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Interview With Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry; Interview With Parents Taken Hostage By Hamas Sharone Lifschitz; Interview With Former Polish Foreign Minister And Poland European Parliament Member Radek Sikorski; Interview With Human Rights Watch Program Director Sari Bashi. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 17, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
President Biden heads to Israel amid warnings that Gaza faces an immediate health crisis. I talk solutions with the Egyptian foreign minister.
Then, as Hamas releases its first hostage video, a conversation with Sharone Lifschitz, whose parents were kidnapped when their kibbutz was
And later in the program, a big win for Poland's opposition as they defeat the country's populist government. What this also means for Ukraine's
support with Polish Member of Parliament Radek Sikorski.
Also, ahead, Israeli human rights lawyer, Sari Bashi, joins Hari Sreenivasan.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The American president, Joe Biden, is heading to Israel tonight in a show of solidarity since 1,400 was slaughtered there and ahead of a major
Israeli offensive into Gaza. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was there today. Leaders will also insist that international law is observed and
innocent Palestinian life is protected.
At least 3,000 have been killed in Gaza since airstrikes began, and immediate concerns center on trying to get life's basic necessities to the
people who are currently under an Israeli siege. The only way in right now is through Rafah, which is at the border between Gaza and Egypt, but it
With Egypt, the focus, I spoke to the Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, about how long this can continue.
Sameh Shoukry, welcome to the program. Can I start by asking you, what is the problem at the Rafah Crossing? Why is aid not coming into Gaza for
SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, currently, there's a long - - miles long convoy of humanitarian assistance between Arish and Rafah with trucks on the side of the road awaiting the possibility of entering Reza
(ph). The Rafah Crossing over the last days has been bombed four times. Among them once when we were trying to repair some of the damage, four
Egyptian workers were injured.
The crossing has sustained damage, the roads -- access roads between the Egyptian and the Gaza side have severe damage and need repair. And thereby,
we do not have as well any authorization and clear secure routes for those convoys to be able to enter safely and without any possibility of their
being targeted. That is the current status and situation.
And we are working diligently, hoping that there is an opening and an ability to repair the crossing so that the convoys can go in. There is a
great need on the part of those that have been displaced from the north of Gaza who are now on conditions of lack of food, water, shelter. And they
are suffering immensely.
But until now, there is no safe passage that's been granted and the -- no ability to repair the damage that has been inflicted on the crossing.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, we have seen -- CNN has been reporting that, indeed, there have been airstrikes around Rafah and we have shown it on our air
today. Plumes of smoke around that area.
My question to you though is, even if it was open and that you brought -- allowed humanitarian convoys in, who are you willing to allow out? Because
clearly, there's a massive pressure. Palestinians are trying to flee. Would you accept tens, hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians into
SHOUKRY: I see that this is a repeated question posed to us. And I wonder whether it shouldn't be the case that what should be allowed is the
entrance of humanitarian assistance to provide for the Gazan peoples to remain on their territory.
That transfer, that displacement is in contravention to international humanitarian law. I don't understand in what is the purpose of the
transfer, except if it is intentional, of vast numbers of people to a country that is already host to 9 million refugees to have an additional
influx of this nature. I believe that many European countries are very sensitive to this issue and do everything possible to avoid it.
I know the United States has a problem on its southern border that it restricts the entry of those who seek it. So, I wonder why Egypt should be
presumed, would allow for the influx of 1 million or 2 million inhabitants who are suffering because of the consequences of their being targeted
AMANPOUR: I just want to know whether it's also an issue of worry that they would never be allowed back. For instance, the Jordanians have said any
attempt to move Palestinians out of the occupied West Bank is a red line for them. And I'm wondering if you are concerned, like other Arab leaders
are, and certainly Palestinians, that if even you did allow them in, that would be the end of their ability to go back into Gaza.
SHOUKRY: Well, that is certainly a possibility. And there might be an intention that they are forcibly thereby displaced and that they lose their
property and they lose their homeland for purposes of a political reason. And that is absolutely a violation. If it doesn't constitute a war crime in
itself, the displacement, the forcible displacement of a population of that size is unjustified and unwarranted.
AMANPOUR: Your president, President Sisi, will be meeting -- along with the king of Jordan and Mahmoud Abbas, the head -- the president of the
Palestinian Authority, will be meeting with President Biden in Amman. What do you think this conversation is aimed at? What are we looking at
immediately and in the long-term?
SHOUKRY: Well, in the immediate term, I believe the conversation would have to emphasize the importance of protecting civilian lives, the necessity to
provide humanitarian access, to provide safe havens for civilians so that they are provided their rights under international and humanitarian law.
But also, it necessarily would have to deal with the prospects of re- initiation of a political pathway and a political horizon for the establishment and the end of the conflict of a two-state solution. We have
constantly been trying to manage the Palestinian issue, and we have certainly failed. And I don't think that if the International Community is
-- has the resolve and the commitment to the two-state solution as the internationally recognized way to end this conflict and the suffering of
both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, then we do have to regain the political horizon of the end of the conflict on the basis of the two-state
solution. Those are the most important issues I think that can free this region from this conflict cycle of conflict and violence.
AMANPOUR: Sameh Shoukry, Egypt was the first to make peace with Israel and then there was Jordan and you've all been involved in these negotiations
for a permanent settlement. So, what do you think if -- well, firstly, do you believe that Israel can remove the military threat posed by Hamas? And
if it does, who then governs Gaza?
SHOUKRY: Well, I really can't comment on military operations, it's not my expertise. I believe that Gaza can be governed by the Palestinian people of
Gaza and by the reintroduction of the Palestinian Authority that has the responsibility of governance of the occupied Palestinian territories and
should be given the opportunity to do so.
It has demonstrated its ability in the West Bank to deal with the terrorist threat, to have a degree of security cooperation, both with Israel and with
others, among them the United States, that have held the authority in building its capacity. So, that comes to mind immediately.
AMANPOUR: And can I ask you about the hostages? Are you at all involved in trying to get Hamas to release the hostages? Do you know who is?
SHOUKRY: Everyone I think who is concerned in the region is eager to address this issue and to guarantee the safety of the release of all
civilian hostages and detainees, Palestinian detainees is as well. I believe that it would relax the current tensions and it is necessary
because of the nature of any form of attack on civilians. Whatever context we have, we will certainly apply to deal with the various aspects of the
conflict and the crisis, including the hostage, if we are given an opportunity to do so.
AMANPOUR: Finally, there is an important report that says that your head of intelligence called Israel, particularly Benjamin Netanyahu, to alert him
about something fierce happening from Gaza just days before the attack. Netanyahu denies it, but the U.S. Congress, the Foreign Affairs Committee,
has said they also heard those reports. What can you tell us about that?
SHOUKRY: No, I have no information in this regard. What I can tell you is that for more than a year and a half or more we have constantly, in all of
our discussions with our allies and friends in the United States, with our friends in Israel and in the region, we have always been warning that the
cycle of violence will return if the current political stagnation, the lack of achievement of a solution to the conflict and the establishment of a
Palestinian State remains in this state of non-implementation, that these are cycles that we have experienced in the past.
This is not the first time that Gaza has erupted. This is the fourth time. We have had two intifadas in the West Bank and in the occupied territories,
and this comes on the heels of the frustration and the lack of achievement and the lack of the implementation of the two-state solution. And I think
our warnings, general warnings and expectation this -- in this regard, again, have been put as accurate evaluation.
AMANPOUR: So, just on a personal level then, were you shocked by what happened, by what unfolded October 7th?
SHOUKRY: Oh, most definitely. It was definitely horrendous to see whatever imagery of targeting civilians, it's totally unacceptable. Civilians should
not be, in any way, subject to any form of military activity. It was a shock, something that was deplorable.
AMANPOUR: Sameh Shoukry, foreign minister from Egypt, thank you so much for joining us.
SHOUKRY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, amid the humanitarian concerns, fears of a wider war are inflamed by warnings from Iran's leaders and skirmishes with Hezbollah on
the Lebanese border. But the United States says that it sees no evidence of either planning to join this battle yet.
In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought a month's long war after the Lebanese militants captured two Israeli soldiers. We thought it worth revisiting
their leader's sober reflections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH SECRETARY GENERAL (through translator): We did not think even 1 percent that the capture would lead to a war at this time
and of this magnitude.
You ask me if I had known on July the 11th that the operation would lead to such a war? Would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's an amazing admission all those years ago. Now, in recent wars, thousands of civilians have been used as human shields. Recall Saddam
Hussein taking more than a thousand foreigners captive as the U.S.-led coalition amassed for the first Gulf War. These hostages were eventually
released, but it caused massive tension for coalition leaders.
Israel says 199 people have been taken by Hamas and in predictable psychological propaganda and warfare, Hamas has now released the first
hostage video. 21-year-old Mia Schem. Here is her distraught mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEREN SCHEM, MOTHER OF 21-YEAR-OLD HOSTAGE MIA SCHEM: My message to my daughter is that I love her so much and I miss her so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Joining me now in our London studio is someone in a very similar struggle. Both of Sharon Lifschitz's parents were kidnapped from their
kibbutz on the day of the attack.
Welcome to our program, Sharone. And you have been very vocal in trying to basically tell the world what happened and trying to get some answers. Can
I ask you first how you discovered that your parents had been taken?
SHARONE LIFSCHITZ, PARENTS TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: I was on the way for a day out with my family. I saw on a news feed that it flared up. I called my
mom, and she didn't answer. I called my brother and he told me that there was a break in the border. That there's been missiles shooting. And that we
can no longer get in touch with my parents.
And I think at the time I understood it to mean that it was because they were hiding or because -- and so, we didn't know then for a very long time
until the evening that they were missing. Their house was one of the last one to be visited.
AMANPOUR: We have a picture of the house and it does show -- I think, and you can tell us, we'll it up, it does show, you know, quite some
disturbance. You can see, I mean, it's not very, very clear, but you see some fire there.
LIFSCHITZ: The whole house is gone. My grandfather record player is the only thing that survived. My father's life work is gone. My mom's life work
is gone. Every diary I worked -- work, everything is gone. And that is the least of my problem.
AMANPOUR: That is the least of your problems. I want to ask you about your parents. They are elderly. I mean, 85 and 83 years old taken from their
LIFSCHITZ: Yes. They were in this -- they were glowing. I mean, as the photo shows, they were really in the element in the last year. But my mom
needed oxygen when she slept. She suffered from a lot of pain, back pain, and needed medicine. They were no longer the kind of people that can just
survive without medicine. My mom, I think, literally was ripped out from her oxygen machine because she was asleep that morning.
AMANPOUR: And your father is also -- well, first, let me ask you, because we've heard and I've interviewed several family members who are inside
Israel -- you live here -- who said that they found out, you know, from posts on Telegram or from some other public awareness that their parents or
their families had been taken and they hadn't heard from the government. Have you heard anything? Are you getting any support from your government
LIFSCHITZ: Not really. I mean, no.
AMANPOUR: -- institutions?
LIFSCHITZ: No. I mean, I haven't heard of any real support. I've heard a lot of talk. I've heard a lot of trying to establish where is it on the
list of priorities for my government to get my people back. We're talking about 80 people for my kibbutz.
There's a lot of kind of measuring. And, you know, as if we're debating some kind of campaign. Well, in effect, there is people there and that is
the first, the second, the third. The first thousand, you know, priorities should be these people.
AMANPOUR: You know, I also asked your former prime minister, Yair Lapid, what is the first objective of a major military offensive into Gaza? Is it
to get the hostages? Is it to eradicate Hamas? This was his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is your first priority the hostages? Because now you say there are 199. What is your first priority when you go in?
YAIR LAPID, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, I wish we could have a first priority. We have to deal with both issues at the same time. Of course, the
first thing we want is our babies back home. And we're going to do everything in our power to bring them back home.
What kind of -- I don't know if I can call them people even, but what kind of people do that? What kind of people are hiding behind a nine-month-old
baby, using them as a weapon, as a tool?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And he had shown me a picture of such a baby. But, of course, they're the elderly, and they're the infirm, and they're many, many people.
AMANPOUR: Does it worry you when you hear that or is that an inevitability? And of course, there are airstrikes and --
LIFSCHITZ: What worries me is that I feel there's a lot of ego mixed into it. I don't feel a confidence, not directly in him, more in the government,
in not acting from a kind of hurt male ego position. And instead, really thinking about the life of these people. There are 200 people that are
missing, but these are community that lost dozens and hundreds of people out of a whole region that is totally devastated. We need these people to
feel that there's some sense or some hope or that somebody came back from this horrendous thing. This cannot be something that is just sorted out
among a variety of options.
AMANPOUR: As we said, the first hostage video, I mean, as you know, that is psychological warfare. The first hostage video came out, Hamas released it.
Are you prepared, yourself, mentally, physically, in case your own parents show up on these videos?
LIFSCHITZ: I don't know how one prepares for such a thing. I have felt since the beginning of this, that this is outside anything I ever thought,
and I have just tried to keep within it and to keep a sanity and a belief in humanity.
AMANPOUR: It's hard, isn't it right now?
LIFSCHITZ: What's the option?
AMANPOUR: Well, it's really interesting for somebody like you, a direct victim and a sufferer, to hear you say that actually, what is the option?
And so, I wondered what you thought of the previous interview that I conducted with the Egyptian foreign minister, because I asked him about
long-term, what would happen long-term? How do you resolve this terrible situation to stop leading to these cycles of violence? And he, again,
talked about the only thing on the table is a peace -- potential peace process and a two-state solution.
Your parents were peaceniks, if I could say that.
LIFSCHITZ: Yes, absolutely. Proud.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about what they did? And do you -- can you even imagine that at this point?
LIFSCHITZ: This is the first major crisis that I'm not talking about my father with, you know, it's almost a big thing not to talk to my father
about it. My father had very strong opinion about things, but he always felt that you make peace with enemies, that our job is to find a shared
ground, I think grounded in humanity, and that there's no alternative. And I don't think history show us that there is an alternative.
I think that he fought all his life for the rights of Palestinians, for the rights of Bedouins and North Sinai in the '70s. He felt that that was worth
pursuing in the face of an ever-growing shift to less collaborative rhetorics and in the face of huge settlements that were made there in order
to stop the possibility of the two-state solution. I believe even if he was here, he would say that this presents a new opportunity for that.
AMANPOUR: It's amazing to hear you say that in the midst of this personal grief and this national horror. Just tell and remind our audience, your dad
used to drive bereft Palestinians to help, right?
LIFSCHITZ: Yes. He was part of an organization of people from the region that will regularly had a rota and will simply take Palestinians from the
border to East Jerusalem and other hospital in Israel. You have to remember that these people are not living on another planet, they live a mile from
us. We know they are there. We hear them. We hear their mosques. We hear them. They hear us. We had relationship with them. Those relationship were
really destroyed with Hamas taking control. But they are there. We know they are there. And we know there are people that were our friends there.
AMANPOUR: What keeps you going? How are you holding up?
LIFSCHITZ: I think I woke up on Monday and had just a really clear realization that I'm fighting hate. That the heart of it is an emotion.
It's not the story of one nation or another. And that we all have a job to do. Because this hate is what caused this.
To be able against your own natural instinct to go and murder babies, that's a level of blinding hate. And when you're faced with such a tsunami
of hate, I think, I don't want to compete. I want to kind of say something else. We can do it better. We can do it different. We have to hold on to
liberal values, to the idea that you and me, from very different nations, are best of friends because we share values. And I don't think that I can
afford to let my community go through this devastation and have it frame within a framework of hate, of stories about, you know, land and so on and
Of course, these are people that went and make this kibbutz out of this land. But at the heart of it, there is a piece, you know, amongst ourself,
towards ourself and towards other. And for me, this is what keeps me going, just the idea that I'm not going to let the other side frame it within this
and gain out of it. There's already so much being said that is about strengthening the position of people, why it's worth, therefore, to do
this, to do that. We have to face our own self and we have to understand what hate does to us and then increase the circle.
AMANPOUR: Sharone Lifschitz, you are a brave and exemplary woman.
LIFSCHITZ: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. And now, to Poland, where the tide may be turning against a liberal democracy. After nearly a decade, the ruling populist
party looks set to be ousted from power, and a pro E.U. party, plus its coalition partners, are ready to take its place.
For years now, Poland and the E.U. have been at loggerheads over issues like press freedom, the rule of law, LGBTQ rights, and recently, Ukraine.
Joining me now is Radek Sikorski, a former foreign minister under Donald Tusk, and a member of his Civic Coalition Party. He's also a member of the
European Parliament. Welcome to the program, Radek Sikorski.
So, first of all, I mean, you must be pretty excited about the results, and it was an unprecedented turnout.
RADEK SIKORSKI, FORMER POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER and European Parliament Member, Poland: Proud of the people of Poland, yes. Unprecedented turnout.
10 percent higher than at the time when we were taking down communism, which I think shows you how strongly we Poles feel about this this anti-
European trend in Poland recently, people have said no to propaganda, to lies, to corruption and to taking Poland out of the E.U.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to read from the party leader, Donald Tusk, we did it really, I know that our dreams were even more ambitious, but I'll tell you
that I've been a politician for many years. I'm an athlete. I have never been so happy with this supposed second place in my life. Poland won.
So, he's basically saying, yes, the actual ruling party that you oppose did get the most votes, but not enough to form a government. Do you believe, in
this very contentious era that we live in, that your coalition and your party will manage to take their seats and become the next government?
SIKORSKI: Yes, I think so. The ruling party has been so nasty to everyone, including even to the far-right, that nobody wants to make a coalition with
Remember also, that this was not a fair election. The OSCE interim report is already saying it. The state media were staked against us. The
prosecution service, Pegasus, was loaded onto people's phones. State media were used as piggybacks for the ruling party. It was a state capture. But
this is why this election is so inspiring because we've just shown that you can win against these populists, but you have to really convince the great
majority of the people. I'm really proud of the magnificent thing that's been done. And just like with solidarity years ago, I hope we inspire
Democrats around the world.
AMANPOUR: So, that's interesting because, you know, everybody who believes in the kind of democracy that you're laying out wonders whether this is a
tide turner, so to speak, because a liberal democracy exists even in Europe. You see what's happening in Hungary, and you saw what just happened
in Slovakia, that a very pro-Russian, it wasn't far-right, it was actually left, but very pro-Russian and probably illiberal party took over.
What do you think of the wider picture given your party's victory?
SIKORSKI: Well, Poland is a trendsetter. You know, in 1989, we had a noncommunist government before others. I think people now see the
consequences of not having free courts, of not having an independent civil service, of state companies being taken over by incompetence, of
governments mismanaging the economy of -- in Poland's case, imposing a tougher anti-abortion law than in the Islamic Republic of Iran. You know,
the women of Poland have also said no to this attempt to take us back to some kind of 19th century traditionalist fantasy.
AMANPOUR: You know, all that you lay out, including, you know, what the E.U. said was an assault on the rule of law, then the judicial situation in
your country, the anti-LGBTQ, and as you say the anti-women policies that they had, including a big hold on the press. The -- you know, the E.U.
sanctioned them, this government, your current government, but do you think a new government can unwind, and how difficult will that be, all the
institutional, you know, power that the PIS, the current government, has enforced?
SIKORSKI: It will not be easy. You're quite right. The president whose term is -- extends for another 18 months is a partisan of the current ruling
party and will -- and we don't have the majority to break his veto. But we will mend our relationship with the European Union. We hope to get the
recovery funds money, the structural funds. And Poland will return to its rightful place as one of the five biggest members of the E.U. and as
particularly influential, I hope, in setting all of Europe's policy towards Russia and Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: Can you tell me -- again, Ukraine, I don't know what happened, whether it was a thing that was going to be reversed, but when your
government said it was suspending weapons to Ukraine, having been such a staunch supporter, that was a pretty big shock, combined with the U.S., the
House Republicans, the idea of stalling or cutting, reducing aid, and then, of course, now, with Israel and the attention that needs to be paid to
what's happening in the Middle East. What do you see for the future of Ukraine's ability to defend itself?
SIKORSKI: Well, yes, this outgoing government played politics, party politics with things that should be out of the political arena on which
they had the support of the opposition. So, the statement on stopping deliveries of arms to Ukraine, that was a big mistake. We will support
Ukraine in whatever it takes for Ukraine to win, to recover its international borders.
You know, they even declassified operational plans of the Polish army to fight a lone war with Russia. You don't play party politics with stuff like
that. But there is good news from Ukraine today. The U.S. attackants (ph) have apparently made it to the battlefield and the Ukraine has destroyed
some large number of Russian helicopters. So, we are very grateful for American support.
AMANPOUR: And that was inside Ukraine or inside Russia?
SIKORSKI: Well, it could be in the occupied territories. I'm not sure. But apparently, the attack was successful. Ukraine needs our help. The more
weapons we give them, the sooner this war will end. And Putin may not win this. Ukraine needs to win this.
AMANPOUR: So, I know those are fighting words, and that's what everybody you know, like-minded leaders and people have been saying for now, you
know, better part of nearly two years of this war. But you do see what's happening in the United States, and I mean, there's a whole thing of trying
to figure out who the speaker is going to be, and they -- the minority there who held Ukraine aid hostage over the last, you know, several
maneuvers, it's causing a lot of worries. And I wonder whether you think that that's going to be a real problem because the U.S. is the biggest, you
know, supporter, and whether Ukraine might have to tailor or trim its ambitions.
SIKORSKI: Well, actually, if you compute what Brussels does for Ukraine plus the E.U. member states, then American and European support is
comparable. But yes, American weapons are absolutely crucial. And, you know, the only people who are entitled to feel tired by this war are the
The Ukrainians with our equipment have already destroyed half the Russian army for about 10 percent of an annual U.S. defense budget. This is a very
big service that Ukraine has given to the world of liberty, and we need to help them finish the job, hopefully, so that Russia may reform itself as
AMANPOUR: Radek Sikorski, thank you so much.
Now, with so much of the focus on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, mass casualties, population displacement, and destruction, Gaza
authorities say it's "unlike anything seen in previous aggressions." That's their word.
Human Rights Watch program director Sari Bashi joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the increasingly grave situation on the ground in Gaza and the
occupied West Bank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Sari Bashi, thanks so much for joining us.
Just recently, the U.N. Human Rights Commission said that the evacuation that Israel has ordered of the Palestinians would be a forcible transfer of
civilians. Now, does that constitute a human rights violation?
SARI BASHI, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Yes. So, while warring armies are encouraged to warn civilians where such warning can actually
help keep themselves safe, the evacuation order that the Israeli military issued on Friday does not fit that category and it risks for civil
And Friday, the Israeli army ordered a million people, nearly half of whom are children, to leave Northern Gaza, that's half the population, and
evacuate to the south. But there's no safe place to go to because they continued bombing the south, and there's no safe way to get there because
they continued bombing, even the evacuation routes that they designated.
So, under those circumstances, it's not effective warning. It's not protecting civilians and it runs the risk of becoming forcible transfer, in
particular, because the Israeli military also encouraged Palestinians to flee to Egypt. 70 percent of the people living in Gaza are refugees from
what is now Israel.
So, some of the older people who were fleeing their homes on Friday remembered 75 years ago, fleeing homes in Southern Israel as the Israeli
army that approached. And they also remember that they were not allowed to come back.
SREENIVASAN: So, one of the consequences here, if Israel continues to carry these actions out, because right now they seem to have a military plan in
place and it's a matter of time before they launch what would be a ground offensive.
BASHI: So, none of this is inevitable. The United States is supplying the Israeli military with $3.8 billion in military aid every year, and they're
now rushing additional weapons. They're also providing Israel with political cover and a diplomatic cover.
The United States has an opportunity to be very specific. In telling Israel that it needs to protect civilians in Gaza. And those specifics would,
first of all, be to cancel the evacuation order and to protect civilians, irrespective of where they are.
Many people in Northern Gaza did not leave either because they couldn't, there are older people, there are people with disabilities, there are
hospital patients, because the main hospital in Gaza is in the evacuation zone, or they chose not to because they were facing impossible choices, and
the conditions in the south are not good, to say the least. Those people retain their civilian protections. So, if the Israeli military does launch
a ground invasion, it may not target or indiscriminately attack them.
The second thing the United States government needs to ask the Israeli government tell the Israeli government to do immediately is to restore
fuel, electricity, water, and food supplies to Gaza. Those have been cut since October 7th.
Collective punishment, which is what denying the supplies are, and forcible transfer are war crimes. And I want to be very clear, what Hamas led
fighters did on October 7th, it was an unspeakable war crime, they massacred Israeli civilians. They took hostage children, people with
disabilities, babies, older people. It was unspeakable. But the fact that the other side is committing war crimes doesn't mean that you get to commit
war crimes. And it needs to be very clear that Israel has to protect civilians in Gaza who are suffering very, very difficult circumstances.
SREENIVASAN: When you look at this from the outside, it seems like the ideas about the laws of war, what's fair, what's not fair, seem to have
been written for an era where you could tell who the soldiers were because they were wearing this color uniform and they were standing opposite a
field from you. But now, you know, one of the concerns that Israel has is, how do I tell who's a civilian and how do I tell who's not?
BASHI: I see it a bit differently. When you cut water to a population of 2.2 million people, nearly half of whom are children, you know, exactly
what that's going to do. That's not about security. That's collective punishment and it's matched by statements by the defense minister, saying
that they are going to have a total siege in Gaza.
When you drop weapons in densely populated areas, explosive weapons that have wide area effects, it is predictable that you will kill civilians. It
is predictable that you will kill children. And that's what's happened. Nearly 3,000 people in Gaza have been killed, about a third of them
Since October 7th, Israeli airstrikes have been killing 100 children a day in Gaza. There's no -- the problem is not the laws of war, the problem is
the lack of consistency, the very same outrage that appropriately made Israelis, Americans so horrified by what Hamas led fighters did to Israeli
civilians on October 7th needs to be the same principle that applies to civilians in Gaza.
At Human Rights Watch, we're trying to hold open a narrow space of universal principles. Civilians need to be protected. It doesn't matter if
they're Israeli, it doesn't matter if they're Palestinian, children need to be protected. That's not hard, or it shouldn't be hard.
SREENIVASAN: Recently, Hamas posted video on one of the hostages that they're holding. What are the conditions that Hamas needs to meet with
those people? How should they be treated during this time?
BASHI: So, the first thing that Hamas should do is unconditionally release all the civilians it's holding hostage. Hostage taking is a war crime, it's
abhorrent. And we know that the hostages they have include people with disabilities, include older people. I think the oldest one is 85. I think
the youngest one is nine months old. They need to be released immediately and unconditionally. So long as they are in Hamas custody, they need to be
treated humanely, and that's not what's happening.
Last week, the Hamas military wing threatened to execute civilians if the airstrikes continue. That in itself is a war crime.
SREENIVASAN: You have been living in and studying what's been happening in the Middle East for decades now, and I wonder, I guess, just as a Jewish
woman who is married to a Palestinian man, what's been going through your head for the past week?
BASHI: You know, when this all happened, first happened on Saturday, I had to address my children's questions, why was their cousin so scared, why was
their grandmother trying to evacuate, what was happening? And I told my daughter what I always told her, that there are abuses taking place against
Palestinians, but that there is never any justification for killing people, and that some people who oppose what the Israeli government is doing to
Palestinians killed a lot of people, and that was horrific.
My daughter gets it. My daughter understands that people are people, and that you don't have different standards for Israelis or Palestinians. She
understands that we're all human beings because she loves people on both sides.
And one of the things I'm worried about is the us versus them discourse that we're seeing, certainly in Israel, but also in the United States, it
becomes a, but they're worse than we are. I mean, that's neither constructive nor particularly normal. We have obligations as human beings
to protect civilians and to protect other human beings. And that's the only way we're getting out of this, because this violence didn't come in a
vacuum, it came after decades of repression Palestinians by the Israeli government that in no way justifies what was done.
It's important to recognize that if we want this to stop, we need to address those root causes the Israeli government for decades. Has been
engaging in forcible transfer of Palestinians in the West Bank, taking their land, setting it aside for Jewish settlers that all needs to stop the
day after this war ends. And right now, the United States government has particular responsibilities to emphasize those universal principles, the
principles that my nine-year-old gets, but unfortunately, big grownups don't seem to get.
SREENIVASAN: So, what can be done, considering at this point, there have been perhaps war crimes committed, but by the time any of these war crimes
are prosecuted, the damage is already done? Do we have any kind of labors or mechanisms where we can prevent them from continuing to happen?
BASHI: So, first of all, we have asked the International Criminal Court prosecutor to issue preventive warnings. There's an ongoing investigation,
both of crimes by Hamas and other armed groups of Gaza, as well as by the Israeli military, and there's an opportunity for him to issue a warning
saying, we are concerned that further crimes are being committed, please stop, and that can have an effect. The U.S. government can do the same
SREENIVASAN: President Biden is supposed to be in Israel for a few hours. What should he be saying there?
BASHI: You should say to cancel the evacuation order from Friday, stop dropping explosive weapons in densely populated urban areas, because we
know if you do that, you will kill civilians, and immediately restore supplies of food, fuel, water and electricity. That's for right now. And
later on, we can talk about some of the root causes of what's going on right now.
And other countries should look at their atrocity prevention measures. You know, countries have measures where they, they look at statements of
concern by different governments, including the statements we've seen recently from Israeli officials, and they have mechanisms they can use to
try to reign that in, to express strong concern.
I can very much understand how horrified people and also policymakers in the United States and Europe are by what Hamas-led fighters did to Israeli
civilians, but they need to be very clear that what's happening now in Gaza cannot continue. Civilians need to be protected, full stop.
SREENIVASAN: What do you expect to happen next?
BASHI: I think a lot of it depends on what the United States decides to do. I think if the United States decides that it will rein in the Israeli
military and ask them to, for example, restore supplies to civilians to protect civilians, I think there's a chance that things could get better.
If they don't, I'm very worried.
SREENIVASAN: It seems, in some ways, human nature that when you are hurt, you turn around and try to hurt others, right? That you punch back or you
feel like the best defense is a good offense. How do you stop that cycle from perpetuating?
BASHI: You adhere to basic principles. You know, you asked if the laws of war are still valid, if they're still appropriate, absolutely. It's -- you
know, there are books written about it, but it's actually very simple. You have to protect civilians. You have to protect the people who have nothing
to do with the fighting. And that -- it's -- that's the principle that children can understand. When I tell my daughter, I know your brother hit
you, but that doesn't mean you could hit him back. I think we can have a very simple message to the Israeli government.
I know Hamas committed unspeakable war crimes against Israeli civilians, that doesn't mean you can commit war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
SREENIVASAN: Tell me a little bit about what it's like for your kids growing up in the West Bank with an Israeli parent and a Palestinian
parent. What is their kind of day-to-day existence like, where they see the effects of being kind of from two sides?
BASHI: I think it makes them better human beings. My children understand that there are principles of basic humanity and they understand that
because they love Palestinians and they love Israeli Jews. They have two sets of grandparents, they have relatives, they have friends and they're
able to walk that beautiful, but narrowing space where human beings are human beings.
And I think we have an opportunity to follow in their footsteps. We have an opportunity to apply those same basic principles to the policies and
decisions that are being made right now. I'm very proud of my children. And I think that certainly some policy makers have a lot to learn from them.
SREENIVASAN: This operation seems to be much larger than what happened back in 2014. And I'm wondering what your biggest concerns are about the scale
of what's happening now.
BASHI: I'm worried that there's not going to be much left. This is all absolutely unprecedented. The massacres and hostage taking of October 7th
were the worst civilian massacres in Israeli history and there are now at least 199 Israelis being held in captivity in Gaza.
The destruction being done in Gaza, both of civilian infrastructure, hospitals, schools, roads, but more to the point in terms of people's lives
is irreversible. And we're moving to a place where very basic principles of humanity are being eroded very, very quickly. And that's why we need to
move very quickly to stop that.
SREENIVASAN: Program Director for Human Rights Watch, Sari Bashi, thanks so much for joining us.
BASHI: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a look back into the archive. My report from 2006 when Hamas won elections in Gaza, that ironically the George W.
Bush administration insisted go ahead, despite warnings from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority that Hamas would likely prevail.
I witnessed how, despite having a government committed to the destruction of Israel, the people of Gaza depended on Israel for their economic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Every day, thousands of Palestinian workers cross a concrete no man's land, walking back and forth from menial jobs in Israel
to their homes in Gaza.
AMANPOUR: This fetid and smelly, bleak tunnel is not a formal international border, but it certainly is a separation between two worlds. We've just
left the first world in Israel. And now, we're headed to the third world, in Gaza City.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): There's chaos and violence ahead. Militant followers of the late Yasser Arafat, who like the West, still can't believe that the
radical Islamic movement Hamas won the Palestinian election.
The West calls Hamas a terrorist organization. but for many Palestinians Hamas is a lifeline. For two decades, they've built a grassroots network of
affordable social services, like this medical clinic that charges $2 a visit. So, when it came time to vote, the Palestinians paid Hamas back.
Jamila Shanti, a new Hamas member of parliament, showed us a kindergarten. Hamas runs nearly all of them here in the Gaza Strip.
AMANPOUR: I think many Americans would be surprised to see the images here. It's all-American culture. Minnie Mouse, Popeye, Tom and Jerry.
JAMILA SHANTI, HAMAS DEPUTY ELECTED IN 2006: Yes.
AMANPOUR: Very American.
SHANTI: Because our children on the television see Tom and Jerry. Now, they are very happy. They are playing, they are writing, they are reading. It's
very important. Every mother and father of any children of those, very connected with us.
AMANPOUR: And every mother and father voted for you?
SHANTI: Maybe, most of them. Most of them.
AMANPOUR: You know, in America and in Israel --
AMANPOUR: -- people have the image of Hamas as a terrorist organization. You know that you're called that.
SHANTI: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: They don't have this as the image.
SHANTI: We are not teaching them any kind of terrorism or something. No, no, no. No.
AVI DICHTER, FORMER HEAD OF SHIN BET: I knew them before they became terrorists. I knew them when they were terrorists. And now, they became
leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Avi Dichter once headed Israel's Shin Bet security services, and may be Israel's next defense minister.
DICHTER: The philosophy of Hamas is well known to us. To build kindergarten mosques from where they pick up the right people, the strong people, and
they recruit them for special units of Hamas. Specialist of terror.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Hamas launched 50 suicide attacks in the past five years. Israel responded by killing their top leaders. Now, Hamas is
maintaining a truce. If it stops terrorism and recognizes Israel, Dichter says they can deal with a Hamas government.
DICHTER: A very essential decision has to be taken by themselves, and then they're going to find a partner. But if they are going to continue their
system and to attack Israelis, believe me, Christiane, we are going to crack down on them, by all means.
AMANPOUR: Can there ever be peace?
GHAZI HAMAD, THEN-EDITOR, HAMAS NEWSPAPER: We hope so. Why not? We believe we can solve our problems with peaceful way, we welcome it. We will put the
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Ghazi Hamad edits the "Hamas Newspaper."
AMANPOUR: You know that people all over are waiting for you to fail. The United States, maybe Europe, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, they don't
want to see you succeed.
HAMAD: Yes. But we feel, first of all, our people want us to succeed. United States, they should understand, if they got assistance or money,
they don't punish Hamas, they punish Palestinian people.
AMANPOUR: The Palestinians may have had a genuinely peaceful and democratic election, but they voted in a government the United States, Israel, and
most of the West reject. The United States has already said it won't provide any money to the new Palestinian government.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): And salaries to over 100,000 people may go unpaid. There are shortages of food and medicine. A humanitarian crisis looms for
Gaza's one and a half million people. That's why so many workers like Ahmed (ph) line up at midnight to get to their jobs in Israel the next day.
AHMED (PH) (through translator): My children have started asking my wife, where is our father? Because they never see me. I slept for two hours last
night, at most.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Hundreds of other Palestinian workers are ahead of him, waiting for the tunnel to open.
AHMED (PH) (through translator): We all try to get to work first so we can keep our jobs. We have to do this in order to eat.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): It'll take many more hours to make it through the security checks to Israel on the other side. But life here in Gaza could
get even more difficult now that the Palestinians have elected a government that Israel and the West refuse to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (on camera): So, it's chilling, and we thought it instructive to see where it started and it was incubated. All those years ago, the siege
was imposed and everybody got more and more radical. And here we are. And we are going to have some of these archival pictures and archival reports
of how the children were stuck in this place and maybe those children who I reported on all those years ago, back in 2006, who knows where they are
today and what they have been doing.
That's it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online, on our website and all over social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.