Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
New Israeli Airstrikes Hammer Gaza; State Department: At Least 22 Americans Killed Near Israel; Israeli Man's Eight-Year-Old Daughter Killed in Kibbutz Attack; Israel Defense Forces Says 300,000 Reservists Near The Gaza Border; According To The U.S. Officials, The Number Of Americans Believed To Be Held Hostage Is Very Small; At Least 1,200 People Killed In Hamas Attack In Israel; Hamas Official In Lebanon Claims Militant Group Prepared For Attack For Two Years. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 11, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I very much appreciate your time. We're thinking of you, hoping that you are able to get out of there. I know it is incredibly stressful and a very fraught situation.
Thank you for taking the time to join me.
You know, one thing to think about, you know, as we were sitting there under that barrage of rockets today, when we heard the outgoing fire, and then the giant smoke that you can see from Gaza, in one of those cases, we understand up to 20 people in Gaza died, and you know, for each of these explosions, there could be a loss of human life. It is a perspective worth remembering for all of us in these hard days.
Thank you so much for joining us. AC 360 begins right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, it is 3:00 AM here in Ashdod, Israel, five days since Hamas launched a surprise attack and massacre from Gaza, Israeli troops are now massing along the Gaza border.
A military spokesman saying that 300,000 Israeli reservists are now, in his words close to the Gaza Strip. That is a fighting force in a country of only about 10 million people, nearly the size of all the reserves in the entire US military.
In addition to mobilizing forces, preparations are underway at hospitals across this country for what might come next. Patients from facilities in the north are being moved to ones in Central Israel, health officials saying in case of any escalation and presumably the need to treat casualties there.
But right now, the focus is on Gaza, which Israeli Air Force has pounded heavily again today and the possibility of ground forces going in.
US secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is heading to Israel said the talks are underway about setting up a humanitarian corridor so civilians and American citizens could leave Gaza via the border with Egypt to the south.
He told reporters that efforts are ongoing, but admitted they are in his words, understandably complicated. That is an understatement.
Separately, today, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby provided a small measure of hope saying that out of the 17 Americans now unaccounted for which is a number of down from 20, the number Hamas is believed to be holding hostages, in his words, "very small, like less than a handful."
He warned whoever that the hostage number could rise along with the American death toll, which is now at 22. And as you might imagine, the larger death toll continues to rise here as more bodies of more people are recovered.
More than 1,200 people have now been killed inside Israel and Palestinian officials say more than 1,100 inside Gaza. Rocket fire continues from there.
Earlier as we were wrapping up a report from CNN's Nic Robertson, in Sderot just a mile or two from the Gaza border, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I'm just going to -- I'm just going to -- Anderson, I'm just going to understand -- I'm just going to -- I'm just going to interrupt.
The Iron Dome is going up here, so I'm expecting more intercepts. Yes, so I'm expecting there are more missiles coming.
That's the siren, we'll leave the camera rolling. We'll leave the camera rolling. I'll just step into a little bit of cover here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That occurred just a couple of hours ago. We'll check in with Nic Robertson in a moment.
We'll also speak with a man named Michael Silberberg, who was at the Nova Music Festival, which as you know, was the scene of one of the largest slaughters of people, more than 260 according to Israeli officials. He and a friend managed to get away from the festival by car and said that in addition to coming under fire from several gunmen, Michael fought back and managed to kill two Hamas militants with his car including this one line by his motorcycle along the road.
He hit them with his vehicle. He talked us -- he walked us through a bit and we'll talk to him a little bit later this hour.
We begin though right now with CNN's Nic Robertson, who you saw just a moment ago with Iron Dome interceptor missiles going up around him. He is still in Sderot tonight.
Nic, talk about what you've been seeing today, because it's not just the missiles, the rockets that were being fired from Gaza. There was also a firefight on the ground.
ROBERTSON: There was about a mile-and-a-half that way, a small neighborhood just on the edge of this town of Sderot. The Israeli Defense Force discovered three Hamas operatives in there. We didn't really know what it was. All we could hear was this sort of buildup of heavy machine gunfire and it got more intense and more intense. Towards the end of it, they put up flash, so perhaps given better illumination on the ground for the troops.
But shortly after the Israeli Defense Force said, three Hamas militants found -- discovered in that area and neutralized to use the euphemism that's used here. That is not something that we've seen here around Sderot since Hamas was finally kicked out over the weekend. But it is indicative of what's happening along the border. Why you suddenly get these areas where there's a concentration of Israeli troops, where the area is secured off, you can't get into that area.
Other things happening that we haven't seen as well.
We've seen tanks firing, just along there towards the Gaza fence line. It's a couple of miles. We knew that the tanks were there, but they're firing. We don't know why they were firing this evening, and just literally, the last couple of minutes. There was flare off in the sky there, not sure what that was doing. There was a fighter jet that flew over, dropped chafe, as it flew over Gaza, there was a large explosion after that, and a couple of other heavy explosions with the big flashes.
The hour prior was fairly quiet. Now, there's an uptick again, just this is the way that it seems to go. Quiet, then it picks up. I hear the fighter jet again, and a little before that, we were hearing detonation sort of further down the Gaza Strip, further south from us here -- Anderson.
COOPER: Nic, in terms of that firefight, is that likely -- and I think I know the answer to this, but is that -- is that a gunman who may have recently crossed over from Gaza? Or is it likely ones who came over days ago and had been lying low?
ROBERTSON: Yes, no, I think, it is that. I think that they came through Saturday or Sunday, still in the confusion when Hamas still had some fighters over and then went to ground. And the reason we think this is because when the IDF have gone in, in some of these spots, they found supplies of water, supplies of food, sort of hidey- holes, hideaway places where Hamas has been.
So it seems that this will have been a group that's underground, that may be hidden out in the fields. They are running out of food, running out of water. They've come into the town area to see what they could get, to try to maybe steal a vehicle, whatever, but they were identified by the troops.
And one of the reasons they're getting spotted more now is there are just more troops here. When we arrived here over the weekend to this location, you had patrols of maybe five or six or seven soldiers. Now, you're getting patrols of 30 or so soldiers. And it's that that -- the numbers of troops that really give them better eyes on the ground and better chance of catching any Hamas that are still around.
COOPER: Nic Robertson, thank you from Sderot tonight.
With me here now is CNN's Clarissa Ward who spent the day at one of the kibbutz that is not far from the border. It's a farming community where about a thousand people once lived, and where Saturday morning, more than a hundred were murdered.
The stories from these kibbutzim, which were really some of the first communities that got hit, they are really starting to come out in the last day or two and we have seen just a number of horrific scenes at them. What did you see today?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's taken a while to get journalists into these kibbutzim because it's so dangerous still, and because it's taken a really long time to actually clear all the militants out.
So the first thing when you walk into Be'eri kibbutz is just the scale of the destruction. It really speaks to the ferocity of the battles that the Israeli military was engaged with, with those militants.
But honestly, Anderson, it is like the chilling horrifying stories of the survivors that really stays with you.
WARD (voice over): It was 7:11 AM on Saturday morning when the militants arrived at Be'eri kibbutz. Surveillance footage shows them lying in wait until a car arrives. They shoot the driver and enter the compound.
More poured in on motorcycles, shooting anything in their way, eerily at ease, and in no apparent hurry.
Thomas Hand heard the gunshots and immediately thought of his eight- year-old daughter Emily, who was staying with a neighbor.
THOMAS HAND, KIBBUTZ BE'ERI RESIDENT: She doesn't do it very often, but unfortunately that night, that particular night, the Friday night, she went to sleep at her friend's house.
WARD (voice over): For 12 hours, he says he was pinned down under heavy gunfire unable to reach his daughter as Hamas went door-to-door executing his neighbors.
HAND: Waiting. I am thinking, the Army are going to be here, so you know, just hold on a bit longer and longer and longer.
WARD (voice over): By the time the military gained control of Be'eri, this is what remained of the once tranquil community.
Late this afternoon, Israeli Forces let journalists in for the first time after days of pitched battles.
MAJ. GEN. ITAI VERUV, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: I saw houses, soldiers fight here and I fight here, myself in the first hour, only to get inside the kibbutz, only to come from you know apartment-to-apartment, it took a lot, a lot, a lot of time.
WARD (on camera): Does that weigh on your conscience to know how long it took?
VERUV: You know, we have a very difficult question to ask ourselves. Now, we look forward to defend the people, to take the survival out of it and to switch ourselves from defense to offensive operation. Are we sure? If we ask ourselves all the difficult question update?
WARD (voice over): For now, there are more pressing questions, the bodies of more than 100 residents have been recovered, but the Army says that many more are still missing.
WARD (on camera): You can see the amount of blood. This was a massacre.
WARD (voice over): And the full scale of the horrors that transpired here are just starting to come to light.
WARD (on camera): Pictures, family photographs on the wall.
WARD (voice over): Thomas waited two agonizing days before getting the news.
HAND: They just said, "We found Emily. She's dead." And I went, yes. I went, yes and smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew. That was the best possibly that I was hoping for. She was either dead or in Gaza.
And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death. That is worse than death. The way they treat you, they'd have no food, no water. She'd be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people and terrified every minute, hour, day, and possibly years to come.
So death was a blessing, an absolute blessing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: My God.
WARD: He actually said to me, Anderson, afterwards, he said, what a crazy world it is that we are inhabiting, that a father would say that, but that is his reality. And the reality he said of others in that community, too, who felt that it would be better, it would be more merciful to know that their loved ones went quickly.
COOPER: And that that was his immediate response upon hearing -- the, "Yes" as he said. There are a number of kibbutzim which have lost Nir Az, I've talked to
several people from there. That was a kibbutz of some 400 people, they believe as many as a quarter of those people are either dead or hostage or missing.
WARD: I think what's so striking as well, when we were with the military today, we kept saying, how many people are missing? How many people are dead? How many people are held hostage? How many people may have escaped? How many people --
And they don't know.
COOPER: They don't know.
WARD: They don't know. There is still so much confusion, a startling lack of clarity, not just around that, but even when you try to get a precise timeline. When did the IDF arrive? They said they arrived right away. Then you look at the videos and you see Hamas sort of swatting around for quite some time.
There is still a huge amount of investigation to be done by journalists, by investigators as time goes forward to really put together a complete picture of exactly how this all transpired, of the anatomy, if you will of the massacre.
COOPER: And all of these families in Israel looking at jihadist videos online, looking for proof of life or death of a loved one.
WARD: And that's how many of them are finding out.
COOPER: It's unthinkable. Clarissa, thank you.
This was of course just one of several kibbutzim along the Gaza border where Hamas carried out massacres into Gaza. A kibbutz near Az, Adina Moshe (ph) watched gunmen murder her husband, David Moshe (ph) before being taken hostage.
This is his video of her somewhere in Gaza on the back of a motorcycle. She is 72 years old. That is her, kidnapped.
Her husband, who she has been with for 50 years murdered.
A short time ago I spoke to Edina's granddaughter, Anat Moshe Shoshany.
COOPER: Anat, I understand your grandparents and your uncle's family, they were living in Nir Az, the kibbutz that was invaded early on Saturday morning and your grandfather was killed, your grandmother is now missing.
Can you talk about what you know happened to them? What is the latest that you've learned?
[20:15:06] ANAT MOSHE SHOSHANY, GRANDMOTHER STILL MISSING: Yes, of course so on
Saturday, 6:30 AM, we started to get the messages that there are terrorists inside the kibbutz. My whole family is from there. My uncle, my aunt, their children.
We immediately connected with them through messages, asking what's going on. They told us they can hear gunshots outside the windows. They tell us that there are many people out there. And then we started to get information from the kibbutz people.
The first one was my grandmother's neighbor. The terrorists murder her, shot her, took her phone, filmed it and uploaded it to her personal Facebook page.
COOPER: The people who killed the neighbor, they took photographs of her after she had -- they had killed her and they uploaded it to her own Facebook page?
SHOSHANY: Yes. That was at 7:00 AM in the morning on Saturday. This is how we found out that something serious is going wrong.
So I'm sorry, I'm a little bit shaken.
And so just after that, we talked with my grandparents. We told them to stay in the shelter, to lock the doors, to close the windows. Also, my uncle with his five children were hidden in the shelter.
One hour later, my grandmother told us that she can hear terrorists inside their house. They shot at the widow at the kitchen. They entered the house. They tried to break through the door of the shelter.
My grandfather held it -- with his -- all of his powers. He is 75 years old man. He held the door to keep my grandmother safe. Meanwhile, another few terrorists came to the window of their house, of the shelter. They shot countless gunshots to the window and they opened it. They succeeded to open it.
They shot at my grandfather who held the doors still. He died instantly. And they pulled out my grandmother through the window and kidnapped her. She's a 72 years old woman who did nothing wrong to anyone. Sorry.
COOPER: And we've seen the picture of your grandmother. That's her on the motorcycle being taken away.
SHOSHANY: Yeah. So at noon, we received this video from our friends who saw it on social media and this video was at the Gaza Strip, inside the Gaza Strip.
She's an old woman and she needed to hold the terrorists that killed her husband just now so she won't to fall from the motorcycle.
We're all praying that she is safe there. We don't know anything. Besides this video, we have nothing from her. We don't know if she is alive or dead? Or where is she or how is she doing? Luckily, our family, my uncle and his five children, the oldest is
only 10 years old, the youngest is one-year-old, they all succeeded to stay in the shelter and keep the door locked.
But you must understand, the world must understand, they didn't come just to kill, they came to humiliate, to ruin, to take innocent civilians who did nothing wrong, to take them from their own houses and to ruin this beautiful kibbutz that my grandparents built with their own hands.
I'm hearing a lot with all the families from the kibbutz. Out of 400 people in the kibbutz, there are over 100 people missing, murdered, kidnapped children, babies, pregnant women. We can't understand how people can do it.
COOPER: A quarter of the population of Nir Az, this kibbutzim of about 400 people, families who have lived for generations together, farming in that area, in that community of Nir Az, a quarter of the population is either kidnapped, dead or missing or wounded.
SHOSHANY: And it's been four days, four days since it all started and still, we can understand how people can do it.
COOPER: That image that as you describe it is so awful of your grandmother being kidnapped, driven through the streets in Gaza City, sandwiched on a motorbike between two killers holding on to them so that she doesn't fall off having to depend on them to hold on to, holding on to them, the people who killed her husband so that she doesn't fall off the motorbike. It is sickening.
SHOSHANY: It is. You have to understand the day after the people came to see whether there are still injured people out there, they saw dead bodies of children, of babies who they cut their head off. They robbed everything on their way. They burned down every house, whether there were people inside or whether they have already killed them.
They came to ruin the place, to burn the place down. They had no mercy for anyone. Not for babies, not for dogs. Not for children, not for mothers. No one. No one.
COOPER: Your uncle went to see your grandparents house. What did he see?
SHOSHANY: After the Army came to save them, he went to the -- to my grandparents' house to see if they are there. He couldn't see anything because the flames were still burning, but he came to the window of the shelter and he just peeked there and he saw my grandfather lay there inside of his dried blood shot, several shots.
The whole wall inside the shelter was full with gunshots, full, and the window was half open. There wasn't -- there were no signs to my grandmother. So that, actually we are very -- at least we can see where she is. There are so many families here that don't know where our loved one is. COOPER: Anat, what is your grandmother's name and what is your
SHOSHANY: my grandmother's name is Adina Moshe and my grandfather's name is David Moshe.
COOPER: I'm so sorry for your loss and --
SHOSHANY: Please help us bring her back. The whole world needs to know this. The whole world needs to hear their story and what they've been through. They don't deserve it. The children don't deserve it, the elderly don't deserve it.
They are just innocent civilians who did nothing wrong to anyone, really, it just -- I just can't understand how it happened. How the world let it happen. How? How? It's just pure terrorism. There is no justification to kill civilians.
COOPER: Anat Moshe Shoshany, thank you for talking to us.
SHOSHANY: Thank you. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Next, there is new reporting on talks underway aimed at getting at least some hostages back. We have the latest on who is doing the talking.
And later my conversation with a music festival survivor about how he and a friend decided to try to make their escape. There are seven all brushes with Hamas gunmen and the confrontation the left two Hamas gunmen dead.
COOPER: We have learned there is -- well, we have new reporting on talks aimed at perhaps getting some hostages released. CNN's Becky Anderson joins us now from Tel Aviv with more. What have you learned -- Becky.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, diplomatic sources have confirmed to me that the Qataris are in touch with both Israel and Hamas on mediating some sort of effort to get hostages released.
Now as we understand it from these diplomatic sources, this would be a prisoner exchange. That is where those discussions are focused at the moment and this will be an exchange of women and children, taken by Hamas in Gaza at present in exchange for women and teenagers held in Israeli prisons at present.
So we're talking about Palestinian women and teenagers who are held in Israeli prisons, and what I'm told is that neither side has rejected this idea. So there is some optimism certainly around what is going on at present now.
Of course, there is some precedent for this, Gilad Shilat. The Israeli soldier who was released back in 2011, who'd been abducted back in 2005 on the Israeli border near Gaza. He was released in exchange for, at the time, over a thousand prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
Now, let's just provide a little bit of context for this, why the Qataris at this stage? Well, they are in a decent position to do this.
Let's consider they've got an open line of communication with Hamas. That was actually opened at the behest of the Bush Administration, I'm told, back in the 2000s. So, that's -- that file, they also, of course, recently negotiated. They were the main interlockers negotiating the release of the U.S. prisoners exchanged for five Iranian prisoners just a couple of weeks ago. So, very much involved in that U.S./Iran prisoner exchange recently, now mediating efforts to get the women and children released from Gaza in exchange for women and teenagers held in Palestinian -- in Israeli jails, Anderson.
COOPER: Hamas had earlier, I believe several days ago, made a statement that they would not deal with any negotiations until military activity had ceased. Obviously, this reporting seems to indicate that they may be open to something. I know you've been talking to family members who have loved ones who are being held hostage. What are they telling you?
ANDERSON: Yeah. I spoke to the families of four Americans who have lost their loved ones, missing, presumed to be in Gaza, being held hostage. And the message was just very, very clear from the families of these four Americans. They said they want direct help from President Biden, the U.S. president and the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who we know, of course, will be here on the ground in Israel tomorrow morning. And they appealed directly to both Biden and Blinken and said that they shouldn't be leaving Americans behind.
And now, one of the parents of a 35-year-old man in the kibbutz Nir Oz who is missing -- he is a 35-year-old with two kids, wife is pregnant. This is from the kibbutz that was a community of 400, now only 160 survivors. His father Jonathan who lives on that same kibbutz, he described what they want as wanting a partnership, like impressing upon the Americans to build partnerships with whoever it takes to effort this release of these hostages. So
ANDERSON: That, sort of, speaks to the idea that this third party who can speak to both sides. Qatar, open line of communication with Israel, open line of communication with Hamas.
ANDERSON: These relatives really impressing upon the Americans how important it is that there are these channels being used.
COOPER: Yeah. Becky Anderson, thank you very much. I'm joined now by Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Oren, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it. MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good to see you again.
COOPER: The idea of negotiations with, Becky Anderson reported, that Qatar might be trying to talk to both sides. At this stage, do you think that's a possibility?
OREN: I think that any effort to release hostages is good. But at the end of the day, Israel was going to have to take the measures to defend itself. I mean, the comparison here would be sort of like 9/11, but this is 15 or 16 times 9/11 -- the equivalent of maybe 40,000 Americans being killed in a day, proportionately the 1,200 Israelis killed. If Al Qaeda had taken hostages on 9/11, how much would the United States be negotiating with Al Qaeda? It had to defend itself.
So we are going to defend ourselves. We will do everything possible to release these hostages, we have Special Forces. This is what they're trained to do. Many have been released already within Israel at a very high cost to our special forces. So, we'll do our best.
COOPER: In term of -- Jake Sullivan talked about this last night. Antony Blinken made a mention of it as well today. The idea of creating some sort of corridor for American citizens in Gaza to leave down through Egypt and perhaps as Gaza citizens who want to get out, civilians going to Egypt. Egypt had been resistant to that in the past. Do you think that's a possibility? Because just from a military standpoint, I would imagine it would be easier for Israel in any ground operation to have fewer civilians.
OREN: It's not just that.
OREN: Nobody wants to harm civilians. It's just like we care deeply about the terrible agony that the parents and families of these hostages are going through. We feel it very deeply. And I personally know -- I know people in Israel whose kids and family members are hostages today. So we are feeling this very, very deeply. We don't in any way want to harm civilians. Again, we're going to have to defend ourselves against this organization that has massacred our people and massacred in the most hideous, barbarous way.
I was talking to one of my best friends today, very strong-willed woman who is not given to expressing emotions in this way. She was crying hysterically on the phone because she sent her 18-year-old son down to the border as a soldier, and they sent him to pick up bodies in Gaza -- but not bodies, pieces of bodies. And my friend was saying, you know, I sent a boy down there and I talked to him on the phone, and he's a different human being today.
Can you imagine what these people are going through? And it is everything, I speak to my kids -- every time I talk to them, there's somebody else they know who was killed. This morning, my daughter called crying said that the rabbi who married her and her husband, two boys, beautiful boys who were reserve officers, the minute that they heard the war had broken out, they put on their uniforms, left their families, left their kids, went off to battle. And neither of them came home. So, this is all deeply, deeply personal and nobody wants to cause suffering on the other side among civilians. Among Hamas, it is a different story, of course.
So, we'll do -- I'm sure every possible consideration, whether it be leafleting or sending text messages to civilians who are in combat areas, you know that knock-knock thing where the air force sends dummy rockets onto houses to let the people in the houses know that they might be targeted, get them out. And no one wants to see them suffer any more than that.
COOPER: In term of a ground operation, I mean obviously, there have been ground operations in the past. What are the lessons learned then? How difficult is this going to be?
OREN: Well, it's going to be difficult. But in 2014, Israel had a limited ground incursion into Gaza, only like a mile or two, and we lost a lot of soldiers. And we lost a lot of soldiers to the booby traps, to the mines, to ambushes. And I think we derived a lot lessons from that. We're going to be much more cautious moving in, clearing paths that the soldiers can go into and not have ambushes, not have snipers aiming at them. It's going to be cautious.
But at the end of the day, this is a war. And we're up against, again, an enemy who doesn't share any of our values and wants to destroy our civilization, wants to destroy our state. So, it will be a very tough battle.
COOPER: In terms of the end goals
COOPER: what would it be? I mean, what is (inaudible) probably elimination of Hamas?
OREN: Well, let's see. Certainly, restoring security to our borders, to our territory and our state. Eliminating Hamas and its power in Gaza, and thirdly, rescuing the hostages. And not in any order.
COOPER: (Inaudible) is it just eliminating Hamas' military -- terror capabilities in attacking Israel or them as in control in Gaza?
OREN: I think you have to eliminate them as in control, I think, OK? I have not spoken to the government now. But I think that this is now our sixth round of fighting with Hamas. I participated in several of them, as you know. And every time we go back to the status quo, they fire a couple of thousand rockets at us, they kill a couple of people, we shoot back at them, we get blamed by the international community for all sort of crimes, and then we give them a lot of Qatari cash and we think that's going to keep them quiet for a while. And we let a lot of workers in, about 20,000 Gazans work in Israel every day. And when I was in the government, I was actually in charge of those workers, getting them in. And the assumption was back then, OK, Hamas wears two hats. It's got a terrorist hat and it's got a government hat, OK. It is the sovereign government of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza, what they had. And there was this thought that somehow if you, sort of, incentivize them to put that government hat on more than the terrorist hat, they'd sit quiet. That's just not true.
And if we restore Hamas rule in Gaza, the whole process is just going to start again. And I don't know whether it's two years from now or five years from now, we're going to be back in exactly the same place. And I think the Israeli public has had it. Back in 2021, I was involved with the diplomacy with the Biden Administration, when we were fighting -- it was May 2021. We were fighting with Hamas. And the president was amazing. Every night, he came out and said Israel has the right to defend itself.
But at a certain point, he said, OK, we've got to put an end to this. And the message was brought to the Israeli government. And it was a very difficult decision for the Israeli government back then because 80 percent of the Israeli public was against the ceasefire. They were getting hit by rockets but they were against a ceasefire because they didn't want to go back
OREN: To the status quo ante. So this time, I don't think it's 80 percent. I think it's 98 percent.
COOPER: That's Michael Oren. Thank you so much.
OREN: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
Coming up next, this piece of news is going to be hard in many ways. Monday night, I spoke with a woman named Avital Alajem, when we spoke, her friend and neighbor Adi Kaplon was unaccounted for. Avital herself had been taken from her kibbutz, kidnapped by Hamas Saturday morning, taken by gunmen who handed her Adi, her neighbor's two young boys -- Eshel is almost four and Negev just 4.5 months old.
Avital and the boys were taken to the Gazan border and then inexplicably, they were suddenly released, allowed to walk back to the kibbutz. Tonight, we learned from the family that Negev and Eshel's mother Avital's friend Adi was killed in that initial attack on Saturday in Israel. A family statement to a CNN affiliate in Canada where Adi has dual citizenship said, "She was murdered by terrorists in her home just for being Jewish." Monday night, when there was still hope, I asked Avital what she wanted people to know about her friend and neighbor Adi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVITAL ALAJEM, ABDUCTED & RELEASED: That she's brave and she has such a good heart. She wouldn't hurt a soul. She's always smiling and she's always giving. And she's so kind and gentle. And she's such a good mother. I mean she just had a baby, he's 4.5 months. She's just a beautiful soul really, just such a good friend, such a good mother. We need her, we need her. They both need her. The big one is asking and I -- she just needs to come back. She needs to come back home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Adi Kaplon we now know has died. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Tonight, we heard the account of a woman whose grandfather was killed, her grandmother kidnapped by Hamas. In a moment, we will also share with you the story of someone who was able to fight back. But first, an examination of an attack that was in the planning stages for two years according to a Hamas official. Sam Kiley has that story, beginning with a shadowy figure behind it.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A brazen political move. Hamas demands that the U.S. negotiate the release of American hostages on Russian TV.
ALI BARAKA, SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL (through translator): There are also prisoners in the U.S. We want them, of course. There are Hamas members sentenced to life in the U.S. We demand that the U.S. frees our sons from their prisons. The U.S. conducts prisoner swaps, only recently they did one with Iran. Why wouldn't they conduct one with us?
KILEY (voice-over): Confirmation of part of the intent behind the Hamas assaults in Israel, they were enabled by a failure of Israeli intelligence, but plotted by a shadowy Hamas officer they call Al- Deif, The Guest. Only two photographs exist of Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri who is nearly 60. He's known as Al-Deif because (inaudible) as a guest in a different location every night. He is the mastermind or monster behind the murder of more than 1,000 in Israel and the kidnapping of about 150 hostages.
MKHAIMAR ABUSADA, CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT AL- AZHAR UNIVERSITY IN GAZA: From the beginning of his life, he was very much interested in fighting the Israeli occupation.
KILEY (voice-over): In the mid-1990s, he was believed to be behind a wave of atrocities in Israel. And in 2014, he is believed to have lost an arm and a leg in an Israeli airstrike aimed at him that killed his wife and daughter. For the last two years though, Hamas has pretended to focus on welfare, not warfare.
BARAKA (through translator): All the while, under the table, Hamas was preparing this big attack.
KILEY (voice-over): Israel meanwhile invested in automation and sensors, a high-technology iron-wall around Gaza, and focused forces on the West Bank. Under Deif, Hamas encouraged Israeli complacency. Then last weekend, it hit hard, attacking communication towers and automated machine guns with drones, over-running command and control centers, killing senior officers, among them three colonels, and unleashing terror on thousands of civilians.
The Israel Defense Forces found Hamas anti-tank mines and other heavy weapons as sign they may have planned for a longer stay. The shock infantry attack is either deliberately brutal from the start or degenerated into a massacre as Israeli defenses collapsed. It shifted attention and power to Hamas.
ABUSADA: He has become like a God to some of the Palestinians because of what he has done.
KILEY (voice-over): Many Palestinians are dismayed by the massacre and the bloodshed that has followed. But, with the lives of hostages in his hands, The Guest now has an unwelcome place in America's mind. Sam Kiley, CNN.
COOPER: At least 1,200 people have died in these terror attacks in Israel. We have brought you stories of those who have died as well as those who are missing. We want to tell you now a different story, about someone who was able to fight back. Michael Silberberg was at a music festival where hundreds of people, as you know, more than some 260 people or more were killed according to Israeli officials. He and friends saw the rockets in the air and decided to leave.
They were among the first wave of people to get into their cars and leave from that festival. They soon took cover in some -- it isn't uncommon in Israel -- concrete bunker next to a bus station. Attackers came, Hamas gunmen, but never found them when they were hiding in that bomb shelter. Silberberg and his friend back in the car. They soon encountered two Hamas gunmen on a motorcycle. The gunmen started shooting at them.
Silberberg says he hit them with this car, you can see the damage here. I spoke to Michael Silberberg earlier about what happened.
Michael, I know you were at the festival. We are showing the video of the dancing that was going on, the party that was going on. You noticed the rockets early and wanted to get out of there. How did you then proceed? How did you leave?
MICHAEL SILBERBERG, SURVIVED MUSIC FESTIVAL ATTACK: We were the first ones to get to the parking. It was like quarter to seven in the morning. The rockets already started firing and we really managed to get into the car, the three of us, and we left the festival, the parking. We got on to the main road and trying to driving to safety to the north of Israel.
And yeah, and then we stopped at the bus station where there was a bunker right next to it, to hide from the rockets.
And we entered that bunker, the three of us, and then the terrorists came, then we heard -- one of us went outside to take a pee and suddenly we heard the motorcycles with the terrorists coming. It was -- yeah.
I know stopping at that bunker -- I know -- I think one of your friends needed to pee, that they (ph) saved your lives because there were people in cars ahead of you. What did you later learn happened to the cars ahead of you?
SILBERBERG: They were -- the commandos, the motorcycles that came and stopped at the bus station, they continued and they killed vehicles in front of us. They went into the kibbutz in, they started to attack and they forgot us. They didn't see us. We were left behind, hiding in the bunker for about 10 minutes, and then we understood that they continued on their trip to kill innocent people. And we just left the bunker, entered the car again, and started to drive into safety, and to north of Israel.
COOPER: You gave us some video that you took in that bunker that we will play. At that point, did you know -- could you hear stuff outside?
COOPER: Did you know what was going on around you?
SILBERBERG: Not at that point. When the guy you see in the video, Osher (ph) left to take a pee, then we heard the first shots outside and we thought that he was killed while going to take a pee. And we were -- me and another friend in the bunker, hoping that our friend outside survived and did not get shot, and we heard the terrorists outside of the bunker running around the bus station, we heard them. They shot at other vehicles passing and they just didn't enter the bunker for about eight to 10 minutes and left us behind, and then they continued on their trip.
COOPER: So, they were on the ground outside the bunker where you were you said. Had they decided to go into the bunker or check the bunker, they would have killed you. I mean, they could have -- they have seen you.
SILBERBERG: Yeah, of course. We heard them outside speaking Arabic, shooting at vehicles. We were making each other signs, we were completely quiet. We were making each other signs if someone enters the bunker, we would just jump on him and try to save ourselves. And we thought that Osher (ph) outside peeing was dead we heard the shot, not killing him, killing an Arabic woman right next to the bus station. They killed just
COOPER: They shot an Arab woman right by the bus station?
SILBERBERG: An Arab, yeah. Instead of my friend that went out to pee. He was hiding in the -- he was behind the trees. He jumped into the trees. He cut himself by jumping into the trees and he saw everything. He thought that we got killed in the bunker but we were luckily saved.
COOPER: We have seen other videos of Hamas members throwing a grenade into a bunker.
COOPER: I mean, you were incredibly lucky.
SILBERBERG: We were. We were completely lucky for one hour. The whole trip from leaving the parking, until we arrived into safety took us one hour and then while we were lucky not to get killed in the bunker, we started to flee and we managed to hit a motorcycle also with two terrorists on it.
COOPER: So explain that because -- so you get in -- you finally, they leave outside the bunker. You finally think it is OK get back into your car. You get into your car. What happened then?
SILBERBERG: Yeah. We had Israeli people entering the bunker and then we understood that the commandos, the motorcycles have left. We went outside, we entered the car, we met Osher (ph) who was coming out of the trees. We were completely happy he was alive. We were like all shocked. We entered the car and we started to drive as fast as we can into safety. And only a minute into the drive, we saw this one motorcycle, it was probably the last one of the five that were at the bus station.
We saw them in front of us shooting at cars, fleeing, shooting at cars in the front. So he didn't really see us. And when he saw us, it was too late because I hit the car as fast as I can and I hit them directly. I changed the wheel, directly heading into the motorcycle, and I just hit them and I cannot explain how I reacted, but it worked.
COOPER: So, how many terrorist did you hit?
SILBERBERG: Two. One riding the front of motorcycle and the shooter in the back.
The shooter in the back just wanted to turn toward us and shoot us. (inaudible) from the back. But (inaudible) to be faster and my car is complete out (ph), yeah.
COOPER: We are showing you photo of the Hamas -- the terrorists on the ground dead.
SILBERBERG: This was the rider of the motorcycle because the other one that the shooter lost his weapon on my window. So, the shooter was dead the first second. This was the rider of the motorcycle.
COOPER: And you said you lost his weapon on your window. Is that -- there is a picture you sent of a bullet casing on the windshield. Is that from his gun? SILBERBERG: Yeah. That's from his gun, yes. That's from a Kalashnikov I think, as far as I understood. We had a Kalashnikov on the window. We tried to grab it, but it fell on the road, my car was completely hit and was like -- we were afraid just to stop the car because the car was a total damage and it drove another 20 minutes (inaudible).
COOPER: What did you do then, after 20 minutes, the car conks out?
SILBERBERG: Yeah. We came into Nir Moshe, which is a village near Gaza border, and we had friends there that we know and we called him before. And he told us to come to his place. He had weapons. They protected us all day. We spent all the day in Nir Moshe, recovering from our experience.
COOPER: And then you had friends who came from Tel Aviv to pick you up?
SILBERBERG: Yes. In the evening, we called some friends to come and pick us up, and take us back home into safety, into the center of Israel. Yeah, it was a whole day experience. We started our journey at quarter to seven and we got home at nine in the evening.
COOPER: Michael, I'm so sorry -- I'm so happy that you and your friends survived this and I'm so sorry for what you have been through and for all those others who did not. Michael Silberberg, thank you so much.
SILBERBERG: You are welcome. Bye-bye. Thank you.
COOPER: Michael Silberberg. We will be right back.