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The Lead with Jake Tapper
U.S. Says Some Americans Have Left Gaza, Now In Egypt; Israel Confirms Second Airstrike On Gaza Refugee Camp; Donald Trump Jr. Takes the Stand In New York Fraud Trial; Trump's Legal Problems Fueling Angry Campaign Rhetoric; Difficult Task Of Identifying Those Killed By Hamas. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 01, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C.
Tonight, as Israel ramps up its bombardment of the terror group Hamas, innocent civilians are finally being allowed to leave war-ravaged Gaza. An Egyptian official tells CNN that 361 foreign nationals left Gaza and entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing today. The U.S. State Department confirms some of those were Americans.
And sources say the group includes two American aid workers, Dr. Barbara Zind, a pediatrician, and Ramona Okumura, a prosthetics expert. One of Ramona's family members will join us live in moments for now. So stick around for that.
And the White House says it expects to get all Americans out of Gaza. A number believed to be around 400 within a few days. Dozens of severely injured Palestinians also were allowed to cross into Egypt today. And were rushed to Egyptian hospitals for medical care that they haven't been able to get inside Gaza.
Despite this small glimmer of hope in southern Gaza today, the situation in the north is getting even more grim. Israel confirms it is behind an air strike at the largest refugee camp in Gaza for the second day in a row. The IDF says it was targeting the Hamas command center at the Jabalia camp. Videos from the scene show a crater in the ground and people digging through the rubble for bodies.
I also want to make sure that you're aware, later this hour, we will air Jake Tapper's reporting on just how difficult it is to identify the bodies of those killed on October 7th and we should warn you, this reporting includes very disturbing images.
Let's start with CNN's Melissa Bell in Egypt.
Melissa, what are you hearing from those finally able to leave Gaza?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tremendous relief, of course, for the families of those that we're talking about. And as you just mentioned, we had confirmation that some of them are American citizens. We understood earlier today from American officials that they believe that the 7,000 foreign or dual nationals currently believed to be inside Gaza will be allowed out as part of the comprehensive deal for the first few to make it out today, tremendous relief.
BELL (voice-over): A tired smile, and a wave from one of the lucky few finally allowed to leave Gaza since the war began. These families just some of the first foreign and dual nationals finally permitted through the Rafah crossing into Egypt on Wednesday. The result of a deal brokered by Qatar between Israel, Hamas, Egypt and the United States that will allow all foreign and dual nationals to leave the besieged enclave.
Also allowed to leave under the deal, the first Palestinians, 81 of the most severely wounded, those desperate enough for urgent surgical intervention taken one by one in a convoy of ambulances to a field hospital set up a few miles away and to other hospitals in northern Egypt.
Large crowds of foreign nationals have been massing at the border after hearing at the start of the conflict that they would be allowed out. Families desperately checking to see if they were some of those lucky enough to finally get through.
ISMAIL ABU SHAABANE, AMERICAN-PALESTINIAN IN GAZA (through translator): I'm an American living in Gaza. We heard that the crossing was open but an fortunately it was open for specific nationalities and we had to turn back because the cellular network was down and we weren't aware there was a list. We hope to see our names on the list tomorrow or the next day.
BELL: As the only crossing from Gaza to anywhere other than Israel, all eyes have been on Rafah since the total siege of the strip was announced by Israel. It is the only way in and out now and what has gone in has been painfully little. Twenty trucks arriving on Wednesday, a drop in the ocean, say aid organizations, given the needs inside.
For some here, it is been days or even weeks of waiting and praying. With every dwindling supplies and the under constant fear of Israeli strikes, even here in the south where civilians have been told by the IDF to evacuate, nowhere in Gaza is safe.
So, finally, for a small few, a chance to leave and live again.
BELL (on camera): So, Pamela, for those still inside, even those who are foreign nationality and therefore should be able to leave, difficult days ahead. There are communications issue, how many of them are aware of the fact that they are able to leave and how orderly is their exit to going to be. These questions are yet to be answered, but I think what's important here today is that we've established that there's talks that are going on between parties, some of whom are not speaking to each other and speaking about Hamas and Israel and Egypt, within the mediation of Qatar and the United States, those talks are happening and they are working.
And that is, of course, good news after the families of the hostages being held inside Gaza as well.
BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Melissa Bell.
I want to bring in my colleague Wolf Blitzer now live in Tel Aviv -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Pamela, thank you.
I want to go to CNN's MJ Lee. She's over at the White House following these dramatic developments that are unfolding right now.
MJ, the State Department, as you know, has confirmed the first group of Americans finally made it out of Gaza earlier today. What is President Biden hearing about when more Americans will be able to evacuate?
MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is the first confirmation of American citizens leaving Gaza and are now in Egypt. We are understanding that it is going to be a small group of Americans that will be processed today and then more to come in the coming days.
The State Department, of course, has said previously that there are some 400 American citizens in Gaza that are trying to leave. That is in addition to the other 5,000 or so foreign nationals that are also in the same position. This, of course, is an arrangement that was reached after weeks -- days of intensive talks between many parties including U.S., Israel, Qatar, Egypt and Hamas.
And we know now that Hamas had pushed for Palestinians that were wounded in Gaza to be released. But that notably what they wanted was for some of their own fighters to be among the mix. That is a demand that we are told was rejected and then on the Egyptian side, we know there were some serious concerns about the possibility of Palestinians that leave Gaza and enter Egypt and permanently staying in Egypt and that was a concern that U.S. officials had been speaking to their counterparts in Egypt about.
We know that these are all details that President Biden directly discussed in phone calls that he had with his own counterparts in Egypt and in Israel over the weekend.
Obviously, this is a huge moment of relief for U.S. officials but one thing that this is not is a release of hostages. We know that there are believed to be American hostages in Gaza as well. But that is a separate negotiation and no breakthrough on that front yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. MJ, stand by. I know this is all coming as some of Israel's strikes on Gaza are
resulting in hundreds of innocent civilian deaths. What kind of pressure is President Biden feeling about the support that the United States is offering Israel and it has been very dramatic, that U.S. support.
LEE: Yeah, the Biden White House is confronting many tough questions about the mounting civilian death toll and particularly after these air strikes that hit the refugee camp in northern Gaza. But notably, Wolf, we did hear from the White House, White House spokesperson John Kirby just told reporters on Air Force One as the president was traveling domestically, he basically declined to specifically criticize any military actions that Israel has taken so far, including as they relate to these air strikes that targeted this refugee camp.
But this is a very significant concern inside of the Biden White House right now. The rising death toll that we have been seeing among civilians in Gaza, we have heard U.S. officials saying from the very beginning that it is very important that Israel tries to minimize civilian casualties and a lot of critics, of course, are starting to say that they are plainly not seeing that happen on the ground.
BLITZER: MJ Lee at the White House for us, thank you, MJ.
We've been following this story of one American stuck in Gaza -- following very closely, that one American that we've been following, Ramona Okumura. She's a 71-year-old pediatric orthopedic specialist from Seattle, and she made prosthetics for children in Gaza for the past seven years. A volunteer,
Okumura was there on October 7th. Since then she's been staying at a United Nations compound and has tried repeatedly to get out of Gaza. Today, good news. She finally did.
Let's bring in Ramona Okumura's niece Akemi Hiatt.
Akemi, thank you so much for joining us.
You and your family members were on a text chain when you finally found out your aunt was finally able to get out -- to get out of Gaza. What was it like hearing she was able to cross that Rafah border crossing into Egypt?
AKEMI HIATT, NIECE OF RAMONA OKUMURA, AMERICAN RELEASED FROM GAZA: Thank you.
Yes, we were on pins and needles. We heard from the State Department only at 6:00 p.m. Hawaii time last night, and she crossed this morning around 5:00 a.m. my time. So, the entire night was definitely a rotating cast of family members keeping in touch.
We saw that she -- we visibly saw her cross through the gates and then she was held in the processing area for most of the rest of the time. But we're so incredibly relieved that she will be safe. BLITZER: I just want to interrupt for a moment -- I want to interrupt
for a moment. We're going to get back to you. We're going to get back to you.
But President Biden is just taken the stage and we're told he's about to make a statement on Rafah and what's going on in Gaza. Let's listen.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, as part of the first group of probably over a thousand, we'll see more of this process going on in the coming days. We're working nonstop to get Americans out of Gaza as soon and as safely as possible.
This is a result of intense and urgent American diplomacy with our partners in the region. I personally spent a lot of time speaking with the Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and President Sisi of Egypt and others to make sure that we could open this access for people to get out.
I want to thank our partners in the region, and particularly Qatar who worked so closely with us to support negotiations to facilitate the departure of these citizens.
At the same time, we're continuing to work to significantly step up the flow of critical humanitarian assistance in Gaza. The number of trucks entering Gaza continues to increase significantly. But we still have a long way to go.
The United States is going to continue to drive humanitarian support for innocent people in Gaza who need help, and they do need help. We're going to continue to affirm that Israel has right to responsibly defend its citizens from terror and it needs to do so in a manner consistent with international and humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of citizens.
We've all seen the devastating images from Gaza. Palestinian children crying out for lost parents, parents reasoning and writing their children's names on their hands and legs to be identified if the worst happens.
It's okay. Kids are allows to do that, okay? Don't worry about it, all right? I don't blame her. Is it him or her?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a her.
BIDEN: I don't blame her.
Look, the loss of every innocent life is a tragedy. We grieve for those deaths and continue to grieve for the Israeli children and mothers who were brutally slaughtered by Hamas terrorists and also continue to hold in our hearts the hundreds of families and loved ones including small children and elderly grandparents, including American citizens being held hostage.
My administration continues to work around the clock to reunite those families. We're not going to give up, period. We're not going to give up.
And I am optimistic. But then I'm on optimist.
Folks, now, I want to thank Brad for that introduction. Brad said he wasn't sure what a good speaker was. He could speak a hell a lot better than I can find.
BLITZER: All right. We heard from the president of the United States making an important statement on what is going on in Gaza right now, recommending that Israel be very, very cautious and careful in its bombing campaign against Hamas terrorists in Gaza to try to avoid civilian casualties.
He also promised that the United States is working around the clock to get U.S. citizens out of Gaza and to make sure that the hostages who are being held by Hamas in Gaza, more than 200, including many Americans, eventually get out as well. And he says they're not going to stop and they're not going to give up in that effort.
We had interrupted Akemi who's with us. Her aunt Ramona is one of those Americans who finally got out of Gaza earlier today.
And, Akemi, I wonder if you want to give us some reaction from what you just heard from President Biden?
HIATT: Oh, okay, sure.
Yes, I think that while we're very, very grateful that our aunt is safe, we know that her story is just one and much part of a much larger story of suffering from -- from all sides. So, you know, she works with children and child in Gaza and she's done that for seven years. She feels very strongly about the humanitarian need there, and I think that we are so happy again that she's one of the five that could leave. But we also hold in our hearts the rest of the people that remain stranded and hopefully can be evacuated safely.
BLITZER: Akemi, have you or any other members of your family actually spoken to your aunt since she got out of Egypt earlier today?
HIATT: We have been in a family chat and we have heard from her directly all throughout the night and while she was crossing the border and now have gotten text confirmation from her that she's on the way to a hotel in Cairo.
BLITZER: Yes, that's such good news and we're so happy for you and your family.
Your cousin Nick, by the way, joined the show on Monday and expressed his frustration with the State Department over how long it took to try to get your aunt out of Gaza right now. Has that frustration now faded or do you still feel that the U.S. government could have done more to get her out more quickly?
HIATT: I think there is still frustration from many who are still there. I don't know -- you know, we understand that the complexity of the negotiation and we were not -- we were not privy to the nuances of that. And so we just remain incredibly grateful but we also do call upon our government to continue evacuating other dual citizens, other Americans who also hopefully call a cease-fire because this is from -- from the last couple days were we grossing desperate.
We were hearing that there were really limited food and people were rationing and people had illnesses and she was relatively protected given her status as an aid worker, but that is not the situation everyone else is in. So, again, incredibly grateful, but we advocate and are continuing to assist and share resources from other family members still trapped.
BLITZER: Yeah. Clearly, there is a lot more work that needs to be done, urgent work to get the other Americans out and to get all of the other people who desperately need medical care out of Gaza right now.
Akemi Hiatt, thank you so much for joining us and we're very happy for you and your family that your aunt has finally gotten out of Gaza.
Up next, that second strike on Gaza's largest refugee camp, what Israel is now saying about its target and the chances of Palestinian civilians killed in the process.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: You're looking at new video from northern Gaza today, where a second massive airstrike hit the Jabalia refugee camp. This afternoon, Israel took responsibility, a day after it hit the same location both strikes according to the IDF took out Hamas terrorists.
CNN's Nada Bashir is following these dramatic developments for us. She's got the latest. She's joining us from Jerusalem.
Nada, first of all, what do we know about today's air strike?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, this is the second Israeli air strike that has been carried out on Jabalia, the refugee camp, in less than 24 hours. And we've seen the scenes of devastation and destruction across the camp. Today's airstrike focused on the Fallujah neighborhood of the Jabalia refugee camp which as we know according to the U.N. is home to more than a hundred thousand people and many of the residential buildings have been completely flattened, as a result of those air strikes.
We've seen those dramatic videos of people, residents digging through the rubble hoping to find survivors but as we've seen yesterday and today, once again many people are believed to have been killed, many have been wounded in this air strike. Now as you mentioned, the IDF has confirmed that it carried out that
air strike today. They say that this air strike was focused on targeting a Hamas command and control center in the Jabalia neighborhood. They say that several Hamas fighters were killed in this latest airstrike.
This follows Tuesday's airstrike where a senior Hamas commander according to the IDF is said to have been targeted there. But as we know, this is a densely populated civilian area. And there has been widespread condemnation of these airstrikes that are taking place in northern Gaza whereas we know the IDF has warned many to evacuate.
But there are many that cannot leave and this is one of those areas that has been --continues to be densely populated. We've seen nearby hospitals completely overwhelmed and we had had repeated warnings from medics on the ground, one doctor telling us yesterday that bodies were arriving at the hospital charred and dismembered. That there were bodies, corpses shrouded lining streets outside of the hospital because their morgues are simply at capacity already.
And we have now had a pretty stark and clear warning from the U.N. Human Rights Office. Let me just read you their tweet which they issued a little while ago, saying: Given the high number of civilians casualties and the scale of the destruction following Israeli airstrikes on the Jabalia refugee camp, we have serious concerns these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nada Bashir reporting from Jerusalem, thank you very much.
Pamela, back to you in Washington.
BROWN: All right. Thanks, Wolf.
And in the New York courtroom today, Donald Trump Jr. on the witness stand. His testimony this afternoon in a civil fraud trial involving his family and the family business.
BROWN: Just moments ago, Donald Trump Jr., the former president's older son, began testifying in the fraud trial involving the Trump family and their company. Trump Jr. and his brother Eric Trump are named as defendants in the $250 million lawsuit accused of knowingly participating in a scheme to boost the former president's net worth for financial benefit.
Despite his senior role in the company, Donald Trump Jr. has tried to distance himself from the organization's financial statements, telling investigators in a deposition last year, I had no real involvement in the preparation of the statement of financial condition and don't really remember ever working on it with anyone.
In a lengthy post on Truth Social early this morning, the former president warned the judge overseeing the case to leave my children alone. Also calling the judge, quote, a disgrace to the legal profession.
CNN's Paula Reid joins us now.
So this is all going right now. What has Trump Jr. testified to in court so far and what is his role in the case exactly?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So he's accused of participating with his father and his brother Eric in this alleged scheme to inflate the value of assets for their family's company. Now, remember, the judge has already found them liable for fraud and this trial is really about trying to stave off some pretty significant penalties. And he's called here as a witness for the prosecution. He's been on the stand for a little over an hour.
And so far, the key thing that he has said is that he wasn't intimately involved in these assessments. That he relied on experts, because for several years while his father was in the White House, he was the one signing these financial statements, but said he was relying on the experts that they have hired.
Now I want to emphasize, this trial is not just about money. Unlike the criminal cases the former president is facing, this is a case that could immediate ramifications for his family. So we're not just watching what Donald Trump Jr. says, we're also watching for how his father reacts.
BROWN: That is key.
And you know, you mentioned there were other cases. Donald Trump's attorneys were in court in Florida in the classified documents case because they're trying to push back the start of that trial. What happened?
REID: So, in this case, this is the Florida classified documents case. It's scheduled to go to trial in May 2024. The number one goal for the Trump team right now is to try to get this case delayed until after the 2024 election. There is of course a political reason for that. They don't want their client to go through two, possibly three criminal trials before the election.
But legally their argument is that this is a heavy lift for them. Their working on the civil case in New York, they have the other criminal case, the January 6th case that is scheduled to go earlier in the year. You could see that calendar right there, that's a crowded calendar and they're arguing this is too much, too fast.
Now, prosecutors argue that maybe the former president should hire more lawyers and not use the same people for all of the cases. But what is significant is that the judge today, Aileen Cannon, the Trump appointee, she appeared skeptical that they could do the criminal trials back-to-back next spring, and this is a big test for her.
So it is interesting to see her final opinion. Most of the sources I speak, though, anywhere near this case, legal experts, they all agree, Pam, it is unlikely that these cases will both go back-to-back next year. But let's see what Judge Cannon says.
BROWN: A lot to see. Paula Reid, thank you so much.
Well, there is Trump's legal world and it is spilling into his 2024 campaign. He has been attacking anyone in position that threatens his name. A taste of what Trump has been telling his supporters up next.
BROWN: Former President Donald Trump faces a total of 91 charges across four criminal cases playing out in courtrooms in New York, Florida and Georgia, and cases that range from election subversion, to hush money, to allegedly mishandling classified documents.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny looks at how the former president is using his 2024 presidential campaign to lash out at his mountain of legal problems.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The inflammatory rhetoric that has gotten Donald Trump into hot water in the courtroom --
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is judge is a very partisan judge.
ZELENY: -- is the fuel of his political campaign.
TRUMP: You have to get out and you have to fight like hell because these are dirty players.
ZELENY: More than ever before, the former president is waging a campaign of vengeance, attacking judges, going after prosecutors, and raising the specter of violence.
TRUMP: We will immediately stop all of the pillaging and theft. Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store. Shot.
ZELENY: In his third presidential bid, retribution has become a far louder rallying cry. He suggested Mark Milley, the former chair of the joint chiefs staff, should be executed for treason. He's joked about the brutal attack on former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband. He's implored supporters to drive away his enemies.
TRUMP: 2024 is our final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state, we will expel the warmongers, and get them all out of our government.
ZELENY: While Trump's legal challenges are inexplicably linked with his presidential campaign, the disconnect is jarring. Even major court developments like a tearful guilty plea from his former lawyer --
JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post election challenges. I look back on this whole experience with deep remorse.
ZELENY: They haven't changed the view of many loyal Trump supporters.
LORI SCROGGIN, TRUMP SUPPORTER IN IOWA: There is a lot more than you think that are in favor of Trump and felt that the last election was stolen and we just want -- you know, we just want what's ours.
ZELENY: Lori Scroggin saw the former president this week in Iowa and unbothered by criticism and dismissive of his Republican rivals whom she believes should step aside.
SCROGGIN: They're nothing but a distraction, and an annoyance. Like a mosquito or a fly. You just want to -- yeah, poof them away and let's get to the meat, the real politics. Let's get down to what Trump has to say.
ZELENY: And Trump has a lot to say, stoking anger and rallying supporters to his defense.
TRUMP: I promise you this. If you put me back in the White House, the rain will be over and America will be a free nation once again.
ZELENY (on camera): Now this campaign of vengeance is coming against the back drop of what we saw on January 6, where many Trump supporters said they were following his orders for violence.
So, Pamela, that's why all of this matters. When you talk to Trump voters, of course, most of them are not violent. Most of them would not follow that, but perhaps some would.
But this is so interesting how it is just hanging out there. We're seeing developments in the courtrooms where his lawyers are pleading guilty to things, but his supporters are not following these developments at all, and they are simply unmoved by this.
BROWN: Yeah. So, like, overall, how has it impacted Donald Trump on campaign trail?
ZELENY: Well, look, he's in command of this race, more so than he was at the beginning of this year when the charges first started. That's why this is so extraordinary.
So, yes, his came and legal cases are linked but the rhetoric is much more violent, much more so than it was eight years ago, even four years ago. That's why there is some concern about this.
Of course, the gag orders are in effect. He's rejected some of those. We'll see how all of this plays out -- very much an open question.
BROWN: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. ZELENY: You bet.
BROWN: Up next, from Tel Aviv, a disturbing report that needs a warning. It has numerous graphic images and it will be difficult to watch. But it is important for the world to see.
BROWN: Well, the manner in which many victims of the October 7th Hamas attacks were killed has made identifying some of the remains nearly impossible.
CNN's Jake Tapper obtained forensic images and spoke with a doctor leading some of that heart-wrenching work.
The images are incredibly graphic and disturbing. But they do add to the greater understanding of just what took place on October 7th.
Jake filed this report from Tel Aviv. And again, we warn you, his reporting includes some very disturbing images.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We are approaching four weeks since Hamas' deadly October 7th terrorist attack on Israel when more than 1,400 mostly Israeli individuals were killed, most of them civilians. But hundreds, hundreds of bodies remain unidentified.
I recently spoke with Dr. Chen Kugel, who is the director of Israel's National Institute of Forensic Medicine, who explained why it's been so difficult to identify these remaining bodies.
A warning now, I'm going to show you some images that are graphic and disturbing. We're showing them to you because they explain something about the abject cruelty of what Hamas terrorists did to civilians on October 7th and also because it shows how difficult this process has been for families who want answers about what happened to their lost loved ones.
Again, a warning of what I'm about to show you.
So Dr. Kugel said, what looks to be a piece of burnt wood or coal here is actually flesh. And upon further examination, with imaging, it reveals two sets of rib cages. One of them is smaller, with a wire tying them together and the conclusion of Dr. Kugel and his team, these are the burned bodies of an adult and a child tied together, maybe embracing.
Opening a body bag, Dr. Kugel and his team found these charred remains. You notice that these remains are white. He told me that means the temperature was above 700 degrees centigrade, which means they used a chemical accelerant to get high temperature.
Ultimately, his team concludes these were actually the remains of two different people, those there was no DNA to trace. No DNA was left because of the high temperature. So their identifies will never be known.
From a different body bag, a CAT scan revealed that there were bones in here. Three left legs, and two right legs in the bag. So that meant Dr. Kugel and his team concluded three different people in this same body bag and these five bones were the only traces left of these three people. Maybe in other bags there were other pieces of these people, Dr. Kugel told me.
These are very difficult cases to deal with. And I'm about to show you an even more upsetting example.
This is a blurred picture from the National Center of Forensic Medicine and even blurred it is disturbing. This is the burned body of an adolescent girl and her head has been mostly separated from her body. Now the forensic experts say they don't know if the separation happened before or after the girl was killed. Still, this happened. And this is the level of cruelty that we are talking about here.
Jake Tapper, CNN, Tel Aviv.
BROWN: I want to bring in Stefan Schmitt, a forensics expert at Florida International University, and Beth Sanner, former deputy director of national intelligence, to discuss this.
Note to our viewers, we are not going to show the images again.
Stefan, as you see these images, given your experience, what is your reaction?
STEFAN SCHMITT, INTERNATIONAL FORENSIC EXPERT: Well, I think that my reaction is that the situation is much more complicated than even this brief report describes, just simply because in a mass casualty event like this, any forensic institution is going to be overwhelmed. And you know, authorities, be it law enforcement or first responders, when they respond, are going to retrieve whatever remains they can. Of course, they're going to focus on the survivors first. And it's not going to be even known how many victims you actually have.
It's not like, you know, you could put together a list of victims and I think a good example of that is the case where you have these charred remains and Dr. Kugel has determined that there were three left legs and two right legs. And that doesn't mean that you have three individuals there. What it means is that you have a minimum of three individuals there.
All you know is that you have three separate left legs because nobody that has two left legs and two right legs, and those two right legs could belong to other individuals, as well. That goes for every bag where you have disassociated remains like that. So you're talking about a minimum number of individuals, but there could be more. There could be, you know, two right -- right arm bones in there, as well and you don't know whether they belong to these particular remains. [16:50:42]
What that highlights is that when you do the retrieval of these kind of remains, that it's also very important that you document how they were found at a particular site, because oftentimes that will give you a lead on how the remains were associated, with what body they were associated, for instance.
BROWN: Is this the type of evidence, Stefan, that could be used to prove potential war crimes?
SCHMITT: Yes, of course. I mean, when you're talking about war crimes, you're talking about being able to provide evidence of great breaches of the Geneva Convention in the sense that you're looking at a crime that was committed by a soldier or, in this case, terrorists, and you're going to have to follow the same kind of evidence, procedures that you would for a court of law, so a chain of custody.
One would expect that the crime scenes are documented in a way that is consistent with the procedures for crime scenes, and like I noted in a case like this where you have a mass casualty event in war like this, this is going to be extremely difficult. I'm pretty sure there is no country in the world that has enough crime scene investigators to respond to a scene like this and secure a scene for that long as well, because there's more evidence.
You know, you're looking at things like cartridge casings and blood spatter, and you're going to eventually have to, you know, provide evidence that these individuals were at the scene, they committed the crimes.
And not only that, in the case of war crimes, you're also looking at chain of command. You know, how far up the chain of command does this go? Because you would eventually want to prosecute those individuals who gave the orders to have that perpet -- you know, to have these crimes perpetrated. So it's a very complicated situation and very challenging.
BROWN: Beth, I want to bring you in for your perspective. Is what we saw here as a result of October 7th a shift in Hamas' tactics, given the sheer brutality?
BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. Let me just add one point to what Stefan made, that is combined with the body cam video of the Hamas fighters, which Hamas live streamed, so it was premeditated that they had the footage, and that they live-streamed the brutality of these killings. And so you have quite a bit of evidence here that can be combined for those kind of war crime trials or prosecutions in some way.
On the issue of this strategy, you know, Hamas has had the strategy of trying to annihilate Israel since its founding. Now, for the first time, we are seeing a shift in tactics, killing babies, decapitating teenagers, elderly people, desecrations. That and the social media aspect of putting that out, that is a very big shift. I think it really marries up for the first time Hamas' strategic goal with their tactics.
BROWN: You know, Beth, what are we to make of this moment as we absorb this, when we see these images and we see sheer devastation in parts of Gaza, as well.
SANNER: Yes. You know, I think that this is where, you know, all of us, in our humanity, we really need to understand, seek to understand the trauma, the real trauma that is being experienced by Israelis, by Jews around the world, and by Palestinian civilians and Arabs.
This brings great historical trauma and emotional trauma out, and I think that, as I've said before on different shows, we have to be able to talk about both of these things and see them as different but real.
BROWN: Yeah, that's a very important point. Thank you both so much, Stefan and Beth. Appreciate it.
We'll be right back.
BROWN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Earlier today, the Cornell University student accused of making antisemitic threats against the school's Jewish community appeared in court. Twenty-one-year-old Patrick Dai did not enter a plea in the case. Prosecutors say Dai wrote multiple social media posts threatening to kill Jewish students, including threats to shoot up a kosher dining hall. According to the complaint, he made the threats under the user name Hamas soldier.
Well, if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show wherever you get your podcast.
Our coverage picks up now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" live from Tel Aviv.