliders, and by sea as well.

It was a multipronged attack early Saturday morning. Fighting still said to be going on on the ground, at the very least, still insecure on the ground.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is not far from the scene.

Clarissa, explain what the situation is and has been in Ashkelon.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say for the first time in three hours, Anderson, the skies are relatively quiet. But it has been nonstop. We have heard jets wailing over head. We have seen a series of large flashes coming from that direction. That's the Gaza Strip, also talking to colleagues inside Gaza. It appears that there has just been a massive amount of activity there, a number of different strikes, according to the IDF.

On top of that, when we arrived here in Ashkelon, we heard a barrage of rockets, a significant barrage, I should add. We saw the Iron Dome was activated. Most of those were intercepted. Two, at least, however, did make direct hits here in Ashkelon, one at a bus stop, another at a building and a residential building not too far from here.

And you really have the sense, Anderson, that the tempo is just continuing to ratchet up more and more. There are still skirmishes going on along the border, as Israeli forces try to push out Hamas fighters who have been able to infiltrate. There is a huge amount of armor and personnel, Israeli military personnel, that is being moved into place close to that border.

And a lot of question marks as to what the next step is in terms of trying to secure the release of those hostages. We don't know how many there are, but we know that their situation is quite clearly desperate from the videos that we have seen of them being paraded around, of them being humiliated. And still no clear answer as to how they will be safely returned, Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa, all of us here have reported for decades from this region, from this country, reported on this conflict. I have since the early '90s or mid '90s. What is different about this here now from your eyes?

WARD: Well, I think in terms of the scale of the loss of life on the Israeli side, this is unprecedented, certainly in recent history or the last couple of decades I can't remember anything like this.

Also, the sheer number of Hamas fighters who were able to infiltrate the extraordinary chilling images of people coming in, paragliding by air, by land, by sea. The images, as well, of civilians being pulled from their cars, being stabbed, being shot, being kidnapped, forcibly taken to the other side of the border. It just, sort of, comes together in this picture that is stunningly shocking and deeply disturbing.

I think Israeli people that I've spoken to certainly understand that this is, kind of, a seismic moment and that things will never be quite the same. But no one yet knows exactly what lies ahead or how this begins to resolve itself, if indeed it does in any way.

We've heard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, this is going to be a long war. It is going to be a tough war, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Clarissa Ward, thank you.

We still don't know the total number of people who have been kidnapped, who have been seized. Elderly men, women, children, and are now currently being held somewhere in Gaza in tunnels, in apartments, in bunkers.


We don't know where they are. We are getting more accounts of the people who have been taken hostage, especially from that Nova Music Festival, where thousands of young people had gathered to dance, a celebration of peace. It was supposed to -- it was billed as it became a slaughter house, more than 260, according to Israeli officials, people were murdered there. Many hostages were seized from that area. We've shown you some previous video tonight. We're now showing this,

with the family's permission. This is video we are just getting out. Hamas put it out as propaganda, but the family thinks it is important for you to see.

This is a man named El Khanna Bhobut (ph). This is video of him in Hamas captivity, along with several others whose identity we do not know and whose images we are not showing you.

Joining us now is El Khanna's brother, Uriel (ph), and his friend Lael Cohen (ph). They are in New York right now.

Uriel is about to board a flight here to Israel.

Uriel, I'm so sorry we're talking about these circumstances. How did you find out your brother had been abducted?

URIEL BHOBUT (ph), BROTHER ABDUCTED BY HAMAS: So, I recall all of his friends that go to this music festival. Everybody was not available. I try and try and try and keep trying until someone -- one of them answered me, he was home already. He actually left early, because the first attack was 10 or 15 minutes from this late. And then when he answered me, he just told me, I just saw your brother on the video. This video coming from the other side, from Gaza side.

And I told them that I can't believe -- I thought he was just playing with me and laughing with me. And he just sent me the video. And from then until now, I'm in shock. I don't know what to do. We don't have any piece of information after that video.

And you can see on his face how much he's scared. And you can see on his face that they hit him on his face. It's terrible. You know, I'm speechless. Sorry. But I didn't want to share this story to the world and ask to join me, and to bring my brother back home as soon as possible.

COOPER: Lael, I know you are coming to Israel. Have you -- has the family been contacted by Israeli authorities? Do you have any more information about his El Khanna's (ph) whereabouts or his condition?

LAEL COHEN (ph), FRIEND: There is no certain information right now. And actually there is still misinformation about other people that got kidnapped. So, we don't know their situation.

But the moment that we saw the video, we're still waiting to the government to respond of, like, what's going to be our plan and how we're going to strategize to bring him back home. We're still helpless, waiting for any kind of help from the government. But we don't receive it right now.

COOPER: And, Uriel, I assume you have family here on the ground. How are they holding up? I know you're coming back here to be with them.

BHOBUT: Yeah. My parents, even cannot -- over the phone. I'm sending all my friends and the big family to my parents' house to be with my parents, and my brother. He has a wife and a three years old son. So, everybody in the same house together trying to hold each other.

But it's a situation that you don't know what to do, like --

COOPER: Yeah. Uriel, what do you want people to know about El Khanna?

BHOBUT: El Khanna was a guy that would never leave someone behind him. This is one of the reason he got kidnapped, I believe, because he stays there with other people, probably, who got trapped or something like that because I know him very well.


He stays to serve more people, and then probably catch him somehow, just took him to Gaza. El Khanna, he has a huge heart. He's always helping people.

He has a big laugh. He has an ice cream shop. He's a very smiley guy. He loved life and is --

COHEN: This is the thing -- this is the thing. He loved life. He went to celebrate life. He has a family and a three years old kid, and he wanted to celebrate the holy day. And during that celebration of life, he got facing the most horrible attack that ever happened in the history of our country. People being slaughtered. Women got raped. It was not normal.

And I'm sure there is Israel to stay there, others. You're hearing about your story. And when we talk with other people, they tell us that El Khanna stayed there and took care of the people that got wounded and helped them to get to safety.

And when he reached out to someone, he told them, I'm helping the other people right now to get to safety. And that's the situation that we are right now currently.

BHOBUT: So, we got a call for him about 6:30 Israel time that say we spoke with El Khanna 10 minutes before 8:00 a.m. We told my mom he is given direction to the people where to go, what to do, hiding some people, helping. And we told us that everything is going to be okay. No worries, no worries.

But he don't know that we came from another side and another side. So many terrorists from Hamas. I'm sure --

COOPER: Yeah. Uriel --


COOPER: Well, I'm so sorry for what you're going through, your family is going through, and so many families here are going through. We wish you the best, and we will continue to be in touch with you. We will be hoping for the best.

COHEN: Thank you, guys, for having us.

COOPER: Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us. Joining me here in Tel Aviv, CNN's Becky Anderson.

I mean, it is unthinkable what these families are going through right now at this hour. You know, everybody knows about the history of hostage taking into Gaza. Sometimes a soldier was held for years before finally being turned over and returned for more than 1,000, I think, Palestinians.

This is a situation -- this is a situation that Israel has not seen before.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It's uncharted territory. And we've been saying that from the beginning of this. And we are now nearly 48 hours into this. But I don't think anybody could have imagined how this would, sort of, work its way out.

I mean, Hamas now saying they have over 100 hostages. And clearly for the Israeli defense force, which is working out what it does next in order to try and get into Gaza and get those hostages out, things are really, really difficult. You've been reporting that this is a highly congested area, some 2 million people.

And Hamas have said that they have these hostages littered around the city in areas which the IDF, frankly, will find very difficult to avoid if they go in.

COOPER: Yeah, any kind of ground operation in Gaza, either to -- I don't think the Israelis want to take over all of Gaza. But any kind of ground operation, even without hostages, is incredibly difficult in the war in the streets and the entrenched nature of Gaza.

ANDERSON: As the Israelis try to avoid the civilian population. Tonight has been an interesting time. Over the last couple of hours, you'll have heard the thoughts and the sounds of explosions. We now know there is an ongoing war just up the road from where we are at present. And those hostages are caught up in that, Anderson.

COOPER: It's also extraordinary -- I, kind of, assumed when I flew in here 12, 15 hours ago or so, that the situation on the ground, the security situation, at least on Israeli territory, in the border regions, would be more secured than it clearly is.


I mean, Nic Robertson spoke tonight who said there are a number of points, I think seven points along the border that are still -- people are still trying to cross over. Fighters are still attempting to get into Israel.

ANDERSON: And there are more than 20 of those, as we understand it, 20 areas that were breached in that is, you know, this incredibly, incredibly sort of secured and fortified border normally on the part of the Israelis. And we know there is still outgoing rockets being fired by Hamas. What we heard earlier on today and what we saw with the Iron Dome interception is just here over Tel Aviv, Hamas says was more rockets being fired at the Ben-Gurion Airport, which I flew into just 24 hours ago.

The U.S. and Israelis saying that some 4,000 rockets have now been fired by Hamas over this last 48 hours. And that's significantly more than the entire amount of rockets that were fired in the last war, conflict, or -- you know, in the 19 -- the 2021, 1921 -- 2021, the 10- day conflict. There were less rockets fired then than there have been in the past 24 hours.

We know that there's been a direct hit, as you've been reporting on a building in Ashkelon. You know, it is unfathomable what we are going through at present.

COOPER: Yeah, it's an attack by land, by air, by sea.

Becky Anderson, thank you so much.

A lot to learn over the next 24 hours.

We have to take a quick break. Coming up, CNN's Fareed Zakaria joins us to look at the larger picture and the foreign actors who might have played a role in this and a potential of this crisis to widen.

Also, an update on the hostage situation. I'll be joined by spokesman for the Israeli defense forces, as our live reporting from "Israel at War" continues.



COOPER: Well, the history of war in this country is a reflection of the deep routed, long standing bitter conflict in this region. And that in turn for decades was wrapped up in the global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union and more recently between the U.S. and Iran.

I want to get some perspective now from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Fareed, I mean, as you watch what has taken place here over the last nearly 48 hours, what do you think the biggest geopolitical impact of this conflict may be in the short term?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: In the short term, really it is a body blow to Israel, in the sense Israel was seen as the region's military superpower, strategic superpower, and intelligence superpower. And particularly on the intelligence front, this is really a dramatic setback.

This -- people are comparing it to the 1973 Yom Kippur attack, which also took Israel by surprise. But I think this is, in some ways, bigger and more damaging because in 1973, the issue was Israel's intelligence service was not able to foresee that there was planning going on in foreign capitals by foreign armies to attack Israel. This is something that came out of Gaza. Gaza is the place Israel occupied for decades, still has tight security control over it, still maintains a very tight blockade of.

The Israel intelligence services always boasting of the network of informants it has in the Palestinian territories, both in Gaza and the West Bank. None of that seemed to matter. Hamas was able to launch a multi-stage, multi-pronged operation. They took the wall the Israelis built, which some estimates costs a billion dollars to build a wall in Gaza, and they bulldozed their way through it.

So, all of that seems to suggest you're in for -- this is not going to come up right away. But there is going to be some -- some introspection and reckoning that comes out of it. In 1973, the labor government that was in power didn't immediately naturally suffer any consequence. Everyone rallied around the flag.

But it did break the strangle hold that the labor government had over power. In fact, four years later, for the first time ever, a non-labor government came into power. So I wonder, you know, whether once Israel digests all this, whether there's going to be some domestic reckoning about all this, really extraordinary reversal.

COOPER: There's also -- there's Hezbollah in Lebanon. I covered the fighting against Hezbollah in 2006, which went on for quite a long time. If they got involved, if they chose to get involved, I don't know if that's -- they have funding from Iran and others. What would happen to this conflict?

ZAKARIA: Oh, it would absolutely escalate. And it's interesting that Hezbollah didn't jump right in to support it. But it has not jumped right in.

And as you say, Hezbollah is not just allied with Iran. It is essentially an arm of Iran. The supreme leader of Hezbollah, they will openly say that the supreme leader of Hezbollah says our supreme leader of the Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran.

So, were that to happen, that's now, you're looking at a multi-front war. And it is interesting that Hezbollah has not done that yet. I don't know what to make of it.

But you're absolutely right. There's Hezbollah. There's also a kind of Syrian dimension that could play out. Iran has its tentacles in many of these areas. With Hamas, they have had a strong relationship. They've funded it on occasion.

They've also broken with it. On Syria, they broke with it -- in Iran and Hamas, it's an uneasy alliance because Iran is, after all, a Shia power.


Hamas is a radical Sunni operation. That has not stopped them from collaborating in the past. The common enemy made them come together. But it's not really as close as the ties between Iran and Hezbollah.

COOPER: At this point, what do you think a war against Hamas actually looks like? I mean, is the end goal -- if the end goal is getting rid of Hamas in Gaza, is that even possible?

ZAKARIA: That is a great question, Anderson. And that is the question that they must be pondering in the Israeli security cabinet because, look, the Israelis have massive, overwhelming power. They can -- they can obliterate large parts of Gaza. They can destroy a lot of the infrastructure. But to what end? What are they trying to accomplish?

In the past, certainly, they've destroyed a lot of buildings, and Hamas just goes underground and comes back. They want to take over Gaza again and rule it themselves. This is what they did for a long time in one of Israel's most battle-hardened generals, who was one of its right wing politicians, Ariel Sharon, finally decided this is just not worth it. It's keeping Israel in an occupation which degrades it militarily, politically, psychologically.

Do they go back and do that? And if they don't do that, what can they do short of it to exercise the kind of control that would allow them to be sure this kind of attack wouldn't happen. After all, they thought they were doing exactly that, with the blockade, with the wall, with the intelligence services. So, you're exactly right.

And then, add to that complication, Anderson, the issue of hostages. Israel is admirably very, very concerned about the loss of Israeli life. They really try their hardest not to, in any way, endanger the lives of Israelis, particularly Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers.

Well, we don't exactly know how many, but there are a whole bunch of Israeli hostages. Some say as many as 100. That complicates this response. That's why I think Bibi Netanyahu began with a very tough statement talking about mighty vengeance. And then he said this is going to be a long and difficult war and asked Israelis to bear with him. I think that second statement is a closer reflection of reality.

COOPER: Well, in Gaza -- Hamas is in control of Gaza. There are plenty of people living in Gaza City who may not like Hamas. But it's not as if there are free and fair elections there routinely, that there can be a change in government.

Hamas is the power there. There's Islamic Jihad operating there as well, but Hamas is fully in control.

ZAKARIA: Absolutely. There is no prospect. And there have been efforts to do other things. It just feels as though that would be a -- particularly now in a situation of war and siege, it's impossible to imagine.

There was plenty of evidence that people in Gaza were very dissatisfied with their lot. But let's remember that their lot is in part because they are in this almost prison. Israel maintains border patrols are essentially a stranglehold. It's very hard to leave. It's very hard to import anything, even medical equipment that could be seen as dual use.

On top of that, you have this radical terrorist organization, Hamas, that rules. So, you put that all together, and life is pretty hellish for people in Gaza. It's not surprising they want some alternative. But the alternative would have to be homegrown. It's difficult for me to imagine how, you know, Brett Stevens of the "New York Times," who I respect a lot, said, clear out Hamas and ask the Saudis and Egyptians to come in and do peace keeping.

I don't think that would work, and I think the Saudis and Egyptians would find they have an insurgency on their hands.

COOPER: Yeah. Fareed Zakaria, thank you. Appreciate it.

As we've been reporting, Israel has been striking targets in Gaza, and there have been a barrage of rockets coming into Israel as well. We'll talk to a spokesperson from the Israeli Defense Forces about that when we come back.



COOPER: A very chaotic and dangerous situation on the ground here in Israel. Another wave of rocket attacks tonight on Ashkelon and other targets, Hamas targets in the South. We've seen a barrage of rockets in Tel Aviv, carries around Tel Avis. Hamas claims it has been targeting Ben-Gurion Airport, and that their forces remain fighting in southern Israel.

All this a backdrop to Prime Minister Netanyahu's dark warning of a long and difficult war.

Joining us right now is Lieutenant Colonel Reservist, Jonathan Conricus.

Colonel, appreciate -- Lieutenant Colonel, appreciate you're joining us. You're an international spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Can you talk about the ground situation near the border? Is Israel in full control of its territory along the border with Gaza?

LT. COL. (RES.) JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Good evening. Unfortunately not yet. We are still hunting down the last terrorist inside Israeli territory. Our troops are going door to door and house to house looking and making sure, and in many cases engaging with the last terrorists that are inside Israel. As soon as we will complete that, then hopefully that will happen soon, then we will be able to focus our attention and resources on preparing for the next stages of the fighting against Hamas in Gaza.

The situation today in Israel is extremely sad. It is unprecedented in terms of scope, severity.


Today, in Israel, there are many Israelis received notification about the killing of loved ones. And funerals have been held in Israel. They will be held tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. And every minute, it seems, another atrocity is unveiled and another attack and another murder of a family is exposed for us to understand and comprehend.

So, it's a very, very tough day for Israeli civilians. The IDF is, as I said, fighting in the south. And as you also reported, there are significant air strikes --

COOPER: Let me ask you, just in terms of the fighting in the south, just so we're clear, are there still attackers, Hamas terrorists, attempting to breach the border? I mean, are there still attempts to cross over? Are there still openings in the border that they're attempting to get through?

CONRICUS: Yes, there are still openings that are guarded and have been, let's say, temporarily patched up and guarded. We have attack helicopters hovering above in order to keep terrorists out.

You must understand that the Hamas, when they crossed into Israel, they breached the fence in several locations. They also used the only humanitarian crossing, the Erez Crossing, which I'm sure you yourself have used many times to go from Israel into the Gaza Strip. That is the same crossing that Palestinian workers, when they go into Israel and work, they cross from there.

They use that crossing in order to drive those wide ISIS-style trucks into Israel and launch the first attacks against civilians. So, we're talking about many breaches. And -- but the terrorists that we are dealing with now, our assessment is that most of them were actually terrorists who crossed into Israel first and then simply were not able to get back and were stuck in Israeli terrain and are now probably choosing to go out fighting and are trying to kill Israeli civilians or engaging with Israeli troops.

But less important, most important, we need to get established control back and do that as fast as possible. In this unprecedented scenario that we are now a part of, this is yet another example of how complex the situation is.

COOPER: One of the most sickening -- I mean, there are many sickening aspects of this attack. But the large-scale taking of hostages, of men, of women, children in some cases, we understand, elderly people. This is the government of Hamas kidnapping Israeli civilians, holding them as captives.

It's obviously a very difficult situation. It is a fraught situation. I've talked to already a number of families who are waiting for word on their loved ones. What can you say about the hostage situation and what can be done about it?

CONRICUS: It is, by far, the most complex part of this whole horrific attack on Israel. There are dozens of Israelis in the hands of Hamas, sadly. It hurts me to say that. At this time, what the IDF --

COOPER: Is that true?

CONRICUS: Hamas says a lot of things. At this stage, I cannot verify the information. Those numbers are still confidential. And hopefully we'll be able to verify all of the numbers for you to be able to rely on our information in the future.

But we are talking about a very significant amount of Israelis that are held by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad inside Gaza. What the Israeli cabinet has ordered the IDF to do is to prepare and basically to achieve the end state by which Hamas no longer possesses military capabilities to fight and to harm Israeli civilians and also achieve a situation where Hamas no longer has the ability to govern the Gaza Strip.

Those are the two directives given by the Israeli cabinet. And that is what the IDF is preparing to do. First stage is ongoing, with aerial assault, quite a massive aerial assault against Hamas' military targets in Gaza. And that will continue.


And I think Hamas leaders, Hamas commanders, will wake up to difficult sights in Gaza tomorrow morning. They will see a lot of their military infrastructure destroyed. And I think there will be significant losses for Hamas.

Now is the time to say, yes, we are angry, yes, we are -- Israel is hurting. But even in these difficult times, we do not forget that we fight under international humanitarian law and that we remember that we respect the sanctity of human life. And I know that this is criticism that is so many times thrust upon Israel, I think unfairly. And for some reason, we are held to, I think, sometimes impossible standards when it comes to defending ourselves.

But I want to say that even now, in this deepest of our sorrow and frustration and anger for what our civilians are suffering and what our troops have endured, we will continue to act in a fashion that is of a professional military. And we will not lower ourselves to the levels of the monsters that have come across from Gaza into our communities and butchered our civilians.

COOPER: Lieutenant Conricus, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

I want to focus more closely now on the hostage situation. CNN's Becky Anderson joins me again.

It is the most difficult piece, perhaps, in all of this, just trying -- for Israeli forces, for the Israeli population, to see this happening. Everybody here feels the pain of these families waiting for word.

ANDERSON: Yeah. And it's really difficult to get your head around this. But imagine your only child going out for the night. You lose contact with her, only for her to surface in a video posted on social media, as she is being abducted by Hamas militants.

COOPER: But by men with guns, with their hands on her shouting, "god is great", her hands behind her back, shoved into a vehicle.

ANDERSON: That -- COOPER: This is -- the scenes are sickening and inexcusable.

ANDERSON: That is what you have heard people describe tonight. And that is what I have heard described by one father, who has been through exactly this, Anderson.


ANDERSON (voice-over): The unspeakable anguish of a father describing the moment he saw a video posted on social media of his daughter pleading for her life.

It was Noa, frightened and threatened, he says.

I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry.

You don't want to believe it, even though you clearly see it's your daughter. He now wants this video to be seen widely. Twenty-five-year- old Noa Argamani seen here on the back of a motorcycle being driven away. Her boyfriend Avinatan Or is seen here with two men holding his hands behind his back. A dark plume of smoke can be seen in the background.

They've been among the more than 1,000 people partying at an all-night music festival in southern Israel near the Gaza border. And it was raided by armed Hamas militants early on Saturday morning.

Her father says Noa and Avinatan were kidnapped. Their whereabouts are unknown but are assumed to be held in Gaza.

I'm so sad at this moment, she's my only daughter.

And Yaacov's pain mirrored by so many others, parents, family members, wives, husbands, filled with horror and despair thinking about the fate of their loved ones. In this video that's been circulating widely online, a woman is seen in the back of a truck as a militant puts a scarf over her head. CNN has not been able to independently verify it.

But Yoni Asher, a resident of the Sharon region, told CNN his wife and two daughters, aged 5 and 3, were visiting their grandmother near the Gaza border. He lost contact with them on Saturday morning and suspected they may have been abducted.

Later that day, his suspicions confirmed when he saw the video.


The woman was his wife. He told CNN he wants the video to be shown in the hopes of getting them home safely.

YONI ASHER, SAW FAMILY TAKEN HOSTAGE: There was no doubt in my mind. I recognized them, surely. My wife, my two daughters, my two little daughters, that were on this car. So, I know for sure that they were taken.

ANDERSON: The Israel defense forces told CNN it's taking pains to establish the exact number of hostages taken, emphasizing the complicated nature of the situation. So far they estimate there are dozens, possible more, in captivity.

Yaacov has a message to whoever is holding his daughter.

You have casualties just like we do. This is an opportunity to connect between the two nations, to reach an honest peace.

For now, Yaacov sits at home and waits for news, taking comfort from his family and Noa's friends.

She's a very special kid, so loving, so giving. I miss her so much.

It's only been two and a half days. I cannot believe she is gone, he says. She made this house so alive. It feels like this house is empty without her.


COOPER: It is -- I mean, it is unthinkable.

ANDERSON: He says that he hasn't heard anything since the last time that he was in contact with her boyfriend, which was some three hours after he heard the bombing. And then everything went silent. Of course, he then saw them both in the social media video. He says he hasn't heard from authorities. And that is echoed by many of these families who say -- some of whom say they actually feel abandoned by the authorities here.

But, look, what this father says is that he understands. There's an awful lot going on, but he describes his daughter, when she was born, as the sweetest little girl. And he just wants her home.

COOPER: As he said -- I don't remember the exact words, but she brings the house alive. And I think, you know, we both have kids. We all know that this is the experience of every parent. Children bring the house alive. To think of that person being stolen is extraordinary.

Becky, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Questions continue about whether or not Hamas acted alone and if they got help from Iran and how much help and what sort of help. CNN's latest reporting from the White House on that when we return.



COOPER: Certainly a lot of unanswered questions tonight, one of which is what help, if any, did Hamas have, outside help in planning, coordinating, funding, carrying out this massive surprise attack, specifically help from its long time ally, Iran.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now from the White House.

MJ, what are U.S. officials saying about Iran's potential role in the attack?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I can tell you that as of tonight, U.S. official says that there's still no smoking gun that establishes a connection directly between Iran and Hamas's attack on Israel over the weekend, but they also say that obviously, there's no denying that there's a history of Iran aiding Hamas, as one U.S. official put it to me earlier tonight.

Of course, Iran is in the picture. They pointed to the fact that for years Iran has supported Hamas and Hezbollah. What is notable, Anderson, I think is that over the course of the last 48 hours or so, we have seen U.S. officials sort of more openly pointing to the likelihood that there could be that connection drawn eventually.

For example, one senator I was speaking with earlier tonight who said they expect to get a classified briefing from the administration as early as tomorrow, he basically said given that history of the connection, he believes that it is going to be likely that that connection directly linking Iran and Hamas's attack, that that is going to be shown.

Now, we do also know that tonight, administration officials were briefing key house lawmakers. This was an unclassified briefing, but that even in that briefing, a top State Department official told lawmakers, look, just because that connection hasn't been found yet doesn't mean that it won't eventually be found, Anderson.

COOPER: What more -- what's been the White House's reaction over the last 24 hours or so to the violence here?

LEE: Well, look, we have heard President Biden himself using words like unconscionable, heartbreaking, over the scenes that we have seen pouring out of Israel, and unfortunately the twists now, too, of course is that Americans have been confirmed dead in Israel near Gaza.

We can say that four Americans at least have been killed so far. This is according to that briefing I just mentioned held by administration officials. This is what they told lawmakers tonight, and they also said that that death toll is expected to rise in the coming days.

Now, of course, this is going to be a situation where U.S. officials are working around the clock to get a full accounting of Americans that may have been in Israel. Anyone wounded. Anyone that is unaccounted for so far.

And, of course, what's also alarming is that we have heard some Israeli officials saying that there are reports of Americans having been taken hostage into Gaza. So this is a fluid situation, but, again, just one more reminder, I think of how stunning it is that we have been talking about all weekend that there appeared to have been no Israeli intelligence as to an attack of this size coming.


COOPER: Yeah, MJ. Thanks so much, MJ Lee.

Joining us now, CNN military analyst, and retired army three-star General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, when you look at the land, air, sea attack by Hamas Saturday morning, how long do you think an attack like that would have to be planned for? I mean, it's not an easy thing to do to coordinate an attack like that.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's not, Anderson, especially when you don't have the so-called military branches within the Hamas organization. I mean, most nation states have an army, navy, air force, Hamas does not have that.

So what you're talking about is individuals who really don't know the competencies associated with the military skills that are required to conduct that kind of synchronized attack, learning those skills first, and then having the command and control structure that can synchronize the arms of the so-called Hamas army, navy, and air force.

And even though it was a relatively small force, that's still a very complicated action. You're talking about synchronizing the timing, the attack objectives, the reconnaissance associated with allowing a force to go to the particular situation or particular place they're going to. So, yeah, I would say it's very difficult, and that kind of training and coordination takes months, and when I say months, I'm talking about many, many months. This is not something that can be thrown together in weeks or days.

COOPER: And I asked the question, really, because with that kind of coordination over the course of months with a lot of people involved, it's all the more remarkable they were able to keep it secret, and there's a lot to learn about the intelligence failures in Israel, U.S. and others in the region. Let's talk about the situation on the ground. I talked to a spokesperson for the IDF a short time ago.

They said there are still openings that have been patched up in the border, but there are Apache attack helicopters essentially hovering over those, and also forces on the ground. But that there may still be and are still militants, terrorists, who maybe were left behind, haven't -- weren't able to get back into Gaza who are now still on the ground in Israel, and that Israel doesn't control that border area on its own territory.

What does that tell you that we are almost 48 hours now into this attack, and Israel is still not in full control of the security situation in that border region?

HERTLING: Well, when I saw the first films early yesterday morning, Anderson, what my thoughts were is first of all, where are the border patrols. We saw the films leaked out of Hamas going through the various tunnels at the border locations using bulldozers. It told me as a military guy, first of all, where the hell are the folks that are supposed to be patrolling the border, and then secondly, behind that border -- and I have been to this area several times with Israeli counterparts, many years ago, but it was in the 2012 region, been to Ashkelon, the military basis just south of there, and that's why they were getting the rocket attacks there. They had continuous military patrols in those areas. Those patrols obviously were not visible.

So the question then becomes as part of the investigation, it's certainly going to come about as part of this, where were the border patrol? How secure was the fence line as it were? Where was the military backup? And where were the kind of reconnaissance assets that you need to detect what your enemy is doing.

Not only the forces coming through the border, but what's going on behind the wall inside of the Gaza. That's something that, you know, the time I was at Ashkelon, I was shown a military fusion center of intelligence collection. It was very competent, very effective and efficient.

I'm sure that that is going to be part of the focus of any kind of investigation is what happened to the breakdown both in terms of strategic intelligence and even tactical intelligence and the placement of troops along that stretch of the Gaza wall that's basically there.

COOPER: And the idea of Israel going into Gaza, given the hostage situation, given the densely packed nature of Gaza City, what would that fight look like?

HERTLING: Well, you know, since 2005, the Israeli army created a urban warfare training place, a place called Tazliem (ph) and because of their actions in 2006 they created this base to try and teach and training the Israeli army on how to conduct operations inside of Gaza, and that base is actually sort of a replication of parts of Gaza with high buildings, low buildings, tunnels, sewers, the kinds of things you need to go into.

But it's never been tested. There's never been this kind of an attack, especially after the kind of psychological impact that the Israeli military and the Israeli citizens have suffered as a result of this.