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CNN International: Hamas Claims It's Ready To Swap Hostages For All Palestinian Prisoners; Near-Total Communications Blackout Grips Gaza; Israel: New Phase Of War As Gaza Ground Operations Expand; Pence Suspends Campaign Amid Persistently Low Poll Numbers; Mass Shooting Suspect In Maine Found Dead; Thai Government Calls For Release Of 18 Thais Held Hostage. Aired 7-8 pm ET

Aired October 28, 2023 - 19:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm John Vause at the CNN Center in Atlanta with our breaking coverage of Israel's war with Hamas. Israel's escalating offensive on Hamas continues at this hour. Right now Gaza is almost totally cut off from the outside with no phone or internet services, and with no electricity. More than 2 million Palestinians have been enduring another night of airstrikes and artillery fire.

This is the view of Gaza within the past hour or so from the southern city, Southern Israeli city of Surat. Israel is now into the second phase of its war with Hamas, with thousands of Israeli troops on the ground inside the coastal enclave. The Israeli say they've hit a number of targets as part of this expanded ground operation and the World Health Organization says health workers patients and civilians spent last day in darkness and fear.

Despite a growing civilian death toll in Gaza, the Israeli Prime Minister says this offensive is only just beginning. And during a televised news conference, Benjamin Netanyahu warned this would be a long war for Israel survival.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The war inside Gaza is going to be long. This is our second independence wars. We're going to save our country, we're going to fight in the air, ground, and see.


VAUSE: Israel has once again called for Palestinians in northern Gaza to head south for their own safety. Still, civilians continue to die, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank. More than 7600 people have been killed in Gaza since this Israeli offensive began. Those numbers are based on sources inside Hamas controlled Gaza.

Israel's ground operation also raising concern for more than 200 hostages being held by militant groups. Hamas say it's ready to negotiate, trading hostages for all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. But Israel's military has dismissed that as psychological terror meant to manipulate civilians.

Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. have been involved in those negotiations to try and free to kidnap and the families of those victims have been meeting with Israeli officials as well. One group lobbying for family say they've been through the most terrible of all nights.

So with the prospect of extensive ground operation now looming in Gaza, the Director General of the mosque-controlled Gaza Health Ministry tells CNN that hospitals are only there to treat patients. That's in response to an Israeli claim that Hamas has set up a command-and-control center in bunkers, beneath Gaza's biggest hospital in Gaza City Shifa Hospital. CNN's Nada Bashir has more now on the situation inside Gaza, and how civilians are increasingly paying the ultimate price. A warning, her report contains some images which viewers will find distressing.


NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER: A flash of light over the chilling imposed darkness that engulfs Gaza every night. A glaring promise of more death and destruction. The ongoing siege and a communications blackout, plunging Gaza into eerie silence.

One little video has emerged so far, paints a picture of the devastation wrought by Israel's relentless bombardment. Scenes of incomprehensible loss, shrouded bodies, the latest amongst thousands of victims. Israel says it is targeting Hamas, now also expanding its ground operations. A retaliation they say to the Hamas terror attacks of October 7, which left at least 1400 dead and more than 200 others held hostage inside Gaza. But in the besieged strip of land, the number of Palestinians killed also rises with each and every airstrike.

The situation is dire. Our homes were destroyed in the airstrikes. Six of our family members were killed. What can we do? We are all living through this.

This was the scene on Friday at the Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. Now not only a lifeline to thousands of patients, but a sanctuary to tens of thousands including children displaced by the war.

We're not even asking for food. We're not asking for water. We're asking for safety, for security. Our men, women or children, they've all been killed. Many have come in the hope that hospitals will remain a safe haven. But this safe haven is now being characterized by Israel with no verifiable evidence as a potential target.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The red buildings, as I mentioned, are building that Hamas is using.

BASHIR: It is a claim rejected by Palestinian officials in Gaza who accused Israel of falsifying intelligence and say the hospital is only used to treat patients. But the consequence of such allegations is feared by many. Any suggestion that this hospital could be viewed as a legitimate target by Israel. For doctors who know the hospital well, is a warning of unimaginable bloodshed.


DR. MADS GILBERT, PROFESSOR, CLINIC OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: I've been walking in all parts of Shifa, in the basement, in the different clinics, in the different buildings. I've been there night and day, peace time or war time, all over. I have never seen anything that could look like or function as some command center.

BASHIR: On and on, Israel's airstrikes lay waste to this already ravaged enclave, artillery shelling now adding to the devastation. The people of Gaza, gripped by constant cycle of mourning, still struggling to comprehend this endless nightmare. Death now woven into the very fabric of their lives. Nada Bashir, CNN, in Amman, Jordan.


VAUSE: For those on the outside looking in, concerns are growing over the safety and well-being of so many inside Gaza. Near total communications blackout means aid groups have no idea where their personnel are, if they're alive, wounded or dead. Same holds true for just about everyone else. A CNN producer in Gaza told us he's able -- unable to reach his relatives. The only way he could tell us that was by using a phone with a foreign SIM card which allows for very limited communications.

Earlier CNN's Becky Anderson spoke with the spokesperson from the Palestinian Red Crescent. She explained the immense challenges facing aid groups who've now faced no communications and the dire risks facing Gaza's residents as fuel, food and medicine run out.


NEBAL FARSAKH, SPOKESPERSON, PALESTINIAN RED CRESCENT: I am extremely concerned about the safety of our colleagues who are conducting the role under this intense bombardment. I'm also extremely worried regarding the ability of over 2 million civilians in Gaza to have the emergency medical services due to this completely cut of communication in Gaza. That's mean people in Gaza now are unable to call the emergency or the ambulances services in order to get emergency medical services.

That also means that our colleagues now who are working on the ground are facing great challenges in order to reach the wounded people and they try to save their lives in a timely manner. Due to this cuts of communication, they are most probably arrive late to the location to -- to evacuate those wounded people. No wonder we have been seen many civilians car over media channels, they are trying to evacuate wounded people to the hospitals.

I'm also extremely worried regarding all of these emergency services. I mean, emergency cases, while patients with chronic diseases or even pregnant women, we are expecting around 5500 women to give birth this month. That's mean those woman's or any other emergency cases are now completely denied access to emergency medical service, which also put their lives into danger.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Nebal, you've just said that you have been -- you've been out of communication completely with your colleagues on the ground at the Red Crescent since this expanded operation by the Israelis started this time last night. So that's now 24 hours. As things stood while you were still in contact with people, did they have anything like, what -- let me -- let me phrase this in a different way, had they got fuel to run generators to ensure that these hospitals can still function, that they have any medical supplies, food, aid, what was left?

FARSAKH: Last thing we have heard from our colleagues before the cut of the communication, they were -- they were extremely worried regarding our ability to continue providing our life-saving services. They were expecting that we have fuel, that could last. They only put a couple of hours that mean at that point, we will be unable even to run our ambulances due to running out of fuel.

We will be also unable to continue operating our two hospitals in Gaza due to the cut of electricity. Basically we have also patients who are in the intensive care unit connected to life support machines and oxygen. That means they are also in danger of losing their life due to the cut of electricity. Although we have literally tried all kind of solution even trying rationalizing the consumption of electricity as much as we can in order to last until the last minute to try to continue providing our life-saving services.



VAUSE: Well, for the very latest on the escalating IDF operation inside Gaza, CNN's Nic Robertson is with us live from the southern Israeli city of Sderot. And I guess, Nic, one of the sort of most obvious questions right now, as we saw this buildup of 300,000 Israeli troops on the border of Gaza for almost three weeks, where are they now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Some of them and appears to have actually moved into Gaza, the Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier at a press conference said that there were more commanders and more fighters in the enemy territory that this was now operating, entering rather, its second phase, the operation entering -- entering its second phase. And we're certainly witnessing a significant uptick in the amount of tank fire from around here, in the amount of artillery fire, and the amount of air strikes, just as strike after air strike after air strike going into Gaza tonight, more perhaps even than last night, which was -- was very loud, very intense last -- last long into the night.

Helicopter gunships have been flying in the area. We've been able to hear them firing into -- into the direction of Gaza, different missiles firing in there. So it's really, I think, you know, when he asked the question about where are the troops, some of them have gone in, where are all of the troops we don't really know and what might happen to them and when -- when they might go in. But today, we were able to get along the side of the border, and be able to take a look at some of those forces, some of those 360,000 that were called up to the border area, see what they were doing.


ROBERTSON: Racing along the border with Gaza, Israeli merch for tanks, an incursion force on the move. Part of the IDF intensification of operations preparing the way for an expected large scale ground offensive.

(On camera): That dirt track down there where you can see the dust coming up, that's the road that runs along the Israeli side of the border. We've been able to hear intense gunfire from the IDF shooting into Gaza, tank rounds as well, fired from their right into Gaza.

(Voice-over): Machine gunfire erupts as unseen soldiers battle for control of the fields that separate the border from the crowded Gaza towns.

Inside the towns smoke rising from intensified strikes, where the IDF says Hamas hides in underground tunnels and among civilians. Israel's Defense Minister announcing a new phase in the war.

YOAV GALLANT, ISRAEL DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Last night the ground in Gaza shook. We attack terror operatives of all ranks in every location.

ROBERTSON: The tempo of battle rising noticeably Friday night, power, phone, and internet services cut in the north of the densely populated Palestinian enclave. Hospitals already short of medicine, water and other essentials at times appearing overrun with casualties. On Saturday, in apparent desperation with deteriorating humanitarian conditions, some Gazans stormed a U.N. compound looting food.

PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, UNRWA COMMISSIONER-GENERAL: People in Gaza are dying. They are not only dying from bombs and strike, soon, many more will die from the consequences of siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

ROBERTSON: With nightfall Saturday, the IDF keeping up the pressure on Hamas, the pace of strikes, unrelenting as the ground offensive continues. Israel's Prime Minister promising more to come.

NETANYAHU: The war in Gaza will be long, we are going to fight in the air, ground, and see. We are going to fight and win.

ROBERTSON: So far, only a tiny fraction of Israel's fighting force of more than half a million troops have crossed the battle lines into Gaza. What comes next could ignite tensions way beyond Israel's borders.


ROBERTSON (on camera): So level of civilian casualties, how quickly the IDF surges enforces I think those two points are going to be hugely critical, John.


VAUSE: There's also the question about the safety and the, you know, the well-being and what will happen with more than 200 hostages currently being held by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. How does this complicate negotiations for their release?

ROBERTSON: Well, the Minister of Defense in Israel said, he thinks that this will actually help. And the hostage situation that this will add, put pressure, if you will, on her Hamas to hand over the hostages. The military wing of Hamas said that they are prepared to do a prisoner swap. The hostages for all the Palestinians -- all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. So that's sort of on the table, the Prime Minister said it's a priority to destroy Hamas, but also a priority to get all the hostages back.

And the interlocutors in Qatar are indicating that they are willing to keep going -- keep going with the talks that they think it's important, to keep going with the talks. But they say look, while the hostilities are high, it makes the probability of a positive outcome lower. But they say one other option is there. And I think for the families, a huge worry for the families of those hostages, who are just concerned that the OPTEMPO -- military OPTEMPO if you will, just puts their loved ones in danger.

But the discussions over possible hostage release that is, I suppose, the light at the end of what may be a very long tunnel. The talks are still happening. So there is still a possibility. But you do have to wonder with all this military activity, just how easy even if you can get a deal, how easy would it be to get the hostages out safely. John.

VAUSE: And what their safety is like at the moment as this offensive continues as well. Nic, thank you for being with us. Nic Robertson there, live in Sderot, in southern Israel, appreciate it.

With that, we'll take a short break. You're watching CNN. We'll back in a moment.


VAUSE: Coming up to 19 minutes past the hour, welcome back, everyone. We'll have a lot more from Israel and Gaza in a moment. But now the U.S. politics and one of the highest profile Republican candidates in the race for the party's nomination for president is now battling out. Former Vice President Mike Pence announced he's suspending his campaign Saturday through speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kristen Holmes joins me now from Las Vegas with more on this. I guess given his poll numbers, this really doesn't seem much of a surprise. But is there any reason why now, why this particular moment?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, look, it does not seem like much of a surprise, a part of this is because of the timing. He know that he had still not qualified for that third presidential debate, which is in two weeks, and they just didn't believe that the money was there. We know that held a number of fundraisers and he still wasn't quite meeting that threshold. It was going to be significantly embarrassing if he did not make the third GOP debate. But when I talked to some of his senior advisors, they indicate there's another reason as well, and it does have to do with money as well as support. But it is that they believe there was a lane for Mike Pence within the current Republican Party that they no longer believe exists. And Pence touched on some of this in his speech today. Take a listen.



MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Now, I'm leaving this campaign, but let me promise you, I will never leave the fight for conservative values. And I will never stop fighting to elect principled Republican leaders to every office in the land. So help me God.


HOLMES: And John, you know, we talk about lower poll numbers, not finding this traction with voters, not getting the money from donors. And it seems again, unsurprising. But this is a significant moment for the current Republican Party. Back in 2016, Pence was brought on to Trump's ticket to help assure conservatives that Trump was going to have a conservative White House. He was seen as the person who could reach out to evangelicals, to reach out to these more traditional conservatives that didn't really want to get behind Donald Trump. And now we are here, two cycles later. And it appears that there's no room for Mike Pence within the conservative Republican Party, and this has really become the party of Donald Trump. So it is a significant moment in that sense that you see this total shift that we've had in roughly the last eight years.

VAUSE: Kristen, that's for being with us, we appreciate it.

You did hear this hour about the gunman responsible for two mass shootings in Maine this week. The body of the only suspect, Robert Card, was discovered Friday night in recycling center about 10 miles from the city of Lewiston, where the shootings took place. Please say Card die for an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 40-year-old also left a note indicating that he did not expect to be found alive. He's accused of killing 18 people, injuring 13 others at a bowling alley as well as a restaurant Wednesday night. More details now from CNN's Shimon Prokupecz.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Police releasing more information today, the most information they've released since this happened, they say they're able to do that because the investigation is now essentially over there, will be no one to prosecute. And so they're releasing new information. They say that they found the body on Friday night at 7:45 p.m. after a call from the recycling plant, a recycling plant manager in Lisbon who told them they needed to go check this area. These trailers, there were 50 some trailers in this one area. And so police did that. There was also this tip in this community that they went ahead and check the trailer and they found the shooter dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

They say they also found two guns inside the trailer. They also confirmed they found a long rifle in his car, which he abandoned and then fled. They believe on foot to this recycling plant. They also released more information about the investigation. A note they say that they found at his home, they're releasing more details about that, saying that he left information for a loved one, that detailed bank accounts and the passcode for his cell phone so that a family, a loved one could get inside that phone. They say they're looking at all of that. They're going to be going over all of that information as part of the investigation.

And the other thing that they're looking at here is his mental health. The shooters mental health. They are reviewing information about that. They say that that he was going through some difficulty thinking that he was hearing voices, some other mental health issues. And one of the things that they're looking at is the reason for why he targeted these locations, is because he thought people perhaps were speaking badly about him. And so that perhaps, is some of the motivation here.

All of this happening as police here continue to investigate the crime scenes and collect evidence. And then in the coming days, we're going to start seeing vigils here where people are going to be able to get together, the families and the people who live in these communities to get together and share some of their pain and the memories of those who died.


VAUSE: Our thanks to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz for that report. And we will take a short break. You're watching CNN. We'll back in a moment.



VAUSE: 26 minutes past the hour. Welcome back. The United Nations is calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in the war between Israel and Hamas. A non-binding resolution sponsored by Jordan was approved by the U.N. on Friday, despite opposition from the United States and Israel, both voting against it. For more, here's CNN's Jim Sciutto, speaking with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You said prior to these ground operations today, that an Israeli ground offensive there would be a human catastrophe. Now that operations have begun, I wonder what is your reaction?

AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you, Jim. I said actually after the operation started last night, after I saw it's being played out on your screen, that this is just going to bring a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. We all stand by that because we know as, in your words, devastating air campaign yesterday, ground wars is just going to make it impossible. The number of death, the number of casualties, it's just going to sink us deeper into this abyss. And then what? Another war to be added to the many wars we've had in the region, that saved no one.

Our position, sir, is we need to stop this war. We need to go back to a piece that will save Palestinian, Israeli and other lives.

SCIUTTO: When you have expressed that position, both in public and privately to U.S. diplomats, have they listened to your opposition to this military campaign? What's been their response?

SAFADI: Look, we're in constant contact with the U.S. As you know, we're allies and we're friends and we're in continuous discussion. They have their views. We have our views. But I think by the end of the day we all want the same thing.

We want peace, we want an end of death and end of suffering and end of killing. How we get there is something that we're all discussing. Our position is very clear, this war will not get us there. Jim, imagine the amount of dehumanization that is happening. Imagine the amount of hatred that's coming out of this misery that we see unfolding in Gaza. That is not going to bring peace or security to the Israelis or to the Palestinians, or to any of us in the region.

So I think on the broader objective, I think people will have to be insane enough to support what we're saying, which is, let's go for peace, let's save lives. More killing is not going to help anybody and this is a conversation that we're having with all our friends and partners in the region and beyond. And this is where I hope all our efforts will converge.

SCIUTTO: Jordan, of course, yourself included quickly condemned the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. And Jordan itself has been the victim of horrible terror attacks by ISIS and other groups. I wonder, what would you see as an acceptable military response from Israel to the October 7 attacks?

SAFADI: Sir, we condemn obviously the killing of Israeli civilians on October 7. We condemn the killing of Palestinian innocent since then. We see that we should not be squeezed between two pains. We realize the pain that, that is there. But if we continue to operate within this space, we're just going to cause more pain for more people. How many lives are going to have to die before we say this is not the path that we need to do.


Those that are lost on both sides are lost. There's nothing we can do to bring them back. But we can save lives. We can stop others being killed. And this is really what our message, every life matters, Muslim life, Jewish life, Christian life, that is where we stand. And we just don't see that this war is going to bring security to anybody. It's not going -- it's not going to, as I said, bring back those who were gone.


VAUSE: Well, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a new phase in the war with Hamas. He also promised that every effort will be made to retrieve more than 200 hostages being held by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. But aggressive offensive will complicate efforts to negotiate their release. And for more of that, and their chances of those sausages actually making it home. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke to Michael Oren, a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.


MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: There was a certain theory that by starting the ground operations, we were basically forfeiting the ability to negotiate for the -- for the hostages. I think it's just the opposite. Long as Hamas was sitting underground with the hostages, and we weren't on the ground attacking, then Hamas could determine the conditions. And the conditions were far, far more than Israel could ever accept. It was not just releasing all the terrorists in Israeli jails. These are people who have killed hundreds in the case of the Second Intifada, killed the thousand Israelis, OK. So with a lot of blood on their hands, that Hamas also wanted unlimited fuel supplies for its fighters, and it wanted a ceasefire.

Now, you understand if ceasefire for Israel is death, ceasefire means that Hamas gets away with mass murder. It means we can't restore our security. We can't restore our deterrence power in the region. We're finished. So we couldn't accept that. But as the forces -- Israeli forces move into Gaza slowly and encircle Hamas, Hamas is going to have to use those hostages as sort of a get out of jail, free card. They could pull what, you remember this, what Yasser Arafat did in Beirut in 1982, they'll say, OK, let us get out of here. We'll go to -- we'll go to Algeria or something, and we'll give you the hostages. It also, I think, increase the chances are, they'll keep the hostages alive, and in good shape, because that's their last bargaining chip.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Is it possible that Israel might accept some sort of pause, not a ceasefire, but a pause to allow more humanitarian aid to get in to help them civilians in Gaza?

OREN: It's possible. It's very difficult politically here. And I'll explain why. While, you know, we don't want to see, Palestinians suffer, it's important to move them out of the combat zone as much as possible because they're in the combat zone. The amount of Palestinian civilian casualties will shoot very, very high up.

On the other hand, many Israeli, especially the families of these 222 Israelis who are held hostages are saying, why should we give food and fuel to the Palestinians, when they won't even let us know who they have as hostage. They want the Red Cross and to see them. And by opening up those quarters, we're basically giving up the last leverage, we have to find out about our loved ones. So very difficult cost for the government.

I'm not representing the government now, you know, Wolf, and I would say in the long-run, it's Israel's benefit. Because if we -- if you don't have that type of humanitarian corps, you're going to have increasing international pressure on us for a ceasefire, which as I said before, would be disastrous for us. But politically, it's a heavy lift here.

BLITZER: To go ahead and delay any full-scale ground invasion --

OREN: No, the humanitarian corridor.

BLITZER: To stop that.

OREN: You have to answer to the families. I'm meeting with these families every day. And they all say the same things.

BLITZER: The Israeli hostages were the 200 --

OREN: Yes.

BLITZER: -- who are in Gaza.

OREN: 222 are in Gaza. And they all say the same thing to me, whatever you do, don't agree to this humanitarian corridor, as much pressure as you're under by the United States, by the international community because it's the last leverage we have to find out the status of our loved ones. Many of them don't even know if they -- if there weren't -- if weren't some video clip taken of the hostages, they don't really know that they're there. They just know that they're missing, and only a minority were filmed. So most of the people I'm listening with and meeting with, don't even know if their loved ones are there in fact.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN's ongoing coverage of Israel's war with Hamas. We'll have a lot more here after a very short break. Back in a moment.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. Egypt's President has warned the Middle East will become a ticking time bomb if the war between Israel and Hamas expands to other countries. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says Egyptian diplomats are helping to try and resolve the conflict. But he also urged other countries to respect its sovereignty. Those comments came as Egypt investigates what it says were identified drones, which came down on Egyptian territory on Friday.

For more CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us this hour in Cairo. And Melissa, there are a number of possibilities where those drones came from, not necessarily Gaza, all Israel?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, the understanding on both sides is that they seem to have come from the Southern Red Sea area. Egyptians for their part say they don't know who fired them or exactly where from, these are drone attacks that killed, that injured six Egyptians just to the south of the last and the Israeli border there in the very northern part of the Red Sea.

What the Israelis are saying is that it was, in fact, Yemen based Houthi rebels who were behind those drone strikes. So a lot of -- a lot of mystery really surrounding where they came from, and disagreement about where they might have come from. What everyone agrees on, though, is the danger that this -- the longer it goes on, will spill out more further than it has still regionally. And, of course, that was at the heart of President Sisi's comments.

We've also been hearing today from the Egyptian authorities, but also from the Saudis, the UAE, the Jordanians and the Turkish president, a great deal of condemnation about what's been going on today. You mentioned those strikes here in Egypt on Friday, the fact that that ground operation got underway in Gaza has been the focus of a lot of attention, and a lot of denunciation on the part of Muslim and Arab leaders in the region.

With this fear that it is ratcheting up the pressure still, on civilians, many of them have spoken about the worsening of the humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip. The fear that this will spread further, but it is perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader that went the furthest in his comments. He was speaking, John, to a very large gathering of pro-Palestinian supporters, demonstrators who were there to make their anger plain after -- the day after that ground operation gotten underway and what he said, he repeated his case that Israel will (inaudible) repeated his claims also that Hamas was not a terror organization. But in fact, a group of freedom fighters, sufficiently hard words, John, that Israel announced that he was expelling Turkey's diplomatic representatives inside the country.

And in the middle of all that, of course, the worsening tension, the growing anger, really in the Arab and Muslim world about what is happening in Gaza, and what has often been described as the double standards of the rest of the world about the loss of life in this particular region. And specifically, since this conflict began, the question of course, with the Rafah Crossing, and whether that will be given any more leeway in his opening than it has been so far, not just for the determination on the part of the U.N. humanitarian agencies that more trucks should be able to get in to help those so desperately in need after these many days of war.

But also the question of if and when Egypt will allow its opening for those trying to flee. We know that it's been the target of bombing, and of course now has a great deal of Palestinian civilians just on the other side, who had been told at one point they've been able to cross and for now, simply haven't. So a lot of attention being paid there to the Rafah Crossing for the time being very little aid going in and no one coming out. John.


VAUSE: Melissa, thank you. CNN's Melissa Bell live for us in Cairo. Thank you.

For the near total internet communications blackout in Gaza that's left aid workers and medical staff in limbo. And the World Health Organization says people spent last night in, "darkness and fear," who says more civilians are being wounded by the hour but without communication. Ambulances don't know where they are. They cannot be reached.

CNN obtain images from Saturday from Gaza City. A journalist in central Gaza says the shelling there did not stop all day. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more on the nightmare scenario that so many families are now facing in Gaza, especially those with young children. A warning to our viewers the video you're about to see in Jomana's report is graphic and upsetting.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to believe this was Gaza just a few weeks ago. Little newer dressed in his finest dancing with his brother at a wedding. His mother, Wesal, still can't believe her boy is gone.

He was holding my hand as I took him to make him a sandwich, she says. He didn't get to eat it. Shrapnel cut through his neck. He's now in heaven. God give me strength to deal with this.

The airstrikes that took six-year-old Nor (ph) and other relatives left her with injuries all over her body and the unbearable pain so many Palestinian mothers are having to endure.

There's a void in my heart. I can't even cry, she says. I really want to cry. But the tears are not coming out. Why can't I get it out? I want to cry for my little boy. Recovering at hospital, she just wants to get back to her three other children now homeless sheltering at a school.

Hell is raining down on Gaza. Israel says it's going after Hamas and doing what it can to spare the innocent. But it is the innocent who paying the heaviest price. And a few hospitals still barely standing. Those pictures are too graphic for us to show. But faces here tell of the horrors they've survived. And this living nightmare they can't escape.

Three-year-old Judy (ph) hasn't uttered a word in 16 days. She won't eat or drink, her father says. Still in shock with a piece of shrapnel lodged in her head.

What did these children do? We have nothing to do with the resistance, he says. They're just targeting Palestinians. They're killing children because they're Palestinian. To them, we're not humans.

They don't know if she'll be able to walk again. Judy is one of the lucky ones if one can call them that. She still has her father by her side. Baby Orwa (ph) keeps asking for her mom. She's too young to understand, her uncle says. Orwa lost her mother, her brother and her sister too. She shows the camera her out. In every corner of every hospital, so many heart wrenching stories of

loss so hard to comprehend. Derrine (ph) only wakes up to cry, her aunt says. In a room with her seven-year-old brother Kenan (ph), the two were the only ones to survive an airstrike that killed their mother, father, brother and dozens of their extended family. Kenan doesn't say much these days.

He asked me if we have internet here. He says, I want to call mommy and daddy, his aunt says.

Doctors in these overwhelmed hospitals say every day brings a constant stream of children with no parents and a flood of injured they just don't have enough to treat with the little they have they do what they can. But how do you begin to deal with so many going through so much? Jomana Karadsheh, CNN Beirut.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN. We'll take a short break. We'll back in a moment right after this.



VAUSE: Welcome back. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met some of the family members of the hostages being held by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. They gathered in Tel Aviv where people held up photos of the missing and wrote messages on a giant banner. Joining together to call for a comprehensive deal for the government to ensure the safe return of their loved ones. But there's also a growing sense of frustration, with some saying they feel left in the dark about whether or not her ground operation in Gaza would endanger the well-being of those being held.

The U.N. Secretary General visitor Doha Saturday, then Qatar's Prime Minister for helping with negotiations to free those hostages. Spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Ministry told CNN's Becky Anderson, he remains hopeful that more hostages will still be released.


MAJED AL-ANSARI, SPOKESPERSON, QATARI MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: The talks as they just mentioned were going, with all parties we were working around the clock, the taskforce responsible for this was working around the clock to make sure that we are able to reach a deal. And we were very hopeful that that might happen.

Obviously, this escalation makes it considerably more difficult. But as you heard today, even during this escalation, Prime Minister Netanyahu is mentioning talk of mediation on the release and the prisoner exchange deal. You have the Hamas spokesperson just minutes ago, saying that they are willing to conduct a prisoner exchange deal. So although the situation on the ground is becoming more and more and more difficult from a logistical perspective, and from a political perspective. But we are still hopeful that the efforts that you are leading will be able to reach a situation where we have, a release of more hostages.

ANDERSON: So let me be quite clear, the talks in the mediation to effort the release of civilian hostages, possibly a prisoner exchange, at this point, have not collapsed, correct?

AL-ANSARI: No, I believe they are still going, the taskforce is still working on it. And as I said, it's becoming more and more difficult with the current escalation, this escalation that is happening right now, you know, one of the most terrible escalations that have happened in the region for a long time, is making it centrally more difficult. As I said, on the logistical side of it, or just moving people during a landing incursion, and the increased bombardment. But also from a political side, of course, you know, mediation only works when you have common periods. Under this kind of conflict, this kind of confrontation between both sides, it becomes more difficult, but it's still ongoing, and we can't give up.

I can tell you that really, we can't give up on this, on all sides. Nobody in the region can afford to give up on this and just leave it to -- to the military people to decide what happens in the future.

ANDERSON: What can you provide us in terms of the details of these talks?

AL-ANSARI: Well, obviously, Becky, I can't get into the details of this, because our main concern now is getting the hostages to their families and making sure that this mediation succeeds. And that will be very difficult. You know, right now, we share a lot of the of the details. But as you heard today from Prime Minister Netanyahu and from the spokesperson of Hamas, we are talking around the idea of more hostages coming out talking about the idea of a prisoner exchange. We are optimistic that the talks are heading more towards all civilian hostages. But obviously it's a fluid situation on the ground. We still don't know what will happen.

ANDERSON: Do we know how many civilian hostages there are held in Gaza at present?

AL-ANSARI: I'm not sure to be honest, anybody knows. We -- we have our number that we're discussing, you know, through the lists we get from various countries about the foreign citizens who are held hostage. We have the numbers for the Israeli side. We have numbers on Palestinian side. But these numbers are not necessarily always the same. But the important thing here is that both sides acknowledge that the civilian hostages need to go out immediately. And both sides, especially Hamas on notice, has said very clearly that they are willing to facilitate hostages go out. So we have to work towards that as soon as possible.

ANDERSON: We know that Hamas had been pressing for at least the release of Palestinian women and have teenagers held in Israeli prisons. We heard Benjamin Netanyahu say today that that had been discussed in the war cabinet, can press you on whether you believe that that exchange could be for women and children being held in Gaza by Hamas. And if so, we talking around sort of 50, 60 people here? [19:50:18]

AL-ANSARI: Obviously, Becky, we we've been talking about day one about our priorities. And this is our main goal and our end goal to release all the hostages and get them back to their families. But obviously, when you put it and when you prioritize, if you start with the women and children, you start with the civilians and then you go to the rest of the of the hostages. And obviously, if we were going to prioritize, we're going to start with the women and children. But I believe that right now the discussions encompass, you know, the idea of civilian hostages altogether and obviously priorities will be made when you -- when you have the discussions on the ground.

ANDERSON: As I understand it, one of the problems is Hamas doesn't actually hold at present all the civilian hostages and indeed military hostages in this will be soldiers and -- and Israelis of reservist age. Hamas doesn't actually hold all of those hostages themselves, is that correct?

AL-ANSARI: It's a complicated situation on the ground, Becky. There are a multitude of players in Gaza. It's not -- this is not an army- to-army conflict. This is a very difficult command, taking situations very difficult when it comes to the parties who are involved in this. So, it's understandable that the situation of the hostage is not organized. It's a chaotic situation right now. And that especially with the current bombardment and alignment.


VAUSE: Our thanks to CNN's Becky Anderson there, speaking to a spokesperson from Qatar's Foreign Ministry.

Well, 18 Thai nationals are among those being held in Gaza. More than 30 Thai nationals were killed in Hamas attack on October 7, according to Thai government officials.

And for more now and how this war is being felt a world away. CNN's Ivan Watson traveled to remote villages in Thailand, meaning with the survivor of the attack, as well as family members of a hostage. A warning now, Ivan's report includes graphic images, which some viewers will find disturbing.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The empty back roads of northeastern Thailand feel a world away from the raging war in Israel and Gaza. But even here, in one of the country's poorest provinces, there are victims, scarred by the violence in the Middle East.

(On camera): Do you think this man wanted to kill you?

WITHAWAT KUNWONG, SURVIVED OCT. 7 HAMAS ATTACK (through translator): He tried to cut my throat after I passed out. But, because the knife is broken, he couldn't finish the job. WATSON: Thirty-year-old Withawat Kunwong spent years working as a

migrant laborer at this turkey farm in Israel, in kibbutz Holit, located within sight of the security fence that encircles Gaza.

On the morning of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th, Kunwong streamed this video live from the turkey farm. Kunwong says he hid for hours, but was discovered by a Palestinian man in civilian clothes, armed with what looked like a kitchen knife. Kunwong says he refused to surrender, they got into a savage fight.

He bit you?

KUNWONG (through translator): When we were fighting, he bit my arm.

WATSON: Kunwong says he was left for dead and later cared for by other Thai migrant workers.

Now, after more than four years working in Israel, he is reunited with his family in Thailand recovering from deep physical and psychological wounds.

At the start of the latest hostilities, there were nearly 30,000 Thai citizens working in Israel, many of them from poor farming villages in this region.

Families here say their men signed minimum five-year contracts to work in Israel, a period during which most would not come home to visit their loved ones. But they say the sacrifice is worth it because the salaries you could earn in the Middle East dwarf the money that you can make in the rice paddies of northern Thailand.

A proud father shows me the house his son's Israeli wages built.

His 29-year-old son Mani Jirajat (ph) was expected to come home next year after half a decade of work in Israel.

This is the bunker?

This video shows Jirajat and other Thai workers on the morning of the October 7th Hamas attack, taking shelter in a bunker. It's the last they heard from their son.

This is Mani (ph) right here.

Until this image emerged on social media. Mani Jirajat (ph) and several other men held hostage by armed militants. His father and mother now desperate for their son's safe return.

I have no words, he says. I want my son back.

In a statement to CNN, Thailand's deputy prime minister called for the release of all hostages adding, "Our Thai nationals who have been killed and kidnapped are mostly farmers earning a living to support their families in Thailand and really have no involvement in the conflict."


As Israel continues its deadly bombardment of Gaza, these parents anxiously watch and wait, praying for their son's freedom.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Udon Thani, Thailand.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. We'll take a short break. I'll be back with more of our continued coverage in a moment. But first, this is a live view right now from Gaza. It is 1:55 a.m. You can tell it is dark there, but that darkness has been punctuated with a flash of light from Israeli airstrikes. We've also been hearing the sound of artillery fire and machine gunfire as well, automatic weapons fire.

This is a view from Sderot, from -- as recorded by CNN crews on the ground there. You can see those ongoing missile via the airstrikes also continuing on proximately 2 million Palestinians without electricity and without communications, unable to reach the outside world, living through another night of what the World Health Organization has called another night in fear and darkness.

A lot more on what is happening with those airstrikes in Gaza also with the limited ground incursion by Israeli troops, when we come back.