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Interview With Former Chief Of IDF Intelligence And Institute For National Security Studies Managing Director Tamir Hayman; Interview With Al Jazeera English Correspondent Tareq Abu Azzoum Interview With HuffPost Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Akbar Shahid Ahmed. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 17, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Amid escalation with Iran, Gaza keeps getting bombed, another Israeli strike kills at least 13 people. Former IDF Intelligence Chief Tamir Hayman

joins me.

Then --


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I just want to go home. If I die, so be it.


AMANPOUR: -- confusion that ended in bloodshed. Jomana Karadsheh reports on the chaos that unfolded as Palestinians tried to return home.

Also, ahead --


TAREQ ABU AZZOUM, CORRESPONDENT, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: Since day one of the fighting, journalists have been killed.


AMANPOUR: The price of bearing witness. The CPJ says nearly 100 journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began. I speak to

Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Abu Azzoum from Rafah.

And --


AKBAR SHAHID AHMED, SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, HUFFPOST: Hamas still believes it was worth it. Their argument is, we wanted to draw back global

attention to Israel-Palestine. We felt it was slipping away.


AMANPOUR: -- what is Hamas thinking now? Michel Martin speaks to Akbar Shahid Ahmed about his rare in person interviews with Hamas leaders.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Two U.S. sources tell CNN they understand Israel is considering a limited strike inside Iran after Saturday night's missile and drone barrage against

Israel. At an army day parade in Tehran, Iran's president again insisted that it was a retaliatory strike for Israel killing its top commanders and

destroying its consulate in Syria on April 1st. He also warns that "the slightest attack by Israel on Iran will be dealt with fiercely and


So, the region's two largest military powers appear to be headed for a cycle of retaliatory action with no guardrails or red lines. In a moment, a

longtime senior Israeli general joins me from Tel Aviv.

But first, as Israel continues its war on Gaza, a strike on a refugee camp on Tuesday killed at least 13 people, over half were children, according to

hospital officials. The latest U.N. figures show one child is injured or dies every 10 minutes there, and with over 10,000 women killed, many of

whom were mothers, a staggering 19,000 children have been orphaned since the war began.

Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh has another story, more on what happened over the weekend when rumors of being allowed back home turned deadly.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Their day started with rare excitement and joy after months of hell. They thought they were returning to the homes they

were forced out of months ago on foot and in carts. Thousands of displaced Palestinians on the move again. Some with their most valuable possessions.

They said we can go back home to Gaza City today, Iman (ph) says. With her son and cats, she took to the road.

No one knows where the news came from. There was no official announcement from the Israeli military that civilians would be allowed back into

Northern Gaza. But a rumor enough for those left homeless, shattered by war now facing a looming Israeli offensive on Rafah, where the majority of

Gazans have been pushed into. People here say they don't even know if they have homes to go back to.

Little Omar (ph) holds his tiny brother's hand and carries a bag of flour.

Our house is gone. I'll live in a tent, Omar (ph) says. I just want to go home. If I die, so be it.

Death has become a reality the youngest here have been forced to accept. And on this day, they've had to accept that there will be no going home.

The crowds were turned away. Fear and panic as people run back. They say Israeli soldiers opened fire as young men tried crossing the checkpoint

with women and children.


Several were injured, among them five-year-old Sally. She was in her mother's arms when she was shot in the head.

Two young men tried to cross with us, her mother, Sabrina says, soldiers started shooting and firing everywhere. My daughter was so scared. I was

holding her. Then I put her on the ground to walk. She wasn't responding. Then I saw all the blood on my hands.

The Israeli military has not commented on Sally's injury. They said the north remains a war zone and returns not permitted.

Sally clings on to life, unconscious on the hospital floor with the muffled cries of another injured child next to her.

And at a hospital nearby, another young boy back from a different nightmare, one no child should ever endure. 11-year-old Nimr (ph) was out

getting aid for his family when he says he was shot and detained for two weeks, taken to Israel where he underwent surgery. Still in pain and shock,

he shows the camera, his horrific scars.

The day they took me, the soldier kicked me with his boot, he tells his mother over the phone. My head still hurts. He kicked me with the metal tip

of his boot. I was shot in the stomach, lying on the floor. He hit me with no mercy. I'm waiting for the day to grow up, to be a resistance fighter,

and hit him like he hit me.

The Israeli military has not responded to CNN's specific questions on Nimr's (ph) account. This is the first time in 15 days he's hearing his

mother's voice.

I've missed you so much, he cries. They didn't let me see you. I wish I hadn't come back, Nimr (ph) says. I wish I had died.


AMANPOUR: Jomana Karadsheh reporting there.

Pleads from the international powers for an immediate ceasefire are growing louder. When it comes to widening the war, the Israeli people have a clear

view, according to a new poll by Hebrew University. It found that 74 percent of Israelis opposed striking Iran, if it harms Israel's security

alliances with supporters like the United States, which are urging restraint.

So, our next guest, General Tamir Hayman, served for years in top military positions, including as chief of the IDF intelligence until 2021. He is now

head of a security think tank, and he joins me from Tel Aviv. General Hayman, welcome to the program.

I do actually want to start by asking you what you make of the continued civilian disaster inside Gaza, as Israel claims it's trying to go after

Hamas. When you see those pictures, I mean, what does that do for the war for your country?

TAMIR HAYMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF IDF INTELLIGENCE: Well, good evening. Pictures of war are not an easy sight, and war is a difficult situation.

Israel tries to avoid war, and that war was forced upon us on the 7th of October. Hamas launched that gruesome attack, that massacre of the 7th of

October, and forced Israel to go for that kind of a war. And that unfortunate occasion happens through wars.

We have a clear policy to avoid and try to avoid and diminish the suffering of innocents and civilians. This is why there is a safe zone specific for

that occasion. And for time to time, rumors, incidents happened. We have a specific interrogation mechanism, totally independent that questions and

investigate any kind of accusations like the ones we have heard right now, and I'm sure that it will be dealt.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me just ask you the strategic problem of 34,000 plus dead in Gaza in the last six months after, as you say, Hamas killed 1,200

Israelis and still has, you know, more than 100 hostages, which the Israeli people consider their first priority, bringing them home.

But this is an ally of Israel, the former MI6 Head John Sawers, Sir John Sawers, who wrote recently, you may have read it, by allowing the IDF to

overstep the rules of war in its response to Hamas atrocities on October 7th, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving Hamas a political victory.

You must be concerned about that.


HAYMAN: Well, first of all, regarding the number you have just mentioned, about a third of that number, about 13,000 out of these numbers are

terrorists. And although we are sorry for any of civilians that have been unmistakably targeted, that ratio is relatively good. And if you compare it

to the international standards by, for example, the United States coalition in Iraq against ISIS and other historical occasions.

So, the ratio -- and especially if you take in count that Hamas uses that civilians as a human shield, and we are talking about the most condensed

area in the world right now, in urban --

AMANPOUR: OK. I'm just asking you about a political victory.

HAYMAN: I'm not sure that that is a political victory. I'm not sure that we are trying to achieve that kind. We are trying to avoid that --

AMANPOUR: No, no, what I'm saying is you being --

HAYMAN: There's no victory in that.

AMANPOUR: No, no, not for you. Handing Hamas a political victory. Are you not concerned about that?

HAYMAN: We are trying to diminish the numbers of uninvolved casualty. We are trying to do our best in order to avoid those numbers for escalating.

So, that's really not -- it's against our interest and we -- and the IDF knows that.

AMANPOUR: Well, as you say, there are a lot of investigations into the killing of civilians. Let me though ask you this. Well, first and foremost,

the situation in your country is very, very tense. What do you think your government will do in response to the Iran missile barrage over the


HAYMAN: Well, the bottom line is that some form of response should happen. But before dealing with the tactical element on how to do that and what the

method. We should balance three strategic aims that slightly contradicts one another or are lying in tension between them.

First, we must somehow rebalance the deterrence that was eroded. Iran must not have the perception of abling to strike Israel from its sovereign

state. It is unprecedented. It was -- it happened 30 years ago that the sovereign state target Israel directly with the barrage over 300 warheads.

Second, we must not expand the war beyond the limits right now, and that will focus -- will refocus our attention. It will divide our attention

between Gaza and other elements. We must be focused on Gaza. So, in that term, any kind of response that will escalate it to a full-scale

confrontation with Iran is negative.

And third, we must maintain and preserve the international coalition that worked together with Israel in order to defend Israel, and especially

United States. So, if you sum that all to a recommendation, we should work -- we should retaliate in Iran soil, but time is not pressuring us. We have

time. We -- and we -- and by the way, what's happening right now in Iran is in favor with the Israel interest, the internal pressure against the

Iranian regime, blaming it for its arrogancy.

And second, we can work differently in a more clandestine operation, special operation. We have done that before. It's something that the

Iranian regime tries to hide from its civilians, that Israel has that kind of a capability.

I do not recommend on a full-scale war with Iran right now. We have still the war objectives to obtain in Gaza. So, in that terms, moving to a more

special operation kind of way is preferable. And maybe continue striking Iran militias that are trying to hurt Israel, as we speak right now, in

other countries like Lebanon, like Syria, et cetera.

AMANPOUR: So, I think I hear you saying doing that and then doing -- continuing the kind of covert action you've been against commanders,

against scientists inside Iran.

So, there's -- I mean, you've been doing that for a long time. And then you decided to hit the consulate in Syria. So, I just want to ask you about

assumptions now that have got everybody to this point. So, the Israeli defense minister has been saying in January, for instance, an increase in

the pressure placed on Iran is critical and may prevent regional escalation in additional arenas.


But actually, that's wrong, right? Because you keep upping the pressure, and now look, you've got, for the first time in 45 years, an Iranian -- or

since the Islamic Revolution, an Iranian -- so, is that a miscalculation?

HAYMAN: Let's take -- first of all, regarding Hassan Mahdavi (ph) -- General Hassan Mahdavi (ph). He was not shot inside Iranian consulate. He

was not issuing visa in a consulate next to the Iranian embassy. It is the headquarters of 18, 000 Quds force command post. In our intelligence

jargon, it's called the Yass (ph). It is well known across Syria. It is a kind of humiliation because that headquarters had its flag, Iranian flag,

and that kind of created the motivation to retaliate.

It was not a consulate. That's really --

AMANPOUR: OK. Whatever it was, it's the pressure that you guys have been saying has to happen.


AMANPOUR: And that's the only way to keep them from doing anything. But it backfired. They didn't. You kept upping the pressure and they finally

responded. And now, you're going to respond and then they might respond.

HAYMAN: Well, that's -- we're going to wait and see how it will end, and whether Iran will restrain its proxies, because the proxies in the north

led us to the decision to strike and remove Mahdavi. Mahdavi was not innocent. He was the one that coordinated all of the Iranian attacks

against Israel in the northern border. He is the one that coordinated the UAVs that came from Syria. He is the commander in charge over Lebanese

Hezbollah, who is constantly bombarding our northern border.

And all -- and everybody knows that Iran is pulling the strings behind all of that operation. Iran is directly instructing Mahdavi, as the Quds Force

commander, to drive Hezbollah to do what it does. So, it's a matter of pressure.

The logic is -- we will still have to see whether it works out for us. But the logic is, if you pressure Iran and send strategic messaging to start

diffusing the tension in the north in order not to escalate to a full-scale war that might lead to some kind of a form of stabilizing the situation in

the north.

AMANPOUR: And you mean the north, Hezbollah, right? So, OK. So, I understand that.


AMANPOUR: Now -- but I still see what happened. You kept trying to -- and you kept putting the pressure on, and then this is the result you have. The

U.S. policy expert from the Middle East, you know, era, Aaron David Miller says Israel is zero for two in terms of its security assumptions, failing

to read Hamas capacity and intentions before October 7th, and misjudging how Iran would respond to the Damascus attack.

Do you need to rethink how you consider strategy, not just tactics?

HAYMAN: Those are two -- I tend to agree with those -- with the assumption or with the conclusion that was mentioned right now. I think the

intelligent -- the IDF int intelligence was wrong in the 7th of October for not detecting the Hamas intention and it was wrong of assuming what will be

the Iranian response. Those are two mistakes, no doubt about it.

But still something has changed dramatic in terms of the Iranian self- confidence and power projections in the era -- in the arena. The fact that they've allowed themselves, that supreme leader that was known for his

moderate approach and how he's afraid from risking his own country for the past years has changed his strategy, has changed his policy. And you must

ask yourself whether that is something that create a safer Middle East or a more dangerous Middle East.

I argue that over self-confidence by Iranians, having the fact that they are controlling militias all across the Middle East is a very negative

element. I think this is why all the international coalition that was formulated in Saturday night to block the Iranian activities, that was the

motivation behind of us.

Everyone here in the Middle East, Arab countries and Israel's know that over self-confidence of the Mullahs in Iran is dramatically stranger, and

we are talking about a threshold nuclear state with proxies all across the Middle East who controls the --


HAYMAN: -- straights, that distracts all of the --

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me just ask you about that. Because I think you know well that the one thing that was able to restrain, as you say, a threshold

nuclear strain was the Iran nuclear deal. Whatever you might've thought about it. Your prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President

Trump, along with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, pulled out of that. And now, it's a much more closer threshold.


So, that clearly makes things more difficult in your region. I can see you nodding. I'm assuming you agree with that sort of basic arms control logic.

But now, I want to ask you this, 74 percent of your people, of the Israeli people, oppose a strike, according to this poll. I don't know whether you

rate the poll, but according to this first poll since Saturday night, they oppose any strike against Iran if it undermines Israel's security alliance

with its allies.

And you know that President Biden has warned against it. Benjamin Netanyahu says he will, with all due respect, take whatever decisions for Israel that

he needs to take himself. What do you make of that? That's a whole another dynamic. The separation of Israel and the United States, potentially.

HAYMAN: First of all, I agree that pulling out of the JCPOA was a strategic mistake. I was against it. Secondly, I think that question has some

problems, how it was articulated, because everybody -- nobody really wants to escalate the war. Israelis are obsessed of peace and quiet, although it

sounds sometimes differently. And escalating to a full confrontation with Iran right now, it is against the common knowledge here in Israel.

But if you would ask them that repeatedly, if we're going to face a routine -- a new routine of that kind of a tool, that is Iranian direct threat by

missiles toward Israel to be something of our new -- next day reality. I think they'll oppose it dramatically and we'll ask the security

establishment to remove that kind of a potential threat.

We are used to having -- being threatened by terror organization and we know how to deal that, but a state at the size of Iran with its capability,

it is unacceptable.

AMANPOUR: So, let me then ask you finally, it is said that any -- even the slightest attack inside Iran will be met. So, are you worried about --

well, what do you think will happen if Israel takes an action inside Iran? There will be a response according to Iran. And then where are we? And

also, can Israel alone, without its allies, defend against 300 missiles coming in?

HAYMAN: The fact that -- the issue of retaliation by Iranians, that's the basic assumptions, and we must take that in mind when we retaliate. But

it's all a matter of how you retaliate and when you retaliate. And I think we have to work smart and not (INAUDIBLE), quickly, and brutally.


HAYMAN: And of course, I will not give any kind of suggestion on how the method will be, but there are methods that can diminish that risk.

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, listen, General Hayman, thank you very much. It's been really interesting and we'll come back to you. Thank you very much indeed.

Now, getting information from Gaza, as we had before, is simply not possible without the bravery of Palestinian journalists who live there. For

six months, Israel has allowed no western reporters or rest -- or reporters from anywhere else to freely enter the enclave.

Local journalists have documented the ongoing destruction of their own homes, the deaths of their loved ones, scores of them have also paid the

highest price. Tareq Abu Azzoum has been reporting from Gaza since the war began, even as some of his Al Jazeera colleagues have been killed. And I

recently reached him in Rafah to ask about the importance of bearing witness.


AMANPOUR: Tareq Abu Azzoum, welcome to the program.

AZZOUM: Thanks, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Tareq, I want to ask you, I want to hear from you yourself, how difficult is it to work as a journalist in Gaza?

AZZOUM: Personally, for me, it's a really a very difficult experience because we have been dealing and working under really tough circumstances

as we have forced to go to areas that's supposed to be, let's say, an area of confrontations just to deliver the truth and to deliver all the latest

and serious developments on the ground.

And we've been moving from the beginning of the war from place to another after receiving different orders from the Israeli military in order to be

away from the ongoing bombardment. So, it's completely a tough job right now.

As you are very keen on delivering and reporting the truth to the international audience, and at the same time, you need to focus well on

maintaining and affording all your basic and humanitarian basic supplies amid these unbearable conditions.


AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it really is. And we can only get a glimpse of it from the outside. And we're utterly dependent on you all, with your

iPhones, your cameras, to keep showing what's going on.

You know, the Committee to Protect Journalists says now, You know, six months later, there's nearly 100 journalists and media workers, obviously

the majority Palestinians in Gaza, and they say most of those have been killed by Israeli strikes, some of them at home with their families

overnight, some of them outside on the job, some of them, you know, like all civilians, trying to get food and water.

What is your experience been? Have you lost friends and colleagues?

AZZOUM: Well, it's really hard to describe that, Christiane, specifically that we've been witnessing multiple losses since the beginning of the

outbreak of this conflict.

Since day one of the fight, 10 journalists have been killed. Some of them, as you mentioned, has -- have been killed along with the family members,

some of them at work, some of them are arrested, taken to undisclosed location. And me personally, I've lost a number of my colleagues during

reporting and during the coverage here in the territory.

I've lost my friend, Samer Abdaka (ph), who has been killed alongside -- during his reporting in Khan Younis City. He has been left bleeding for six

hours, as also our colleague, Walid Dahdi (ph), has been critically injured.

And those upscaling attacks against journalists really impose more -- high risk on the lives of journalists. And also, in the last couple of months

I've lost my colleague, Hamza Al-Dahdouh, who has been hit with a drone missile as he was covering and trying to film the -- one of the latest

Israeli attacks on Rafah district in the far south of the territory.

I've been sharing lots of memories with people. They're close to me, as we've been talking about multiple issues and multiple dreams that they are

really seeking to achieve after the end of the war, as they are giving a clear sign that no protection for those journalists. Journalists in fact

are civilians. And I'm really sad to say that they are not supposed to be attacked.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, you know that your own network, Al Jazeera, has said that they hold Israel accountable for "systematically targeting and

killing Al Jazeera journalists and their families." You just mentioned the Al-Dahdouh family.

And we know, you know, Wael is the bureau chief. And as you mentioned, Hamza (ph) has just been killed. His 16-year-old son, seven-year-old

daughter, and a grandson were all killed. And I wonder because the Israelis say they take all the necessary means to avoid civilians and journalists.

Does that strike you as real? Do you feel like, you know, the targeting is designed to avoid you and other civilians?

AZZOUM: Well, Christiane, let me illustrate something for you and for the audience as well. The Israeli military has been launching white military

campaign with the Gaza Strip now. Those generals who have been killed, they did not receive any prior warning before they have been directly hit by the

Israeli military. They were reporting on the ground in areas that are supposed and designated as a safe zone. But mainly, they did not receive

any kind of a prayer warning.

Simply, what we can say is that journalists have been attacked without an underground (ph) justification. They must at least being afforded

protection as they are doing their noble job. They are humans before being journalists. They are trying to return back safe to their family members.

And we have been hearing more international demands to afford them protection. But clearly, not -- none of that has been translated

practically on the ground as journalists here are also afraid to lose their life as they are reporting.

AMANPOUR: You know, Tareq, we are in awe, frankly, of what you are doing in these circumstances. And yes, we do try to urge protection. And yes, we do

try to urge Israel to let us in, in bigger numbers.

I want to ask you, do you believe that the constant killings, the deaths of journalists, you know, some have suggested, like the CPJ and others, that

this makes it more difficult. It keeps reducing the -- you know, the window through which news and truth is getting out.

AZZOUM: Well, that's completely right because we are talking about more than 100 Palestinian journalists being killed. It means that we are losing

more routes of information and also news, because as journalists, we are sometimes -- we are forced to go to the location of the targeting in order

to get reliable information from eyewitnesses down on the ground in order to be later reported to the International Community.

We sometimes are facing plea struggle in terms of transportation in order to get an access to the location due to the deep shortage of fuel and all

basic supplies. Now, specifically, as we've been mentioning earlier that there is ongoing clock of international journalists to get into Gaza to

help Palestinian journalists to report the truth.


Usually, before they have been depending on fixers and translators, but Palestinians right now, they are doing all that job, wearing different hats

at the same time despite all the unpalatable conditions, for only one purpose, is to deliver an accurate, reliable information to the

international audience.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about the physical difficulties additionally to actually reporting. We know that journalists, particularly broadcast

journalists, they need electricity, they need chargers, they need, you know, their phones to work, their laptops to work. That must be very

difficult for you, particularly periodically when comms have been slashed.

And you in October, when there was one of those, you know, cutting of the communications, I believe from Israel, you made this appeal on air and

we're just going to roll a bit of it.


AZZOUM: So, please, guys, if you can hear us, send that message to the world that we are isolated now in Gaza. Again, guys, if you can hear us, we

are isolated in the territory. We don't have any phone signals. We don't have any internet connections. We found it great difficulty even to

communicate and contact with our relatives in different parts of the territory. Even we don't know, like, how, what is the situation on the

ground in different areas of the Strip. We just only hear bombardment. We don't have any kind of access of communication to anyone.


AMANPOUR: So, that was in October at the beginning. What is it like now? What is, you know, like trying to be in touch with your families, trying to

keep your -- you know, your items charged and usable?

AZZOUM: Well, generally, this is a clear problem that we have been suffering from -- since day one of the fighting that. We have been

completely deprived from having electricity as there is a clear power outages inside the territory after the destruction of the majority of the

electric networks across the Gaza Strip. And we clearly remember the Israeli military controlling decision to ban the entry of the fuel in order

to operate the sole electricity station in the territory.

So, clearly, we have been grappling in order to get electricity as we have been moving between hospitals in order to get electricity services from

these hospitals. As you know, that attacks are on every single corner of the Gaza Strip. So, the majority of Gaza's journalists right now are

reporting from inside the hospitals and/or in its vicinity in order to get useful from the electricity services.

And it's also important to say that sometimes we're grappling also with internet connection due to the destruction of the majority of network

towers and network -- internet networks inside the Gaza Strip.

Right now, we have a kind of a relative mitigation in terms of having electricity and having also a kind of internet connection in the southern

part. But other areas, they are struggling because of the Israeli ongoing operation and that will be the reality if there's going to be an expansion

of the fighting in Rafah here soon.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you though, as a journalist, what is the state of play? Do you think the Israeli forces, the IDF have control? Because I mean,

several months ago, they said they were doing the north and then the central, and now they're going back and they're still there. And obviously

Al Shifa, they occupied it. And then they went back again and it's now in rubble.

Do you get the impression that Israeli forces are in control of most of Gaza?

AZZOUM: Mainly, what we see is that Israeli military, we have been hearing from them that they managed to militarily control the northern part of the

Gaza Strip. And then days and weeks later, we've been recording more cases about confrontations between the Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli

soldiers in different areas, including on the vicinity of Al Shifa Hospital as we have been reporting on -- within the past few weeks, and that's

completely contradictory to what the Israeli military had been saying to the public, in different media press and statement released by its

political and military officials in the army.

What I can say is that as we've been hearing and seeing on the ground that there is no any, until now, full control by the Israeli military on the

Gaza Strip. They are saying that they're controlling but what we can see and hear from eyewitnesses that battles are still ongoing without any lit

up in fighting.

AMANPOUR: Golly. So, this could go on for a long time. And in the meantime, finally, I want to ask you, you know that Al Jazeera has always been a

target of many governments, frankly, and the Israelis have passed a law which basically says that they could ban any foreign network perceived as a

threat to national security.

Are you concerned? Do you and your team members think Al Jazeera, because they've singled you out, will be shut down? Have you had any threats by the

Israelis there or anything?


AZZOUM: What we are doing is that we're reporting the truth. We're covering the battles between both parts. We are trying to give a neutral media

coverage for all the latest developments in the Gaza Strip, but we did not receive any kinds of a threat spot.

What we can see is that there is an upscaling in terms of the attacks on Al Jazeera crews in -- not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. They have

previously killed our veteran journalist and colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh. Recently, they have been attacking our journalists in Gaza City, including

Ismail al-Ghoul, who has been arrested, beaten, humiliated by the Israeli military for long hours. After later, being released and they have -- as I

mentioned earlier, they have killed our colleagues as they were doing their job.

If there's going to be any practical blindness for the Israeli decision to ban Al Jazeera, it seems that we are about to lose one of the most

prominent and used channels in the Middle East, recovering all the latest developments on the ground. It means that there's going to be a lack of

credibility and a lack of a flow of information to the audience about what is happening in Gaza.

AMANPOUR: Tareq Abu Azzoum, I wish we could join you and we keep trying. And thank you for doing such a heroic job and all your colleagues there.

Thank you.

AZZOUM: Thank you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.


AMANPOUR: An amazing job indeed. And just to note Shireen Abu Akleh was a Palestinian-American. And regarding Tareq's colleague, Ismail al-Ghoul, who

he mentioned, CNN reached out to the IDF last month about his arrest. And in response, a spokesman said, we're not aware of the detention of a man

named Ismail al-Ghoul.

Next, ceasefire negotiations in Cairo between Israel and Hamas have reached a delicate phase, that's according to the mediator Qatar. Six months after

it launched that brutal terror attack on October 7th, murdering over a thousand Israelis, some 1200 and still holding more than 100 hostages.

What are Hamas's next moves? Michel Martin spoke with Akbar Shahid Ahmed, HuffPost senior diplomatic correspondent, who's interviewed two Hamas



MICHEL MARTIN, NPR CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Akbar Shahid Ahmed, thank you so much for speaking with us.

AHMED: Thank you for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: Obviously, we're very intrigued by the piece that you posted in Huffington Post titled, "What is Hamas Thinking Now?" You know, Hamas is an

organization that a lot of people are used to talking about, but not many people have the opportunity to speak to.

So, the first question I had for you is, what gave you the idea to try to go to some senior members of the leadership?

AHMED: Absolutely. So, being based here in D.C., you know, we get to hear a lot from U.S. government spokespeople, right, we have a lot of foreign

officials coming and going, Europeans, Israelis, and to some extent, some Palestinians, right? But if we think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

and this moment since October 7th, Hamas is an integral part of the story, right?

Like them, hate them, denounce them, whatever your feelings are, you have to deal with them, right? They are the people who set off this episode of

fighting, and they are who Israel is, you know, in Gaza with U.S. support, fighting as we speak today.

So, my editors and I, in the fall and kind of winter, started to think, how can we try to get that perspective, right, to frame it in a way that

informs our audience, does so responsibly. And it was quite a challenging endeavor, both the logistics of it and the kind of taking on that

responsibility, right, of talking to these people and to some extent, giving them a platform to reach a major American audience. But --

MARTIN: Well, say a little bit more about why you think that's important. Because, you know, I think people do know that Hamas is considered a

terrorist organization, you know, by the United States and other governments.

So, just -- if you would just -- for people who just questioned the lot -- the interview itself, would you just say more about why you think it was so

important to do?

AHMED: So, Hamas, as you mentioned, is listed as a terror organization by the U.S., by the E.U. In fact, a lot of Americans can face legal penalties

for engaging with Hamas to some extent, right? So, there's a real barrier and systemic reluctance to engaging with them.

From our point of view, we felt this is a viewpoint that we want to not only convey, to some extent we do get Hamas messaging, right? We get their

documents, we get their statements, but we want to really challenge it and press it and engage with it and ask them tough questions and take that kind

of hour, two hours to sit with them and say, let's talk about civilians. Let's talk about the fact that many Palestinians are not supportive of you.

Let's talk about your ruling Gaza. Let's talk about your vision. And you can't do that unless you're having a conversation or a dialogue.

MARTIN: So, who did you wish to speak to? And what role do they play in the Hamas organization?

AHMED: I wanted everyone. I wanted Khaled Mashal, the former head of Hamas. Khalil al-Hayya, one of the top negotiators, Mousa Abu Marzook, and Basem

Naim. And I was able to get the latter two, Mousa Abu Marzook, who is -- has been the second in command of Hamas. He's been a major figure since

their founding in the '80s.


Actually, has lived in the U.S. for a while, has lived in various countries, but always been central to their operations and it's actually

designated as a terrorist by the U.S., especially designated national. He's under sanctions because the U.S. says he's funneled. He's been one of the

chief founders.

I also spoke with Basem Naim, who is really interesting because he is someone who was Gaza-based, has always been Gaza-based. He was a minister

in Hamas' administration in Gaza. His wife and children are still in Gaza. He happened to be out of Gaza, he said accidentally, in his word, prior to

October 7th and hasn't been able to return.

MARTIN: I have to start with October 7th. What is their point of view about what they were trying to accomplish on October 7th and do they think they

accomplished it?

AHMED: That's one of the most striking things. You know, I think October 7th is such a touchstone of trauma for Israel and for many people, you

know, with links to Israel who were affected by that and what's happened since.

From that point of view, despite everything that's happened since right, we're talking about close to 34,000 Palestinians, at least dead. Of course,

1,100 Israelis, most of them civilians also dead, many hostages still in Hamas' control. Hamas still believes it was worth it. Their argument is, we

wanted to draw back global attention to Israel-Palestine. We felt it was slipping away. We felt the U.S. didn't care about a resolution to this

conflict. And to some extent, we felt Arab states had stopped caring, and so we really needed this kind of big explosion.

In their telling, their narrative is, this isn't about October 7th, per se, you know, specifically they use this phrase, history didn't begin on

October 7th. So, they're talking about this kind of, obviously, decades long Israeli policy of subjugating Palestinians to a large degree, right?

And they're also talking about the last few years, in which you've seen a very far-right administration in Israel, and you've seen these rising

attacks by settlers in the West Bank, attacks on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, this kind of sense of the window is closing.

And so, from their point of view, we're talking about Israel-Palestine. So, for all what they would see as collateral damage, and it's a very, very

heavy tool, for all of that, to them, it's still worth it.

MARTIN: Do they agree, or do they at least acknowledge what the Israelis and other governments have been saying is that they essentially hide among

the civilian population, that they basically, they are using civilians as human shields? How do they respond to that?

AHMED: They argue, look, we were the administration of this place, right? From 2006 onwards, Hamas was running Gaza. So, lots of government

officials, police officers, anyone who's there in that administration is Hamas linked. So, to say they are hiding within the civilian population

from Hamas's point of view, well, that's just the people who lived there.

MARTIN: So, their argument is they are the civilian population. They are the civilian population. Interesting. OK. Were they trying to kill as many

people as possible? What do they say about that?

AHMED: I press them on, look. the majority of the people that you killed on October 7th, we know indisputably were civilians. They were civilians. We

know that their argument -- and it's so interesting that they're not trying to deny that or disavow it to the extent to which actually some folks

abroad have tried to do, they're saying it was chaos. We only talked to the military targets. We did not mean for civilians get killed, but they were

not denying that the majority was civilians.

MARTIN: A music festival is a military target? I mean, what? Wait, I'm just --

AHMED: Right. And I think --

MARTIN: So, they say -- but they actually say that they were not trying to kill civilians, that they said it was some sort of, what, a logistical or

tactical breakdown or something of that nature?

AHMED: But the way we put it in the piece was to say they really deflected the blame from the attackers to the attacked, right? They said, well, you

know, Israel should have been defending better. And because there were not strong Israeli forces on the other side of the border, once Hamas and the

others who were with them broke through, that's why so many targets were attacked. And they argued that -- in their telling, thousands of people,

that's a really high estimate. We didn't feel comfortable putting that in the piece, but that's really what they estimate.

Certainly, we know that many people who were not initially involved in the attack from Gaza did come through into Israel and carry out some of those


MARTIN: Do they acknowledge raping women? Do they acknowledge using sexual violence as a tool of war?

AHMED: They have not acknowledged that. They are refusing to acknowledge that so far.

MARTIN: But how do they account for all of the people who've lost their lives? Surely, they have lost some of their own relatives and loved ones.

AHMED: Many. I mean, we saw the top Hamas leader abroad, Ismail Haniyeh, his children and grandchildren were killed in an Israeli strike just last

week, right? So, many of them have lost family members.

One of the people I met, you know, who was helping coordinate the interview, I asked about his family back in Gaza. He said, yes, you know,

my mother was hit by shrapnel on her head. I lost two nieces. I -- you know, I've lost these various uncles. And it's so striking, I mean, that

they are -- they're able to talk about that. They do acknowledge it. They, they seem visibly, genuinely upset. And then in their telling, it's worth



MARTIN: It's worth it?

AHMED: In their telling, we, the people of Gaza knew what we were signing up for. There's a real argument to be had there, right? Did all the people

of Gaza really agree to launch this attack and suffer the war that followed? But that's their telling.

Simultaneously, they want to say, this operation was worth it, but it didn't go the way we wanted it to go, because there was chaos, civilians

were killed, and also, so much of their message, so much of their posturing, right, and what they said, and even when I pressed them was, we

are willing to go to a negotiating table.

They're not willing to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, but they both reaffirmed that they are standing by this 1967 borders idea, right? This

idea of Palestine does not need to exist necessarily in all the places where the State of Israel is now. It could exist in just the West Bank and


And the fact that they were saying that, paradoxically with the classification of the attack, is an attempt to moderate from them, right?

MARTIN: Interesting.

AHMED: So, they want to be seen as we don't want to keep fighting. And one of them did explicitly say to me, I say in the piece, you know, we are

using violent tools because the Israelis are pushing us towards this. So, they don't -- they also want to be seen as moderate and rational to some


MARTIN: Do they acknowledge that there is really no way to know how many people in Gaza feel about their leadership since they have not had

elections since, when, 2006? How do they talk about that?

AHMED: I'll take a step back. I think, you know, I was able, prior to the war, in 2019, I was able to actually report from Gaza and talk to a lot of

people on the ground there and experience it before the destruction and kind of be there at the period of Hamas rule, right? And talk to people

about what that felt like.

I think, important to remember, yes, people who live there did not have a chance to vote. We have had surveys. We have had people speak up against

Hamas rule, and they do acknowledge that. So, I did press them on a couple of surveys done by quite respected Palestinian pollsters. And I said, look.

I talked to people when I was in Gaza in 2019, who said -- I vividly remember this one woman, I'll never forget, right. She said, I have not

been able to practice as a lawyer since Hamas took over because I refused to cover my head in court. Because I don't want to do that. That's not my


Their argument is, we tolerate everyone, we understand that there are some people who are more secular, we understand there are people of different

ideologies. They are not -- they accept that they do not speak for all or even the majority of the Palestinian people. I think what's so striking is

that they say -- and this is really hard to dispute, polls in the West Bank, in Gaza, do show that the majority of Palestinians are supportive of

resistance towards Israel.

And the narrative that Hamas is saying is not, we think everyone is supportive of us as Hamas and everything we want to do, but they are

saying, we think the Palestinians are sick of the status quo, want to see a change, and we are the only people aggressively doing something to change


MARTIN: What are they willing to accept? What is their end goal of how this conflict ends? Are they willing to fight to the last Palestinian?

AHMED: I think they would say no. I think they would say, it's not our policy that is about fighting, fighting, fighting. They're arguing

knowledge us, bring us into a political process, which the U.S., right, is not willing to do.

So, the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, is who the U.S. negotiates with and Israel, negotiates with, it's been very clear from the

U.S. and Israel side, we will not see Hamas in that party and we won't deal with them. They're saying we are an indisputable part of the Palestinian


And I was struck, Michel, by how much they wanted to present themselves as not only speaking for every last Palestinian. They said, we're talking to

other Palestinian factions, even ones who they have hated and have open fighting with, like Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. And they

said, well, we want to reach a deal among the Palestinians. Let us do that. And then let us negotiate. Essentially, they're saying, you can't exclude

us from that Palestinian body politics. So, that's the part of the paradigm that needs to shift.

But I was also struck, to your point, about endgame by a sense of urgency that they seem to feel in terms of, in their framing, that Israel is

getting more conserved in the right-wing, right? And especially after October 7th, and polls do show us this, support within Israel for giving

Palestinians the state has diminished, right?


AHMED: And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has explicitly said, I'm not going to give Palestine a state. We're not going to have a reward

for October 7th. And I do think that was this kind of concern on their side, genuine or not, but certainly they want to express it, that we may be

losing -- the window may be closing, Israel may be getting even more hardline, and then where do we go? Then we're locked into conflict, which

they say they don't want.

MARTIN: Interesting. What are some of your, your takeaways?


AHMED: I was shocked by how much they wanted to talk about U.S. and Israeli politics, frankly. I mean, I did not expect them to be name checking

various ministers in the Israeli cabinet or, you know, asking me what I thought about like the youth protest movement. And I think that is another

interesting thought of how they see themselves and want to be seen.

They want to be seen as a political actor. You can argue, we're never going to tolerate that. That they've done too many horrible atrocities. But

that's what they are saying. We want to be seen as part of a global political conversation and the fact that they are tracking where might

Biden be because of the election? How is he reacting to voters in Michigan and Wisconsin? I was really struck to be --

MARTIN: You mean, by state? You mean they had that granular -- an interest in some of the political developments in the United States. You know, I

have been remiss. The hostages. Was that always part of the plan.


MARTIN: What can you tell us about that?

AHMED: Explicitly, that was part of the plan, and they've told me as much. And there's a history to that, right? So, often, Hamas and other

Palestinian militant groups have been able to get a lot of Palestinian political prisoners out by taking a relatively small number of Israelis and

doing these swaps.

In their argument, they would say, we only tried -- wanted to take military hostages, only soldiers. I pushed them on how many hostages are still

alive, Michel, because I think that's a really -- it's a really important question. We know there's more than 100 who are not back yet. How many of

those are corpses? How many of those are alive?

They told me, at that time, 40. We've now seen negotiations that maybe they only have up to 20. But I think something important to remember is their

definition of hostage and who's a civilian is quite different from the U.S. and Israel's.

MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Children? There are children taken hostage. How could those not be -- are they not --

AHMED: Children, older people, yes, but they would classify even off duty soldiers as combatants, which is not a classification that the U.S. and

Israel would use. So, there's a little bit of, like, talking across wires in that way.

MARTIN: I think there is a historical precedent for people who have used terrorist means and violence to achieve political goals being brought into

governments. I think that we saw that in Northern Ireland, where the IRA has become a, you know, part of the political sort of dialogue once they

agree to lay down arms. We've seen that in Colombia.

So, do you think it's possible that there's a way that this group, which has committed acts of terrorism, could be persuaded to make some sort of a

deal, where they lay down their arms in exchange for being seen as a legitimate political actor?

AHMED: I'll respond to you in two ways, Michel. I think the first is to think about the players on the board, and who would need to make that

possible. So, Hamas would need to both acknowledge its own responsibility for these militant acts, right, for the violence, for these atrocities, and

to kind of walk away from some of the open antisemitism and promises to wipe out the entire State of Israel that they've had.

I was struck by how much U.S. officials, sources of mine, reached out and were really interested in this piece, right, really almost grateful that

this piece came out, really curious because they are not able to have that interaction. And what that said to me is that certainly at levels of the

national security establishment, there's an awareness of what you're saying, right? That the precedent is there, that Hamas is part of this

fabric, and what can you do?

And the other aspect of that is just the readership response that we've had. That's really said to me that that maybe there's a possibility here

for a different kind of conversation about this group and engagement with them.

We've had one of the highest levels of reader engagement of any piece we've had in five years, right? Readers have gone deep into this piece. So, it's

a 6,000-word behemoth. I mean, this is not a joke. Readers have gone really far down, something we can track. And I think they are almost solved for

understanding and seeing this kind of engagement and presentation of these viewpoints with appropriate context.

Do I think that will happen? I think there's a lot of people who don't want that to happen. But I was shocked by how much the Hamas figures, to a large

degree, were presenting themselves, take it seriously or not, but in their argument, at least test it. They were saying, just test us, try it and test

it and see what happens. And I think the question is whether the U.S., Israel, other players can get that.

MARTIN: Akbar Shahid Ahmed, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

AHMED: Thank you so much, Michel.


AMANPOUR: A really important window into that side.


And finally, tonight, a sculpture that certainly isn't garbage, but is made from trash. Sadly, New Yorkers are more than used to seeing garbage on the

streets But now it's being put to good use in honor of April Earth Month, a new sculpture called "Single Use Reflections" urges people to think more

about the trash we generate and how we can cut down. The artwork can be seen at New York's Highline before moving across the river to New Jersey.

That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always

catch us online, on our website, and all-across social media.

Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.