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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Netanyahu: Strikes On Gaza Are "Just The Beginning"; Airstrikes Pummel Gaza After Rockets Fired Into Israel; At Least 9 Americans Killed In Hamas Attacks On Israel; U.S. Surging Air Defense And Munitions To Israel; Airstrikes Pummel Gaza After Rockets Fired Into Israel; Interview With Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 09, 2023 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with our world lead and a vow from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his country's response to the horrific terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas over the weekend is just beginning.


TAPPER: This is just a glimpse of what that response from the Israeli military has looked like over the last few hours, explosion after explosion, lighting up the night sky in Gaza with very real consequences on the ground in Gaza, as Israel launched what it is called wide-scale strikes on Hamas targets.

The Israeli army released video showing some of the strikes it carried out earlier today. You could see the buildings absolutely flattened.

Hamas retaliated by firing more than 100 rockets at the coast. This was the scene in Ashkelon, north of Gaza, even after the Israeli air defense system intercepted most if not all of the rockets. Cars on fire, debris and littering in the streets. At least 900 people have been killed so far in Israel by Hamas terrorists, according to the Israeli army. Of the 900, the vast majority appeared to have been civilians. The Biden administration says at least nine were U.S. citizens.

The barbaric nature of Hamas has been on full display over the last few days with Hamas terrorists kidnapping children, killing the elderly, and there are reports of young women raped. The terrorist group announced in the last few hours that that they will begin to execute the civilian hostages that they took and broadcast videos of those executions, those murders, if Israel continues to attack Gaza civilians in their homes without warnings. That's the words of Hamas.

Throughout the next few hours, we will be speaking to family members who are desperately waiting for news about loved ones who were kidnapped by Hamas. Among the nine U.S. citizens killed in the terrorist attacks is Deborah Mattias (ph), a mother died shielding her son from bullets. Mattias' father told CNN today he was on the phone with her when she was killed.

Deborah's husband Shlome (ph) who was an Israeli citizen was also killed. They're son was shot in the stomach but is expected to recover.

There is still no clear number as to how many U.S. citizens are missing or have been taken hostage. Jacob Ben Sr. (ph) believes that his daughter Danielle was kidnapped. Danielle is an Israeli-American citizen. Her family says she was born in Los Angeles, but largely grew up in Israel. Danielle was working at the music festival along the Gaza-Israel border. The festival that was attacked by Hamas terrorists early Saturday.

These disturbing images show some of the carnage and terror that Hamas unleashed -- shooting attendees at point-blank range, taking these largely young people hostage. Israeli rescuers say they found at least 260 dead bodies at that site. Danielle's family has not heard from her since Friday.

Our coverage starts with CNN's Clarissa Ward.

And, Clarissa, you were on the ground earlier in Sderot and saw rockets firing over your head as the Israeli military pounded Gaza with rockets. Now it is night here in Ashkelon, just north of the Gaza border, are you still seeing rockets firing into Gaza?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's really sort of extraordinary, Jake. The tempo today was just relentless. Rockets but also strikes, of course, ferocious strikes on the Gaza Strip. And then just after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, for about an hour, you could hear a pin drop, nothing, no jets, no drones, no strikes, no rockets. And just now, literally in the last two minutes, we're starting to hear some jets again. We've heard some strikes in the distance.

So not at all clear what was going on during that lull of just about one hour. But certainly, I think that the anticipation of a ground offensive has been somewhat stalled by Netanyahu's remarks where he didn't really seem to decisively say one way or the other what the next steps of the war are going to be. He did just make the point that he's made several times now to the Israeli people, that it is not going to be quick and it is not going to be easy and it certainly hasn't been easy for people on either side of this border today.


The Palestinian death toll has risen to 687 and as I said before, I mean, just the ferocity of the bombardment of Gaza throughout the day has been astonishing, Jake. I've never seen anything like it in quite sometime.

TAPPER: Earlier today, you and your crew had to shelter in a ditch from incoming rockets. Let's play that moment.


WARD: Yeah. Yeah.


WARD: Get down. Down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fine. You're fine. You're fine. You're okay. You're all right.

WARD: Okay. Yeah. Guys, are you seeing our situation, guys?


WARD: Stay down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to stay here.

WARD: Fuck (ph).


TAPPER: We're so glad you're okay.

WARD: Thanks, Jake. I mean, listen, I think the real takeaway from that is that we just experienced a small sample of what people on both sides of this border are going through every single day. These barrages of rockets have been pretty relentless and it is had a devastating effect, certainly here in the city of Ashkelon where I am now.

When we came back to the hotel, there were many people whose houses, one woman her house had been destroyed, people shaking like leaves, trying to get rooms in the hotel, trying to work out where to take cover and, of course, you're seeing scenes of absolute desperation and buildings being flattened on the Gaza side of the border as well.

And the anticipation for the moment as, you know, as Netanyahu said, is that this isn't going to end any time soon, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

Joining us now is Abbey Onn. She's an American who has been living in Israel for last eight years. She has family members who were kidnapped by Hamas. They include her 8-year-old cousin, Carmela Dan. Carmela's her son-in-law Ofer Kalderon and Carmela's grandchildren, Sahar, Eres and Noya.

Abbey, I am so sorry to hear about what's happened to your family. What can you tell us about what happened and how they got kidnapped?

ABBEY ONN, RELATIVES KIDNAPPED IN HAMAS ATTACK: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on. Like most Israelis, we woke up Saturday to sirens. And we thought it was, you know, the regular kind of war but we quickly, you know, began talking to all of our family members, we have family all over the country and Carmela and her family live in Nir Oz, which is a kibbutz really close to Gaza, and we started getting messages. We have WhatsApp that Hamas is in the kibbutz, that they were in their homes, that they could hear gunfire and that they were scared for their lives.

TAPPER: What do you want the world to know about these missing relatives, these abducted innocent civilians?

ONN: That this was an awful surprise attack on a holy day in Israel, that this is not connected to the political part of this conflict. This is humanitarian. These are people's grandparents and children. There are children who are special needs. There are parents and that any one of us, as a parent, as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter, I -- it is anyone's worst nightmare.

And we want people to understand the humanitarian piece of this. And to help make sure that we put all of the pressure on necessary to get them home safely.

TAPPER: You've been living in Israel for the last eight years. Obviously, it is a place where there has been this conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, specifically between the governments, the Israeli government and the government of Hamas and in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.


Did you ever think anything like this, this invasion, this war and these terrorist attacks on Saturday, would happen on this scale?

ONN: No. This is unprecedented and unfathomable. Look, I also think it is important to say that there is a difference between the Palestinian people and Hamas. Hamas is a terror group. They are terrorists who terrorized Israeli civilians on Saturday, and continuing.

And that is what we want people to know, is that you could care for the Palestinian people and still be against terror and against Hamas, and pro-humanitarian life and bringing these people home. These are civilians and we just want to make sure that they come home.

TAPPER: If you could send one message to those who are holding your loved ones hostage right now, what would you say to them?

ONN: To think about your own mother, to think about your child and to know that all you ever want for them is peace and safety and this is not the way to solve anything.

TAPPER: The government of Israel right now says that they want to block off all water and food and electricity from the Gaza Strip. And I'm wondering if you think -- I'm wondering what your response is to that. Because obviously I think what Hamas did is beyond words. I can't even imagine waking up to that. It keeps me up at night thinking about that.

But I also know that there are more than 2 million people in Gaza and as you just noted, Palestinians are not the same thing as Hamas. And I'm wondering what you think -- ONN: Right.

TAPPER: -- I'm wondering what you think about that response of blockading and keeping all food and water and electricity out of Gaza.

ONN: My heartbreaks for all of the civilians in this situation and I am not in a place to make decisions about kind of military or government tactics. But I only hope that whatever happens, results in the safe return of these hostages.

TAPPER: Yeah. God bless your family, Abbey Onn. God bless and we're all hoping and praying for the safe return of your family. We'll be keeping them in our thoughts.

ONN: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: The government of Israel now confirms that Americans are among the scores of hostages taken by the terrorist group Hamas. So what is the Biden administration planning on doing to get them back? Or help the Israeli's get them back. We'll talk to the National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby next.



TAPPER: Just into CNN, President Biden plans to hold a call this afternoon with the leader of France, Germany and Italy and the U.K. to discuss a coordinated response to the Hamas attacks in Israel. That's according to sources who say the call is expected to focus on how to provide both military and humanitarian aid to Israel.

Joining us now, the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby.

Admiral Kirby, as of right now, we know of at least nine U.S. citizens who were killed because of Hamas's attack on Israel. Do we expect that number to rise?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Jake, it's hard to say, but sadly, yes. I think we -- we are bracing here at the White House for the possibility that more Americans could end up having been killed in these terrible, reprehensible attacks, and we also have a number of Americans, Jake, that their whereabouts are unknown. They're unaccounted for and we're also deeply concerned about the possibility, the likelihood that some of the Americans could also now be held hostage by Hamas.

TAPPER: Can you give us any numbers on those with the understanding that you're still searching for people and that the number of those unknown, whereabouts unknown does not necessarily mean kidnapped.

KIRBY: We don't, like -- I'm not able to really give you a number right now. I mean, there's just so much we don't know. And then we're working literally every hour with Israeli officials to try to get more granularity on these Americans, where they are and how they are. But, no, I'm afraid I don't have more detail.

That's why I'm saying we have to assume or I should say accept the possibility that some of them are being held hostage.

TAPPER: I know there are Americans who are -- who have loved ones, other Americans in Israel who they have not been able to reach since Saturday, who they do expect have been taken hostage.

If it turns out that Americans are being held hostage, by Hamas, is it possible that special operations would be discussed in U.S., Special Operations Forces would be discussed to rescue them? I've seen members of Congress posit that as a possibility.

KIRBY: What I could tell you, is that we take the safety and security of Americans overseas very, very seriously, and you've seen us act as efficiently and effectively as we can to get Americans that are being held hostage or wrongfully detained in some cases back home with their families.

We will continue to do that in this case as well. Their safety and security matter to us. How we go about working on that, again, we don't know if or how many are being held hostage but how we go about doing that, obviously, we won't detail too much publicly.

TAPPER: How does an administration -- how does a White House make the decision as to how involved to get when a terrorist group kills Americans abroad and/or kidnaps Americans abroad? I understand it's not an easy decision necessarily, if it takes place abroad. But if they are Americans --

KIRBY: Yeah.

TAPPER: -- and it is an ally country, that must always be at least on the table.

KIRBY: I would tell you, broadly speaking, that we will do what we need to do to protect our national security interests there in the region. We will certainly do what we need to do to look after the safety and security of the American people.

One of the reasons -- you saw yesterday, we moved a carrier strike group into the Eastern Mediterranean as a measure of reassurance but also deterrence.

So without speaking to specifics or hypotheticals, this president will do what he has to do to look after our national security interests and that's just -- and that's just the way it's going to be.


TAPPER: If the Israeli government makes a decision that they cannot in good conscience continue to allow Hamas to operate and govern in the Gaza Strip, is that something that the U.S. government would dissuade them or permit? What -- what would the U.S. say to something like that, to a decision like that? KIRBY: Well, I certainly don't want to get ahead of decisions that

haven't been made yet or articulated by the Israeli side or any potential policy decisions one way or another. I would just tell you that what we're focused on right now is making that Israeli has what it needs to defend itself. Their security assistance is arriving and more will be arrived in days to come. We want to make sure that they've got the tools and capabilities that they need to defend themselves. As to policy and political decisions they might make going forward, I won't want to get ahead of where they are.

TAPPER: What is the response to the "Wall Street Journal" story that Hamas and Hezbollah sources told the "Wall Street Journal" that Iran had planning or played a role in planning and executing the intricately planned and executes terrorist attacks on Saturday. That Iran and the revolutionary guard played a role. I know that officials have told CNN they have yet to find a smoking gun directly linking Iran to it. But what do you think?

KIRBY: Well, there's no question, Jake, that Iran has complicit here. I mean, they've been supporting Hamas now for many, many years, tools and training and capabilities, certainly rhetorically, the supreme leader cheering on this attack. So there is a complicity there.

But what we haven't seen and our Israeli counterparts have said the same thing, we just haven't seen a piece of intel or evidence that directly links Iran to these complex as you put it very complicated set of attacks over the last couple of days. That doesn't mean that we won't still. We're still looking at that. We're going to monitor that. We're going to obviously share our perspectives with the Israeli intelligence community as well, we just haven't seen that.

TAPPER: How about the claim by Egyptian sources to the "Associated Press" that President El-Sisi told Netanyahu that they were picking up some word that there was a major strike from Gaza being planned?

KIRBY: Yeah, I can't confirm that reporting either. I've seen that "A.P." story and just not able to confirm that. Again, we're going to continue to dig through the intelligence picture to try to learn as much as we can about what happened here.

And there will be a time, Jake, when it is appropriate to go back in time and look at sort of what the intel picture was saying, who knew what when and whether something was missed or not. But that's not now. The time now is to make sure that the Israeli people know we are fully in support of their peace and their security, and that their military forces are getting the capabilities they need.

TAPPER: Is it true that Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Biden yesterday that Israel does not have any choice but to unleash a ground operation in Gaza?

KIRBY: I won't speak to the details of that private conversation. I would just tell you that the president appreciated the opportunity to talk to prime minister and make sure he knew how solidly in support we were of him and the Israeli people and I think I'll just leave it at that. TAPPER: Today, Hamas announced that they're going to start executing

their hostages if Israel continues to target people in Gaza without warning. Are you concerned about that announcement?

KIRBY: Of course we are. I mean, the barbaric attacks, they are just off the charts in terms of the violence that they have visited upon innocent Israeli civilians, just people going about their lives, and going to a music festival. So when we hear those kinds of threats, it's chilling.

And obviously, we have to take it seriously and, of course, the Israelis are taking it seriously as well. We're obviously concerned because we don't know if there's Americans that are in this hostage pool potentially. So, yes, it's very chilling and yes, we're taking it seriously.

TAPPER: So we were just told that the number of Americans killed by Hamas was updated to 11. It was nine at the beginning of our conversation. It is now 11. Do we have any idea how any of these Americans were killed?

KIRBY: No. I don't think we have specific details on how tragically these Americans lost their lives.

We are in touch with families. We will continue to make sure that we are in communication with them as they go through just has to be unspeakable grief and sorrow and loss of their loved ones. We'll stay in touch with them, make sure that they're getting them the support they need.

But, no, Jake, I'm afraid we don't have a lot of granular detail on how they met their deaths other than to say it was at the hands of just unspeakable, horrific terrorism.

TAPPER: I mean, the images of children kidnapped, of young women who have been abducted, who have blood in their pants because they've been repeatedly raped.


It's horrifying, I -- there has been a lot of death and destruction in that region but I've never seen anything like this.

KIRBY: Oh, yeah. I -- it -- I'm sorry. It is very -- excuse me. It is very difficult to look at these images, Jake. It is -- the human cost.

And these are human beings. They're family members, their friends and loved ones and cousins and brothers and sisters. Yeah, it is difficult. And I apologize.

TAPPER: Nothing to say sorry for.

John Kirby, thank you for joining us today. Appreciate it.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

TAPPER: A CNN photojournalist tonight captured this, a strike hitting in Gaza lighting up the night sky.

Ahead, just does -- what does Hamas want after the terrorist group launched the horrific assault over the weekend.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: A CNN photojournalist tonight captured this, a strike hitting in Gaza, lighting up the night sky.

We're also getting some breaking news into TH LEAD. The Pentagon is now surging support to Israel, including air defense and ammunitions. CNN has previously reported Israel has asked for more interceptors for its Iron Dome defense mechanism.

I want to bring in retired Major General James "Spider" Marks.

General, exactly what's included when we're talking about air defense or munitions requests?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Jake, it's a combination of what you would see placed on the ground as well as networked with what might be in the eastern Mediterranean. We know that there are naval ship that are arriving into the -- into the area shortly. Those are linked. Targets are acquired from one and then passed to a shooting battery someplace else.

So the Iron Dome is incredibly capable, but obviously, it has been overwhelmed by the number of rockets that have come in both from Hamas in Gaza and from the Lebanese Hezbollah up north.

TAPPER: General, Hamas is by far not the only terror organization in this region. You just mentioned one of them. Walk us through some of the other ones.

MARKS: Yeah. The real difficulty right now is the world is focusing on Gaza. Israel is very, very aware that they are not going to get what is called target focused exclusively in on Gaza. They have to be very concerned about what is happening up near the Golan, in the north with Lebanese Hezbollah and then the West Bank has got the Islamic Jihad, as well as al-Aqsa brigade.

So Israel is very, very conscious of fact that they've got a very broad mission set in front of them. But also bear in mind, they've just mobilized close to 300,000 in order to account for all of that.

TAPPER: Retired U.S. Major General James "Spider" Marks, thanks so much for your expertise.

A video shows the unrelenting strikes inside Gaza earlier today as Israel retaliates for that unprecedented terrorist attack by Hamas. Over the years, Hamas has claimed many attacks on Israel. It's designated a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and the European Union, as well as Israel.

CNN's Sam Kiley explores how terrorists from Hamas pulled off the unthinkable, killing more than 900 people, most of them civilians, leaving entire communities in ruin and turning innocent civilians into hostages.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Slick propaganda, a blatant threat and published last year. Hamas gunmen training a motorized paragliders. They also showed meticulous planning for fighting in built up areas, full and historic failure of Israeli intelligence. Hamas videos of the start of their assaults from Gaza were published within hours of its launch.

Malevolently bold in execution, Hamas targeted Israeli machine gun nests and command posts, they knocked out the Israeli military communications and crippled command and control. They swept into Israeli territory and launched a wave of atrocities, killing at least 900 people in the worst Israeli setback in 50 years.

Once a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, a Sunni movement, won Palestinian elections in 2006 on a platform of social reform and resistance to Israel.

Driven by corruption and incompetence, rivals Fatah launched attacks immediately against the movement, which denies the right of Israel to exist at all. In the end, Hamas won control of Gaza, and its grip on the enclave of around 2 million people tightened as Israel and Egypt largely sealed it off, causing intense humanitarian problems.

Hamas responded with waves of rocket attacks against Israel that got worse as the years went by. Israel counter attacked from the air, and with ground assaults that left thousands dead, and Hamas still in charge.

But Iran's influence has been key to Hamas's military power.

FABIAN HINZ, IISS: The Iranians have trained Palestinian engineers on how to establish rocket manufacturing in Gaza. We know that the Iranians have provided several production equipment which you need for the production of solid propellant rockets to Gaza and to other places as well.

KILEY: In the past, infiltrations were limited to attacks from tunnels. Hamas successfully hid its bigger plans for months.


Meanwhile, Israel's right wing government focused its efforts on growing Palestinian violence on the West Bank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are extensive meetings with the resistance factions in Gaza and the West Bank and with our brothers abroad about starting that fight. KILEY: This spokesman also told me that he'd recently been training

forces in Lebanon, most likely alongside Iran-backed Hezbollah. The next phase that Hamas and its allies would have planned for is Israel's almost inevitable ground invasion, the last in 2014 was chaotic.

HINZ: Hamas had a long time to prepare for this kind of scenario. There is a chance that Hamas and Islamic Jihad might be the new capability that could have a tremendous impact on the strategic balance as well.

KILEY: Israel knows it must battle Hamas on its own turf in urban areas littered with explosive traps and riddled with secret tunnels. And Hamas will draw on the experience of Iran backed Hezbollah which ravaged Israel's armor in 2006, all the while trying to protect the lives of at least 130 hostages that Hamas says they will kill if Israel's attacks continue, dealing with violent groups, backed by Iran, a country that's bent on destroying Israel and building a nuclear weapon that could do just that.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Sam Kiley for that report.

Coming up, the painful reality for so many families right now. I'm going to talk to the loved one of a hostage taken by Hamas.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our coverage of the war right now. Hamas is warning it will execute the hostages it kidnapped over the weekend if Israel continues to retaliate in Gaza.

I want to bring in Shelly Shem Tov. Hamas kidnapped her 21-year-old son Omer from the Supernova Music Festival on Saturday. They kidnapped him and took him to Gaza.

Shelly, when did you last hear from your son?

SHELLY SHEM TOV, SON, OMER, MISSING IN ISRAEL: I heard from my son on Saturday morning at 8:00 when he was -- he called us that he was in panic. He told us that there are shooting guns and a big mess there. And he tried to escape with a friend's car, and my daughter told him to -- to send a -- a Google Live and he sent us the -- the Google Live.

And then we saw, he told us, I will talk with you, I will talk with you. And then we saw in the Google live that he is going to -- to near the board and then we saw that he's moving into Gaza and it was last time that we contacted him.

TAPPER: Do you know anything about his condition right now? Has Hamas or the IDF or the Israeli government, has there been any communications?

SHEM TOV: I don't know.


SHEM TOV: I don't know what is -- what his condition is. I know only on Saturday night we got telegram video that Omer, he was lying down in the back of a pickup truck, handcuffed and this is the -- the video that we saw, I saw that he's alive and he looks that he's okay. He didn't get hurt.

And so I know he's alive. But from that video, and until now, I don't know nothing. Nothing.

TAPPER: What message would you want to convey to the kidnappers, people that have him right now? What do you want to tell them if they're watching right now?

SHEM TOV: I just want my baby, my son back. And I want it to end. And I want to say to everybody that I'm in a nightmare.

And it is a nightmare that is a few days that I don't know what to do and how to help my son. I cannot help him. And the thing that I -- the thing that I want, it is only that he will come back home. That's it. That's it.

TAPPER: Shelly Shem Tov, we will be thinking and praying four your son. Thank you so much for telling your story. Please stay in touch so we could continue to stay on top of your son's story.

SHEM TOV: Thank you.

TAPPER: Did the U.S. have any hints ahead of the Hamas attack on Israel?


I'm going to talk to the top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee next.


TAPPER: And we are back with the breaking news in the world lead. We learned just this hour that 11 Americans were killed by Hamas in their terrorist attacks in Israel. As we hear more of the devastating details of what happened, there are a lot of questions including questions about what intelligence there may have been or not ahead of the attacks.

Joining us, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Senator, thanks so much for joining us. Obviously, this was an intelligence failure. Most importantly, of

course, it was a brutal, hideous, terrorist attack. But, obviously, in addition, it was a terrorist -- it was an intelligence failure.

What went wrong do you think?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Well, first of all, I don't characterize the nature of intelligence in general, certainly not American intelligence. The Israelis themselves have said, their officials have admitted they were caught surprised. They certainly weren't prepared, and that's a process they're going to have to go through. And they've done that in the past when they've had failures.

Now they need to win a war and they need to destroy Hamas. And then that moment will come.

I think from our perspective, we'll have to go back and see if we, in fact, missed any signs. But what I think has been known for a long time, now, no one can tell you they knew it was going to happen on this time and on this day, but what we have known for a long time and so there's mystery, is that, number one, there is no Hamas without Iran and Iranian support. Number two, Hamas actively trains and prepares and aspires for the day in which it can help bring about the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. And those things were known.

Now, obviously, there were signs missed about an imminent attack and what was about to happen. Those are things we'll have to work through as well here internally on our end. But right now, I think the focus has to be entirely at this moment on understanding obviously, helping Israel in whatever they need us to help them with, to win this battle against these degenerates and then figure out, you know, down the road, obviously at the same time in some cases simultaneously, where we can improve because intelligence remains viable for what may come tomorrow or a week from now.

TAPPER: Do you know anything about the reports from Egyptian sources that President El-Sisi made a warning -- delivered a warning to Benjamin Netanyahu that something big was going to happen from Gaza? "The Associated Press" is reporting this.

RUBIO: Well, all I know is what the Israeli response to that has been. I believe they have denied that being the case. I can only speculate that if that were the case, I don't know why Israel would ignore that. I don't believe they would.

You know, to the extent of -- but that's all I can comment on it obviously.


RUBIO: That's all I've seen. I saw the reporting on it today and, obviously, I've seen the Israeli denial.

TAPPER: Is there a way for Israel to destroy Hamas without causing massive casualties against the innocent people of Gaza? There are more than 2 million people in the Gaza strip and roughly a million of them are children.

RUBIO: Yeah, I don't think there's any way Israel can be expected to co-exist or find some diplomatic off-ramp with these savages.

I mean, these are people, as you've been reporting and others have seen, that deliberately targeted teenage girls, women, children, the elderly, not just for rape and murder, but then dumping their bodies off in the streets of Gaza where the crowds can then defile their lifeless bodies. I mean, just horrifying things, and I don't think we know the full extent of it yet. I mean, there's more to come in the days and weeks ahead.

You can't exist. They have to be eradicated.

And you pointed out the difficult challenge. This is going to be incredibly painful. This is going to be incredibly difficult. And it's going to be horrifying, the price to pay.

But even more horrifying is allowing a group like this to continue to be a viable group operating from a space that they control. I wish, you know, in an ideal world, people will tell you that there is, but I just don't -- I don't see any other option. It's a terrible option, but it remains the only option.

And I think the blame will squarely be on Hamas for using people, human beings as they have for a long time, the way Hezbollah does as well, as shields.

They deliberately put their missile launchers, their headquarters are operationally near places they know where civilians are going to be. Israel is in a very difficult spot here with no great options, but only one option that actually serves their national interest. And I just don't see any way forward. I hate to say it, but that's just the case.

TAPPER: You warned back in March that the internal political strife in Israel between Netanyahu and the Israeli supreme court was weakening its security, its readiness and it was a cause for concern. I know that your answer is likely going to be that it's time to focus on defeating Hamas and the like, but do you see those vulnerabilities as having played out here?

RUBIO: Well, I think the Israelis have admitted as much, that their enemies calculated that in fact. They're divided -- when you have a reservist group saying they're not going to report to duty, I think that's one of the things that would encourage the enemy to attack. I think the Israelis would acknowledge that and -- as well.

I think they've miscalculated because obviously you've seen Israelis come together at the moment and respond to this and put aside those political differences because they share a common enemy, a common threat, and it's an existential threat.

What everybody needs to understand, I know you've reported this and others, that Hamas -- the clear goal of Hamas is not to take back land. The goal of Hamas is to eradicate -- to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel, that there'd be no Jewish state of Israel.


That's their goal. I don't know how you negotiate with a group like that. I don't know how you can't. And so, I think there's awareness of that in Israel, what they're dealing with, and I think these images have served to reinforce.

I think the prime minister earlier today said we have long known who Hamas is, now the world is seeing who they actually are. So, I think those differences right now do not seem to be impeding their efforts to confront this.

Now, you well know as well as anybody, Israeli politics are very vibrant. There's obviously a lot of back and forth. And that will continue in the long-term. But in the midterm, it seems they've come together and that's the right approach because they're facing a very -- probably the most significant attack on Israeli territory in their history.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

RUBIO: Thanks -- thanks, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: On the right side of your screen, you see these new live images out of Gaza with the Israelis continuing their bombardment of Hamas targets. We're also hearing some new stories coming out of Israel that are heartbreaking and terrifying.

Coming up next, I'm going to be joined by somebody who is on the ground in Israel and had to shelter as the first explosions rang out.

Stay with us.