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Gaza Currently Rocked By A Series Of Large Explosions; IDF Expanding Ground Operations In The Gaza Strip; Explosions Seen Over Gaza City; Interview With Retired IDF Colonel Miri Eisin; Ground Operations In Gaza Expanding. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 27, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for
Gaza City is currently being rocked by a series of large explosions. What you're seeing now is the sky above Gaza as it is hit by those explosions.
The Israeli Defense Forces have not commented on an uptick in military activity there or whether there has been a scaling up of their efforts
Joining me now on this is Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general in the U.S. military. He served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and the
commander of U.S. Southern Command. General, so great to have you on, especially now, given that we're seeing an increase in some sort of
targeted assault into Gaza. What do you make of this, and could it be what the defense minister had warned just yesterday of the signs of the third
wave of their response?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, FORMER NATOI SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER AND FOUNDER, RENEW AMERICA TOGETHER: Well, I think this is part
of the Israeli what they call shaping operations. So, this is a combination of efforts to go after some high value targets that could impede an
incursion. It's an effort of fainting and showing different aspects of Israeli capabilities and planning to Hamas. It's a chance to check Hamas
reactions. And so, all of that is going on right now, preparatory to a major ground offensive.
GOLODRYGA: And is this something that suggests to you that this ground offensive will be as large in scale as everyone from the defense minister
and Prime Minister Netanyahu had warned in the days immediately after the October 7th attack or do you think that this could still be a smaller scale
incursion given some of the intricacies now with pressure from the United States and the West and perhaps even change in military strategy within
CLARK: You know, it's difficult to speculate without knowing what's going on, on the inside at the classified level. But it seems to me that Israel
is going to go ahead with this offensive.
Now, how it unfolds is going to be very interesting because typically the pattern in an urban action is you rush in, you make a lot of headway and
then everything slows down. You get bogged down. You're using a lot more ammunition. You're taking casualties. The logistics are difficult because
of blow down and bubble in the streets and it slows down, and that's the pattern of almost every urban operation.
It's possible that the Israelis will set a different pattern. So, for example, they could concentrate only on a small section of Gaza with their
ground troops. Clean it, stay with it, and then start to rebuild it, even bringing in Gazans back to the area in which they lived. And this could
take many months of gradually squeezing Hamas into a smaller area.
There's one thing that's really different about this operation than what the Americans did in Iraq, and that is when we were going into Ar Raqqa in
Syria or Fallujah or Ramadi or any of these other cities we went into, the idea was to drive out the terrorists.
Here, the idea is to pin the terrorists and eliminate them, eliminate Hamas. There's no escape route for Hamas here. This will be a battle to the
death for Hamas if the Israelis follow through on what's been announced. It'll be a challenge to set -- go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I was going to say, another difference is that this is not thousands of miles away from American borders. This is literally just
kilometers away from Israel's borders. And I'm curious to get your thoughts on how these tunnels that we have reported in great length upon and the
detail in these tunnels and the amount of investments that Hamas has made into building them impacts what this offensive may look like.
CLARK: Well, we've seen some indications that the Israelis have a partial network diagram of the tunnels. We don't know if that's complete and they
don't know if it's complete. So, I think the Israelis best approach, at least the one I would be advocating if I were on the inside of this, take
it step by step. When you're working above ground to clear the buildings of the enemy, you've got to work below ground simultaneously and you've got to
hold it so you don't want the enemy popping out of a tunnel behind you and knocking off your fuel trucks and logistics and innocent people back there,
you're going to try to take it step by step and the tunnels are a big part of that.
So, they're going to have to go into the tunnels. They're going to have to try to map them out. They may be using robots. They may be using unmanned
aerial vehicles down in those tunnels. There's a lot of different techniques that could be used in addition to just walking through the
tunnels with troops and weapons, but they're going to have to work it very systematically to make it a successful operation.
GOLODRYGA: So, thus far, we have seen a number of targeted raids into Gaza and the IDF reporting that they've killed a couple, at least, high ranking
Hamas officials and leaders there, at least responsible for what they say their role in the October 7th attacks. How effective have those targeted
raids been thus far in your view?
CLARK: Well, the targeted raids may or may not have been directed primarily to kill individual people. They also may show a deceiving pattern
to the -- to Hamas on where the Israelis could go in, there may be a test of Israeli breaching equipment where they go in through the fence and they
may be a check of how Hamas is going to defend these avenues of approach that the Israelis are going to use. So, a lot of things can happen.
But one thing we do know is that when you take-out high-ranking members of an organization, it does have an impact right away on the effectiveness of
the organization, but over time, days, weeks, months, other leaders step in. They may not be quite as skilled, but the structure of the organization
is -- has been pretty resilient in our experiences with these organizations like Hamas.
GOLODRYGA: Well, in speaking with IDF representatives and spokesmen over the past couple of weeks, they have warned us and told us that this
operation would indeed look different, that in the past we've grown accustomed to seeing rapid in and out operations into Gaza, and obviously,
it's been quite a number of years since Israel has conducted those operations. This one, they say, will be longer, however size -- whatever
size they choose to make of it, that has its own challenges. Does it not?
CLARK: It does. And one of the challenges we're seeing right now is you've got over 300,000 troops mobilized that are around Gaza. They've been pulled
from various sectors of the Israeli economy. There are other troops in the north. Most of these are reservists.
So, you're taking an economic hit keeping these troops mobilized. The businesses aren't as productive. it's more expensive on the Israeli
government. So, there's a question of the durability, the sustainability of an operation of this magnitude. And I think that's one of the reasons the
United States is so determined to provide the support and assistance that Israel needs.
But if you go back to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said was the objective, which is to destroy Hamas. He didn't say run them out. He didn't say
kneecap them or mow the grass. This was to get rid of them. If the military follows through on that political directive, it's going to be a very long,
difficult, sustained operation.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we're just seeing more information now in our reporting Gaza residents saying that these airstrikes are the "most
intense" they've seen thus far. We have reported that a three-star U.S. General, General Glenn has traveled to the region there to Israel to work
alongside military officials. What do we know about him? What can you tell us about him and what particular role he could be playing in this?
CLARK: Well, he'll be the direct liaison, the representative of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the
Israeli military. He's going to share the experiences that collectively the U.S. military has learned over the years fighting in the Middle East and
especially urban operations. He's going to have access to U.S. intelligence sources. He's going to make sure that the connection between U.S. and
Israeli intelligence is solid. He's going to look at how the Israelis, as best they share their systems with them, how they're synergizing and
pulling their information together.
Because we know that's one of the great strengths of the American military operations, we use all sorts of information. We get everybody coordinated.
We're all on the same sheet of music, so to speak. We've got air ground. Everything's working together. He's probably going to be discussing those
kinds of techniques as well as some specific lessons learned from his own military experience in the region.
GOLODRYGA: How concerned are you about the potential of new fronts opening in this war, especially if these are the early stages of a ground invasion
into Gaza? And obviously, I'm specifically talking about what happens in Northern Israel.
CLARK: ?Yes, it has to be a concern. But historically, the mullahs in Iran have been pretty cautious about expending Hezbollah. If they roll the dice
and think that Israel is on the brink of its of destruction, they might do this. But Israel is not on the brink of destruction. I think there is a
chance that you'll have more intense fire coming out of Hezbollah.
But as I look at it right now, look at Iranian reactions, they're being goaded by their own rhetoric into small steps of retaliation in Israel,
harassing fires against U.S. forces in the region, but they haven't made the decision to go all in with Hezbollah, and that's going to depend really
on the progress that the Israelis make how they're moving through Gaza, how embroiled they are there, what their spare resources are, what's available
to defend in the north.
It's going to be a big decision for Iran to risk the survivability of Hezbollah if it really opens up in the north against Israel, because
Hezbollah is certainly going to be at risk of total destruction when it opens up against Israel, if it does so.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you know, one of the narratives in all of this is that a large-scale incursion is exactly what Hamas is hoping for, has expected,
and is in a sense goading Israel to do.
That having been said, General, what are Israel's options here, given that, you know, they've said they have to respond, the United States and Western
allies have also said Israel has a duty to respond? So, in your view, what is the most effective response look like?
CLARK: Well, I don't see really any effective option for the Israelis other than to go into Gaza. And if you really are going in there to
eliminate Hamas, then you're going to go in large and long.
Some targeted raids, you know, you'll take out some leaders. If you want to run Hamas out, you open up a channel, don't leave. But that doesn't seem to
be the intent. And to the Israelis, to most of the ones I talked to, Gaza is now an existential threat. They're not going to live with Gaza under
Hamas on their borders based on what's happened.
Gaza, after all, Hamas was masquerading is mostly interested in the welfare of the people in Gaza. All the while it was preparing this assault. So, you
can't trust it. You can't make an arrangement with it. You couldn't set up an agreement. There's no way to police it if you set it up. So, that's why
I think on balance, the Israelis, despite the risks, despite the costs, despite the fears they're going to go in and they're going to go in large.
That would be my -- yes.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. There is a sense of vulnerability amongst the Israeli population, but even in the military, just knowing how wrong they were
about Hamas's longer-term intentions. So, General, I want to keep you on standby, please. I want to go to Nic Robertson, who is joining us now from
And Nic, I'm just reading your reporting from moments ago and what you describe as unusual, intense and sustained military activity for the past
couple of hours. Give us more detail as to what you're seeing.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Artillery fire coming from two different directions, two different artillery batteries
that are from the IDF that are being fired into Gaza. You might be able to hear some of them rumbling away in the background there, but significantly
different to previous nights, not just the intensity and tempo of those different artillery batteries firing, but tanks firing from quite close to
where we are. And therefore, we know that that's something new and different.
Multiple tanks firing multiple rounds that was sustained over a period of time. We are hearing this. You perhaps here in the background there,
fighter jets overhead. They have been dropping some heavy munitions into Gaza as well.
But again, another thing that made tonight different to previous nights, a heavy, dense back -- bank of smoke, the sort of smoke that is accurate on
the throat, that tingles inside the nose floated on the wind up from Gaza, up from the border fence, which is less than a mile away. That's the sort
of smoke that the military will often use to maneuver forces so they can't be seen by the enemy to keep them safe.
When you combine that with the tank fire from here that we haven't heard before, with the fact that the IDF says their incursion, their limited
incursion two nights ago, the one last night, are the precursor for continuing incursions night by night to prepare the way for a bigger ground
incursion, it all begins to paint a picture of a possible incursion in this area this evening. We can't say that definitively.
I spoke earlier to a, a spokesperson from the Israeli Defense Force, they were unable to say about what was happening in real-time about that smoke
screen we were seeing blowing through here that took quite literally 20, 30 minutes to blow through.
If you look behind me, you can see the houses there and the street lamps quite clearly, when that smoke blew in, they disappeared. They were just
shrouded in this dense smoke. The streetlights, you could see the smoke literally come around them and then fill the sky behind where John is
standing with the camera right now.
So, this was not a passing cloud. This was something that appeared to have a definitive military use, but it will be probably tomorrow, typically that
we'll hear clarification from the IDF about what precisely we've witnessed this evening. The intensity of artillery and tank fire at the moment has
died down. Typically, that's how we've seen battles go here. That intense fire, the guns get a chance to cool down before other targets are
identified and fired at.
But a barrage here over a number of hours sustained and heavier than I think we've witnessed in recent nights and does fit a pattern of what the
IDF has been describing as a movement towards a larger incursion.
GOLODRYGA: And, Nic, have we heard at all yet from the IDF officially responding to what you've said has been an increase in activity?
ROBERTSON: They haven't as far as I know spoken and clarified what we're seeing tonight. The clarification, I suppose, about these strikes that
we're getting had been coming from inside of Gaza, where we know there have been strikes reported by people in Gaza, by the authorities, the Hamas-led
authorities there in both Gaza City and Jabalia refugee camp and also in Beit Hanoun, which is quite close behind us, just a couple of miles away
And also, Jawwal, the main Palestinian telecoms carrier for internet service, for phone service, has also told its customers it is apologizing
for its complete loss of service inside Gaza. We don't know if that is a temporary glitch. We don't know what has caused it to go down. If it's been
a military strike or if it is some other intervention. But that carrier, Jawwal, is saying that they are unable to provide their normal level of
That sort of, if it is, the IDF taking down this internet and phone capacity, that also is symptomatic of a potential for a bigger ground
incursion because that will be a means of communication for Hamas, for Palestinian Islamic jihad. And obviously, when you have a larger military
incursion, you want to disable the communication of the enemy.
Again, we don't have definitive knowledge of that, that the IDF is, A, responsible, or B, that's the intent. But that's how things appear at the
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And multiple residents of Gaza telling CNN that these airstrikes are the most intense that they have seen and confirming what you
have just said, that the phone service has been cut off for them. Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Keep us posted throughout the hour, please.
Well, Miri Eisin is a retired colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. Mary, thank you for joining us. Give us your thoughts, given your background as
to most likely what this means in terms of the next phase of this war.
MIRI EISIN, RETIRED IDF COLONEL: We've all been waiting for weeks now for the ground operation, and I don't know that it's what's starting now, but I
think we're already seeing the intensification that comes with it, perhaps right before it. That means that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, have
both intensified the air attacks and the ground artillery and tank attacks, and that's to prepare the way to be able to get to the openings of tunnels
to where the Hamas terrorists are both hiding, but it's also where they have been preparing themselves for literally a decade.
So, what we're seeing now in that sense is what you can do with the heavy - -
GOLODRYGA: Mary, let me interrupt you, because we do want to take you to a news conference by the IDF that's being held right now. Let's listen in.
DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESPERSON (through translator): -- developments. The IDF, the air force managed to eliminate in the Red Sea. We are going to
make sure that we are working with Egypt to eliminate attacks in the Red Sea. We are working hard to protect the interest of the State of Israel.
In the Central Command, please make sure that you are following the instructions. They're going to save your life. The enemy is launching
missiles. And if you're going to safe spaces, you're going to save your life.
Recently, we managed to get many alerts from citizens regarding troubles with the application of the Central Command. This application is one tool
in order to let you know, alert you in real-time. There are alerts and telegram of the Central Command. Please use all the tools in order to be
So far, we notified 310 dead soldiers and 229 abductees. Our heart is with the abductees in this Shabbat evening. We are committed for the national
mission to return them home. We are summarizing the third week of the war. Hundreds of thousands of IDF soldiers are all around the borders of the
state, in the air, ground, and the sea in order to protect the state.
In the last day, we see many more rockets launch towards Israel. I said and I'm going to say again, we have good protection for the State of Israel,
and we know how to deal with threats. And we saw the air force. This is not a matic (ph) defense. Please listen to the instructions of the Central
Command, and the safe spaces are saving lives. And we're going to intercept as many as possible, but it's not dramatic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You expose the Shifa Hospital activity. Does it mean that the IDF is going to attack there? They're going
to -- and is there going to be any deal with -- for the ceasefire for hostages?
HAGARI (through translator): We're going to bring additional information and many more videos of interrogations of terrorists. We're going to bring
additional information regarding using infrastructure by using hospital or civil infrastructure, cynical usage, that using the civilian as a live
shield, a human shield.
We cannot let terror be active from hospitals and attack our citizens. We cannot let it happen, not the State of Israel. We'll not let it happen.
Regarding the rumors about a deal with the hostages, I advise you not to deal with rumors. We're talking terror and psychological terror and a
cynical usage of Hamas. We are going to bring you any reliable information and relevant. We'll give it to the families. And then, we're going to
update the public. Until then, please don't give in to manipulations of the psychological terror of Hamas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Few green targets that were supposed to be safe and continue the school activity that were defined by
the Central Command were attacked today.
HAGARI (through translator): We are trying to have routine in the shadow of war with the coordination of the municipalities, Beersheba and Ashkelon
and the rest of the municipalities. We going to review, and if we can have routine and to let have -- let them have education, the education system
?It's a big dilemma, but we are in charge of it. The Central Command and the public will know about the instructions. Shabbat shalom.
GOLODRYGA: All right. We had just been listening to a press conference from the IDF spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari. The main takeaway is
that Israel is expanding their ground operations into Gaza. They have warned residents of Gaza City to move south and said hundreds of IDF forces
are in the air, ground and sea.
He also told Israeli citizens that they are committed to the national task of returning home the more than 200 hostages currently held in Gaza. And a
real -- you know, a stark warning to Israelis also that they will intercept as much as possible in terms of incoming rockets. Obviously, Iron Dome.
Iron Dome has been very effective and successful, but the incoming amount of rockets may make some, as we saw today in Tel Aviv, not able to be
Let's bring back Miri Eisin, retired colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, to react to everything that we just heard. Miri, specifically, the main
headline, though, is the IDF announcing that they are expanding their ground operation.
EISIN: It's interesting what you hear in the English and what I was hearing as I was listening to him in the Hebrew. Because what he was
talking about was to the Israeli public, what he was talking about is that we need to continue to remember, not just that Hamas is the terror
organization and holding the hostages, but that the ground operation is the way that we are going to get to those hostages that we are thinking about
them all the time.
He was talking about the fact that there have been 8,000 rockets fired into Israel. And Iron Dome is amazing. And thank you, United States. Iron Dome
is amazing. But together with that, it's 90, 95 percent. And we have to continue to act in a very important way that we act in the way that we go
inside. People were injured in Tel Aviv today from a rocket that got through. It's not hermetic. It's not the Iron Shield of Star Wars.
And so, in that sense, when we're all waiting for that ground operation, the ground operation doesn't make anybody happy. It is a necessity. And he
said that very clearly. It's the necessity to go in against this Hamas, this Hamas that is terrorizing its own people. It terrorizes us, and it
does. It terrorizes us, but we're standing up against it.
And to get into the hostages, he said all of those things. And on the side of it, he also mentioned that there was an attack from the south today, in
the south of Israel that actually hit Egypt, where it seems that perhaps again from Yemen, some kind of flying suicide drone, but it came into the
Egyptian sides and he put all those on the table right now.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. He began by talking about attacks in the Red Sea and working with cooperation with Egypt in response to that. Miri, it is a
delicate balance that he had to walk there and it was notable that he both announced the expansion of the operation. But as you said, and as you
interpreted that, as an Israeli citizen, their focus remains largely on bringing these hostages home at the same time. The question is, can both
operations continue at once?
EISIN: They have to continue at once. Look how the spokesperson on behalf of the IDF is the one who said that we presented the hospital today. We,
Israel, we know that Hamas is underneath it and we would never attack it even though we know that Hamas is underneath that.
But look at that cynical use of Hamas. The ground operation is the way that you can get into the subterranean arena that's underneath all of the Gaza
Strip under the City of Gaza, that's where the hostages are. And I say this sadly, but clearly, I have very strong memories from 2006, when Hezbollah
only kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and they held them for two years, and only on the day that they brought them back, when they arrived at the
border, only then did they say that they're dead. The two years they held them as dead bodies.
So, that at this stage when we're talking about the hostages, I say with a heavy heart, I wish that every single one of them is well, but you need to
understand that part of Hamas is media manipulation and psychological terrorism is that they haven't said anything about the 230 Israeli citizens
from a nine-month baby to an 87-year-old man, they haven't said anything. And the only thing they're saying is that they're soldiers. Really? So,
that we don't have that information from Hamas. The way to get to them, the way to get against the Hamas terrorists is to go into this ground
And it looks like it's something, again, that you want to start and continue. It isn't something that you start and stop.
GOLODRYGA: Miri Eisin, please stand by for us as we do want to go to Jim Sciutto, who is joining us now live from Golan Heights near the Syrian
border. Jim, we just spoke in the last hour about what had been reported increased activity. Now, we just have the IDF confirming that they are
expanding this operation. Tell us what you're hearing from your sources and what you're seeing on the ground there.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the IDF says it's expanding. It's not clear how they defined expanding at this point. It is
certainly clear that the airstrikes, the tank fire, the artillery fire directed at Northern Gaza is more than we have seen since October 7th. And
that typically precedes a ground incursion.
It is not clear from the IDF's comments just there and what we knew prior to those comments about an ongoing debate about the extent of any ground
incursion. It's not clear how far they are now willing to go and for how long.
I believe, as you said, Bianna, he was describing hundreds of Israeli forces involved by land, sea, and air. As you know, they have mobilized
more than 300,000 reservists in this country. If it was a large-scale and long-term ground incursion, you might imagine thousands or tens of
So, again, we have to watch very closely over the next minutes and hours what evidence we see on the ground as to the extent of this, is it much
bigger than the temporary incursions we've seen over the last several days? The degree of those airstrikes and artillery strikes in advance indicates
something bigger is going on. It's just not clear at this point how big that is.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and the focus also will not only stay on Gaza, but obviously, what if anything happens where you are, on the border there, in
GOLODRYGA: Jim, stay safe for us and please keep us posted on anything that you hear in the next hour. I do want to bring General Wesley Clark
back into the conversation.
General, I hope you were able to hear the IDF spokesperson make certain what we had been reporting and that is what looks it's like the beginning
of a greater expansion into their operation inside Gaza. What stood out to you from what you heard from Daniel Hagari?
CLARK: Every one of these operations brings more intelligence because there's a reaction from the other side from Hamas. It may be maneuver. It
may be something on the radio. It may be drones that are flying. They're probing, they're getting the reaction and we're getting the reaction that's
giving them information that can be used to target Hamas. And so, that's the pattern we're seeing unfolding.
And so, what they're doing, you could call it softening up. You could call it, you know, testing against your adversary. You could call it by a number
of things. It's preparatory, I think, to the main efforts. We don't know where they're going to come in. Neither does Hamas. Israel is probably
exploring different options itself. May not have made a final decision on - -
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're back in Tel Aviv. The Israel Defense Forces have announced that ground operations in Gaza are expanding. We're
not exactly sure what that means, but we have seen an intensification of airstrikes in Gaza.
Let's go back to Nic Robertson who's in Sderot, which is closer to Gaza than we are right now. And, Nic, right now, we're trying to ascertain,
based on what the IDF is saying, how big this expansion is, whether this is the beginning of phase two, in terms of a sizable ground operation, a
sizable incursion into Gaza, or if this is just a somewhat larger infiltration of Israeli troops into Gaza, as we've seen over the last few
ROBERTSON: Yes. And I think the key will come to understanding that tomorrow morning when the IDF give clarity, if they do, but they have done
over the past few days and each of the past few days they've spoken about how all their troops that went into Gaza and those limited incursions with
specific objectives came out. Tomorrow morning, if they say they have left troops behind, then that would be indicative of a much larger scale
operation getting underway.
Just heard a fighter jet fly through the sky there. No explosions heard. So, apparently, no missile dropped from that fighter jet. But still hearing
detonations, not as many as before and more distant from artillery fire that's going into Gaza.
But I think for us here, the two things that have stood out and marked the difference this evening have been that sustained tank fire, and we've seen
tank fire over my shoulder a couple of nights ago on the horizon. The distinction for us here tonight was the tank fire was outgoing from very
close to here from a number of tanks, they've done silent. Is it because they rolled forward on an incursion? We just don't know at this time.
But the smoke that filled the sky earlier was another thing that we hadn't seen before, and it really felt and looked like, because it hung in the sky
for 20, 30 minutes maybe, that it was a type of smoke that the military used to maneuver forces so they can't be seen by the enemy. Again, we don't
have the details of the battlefield. The IDF are not confirming or giving a detail on what it is that we're observing.
I'm hearing a drone up there. There was another artillery round that was fired in. I think we're going to see this continue through the night. More
artillery fired there into Gaza. I think we're going to see this through the night, ebb and flow, probably.
But the key thing, I think, at this moment, not just here for the citizens of Gaza and not just here for the citizens of Israel, but all around the
region, groups like Hezbollah will be watching so closely and so carefully about whether or not this is the big ground incursion, because for them,
that could be a trigger for further action for them. So far, they haven't escalated, but they've indicated that if there is a full ground incursion,
they may escalate.
And Israel being careful about how it arrives at a full ground incursion to just try to head off Hezbollah's response. There are a lot of things we
just don't -- we don't have facts on at the moment. We can only analyze, Jake, Anderson.
TAPPER: And, Anderson, I just want to make sure that you and Nic had a chance to weigh in on something that Israel did earlier today. The IDF,
which I thought was potentially significant, they announced that there was a specific hospital in Gaza that they were saying, they were accusing of
being a command-and-control center of Hamas. I forget the name of the hospital. Shifa may be (ph) or something like that.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't want to say. I think I know what it is, but I'm --
TAPPER: But they were saying specifically that a hospital in Gaza, I believe a functioning hospital in Gaza was -- they were accusing it. And
again, I can't.
COOPER: Well, we should also point out, and this is something that they have also said in the past, which is that often, according to the IDF,
Hamas has set up command-and-control functions underneath hospitals, in hospitals and elsewhere --
TAPPER: They have long accused them.
COOPER: -- in that tunnel network.
TAPPER: Yes. They have long said that Hamas embeds itself within the populace.
COOPER: I mean, the last time I was in Gaza, which I don't even remember what year it was, but it was during a lesser conflict, you know, the
building I was in, you could see Hamas rockets being launched from neighboring buildings.
COOPER: I mean, it's not as if anybody in -- who is in Gaza is aware of where rockets are being launched from because they are being launched from
COOPER: They are being launched from, and those sites move around.
TAPPER: Nic, what -- I don't know if you heard that reporting, I'm sure you did, but that did seem significant in terms of the fact that they were
going to start more directly targeting sites like that.
ROBERTSON: Yes. If memory serves me, I think it was the Al Shifa Hospital, and it's certainly one of the principal hospitals in Gaza City, I believe
is correct that CNN has actually interviewed some of the senior staff members, possibly the director, possibly other doctors interviewed them in
the hospital there about the deteriorating conditions in the hospital.
The IDF has warned the doctors, warned the hospital -- warned the hospitals that they need to empty out and clear out. So, it's been very clear that
the IDF suspects nefarious activity, and they've laid that out in detail. They've released these graphic images that show precisely where they think
the underground bunkers are underneath that hospital, as several locations were pointed out on their detailed map of the hospital and its sort of
environs and specifically where they thought those underground bunkers are.
I mean, it's not something we're able to clarify. It's something that is denied from the Palestinian side. But what we have been able to witness is
some of the impacts of munitions on Gaza. And you can see in some places where there are multiple exits of plumes of smoke that come out of the
ground, some distance from the original impact, which creates the impression that a tunnel complex was hit and the explosive and the smoke
that that comes out from it has come out at other points on the tunnel.
And I would just add to what Anderson has said there about the rockets being fired out that he's witnessed when he's been there in Gaza. My own
experiences in Gaza, too. You can see where tunnels are being dug at the edge of civilian housing, some are very well hidden clearly. We don't ever
get to know where they are, but you can see where they are because it's huge mounds of dirt.
So, I think the IDF has certain amount of knowledge about where some of those tunnels are, but other areas are shrouded from their view. The
hospital is clearly an area that they're pointing to that they believe they've got accurate intelligence about. It's just not something, at this
point that, that we can have specific knowledge of, at least I don't feel that I do at this moment.
COOPER: I would also point out, it's not something that doctors working in a hospital would talk about either when interviewed on camera.
COOPER: I mean, no doctor in a hospital in Gaza who is very well aware where Hamas is in their neighborhood, they're very well aware if Hamas or
Islamic jihad is firing rockets over their hospital, they are not going to talk about that on camera --
COOPER: -- for I assume because they are concerned about their own safety from Hamas. I mean, we have seen Hamas drag people through the streets on
the back of motorcycles, their bodies through the streets, I've witnessed that with my own eyes, and that is something which can happen to anybody.
So, Nic, we'll continue to check back in with you. We're going to take a short break. And our coverage continues.
?TAPPER: Back, we're live in Tel Aviv. Right now, the IDF has announced that ground operations in Gaza are expanding. Of course, that is a big
concern for those who have loved ones who were taken hostage, who were kidnapped by Hamas roughly three weeks ago on October 7th.
Alex Marquardt and Jeremy Diamond in Ashkelon, both have new reporting on the hostage negotiations. And I believe -- Jeremy Diamond and Alex
Marquardt, I believe the number is 224. Alex, what can you tell us about the state of the negotiations, especially given the fact that airstrikes by
the IDF are intensifying in Gaza, and the ground operations are expanding according to the IDF?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake and Anderson, it's hard to imagine that what we're seeing now doesn't hugely
complicate the prospect of getting at least some of those 200 hostages out. That is what was being aimed for by the negotiators that, of course, were
led by Qatar, that at least in the next hostage release, which we had thought might come in the coming hours or days, could have dozens or as
many perhaps as 100.
But seeing what we are now, obviously that throws everything into flux. We have been cautioned by U.S. officials repeatedly throughout the day that
things are extremely fluid. It's very touch and go.
You did just hear in that press conference given by Admiral Hagari a moment ago, he was asked about this reported deal in the works, and he spoke about
it rather dismissively. He said, I advise you not to listen to rumors. And then, he went on to talk about how Hamas is a terrorist organization, and
people shouldn't give in to the psychological terror of Hamas.
But I can tell you that in speaking with a number of U.S. officials in just the past few moments, they do not believe that the talks have collapsed.
They believe that the talks are ongoing. How close they are to any kind of success. I think that's what really remains unclear. One U.S. official told
me there's no scenario until these hostages are freed that we would stop pursuing talks. Another official calling this a tug and pull.
And so, you know, there was a difference of opinion between the U.S. and Israel about what was more effective to get these hostages out. The
Israelis were saying that it was the military pressure that had succeeded in pressuring Hamas to get the four hostages we've seen out so far.
Whereas, the U.S. had been pushing for a pause -- and sorry, had been pushing for a delay as well as for a humanitarian pause so that there could
be more time to get these hostages out. Obviously, this is really going to complicate things I think, Jake and Anderson.
COOPER: And, Jeremy Diamond, one of the other complications that we've been hearing from former Israeli officials, former hostage negotiators, is
that Hamas may not have their hands on all of the hostages, that obviously Islamic jihad early on in this conflict claim that they had as many as 30
hostages. There may be even individuals or families or sort of mafia groups that may have taken people as well.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And in fact, it appears that even Hamas doesn't have an accurate count of how many hostages
are being held by some of these other groups, perhaps in the Gaza Strip. But as Alex was saying, I mean, all of these efforts to try and free these
hostages certainly now complicated by what Israel is now describing as expanding its ground operations inside the Gaza Strip.
You know, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been facing a convergence of political factors as he prepares to make this decision about
how and when and how extensive this ground operation inside of Gaza would be.
On the one hand, you have the families of these hostages who are demanding naturally, you know, understandably that releasing those hostages, that
getting their family members back be made the number one priority of the Israeli government. On the other hand, we are also clearly dealing here
with the population in Israel that has been so shocked by these terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas nearly three weeks ago that they want to
ensure that they are the last terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and they want Hamas to be decimated and taken out of power as the Israeli prime
minister has vowed to do inside of Gaza.
And we know that as Israel tries to destroy some of these tunnels inside of Gaza -- and we are now getting some sirens here. So, I think we're going to
just try and move inside for a little bit of cover, but we know that as all of this is happening, Anderson, you know, those tunnels represent a real
risk for those hostages taking out those tunnels as they remain there.
TAPPER: Go inside, Jeremy. Jeremy, go inside. Alex Marquardt, we're going to take a quick break as Jeremy heads inside. Let's squeeze in a quick
break. And we'll be right back. Oh, you want to keep going? OK. We can keep going. Yes, we're going to on.
Alex Marquardt, what you just saw where you heard the sirens likely interceptors from the Iron Dome firing up there. We'll check in with Jeremy
Diamond as soon as he's back on camera as well.
Alex, in terms of the hostages, Israel had actually dropped leaflets several days ago asking residents in Gaza for any information that if they
had witnessed anything with hostages that there would be rewards for them if they contacted Israeli authorities, which gives just a sense of the
scope, the importance that Israel is putting on trying to get these hostages back. But if they are being kept in these underground tunnels, as
one of the hostages who has come out said that she did, at some point, was in a tunnel. that complicates Israel's ability to really destroy these
MARQUARDT: It certainly does. And it would essentially hold them back from pummeling that Hamas infrastructure as hard as they would like.
No doubt the efforts to get these hostages back has been hugely complicated by the fact that they are not all in one place, that, as we've said,
they're in bunkers, they're in tunnels, they're being held by different groups. And so, I think that's part of the reason that you're seeing that
call to Gazans by the IDF to essentially give them as much information as possible.
There was a huge concern by the U.S., by the administration that if and when this ground incursion were launched that essentially it would torpedo
any efforts to get these hostages out. And that's why there has been such a concentrated effort, you know, very politely in public to pressure the
Israeli government. The administration is saying repeatedly, you know, it's up to the Israelis to decide when they go in and when they launch this
incursion. But we heard, you know, pretty clearly from Secretary of State Antony Blinken that what would be needed right now are humanitarian pauses.
We never heard any American officials calling for a ceasefire because that's something that the Israelis have completely ruled out. But you have
heard the Americans and Europeans calling for a pause in order to help get those hostages out and in order to help get aid in.
And so, as we were discussing what a deal could look like for the release of what we had thought might be a bigger group of hostages, in terms of
what Hamas might have gotten what we believed was being discussed was aid going into Gaza, fuel going into Gaza, a temporary ceasefire that would
allow the movement of these hostages to get out of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the injured moving to -- out of Gaza into Egypt to get treatment.
But of course, we have -- we've not seen that deal come to fruition. It looked like it was on a pretty good trajectory. There was a lot of
cautioning going on, but there was a lot of positivity. One official who was involved in the conversations, even going so far as to say that there
was a breakthrough, I don't think there's any official right now, to say the least, who thinks that this -- that a hostage release would be imminent
as we see what's happening in the Gaza Strip tonight, guys.
TAPPER: Alex, remind us, of the 224. hostages, the 224 individuals, some of them children, that Hamas kidnapped on October 7th, how many of them are
MARQUARDT: Around a handful is what the administration is saying. There are still some 10 Americans who have been unaccounted for. But according to
the White House's John Kirby, they believe a handful of the 220 are American. The biggest number of foreigners are actually Thai citizens,
people from Thailand.
MARQUARDT: There are a lot of workers from Thailand who go to Israel. So, there are all -- there are civilians who are both Israeli and foreign. But,
guys, also important to note, there are a number -- and we don't have the specifics, but there are a number of Israeli soldiers in there. And so,
there was a thinking that perhaps Hamas might try to get rid of all the civilians, but then hold on to the Israeli soldiers for a potential trade
for Palestinian prisoners down the line.
TAPPER: Right. The other thing to remember is that there are something like 500 to 600 Americans -- Palestinian Americans in Gaza. And according
to both the Americans and the Israelis, while they're not trapped in tunnels with Hamas, Hamas won't let them leave.
TAPPER: So, they are, in a different sense, also prisoners of Hamas, although they are in Southern Gaza, but they are also, in a different
sense, prisoners of Hamas.
COOPER: We're going to take a short break --
MARQUARDT: But just because --
COOPER: -- and our coverage continues in just -- go ahead, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Sorry, I was just going to say quickly, just because they're in Southern Gaza, it certainly doesn't mean they're safe. We saw a bombing in
Khan Younis, which is in the southern part of the strip overnight. And that complication that you're talking about, Jake, it's because you have
interests of Hamas who have not done anything to open up those gates to head into Egypt. You have the Israeli bombing that continues, which is
threatening, you know, the movement of people around there.
You have seen the Egyptians whose sources tell us haven't necessarily done enough to help get those hundreds of foreign citizens out of Gaza. There's
not one reason in particular they can't leave, but rather the State Department is telling us and -- or multiple sources are telling us that
this is an extraordinarily complicated puzzle.
The administration is expressing some hope that Americans can get out in the coming days, but it has been more than two weeks with no answers for
those hundreds of American citizens.
COOPER: Yes. Alex Marquardt, Jeremy Diamond, we'll check in with you shortly. We'll be right back.