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The Lead with Jake Tapper

IDF Says Hospital Blast Caused By Errant Islamic Jihad Rocket; Today: Biden Departs For High-Stakes Visit To Israel; Israel Prepares For Next Stage Of War Against Hamas In Gaza; Hundreds Believed Dead In Gaza Hospital Blast; Israel Converts Underground Garage Into Hospital. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 17:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The lead. I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, the chaos on Capitol Hill. The Republican House dysfunction continues as the fight for a new speaker of the House continues to sputter after a Republican Representative Jim Jordan failed to get enough votes. The House has recessed at least for the time being.

Leading right now, another tragic turn in the war in Israel in Gaza. Hundreds of people have been killed by an explosion at a hospital in Gaza according to the Palestinian health ministry. These images you're seeing show fires raging with an ambulance feet away inside the hospital. We see images of devastation with this blurred image of a dead body in a hallway. It's the Al-Ahli Baptist hospital in the center of Gaza City, which was reportedly housing hundreds of those already injured by airstrikes.

Perhaps many more seeking shelter from those strikes. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank declared three days of mourning for the victims. As of right now, CNN cannot tell you definitively who is responsible for the strike. The Palestinian health ministry controlled by Hamas is saying that Israel was responsible. They're calling it a war crime. Israel is of course bombing the area and Israel's strikes have killed hundreds of civilians without question. But Israel also points out that Hamas has been known to blame its own misfiles -- missile misfires on Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces is saying unequivocally that this is the result of an Islamic Jihad missile misfire. We will bring you the facts of this incident and as soon as they can be established.

Another grim number just in to our newsroom, at least 17 journalists have been killed during the Israel Hamas conflict. Seventeen, that's according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All this on this eve of President Biden's expected visit to Israel, trying to calm any tensions in the region before an expected larger ground invasion by Israeli forces. We're going to start with CNN's Erin Burnett, who is live in Tel Aviv for us. Erin, as President Biden prepares to head to Israel, this would be his second visit to a war zone as president. Horror is unfolding in Gaza. Tell us what Israeli officials are saying about this attack, this hospital tragedy?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well, they would agree it's horror and obviously a great loss of civilian life, whatever the numbers are, we have no idea, right? They initially had heard 4,000 people were sheltering there, maybe 1,000 dead then 500 -- 300 to 500 now from the Hamas controlled government. As you point out, Jake, we simply don't know the scale of it. But the IDF says that this barrage of rockets fired from Gaza, that they had identified one, they know where they're coming from, they identified a barrage coming up, right, that's how they get their Iron Dome to calculate in order to intercept and that there was a group of these that passed over the hospital around the time the hospital was hit. And as you point out, and you use the words very specifically, they are actually not blaming Hamas, they're blaming Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad is another Islamic radical group in Gaza.

And that is who they are blaming for this particular horrific strike. They're saying they have intelligence from multiple sources, Jake, that point to that. And they are also saying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here that the IDF at the time was not conducting operations around that hospital. So, that's what they're saying right now. We'll see as we get more information. But as you and I both know, even if one were to formally ascertain exactly what happened and who was to blame, in the court of global public opinion, it may not matter.

TAPPER: And you have some new reporting on weapons left behind by Hamas.

BURNETT: Yes, Jake, I mean, this is incredible, right? When we talk about the crime scene, the horrific crime scene of his terror attack, I actually went to an Israeli military base, and by the way, Jake, this base is ready to go. Thousands of mats where soldiers are sleeping, just undercover, you know the giant garages where you might store large military equipment now being repurposed for military, for people to sleep. And also that that's where they're gathering these caches of weapons that they're finding.


I mean, Jake, it's incredible, hundreds of grenades, hundreds of grenades, which they've wrapped up with tape to keep the pens down, RPGs, all of these from the Al-Qassam brigades, mortars, hundreds of IEDs, anti-tank mines, even some mines Jake that have a basically a magnet on the end of them, it looks like a giant crowbar with a magnet on the end and they traditionally will stick them to tanks to cause them to explode. It's a different type of anti-tank mine. But they say they're finding them all over these kibbutzim and they're finding them stuck to civilian cars. So everything that they're gathering here came from the streets that we've walked and bury. I mean, it littered and they're collecting them.

Also, Jake, we had a chance to see them. And it is incredible when you see them, you see the stamp from Hamas on them. You see the ones that came from Iran, you can see the manufacture date. So all of that is very clearly visible. But they're also saying they found, you know, groups of say 17 cars full of dead terrorists who were eventually killed by IDF forces and then they have to deep booby trap those and deal with those dead bodies.

So that's -- we had a chance to see just these weapons that they've seized. And it is incredible amount of weaponry, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Erin Burnett in Tel Aviv, Israel, thank you so much.

This devastating attack at the hospital on Gaza comes as President Biden is expected to depart shortly from Washington, D.C. on Air Force One for his trip to Israel. Source familiar with the Biden administration says the president is likely to give the benefit of the doubt to Israel and who is responsible for this attack. CNN's Kayla Tausche is at the White House for us.

Kayla, how does this hospital attack impact the President's trip, if at all? And what are you hearing about how the Biden administration will respond?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, so far, it doesn't appear that the hospital attack is impacting the President's trip, at least not at this stage in the planning. At least one White House official has told CNN that the trip is expected to go ahead as planned, and at least half a dozen officials that are -- that were contacted by CNN's White House team were not responsive or did not know whether there would actually be an official U.S. response to this. Now CNN's Jenny Hansler at the State Department is reporting that that source familiar says that the Biden administration will give the benefit of the doubt to Israeli rationale for that attack over what Hamas is saying here. But certainly it comes at a very precarious time with the Palestinian Authority president canceling his meeting with President Biden and other regional leaders. The two had just spoken by phone three days ago, and talked about the need to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza to get some of these people out of that highly populated region and also to preserve stability in the West Bank and in the region writ large.

And so not having a boss in that conversation will certainly dilute what President Biden is able to achieve as part of that. But even so, there are very high stakes and very clear objectives for Biden, as he goes on this very extraordinary wartime trip. You know, there were discussions behind the scenes about securing some sort of humanitarian aid package. That was something that Biden wanted very clearly before he signed off on this trip. And U.S. and Israeli officials wanted to know that the groundwork would be laid for that before any ground invasion into Gaza war to take place.

He also wants to try to do what he can to secure the release of American hostages, and to keep this war from spilling over into the region.

TAPPER: All right, Kayla Tausche, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Let's bring in Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a former Israeli ambassador to the U.K.

So Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. Israel is saying that the hospital was hit by a misfired a rocket launch by Islamic Jihad, one that fell short. The Israeli government has posted some video on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. I mean, I'm looking at the video here. I don't really know what I'm looking at.

I can't interpret it. That doesn't mean it's not real. I just don't know what it is. Is there more proof? Is this definitive proof? How sure are you that this was not an accidental strike by the Israeli Air Force or the Israeli military?

MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: When at the beginning, we were investigating, it took us a time to find out exactly what happened and I'm in a position now to tell you and I can tell you unequivocally that this was an Islamic Jihad rocket. Israel knows it. And I have to tell you, Hamas knows it too. They are -- they know it was an Islamic Jihad rocket. And they are deliberately putting out this story for their own propaganda purposes.

Islamic Jihad has had problems with its rockets fears in previous rounds of violence. Some 33 percent of Islamic Jihad rockets fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip often killing people. And that's apparently what has happened now. And of course, Hamas doesn't want to admit that. How could they? From their point of view, this is a propaganda opportunity.


Let's blame the Israelis for terrible violence. It wasn't us, pure and simple.

TAPPER: There is a lot of damage for one, rocket. And I'm wondering if you could comment on that. And also, if you have shown or will show the U.S. government, the Biden administration, that proof and any other proof you have of this being the responsibility of Islamic Jihad.

REGEV: Without going into details, I can already tell you that there have been conversations between the Israeli side and the American side. We have shared the knowledge that we have, the information that we have with the Americans. And let's be clear, Israel does not target hospitals. It just -- it's not in our DNA. We don't do it.

At the beginning, we were concerned could it have been accidental Israeli audience because anyone can make a mistake, the United States can make a mistake, France can make a mistake, Britain can make a mistake, Israel can too. So we checked out the possibility that this was an Israeli mistake. But it wasn't. This was Islamic Jihad. It was their rocket, it fell short.

And as I said before, not just that we know it here in Israel, Hamas knows it too and they are deliberately lying. TAPPER: Islamic Jihad is part -- is Islamic Jihad part of the target list, because I know you're going after Hamas in Gaza. Is Islamic Jihad also part of who you are targeting in Gaza?

REGEV: Yes, they are the junior partner of Hamas. And they are the little brother so to speak. They are dangerous. They are funded. If Hamas is funded 93 percent by Iran, Hamas -- Islamic Jihad is 100 percent.

It's a small organization, it has -- but it is very extreme. And it is -- as I said, it's a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary. And they are very dangerous. And in the past, they fired rockets into Israel. And as I said, in many cases, in -- 33 percent of the cases, their rockets malfunction and they land in the Gaza Strip.

We had a documented case in the previous round of fighting, which I think was in 2022, if I remember correctly, where there was a case where a family was killed in a refugee camp. And of course, they were all saying, oh, terrible Israel. And then once again, it was proved conclusively that this was ordinates from Islamic Jihad that had failed and killed Palestinian civilians. And that's apparently exactly what's happened now.

And most importantly, not only Israel knows this, I said for the third time, Hamas knows this too, and is deliberately lying to the international community. But I suppose, Jake, if we consider what Hamas has done over the last few days, yes, that massacres of innocent civilians, we should not be surprised that they have no problem in killing the truth. Because if they kill human beings, if they kill babies, they can kill the truth too.

TAPPER: What is the latest on the Rafah crossing and the desire to get Palestinian Americans out of Gaza and the desire to get relief and aid into Gaza? What's the latest on that? What is the holdup on that? The Egyptians blame Israel? The Americans and Israelis were blaming Hamas, at least when it came to trying to get Palestinian Americans out. Is any or -- is any progress being made there?

REGEV: Well, I'd like to tell you that there's been progress made, but unfortunately, it hasn't. It was supposed to happen yesterday. We reached understandings together with all the relevant parties. And there were American Palestinians who were about to leave and we thought it was a done deal. And then Hamas turned around and said no, and it's -- they kept them in Gaza.

And it's almost as if the 200 Israeli kidnapees, the people who were abducted and taken back to Gaza who are Hamas' hostages, it's almost as if Hamas wants the American Palestinians also there's the hostages. One of the explanation you have for why they refuse to let them leave, and this is another sign of Hamas' brutality. They're playing hardball, not just with Israel, but with the United States as well.

TAPPER: President Biden is still slated to arrive in Israel tomorrow. What is the goal of Prime Minister Netanyahu for his conversations with President Biden?


REGEV: Well, first of all you want to say thank you. I mean President Biden has been amazing in the moral leadership he has shown since this crisis erupted on October 7. He was unequivocal in the language he used in condemning Hamas and the support he's shown for Israel both in his statements and in his actions. The resupply of weaponry to Israel, the moving of the aircraft carrier task forces to the eastern Mediterranean. America has been there, it has shown itself to be a friend.

And when the Prime Minister greets President Biden tomorrow on the tarmac, and he thanks him for the support we've been receiving from the United States, I think the prime minister will be speaking for all Israelis. America is our friend, America is our ally and we want to express our appreciation.

TAPPER: Mark Regev, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

REGEV: My pleasure.

TAPPER: Coming up next, I'm going to talk to retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus about the conflicting reports of what happened on the ground at that hospital in Gaza and much more. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Just moments ago we saw President Biden get into his presidential motorcade. He's headed to Joint Base Andrews where he will then aboard Air Force One and the plane will take off and he will depart on his trip to Israel. He is expected to arrive tomorrow.

And fusion is of course playing out in Israel in Gaza over the cause of the hospital blast, horrific, hundreds are dead. Just moments ago, you heard a senior aid to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu telling me that the IDF is asserting unequivocally that the blast was not because of Israel, it was the result of a misfire rocket fired by the militant group Islamic Jihad.

Let's go now to retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus, also the former director of the CIA. He has a brand new book titled "Conflict, The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine."

General, always good to have you on. One of the things that struck me about the book, which is an area of expertise, which is something that I hope the Israelis are reading is about urban combat, and the 2004 battle of Fallujah, the largest of the Iraq War, bloody, costly, street by street. And we had General Kimod (ph) here not long ago. And he was saying that what Israel is going to face with the Israeli forces are going to face in Gaza will be probably even more grueling than Fallujah. What do you think?

LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTCOM: Oh, it'll be orders of magnitude more difficult. The enemy has had months to prepare the defenses, they'll undoubtedly employee improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, car bombs, tunnels, a lot of infrastructure that they have, they know the territory very, very well. And it's many times the size of Fallujah. We did a number of urban operations over those years, and more recently, we watched one that might be more appropriate as an analogy, which was the Iraqi Security Forces supported by a U.S. led coalition clearing the Islamic State out of Mosul, a city about the same size as Gaza City. And again, it's very, very challenging fighting in this hospital bombing. And by the way, I'll take the side of the IDF spokesman any day over Hamas, needless to say.

They're in a democracy, the truth is going to come out, they know it. And they've done apparently a very good and thorough investigation quite quickly. But in the case of urban combat, you're going to have tremendous damage to civilian infrastructure, you're going to have considerable civilian loss, you're going to take a lot of friendly casualties. You don't just have to clear every building floor or room basement tunnel, you have to leave substantial forces behind, or else the enemy will re infiltrate. You have to do this progressively sequentially.

You have to clear and hold, and then continue farther, spread the oil spot. In fact, it really should be thought of as a counterinsurgency operation, not just a conventional military operation, because you're fighting among the people. And because of the importance of not overlooking what happens after Hamas is destroyed. And by the way, the spokesman today said they also intend to dismantle the Hamas political structure, the political wing that's different from the military wing, which is the Hamas terrorists and also the Islamic Jihad terrorists.

TAPPER: Right.

PETRAEUS: But then the question is what next? Who's going to take over?

TAPPER: Right.

PETRAEUS: Who's going to oversee? The -- there has to be nation building. There's going to be restoration to basic services, repair of damaged infrastructure, getting schools, markets, clinics all reopened. You know that. We've learned all that sometimes the hard way.

We learned in the fight to Baghdad, that you've got to have a very good plan with a lot of different assumptions because once you take down the regime, and you turn to the folks that said, just get us to Baghdad, Dave, we'll take it from there, that plan proved inadequate. So I think the big subject of discussion, I suspect already between the Israeli generals and the political authorities, is about what comes after. They're going to take enormous casualties to do this. I believe that it's right to destroy Hamas but you can't have that for not. This can't be another case where you mow the lawn all the way down to the dirt in this case, but then you pull back out and the remnants will be able to reconstitute themselves. So what follows?


PETRAEUS: Could there be an interim international authority? What is it?

TAPPER: I doubt. I mean, the ambassador told me Sunday that they do not want to reoccupy --


TAPPER: -- Gaza. So, I mean, I think --

PETRAEUS: And the President has said don't do it.


PETRAEUS: So it has to be some other. So what --

TAPPER: The United Nation ensure the Arabs League or some group but these --

PETRAEUS: But they're going to have to fight because there will be an insurgency. You know, they'll try to retake control the remnants of Gaza and there will be of Hamas. There will be some of those there. So this is the real challenge, Jake. And I'm not sure it's getting quite enough attention.


In the book we talk about the importance of a strategic leader getting the big ideas right, this is crucial, getting the strategy.

TAPPER: Right.

PETRAEUS: Vengeance is not a strategy.

TAPPER: And that's my next question.

PETRAEUS: Component is some but you have to do more.

TAPPER: And that's my next question. Because I've been thinking about how, and understandably so, but how immediate and swift the response by the Israeli military was in the aftermath of Hamas' barbaric terrorist attack on October 7, which, of course reminds me of 9/11. And you remember when I interviewed you, when I did the documentary about 20 years of war in Afghanistan and I also interviewed General McChrystal for that same documentary, and he told me something interesting. And I want to get your take on it. Because I said, if you could go back, what would you do differently? Listen to your colleague and friend, General McChrystal.


GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), COMMANDER INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE 2009-2010: Right after the 9/11 attacks, I would have made a decision inside the U.S. government to do nothing substantive for a year. What I mean by nothing, no bombing, no strikes, et cetera. I would have gone around the world as the aggrieved party, and built up a firm coalition for what we do about Al-Qaeda. I would have done a mass effort to train Americans in Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, Dari to get ourselves ready to do something that we knew would be very, very difficult.


TAPPER: Now, I said to him, if you were president, you also would be impeached for not doing -- for not doing anything after the 9/11 attack.

PETRAEUS: But he has a point.

TAPPER: But he has a point.

PETRAEUS: He does have a point.

TAPPER: And I want you to talk about that, about the idea of --


TAPPER: -- you get horrifically hit but, you know, take a breath before responding.

PETRAEUS: Yes. Look, keep in mind, this is much worse than 9/11 --

TAPPER: Right.

PETRAEUS: -- in relative terms.

TAPPER: It's like 35,000 people being killed.

PETRAEUS: It's -- Jake, it's actually over 40,000 now.


PETRAEUS: Because they're up to 1,300. So, yes. And so that response, the desire for vengeance is absolutely understandable. And there should be vengeance, there should be destruction of the organization that did this, but not if you haven't thought through what comes after that. And that's, I think, the component of this, that certainly is not yet visible, I'm sure that they're wrestling with this.

I'm sure part of the reason the President is then going to Amman, Jordan is to start discussing that. And one would hope that some of the Arab countries, in particular, in the region that have often expressed sympathy for the Palestinians will contribute to some kind of effort that would enable the rebuilding. And so -- and Prime Minister Netanyahu, I think, should provide a vision for what will life will be like for the Palestinian people, not just in Gaza, by the way, but also in the West Bank, something that has just been looming out there for quite some time in any event.


PETRAEUS: Let's let this be a catalyst. Remember, after the 73 War, all of a sudden you had peace between the two warring factions between Egypt and Israel and arrangements with Syria and Jordan as well, of course, a very different situation. Henry Kissinger, I was just in a meeting with him, he could call for people and get that deal done. President of Egypt, Assad in Damascus, the king in Amman and Golda Mier.


PETRAEUS: There's nobody here to do that. So you've got -- this is much more challenging in that regard. And I'd contended the military task here --


PETRAEUS: -- is more challenging as well. It's not tank on tank out in the desert. Certainly there was an existential moment for Israel when Egypt achieved the early success. But once that was resolved, that was a straightforward military operation. This is much more than just an offensive operation. To clear hold and build --

TAPPER: Absolutely.

PETRAEUS: -- you have to then have what's going to follow.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Retired General David Petraeus, maybe they should call you. You'd be good to helm this.

PETRAEUS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: The book is "Conflict, The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine." Please check it out.

Coming up seen it as live on the ground in the Israeli town of Sderot. It's essentially become a ghost town since the Hamas terrorist attacks. Up next you're going to hear what the residents who decided to stay there are saying. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have a live look now at Joint Base Andrews. President Biden is expected to board Air Force One momentarily to depart on his trip to Israel in the region. He is going to do this even after the horrific hospital blast in Gaza though the administration is expected to defer to Israel on who was ultimately responsible for that attack. Israel of course blaming Islamic Jihad. They say that it was a missile misfire. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Israel just north of Gaza where there seems to be an eerie calm before the storm.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Sderot, a mile from Gaza is deserted. Ninety percent of residents have gone. Even abandoned pets are learning when to run, bolting with incoming rocket warnings. It is an eerie replace. The police station overrun by Hamas 10 days ago, bulldozed flat.

(on camera): You can hear the sound of the drones in the sky all the time. Over here, the shell casings from the firefight still here, bullet holes in the wall still there. It's like everyone is waiting for the next move.

(voice-over): For local effects shows that next move is President Biden's visit.


AYELET SHMUEL, DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL RESILIENCE CENTER, SDEROT: I don't know what Biden is thinking. I wish I knew. If I could be a little bird in his ear, I tell him, hey, if you take a stance now, I believe that if they will take a stance and not fold, we'll be able to get our people back all the hostages.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Over the years, Sderot has become synonymous with resistance to Hamas's rockets. It's one of the most fired upon Israeli towns. Today, politicians here to show their solidarity. Boaz Bismuth is a member of the Prime Minister's Likud party.

BOAZ BISMUTH, LIKUD KNESSET MEMBER: We shall never put our friends in America in a position where they will feel uncomfortable, meaning we're not going against civilians.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And Biden is he going to tell you that that to respect that and for you to take that very tough decision to not go into Gaza right now because that will just inflame the region.

BISMUTH: I think that President Biden and any American president knows exactly the morale of the Israeli army. And we know how to put limits to ourselves. But there is one thing we shall not put a limit is the fact that commerce will not exist.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): To do that, a military ground incursion into Gaza appears inevitable.

(on camera): Along the border with Gaza here, there's a real sense of calm before a possible storm. The number of strikes compared to the last few days seems to be down. And that town you can see there with the tower blocks, that's Beit Hanoun. It was one of the first places the Israelis targeted in that 2014 incursion. And it could be again now.

(voice-over): Tour guide, Robbie Berman came to Sderot to tell journalists about his fund to offer Gazans money for helping free hostages. His message for President Biden is typical of many here/.

ROBBIE BERMAN, ISRAELI TOUR GUIDE: Put pressure on Arabic countries to allow those innocent Arabs, those innocent Palestinians in Gaza who are not supportive of Hamas, to get them visas to go into other Arab countries.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And all those Palestinians that would go out into other Arab countries. Does that not for Palestinians look like 48 or 67 just losing their homeland again?

BERMAN: Yes. And it's sad. It's sad for the Palestinians. Life is sad. War is sad. Collateral damage is sad. I feel for the innocent Palestinians. Enough, we can't live under this terror anymore. ROBERTSON (voice-over): More of that terror in Sderot just hours before President Biden's anticipated arrival, several missiles from Gaza crashing into the town.

(on camera): This looks like the fin of the missile over here. And you can see where it came. It smashed through the outer wall through that window through this wall here ending up here. Everything inside the house torn apart. Fortunately, when it hit, no one was home.

(voice-over): Hard to remember a time in the Mideast when an American presidents powers were more tested.


ROBERTSON: And I think it's really striking, particularly as we've heard from so many Israeli politicians, we've heard from the Israeli Defense Force this evening from the president's office, from the foreign ministry as well about this hospital that it was an Islamic Jihad rocket error that caused all the casualties in the hospital this evening.

A politician we're speaking to they're talking about not wanting to embarrass President Biden, not causing civilian casualties. And I think perceptions here take over the environment. President Biden comes into is one where in Gaza, the perception is inevitably going to be that this was despite what Israel says, this was an Israeli missile strike. It's very hard to break that perception.

So trying for President Biden to try to move the ball forward to try to calm Israel's strength of feeling at the moment about crushing Hamas and how to do it, to General Petraeus's points there in your discussion just a little while ago, Jake. This is going to be a huge, huge challenge in this now very even more emotionally challenged environment.

TAPPER: Indeed, Nic Robertson in Sderot, stay safe my friend, thank you so much.

A live look again at Air Force One, President Biden will depart in just moments for this high stakes trip to Israel in the region. Back home of course, his potential 2024 rivals are weighing in on the conflict one of them will join me next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Amid this conflict between Hamas and Israel and the dysfunction among House Republicans. There is of course also another big story, the race for the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Joining us now is Republican presidential candidate, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Thank you so much for being here. It's so good to see you.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, good to see you again. TAPPER: So let's talk about the conflict in the Mideast. We're still learning more about this cause of this hospital blast. It's believed to have killed hundreds of people in in Gaza. If you were president of the United States right now, how do you think you would be handling this crisis?

SCOTT: Well, the first thing you do is make sure that there's no daylight between America and Israel. I would say standing shoulder to shoulder and back to back with no daylight is so important. And what we saw is an atrocity that just makes your heart sick. Evil brought upon the Jewish people in Israel with a massive objective to eliminate Jews on earth, not just Israel, but everywhere they are, 6 million in America. We've seen anti-Semitism continue to grow. We have a lot of work to do.

One of the ways that we help is to make sure that we support primary Prime Minister Netanyahu's efforts in a wiping Hamas off the map. I am thankful for the way that he started the process, which is to send the signal into Gaza to get out, being very specific to give civilians that access opportunity a way out is something that was afforded to the people of Israel.


TAPPER: Also important I think don't you think to send the message to the world and in the United States, Hamas is not the Palestinians, as you are clearly suggesting with the corridor. And Hamas is not Muslim Americans and Arab Americans. We saw that horrific crime in Illinois the other day.

SCOTT: The other guy who stabbed the six-year-old was disgusting, that's murder, that person should be put in jail, period. No question about that. But we should not stand for hate at all. And we should certainly stand with our allies. We must be loyal to our allies, while being lethal to our adversaries without any question.

TAPPER: One last question on this is just, what lessons do you think, what lessons have you learned as an American from 9/11? And how this country reacted to 9/11, the war on terror, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, that you think Israel should have learned or could learn so they don't make the same mistakes that maybe we made?

SCOTT: Well, I think what you're going to see is a proportional response, which is eliminating Hamas as a proportional response, number one. Number two, doing it in a way that actually gathers support, gathers allies, the morality that they're going into Gaza, with so far is something that I think is important for -- important distinction going forward. I think you saw that with our 9/11 response as well, I say the third thing that you learn is the importance of having allies and having a Western alliance.

One of the challenges that we see with Hamas, their objective, as I said earlier, it's not just eliminate Israel or Jews. The third part of that tranche that they're looking at is the elimination of Western democracy as we know it today. And so the lessons that you can learn from 9/11 and apply it to today are the lessons that I think I feel coming out of Israel and certainly specifically out of the Prime Minister, as it relates to discipline, refrain from responding immediately.

He's taken a couple of days. That's really important, as it sends a message throughout the world that the moral compass is intact in spite of seeing your peoples. Gosh, beheading of the kids, burning the bodies that so, so charred, having the discipline after the attack, sends a strong message of leadership.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Tim Scott, good to see you. Sorry, we're squeezing, it's crazy show today because of chaos on the Hill. Please come back soon. Good to see you. It's been too long. Thank you so much.

SCOTT: Yes, sir.

TAPPER: Coming up, I'm going to speak to a doctor on the ground in Gaza as the hospitals are overflowing and running out of the fuel and the supplies they need. Stay with us.



TAPPER: As Israeli forces continue to battle Hamas and Gaza, one hospital has come up with a creative solution to keep patients and staff safe during war. CNN's Sara Sidner takes us now inside an underground parking lot that has been transformed into an operational hospital.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A doctor checks in on a patient, just an ordinary day in the hospital except there's nothing ordinary about where this is taking place.

RONNI GAMZU, CEO, TEL AVIV SOURASKY MEDICAL CENTER: This is the bunker underground hospital. This is a functioning hospital in the highest level. Every service, every technology, everything that they need, we provide them. And everything is being supplied here.

SIDNER (on camera): It has the look and the feel of a regular hospital with all the things that you'd expect, except for when you turn the corner and you can really see this is an underground parking garage, at least it was.

(voice over): Vehicle parking spaces are now for patient beds, driveways for push carts. This is how Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center is preparing to treat patients in wartime.

(on camera): So it's as perfectly normal as usual in the most abnormal scenario.

GAMZU: Exactly. Yes. This is the right place to put it.

SIDNER (voice over): This is the result of 14 years of planning for war.

GAMZU: We planned this underground hospital 14 years ago, more or less after the second Lebanon war. Tel Aviv was for the first time, got missile attack.

SIDNER (voice over): That was then, before Hamas stormed across the border by land, air and sea on Shabbat, killing, kidnapping and maiming men, women, and children.

Several floors above the hospital bunker, 60 hospital beds are now filled with victims from the Hamas attack.

TOMER ZADIK, INJURED IN FESTIVAL ATTACK: I went to a party with my friends. It was a music festival. And then, 6:30, something like that, it all started.

SIDNER (voice-over): He and his friends managed to jump in their car, but then --

ZADIK: There was a squad of terrorists that just started spraying at us, shooting without conscience.

SIDNER (on camera): Just shooting at you just indiscriminate?

ZADIK: Yes, just shooting without conscience.

SIDNER (voice over): His car among those abandoned on the side of the road. He ran and hid for the next five hours, blood pouring from his arm where a bullet smashed through his skin and bone.

ZADIK: There is no one in this world who wants peace more than I do. Trust me. I've been (INAUDIBLE). I got shot over peace. I don't want this - none of us wanted this to happen.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you still think that peace is possible?

ZADIK: Wow. I used to believe in peace all the time. But right now, after seeing what I saw, it's Yitzhak Rabin who was the prime minister of Israel said something very important.

SIDNER: Yitzhak Rabin.

ZADIK: Yes. He said that peace you don't make with friends, you make with enemies. But even enemies, need to be human beings.


SIDNER (voice over): No matter who you are, this hospital will treat you deep below the earth's crust. It has already moved a whole section of the hospital to get the staff and patients prepared for life below during war.

SIDNER: What do you think about being in a parking garage?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's enjoying every minute of it.

SIDNER: Does this feel different this time?

GAMZU: It feels different because we know that we -- it's not like kind of a limited operation. It's a wartime.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Sara Sidner for that report. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Just in the CNN, the White House says that the summit between President Biden and several Arab leaders in Jordan has been canceled. This comes as President Biden departed on his trip to Israel just moments ago. We're going to continue to monitor this trip and the confusion and chasm playing out between Israel and Palestinians over the hospital blast that killed hundreds.


If you ever missed an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show where you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer, he is in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.