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The Lead with Jake Tapper

IDF Tanks Raid Gaza As Israel Preps for "Next Stages of Combat"; Manhunt Underway After Gunman Kills 18 in Maine; Iran Warns U.S. "Won't Be Spared From This Fire" If Israel Doesn't Stop Retaliating Against Hamas"; Loud Bangs Heard Near Suspects' Last Known Home. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 26, 2023 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm standing on a rooftop overlooking Tel Aviv, where about an hour ago, the Iron Dome defense system intercepted a number of Hamas rockets, headed right towards downtown here. It is just after 11:00 p.m., in Israel and Gaza.

It has been 19 days since the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas caught this country, and frankly, much of the world by surprise.

Tonight, we are learning about a raid carried out inside of Gaza, by Israeli troops and tanks, as the Israeli Defense Forces prepare for a ground incursion into Gaza.

But, only in America, what I have to interrupt war coverage abroad, to cover hideous acts of violence, a pair of deadly mass shootings, in a bowling alley and a restaurant in the United States.

Right now, a massive manhunt is underway for 40-year-old Robert Card. Police say he is the suspect, in the two shootings last night, that killed at least 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, just north of Portland, Maine. Schools, banks, offices in the surrounding areas, have all been shut down today, as a precaution. And other government offices and businesses throughout the entire state of Maine, also closed, as the manhunt intensifies.

Law enforcement officials tell CNN that Card is a certified firearms instructor, in the member of the U.S. Army Reserves. The officials say that Card had recently threatened to carry out a shooting at a National Guard facility. And, he reported mental health issues, including hearing voices. And, that led to Card being sent to a military hospital, where he spent a few weeks under evaluation. This was as recently as the summer, according to sources.

Now, Maine does not have many gun safety laws in place, that are available in other states, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control, gun safety group. Maine does have a so-called yellow flag law in place that would allow police to remove guns from someone deemed a threat, if a doctor and a judge agree that the person is a threat.

It is not clear if that law would have stopped the gunman in that case, this case involving Mr. Card. That's an issue that we're going to investigate later this hour.

Now, many of Maine shooting victims, both those killed and wounded, have not yet been identified. We have confirmed three of those who were killed.

Family members told a local TV station that Joseph Walker was killed, during the restaurant shooting. They say police believe that Joseph grabbed a knife, and went after the gunman, and that's when he was shot.

A 40-year-old Bryan Macfarlane was also killed, at the restaurant. His sister says that Brian usually went there on Wednesday night, to play cornhole with other members of the deaf community in Maine.

Fifty-three-year-old Tricia Assellin was killed, at the nearby bowling alley. Her mother will hopefully join us in a few moments, to talk about her life.

We are going to start with CNN's John Berman, who is live for us in Lewiston, Maine.

And, John, investigators have been working very working theory, as to why these two locations were targeted?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Yeah, Jake. You know first of all, greetings from Lewiston, Maine, this community at some 40,000 people, where there is now a shelter in place order. People are told to secure their homes, and secure their cars.

The working theory, or a working theory in the investigation, our John Miller is reporting that investigators are looking into the possibility that Robert Card had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and these two locations, Just-in-Time Recreation, which is the bowling alley, and Schemengees Bar, which is right behind me here, that they were places that they would go together frequently, as a couple.

So the theory is, perhaps these two locations were targeted because they are places where he had been, with an ex-girlfriend. And in fact, a bowling alley, one of the things they're looking into his whether this girlfriend had been signed up to participate in some kind of event at the bowling alley.

You know, as for the bar, Schemengees, behind me as you reported, Bryan Macfarlane age 40, part of the deaf community, he was killed there doing a cornhole competition, which is something that people in the deaf community apparently did every Wednesday night here.


So a well-known place, that had a lot of regulars. Both the bowling alley and the bar had a lot of regulars in the theory is that they were known locations to Robert Card, and perhaps intentionally targeted, Jake, because of that.

TAPPER: And, John, we are learning that the Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard is now involved in the search for Robert Card. What's the latest on the manhunt?

BERMAN: Yeah. That's interesting, Jake.

So the shooting took place, the first shooting, 6:57 at the bowling alley, 7:06, 7:08 at the bar behind me. But then the suspect's car, Robert Card's car was found in Lisbon, a town about ten minutes from here. And it was found at a boat launch, right on the Androscoggin River. There are lots of rivers and waterways in the oceans not too far from here either. So the coast guard, we are now told, is involved in the search from the air looking down on the possibility of votes moving in the various waterways, and obviously the Coast Guard also looking on the water as well. One might assume that it includes the Androscoggin River, which passes through this area. And also, perhaps out into the Atlantic itself, when you have ports like Portland, and other areas that are on the main seacoast. It just goes to see the extent of this search, which includes the wilderness, the mountains. And some pretty heavily populated areas, Jake. The greater Portland area which Lewiston as part of, has some half a million people living here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. John Berman in Maine, thank you so much. We will check back with you later in the program.

CNN's Brian Todd is also in Lewiston, Maine, with heartbreaking reaction from yet another American community, torn apart by gun violence.


GOV. JANET MILLS (D), MAINE: This is a dark day for Maine, but our hearts are broken.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maine's governor, Janet Mills, expressing the depth of pain her state is facing today, after a shooter went on a rampage, killing 18 people and injuring 13 others, at two different locations Wednesday night. The suspect, 40-year-old Robert Card, an army reservist who spent two weeks in a mental health facility this past summer, is still at large, more than 20 hours after the first shots were fired.

MILLS: There are still too many things we don't yet know about these attacks. But the full weight of my administration is behind law enforcement's efforts to capture the person of interest.

TODD: An entire community, asked to shelter in place. Schools and businesses shut down as law enforcement continues a massive manhunt. Witnesses left in shocked.

MEGHAN HUTCHINSON, MOTHER OF SHOOTING SURVIVOR: She was grazed by a bullet when we were running.

TODD: I never thought I would grow up, and get a bullet in my leg. And it's just like, why? Like, why would people do this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of nowhere, he just came in, and there was a loud pop. I thought it was balloon. I had my back turned to the door. As soon as I turned and saw that it was not a balloon, he was holding a weapon, I just booked it, down the lane, and I slid basically where the pins are.

PAUL ENGLEHART, LIVES NEAR SHOOTING SCENE: We look out the back window, saw a sea of lights, and then all we could hear was silence. I mean, it was a lot of police, obviously. But you hear all of the ambulances, like they were running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

MAYOR JASON LEVESQUE, AUBURN, MAINE: I mean, I don't think there is going to be very few people in this community that have not been touched by this.

TODD: Many are asking, were warning signs missed? According to a National Guard spokesperson, the shooter was reported as behaving erotically, at an army training facility this past July. And sources say, he made statements about hearing voices, and wanting to shoot up a National Guard base. He was then transported to an army hospital, for medical evaluation.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: I am sure there will be a lot of review of, this and a lot of analysis. Was there something missed? Was he deemed a danger to himself, or someone else?


TODD (on camera): And, we are now at the scene of the first of the shootings, the bowling alley is right behind. That is the Just-in-Time Recreation center. You can't see, that but it is beyond this police vehicle, FBI and other vehicles have been coming in and out, processing evidence all afternoon.

We can also tell you this afternoon, Jake, is that according to a former colleague of, his who is in the army reserves with the suspect, Robert Card. He said, Robert Card was a very skilled marksman and outdoorsman, who is one of the best shooters in their army reserve unit. We were also told by sources that Card owns hundreds of acres of land in Maine, along with several legally purchased firearms, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd in Lewiston, Maine, thank you so much.

Eighteen lives, 18 lives were tragically lost during this horror, that broke out in the bowling alley in the restaurant in Lewiston main last night, and this evening. We are starting to learn more, of the details of who these victims were.

CNN's Jason Carroll takes a look at their lives.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MILLS: This city did not deserve this terrible assault on its citizens, on its peace of mind, on its sense of security. No city does, no state, no people.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The magnitude of what happened last night, coming into focus, as authorities remove the bodies of some of those who perished in the shooting at the Schemengees bar and grill restaurant. Police say of those who were killed, seven died at Just-in-Time Recreation, a bowling alley in Lewiston, while eight died at the bar nearby, including Leroy Walker's son, who he says was managing the bar when the suspect began shooting.

LEROY WALKER, SON KILLED IN SHOOTING: When you get anything that happens like this, you go -- you go empty. And it's just nothing, nothing you can do, you've got those, like a monster inside of you. And your head feels like it's going to fall off.

CARROLL: Minutes away from the bar, at the bowling alley, more victims and more tragedy.

Tricia Assellin worked part-time there. Her brother says she was shot and killed while trying to call 911.


CARROLL (on camera): And Jake, I also want to just bring in here, we also just got some latest information about another victim here, his name, Bryan Macfarlane. Apparently, his sister says that he was deaf --



TAPPER: Sorry about the technical problems folks, but we're back live in Tel Aviv.

And more now on our breaking news back in United States. The FBI is pouring resources into the manhunt in Maine for the suspected shooter, who killed 18 people, and injured 13 in Lewiston, Maine. Experts who have been sent in to help include an evidence response team, SWAT negotiators, a behavioral analysis unit, crisis managers, and a cellular analysis support team, which is team that tracks cellphones.

With me now is CNN's chief law enforcement, and intelligence analysts John Miller.

John, the list of FBI resources I just tick through, does anything stand out to, you from this list? And what might that tell you about the state of the search for the suspected shooter?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the FBI has brought the full package as far as things that they can do to support local law enforcement. A couple things jump out. One is, the people from be BAU, the behavioral analysis unit, those are the FBI profilers. They understand mass murderers, active shooters, serial killers. And, what they are going to do is try to give insights into what they can glean into his state of mind and they did research warrants today one on the house, and another property on his land, and the car.

What they're looking for -- the notes, the computers, the things that they tell them, where this was coming from, where he's going.

Also, the crisis negotiator, the crisis negotiators, are the hostage negotiators. They bring those people in, along with the idea that if it becomes a barricade situation, you have people who have been studying him, people who are trained to talk to somebody who is under pressure, to try to slow things down and bring it to a safe conclusion.

So, that's some of what you see in that package.

TAPPER: John, law enforcement sources told you that a working theory, about the shooter's motive, might have to do with his recent breakup with his girlfriend?

MILLER: So, he had a breakup with his girlfriend. Before that, he lost a job. Before that, he had a mental health crisis over the summer. That was what had been reported earlier about hearing voices, and having feelings that he was going to hurt other soldiers.

So when you take those three things together, the mental health crisis, losing a job, losing a girlfriend or a relationship, these are what they would refer to as stressors. And when you take two or three on top of each, other and in rapid succession, where you have somebody who is experiencing a mental health crisis, that can be the kind of thing that can lead to this.

The target selection seems to be places he used to go, with the girlfriend who he broke up with. And, people that she would be, with if she were there that night. And, Schemengees, the bar that he opened fire in, was having a cornhole tournament, where she was, they believe, he thought she was supposed to be in that tournament.

So, it is possible that he was returning to the places that they used to go together, and that he may have been looking for her as well.

TAPPER: I know they're probably lot of people in the U.S. and around the world, who are thinking he heard, voices how is he able to have guns? And we are going to explore that, later in the show.

John, it's been more than 20 hours since the first shots were reported at the bowling alley. And the manhunt for Card, presumably began shortly thereafter. How far away could he be by now? It has been a long time, really?

MILLER: Well, he could be pretty far away, or, he could be right next door. And that's because, where the 20 hours that have passed there or so, he could have traveled a long distance, if he was moving the whole time.

On the other hand, you know, he was -- he dumped the car by a vote launched, and by the entrance to the woods. Did he go into the woods? Did he have a boat waiting or steal one? Did he have a switch car?

Right now, they don't know that information. So, they are looking near, but they are also looking far. And, they are trying to kind of press on, what his world might, be in terms of family or friends, or others that he might reach out to, that might help give them an answer.

But, he also may feel so isolated at this point, that he is not communicating with anyone. And Jake, we circle back to this question which is, there he was on camera, in places where he knew he was going to be, recognized, where he knew his photograph was going to be captured on security video.


He didn't wear a mask, didn't put his hood up, didn't have a hat on or glasses. Yet, he made a concerted effort, a successful effort to escape. So, the question on the minds of investigators, and those hunting for him now are, is it just because he thought he could get away, and stay away? Or, is it because there is a another leg to this plot, a another target perhaps, some other capture to this, they are not aware of. And of course, that puts them under a good deal of pressure.

TAPPER: How does the man hunt change, as time goes by? Especially if this turns into days, or weeks?

MILLER: Well, we have seen this before. You know, the hunt for Eric Robert Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber when he ran into the forest in North Carolina, literally went on for years. And, they didn't find him until he came out to garbage pick some food multiple years later. And a patrol officer happened to spot him, and, didn't even know who he was when he stopped, immediately.

But generally, this is a person who yes, has some training, some wherewithal, an outdoorsman, a marksman who is armed. But, I am not sure that he has the resources to defeat a manhunt that's literally using every tool, every mindset, and every technology known to modern man hunting, for too long.

TAPPER: The shooting happened in two different locations. The bowling alley at the bar and grill. That's about a 10 to 15-minute drive, between the two spots. Is that common in a mass shooting? More than one location, and 10 to 15 minutes apart?

MILLER: Well, we have seen multiple location mass shootings. But, these were separated by three or four miles, he is driving at night, he had his vehicle, so it wouldn't take him long to go between them.

And, each one of them had meaning to him, and the same meaning. And I think when he went for the first one, you could -- you could surmise that when he, when he opened fire there, and either didn't find his ex girlfriend, if that's what he was looking for or, decided that his mission was accomplished, he went to the next one the other place that they used to go together and did the same thing. TAPPER: I always, I have to say I always find it I don't know,

questionable. I'm always kind of curious about the decisions by these towns, when there is a manhunt, and they go into a complete lockdown in schools and businesses close. I understand the fear.

But, it is not sustainable for a long time, and there is part of me that wonders if it actually makes anxiety worse? How do police reconcile public safety, with the need for people to live their lives?

MILLER: Well, it's a double edged sword. And, it's hard to explain to someone who is standing on the other side of the world, were missiles are falling, and shots are being fired, and lives are being taken each day.

But if you think of the Boston marathon bombing, right? Think back to that, Jake, and they put Boston on lockdown. The suspects were at large, they had shot a police officer, they were on the loose.

And, you know, Boston is called the city of jaywalkers. You know, they don't follow any rules, and yet they complied. The streets were barren, people stayed at home.

And what happened next? There was a wild gun battle. The suspects were throwing bombs at the police. And then, one of them escaped, one of them was apprehended, at the scene. And, they found him, really the next day, when a neighbor noticed a blood stain on a piece of canvas that he had over his boat.

And they surrounded the boat, and of course, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted in that case, had been hiding inside.

My point is, you never really know which way these things are going to go. They are dynamic, they are unpredictable, and that's because they are driven by the perpetrators, not by the investigators.


John Miller, thanks so much. Good to see you again.

Coming up live here from Tel Aviv, the targeted raid, Israel's military made in Gaza. What that might mean for a future ground incursion.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are live from Tel Aviv.

And there are new signs that Israel might be closer to launching a ground incursion into Gaza. The Israeli military said overnight, it carried out what they called a targeted raid into northern Gaza. And this video released by the IDF, you can see images of tanks, and armored vehicles, including a bulldozer, moving on a road near offense, and firing artillery.

The IDF said last night's raid was, quote, intended to create better terms for ground operations, if and when that comes in, unquote.

Let's bring in CNN's Clarissa Ward, who is live for us in Cairo, Egypt.

Clarissa, this raid comes, as the U.N. is warning the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is reaching a real critical point.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And we don't really know very much about what this raid entailed, beyond what the IDF has told us, which you already outlined. It was a-limited raid, it was in northern Gaza. There were tanks involved, armored personnel carriers involved. There was some artillery fire, and the goal of it was to try to prepare the ground, for a possible ground offensive coming forward.

We have heard this continuous drumbeat, coming from Israeli forces, and also Israel's government, trying to hammer home this idea that this ground offensive is going to happen, even as we have seen a continued delay in that ground offensive actually taking place. That presumably due to a number of factors, but primarily, pressure from the U.S., and other parties, who are deeply involved in these efforts to get hostages outside of Gaza.

And all of this happening, as you mentioned Jake, alongside the deterioration that we are seeing, inside of Gaza of humanitarian conditions, particularly with regards to fuel.

You may remember the U.N. agency, the primary U.N. agency that is operational inside of Gaza, UNRWA had said a couple of days ago that they were going to have to suspend operations on Wednesday night, if they didn't get more fuel.

Today, they have kind of caveated that, if you will, and they have said that they are now in a phase where they have had to start rationing fuel, have had to start choosing where they deploy their fuel. They said they have been able to give less to bakeries, to hospitals. And that by tomorrow, if they don't get any more fuel, they may be forced to completely suspend their operations, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Israel says obviously, that they won't allow fuel into Gaza because Hamas controls Gaza, and Hamas will use that fuel for their own purposes, including firing rockets into Israel.

What about food and water? What is the issue there? Is Israel allowing food and water in for the innocent Palestinians?

WARD: They are allowing food and water in, but what we have seen going in is really just a trickle. So, another 20 odd trucks went in today. Keep in mind that more than 60 percent of the population, in the best of times, is dependent on food aid. You have more than 1 million people, currently displaced. You have some of the most heavy and punishing bombardment, that, in fact the most heavy in punishing bombardment to Gaza has ever seen. And a lot of that aid, Jake, is not getting to the north. The north is

the part of Gaza that Israeli forces have basically told people, you need to evacuate from these areas. But those hospitals are still burdened with many, many patients, also with displaced people. And they are not getting the eight that is coming in. And the aid that is coming in, according to the U.N., is literally a drop in the ocean, in terms of what is needed.

So, there are still a lot of intensive efforts ongoing, to try to open up a more sustained, continuous humanitarian corridor, and just to give you a sense of the sort of numbers that they are talking about. The U.N. says we really need 100 trucks a day, and we need those trucks to contain fuel.

So, aid trucks yesterday, twenty-something trucks today, it is something, it is important, it is desperately needed. But it needs to be a lot more, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa Ward in Cairo, thank you so much, appreciate it.

It is the personal stories that have, of course, continue to bring the tragedies of this war home. And coming up next, I'm going to talk to a man whose sister and her children, and one of his dear friends are missing. They are believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are back live from Tel Aviv.

Israel's military now says that 224 people, they believe, are being held hostage by Hamas. Men and women, and children, from countries including the United States, and Thailand, Argentina, and Germany. Most hostages, of course, are from Israel. And, we are going to continue to tell their stories.

On October 7th, an entire family from kibbutz Nir Oz was kidnapped, taken hostage by the terrorists of Hamas. The parents are Ronan and Karina Engel (ph). They have two daughters, 18-year-old Micah, and 11- year-old Yobal (ph).

I am joined now by Diego Engelbert. He's Karina's brother, and the girls' uncle. Also with him is the Engel family's friend Yaelli Zaidman. And Diego is not the best English speaker in the world, I am the English speaker, so he's going to do with he can. And he speaks Hebrew, you're going to help.

And so it has been two and a half weeks, it must be very difficult. I guess, how do you think they are doing?

DIEGO ENGELBERT, FAMILY TAKEN HOSTAGE: Just every day, we get up, and I only sleep two hours.

TAPPER: You sleep two hours a night?

ENGELBERT: Two hours a night, because when I close my eyes, icy scary movies, from -- what. And, we are going to I do what, I talk -- I need my family here.


ENGELBERT: Just, my big brother and sister.

TAPPER: Your big sister?



ENGELBERT: She's the eldest, and she is my best friend. And I miss him, I miss Micah, I miss Yobal.

TAPPER: Yeah, no, it is cruel. Tell us about the Engel family, what's your favorite memory of them?


ZAIDMAN: They are happy people, they met in Tel Aviv in a dog's park, and one day, they had their children, and they decided to move to a quiet life in the kibbutz at Nir Oz. And, they are just a good family. They are happy people, living a quiet life. And, we miss them, and we want them back.

TAPPER: So, Gal Gadot, who is Israeli, and obviously the star of "Wonder Woman" and many other films, they featured -- she featured your family's videos and pictures on your Instagram page. How did you -- how did you feel when you learned that perhaps Israel's most famous star, I don't think there's any questions about what, she is Israel's most famous star, shared their story? Or was that, did that give you any happiness to have her spread the word?

ENGELBERT: I need everyone to hope to my family, and other families. (INAUDIBLE) she needs to do the test.

TAPPER: She needs medicine still for her cancer?


TAPPER: What kind of cancer did she have?

YAIDMAN: Breast cancer.

TAPPER: So she is still --

YAIDMAN: Yeah, she is just recovered. Two months ago.

ENGELBERT: Two months ago.

TAPPER: So she still has medicines, you need to take. And then take it with, her obviously. ENGELBERT: And Micah, she's post traumatic syndrome, because she

lived in Nir Oz. And she takes medicine to, and Yobal, 11-year-old, yeah.

TAPPER: And it's just awful.

ENGELBERT: It is not right.

TAPPER: What is your message to the leaders of Israel? I mean, I know a lot of people are worried, and concern that the ground incursion shouldn't happen until the hostages are back. What are you --

ENGELBERT: It is not, it is nothing from Israeli leaders or official. It's all of the world's leaders.

TAPPER: All the world's leaders?

ENGELBERT: We want the families here where out walking. And we want my family, all must -- people need this family. It's so sad.

TAPPER: It is sad, it's horrible.


ENGELBERT: Well, you run the street, you see sad peoples. Twenty days, I have not smiled. Twenty days, where I started to cry. It is not only Israel problem. It's the world problem.

TAPPER: And what do you want to say to, what do you want to say to the leaders of Turkey and Jordan, and Qatar, and the people who might have influence with Hamas?

ENGELBERT: I don't want to speak because, well, the world say, what's going here. You know, this going -- take my voice, and put in the world -- we need these people home.

TAPPER: Yeah, they are innocent civilians.

ENGELBERT: Micah, 18 years old. Her whole life, what wrong she's do?

TAPPER: I know.


TAPPER: Put up the picture of the little girl, the 11-year-old, if you can. Because I was look at the picture, they brought posters before.

YAIDMAN: Yeah, she's near her father at the -- she is behind her father in the car.

TAPPER: Se looks like with my little girl look like at that age.

YAIDMAN: Only 11.

ENGELBERT: She is a little girl, she does Tiktoks. She is -- my little girl. She (INAUDIBLE) one day before the 7th of October, she sent my sister to Carina a little --

YAIDMAN: Reading.

ENGELBERT: Reading book.

TAPPER: Yeah, reading a book, yeah.

ENGELBERT: And she says, I want to say again, I want to say again. (INAUDIBLE) we can't listen to your, your message.


TAPPER: It's like life has stopped when --

ENGELBERT: I'm going to talk in Hebrew, okay? (SPEAKING HEBREW)

YAIDMAN: Wake us up at the same date, and this horrible day happened.

TAPPER: Yeah, everybody wants to just --

YAIDMAN: Yep, I have known him for the past two and a half weeks. I just, I see him break down.

TAPPER: There isn't a person in this country who it hasn't touched.

YAIDMAN: Yes, and I think about -- Micah, and all of the other people. And, we don't know what is going on with them. How they are treating them. So, we just want them home, to be safe with their families. Each person.

TAPPER: Diego, Yaelli, thank you so much for telling your stories.

ENGELBERT: Thank you.

TAPPER: We hope you get them back. We hope you get them back, thank you so much, we really appreciate it. It's not fair.


TAPPER: It's not fair.

ENGELBERT: Thank you.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD, live from Tel Aviv.

A strong warning from the rulers of Iran. Its foreign minister at the U.N. today said if Israel does not end its retaliation in Gaza against Hamas for the October 7th terrorist attacks, the, quote, U.S. will not be spared from this fire.

Concerns of a larger regional conflict, of course, are growing. And we have already seen it with clashes between Israel and Hezbollah.

CNN's Jim Sciutto is on the northern Israeli border with Lebanon.

Jim, what can you tell us about these latest clashes?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jake, two things become very clear, the moment you come up here. One is that Israeli forces are taking the threat from the, north of the threat from Hezbollah extremely seriously. There have been tens of thousands of forces, a rate up, here in a defensive posture for, now to prevent in effect what happen on October 7th, from Gaza. It happening up here in the north.

And the second thing that becomes clear, and I spent, and our team spent most of the day with Israeli forces on the northern border, is at the threat lazy from Hezbollah every day is very real. A triple threat, in effect, from sniper, fire rocket fire, as well as the threat of ground incursions across the border.

As we were there up close, they told us to move very quickly through what they knew to be lines of fire. They have drones in the air, armed drones, the Israelis do, looking for Hezbollah forces, just on the other, side to take them out, in effect, before they attempt to cross the border, which they say they have done many times. Of course, there was one case where they did cross the border a number of days ago.

And then, of course, there is a very clear connection between what is happening up here, and what they are nervous about is happening up here, and, events down south, an awareness that a large ground incursion into Gaza could spark a reaction from Hezbollah, as a message, in effect, from those leaders in Iran you were just referencing, Jake.

TAPPER: And, so much of the north, northern Israel has been evacuated. You spoke with the mayor of one of the Israelis cities that has been evacuated, what did he have to tell you?

SCIUTTO: That's right. We went to Metula, which is in the north. It's surrounded on three side, in effect, so sort of a finger, a thumb of Israel, projecting up into Lebanese territory, and surrounded, 270 degrees by Hezbollah-controlled territory. It is under mandatory evacuation, it is a ghost town there. The only people remaining are IDF soldiers protecting the city, and the mayor and his team.

And I asked them, what is it going to take to get people to come back here, to feel safe? Here is what he had to say.


MAYOR DAVID AZULI, METULA, ISRAEL: We don't want a war, we just want to end the current status quo and move Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. We can either make a peace deal for the Americans and Iranians, to make Hezbollah leave the southern front, leave the 5 to 10 kilometer radius at the border, or if not, we will have war.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: I listen to his message there. He was not alone. I heard that from Israeli soldiers as well. The idea that the status quo doesn't work, that having Hezbollah under threat of crossing the border, is enough to say, at least from their point of view, they want to see action, that they want to create a buffer zone inside Lebanon, which, of course, would require Israeli military action inside Lebanon, which they have done many times before through the years. But at a very, very high cost to Israeli forces, as well as two civilians on the Lebanese side. Not to mention, the potential reaction of Iran getting involved, at that point, and broadening this to a more regional war.

But when you speak to the folks there like that may or, they don't want to go back, to what it was like pre-October 7th. They want a feeling of greater safety, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Our other major story right now, of course, is the manhunt for the man believed to be behind the mass shootings in Maine. What CNN is learning about his military background, and a potential motive. More from Lewiston, Maine, where this tragedy, unfolded, next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

I'm standing on a rooftop looking out over Tel Aviv, Israel. It's midnight here in Israel and down there in Gaza, it's been 19 days since the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas caught this country. And, frankly, much of the world by surprise.

We're going to bring you the very latest on this war. But, first, we have to turn to our breaking news back in the U.S.

Just moments ago, a CNN crew on the ground in Maine, where that manhunt is underway for the mass shooter, that CNN crew heard loud bangs or explosions perhaps near the last known address of the Maine mass shooting suspect.