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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Hundreds Believed Dead In Gaza Hospital Blast; US Analyzing Israeli Intelligence About Gaza Hospital Blast; Student In Gaza: There Is Nowhere Safe; Protesters In Lebanon Try To Break Through Security Barriers Near U.S. Embassy After Gaza Hospital Blast; Israel Military Says It Was Islamic Jihad Rocket; Wanted By Israel: The Leader Of Hamas In Gaza. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 20:00   ET


PAUL PRESTON, HUSBAND OF DR. BARBARA ZIND: With the Americans because, you know, everything is at an impasse right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And impasse and I know -- I just imagine your concern for your wife. Again, I know her fortitude, but this is a dire moment, and I know time -- time really matters.

My thoughts are with you, Paul. I hope you will hear from her soon and that we will all be getting some better news on that border despite the expectations out there.

Thank you.

PRESTON: My pleasure.

BURNETT: Thanks very much to all of you for joining us again for our special coverage.

AC 360 begins now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is 3:00 AM here in Israel, which is even at this late hour dealing with repercussions of a human tragedy on a terrible, terrible scale: A massive explosion at a hospital in Gaza City.

We should say at the outset the pictures are as horrible as the incident itself. We want to show you new video just moments after the blast, hundreds are believed dead. We're talking about men, women, and children -- civilians. More may still be buried in rubble at the Al- Ahli Baptist Hospital.

According to the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry, the hospital not only had patients and doctors and nurses inside, but thousands of displaced people outside who had been seeking shelter there, displaced from the bombings that had been going on in Gaza, compounding the loss of life.


COOPER: We cannot independently confirm how many people were killed in this blast, but the pictures are sickening.

One photo journalist who has witnessed many moments like this telling "The New York Times," "There were so many bodies I couldn't even photograph." Many, many wounded people, women, children were taken to Al-Shifa Hospital nearby.

Here you see a child and an adult being taken from an ambulance.


COOPER: The number of dead and wounded was so great, there was almost no room for the medics. Another reporter who witnessed the initial wave of casualties telling "The Times," "Their bodies are now in the courtyard. The morgue freezer is full. The morgue extension is full, and now they're storing the bodies in the area designated for journalists."

Hamas officials are blaming Israel for the blast. Israel categorically denies that saying failed rocket launch by the group, Islamic Jihad fell short landing by the hospital.

An IDF spokesman earlier tonight saying the IDF has intelligence which might be made public suggesting that possibility.


LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: We're in the progress of the declassifying -- I cannot promise yet that we will -- but maybe because of the importance and because of what is at stake here, that may happen.


COOPER: The stakes could not be higher, the consequences already playing out with protesters taking to the streets on the West Bank near the US Embassy in Lebanon and its cities, in Jordan including near Israel's embassy in Amman, where Secretary of State Blinken has been staying in preparation for Wednesday's now canceled Summit with President Biden, Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President El-Sisi.

President Biden left Washington for the region several hours ago. His visit for a Summit that as we said has now been cancelled, now quickly being overtaken by events on the ground.

There is a lot to get to in the hour ahead on this, a lot of things in play. I want to go first to our Clarissa Ward who is in Ashkelon with the very latest that we know on the blast at the hospital.

Clarissa, what can you tell us?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we have been talking to people inside Gaza, talking to doctors who were inside that hospital, one of them said that the ceiling actually collapsed on to the operating room floor where he was carrying out a surgery. Palestinian Authorities and also the entire really Arab world coming

forward almost immediately and laying the blame for this at Israeli Forces' feet, saying that this was an Israeli strike. Eyewitnesses on the ground also saying that the IDF as you mentioned, coming out and saying a full-throated denial, saying that this was caused, they believe by a misfire, potentially, rocket from the militant group, Islamic Jihad.


I will say just based on seeing these rocket attacks many times over the years that they don't usually have an impact like that, in terms of the size of the blast, in terms of the scale of the death toll, and the scope of the damage. It's also not the first time, it is important to add, that we have seen the IDF categorically deny something before being forced to kind of do an about face after an extensive investigation.

But at this stage, it remains to be seen exactly what happened. We will have to try to put together a fuller picture, and that could take days. And in the meantime, what is clear is that these images that you have been playing, which are absolutely horrifying and hard to watch, are having a huge impact across the region, certainly here in the West Bank.

You have seen protests outside demanding that Mahmoud Abbas step down. You have seen protests, as you mentioned, in Amman, Jordan, in Turkey, and you are going to see more protests, you are seeing calls from Hamas and other groups for people to take to the streets to voice their anguish and horror at this event, and all of this coming, as President Biden expected tomorrow to arrive in Israel.

Obviously, he was supposed to also meet in Amman, Jordan with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, of Egypt, of Jordan. That meeting has now been cancelled.

And I think also, this calls into question the specter of any possibility to try to resolve the log jam that had existed that was preventing the flow of aid through that Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt to prevent that and allow that aide to get back in.

Also worth mentioning that so many people in Northern Gaza, this strike on the hospital, it took place in Northern Gaza, in Gaza City. This was an area that they had asked -- or the Israelis had asked people to evacuate. But there were strikes earlier today in the southern part of Gaza.

I spoke to one family from Northern Gaza who saw those strikes and said that they did not feel comfortable leaving their homes, that they felt too frightened, that they felt the situation was not secure there. And all of this of course, taking place against the rapidly unraveling situation with regards to the humanitarian catastrophe.

One UN person calling it an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe playing out as Gaza runs out of food, water, medicine, electricity -- Anderson.

COOPER: Now, let's talk about how this may, as you just said complicated if not halt, efforts to get humanitarian supplies onto the ground, at the very least in Southern Gaza have crossed that that Rafah border crossing. Do we know exactly what the holdup has been and how and why this blast at the hospital would make it even more difficult?

WARD: Well, there's been a lot of finger pointing on this right. The Egyptians have laid the blame with the Israelis saying that these continued strikes near the border crossing makes it impossible to open the border crossing. The Israelis are pointing the finger at Hamas, Hamas is pointing the finger at Israel.

The US has been engaged in furious shuttle diplomacy trying to get all different sides to agree on some sort of a mechanism and yesterday, Secretary of State Blinken, after more than seven-and-a-half hours sitting with the Israeli Cabinet came out and said that he was optimistic that they had agreed on some kind of a plan, that they would be able to open up that card or that they may even be able to establish these so-called humanitarian zones in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

But what this horrible strike on the hospital does is it kind of hardens everyone's positions, and it makes it impossible for people to sit down at a table and have that conversation.

So that Summit that was supposed to take place with the leader of Egypt, with President Biden, with King Abdullah, with Mahmoud Abbas, that is no longer on the table. That means it is that much more difficult for diplomacy to take place and everyone's priorities is on condemning and containing the outrage from this as opposed to being able to find some kind of a consensus to try to allow the border crossing to open, the aid to come in, the foreign nationals to leave, the most heavily wounded to be evacuated, let alone to begin trying to construct these humanitarian zones that have been suggested.

COOPER: We should also point out given the destruction we have seen in Gaza, for people who had been wounded and need urgent attention from this hospital blast, they have been taken to another hospital nearby, but that hospital was already according to health officials on the ground and amongst health officials, that hospital was already overwhelmed in that capacity.


So that the hospitals on the ground in Gaza are now according to Palestinian Health Ministry, basically not able to function. They don't have enough medicine, they don't have proper electricity. There were reports that some surgeons were being forced to perform surgeries without any painkillers.

Beyond that, as you said, Anderson, these hospitals are often a place of refuge for people. Hospitals, hotels -- these are the places that people in Gaza go to, to try to get some respite from these bombardments, because they believe that they will be safe. So for a number of reasons now, that becomes, you know, impossible for

many people. The hospitals that are still operational to some extent, are completely overrun and the supplies that they need in order to be able to carry out even the minimum level of services are not incoming.

So it is a catastrophic situation, it is an unsustainable situation and very sadly, particularly in light of tonight's strike, it seems a very difficult situation to resolve in the near future. Certainly, President Biden will have a huge challenge on his hands.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you.

And now to CNN's Oren Liebermann at The Pentagon with new reporting we are just getting about the intelligence that Israeli say they are providing American officials about the blast.

Oren, what are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Israeli intelligence have shared with their US counterparts the intelligence they have related to the explosion at the Gaza hospital there and that's not just from the Israelis, a source familiar with the matter on the US side has confirmed that as well.

So the US is now analyzing that and looking at the intelligence that's been shared to get a better sense of what truly happened there, and that's an important point to make. In terms of what sort of intelligence has been shared, the Israeli officials said it is signals intelligence, so intercepted communications and intercepted conversations that have been passed to the US, so those can be analyzed.

That information to look at the intelligence has been shared with at least some members of Congress, who have pretty much voiced full throated support for Israel.

The reason this is so important for Israel is that the IDF is well aware that especially in times of conflict, it can have very much a credibility issue and a believability issue, especially with others in the region. If the US were to look at the same set of data and come to the same conclusion, that would at least back Israel up and give them much more credibility even if it doesn't change the situation diplomatically, meaning nobody would expect to see the Arab states come out and rescind their statements blaming Israel for the explosion of the hospital.

But it at least gives the IDF much more credibility here as right now, it is simply them saying, look, we have the intercepted communications, we have videos that we might put out, and this will show what they claim is that Islamic Jihad was responsible, and it was a failed rocket.

So the US has the Intel from the Israelis and is looking at it, as the US tries to draw its own conclusions to get a better understanding of what happened at the hospital there -- Anderson. COOPER: How concerned are Pentagon officials about the demonstrations,

the outpouring of anger that has occurred us in the last couple of hours in the West Bank, in Jordan, in Beirut and elsewhere?

LIEBERMANN: So they are certain to be monitoring this, and those are conversations that I would imagine are happening between the Defense Department and the State Department on if there needs to be some sort of effort to get diplomats or others and perhaps diplomatic families out of those embassies, but we haven't gotten any indications for that yet.

The bigger concern from DoD's end, and this is something we had been watching from the very beginning is whether this conflict in Gaza escalates to the point where either Iran or Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, feel that it's their time to try to get involved here, especially as Israel has so many forces focused on the region.

And again, we've talked about this a little bit. There's the carrier strike group in the Eastern Med, another on the way. The Pentagon confirming today our reporting from yesterday, that a Marine Rapid Response Force is headed towards the Red Sea with another ship.

So there are a tremendous amount of US assets headed that way, not to get involved in the conflict in Gaza in any way. Israel has made it clear doesn't want that to happen, but to send a message of deterrence to others in the region that they should not get involved as this war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Islamic Jihad, as you see here, very much continues.

COOPER: Oren Liebermann, thank you.

Again, President Biden is on his way here and within the hour, the White House put out a new statement.

CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House for us tonight. What are you hearing?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson just within the last hour or so, the President putting out a new statement on this hospital blast offering his condolences and notice believe the president saying that he is directing his National Security team to continue gathering information to determine what exactly happened.


As you can imagine, this is going to be an extraordinarily sensitive issue for the White House and US officials to weigh in on given that there are conflicting claims from Hamas, from the IDF.

And so US officials for the time being trying to make clear that they have not made a determination as to who is responsible, but as Oren said, they are just going through the intelligence trying to collect information and trying to figure out exactly what happened and who might be responsible.

But needless to say, as we have been talking about, this has had a huge effect on the president's upcoming travels with the Jordan portion of the trip being canceled after Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas pulling out of that meeting, and this is going to be a very disappointing setback for this administration. They had wanted to show signs that diplomacy was possible, that diplomatic talks were possible, certainly Abbas pulling out and this Jordan meeting not happening at all means that that gets infinitely harder, not to mention the fact that Egypt's President Sisi, he was supposed to be at that Jordan Summit as well.

So all of the conversations that would have taken place in person with these regional leaders are no longer going to happen face-to-face, and the president had very much wanted these conversations to happen and be in the room with these leaders from the region, and to try to sort of get across the finish line some of the things that they thought might be achievable in the coming days.

COOPER: So is it possible that the president would still have, you know, phone conversations, you know, on remote meetings with each of these leaders?

LEE: Yes, in fact, the White House has been pretty clear about that. They said that even though this meeting is not going to happen tomorrow, they're actually saying that it has been postponed, and they have made clear that the president will stay in close contact with these leaders that he is no longer going to see in person.

Look, Anderson, I think administration officials knew going into this week and this trip, just how volatile the situation is. The scenes that you are playing on the screen right now, very much validate those expectations.

I think, if anything, what has happened today, what has transpired today, is just going to bring even more clarity to one of the most urgent priorities for this president as he heads to Israel, and that is trying to minimize the number of civilian casualties.

If you have been paying attention to statements from the president, statements coming out of this White House ever since the Israel attack began last weekend, we have seen a more forceful tone coming from the president when he has talked about urging the Israelis, urging his counterpart in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu to take every effort, every measure and effort that they can to make sure that civilian casualties can be minimized, that they are adhering to the rules of law, of war, rather, and so this is going to be something when he meets face-to-face with Prime Minister Netanyahu, we can certainly expect that he is going to be even more emphatic about that than before.

Also, just on the humanitarian aid piece of this, I know Clarissa touched on this a little bit, this is going to be an increasingly urgent matter for the president. The fact that we have these scenes of hundreds of people that have died or casualties of this, they are now going to need critical medical help when this is an area where people are not even able to have access to basic needs right now, like food, like water, like electricity. So these scenes are all unfolding as the president is headed to

Israel, and it is certainly going to continue to remain top of mind for him as he meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

COOPER: The nature of how difficult -- I am sorry, I'm getting everything in ear.

Ambassador, you know, the how inflamed things are right now both in -- you know, in the West Bank, in Beirut, and elsewhere. You know, the skepticism among many Israelis insistent that this explosion was not they're doing. Should Israel publicly release whatever intelligence they say they have that according to our reporter has been passed on to US intelligence already.


I'm going to say first of all, the pictures from Gaza are heart wrenching. Certainly no one wants to see -- in Israel wants to see these people suffer this way. Very, very disturbing.

But I'm also deeply, deeply dismayed. Once again, the world jumps to conclusions that Israel is guilty. Headline in "The New York Times" you know, Israel kills 500 people in a Gaza hospital. These demonstrations around the world, and I have a long memory. In 2006 there were nine Palestinian children killed on a beach in Gaza and the whole world blamed us, and it turned out it was a Hamas torpedo that killed them.


And in 2008, during the first round of fighting with Hamas that I participated, I fought in that round. Hamas reported the 51 children were killed by an Israeli mortar in a UN school. It turned out was completely made up. Everyone reports this as truth and the damage is done.

And what's the source here? What people are talking about is the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Palestinian Health Ministry, it is Hamas Health Ministry. It's like saying ISIS health ministry. It's like, say Al-Qaeda health ministry.

It's not exactly, you know, a believable, credible source, and I do think let Israel publish --

COOPER: Just to your point, though, I mean, look, I would say we have been very accurate in our reporting. We are saying this was a blast. We don't know who was responsible. We have said what the Hamas Health Minister -- Health Ministry -- Hamas-run health ministry has said and what Israel has said.

I'm just asking if you think the Israeli government should put out the intelligence that it says it had. You know, Colonel Conricus said they're considering it, do you think they should?

OREN: I think, we certainly should. We know where every bomb falls. This is a very organized army. We

actually know where our artillery shell assaults. It's all written down. It's all computerized.

Certainly, we know where we aerial bomb, and I mean, it is some of my belief that a failed rocket -- a Hamas or a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket couldn't cause this type of damage, you're talking to somebody next door to my house, one of those rockets took down an entire apartment building. Believe me, one of those rockets could take down a hospital.

Not just that we don't know what's under this hospital. Hamas puts its headquarters under hospitals. It puts its arsenals under a hospital. We don't know what this bomb hit, this rocket.

So there's much to be investigated here. I think when the Israel Army, when the IDF puts out a statement saying we didn't do it, it was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket, they have evidence.

And I think you're right, I think we should share that to the greatest degree possible without sort of exposing sensitive intelligence sources, because these are intelligence sources, apparently, that according to Oren Liebermann, your correspondent at The Pentagon, these sources have been shared with The Pentagon by the Israeli military.

I think they should make public again, to the degree to which that is possible, not endangering intelligence assets that we might have in Gaza.

COOPER: But let me ask you, Clarissa Ward was talking about how this might impact the attempt to create some sort of humanitarian relief down in the south of Gaza, with things coming across the border, the Egyptian border, obviously, from just -- beyond the humanitarian issue from a military standpoint, I assume it's in Israel's best interest to have as many civilians go to that Southern place, and the more supplies they have there, the more civilians would likely come.

How concerned are you that given what has happened here, the large number of fatalities at this hospital, that that's going to complicate whatever Israel's plans are on the ground in Gaza?

OREN: I would think, and again, I want to stress that I'm not a spokesman for the government here, Anderson, and so I have my own opinions. The Israeli public opinion is running very high against providing this type of aid to the Palestinians. There is a deep feeling among the Israeli public that the Palestinian population in Gaza was highly supportive of Hamas, that many hundreds, if not thousands of Palestinians, not members of Hamas participated in the massacres of October 7th.

They came through the breeches in the wall and they killed Israelis, they kidnapped Israelis. We believe that a number of our hostages are not in the hands of Hamas, they are actually in the hands of individual families in Gaza who want to sell these hostages. So it's a political issue here. I would like to see more aid personally, and I'm sure that this --

what has occurred, this tragedy will probably strengthen the president's hand and trying to persuade Israeli leaders to go against public opinion. It is why you call diplomacy a heavy lift for these leaders.

But at the end of the day, it is not really our decision, it is Egypt's decision. Our major crossing into Gaza was the -- we translated this ironically, it's the vineyard of peace, Kerem Shalom, that crossing has been blasted by Hamas.

The Israelis who work there are dead. The approaches are shelled by Hamas. So it's very difficult to tell, say Israeli drivers, hey, take that truck and drive to that crossing and risk your life. That's a very difficult -- that's a heavy lift.

I think the issue is Egypt. Egypt is super, super sensitive to anything that comes across that Rafah Crossing, either going from Gaza into Sinai or from Sinai into Gaza.

I think the major issue there is going to be persuading the Egyptians to open up that crossing.


COOPER: Michael Oren, thank you for your time.

In addition to the hospital blast, there is the mass migration now underway in Gaza. We were just talking about it, touched on it earlier also with Clarissa Ward.

Earlier tonight, I spoke with a student named Dunia Abu-Rahma, one of the hundreds of thousands of people who has moved further south.


COOPER: Dunia, can you just tell us where you are now and what your situation is.

DUNIA ABU-RAHMA, STUDENT IN GAZA (via phone): Before I start, I just want to say that I'm here to represent every civilian and every woman who is trying to have basic rights and to live a normal, peaceful life. And right now, I evacuated to the south, as I followed the instructions, and they told us to evacuate from the north to the south.

So my family and I evacuated to a house, to one of our friend's house, and we are staying with 57 people here.

COOPER: You're staying with 57 people in this one house?

ABU-RAHMA: Yes. It is one room, one kitchen, and one bath, so we are all sharing this place.

COOPER: And do you feel safer now, where you are? Obviously there are still strikes going on in the south. ABU-RAHMA: Of course not. In the whole Gaza Strip, there is no place

that is safe. There is no place safe. We hear the bombs, we see them. We feel the pressure after the bombs goes down.

COOPER: I'm sure you've heard about the hospital, that there was an explosion at the hospital. Hamas saying it was an Israeli strike.

ABU-RAHMA: Yes, a few hours ago.

COOPER: The IDF is saying it was a rocket that fell short from Islamic Jihad. When you heard of it, what did you think?

ABU-RAHMA: All I think about is the people who were trying to feel safe or trying to have the medical treatment, and now they are killed. Five hundred people were killed now or maybe more.

This is a real massacre and this is inhuman -- inhumanitarian. So all I think about is how these people -- they died, they were killed. And you're talking about a lot of people that were killed, a lot of dreams were killed.

People who thought they were taking medical treatment and be okay in the next days, and now they are gone. So I'm terrified if this is going to happen to us either as a civilian and who is trying to feel safe, and maybe in the next moments where they're going to be bombed, and we're going to be killed also.

So think about is, how am I going to be safe? I want to be safe. I want to have that. I want to feel that -- me and my family are safe. This is all I think about.

COOPER: You're 22 years old, you're a student. You're studying architecture.


COOPER: Is that right?

ABU-RAHMA: Yes, I am an architecture student. I'm in my senior year. Before this event happened, I was preparing for my graduation project, and I couldn't -- I can't even do whatever I want, what I was doing or what I was preparing, because these events happened and the whole university was destroyed.

COOPER: Somebody is sitting in the United States watching this or sitting in their home in France watching this. What do you want them to know about what has happened in your town? What has happened to you?

ABU-RAHMA: All I want them to know that there are civilians, people who wants -- people who wish to live normal peaceful life, to feel safe, because we are human. And all we want us to have our rights and live peacefully.

And as a woman and as a girl, all I want in this life to educate and to graduate and have a job and have a family, this is all I want. I want them to know that.

There is a lot of people here, I am representing every person here, every civilian, that we want our basic, simple rights and to feel safe. Yes, that's it.


COOPER: You want what we all want.

ABU-RAHMA: Yes, and you have it and we don't. We don't. I sleep, and I don't know if I'm going to wake up or not, or I'm going to wake up and have my family next to me or not. And maybe I'll go to sleep and I wake up that -- and I see the ceiling are -- the whole building that I'm staying in is destroyed, or I'm going to be killed.

I don't have these rights, and this is what I wanted the world to know that these rights are I think that all people have, but we don't.

COOPER: Dunia, thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and I'm so sorry for what is happening.

ABU-RAHMA: You're welcome.

COOPER: Much more ahead from here in a moment, including perspective from retired four star general and former CIA Director David Petraeus. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Moments ago, our Nic Robertson heard multiple airstrikes in the direction of Northern Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces have not yet commented on the strikes. We'll bring you more information on them as we get it.

The strikes come as these new pictures come to CNN and protestors in Lebanon trying to break through security barriers near the U.S. Embassy outside of Beirut. Anger over that hospital blast in Gaza, the Palestinian health officials say killed hundreds.

As we've been reporting, Israel has blamed Islamic Jihad for the blast. Gaza officials blame Israel. Hezbollah has called for a day of unprecedented anger. That's what they're calling it.

Ben Wedeman joins us now from southern Lebanon. Ben, what more do we know about the reaction in Lebanon? what are you seeing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's over now. It's almost 4:00 in the morning in Beirut. But what we saw was that hundreds, actually thousands of people headed toward the American embassy, which is about 10 miles north of Beirut. There they gathered in the square that's at the bottom of the hill that leads to the American Embassy. And they tried to break through barriers set up by the Lebanese police. Now, in the process, the Lebanese police started to respond with tear gas. So there, it was quite a chaotic scene there. But scenes repeated in other places as well. In Ramallah on the West Bank, we saw Palestinians clashing with Palestinian security forces while they were trying to protest.

Many of them, in fact, calling for the downfall of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who for many Palestinians feel has been passive during the war in Gaza, has been largely cooperative with the Israelis over the year. They see him as a collaborator, many of them.

So they -- you have to keep in mind that when there are shockwaves like the war in Gaza, those shockwaves can shake many of the very unpopular regimes in the Arab world. Elsewhere in Amman, Jordan protesters converged upon the Israeli embassy there.

They set fires around it. They tried to break in. The Jordanian police had to go in and really fight with them to beat them back. But certainly this is indicative of the level of anger across the Arab world at the situation. There were massive protests in Baghdad as well.

Now, as far as what's this going to mean perhaps tomorrow, we know that in Beirut, Hezbollah has called for a massive day of rage. A large protest is going to be held there and here on the southern border of Lebanon, which borders Israel. The expectation is that perhaps Hezbollah's wrath is going to be felt on the other side of the border.

That this may be one day when they are going to open fire more than they have been recently, which is quite a lot. In fact, in the last hour or so, we've been hearing a fair amount of distant thuds coming from the direction of the border with Israel. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Ben Wedeman, thank you.

The protests come hours before President Biden is due to arrive in Israel. The President also planned to attend a summit in Jordan that has been canceled after the Gaza hospital blast. Jeremy Diamond is in Jerusalem awaiting the President's arrival. What more do we know about the cancellation of President Biden's meeting with Arab leaders?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as Ben was just saying, this blast at a hospital in Gaza led to pretty rapid uproar in the Arab world, and Arab leaders came under pretty intense pressure from their populations to not only condemn Israel for this blast, which Israel denies it was responsible for, but also to show that they were standing up not only to Israel, but also to Israel's biggest supporter, which is, of course, the United States.

And all of that effectively made the President's plan summit in Amman, Jordan to meet not only with the Palestinian and the Jordanian leaders, but also the Egyptian presidents effectively untenable. And it's also clear that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was going to be at the forefront of those meetings. And so now, I think the real question is, will the progress that Secretary Blinken seems to have been making on that humanitarian front to allow a humanitarian quarter of aid to flow into Gaza, of American citizens to flow out of Gaza, will that progress be squandered in light of what has happened?

COOPER: How much is the hospital explosion expected to complicate the President's meeting with Israeli's prime minister?


DIAMOND: Well, as we've seen, these real defense forces have been trying to put out information to get their side of the story out to say effectively that they are not responsible for this blast, blaming instead Islamic Jihad.

They've been doing that in part, of course, because they want to correct the record as they see it. But also, of course, they -- there's a greater sense of urgency around that effort, given the fact that the President is on his way to Israel right now and set to land here in a matter of hours.

And, in fact, I'm told that the President is going to be presented with that information directly by Israeli officials when he is here on the ground. And all of this, you know, this blast at the hospital, regardless of who is responsible, it will put a higher focus, a spotlight perhaps on what we've been sort of starting to see a little bit more from the president in recent days.

Yes, he's continuing to say that he supports Israel's right to defend itself, to go after Hamas in any way that it sees fit.

But we've also seen him put an increasing spotlight in recent days on the toll of civilian casualties inside of Gaza. And I'm told that that is going to be a focus of the President's message there tomorrow. In fact, John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, he was just doing a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One where he said that the President will be asking some tough questions of Israeli officials when he is on the ground.

But again, comes back to this bigger picture with some of these cancelations happening and the President's trip effectively shortened. Will he be able to deliver the same results that he intended to do when he arrives here tomorrow with this -- all of these changes at the last minute? Anderson?

COOPER: Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much.

More perspective now on the deadly hospital blast in Gaza. Joining me is retired General David Petraeus, former head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees forces in the Middle East. He's also a former CIA director and author of the new book, "Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine" which is out today.

General Petraeus, thank you for being here. There are obviously conflicting reports tonight on the cause of this explosion of the hospital in Gaza. We have seen incidents like this before, where there's massive loss of -- horrific loss of life, and there's this finger pointing, how does this change things on the ground? How do you see it?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.): Well, the challenge is that even if -- and I believe the IDF spokesperson who came out and laid out their confidence that this was not a bomb dropped by their aircraft, that it was a rocket launched by the Palestinian-Islamic Jihad. And I suspect they have some very good intelligence and surveillance footage or what have you that enabled them to have the confidence to make that statement.

They're trying to declassify some of this, but of course they don't want to disclose sources and methods that are very sensitive. The problem is that even if that is correct, and I believe it, there is a disbelief and this has been used by those who wish Israel ill to stoke the kinds of demonstrations that we have seen.

And, of course, the concern is the regionalization of what is already an exceedingly difficult situation. just in Gaza, a fiendishly challenging mission for the Israeli Defense Forces if they are to go in and clear and hold these areas to destroy Hamas. But now you have the unrest in these other locations.

Some of this is what was feared, that there would be further unrest on the West Bank. That in some fashion, Hezbollah would feel compelled that they have to employ some of the 150,000 rockets that they have in southern Lebanon, knowing they're going to get hammered in return as they did in 2006, and probably not wanting that, but again, feeling that they're compelled to do that.

And there are other vulnerabilities around the theater. We still have thousands of American forces in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government, helping their forces keep an eye on the remnants of the Islamic State. Similar deployment in northeastern Syria and then, of course, forces all up and down in the Gulf states across the Gulf from Iran.

So there's a lot of concern that should be there and there's going to have to be a major effort to convince individuals that what they're protesting is wrong. They should be protesting against, in this case, the Islamic Jihad, the ally of the Hamas terrorist organization.

COOPER: The Israeli Defense Forces have said in the past that some 30 percent of rockets fired from Gaza misfire fall short off and landing in Gaza itself. Do you believe that's accurate?

PETRAEUS: I think it's very close to accurate. Again, our experience when we were on the receiving end of a lot of rockets that were provided by Iran to Shia militia in Iraq and elsewhere was that an awful lot of them don't function perfectly. So I think that that's a reasonable estimation. I'm sure they have the data that would back that up.

[20:45:02] The bottom line is that these types of rockets, a large number of them do not function properly. And there is a history of that happening over many, many occasions in Gaza itself, that they don't get all the way to Israel, fall short of the target, fail to ignite properly, and so forth.

So this is a believable and again, if they have evidence of that, that they've seen intelligence footage or what have you, it would be great if they could disclose it. Although I understand why sensitive methods need to be safeguarded.

COOPER: If you were with the IDF, I mean, you were a great military strategist. If you were going to do a ground operation, a ground invasion of Gaza, wouldn't it be in the IDF's interest to have as many civilians in the South as possible and to provide or somehow allow humanitarian organizations to provide tented shelters, running water, food and the like to encourage as many civilians to stay there as possible?

PETRAEUS: Yes, and I think that -- I suspect that President Biden will be discussing those very issues when he meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu in his war Cabinet. And if I could, this also just highlights the enormous challenges of conducting any military operations in such a densely populated urban area. We had a lot of experience with that over the years in Iraq in particular, some in Afghanistan as well.

And these operations are very, very hard. Remember that it took the Iraqi security forces nine months to clear Mosul of the Islamic State. And that's a city about the same size as Gaza City. And we were supporting that operation with a lot of drones and air power and other systems.

So these are very, very tough operations. And here you're facing an enemy who doesn't wear a uniform, who blends in with the population, uses the population, and likely will use the hostages, nearly 200 of them as human shields. They'll have suicide bombers. So the challenges of this are enormous.

And I suspect, to take this out a little bit further, Anderson, that the other conversation is going to be, OK, we understand the need to destroy Hamas, to render them incapable of accomplishing their mission without reconstitution. You're going to take a huge number of losses to do that. We support that.

But what happens then? Especially if they take out the Hamas political wing, which they have said they intend to dismantle as well. What's going to run Gaza? Who's going to restore the basic services? Israel doesn't want to reoccupy Gaza. Understandably, the president has cautioned them against doing that. So who will do that?

If you just go in and destroy Hamas, in other words, it's really then a lawn mowing, but, you know, right down to the dirt, the moment you leave, the grass is going to begin to grow again. So there has to be a force that comes in. It would be great if there could be, in fact, Arab countries that would support this. They're always concerned about the Palestinians. This would be a great way to demonstrate that concern, have an interim international authority of some type, ideally sponsored under the auspices of the U.N., but with a strong lead nation. Because they're going to have to then conduct not just nation building, not just the restoration of basic services and repair of damaged infrastructure and get schools and clinics and roads repaired and all of that.

They're also going to have to fight the remnants of Hamas, which are going to try to come back and take control of the territory again.

COOPER: And just finally, we are hearing from a number of Israeli officials, former and current, lately, that it's not just Hamas and its affiliate groups, as long as you had and others, but that there are thousands of supporters of those organizations, which I don't understand how they deal with that in a -- I mean, if there's thousands of, you know, non-military supporters of those organizations, are those people valid targets as well, according to the Israelis?

PETRAEUS: No. Again --

COOPER: How do you work in that environment?

PETRAEUS: Yes. How active is their support? I mean, if they're, again, rhetorically supporting them, but, you know, exercise your free speech. We had plenty of demonstrations over the years in Iraq as well, and you contain them, you deal with them, you try to communicate with them, and ultimately you try to convince them.

And here again, I would hope that there will be not just a vision for the destruction of Hamas, again, understandable there should be. Again, this dismantling of this organization that has carried out the most unspeakable of all acts, and on a scale that dwarfs per capita many, many times what we experienced on 9/11.

It would be well over 40,000 equivalent for us. But there should be a vision about, again, what then? How about a vision for the Palestinian people in Gaza?

COOPER: Have you heard a vision for that? Do you believe there is one?

PETRAEUS: And I think that that would be -- would be wise to offer. And a vision, frankly, also about the West Bank.


Use this as a catalyst. This horrible, terrible, unspeakable event, the same way that the Yom Kippur War was a catalyst for what ended up being a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Noting that, of course, there you had a leader you could deal with who wasn't determined to exterminate Israel as a state and the Jews as a people.

COOPER: Yes. Retired General David Petraeus, thank you. Appreciate it.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, Anderson. COOPER: Again, the new book, "Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine" is out today.

Coming up, Israel's military has called him the face of evil. He's the head of Hamas in Gaza. Closer look, he's in -- living in Qatar. Closer look at who he is, plus a conversation with a journalist, The New Yorker, who just spoke to a senior Hamas leader about their objectives next.


COOPER: I want to tell you about a man who is said to be the Hamas leader who is central to this war and the release of hostages. He's also a key target for Israel. Sam Kiley has more on the leader of Hamas in Gaza.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel wants this man dead. Yahya al-Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the face of evil, in the end, is Yahya al- Sinwar. That man is in our sights. All his team are and we'll get to them.

KILEY (voice-over): He was first convicted in 1988 for the murder of two Israeli soldiers and four Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel. And he spent two decades in an Israeli prison studying his enemy. The founder of Hamas internal security force. He had hunted alleged collaborators with zeal.

And was among the movement's biggest prizes, when over a thousand Palestinian prisoners were released in 2011 for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza for five years. He said, there is no doubt that this is a nationalistic moment par excellence. It is one of the big strategic monuments in the history of our cause.

He quickly became head of Hamas's military wing and on election to the Gaza leadership in 2017, effectively abolished its civilian branch. Ostracized by Egypt over its support for political Islam, he repaired friendships with Cairo and built regional relationships that entrenched Hamas power.

MOULN RABBAN, INSTITUTE FOR PALESTINE STUDIES: It really needed to have also good relations with the key Arab state that also shares the only Arab border with the Gaza Strip and with Iran that could supply Hamas with military and logistical support.


KILEY (voice-over): Iran has poured military support into Hamas under him. And Qatar has been a major backer of civilian projects. He was soon in Israel's crosshairs, quite literally. The IDF tried to kill him in May 2021.

Ten days later, he laid out his strategy. He said, if the world doesn't take action to stop it, meaning Israel, there will be a religious war in the region. And he soon appeared in Gaza alongside Egypt's intelligent chief, Abbas Kamel.

The U.S. is now relying on Egypt and Qatar as key players to try to secure the safe release of Hamas 200 captives. Their main point of contact is likely Sinwar. Unless Israel fulfills its promise to kill him.

Sam Kiley, CNN.


COOPER: Well, a major unanswered question here is, "What was Hamas thinking with their terror attack?" That is the headline for an article by a journalist at the New Yorker who recently asked that of a senior political Hamas official who is living in Doha in Qatar.

David Kirkpatrick, who coauthored that piece, has covered the region extensively. He joins us now. David, the article you wrote is fascinating. What were they thinking?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: You know, the picture that emerged was desperation. I should tell you that when my colleague Adam Rasgon and I -- Rasgon and I spoke to Mousa Abu Marzook, he was in pain to say, no, we have not despaired. We're strong. But the takeaway was that they basically feel like their backs against or against the wall.

It was a, you know, a familiar litany of grievances about the occupation, about Israeli settlements in the West Bank, about the management of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is very important to Palestinians, Muslims everywhere. But added to that was an increased sense of desperation because of the right-wing government around Netanyahu, because of the messages that it's conveying about its lack of receptivity to any kind of Palestinian political entity alongside Israel.

And also a sense of betrayal as the other Arab states more and more accommodate themselves to Israel, you know, begin to recognize Israel and Saudi Arabia. The most important of those the latest in line to make an agreement like that. So it's really a time when I think from his point of view, little choice.

COOPER: So, for Hamas, it would be a success, if you can talk about the murder of so many civilians as a success in their sick calculus, if that Saudi deal does not go through, if Saudi Arabia does not recognize the state of Israel. And also, they have -- these hostages who they have wanted to trade in the past, and I assume want to trade now.

KIRKPATRICK: Yes, that's all true. You know, and we pressed him on the sort of intelligible strategic reasons. You know, did you do this because of Saudi Arabia? Did you do this for prisoner exchanges? And there wasn't a clear answer because he was very frank that he didn't think they could dissuade Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is going to do what Saudi Arabia is going to do. And yes, I'm sure they'll want to exchange these prisoners. But at the same time, they -- this attack has brought an enormous, enormous degree of pain on the Gaza population, the Palestinians living in Gaza.

And when we pressed him about how the strategic advantages, the practical strategic advantage of this attack could justify that sacrifice, his answers were very abstract. Very nebulous. He was really looking towards a very, very distant horizon.

All he could say was, you know, for years, they've been fighting on our territory and killing us. This time, we're fighting on their territory for the first time. Which is a, you know, it's a symbolic victory of sorts, but it's not much.

COOPER: We should point out, and you point this out in the article, in the New Yorker, which I encourage people to read, he lied to you. I mean, he denies that civilians were targeted. He denies that women and children were slaughtered.

KIRKPATRICK: He did say some things which we found unconvincing about that. Yes, he said, you know, after the Hamas fighters came in, others came in afterwards, and it was those others who did these misdeeds. Yes, that's true. I didn't find that very convincing. He's certainly not the first military leader to try to spin in that way.

COOPER: If -- is it clear to you if Hamas expects Hezbollah to open up a second front in this war?

KIRKPATRICK: It was clear from what he said that they do not. You know, obviously this is a war, there's lots of misinformation. But he was -- he seemed very candid. We said, you know, what if Hezbollah enters this war, what if it becomes a regional conflict? And he said, quite frankly. We wish, you know.

If only it could become a regional conflict, we would love that, but we don't see any sign of it. Hezbollah is going to more or less abide by its ceasefire with Israel, he said. And he did not expect this war to expand on that other front.

COOPER: David Kirkpatrick, thank you so much. It's good to have you on the program again.

KIRKPATRICK: Good to have you.

COOPER: The idea of a regional conflict. Back in a moment with the very latest on the explosion at the hospital. Palestinian officials blaming Israel. Israel categorically denies that, says Islamic Jihad is responsible.

While protests break out in cities across the Middle East, we're joined by a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Force when we come back.