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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Now: Gaza Under Intense Bombardment; Blinken Arrives In Amman; Scalise Drops Bid For House Speaker; Israel Cuts Off Food, Water And Fuel To Gaza; Some 150 Hostages Thought To Be Held By Hamas; Parents Of American Serving In Israeli Military Abducted By Hamas Looking For Information On Him; Hamas Trained For Attacks At Camps Near Israel's Most Fortified Border With Gaza; Volunteer EMT On The Ground In Israel Describes What He Is Seeing. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 12, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONIE O' SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a real war and false information can be fatal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that disinformation is extraordinarily harmful, including putting folks' lives at risk.
O'SULLIVAN: Now, Erin, Twitter says, now X, of course, says that it is moving around resources within the company after it did all those layoffs to try and address some of these concerns.
Look, by no means is this problem exclusive to X, but it is pretty pronounced on that platform at the moment and what I would say is the real tragedy of all of this is, we've seen the real footage from Gaza, from Israel. It is tragic enough. There is no need for these fake videos and images to add to the chaos, concern, and confusion.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Donie. I appreciate it.
And thanks very much to all of you for joining us. AC 360 with Anderson here in Israel starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360": And good evening.
It is 3:00 AM here in Israel. Tonight, we are in Tel Aviv.
Earlier today, we were close to the border with Gaza, at the site of the single biggest massacre that took place on Saturday. We got an up close look at the site of the music festival where gun and RPG toting terrorists murdered 260 people Saturday morning, mostly young people in what was supposed to be a celebration of peace.
Their possessions are still strewn about, their blood still visible soaked on car seats where they were shot, smeared on the walls of bomb shelters that became death traps.
I spent time today with the IDF Rear Admiral named Daniel Hagari, and you'll hear from him tonight and you'll hear his shock and his anger and his determination to win the fight that is coming.
We heard that same determination in all of the soldiers that we met today as they make their way south as they make their way down the same road that we took and take up positions close to that site, close the kibbutzim that also became killing grounds close to the border, they may soon get orders to cross.
Some spent the day pouring howitzer fire into Gaza and in a moment, we'll speak to CNN's Nic Robertson, who was with an IDF artillery unit, which has seen heavy action so far.
Large scale airstrikes continued for a sixth day today targeting Hamas, but also causing widespread destruction. Palestinian officials now putting the number of killed in Gaza since Hamas launched its attack at more than 1,500, not clear if that number includes the hundreds of Hamas gunmen who invaded Israel on Saturday.
Israel's Energy minister says today that food, water, and power, much of which Israel controls will remain cut off the territory as long or until hostages being held by Hamas and others are returned home.
Just a short time ago, Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Amman, the capital of Jordan, his next stop after meeting here today with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Standing beside the prime minister, Secretary Blinken, whose stepfather survived the Holocaust had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I understand on a personal level the harrowing echoes that Hamas' massacres carry for Israeli Jews, indeed for Jews everywhere.
I also come before you as a husband and father of young children. It's impossible for me to look at the photos of families killed, such as the mother, father and three small children murdered as they sheltered in their home in a kibbutz near Az and not think of my own children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Prime Minister Netanyahu showed the secretary photos of three young victims of Saturday's massacre, an infant's blood-stained body and the bodies of two other babies burned beyond recognition.
The Defense Ministry also released this photo of an ISIS-style flag which it says was found with Hamas attackers at one of the kibbutzim attacked on Saturday.
Hamas spokesman said, it is ISIS, something the IDF Rear Admiral I spoke with also said today. And so the question of Hamas' Iranian ties, American officials today said they and their counterparts in Qatar have reached a "quiet understanding" to keep Tehran from accessing any of the $6 billion in Iranian funds now in Qatar, as part of a deal to free Americans held in Iran. A lot of it, all part of the picture here, early Friday morning hours, with troops now waiting to learn what their next move will be. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Sderot, not far from the border where so many troops had been massing.
Nic, I know you continued to see heavy airstrikes into Gaza and artillery fire into Gaza. You were there today when Israeli troops were firing howitzers. Talk about what you saw what is -- what it's likely to become?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, well, this evening, Anderson, here overlooking Gaza, we're seeing multiple repeated -- there is another one -- strikes from aircraft, from fighter jets, and some of these impacts not that one, but some of the impacts of some of this strongest we've felt. This feels to us, the past hour-and-a-half or so, one of the most sustained periods of jet fighter missile attacks going into Gaza at the moment.
But we've also been hearing multiple artillery rounds firing in as well tonight, as well as these aircraft missiles slamming into Gaza. These artillery guns that are firing right now, this is what we were looking at earlier today.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
ROBERTSON: Dug in along the border, these are new units -- these are new units that have just arrived just again, just set up their howitzers and these are arranged in groupings of perhaps a dozen or so howitzers, many of them firing multiple rounds, multiple times.
These barrages or salvos, if you like, are much bigger, much stronger. The unit, a much larger unit than the IDF had in the same field back in 2021 for the last big confrontation with Hamas. This is an order of magnitude bigger and you really get a sense of troops arriving and essentially, a new frontline emerging in the war on Gaza.
The howitzers are laying down very heavy and sustained fire -- Anderson.
COOPER: And the -- is that placement -- well, I should point out, Secretary of State Blinken, he gave -- he talked a lot in that remarks today when he was alongside Netanyahu, what more did he have to say about the Israel and US response to the attacks?
ROBERTSON: Yes, the United States absolutely side by side with Israel. No daylight between them, a stalwart ally in condemning Hamas' actions, condemning the brutality, condemning the way that they've responded, calling on other nations to align with Israel, certainly Prime Minister Netanyahu was saying that to outlaw essentially internationally, Hamas, to shut down all their international political offices, don't do business with them, don't talk to them and countries that do should be sanctioned.
But there was a caution there, as you were alluding to from Secretary Blinken and that was that while we respond, while you respond, we support you in responding to the utter brutality of Hamas, essentially, remember our moral standings and our credibility, and that relies on our moral and humane standards.
So there was a sort of a warning there, if you will and this was Secretary Blinken saying it, but minimize Palestinian and avoid if you can, Palestinian casualties. This is how he framed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLINKEN: Israel has the right, indeed the obligation to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.
The prime minister and I discussed how Israel does these matters. We, democracies, distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard, even when it's difficult, and holding ourselves to account when we fall short.
Our humanity the value that we place on human life and human dignity, that's what makes us who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And already there is, if you will, an increasing condemnation from some politicians in some countries for the death toll and the casualty toll of Palestinians and the siege that's being put in place, so that international political pressure is beginning to become apparent and mount on Israel at the moment -- Anderson.
COOPER: Nic Robertson, thanks.
Much more now on what is unmistakably the sense here of waiting for whatever comes next. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Ashdod for us tonight.
So how would you characterize what you're seeing now -- Clarissa?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, definitely what Nic was saying, Anderson, we have been hearing a much more steady intensive thud, a lot of our outgoing artillery airstrikes pounding Gaza.
The UN releasing new numbers just about the scale of what's happening in Gaza at the moment, 1,500 -- more than 1,500 Palestinians dead; among them 500 children; 300,000 people now homeless, 50,000 pregnant women have no access to health care. They are running out of fuel. And so there are very real concerns that this could very quickly spiral completely out of control in terms of the humanitarian situation if it has not indeed already.
You heard Secretary of State Blinken talk about the importance of trying to implement some type of a humanitarian corridor. But as we've discussed, and you've discussed on your show for a number of reasons, that's quite a complex prospect. Meanwhile, on this side of the border, unmistakable build up, the sense of momentum and anticipation gaining for some kind of an imminent ground invasion, although I think there are still large questions looming about what that might look like, what the stated goal of it may be, and of course, what that would mean for Palestinian civilians, for the Israeli military, and crucially, as well, of course, for those more than 100 hostages who are still being held -- Anderson.
COOPER: You visited a kibbutz that's being used by IDF troops. What did you see?
WARD: Well, this was the kibbutz that was the site of some of the most grotesque atrocities that Hamas carried out on Saturday, the Be'eri kibbutz, once home to a thousand people, more than a hundred murdered, hundreds still missing.
And it is perhaps a sort of symbolic gesture that that has now been taken over and has become a staging area for an Israeli artillery brigade. We saw a lot of troops there. We heard a lot of outgoing fire and I will say that they didn't seem to be in a state of imminent sort of movement, let's say. But certainly the preparations are being paved.
I think the larger question still remains as to what exactly a ground offensive would look like. Are we talking about full blown annexation of Gaza? Are we talking about some kind of limited incursion?
We have talked -- we've heard Israel's leaders talk a lot about the need to stomp out Hamas completely, but there is a reality on the ground given that this enclave has been held by Hamas for 17 years, it is densely populated. You're talking potentially about very nasty urban house-to-house street to street guerrilla warfare, which will make this a very tough fight.
I think Israelis you speak to understand that and I think Israelis also understand that they perhaps have a limited window in terms of opportunity with the support of the international community to move forward this. So really, a sense of growing momentum and expectation that this could be imminent -- Anderson.
COOPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you.
I know Clarissa has more reporting and you're going to come up again with us shortly.
I want to right now play the conversation that I had with IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari who took us to the site of the Nova Music Festival, the attack Saturday where some 260 people were killed.
COOPER: It's pretty clear to you at this point that Hamas knew this festival was taking place here. It wasn't just an accident that they happened upon it. REAR ADMIRAL DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE: It's a -- it's a plan. It's an architect plan, done by sin law (ph) as the governing thing. This is a major governed event by the sovereign of Gaza. This is an event in a scale, I don't think the world have seen. It is a scale of brutality. That cruel -- being cruel.
Here, girls were being raped. People are being handcuffed. They were being slaughtered. They ran into a cube that people are running to because of security when you have the rockets, so they took them inside the cube and throw grenades inside the cube.
COOPER: There's video from numerous bomb shelters that people were hiding in of grenades being thrown out it.
HAGARI: I don't know how people can explain this. I cannot -- I don't have the words to explain it and then running away with -- on motorcycles with girls to Gaza.
COOPER: This is the parking lot. People tried to get out of this parking lot. It was too chaotic for many to get out.
HAGARI: What happened is they came from both sides. So --
COOPER: Hamas came both from the south -- we're told they came from three sides, from the west, from the south, and from the north?
HAGARI: Here on the road, they came. Some of them were like looking like cops.
COOPER: Like Israeli police.
HAGARI: Yes. I just saw a film in the phones from people they took out of the cameras of the cars and they came here with a machine gun. So the mass was -- they are running to the cars, they were waiting here with a machine gun.
I think it's scenes from World War Two.
It's the only thing I can think it's similar to massacres that were being done in humanity. Hamas, I cannot -- they are Islam, you rape people, you torture, you slaughter them. This is Islam? Hamas is Islam?
Hamas is ISIS. Now, he ran back to Gaza with girls, God know what's being done to them, hiding in buildings with Gazan and then showing to the world babies dead.
Don't hide in buildings. Hiding in tunnels, with girls, elder women inside Gaza. This is something we cannot stand. We cannot stand.
We have thousands of Israeli warriors here now looking for the terrorists that have stayed here and hiding. We're going to find them, we're going to kill them. But every Israeli warrior, going through this festival here will see the scenes, he will understand what we are facing, he will understand that this is something we cannot stand for. We don't have any other else -- any other else -- any other place to go to. This is our country. We will fight determinedly. We will not allow a sovereign next to us to be ISIS and not in any of our borders and hiding among the civilian in Gaza with women and children. This is -- this is -- this is insane.
COOPER: There's possessions strewn around. Was this part of this from gunmen just rifling through cars?
HAGARI: They -- the pictures, because all the cars now have cameras. They have a picture from a Tesla here that they -- it has no mercy. It's animals. And some of them had ISIS flags. It's something the world needs to understand. It's something else.
It's something else and it's going to take time. It's going to take time, every -- for -- every warrior is going to fight will pass through this area. He will see what you and I are seeing, he will feel the emotion, the rage and he will understand what we're fighting for.
And we're not animals, we don't fight like animals. We're calling the population before, we're using the Air Force, telling them to get out of the neighborhoods. We're controlling the fire, but still, but still the ones that chose to hide now in buildings with young Israeli children that are probably being raped now in Gaza, we will not live with that.
And the ones that are giving the human shield are taking a huge risk on their life.
COOPER: I can -- I can tell you are deeply affected by what happened here.
HAGARI: I've been a warrior -- I've been a warrior my life. A fight in many theaters, almost in all the theaters in the Middle East. I've never seen -- never, never seen, never felt something like it. Feeling that it's our existence now here and we're going to -- we're going to keep Israel. We're going to keep it a democracy.
We're going to keep it liberal. We're going to keep it with our values. But we won't let animals, ISIS animals stand next to our borders. They can do that, again. They must be break down. Something else need to grow up, it won't be ISIS. It will be something else. He cannot govern this area.
COOPER: How difficult is this fight going to be on the ground in in Gaza? I mean, there had been incursions before. I've been to Gaza City I know. It's a tough place to fight.
HAGARI: We would do what we need to do in order to get to this goal that ISIS won't govern because any other country here in the region next to us that host Hamas, ISIS, they are risking their own population, but also they need to know, if they will interfere. If they will act against us, we are ready in all the fronts in full readiness and what President Biden said to Israel, it is exactly what we feel.
Unfortunately, it takes us back. You know, my grandfather fled away from Germany. We understand completely what we're seeing now. We have no other place to go. We will keep our values. We will keep this democracy alive and kicking.
But we understand like you know, you know Gaza. It's going to be hard. We're ready. We're ready for it to be hard.
COOPER: It is going to be hard.
IDF Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
We spoke there about the challenges of the Israeli military going into Gaza, next, a conversation with someone in Gaza now where they are seeing as Israeli planes and artillery had been pounding the area.
Also the American parents whose son is in the IDF and is now, they believe being held hostage by Hamas. Their message, just ahead tonight.
COOPER: We're going to return to our coverage of the war here in Israel, but we have breaking news that we want to get to out of Washington.
Moments ago, Steve Scalise, the number two Republican in the House who had just a day ago won an internal vote to be the party's nominee in a chaotic House speaker's race is now out of that race, basically upending the entire process.
Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill with the latest.
Manu, talk about what's happened.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is sending the House into a deepening state of turmoil, Anderson after Steve Scalise announced to his conference behind closed doors just moments ago that he will not be a candidate for speaker.
Remember, the House cannot act on any legislation, no national priorities no dealing with issues like aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine, avoiding a government shutdown by mid-November until there is a speaker of the House and there is not one because of that unprecedented vote last week, ousting Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.
Since then, this bitterly divided House Republican Conference has tried to figure out a way forward. Steve Scalise was nominated by his conference yesterday, but he didn't have enough votes to become elected speaker by the full House. He could only afford to lose four Republican votes in the full House. More than a dozen, maybe up to two dozen Republicans indicated that they were probably going to vote against him.
All day long, Steve Scalise had been trying to convince those holdouts to flip, to come his way. He failed in that effort, and just moments ago, he came out of this conference meeting and urged those members to put their personal agendas aside and get behind one candidate for the good of the party.
But Anderson, it is uncertain whether the Republicans can do just that. There are some talk of other candidates running in this race. Jim Jordan who Scalise defeated for the Republican nomination for speaker is one person seen as possibly running here, but there could be others as well.
Just moments ago, also former Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not rule out himself running again or being considered as a candidate for the speakership.
So all raising huge questions about how Republicans could move forward in this key moment when so much is riding on the house, and whether they can take other actions or other Plan B actions, maybe even prop up the interim speaker of the House, Patrick McHenry who doesn't have any power, but there's talk of giving him new power to move legislation because Republicans really are desperate to try to figure out a way out of a crisis of their own making.
So Anderson at the moment, Republicans still huddling behind closed doors trying to figure out what's next. Will there be a new leadership election? Will there be a new candidate here?
But a huge, huge concern for many Republicans about how to move forward with this House, which can't do anything yet until they figure out who their speaker is and whether that speaker can actually get the votes to be elected -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Remarkable given all that's going on in the world right now. Manu Raja, thank you very much.
As we reported the top, Israeli strikes on Gaza are continuing and there as our Nic Robertson was reporting, building, they've been going on all night, the territory essentially now cut off from the outside, conditions which were difficult even before Hamas launched their terror attacks on Saturday are worsening, it could grow immeasurably more so if and when Israeli forces go in and there are street-to- street fighting.
Somewhere in all of that, there are hostages being held and ordinary Gazans trying to survive.
To get a better idea of what it is like there, I spoke earlier tonight to Yousef Hammash who lives in Gaza, is working with the Norwegian Refugee Council. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Yousef, an Israeli official said earlier today that Gaza will not be provided with any electricity or water or fuel until Israeli hostages being held by Hamas are returned home. What's the impact so far been in Gaza?
YOUSEF HAMMASH, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL SPOKESMAN (via phone): Yes, so far, it's -- the situation in Gaza is really bad before starting this war. After that -- after this war on Gaza, we have the bombardment, after that like no electricity, no water, no fuel, and I think in a couple of few days, we will find that all the stores -- all the stores in Gaza will be empty. There will never be anything for people to consume in Gaza.
COOPER: Where do people get basic supplies? I mean, where are people getting food?
HAMMASH: On a diff -- for example, I had to flee my house and I'm posted with one of my relatives, every day in the morning I had to go to stand in line in front of the bakery almost two hours just to get a box of bread. There's not enough supply for anything in Gaza. Sorry. Some bombs around me, sorry. So as you hear --
COOPER: That was an explosion.
HAMMASH: That's where the bombs are. Yes, yes. Sorry, sorry. So --
COOPER: And what about water? When you turn on taps in your home, do you get water?
HAMMASH: There is no water in Gaza especially even though we have other sources like municipality lines in Gaza, but there is no electricity to pump this water up to the tanks and houses, so we collect water and cooking pots in small gallons, just trying to store water even not only for drinking -- drinking water, also for hygiene.
COOPER: I'm wondering what people there say about the attack that took place in Israel. Is it -- is there a lot of support for the attack that took place that you hear from people?
HAMMASH: Honestly, all of us, there's 2 million people here on a daily basis have to provide safety at the beginning for their children, food, and other needs, essential needs on a daily basis. With all of this bombardment over our heads, we don't have space in our head to think in anything except secure our lives.
We cannot think of anything under all of this chaotic situation, bombardment, no electricity, no water. What's the world expecting from Gazans to think about?
COOPER: Are people there aware of hostages being held by Hamas?
HAMMASH: Yes, and the people are aware of the situation, but they are unaware of that -- what's in there in the horizon? Unfortunately, we don't see any intervention from the international community to understand -- and until now, we don't see anyone who interfering from the outside world. People here living -- I can't say they're living day by day. We are living here second by second.
Every day when we go to find some sleep, especially when the night came, we are praying just to see the daylight again. The situation here is unbearable. I don't think that anyone on this planet can handle the situation here for one hour.
COOPER: If there is a ground invasion, what do you expect?
HAMMASH: We are terrified of this -- all the news, talking about a ground invasion. We are completely terrified from this scenario. With all this bombardment, after that, a ground invasion. I don't think -- it's going to be a horror movie. It's literally horror here. We are seeing horror in a daily basis, every second by second, we see this bombardment around us.
COOPER: Yousef Hammash, thank you so much for talking to us.
HAMMASH: Thank you, thank you so much. Thank you.
COOPER: The view from Gaza, joining once again tonight, IDF Spokesman and Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. Lieutenant Colonel Conricus, obviously, our previous guest talked about the dire situation for civilians on the ground. Do you see any change in Egypt's posture on allowing Gazan residents to be able to cross over the border into Egypt?
LT. COL (RES.). JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Yes. Good evening or good night, Anderson. I feel for the previous speaker. I can understand his and others suffering. What I cannot understand was his inability to answer your question and say that, yes, we condemn the butchering of civilians and we condemn the fact that Hamas has taken civilians, women, children, elderly hostage and are holding them in Gaza.
And yet in the same breath, he expects and calls on the so-called international community to intervene on his behalf while he even isn't capable of denouncing the atrocities that he knows Hamas had done and were celebrated on the streets of Gaza. So regarding Egypt, I am not aware of any breakthroughs or advances.
We remain with our same focus, and we are continuing our campaign to try to find Hamas leaders, military target, and we are striking those military targets, trying not to hit civilians, and trying not to cause more damage than needed, and preparing for the next stages of our operation of the war.
COOPER: It does seem to me, the times I have been in Gaza, that people who do not like Hamas, and I don't know the person we just talked to, what their position is, but that people who -- even people who don't like Hamas, are scared to say that out loud. People are afraid of Hamas in Gaza. CONRICUS: Yes, they are. And Hamas has been ruling. Hamas is a terrorist organization that basically governs according to the ancient Muslim law, Sharia. And it's very extreme interpretation of it. They use lots of force against civilians and against civil society. They oppress the population. And since they took control violently over the Gaza Strip in 2007, they have brought nothing but despair, poverty and destruction to the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants.
Now, however, I think that they really have outdone themselves. In their poor governance, that's nothing new. And Gaza has been mismanaged and misgoverned for so many years by Hamas. So many resources, international aid squandered by Hamas for their military purposes and for lining bank accounts of Hamas seniors.
But now, what they've done against us and the violence that they have instigated all rests on the shoulders of Hamas.
COOPER: The hostages, the fact that there are so many hostages, we believe spread out through Gaza, unclear exactly where, how much does that impact the strategy of any kind of ground operation or any, whatever the next step of this, how much of that is affected by the presence of those hostages or in a military operation like this, does one have to just operate not taking that into account?
CONRICUS: Well, one cannot not take it into account, but in military operations, in war, and we are at war with a very brutal enemy that needs to be defeated squarely. Militarily, we focus on our aim. And what we are going to do is to dismantle all of Hamas' military capabilities. That's what we're focusing on.
Granted, the hostage situation is by far the most complex and delicate that we as a country have ever faced. And I don't think that any other country has ever faced something similar, but I may be corrected on that. We definitely have never. And we'll have to take it into account.
The chief of staff today, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said clearly to the Israeli public, that they are at the top of our priorities, and we will not rest and no efforts will be spared until we get those people home.
COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Conricus, I appreciate your time again tonight. Thank you.
Ronen and Orna Neutra from Long Island are just two of the many parents tonight waiting for word of their loved ones. Their son, Omer, serves in the IDF. He was taken by Hamas on Saturday, kidnapped. We spoke earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ronen, your son, Omer, had joined the Israeli military, was posted near the border with Gaza. I know you spoke to him this past Friday night. What did he say? RONEN NEUTRA, SON ABDUCTED: He actually spoke to Orna. I was, laying on bed next to her while they were talking and I heard him saying that he's tired. He's been extremely busy in the last two weeks. It's been Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays and just was looking forward for a very quiet, peaceful weekend, Shabbat. And also Simchat Torah, it's a Jewish holiday and he was just looking forward to chill with his friends.
COOPER: And Orna, I know you, obviously, Saturday when you heard the news, you tried to reach him. When was the first indication you had that he had been taken?
ORNA NEUTRA, SON ABDUCTED: So, actually, you know, there's a seven hour time difference between here in New York and Israel. So, when we spoke to him, it was Friday afternoon, our time, and it was evening in Israel. And just before we were going to sleep, this was around midnight on Friday night.
We opened, you know, the news app on our phones. We were in bed. And we saw that (INAUDIBLE) on the southern part of Israel. And Ronen immediately tried to contact him and call him. There was no response, of course. And we haven't heard from him since.
COOPER: And Ronen, one of Omer's friends actually sent you the video that had your son in it. I can't imagine receiving something like that. When did you see it?
R. NEUTRA: No, I was pretty shocking. It was about two days after the attack, ask a good friend to come over and watch it. I knew that's not something that I'm ready to watch. And, we did watch it. He did tell me you did wisely that you asked me not to watch it.
And he thought -- he wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Omer there in the footage. Later on, we were connected with a good friend that contacted us and said -- and it's actually the guy that sent us the footage and advised us that it was part of the team together with Omer that was separated and it could recognize us clearly, Omer's team pulled out from the vehicle.
COOPER: And do you know anything about the circumstances of him being captured? If you said he was pulled out of a vehicle, it was a military vehicle.
R. NEUTRA: Yes.
O. NEUTRA: Yes. Omer was in a tank. So, we know that he was taking out of the tank.
R. NEUTRA: He was pulled out of the tank. We saw him walking.
O. NEUTRA: In the video.
R. NEUTRA: So he's -- he was well, he was standing and, you know, we expect him to get him back same way. COOPER: And he was in uniform?
R. NEUTRA: Yes, they were in uniform. They were ready to defend the border, but unfortunately, it seems like they were caught by surprise, as we all know.
COOPER: And have you been in touch with Israeli authorities? Has -- have people reached out to you?
O. NEUTRA: So we -- someone from the Israeli consulate came over on Monday night to give us the formal news that he's considered abducted by Hamas. By all their indications, they didn't give any explanations, but to the best of their knowledge, that's the situation right now. And we've been assigned someone from the consulate, but really no additional news.
COOPER: And Orna, I know it's -- I think his birthday is in two days. He's 21. Will you tell people about your son? What's he like?
O. NEUTRA: Yes, he's actually -- he will be 22 in two days. Omer was born in 2001. This is right after 9/11, as we all remember. He grew up in New York. You know, a very -- an amazing mix of a very serious guy, but a big goofball. Loves all kinds of sports. You know, loved basketball, loved volleyball. His father loves volleyball. He follows in his steps.
COOPER: Ronen and Orna, I'm so sorry for what you are going through and what Omer is going through. And I wish you the best and we'll continue to be in touch with you in the days ahead.
R. NEUTRA: Thank you. I appreciate the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So many families just waiting for word.
Coming up, new details about the planning of Saturday's attack by Hamas. Our Clarissa Ward reports on how years were spent training for it literally right over the border from Israel.
COOPER: Last night in our continuing investigation of how Hamas planned Saturday's attack, we brought you the story of the Hamas official who masterminded the brutal assault, a shadowy figure known as The Guest, for his need to lodge in a different location every night to stay alive.
Tonight, Clarissa Ward joins us again with new information about where these gunmen trained and how they were right under the noses in some cases of the Israeli Defense Forces for years. Clarissa, what have you learned?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. You know, there's been so much discussion about the intelligence failures that led up to the atrocities last Saturday. And CNN's Open-Source Investigator, Paul Murphy, has spent the last few days pouring through years of social media video, satellite imagery, and the results and the findings are shocking.
WARD (voice-over): Propaganda videos put out by Hamas reveal chilling details about the years of preparations that went into Saturday's bloody attacks right under Israel's nose. Analyzing metadata from the videos, a CNN investigation can reveal the presence of at least six training sites inside Gaza. One just 720 meters from the most heavily fortified and patrolled part of Israel's border.
In that camp, Hamas recreated an Israeli compound, with elements of the nearby border crossing, including an insignia of the Erez battalion. The videos show they even practiced taking prisoners and zip tying their hands at the camp. Satellite imagery indicates the camp was constructed within the last year and a half.
At two other locations in the southern part of Gaza, Hamas trained for their audacious paraglider assault, rehearsing takeoffs and landings. At all six sites, two years of satellite imagery reviewed by CNN shows no indication of offensive Israeli military action. The imagery instead shows that in the last two years, some camps even expanded into surrounding farmland.
And that there was activity in the last several months at the camps. The stunning revelations raise questions as to how Hamas was able to train so openly, so close to the border, for so long, and why Israeli officials were unable to pick up on and prevent the October 7th attack.
COOPER: Clarissa, what's the IDF's response to this?
WARD: So we, of course, reached out and asked them for a statement, which they have provided. I want to read it verbatim. "We cannot provide answers to your questions since they relate to the complex analysis of intelligence at the same time that we are fighting a war. This topic, together with numerous other issues, will be investigated by the IDF at the end of the war."
And it is worth mentioning, Anderson, that historically, there have been many strikes that Israeli Defense Forces have made on Hamas training camps. And also, I would just mention, these questions that we're asking are questions that a lot of Israelis want answers to.
The timing may not be right now. I think people appreciate that that's not necessarily the priority. But they will want those answers, Anderson.
COOPER: There's also questions about U.S. intelligence failures, assuming that, I mean, given the U.S. intelligence capabilities, that they didn't see these either.
WARD: I think there are many questions, Anderson, about how on Earth this could have happened. I mean, you look at that video of training with a basic replica of the era's border crossing that was less than 1 kilometer away from the border crossing. You see the scale and the scope of some of those camps.
And it's hard to fathom or understand that it would be possible that the Israelis and other supportive nations would not be aware of it. The assumption may be that they were aware of it, that they perhaps didn't understand or misinterpreted the intelligence, didn't see it as a direct threat. Again, that's speculative. We don't know.
What we do know is that there will be, at some point, a deep dive investigation into this by the Israelis, and the Israeli people will want to know who should be held accountable.
COOPER: Yes. Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thank you.
I want to talk about something we mentioned earlier, the ISIS flags that the Israeli Defense Ministry says were found with bodies of gunmen at one kibbutz. For that, we want to bring in Joby Warrick, a national security reporter for The Washington Post, author of a remarkable book, "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS".
Joby, when you see this flag and the fact that the Israeli's defense minister made the statement, quote, Hamas is ISIS, which you're hearing a lot now from Israeli officials and soldiers, what do you see as that comparison?
JOBY WARRICK, AUTHOR, "BLACK FLAGS: THE RISE OF ISIS": Well, Hamas and ISIS are different, so let's just put that down. They're -- they have very different histories. They have, you know, they sometimes are at odds with each other. They don't particularly like each other and their allegiances. So they fought back and forth quite a bit.
However, they've become similar, in some ways. Their ideology is fairly similar. Now their tactics are very ISIS like. And that's from Hamas' point of view, the brutality, the symbolism, the things that we see Hamas doing that evokes ISIS. They like that because that terrifies people. It horrifies people in the same way that ISIS like gloried in those horrible videos that we saw them put out.
But also from Israel's point of view, though, the comparison with ISIS is very useful because we all agreed about what to do with ISIS. Everybody opposed ISIS. 86 countries, you know, signed up to fight ISIS. The solution was to destroy this, you know, ISIS completely.
And so you can see why it's -- you know, the Israelis are making a big deal about the fact that there are these comparisons, including flags, that are being -- that are turning up among the bodies of these fighters.
COOPER: It's -- I mean, it's sick that members of Hamas would like the comparison to ISIS because of the brutal reputation that ISIS has among jihadists. How do you think Hamas leaders view that comparison, though, given that ISIS has been decapitated quite efficiently, although it still obviously exists in a number of places?
WARRICK: Yes, it's been interesting to see, Anderson, in the last day or so. Some of the Hamas leadership trying to kind of back away from a little bit, back away from some of the brutal tactics, because they know well what happened with ISIS and how that story ended. And so they may be objecting a little bit too late, but I do think that that comparison is extremely harmful for them.
And because, to repeat, ISIS was so brutal and so terrible that everybody in the world wanted to see that organization destroyed. And if you become ISIS like, you're putting yourself in that same category and possibly up for the same consequences.
COOPER: Is there -- I mean, is there any evidence at all that ISIS may have actually been involved in this assault?
WARRICK: So none that we've seen. And I've actually been monitoring the sort of communications by these various groups, including ISIS. They have their spokespeople. They have their telegram channels. They have ways of putting out messages.
And it's been remarkably mixed. They're applauding sort of the attacks on the Israelis. They think it's great. But at the same time, they're saying, it's a shame that it's Hamas, because we don't like those guys very much. They're lied to Iranians, and we hate the Iranians. We think they're infidels. And so, they're kind of mixed in their view about it.
We haven't seen evidence that ISIS has sent fighters into Gaza. It's possible that there are some sympathizers, some people that want to be like ISIS. Just last year, there were several attacks in Israel itself that ISIS claimed responsibility for and appears to have had some role, at least inspirationally, in supporting.
But we've never seen an instance where ISIS was able to penetrate Israel, and we haven't really seen them come into Gaza in a big way. That's not to say that young Hamas members kind of gravitate to the same imagery, to the same flags and symbols and want to be like ISIS because they're the jihadi superstars around the world.
COOPER: Yes. Joby Warrick, appreciate it. Thank you.
Some of what we first knew about the mass slaughter on Saturday came from the soldiers and first responders who rushed to help those under siege and dying. Our next guest is Shalom Avitan, a volunteer EMT who lives in Jerusalem. On Saturday night, he arrived at a kibbutz where the IDF says women, children, toddlers, the elderly were -- had been brutally killed.
He says he arrived and was handed two babies whose parents had been killed. The babies were dehydrated. He helped take care of them, took them to a hospital until social services could take the children.
I'm joined now by Shalom Avitan. Thank you so much for being with us. You do this. You're a volunteer. Talk about what you saw Saturday, where you went and what you saw.
SHALOM AVITAN, VOLUNTEER EMT AT UNITED HATZALAH: Saturday morning, when we got the call from the dispatch center of the United Hatzalah, they called me up to go down to the south. When we got there, first of all, went to the city of Sderot. When we got there, we just -- we saw loads of cars burning, people lying outside of the cars, babies, children, elderly people lying, and they're just screaming for help. The first responders that got there were also killed and the police, because they weren't prepared for such a big casualty.
COOPER: Sderot was a place where they'd taken over the police station. They dressed in Hamas, dressed in police clothes. A lot of people were killed.
AVITAN: Yes. By the police station, we couldn't even get close to there because there's still fire going on there. So when we got there, we just ran over to the people that we could help. We pulled them out of the cars when they were still burning. We put them onto the ambulance and intensive care unit, and we just drove off with them. When we drove off, we still had fire going on, getting bullets on the ambulance itself.
COOPER: The babies that you were given by soldiers, that was at a kibbutz?
AVITAN: Kfar Aza.
COOPER: The Kfar Aza.
COOPER: Where we know there was tremendous brutality that took place. What happened? How did you wind up with these two babies?
AVITAN: We were in contact with the IDF, and they told us to come to Kfar Aza to give them help, medical assistance for the civilians that were taken hostages and were executed, and for the soldiers that became -- that got injured. And between, they brought us out injured people.
Suddenly, I had a soldier from the Special Forces. He came out with two babies in his hand, and he gave it over to me. One of the babies and the other baby for my colleague. The babies were just screaming. They were dehydrated. When he gave me over the baby, the baby caught on so hard.
To me, he felt he was in safe hands. It was so emotional. His expression, he can't even express how emotional it was.
COOPER: He was clinging to you?
AVITAN: Yes. And when we gave him the bottle of water, you could see how it was dehydrated. Didn't want to let go for a half a second.
COOPER: And then where did you bring the babies?
AVITAN: We spoke with the hospital on Social Services. They told us to bring them down to Soraka Hospital in Beer-Sheva.
COOPER: And do you know anything about their parents?
AVITAN: We don't know anything about the parents. What the soldier told us when he gave over the babies, he told us that the parents are not with them anymore. They were all captured or executed.
COOPER: Have you ever seen anything like this?
AVITAN: Never in my life. And I couldn't even imagine such a thing in my life. It's the worst thing that ever happened to me.
COOPER: And after that, did you continue -- I mean, how long have you been working?
AVITAN: I've been working until three hours ago, straight from there, right here.
AVITAN: Nonstop. You try to sleep, you can't even kind of manage to sleep. I mean, you close your eyes and there's all these pictures coming up in you.
COOPER: I understand that. Do -- does it change the way you see things? I mean, does it -- how does it affect you?
AVITAN: It does change how you see things. There's one thing that you see for yourself that you want the world to change, that there should be love between people. Like we in United Hatzalah, we work also Arabs, Jews, and Christians, we all work together.
This morning -- we had also on Sunday morning, there was an Arab volunteer. He is a Muslim, Dr. Tariq (ph). He's our friend. And he was captured by the Hamas and was taking hostage. And they shot him in his leg. And they told the Israeli forces, if they're going to come any closer, they're going to shoot him in his head.
And he told them that he's a Muslim. He spoke to them in Arabic, and he told them parts of the Quran, and they didn't even care. And meanwhile, we are the ones working together the whole time, hand to hand.
AVITAN: So it's just to love each other and be together.
COOPER: Well, amidst all this horror, it's lovely to talk to somebody who is trying to help other people. And I really appreciate all you're doing.
AVITAN: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you so much.
CNN's coverage from Israel continues.