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Missiles Fired at U.S. Navy Ship; Israel and Ukraine Bill to Senate Floor; Elon Musk in Israel. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired November 27, 2023 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, two ballistic missiles were fired at a U.S. war ship. Now, this happened in the Gulf of Aden. And appears to be the latest in what has been numerous attacks by Iran- backed Houthi rebels out of Yemen against U.S. and coalition forces since the Hamas terror attack on October 7th. This latest incident all started with a distress call from a commercial cargo ship in the region.
CNN's Katie Bo Lillis has this reporting for us.
What more are you hearing about this, Katie Bo?
KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Kate, yes, let's walk through the - the sequence of events here.
On Sunday a commercial tanker containing phosphoric acid with some apparent links to an Israeli-owned company sent out this distress call saying that it was under attack while it was operating in the Gulf of Aden.
The USS Mason, a guided naval missile - a guided missile destroyer belonging to the United States, which also operates in the Gulf of Aden and off of the coast of Somalia as part of a counter piracy task force, responded to that distress call. When they arrived at the commercial ship, they found five armed hijackers on board the ship. Those hijackers jumped off of the commercial vessel into a small boat of their own, sped away. The United States missile destroyer gave chase and was ultimately able to obtain the surrender of those hijackers.
Now, the United States has not publicly identified who these five armed hijackers were, but what we do know is that in the hours after this episode, two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen in the general direction of the Mason.
Now, those missiles landed harmlessly in the Gulf of Aden about ten nautical miles away from the ship, so no U.S. injuries, no U.S. casualties. But for American officials, this is sort of yet another concerning signal that Houthi militants in Yemen may seek to escalate the conflict currently going on in Gaza in between Israel and Hamas.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Katie Bo, great reporting. Thank you, as always.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, with us now, retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks, CNN military analyst and head of geopolitical strategy at Academy Securities.
And, Spider, let's just take a look at what just happened in the Gulf of Aden with this, you know, this freight ship there. An attempted hijacking. The U.S. jumps in to help, and then missiles fired from the Houthis in Yemen.
This a sideshow, Spider, or is this the type of thing we could see more in the coming days?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think we're going to see more of this, John. Clearly, it's like the gloves are off because of the outrage, the international global outrage when they look at what's taking place in Gaza, irrespective of what the IDF is trying to achieve with Hamas. This is now become a discussion about the brutal handling of the greater Palestinian issue.
So, Iran has gone back to its proxies, the Houthis being one of those, and saying, fair game. Do what you need to do. You've got our support. You certainly have our backing. Iran does not pull the trigger, does not authorize each one of these engagements, but certainly the boundaries between what's appropriate and what's not appropriate, in their perspective, is wide open now, and that's what you're seeing.
BERMAN: So, Spider, we continue to wait on the fourth day of the scheduled hostage release and a number of dozens of Israeli hostages have been released from Gaza so far and these families desperately want this to continue for several more days. But from a purely military perspective, what does this do to the Israeli efforts to destroy Hamas?
MARKS: Yes, from -- as a result of this, Hamas wins. The IDF has lost its momentum in terms of its offensive operations in Gaza. They can regain that momentum. It's going to take a little bit of time. Plus what we've seen is the pause releases hostages, it would not be unsurprising that we should expect that there will be additional pauses so more hostages can be released in drips and drabs. We're talking about over 200. So, when you get 10, you get 15. It's a glorious day for those individuals and those families, but the IDF loses its momentum.
This becomes a very difficult challenge for the IDF. And what we're seeing, John, is this is a shift in their center of gravity from Israel destroying Hamas to center of gravity being, let's get the recovery and return of the hostages, which means the destruction of Hamas is put on the back burner. This now -- we're now talking about - we're not talking about months in terms of trying to destroy -- Israel trying to destroy Hamas, we're now talking potentially years.
BERMAN: What does that mean if and when this hostage exchange ends? At a certain point it's expected Hamas will stop turning over Israeli hostages, whether that's because all the remaining hostages are military members or not, but there could be dozens if not 100 left. Does that mean that Israel would be reluctant to move into the south on the ground or would they somehow do it differently?
MARKS: No, I don't think they'll be reluctant at all. If there is cessation in the release of hostages, the gloves are now off, IDF will continue its operations. I think they will probably be more precise in terms of the targeting against C-2, command and control capabilities, political leadership of Hamas, military leadership, and also hostage recovery. The operations to go rescue hostages will be much more precise and a little more delicate.
Those become individual operations. And fewer of the images that we see right now in terms of the destruction that's taken place in Gaza City and elsewhere as a result of the air campaign.
BERMAN: We have some of that destruction right now I can show you. This is Gaza City. An overhead right now.
What's Hamas doing, quickly, Spider, during this pause?
MARKS: They're repositioning. They're moving the hostages about. They're improving their fighting positions. They're determining where Israel now feels like they are at risk. They will now position themselves to take advantage of that, that pause in fighting. They are going to improve their position. The Israelis are now digging in because they are now transitioning to a defensive posture. And that you have to adjust from. If you go from defense, you now have to, eventually after the pause, go back to the offensive operation. That is going to take time. Hamas is improving its position.
Israel, the challenge is, Israel had some targetable intelligence that it gathered as a result of the operations. That intelligence now atrophies because they haven't been able to use it and Hamas has been able to alter the landscape.
BERMAN: Retired Major General James "Spider" Marks, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Senate is headed back in session today, and the Senate majority leader is laying out his plans for getting the emergency funding for Israel and Ukraine unstuck from limbo once and for all. We'll see.
[09:46:02] BOLDUAN: This morning Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is making clear he is forging ahead and preparing to bring a national security package to the Senate floor as soon as next week. Despite the fact that this emergency funding has been stuck in limbo now for weeks, suck over fights about how much and under what conditions lawmakers now believe the United States should be sending more aid to Israel and Ukraine specifically. Despite the inter and intra party divisions over this funding, Schumer offered this warning in his letter to senators. "Senators should be prepared to stay in Washington until we finish our work," which basically means, get ready, it could be a long haul.
CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill for us. She's tracking all of this.
So, Lauren, it's -- this is complicated. It's within parties. It's between parties. Where are the sticking points?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are several sticking points, Kate, which is why this has not passed up until this point. And Schumer is giving a warning and reminding members that they aren't going home for Christmas until they deal with the issue of the supplemental. And, obviously, nothing motivates lawmakers like that holiday deadline. People want to go home and be with their families.
But one of the key sticking points is the fact that while Biden included immigration funding, funding for the southern border in this supplemental package, Republicans are arguing that that's not enough. They want to see concrete policy changes to immigration.
Now, this is a problem because for the last decade or more you have seen lawmakers in Washington vexed by this question of how to deal with the southern border. And basically the argument from Democrats is, how are we supposed to solve this in a matter of weeks when we haven't been able to solve it for years?
Now, there is a small bipartisan group of senators working to find some common ground, some policy changes that could be included to get this supplemental across the finish line. But one of the key issues is that whatever the Senate, and only if the Senate can agree on some kind of compromise, will it be enough for hard line Freedom Caucus members in the House, especially given the fact that you have a new speaker, Mike Johnson, who may be hesitant to put anything on the floor that could again anger his right flank after he put forward that short-term spending package that included, you know, no additional changes to policy. So, I think that those are some of the key sticking points right now.
And while, you know, the Biden administration is impressing upon members of Congress that this money is important, there's also the issue of the fact that a lot of Republicans in the House don't really want to support any Ukraine funding moving forward. It's another question. If Mike Johnson puts that on the floor, does that put him once again in a bad political spot with his right flank?
So, Kate, a lot of questions right now about how leadership handles this, how lawmakers and rank and file handles this. And, obviously, a lot of questions about whether this gets across the finish line before Christmas.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. But it really -- this push kicks off kind of renewed and in earnest today as they're starting to head back after the Thanksgiving holiday. So this is an important moment to see what direction this heads. Thank you so much. Great to see you.
BERMAN: Elon Musk is in Israel today as he faces accusations of spreading anti-Semitism on social media. What he says he plans to do now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Elon Musk is on the ground here in Israel today. Of course that coming as he has been facing a firestorm of criticism after amplifying an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on X. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Musk, giving him a tour of a kibbutz that was attacked by Hamas on October 7th. The two had met not long before October 7th when Netanyahu was in New York. Musk here on the ground, describing this visit as, quote, "jarring," saying that he found the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have been happening around the world "troubling."
CNN's Elliott Gotkine is tracking this visit by Elon Musk to Israel.
And, Elliott, I mean I just think it's notable, in and of itself, that he's here given the controversy that has been surrounding Elon Musk.
But what else are we expecting, including meetings, that Elon Musk is expected to have while on the ground in Israel.
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, I think ordinarily a visit from Elon Musk to Israel is celebrated as another evidence - as more evidence of Israel's technological prowess. And he's visited many times before in that capacity.
I think today, I suppose, a cynic might see this visit as Elon Musk the businessman. He may be the world's richest man with a fortune of $227 billion, but let's not forget that he sunk $43 billion into X. And in light of this backlash we've seen from commercial advertisers on the platform, the likes of Disney, IBM, Comcast, withholding their advertising dollars in response to not just this tweet from Elon Musk, which, as you say, seemed to imply his support for a conspiracy theory, this grand replacement theory which holds that Jews are encouraging (INAUDIBLE) to replace whites.
In light of that, but also in light of other anti-Semitic tweets on the platform and one organization, Media Matters, showing that some of these advertisers -- advertisements were appearing alongside neo-Nazi tweets.
So, for all of those reasons, you know, Twitter, X, as it's now known, is already losing money hand over fist. A cynic might say that the reason for this visit is for commercial reasons, to try to show those advertisers that actually, you know, that they don't have anything to worry about in terms of those kind of tweet.
But I suppose a more charitable interpretation might be to take him at his words. And he tweeted earlier today, actions speak louder than words. And images of Elon Musk being taken on a tour of Kfar Aza, which abuts the Gaza Strip, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeing what's left of the horrors - horrors visited on that community during Hamas' murderous rampage of October the 7th he feels will also show that he takes anti-Semitism seriously, and any people on X, for example, that might deny those event of October 7th can now see Elon Musk himself showing that they clearly were not.
COLLINS: Yes, a lot of layers to the visit.
Elliott Gotkine, I know you'll continue to track as he does meet with the Israeli president. Thank you for that. Elon Musk here on the ground here in Israel.
Of course, the crucial issue at the forefront here is whether or not what this fourth set of hostages is going to look like. It is day four of that temporary truce between Hamas and Israel. We are waiting to see if it becomes a day five and a day six, if they do agree to that extension, and, also, who is on that fourth list of hostages today.
Stay with us as we continue to cover the breaking news here on the ground in Israel.