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CNN International: U.S. President Biden to Visit Israel on Wednesday; Blinken: U.S. and Israel to Develop Gaza Air Plan; Humanitarian Crisis Continues to Mount in Gaza; Suspect in Belgium Terrorist Attack Killed by Police. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 04:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm. Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Max Foster. It is Tuesday, October 17th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 11 a.m. in Israel and Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden will leave latest day for an extraordinary wartime visit to Israel. It's a strong show of support for the long time American ally. The announcement came from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been on a marathon. Mission across the Middle East.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: He's coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region and for the world. The president will reaffirm the United States solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security. The President will hear from Israel what it needs to defend its people as we continue to work with Congress to meet those needs.


NOBILO: We're also following major developments from southern Gaza. The Palestinian Interior Ministry reports Israeli air strikes killed at least 21 people in Khan Younis, and it says another 28 were killed in Rafah, near a key border crossing with Egypt.

FOSTER: Meanwhile, Hamas has released its first hostage video. It shows 21-year-old Mia Schem talking about an arm injury that was -- that she had taken -- was taken to --and that she was taken to Gaza. CNN has decided not to show the video. It's unclear when it was taken or if she is still alive.

NOBILO: So to hear more on those key lines coming out of the regions, you know, Katie Polglase is here. Katie, first of all, what can we expect from President Biden's visit?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Bianca, Biden going to Israel right now is extraordinary. As both of you just mentioned, this is a high risk visit and that in and of itself is a statement. It is a strong message of how important, how urgent Biden thinks his presence on the ground, talking to leaders, negotiating, potentially finding compromise deescalating this situation is. That is why he is there to talk to various leaders, of course, including Netanyahu, but also other Arab leaders as well.

Now one of the main concerns for the U.S. is that this conflict is going to spread. It's going to go beyond the borders of Israel into other areas. And we've been seeing just in the last day, Israel evacuating 28 areas in the north because of exchange of fire with Hezbollah, the militant group in Lebanon. This is the pattern that the U.S. are concerned about escalating. More and more states around Israel becoming involved in this conflict. So that is why he is there on the ground, talk to leaders, find compromises, ways to find common ground. If there is any at all and see what they can be done.

And of course, the big question in all of this. Is what is the U.S.'s involvement going to be? If the escalation continues? How much military involvement is there going to be from the U.S.? And it's very notable that as this visit is arriving, he turns up in Israel tomorrow. We have as well the U.S. head of Central Command, also in Israel meeting with the head of the Israeli army. So clearly a lot of military discussions, a lot of cooperation being discussed here.

FOSTER: One of the key issues for the Americans is obviously getting aid into Gaza that's going to come through the Rafah crossing, isn't it? But it's not easy.

POLGLASE: Absolutely. And it is extraordinary still seeing this footage. Just this morning, we have still more trucks sitting at the border, really not far at all from people that desperately need it. And this aid is coming from all over. It's not just from neighboring countries, it's also coming from Turkey, from Jordan is also now an EU humanitarian corridor. They've begun flights into Egypt. But all of this then needs to get across from Egypt into Gaza, and that path still seems very unclear.

We had just this morning, the spokesperson from the World Health Organization talking to CNN, and she said that one of the reasons they had an agreement, the World Health Organization with Egypt, to get aid across this border into Gaza, they said it hasn't happened. The border hasn't opened because of Israeli air strikes that you mentioned just now, the Rafah air strike. That has made that path inoperable, you cannot get trucks across it.


But of course many others are pointing the finger of blame at other actors as well. Is it Hamas? Is it Egypt itself that is not willing? Clearly there's still a lot of disagreement, and in the meantime, aid is not getting through. And that in itself is really quite worrying.

NOBILO: CNN have chosen not to show this hostage video that's been released of 21-year-old Mia Schem. What is important for us and the world to know about that video this morning?

POLGLASE: Well in fact, Bianca, we spoke here at CNN, to the mother of Mia just yesterday. Anderson Cooper spoke with the mother and her feelings really about the situation are some of the most important of all. Have a listen to what she said.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How does your daughter look to you?

LEREM SCHARF SCHEM, DAUGHTER TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: See that she's been through Pain -- She's in pain And she's injured. She's injured. And she looks a bit terrified. But she is alive and stable.

COOPER: Does it -- does it help to see her?

SCHEM: Of course, because until now I didn't know if she's dead or alive.


POLGLASE: Now, unfortunately, this video doesn't necessarily confirm if she is alive, but it obviously has been some comfort. We know the family were aware of this video before it went out. They're still in dispute about the number of hostages being held. The Israeli military have said 199, an extraordinary high number. Hamas are saying it's between 200 and 250. Clearly a very urgent pressing issue on the ground and something that surely President Biden will be bringing up when he arrives.

NOBILO: Katie Polglaze, thank you.

It's estimated that half a million Gaza residents have fled the north following Israel's evacuation order and devastating air strikes. Now we're going to share the harrowing story of one of our own CNN family members. Ibrahim Dahman is a CNN journalist who lives in northern Gaza with his wife, Rasha. They have two boys and Rasha is pregnant with their third child. But Ibrahim and his family, like so many others, were forced to leave on a dangerous journey South.


IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN JOURNALIST (through translated text) (voice-over): I'm with my family fleeing airstrikes in Gaza. My son is terrified. I tell him, don't be afraid, son. But the truth is I'm afraid too.

DAHMAN (through translated text): My name is Ibrahim Dahman and I am a CNN journalist. For years, I have covered the stories of people in Gaza. I never thought that I would become part of the story.

Last week, I was in Gaza city when I was told to evacuate.

DAHMAN (through translated text): I don't know where to go. Where?

DAHMAN (through translated text): But where do I go? My home, my family and my life here.

DAHMAN (voice-over) (through translated text): Like so many others, I don't have anywhere else to go. We reach a nearby hotel. There are journalists, families and people on their own. Were now among the displaced. 1.1 million people told to evacuate northern Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD (through translated text): They don't strike hotels, right?

DAHMAN (through translated text): They don't strike hotels, no.

DAHMAN (voice-over) (through translated text): I know deep down no building is safe. We watch airstrikes, and the sound of explosions keeps us awake at night.

On our third day, a nearby building is hit. This man was injured in the explosion. He is my father's cousin. Thankfully, he only suffered minor injuries.

DAHMAN (through translated text): I must get away from the hotel. The situation is very difficult.

DAHMAN (voice-over) (through translated text): We load our car and head south to Khan Younis.

DAHMAN (through translated text): Seconds after we left the hotel, they fired a rocket that heavily damaged the entire area.


Now we're in Khan Younis. There are still airstrikes, but it is safer here. It's only a matter of time until we flee again. I hope one day we can return home.


FOSTER: That report from our very own Ibrahim Dahman.

NOBILO: The deepening crisis in Gaza is especially dire for children with supplies of basic necessities like water and medicine dwindling, and many families are seeking shelter at schools and other UN buildings. Aid organizations are urging officials to take action, saying children in Gaza need life saving support and every minute counts.

FOSTER: U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, says the U.S. and Israel have agreed to develop a plan for humanitarian aid from donor nations and organizations to reach civilians in Gaza. He tweeted on Monday:

It could include the possibility of creating areas to keep civilians out of harm's way. Blinken says, he shares Israel's concern that Hamas may try to prevent aid from reaching those who need it.

NOBILO: Joining us now to talk about the humanitarian situation in Gaza is Red Cross spokesperson Stephen Ryan. Stephen, thank you very much for being with us this morning and for all of the work the organization is doing. How involved are you as an organization in these discussions about the opening of the Rafah crossing and trying to find humanitarian safe areas for civilians there?

STEPHEN RYAN, ICRC SPOKESPERSON: Well, certainly the situation as you've seen in the reports for people in Gaza is critical. It's devastating. The needs are staggering and humanitarian organizations have to be able to scale up their operations. We have a team in Gaza. They were present before this escalation of conflict, over 100 people.

But they need more resources. We need more people to be able to support them. We need more goods to be able to get into Gaza urgently, and we're looking at every possibility, every avenue that we can do to get these relief items to where they need it most. To be able to do this, we need the authorizations of all parties involved. And we need to be able to provide this relief in a safe way to the people that need it most right now.

NOBILO: And what is your understanding of currently what's holding up an agreement on the humanitarian corridor or safe spaces?

RYAN: Well certainly the ICRC engages with all the respective authorities and states. It's to them to make sure that we would be able to -- we and other actors would be able to provide humanitarian assistance. All I can say on this is that certainly the International Committee of the Red Cross right from the outside of this conflict has been advocating for a respect and the maintenance of international military law.

International military law is not an abstract concept. It's something that applies to all actors -- or all actors that are in this conflict. All the people that are there. And its goal is to minimize the suffering, that every precaution should be taken and that people, civilians, who are not part of this fight are able to access food, water, shelter with many people sleeping outside right now. That they're able to get medical assistance and that hospitals and protected persons are not affected by this conflict.

FOSTER: What did you make of Antony Blinken's statement? Because if you dissect it, it doesn't actually say all that much, does it? Because there -- it's not even a plan for humanitarian aid and donor nations. It's Israel and America have agreed to develop a plan so it doesn't sound like you're going to get immediate support.

RYAN: Well, certainly for more focus, our focus is on meeting the needs of the civilians that are there. The International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as many other actors are ramping up their support. We are doing our best to make sure that goods are able to reach these people. Our focus is on being ready to provide this humanitarian assistance. As soon as that is possible, we will be there. I know that our teams that are present in Gaza are doing their absolute best with the few resources that they have to be able to provide this assistance. And certainly as part of our appeal to all parties to respect international humanitarian law.

This includes facilitating and ensuring that civilians are able to receive the much-needed humanitarian assistance that they need right now. And we continue to appeal to all actors to use whatever influence they have to enable us and neutral impartial organization to be able to do our jobs and assist all of these people who are affected by armed conflict.

FOSTER: You're not getting aid imminently and that's pretty clear, because even getting it across the Rafah crossing -- as we're hearing from Katie -- is not doable right now. It's the state of the crossing. When do you run out of aid within Gaza?


RYAN: Well, I think -- I think it's fair to say that as our focus is on civilians and on people that are affected, the running out is happening now. The need is now. And that means ns that the ICRC as well as other humanitarian organizations are looking at every possible avenue to get assistance to where it's needed most.

The running out is not something that I can speak on, but I know that our colleagues who I spoke to yesterday and this morning have already told me that people are becoming desperate. The cumulative effects of this ongoing conflict are not just having physical effects on people, but also emotional and psychological.

But right now, our focus is recognizing that there is a desperate need for food, water, shelter, electricity, medical assistance, and that every effort must be taken by all parties to make sure that actors, neutral actors such as the ICRC are able to meet these needs.

We are working in Israel and the occupied territories and in Gaza to provide assistance to all people that are affected by armed conflict, this is our responsibility. This is what the ICRC was created for. But it's up to others, up to States and other authorities to ensure that we're able to do our job. And if we are not able to provide assistance in Gaza, if we're not able to deliver relief, then we're not going to be able to do the job that we so desperately want to do and that is so desperately needed.

FOSTER: Stephen Ryan, thank you so much for joining us from the Red Cross.

RYAN: Thank you.

NOBILO: The suspect in the shooting in Belgium that caused a major terrorism scare has been caught. We'll have a live report for you after the break.



NOBILO: The suspected gunman in what's being called a terror attack in the Belgian capital has been shot and killed by police, according to public broadcaster RTBF.

FOSTER: He'd been at large since the shooting that killed two Swedish nationals in Brussels on Monday. CNN's Scott McLean joins us with the very latest. And it's still developing this story.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And so that news that you just mentioned that the suspect has been killed by police is brand new from our affiliate in Belgium, the broadcaster RTBF, in the last few minutes. Who is also reporting that the suspect at the time that he was shot, was in fact carrying a weapon.

And this happened in a neighborhood in northeast Brussels called Schaerbeek, just about two or three kilometers or so from the actual shooting site. And if Schaerbeek rings any bells in your mind, that's because it was in the spotlight back in 2016. Because some of the perpetrators of the terror attacks in Brussels that targeted the metro, the airport, planned the attacks from neighborhoods in that neighborhood.

The Prime Minister also held a press conference in the middle of the night. The Belgian Prime Minister, saying that the suspect was of Tunisian origin living in the country illegally. And obviously there was, you know, plenty of concern raised early on when authorities made reference to a video that had been circulating online, where someone claiming to be the suspect had had said that they were inspired by ISIS and also specifically mentioning the nationality of those who had killed. Two people killed, Swedish nationals, a third person, a taxi driver, shot and injured but expected to recover.

The Prime Minister called it terrorism, extreme brutality and carried out with a weapon of war. Obviously, the terror alert level was raised. Why on Earth anyone would target someone specifically because they're wearing Sweden football colors? You'd have to ask the suspect, obviously, but you can imagine, you know, Sweden has been in the news a lot lately. As you guys know, for one person, one man in in Sweden who's carried out Quran burnings there, which have sparked protests across the Muslim world.

FOSTER: Well, it's the fact that they were allowed that a lot of people have an issue with, right?

MCLEAN: Right, exactly. And Sweden has sort of said, look, we have free speech in this country, freedom of expression. The only thing that could sort of limit someone's ability to do this is safety grounds. And so that's why -- and I think this sort of added fuel to the fire, the fact that he was accompanied by police.

FOSTER: So we'll wait to hear about the motive. But in terms of last night, a horrendous situation for people in Brussels because suddenly at the highest terror alert and this big game was going on.

MCLEAN: Right, exactly. So you had a lot of Swedish fans in town for the game. This this shooting site is about five kilometers or so away from the stadium where the game was actually being played. And what's really interesting is that it actually happened about an hour and a half before the game even started. And so obviously, it took a while for the information to trickle through. You might have watched the first half on TV it went off as per usual, and then only at half time, I think did the players get word, did the official sort of get word and then it was decided that they wouldn't actually play the second half of the game.

And more pressing for officials was the fact that you had all of these people, many of them wearing Sweden colors, who were inside of this stadium with a shooter inspired by ISIS, looking for Swedes on the loose. They were in that stadium for at least an hour -- according to Belgian media -- before they were able to be evacuated in a way that law enforcement felt was safe enough.

FOSTER: OK, thank you, Scott.

The top U.S. diplomat has wrapped up days of high stakes diplomacy across the Middle East. The messages Antony Blinken brought back to Israel. When we come back.



NOBILO: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories.

Palestinian Interior Ministry is reporting dozens of deaths from Israeli air strikes. At least 21 people were killed in Khan Younis earlier today. And 28 reportedly killed in Rafah as the IDF continues the search for Hamas fighters. A former Hamas leader claims the militant group has enough hostages to exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. And the Hamas spokesperson claims they have between 200 to 250 captives.

Top U.S. officials arriving in Israel as the situation becomes more urgent. The head of U.S. Central Command is in Tel Aviv to meet with the Israeli military's chief of staff to better understand Israel's defense requirements, they say. And outline American support during the conflict.

NOBILO: And the U.S. president is expected to arrive in Israel on Wednesday. Joe Biden's visit comes as the U.S. strikes a delicate balance of providing unwavering support for Israel's military operations and mitigating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. All the while trying to keep the war from spreading to further fronts. President Biden will also travel to Jordan, where he's expected to meet with the Jordanian King, Egyptian President and Palestinian Authority president.

FOSTER: This all follows an intense flurry of diplomacy by the U.S. Secretary of State. Antony Blinken has visited seven countries in the region and taken part in a nearly eight-hour meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister and his war cabinet. CNN's Becky Anderson picks up that story.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's been a weekend of high stakes shuttle diplomacy across this region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, hearing from key Middle Eastern allies on a whistle stop seven nation tour. Many of the regions top leaders calling for Israel to deescalate and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Egypt's president says Israel's response to the Hamas attacks has gone beyond self-defense and is now a, quote, collective punishment against Gazans. His concerns echoed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. MBS stressing to quote:

Stop the military operations that claimed the lives of innocent people. Work to calm the situation, stop the current escalation and respect international humanitarian law, including lifting the siege on Gaza.