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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: U.S. Intel Suggests Iran Surprised By Hamas Attack; Israeli Official: Talks Underway To Allow American Citizens, Palestinians To Leave Gaza; Sources: Scalise Still Lacks The Votes To Win Speakership; Rep. Nancy Mace, (R-SC), Is Interviewed About House Speaker; 300,000 Plus Israeli Reservists Called Up After Hamas Attacks; Israel: At Least 189 Soldiers Among 1,200 Killed In Israel. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 11, 2023 - 17:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start in the Middle East with new stories of the horror, the terror that Hamas inflicted on Israeli. Some of what I'm about to describe to you will assuredly be disturbing. A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister said today that Hamas decapitated babies and toddlers. This was part of a brutal massacre that Hamas carried out in Kfar Aza over the weekend. I should note that as of now CNN has not been able to independently verify the claims.

The Israeli Defense Forces said Hamas quote, "brutally butchered in an ISIS way of action," quote -- unquote, women, children, toddlers, and the elderly. This comes to some Israelis are also expressing a sense of frustration that their government is not doing enough. And here you can see individual hospital yelling at Israel's Environment Minister, yelling at her, telling her that she is responsible, she should go home. Eventually the crowd forced her to leave the building.

As Israel and its military continue to pound Gaza with rockets, Gaza which is ruled by Hamas, humanitarian crisis is quickly unfolding in Gaza, 100s of 1000s are now displaced cut off from food and electricity. Gaza's only power station has stopped working, a reminder that Hamas which the U.S. and the E.U. categorize as a terrorist organization, Hamas embeds itself within the populace of Gaza. This war has now been raging for five days and the death toll continues to climb. More than 1,200 have died in Israel. Another 1,100 are dead in Gaza.

And at least 22 Americans have been killed in the attacks. All of these numbers are expected to rise. Let's go to CNN Erin Burnett, who is in Tel Aviv, Israel.

And Erin, you visited Ashkelon this morning. It's just a few miles from the border with Gaza. It's a city that has been pummeled by Hamas rockets. How extensive is the damage that you've seen?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So you know, Jake, this is a situation where the city is really under at least what we experienced today. It was pretty much nonstop in terms of incoming rockets. You would hear obviously Israeli bombs in Gaza, we would see the smoke, you could smell it, that acrid oily smell of war and then there would be the incoming response out of Gaza. And you know, look, obviously the Iron Dome as you know Jake intercepts most of them but it is the randomness that strikes you. You saw when they did break through or only partially were taken down by the Iron Dome.

We went to one place, we found it, we talked to some locals found where to go on apartment building where people had just been inside. When we got there it was still smoking, that horrible smell and fire was going on. And then as we were their sirens go off again, of course we go take cover, even first responders were running to take cover. Actually, Jake, literally in this case, running into the bottom of a burning building to try to take shelter and that's what they're dealing with in Ashkelon. Most businesses were closed, roads very quiet.

But yet, as you know, people still in some ways going about their normal life. And that's the juxtaposition that you're seeing. But the Iron Dome, Jake, is what is transforming this. We came to Ashkelon from actually a location a little bit south, about three miles from the Gaza border, where Israeli forces were massing. We saw there, Jake, armored troop carriers, we saw buses of Israeli troops coming and unloading, we saw about 15 bulldozers.


Obviously an ominous sign ahead of a possible assault on Gaza, all of that where the Israeli troops were gathering. And at one point when we were there, Jake, there were about, you know, over the space of, I guess, I would say 20 to 30 minutes, maybe 60 rockets that came in, literally lighting up that dome above us, as you can see them coming in. So it's incredibly active. And it is very clear from what we saw that when we talk about these numbers and you talk about all these Israeli forces gathering on the border, they are doing that and they are there and they are ready, and they are doing it in plain sight, Jake.

TAPPER: Erin Burnett, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Please stay safe.

I want to go now to CNN's Nic Robertson in Sderot, which is in southern Israel, just a few miles from the Gaza border.

Nic, you've been reporting all day that you're seeing an increased tempo where you are, more explosions, more rockets, more troops. Tell us what's happening this evening.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and we've seen tank fire as well this evening, Jake, we haven't seen that so far. We know that tanks are down there behind us on that hill of the land that slopes away from here down towards the fence with Gaza are about two miles away. We've heard them maneuvering. We heard them firing tonight. But we've also heard something close to here that we really haven't heard with such intensity since we've been here.

And that was heavy machine gunfire coming from the hill, just over there. It was coming from a small community about a mile and a half away where the Israeli Defense Force found and cornered and neutralized in their parlance three Hamas militants who had been holding out somewhere in the area. But that gun battle, that exchange of gunfire, heavy machine gunfire went on I would say for a good 10, 15 minutes. There were flares put up towards the end of the battle, I guess, so the troops could see what they were doing, get a better visibility on the enemy. And the Israeli Defense Forces very quickly announcing three Hamas operatives killed in that location.

This has been the concern that there'll be more of them around. That's why I think we're seeing these high level of foot patrols in this town. But this evening as well, unlike last night, Sderot getting a lot of artillery coming out of Gaza, a lot of intercepts going on here from the Iron Dome, they only have a few seconds to do it because Sderot is so close. And a lot of earlier on in the evening, we were hearing a lot of heavy artillery fire, huge explosions in Gaza. But in the tempo of this war is taken a downbeat in the past hour or so and it's relatively quiet.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus of the Israeli Defense Forces. Thanks so much for joining us.

The U.S. has specific intelligence suggesting that senior Iranian government officials were caught off guard surprised by Saturday's attack by Hamas. This does not mean that Iran couldn't have been involved in some way. We know that Iran funds Hamas. But it could cast out on the idea that they were directly aware and involved in the planning and plotting. That's according to sources familiar with U.S. intelligence.

What do you make of that? That does seem to contradict what Israeli sources are saying?


I suppose you're referring to the "New York Times" rebuttal to the Wall Street Journal. And for from my perspective, what we're looking at, what we are seeing at our level of detail is Iranian hands everywhere, Iranian fingerprints everywhere, and whether or not -- and this I don't have finite Israeli intelligence that I can declassify and say yes or no whether or not the Iranians have their hands on the button and unleashed this horrible atrocious attack against Israel knowingly or whether they were just indirectly responsible for it by providing the weapons, money, military training, political guidance and know how to harm us is a little bit less relevant. It is important if they were directly involved, that definitely escalates the situation. But from our point of view, Iran is the source of all evil around us in the Middle East. They are the ones who are providing -- building and providing for all of our enemies.

There is not a single enemy today of the State of Israel that isn't on the Iranian payroll, that doesn't rely on Iranian weapons, know how, equipment and political guidance.

TAPPER: Today a senior Israeli official told CNN that Israel and Egypt may begin allowing U.S. citizens and some Palestinian civilians to leave Gaza via the Rafah border crossing in the south. Power is now obviously out in Gaza. Lots of properties are being destroyed as we speak. There are obviously many civilians who have been killed in the bombing campaign. Time is of the essence. How soon will this exit for innocent people be available?


CONRICUS: I definitely understand the urgency here. It is not something that we in the idea for part of, this is, I think discussed by the higher echelons, minister of foreign affairs, prime minister and et cetera, with their counterparts. I can say that we understand the situation. I want to emphasize again, I've said it before and I want to say it again, the civilians in Gaza are not our enemy, and they are not the target of our operations. And when there's footage showing so called civilian buildings being reduced to rubble, it's important to understand that based on our intelligence, those so called civilian buildings were used by Hamas for military purposes. There is no indiscriminant attacks of buildings in Gaza --

TAPPER: Well, sir, with all due respect, with all due respect. And look, what happened Saturday is absolutely horrifying. But with all due respect, how good is your intelligence in Gaza anymore?

CONRICUS: Fair question. Definitely fair question. And believe me, I have thought about it myself many, many times in the past days as this unfolds. There are definitely tough questions to answer about the quality and the timeliness of our intelligence. I can say that there are different types of intelligence. It's one thing to be able to eavesdrop on your enemy, and to foresee or predict these activities. And it's another type of intelligence to be able to track movements and identify military targets.

The latter, I think, is still very much intact. And I've seen personally, many types of targets that we have, the resolution of the intelligence, as in whose house it is, which Hamas commander uses the facility or what the officers in a certain building are used by Hamas for. And I can tell you that the intelligence is solid. And it is focused and that we are striking targets that are directly related to Hamas, and not targets that don't have anything to do with their military capability.

TAPPER: You're not really saying that every single missile that hits within Gaza, and I don't even know how many have hit since Saturday. And again, look, I understand the desire and the need to go after the Hamas threat. I'm not questioning that. But you can't really be arguing that every single missile is hitting a Hamas target.

CONRICUS: Every single missile is intended for a Hamas target. There is definitely clearly like in any campaign or in any bombardment in dense urban terrain, there is collateral damage. Yes, that is clear. And that is the unfortunately, part and parcel of combat in urban terrain. And again, it is also part of how Hamas has structured its deployment in Gaza. They rely on the severe --

TAPPER: Is the end game here the elimination of Hamas totally. Is that the end game? And if so what comes after that?

CONRICUS: Those are questions that I think will be answered a little bit ahead of time, and I don't have answers for them now. What I can say is that our military aim or the military capabilities of Hamas, that is what we are targeting at this time.

TAPPER: Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

CONRICUS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Up next, our other major story, we're going to go live to Capitol Hill where House Republicans met behind closed doors today and nominated Congressman Steve Scalise to be the next House speaker. The problem, he does not have 217 votes to actually become the next House speaker. So, what happens next? I'm going to talk to a House Republican about what happens next and whether or not we're ever going to have a House speaker. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have much more ahead from the Middle East. But right now we're switching to another major breaking story in our politics lead because we do not have a functioning legislative branch of the government here in the U.S. after a long contentious day on Capitol Hill. Republicans have kind of settled on Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana as their candidate for speaker of the House, sort off. Let's quickly get an update from CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, so a majority of the conference picked Steve Scalise to be their nominee but it doesn't look like there are 217 votes to actually make him their speaker.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. In fact, Steve Scalise is far short of then votes he needs to be elected speaker. He was nominated by a majority of the conference. He needed to surpass the 111 vote threshold. He got 113 votes.

But in order to get elected to the House, you need 217 votes. And we are told that he has more than a dozen short votes short at the moment and right now he is meeting -- will be in his office with members individually trying to assuage their concerns. But leaving those meetings, a number of those members are indicating they have concerns everything ranging from his views to his positions on some key issues, the fact that he's been in the leadership, as well as one member raising concerns about his health because Steve Scalise now battling blood cancer, though is treatable and says he's on the mend, there's some concerns about that in the ranks as well.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Making that happen overnight.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I'm not supporting Steve Scalise. I'll be voting for Jim Jordan.

RAJU: And why is that?

GREENE: Well, Jim Jordan presented a strong plan for us, a detailed plan on how to move forward. We didn't hear that plan from Steve Scalise. It was more vague answers. But there's another situation that's very personal to me. You know, I lost my father in 2021 to cancer.

And unfortunately, Steve is going through a cancer battle of his own. And you know, I like Steve Scalise a lot and I like him so much, I would like to see him put his full efforts and to defeating that.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I'm concerned he doesn't have the votes to get to 218. And so we should probably resolve that before we go to the floor.



RAJU: Now Thomas Massie left Scalise's office and said that Scalise was down about 20 votes at least. Even though both Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene voted for Jim Jordan behind closed doors, they still plan to at least -- Marjorie Taylor Greene says she will still vote for Jordan on the floor when that vote comes, unclear when that vote will happen, Jake. But Jordan plans to vote for Scalise and will nominate him for speaker, encouraging supporters to do so as well. The question is will they actually listen to him? At the moment, some of them are not.


TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much.

With us now, South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace. You endorsed Jim Jordan, so I'm assuming you voted for Jim Jordan today. If the vote for speaker were today, would you vote for Steve Scalise?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I would not. I plan on voting for Jim Jordan on the floor. I've been very vocal about this over the last couple of days. I personally cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone who attended a white supremacist conference and compared himself to David Duke. I would be doing an enormous disservice to the voters that I represent in South Carolina if I were to do that.

TAPPER: So this is a reference to in 2002, Scalise spoke before an extremist group founded by David Duke called the European American unity and rights organization in 2015, when this was first reported, Scalia said it was a, quote, "group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn. It was a mistake I regret and I emphatically oppose divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold," unquote. Is this the main reason why other Republicans are concerned about Scalise? I can't believe that Marjorie Taylor Greene would be upset about this.

MACE: Well, she mentioned his health as a reason that she was not supporting him. There are others that don't understand what the path is moving forward on spending bills or continuing resolution. There are others with me that have -- that represent districts that would not support someone who attended those kinds of events in the past. And so, you know, also as a woman, I have grave concerns as a woman in balancing the, you know, protecting life and protecting women's rights. And so, we were supposed to have this vote today at 03:00 p.m. on the floor, that vote has not happened because he does not have the votes.

It's the number that I'm seeing is far higher than 12 will not be voting for him on the first round. But if we're going to have this, the American people want us to get back to work. Let's have this debate on the floor. Let's move forward. Let's find someone who can bring us all together

And let's get back to work. We have a very divided world right now when I see what's happening in Israel. We want someone -- I want someone who's going to be a leader and bring our country together.

TAPPER: Do you think Jim Jordan is the guy to keep the country together? I mean, Congresswoman Liz Cheney has made it pretty clear that she thinks that he was one of the main plotters to under undo the election and push Vice President Pence to try to flip the electoral vote. And Adam Kinzinger said the same. Is he really the unity candidate you're suggesting?

MACE: Well, I am someone who voted to certify the Electoral College every vote that night on January 6, and I was a very vocal person who was opposed to what happened on January 6. We're not going to agree on everything. Certainly with any speaker, that's what this is about. We need to find someone who can bring us together. And if it's not Jim Jordan, then you know, who else will it be?

And I think there's some other names being tossed around. But my vote will go to him, at least on the first round on the floor.

TAPPER: You were asked about the charges and the allegations, I should say, being made about Congressman Jordan, when he was an assistant wrestling coach, I believe at Ohio State University. This was Sunday, and you said you didn't know anything about it. I assume you've read up on it.

MACE: I have since learned --


MACE: -- a little bit more. And again, I mean, this is -- these were, I guess, adults -- this is something that should have been adjudicated in a court of law. I don't know that it has been. And again, we can't make decisions based on rumors, we should make them based on facts. I do want to move our country forward.

I want a leader that we can trust and who's going to work hard for the American people and can bring even in some cases, both sides together on different issues.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, I'll just suggest that there are grown men who today are saying Jim Jordan knew about this doctor who was molesting them, and he's a liar, and he shouldn't be speaker. But moving on --

MACE: I mean, has that been adjudicated in a court of law would be my next question. I mean, where's that? So, yes.

TAPPER: I'm just saying they're saying it on the record. But beyond that, moving on, who are some of the consensus candidates if it goes to a third round, fourth round, fifth round? I've heard Congressman Patrick McHenry's name out there. I've heard Tom Cole or Tom Emmer. Who are some of the other possible individuals who you think maybe could get to 217?

MACE: Well, I think Jim Jordan is not out of the mix. I've talked a lot of people who still support him. I've actually talked to Democrats who trust him at his word. I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility.

TAPPER: Jim Jordan?

MACE: Yes, I've talked to Democrats over the last week on who do they trust even though they wouldn't agree with him on many issues. He is someone --

TAPPER: The Jim Jordan I'm from Ohio?


MACE: Oh, yes the Jim Jordan from Ohio. I talk to people --

TAPPER: Democrats in Congress?

MACE: Yes. They can work with him. And those that I talk to --

TAPPER: Name one Democrat from Congress that trust Jim Jordan.

MACE: I am not going to name people off the record. They trust him more than they trust the former speaker. In my private conversations with Democrats, I will say that. I will also say that other names that I've heard are Patrick McHenry, like you said, and also Tom Cole, really what people want is someone that they can trust and who will be true to their word at the end of the day.

TAPPER: OK. I'm not sure I'm buying the thing about Democrats trusting Jim Jordan.

MACE: I talk to people on both sides now all the time, Jake.

TAPPER: Oh, I believe that. I believe that. I just don't know how much I believe the thing about Democrats trusting Jim Jordan. But -- MACE: I'm not saying they're going to vote for him. I'm saying they

trust him more than they trust the former speaker.

TAPPER: Well, that's not really a high bar now, is it?

MACE: Not at all.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, always good to have you on. Thank you so much.

MACE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Back to Israel, next, where reservists are being called up to join the fight. What the citizens turning to soldiers mean for the battles ahead. We're on the ground with them next.



TAPPER: We are back with our breaking news coverage and you're looking at video from earlier today of Israeli tanks and troops gathering in southern Israel. More than 300,000 Israeli reservists have been called up as the country prepares for a possible ground operation in response to the surprise terrorist attack by Hamas on Saturday. Remember, Israel has conscription. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is on the ground in Ashdod and has this report on one of the largest mobilizations in the history of Israel.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a military base in southern Israel, columns of Israeli Merkava IV tank stand at the ready, awaiting orders for an invasion of Gaza that everyone expects, but no one has yet commanded. This is a country on a war footing.

(on camera): The Israeli military has called up more than 300,000 reservists, it is one of the largest mobilization efforts in this country's history. And this right here behind me is that mobilization efforts in action, you are witnessing thousands of reservists, Israelis from all across the country coming to this military base in southern Israel to begin to prepare for the next phase of this military campaign.

(voice-over): But it's not just the scale that makes this mobilization different.

ALON KAMIL, IDF RESERVIST: I've been in all the campaigns in the last 30 years, never something like this.

DIAMOND (voice-over): For the soldiers converging on this base, the shocking brutality of Hamas is surprised terrorist attacks, is still reverberating.

KAMIL: Every person in Israel has lost someone, every person. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in Amsterdam until Wednesday morning until Monday morning, I came here, you know, to release to the army to fight those bastards.

DIAMOND (on camera): It's a very emotional moment.

OR LEVI, IDF RESERVIST: A very emotional moment. Yes, when you see children die and keep nodding. It's like any mail, it's not.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Driving down roads east of the Gaza Strip, preparations for the next phase of Israel's military campaign are everywhere. Trucks loaded with ammunition, armored vehicles, thousands of Israeli soldiers mobilizing, and just seven miles from the Gaza border, this formation of armored personnel carriers.

(on camera): We are about a dozen kilometers from the Gaza border about six or seven miles. And what we are seeing here are the preparations for what many people in Israel believe is going to happen next. And that is the possibility of a ground invasion, you can see here, armored personnel carriers, perhaps nearly two dozen of those, as well as trucks and you see soldiers all here preparing for the next phase of this war.

(voice-over): But amid the preparations for tomorrow's battle, today is still very much alive.


DIAMOND: And Jake, just to put that number of 300,000 reservists being called up into context that is 4 percent of Israel's population. But perhaps what is more startling is that that number is nearly equal to the number of total forces in the U.S. military reserves. That number is 331,000. And when you consider the fact that the U.S. population is 34 times larger, it really helps you understand the scale of this mobilization effort here in Israel.

Now the question is what happens next? We simply do not know yet. But all of the soldiers we spoke to today, all of those reservists, they all seem to believe that they are likely going into Gaza. But so far, the Israeli prime minister and his new emergency governments have yet to actually announced or make that decision. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

As we look again, at Gaza and the calm sky, at least for this precise moment. Why did this attack on Israel? Why did it happen now? Why Hamas? Who's funding Hamas? We'll try to make some sense of the intelligence coming in so far. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back. CNN reporting that U.S. intelligence believes that senior Iranian officials were caught by surprise by Hamas's ruthless terrorist attack on Israeli citizens, Saturday. Some U.S. officials and lawmakers remain convinced, however, that Iran had more of a direct role that is the conclusion at least of Israeli leaders.

Either way, this part is crystal clear. For years, the Iranian regime has been the chief sponsor of Hamas, providing weapons and technological and ideological support and a significant, significant amount of cash. In 2022, Hamas's leader publicly said that Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the E.U., received $70 million from Iran and use the money to build rockets.

And in 2020, a U.S. State Department report found Iran gave about $100 million annually to Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas. CNN's chief national security correspondent Alex Marquardt and CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner join us now. Beth wants to walk us through the Hamas-Iranian regime relationship have they gotten closer in the last few years? Or has it always just been like a client-state relationship?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, they've definitely gotten closer over time. I mean, we have to remember that Hamas, a Sunni group came out of the Muslim brotherhood, you know, long time ago.


TAPPER: That's what's weird about it is it's a shiatsu --

SANNER: Right. And so that's partly why there is somewhat of a different relationship between them and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Hezbollah is like the child of Iran. They literally like birthed and raised Hezbollah. And they have this symbiotic relationship. Whereas Hamas and Iran are very close, and all the things you said in the intro could not agree more. Iran is Hamas's patron, but they probably don't have operational control.

And so, you know, I think these things are very nuanced, though. So what do we mean by direct support?


SANNER: And that these are definitional things that are going to be driven by politics and emotion.

TAPPER: Alex, the Biden administration officials had been focusing on whether the Iranian regime had direct involvement. It's clear Hamas would not exist right now without the support of the Iranian regime. And obviously, the White House is worried about this escalating and involving Iran in the Iranian regime in a more direct way. There's almost an incentive built in to not want to bring the Iranian regime in. In the same way you could say the opposite is true for Israel.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think Israel, to some extent, could also be worried about bringing Iran --

TAPPER: That's true too, sure.

MARQUARDT: -- this conflict. They've had a lot on their hands right now, when it comes to just Hamas. And you're absolutely right, that Hamas would be a shadow of what it is. Right now, we're not for these years and years and millions of millions of dollars of funding. But Jake, there's a huge difference between being broadly complicit in this attack, as the administration has said Iran is and having a direct role in it.

If they had a direct role, that would beg -- that would raise the question of, so what do you do in response? What's the retaliation? Iran -- Israel could then reach out and strike Iran. Then there'll be questions raised about whether the U.S. gets involved and this conflict could expand exponentially very quickly. It wouldn't just be about Hamas, the proxy in Gaza, it would be about all the Iranian proxies all across the region, whether it's the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah to the north and Lebanon groups in Iran -- in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. And so that's why this question of Iran's direct role or not, is so important, huge implications.

SANNER: And remember, we have 900 troops still in Syria.

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: On the dime.

TAPPER: And Beth, take a look at the map. There's been fighting on Israel's border with Lebanon, and an eyewitness tell CNN they saw rockets fired from Syria, into Israel, how likely is it that Hamas set off intentionally or unintentionally, but I'm sure it will be intentionally, a wider regional war where there was a Hamas political leader on an Arab speaking channel talking about how this was coordinated to be a wider regional war with operatives in Syria, in Lebanon and elsewhere.

SANNER: So look, we know that they were talking beforehand that they were coordinating and that Iran, Hezbollah, PIJ, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas were all at these meetings, at least starting in April. So we know that they were talking about attacking Iran. So there's some sense that there is a coordination --

TAPPER: Attacking Israel.

SANNER: Israel, sorry. But how far does it make sense for Hezbollah to go and for Iran to go now? So the real question is, you know, do these countries, as you say, want to be in a direct conflict, not just with Israel, with the United States. We have said that we put that carrier there. And we've warned them directly, indirectly, saying, if you strike, we are going to retaliate. Don't do that.

TAPPER: Yes. The message from Secretary Blinken to Iran to others is don't.

MARQUARDT: Now is not the moment.

SANNER: Now is not the moment. But I would say that like, OK, I don't think that what's happening today is about a direct, you know, like, they're not going to start today if they're going to enter the war. They're going to wait for a ground incursion. They're going to wait, Hezbollah. TAPPER: Yes.

SANNER: Whether Hezbollah enters the war or not, is the big question whether this can be contained or not. And so that is going to depend a lot on what Israeli actions are over the next week.

TAPPER: Do they really think that they can wipe Israel off the map? I mean, is that really the goal here?

MARQUARDT: Well, it certainly is a stated goal, both by Hamas and by Hezbollah. And Beth is absolutely right. But at the same time, there is certainly a need that Hezbollah fields to show that they are doing something. They can't just sit back and do nothing, even if there is a sense. And there is a sense, Jake, from both American and foreign sources who we speak with who analyzed Hezbollah. But they don't necessarily want to get involved in a full scale war.

We have seen a flurry of activity on that northern border. We've seen Hezbollah militants who have been killed by Israel. We've been seen Israeli air raids. We've seen a growing presence and warnings in the north but there have been these overt and more covert say goes to Hezbollah, do not get involved. We know that the U.S. has reached out to the Lebanese government. We know that the French have reached out to Hezbollah. But as Beth says if there is an Israeli incursion, then there certainly could be Hezbollah stepping it up.


TAPPER: All right. CNN's Alex Marquardt and Beth Sanner, thanks to both of you.

What faith leaders are telling people especially those waiting for word of their loved ones who are still missing. I'm going to talk to a rabbi who was inside a synagogue in Israel when Saturday's attack began.


TAPPER: This was the scene over Gaza just a few minutes ago, Israel has stepped up its attacks on what it says are Hamas targets in Gaza. We should note there are also obviously civilians in the Gaza Strip. Hamas -- the IDF says embeds within the civilian -- live -- civilians in that sub Gaza Strip. The White House's efforts are underway to try to get a escape mechanism for those civilians both Americans and Palestinians so they can leave Gaza.


My next guest was in a synagogue in Israel when the terrorist attack started on Saturday on the Sabbath. He's a rabbi who has been supported families who are fearing and hearing the worst Rabbi Michael Miller, thank you so much for joining us, first of all, how are you and your family doing as everybody accounted for?

RABBI MICHAEL S. MILLER, CEO EMERITUS: Thank you very much, Jay. Thanks for having me on the show. The answer is we're holding on. It's a very tense and somber mood right now. And we do have -- with all of our family members are accounted for but we do have nephews and a niece who are in the Israel Defense Forces who are in the IDF and grandnephew, grandniece. So we're tense, but hopeful, very, very hopeful.

TAPPER: Today, you witnessed folks lining the streets, as the family of a soldier who was killed, took his body to be buried. Tell us about that.

MILLER: Yes, so in our neighborhood, tragically, one of the numerous Israeli soldiers who were killed in Saturday's attack was laid to rest. He was killed on Saturday, they couldn't bury him until today, Wednesday, which, as you know, in Jewish law, we are buried as quickly as possible once we leave this physical world. But that couldn't take place because there are so many variables that are going on in the country now.

And the residents of the neighborhood or wanting to line the streets, or holding Israeli flags and giving strength to the family as they were taking their son to the cemetery to be laid to rest. And there was also a visual of teenagers that took place, the other night of singing together holding on to each other. This was a very, very moving experience. For me as a rabbi, of course, I've conducted many funerals. But seeing Israeli young Israeli soldier only 21 years old, Row E. Wiser (ph) being laid to rest was very, very moving. And I kind of put so much into perspective.

TAPPER: These attacks took place, not only in the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which was also a sneak attack on Israel, but they took place on the Shabbat or the Sabbath, also on a Jewish holiday. And Saturday was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. I don't know if you knew that that day or you knew it a day or two later. Did you have services Saturday morning, what was Saturday, like?

MILLER: Saturday was disjointed. I went to services as I always do. The services began at 8 o'clock in the morning. And it's about a 10- minute walk or so. We don't drive on Shabbat so and the holiday. I walked to the synagogue and the president of the synagogue made an announcement that there were sirens in the South and in Jerusalem, and just let us know where the shelters were.

And it didn't take very long, maybe 25 minutes before a siren went off. And we all rushed to the shelters actually, I definitely made it into a shelter. I wasn't room for me. I was in a stairwell that we went back at 10 minutes all clear. We went back into the services. And very shortly afterwards, a second siren went off. And this time I was able to get into a shelter. Somebody from the local security team came and told us on Hebrew that the danger was at a high level.

And the rabbi decided that he was going to suspend services. The most dangerous part of the day for me was that 10-minute walk back to my apartment, where I was just utterly exposed. And when I got back to the apartment, ultimately there was a third siren. And thank God we have a safe room here and we went into the safe room. But that was the day just waiting and you become very sensitive Jake to sound. And when you heard booms, you knew that the Iron Dome was at work and shortly after that the siren goes off. And we're attentive to that at all times.

TAPPER: I only have about 40 seconds before I have to give the show to Wolf. So forgive me because this next question is a tough one but how on earth do you consult people during this time when we hear these horrible stories about what these terrorists did to babies and the kidnapped people and the kids who were dancing and are now dead? I mean, what on earth do you need to say to these families?


MILLER: Yes, there really is nothing that can be said. There is something that I learned when I was a chaplain in United States Army. It's called the Ministry of Presence of just being there, putting an arm on them, a hand on them, just being in their space, just showing love. Because the pictures that we've seen of the atrocities are unspeakable, they're chilling, they're sickening the repugnant. Any word they can use that that's a synonym of any of those words. So what can you say?

What do you say to someone who is loved one or what was taking captive was taken hostage into Gaza? We would like to, we'd like to believe that Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces will do everything they can to retrieve those individuals are the ones who were killed. We just have to continue to shower all these loved ones with our love.

TAPPER: Yes. Rabbi Michael Miller, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

MILLER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer is next in the Situation Room. See you tomorrow.