Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

U.N. Calls For Maximum Restraint After Iran Attacks Israel; Allies Assist In Israel's Defense; Interview With Representative Tom Suozzi (D-NY) About Iran's Attack On Israel And Pending Aid Bill In Congress; One-On-One With Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY); Iran: We Will Respond; Mexico's New Plan To Curb Illegal Crossings Into The US. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 19:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

The breaking news tonight, the head of the United Nations calling for maximum restraint as Israel weighs its response to an unprecedented attack by Iran. The Israeli Defense Forces says Iran launched some 350 rockets, missiles, drones into its territory overnight. The vast majority of them shot down by Israel and its partners before they could hit Israeli territory.

Tonight, the Israeli war cabinet says it has not yet reached a decision on the scale or timing of its response, but that it is determined to act with one cabinet member calling for Israel to, quote, "exact a price on Iran."

President Biden spoke with G7 leaders today hoping for a diplomatic path forward saying in a tweet just moments ago, "We will continue to work together to stabilize the situation in the region and avoid further escalation."

CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Jerusalem.

Nic, what do we know about Israel's current thinking in terms of a response? You're hearing a lot of messages calling for restraint, including from the U.S. president, from the U.N. Is Israel thinking in similar terms?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And the other end of the spectrum in the right-wing cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for essentially the sort of maximum deterrence position, the go berserk position, the smash the crockery, the show Iran that it can't get away with doing this to Israel, the reverse of what Iran thinks it's doing to Israel at the moment.

But Barak Ravid, CNN analyst who you were speaking to outlined some of the divisions in the war cabinet meeting. Around that table Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot, both of the National Unity Party, both former IDF chiefs of staff, both in the early hours of knowing that Iran had launched missiles towards Israel last night wanted Israel to strike back immediately before those impacts, before the intercepts that we saw over the skies here.

Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoken with President Biden. President Biden or following that phone call where President Biden has sort of urged caution that was decided not to take that decision and respond immediately. But to delay for a day and thinking about it. And today we hear that the war cabinet met for almost five hours, didn't reach a conclusion, has asked the IDF to come up with options of how to strike back, but is now considering its position of the scale and scope and timing of that response.

But as you said, it is clear, Israel wants to have a response but perhaps try to broaden out and bringing -- bring in a stronger international coalition, build support for Israel around this. And we've certainly heard that from Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, and we've heard it from Benny Gantz as well. So broaden the base of support, but not change its mind about going ahead with a response, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We learned in the last hour that Israel is going to open up schools again tomorrow. And I wonder if we could take any message from that and certainly that would seem to indicate they don't perceive an immediate threat from Iran but could that also telegraph that Israel itself is not planning any immediate retaliatory strikes, which then they might presume would spark yet another response from Iran.

ROBERTSON: Yes, Iran has said it was one and done, and has said very clearly that if Israel responds and it will respond with even more force than it showed last night. And the sense that we had earlier today that Israeli have decided to continue to keep the school shut seem to indicate that, although there was nothing in the air incoming to Israel that perhaps Israel had an intention to mount its own counterattack.

But I think, as you said, rightly say, with the schools reopening, that does signal that however long it's going to take for Israel to decide what it's going to do, when it's going to do, how it's going to do it, what it's going to target, why it's going to target, who will support it, who won't support it, that is not going to be in the next 24 hours and likely a little bit longer than that -- Jim.


SCIUTTO: Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Joining us now is Danny Danon, a member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, as well as the country's former ambassador to the U.N.

Thanks so much for joining us this evening.

DANNY DANON, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: Thank you for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And of course, for staying up late for us given the time difference there. You released a statement earlier today writing in part, we will respond with clarity and determination, standing tall and firm against any attempts to undermine our sovereignty and security. Does such a response in your view -- should such a response include a

direct Israeli attack on Iran, on Iranian territory?

DANON: Jim, what happened yesterday was unprecedented. You know, more than 300 projectiles were launched into Israel directly from Iran. Iran chose to do it directly, and not to use their proxies like in the past, leave us no other option. We have to retaliate. We have to retaliate against Tehran. And we have to send a very clear message that we will not accept the new equation that they're trying to create in the region that they are the one who attacked us and they are the ones who decided when to finish the conflict.

We have no desire for full war with Iran. But at the same time, in our neighborhood, you have to punch back when you get attacked. Yes. Last night Israel was attacked. Our sovereignty was under danger and that's why I don't see any other option about --

SCIUTTO: Does such an attack -- should such an attack include attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities?

DANON: Well, I don't think we should go into details. I think we should think very carefully about the targets that we will choose with also that yesterday Iran say that they will actually target only military bases, but we saw attack on our capital, on Jerusalem. I'm sure you showed the picture of the Al-Aqsa Mosque that was under threat of missiles that luckily for all of us were intercepted by our defense system.

So we would think very carefully about the targets, but our message is not to start a war with Iran but to send a very clear message that no one can attack Israel. I think there was an attack against the U.S. or the U.K. or France, or any other member states of the U.N. that nation would have retaliated as well. So why are we hearing different voices coming from the U.N. when we were under such aggressive attack last night?

SCIUTTO: Well, speaking of messages, there is quite a clear message from the U.S. president to Israeli leaders saying that if Israel were to strike Iran the U.S. would not be involved. I wonder, do you read that as the U.S. president pressuring Israel not to attack Iran, and given that, do you think Israel should ignore the U.S. president if it so chooses and go ahead and carry out such an attack?

DANON: We have ongoing dialogue with our ally, the U.S., and we respect and we are grateful for the support we receive from the U.S. But when you look at history, we have to do what's good for Israel. When Prime Minister Begin attacked the nuclear reactor in Iraq, President Reagan condemned that attack. But when we look about it today, it was the right things to do. Same happened when Prime Minister Olmert attacked the reactor in Syria and President Bush condemned the attack.

So not always we see eye-to-eye, but I think for the long run we have the same interest and I think many, many allies of the U.S. are very worried about what happened last night but it wasn't only attack against Israel. It was attack against the ally of the U.S. in the region and they seemed that we're showing a lot of strength in our defense system. The next stage is to show our strengths also on the offensive side.

SCIUTTO: What is Israel gaining exactly, though? Because as you know, Iran says it was responding to a strike in Damascus, which killed a number of its commanders. I know Israel has not acknowledged responsibility for that, but that is the wide hit red spread view, including within the U.S. government that that was an Israeli strikes. So you have an Israeli strike in Damascus, you have an Iranian strike in response, and now you have Israel saying it's going to respond to send a message,

Each attack bigger than the previous attack. What, what would Israel be achieving by having a -- by shooting back in effect? What would be the end game?

DANON: I cannot tell you about the end game with what will be the immediate result, to build our deterrence. We cannot live in a reality that Iran in sending ballistic missiles into our cities against my children, against my family, and we just wait for the next time they will decide to do that?


We cannot live under that stress, so were going to send a very clear message to deliver to Tehran that they should calculate the moves against Israel and I hope that they will learn that lesson. We have no intention as I said earlier to start a war with Iran. We want to finish the war against Hamas but at the same time when we see the way that Iran is spreading the chaos in the region with their proxies. And yesterday, you know, Jim, they chose to send those missiles directly, to send a message to Israel and to the U.S. They could have done it with the proxies, but they chose to send it from Iran. That's why I believe we have to retaliate and attack Iran as well.

SCIUTTO: The White House position on this is that Israel should look at this as a win, take the win in effect, because -- I am certainly not arguing for justifying the Iranian attack here. I'm saying that the defenses, though, worked, and by the way, that was not just an Israeli defense. It was U.S. partners, U.K., as well as Arab partners who took -- they're not advertising that participation, but they took part in this defense and that was a deliberate regional structure bringing, multiple allies together to help defend Israel.

Is that not a win for Israel to see those defenses work in this case? And what's your response to the U.S. president and others in the White House saying Israel should look at this as a win?

DANON: Well, first, you know, we have to thank the support and the cooperation and I think it was meaningful to see the cooperation last night. But when we look at the facts, you know, most of the interception were done by our troops, our forces, but still we are grateful for the support that we received last night. We don't take it for granted, but it's definitely not a win. Let's not foolish ourselves. You know, when we were hiding in the shelter last night and the entire

nation was looking at the rockets flying into Israel, and we had few people injured, a little girl at the age of 7 that was unfortunately seriously injured. But we cannot call it a victory. A win will be when we will send a clear message to Iran not to mess with Israel. We have no interest to start a war with Iran, even though they're sending their proxies from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq.

For the last few months we have been dealing with the proxies of Iran. But if that's turning direct missiles into our communities definitely not a win to intercept 99 percent. It's a great achievement, but it's not a win.

SCIUTTO: Before we go, I've spoken to representatives of the families of hostages still held in Gaza, and they already had concern prior to the last 24, 48 hours that negotiations were stalled. Now they have heightened concern that this will set back negotiations once again. Where do those negotiations stand and is there any positive or hopeful message for the families of hostages still held in Gaza?

DANON: Well, unfortunately, I don't have good news tonight because we got the message from Hamas. You know, every time we make a compromise and we want to move forward, they come with new demands, and as we speak, we have 133 hostages in the hands of Hamas suffering from ongoing atrocities. We pray for them and we are committed to do everything in our power to bring them back. But I think Hamas is not interested in any negotiation. They're just playing -- they hope that the world will push Israel to stop the war, but we will not stop until we bring them back.

SCIUTTO: Danny Danon, member of the Israeli Knesset, thanks so much for joining us tonight. Again please do keep yourself and your family safe.

DANON: Thank you very much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Just ahead, the intelligence sharing that may have helped Israel and other partner countries prepare for Iran's drone and missile attack, and just how much of a role the U.S. played in repelling that attack.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.



SCIUTTO: We're learning more tonight about how and when the U.S. learned about Iran's plans to launch an attack on Israel. A diplomatic source says that Iran told Turkish officials last week about its plans to retaliate against Israel. Turkey in turn informed the U.S. in advance.

This likely played a key role in the coordinated response and defense of Israel. Israel says with the help of countries including the U.S., Britain, and France, nearly all the missiles and drones fired towards Israel by Iran were shot down.

CNN national security correspondent Natasha Bertrand joins us now from the Pentagon.

Natasha, I wonder, how did this intelligence help Israel its allies prepare? And what do they believe the intention was here? Do they believe it was deliberately telegraphed?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jim, so we don't know exactly how the information from Turkey exactly played into how the U.S. was planning for this.


But according to senior administration officials, the U.S. had been planning for a potential Iranian strike on Israel really since the moment that Israel struck that building in Damascus in Syria, what Iran has called of course its consulate there. The U.S. understood and its allies understood that this was likely to prompt a very serious response by the Iranians who took that very seriously because they viewed it as an attack of course on their sovereign territory.

And so from that point on over the last 10 days, according to U.S. officials, they started planning very meticulously and in an intensive coordination with allies, with Israel, to prepare for what was likely to come. And the intelligence picture did shift a bit over the course of last week. It was originally suspected that what Iran was going to do is kind of do this through its proxies as they normally do, as they have over the last several decades, attacking Israel, attacking regional allies and allies of Israel through its proxy forces all across the Middle East.

But as the week went on, the U.S. started to see that Iran was actually placing missiles and drones in different areas and kind of moving them around. And that was a red flag to officials who believed that it could signal that Iran was preparing for some kind of attack from within its own territory. Now, it was not exactly clear whether that would be a retaliatory strike in response to a potential response by the U.S. and Israel to an Iranian strike.

But still the U.S. began getting increasingly convinced towards the end of the week that this was going to be a major attack by Iran itself. So you have the scope here, the timing and even the missiles and drones, the very equipment that the Iranians were planning to use pretty much known to the U.S. and that allowed President Biden to then surge key assets to the region, including Navy destroyers that were moved to the Eastern Mediterranean and additional aircraft, many of which of course shot down over 70 of those drones.

And of course the destroyer shot down some of those ballistic missiles. So the intel picture was pretty clear and that really allowed the U.S. and its allies to prepare accordingly, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Perhaps it made a difference.

Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon, thanks so much. President Biden and the White House are scrambling tonight to make

U.S. support for Israel clear, while also pushing Israel to carefully consider its response. Plus the White House is urging Congress now to pass more aid for Israel, but also for Ukraine and Taiwan. The Senate has already passed the package. Congressional leaders do not sound so sure that will actually happen.

Coming up we're going to speak to Congressman Tom Suozzi about the next steps.



SCIUTTO: This week, a key test for Congress again. Iran's attack against Israel upped the ante for lawmakers to send more aid to Israel. But just hours after the attack, conservative hardliners have a warning for the House speaker, don't attempt to pair any aid for Israel with an existing bipartisan proposal that came over from the Senate for aid for Ukraine and Taiwan as well.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi from the great state, the great city of New York.

Thanks so much for joining tonight.

REP. TOM SUOZZI (D-NY): Hey, Jim, thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: So here we are again. We've had this package of aid, not just for Israel but for Ukraine and Taiwan. It's been passed by the Senate. House has had an opportunity consider it, vote on it for weeks and months now, and we're hearing the House speaker considering again but maybe he just brings up Israel, allayed by itself considering this attack.

I wonder if that were to happen, you're a strong supporter of the whole supplemental, if House Republicans come forward with just aid for Israel and say, we'll deal with Ukraine later, what do you do?

SUOZZI: That would be terribly unwise. You know, we had the Japanese prime minister speak to the whole Congress last week and you wouldn't believe the overwhelming support from all of Congress when he talked about how the United States was an indispensable nation on the global stage in supporting Ukraine and other allies. We need to get these things done. It had overwhelming support in the Senate. It has overwhelming support in the House from Democrats and Republicans.

And we have to stop letting the chaos caucus of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the others dictate what's going on in the United States Congress and really parroting a lot of what Vladimir Putin is saying.

SCIUTTO: You are on the record saying that if the speaker were to get this attack from the right flank, a motion to vacate if he were to bring a package that includes Ukraine aid to the floor, and Israel aid we should note, that you would vote for him and encourage other Democrats to vote for him to keep his speakership. And you wrote about this in the "Wall Street Journal."

I'm going to quote from your article, you say Democrats must offer Speaker Johnson our votes to save democracy in Ukraine and here. We can't let our partisan instincts get in our way. We must work with Republicans to disarm Mr. Putin's puppet, get a vote to support Ukraine and defeat Russian disinformation. Our democracy is at stake."

I wonder, do you have other Democratic colleagues willing to do the same thing that if Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, would give a motion to -- make a motion to vacate if he were to bring this to the floor, would other Democrats do what you're suggesting?

SUOZZI: I think that if Speaker Johnson does his job and brings the supplemental package with Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan to the floor that there will be other Democrats. Leader Jeffries has said much of the same thing, maybe not as explicitly as I have, but has indicated -- has given every indication to me and to others that he wants to get this done, because this is important not only for our country but for the world, and we need to stop letting this small group of jokers control what's going on in the United States and on the world stage.


SCIUTTO: You are watching this situation in Israel very closely, I know, and a lot of people in your district just outside of New York watching it closely as well.

You've heard the president encourage Israelis not to go too far in effect and say quite explicitly that if you attack Iran, the US will not be alongside you as you do so, is that the right message from the us president to Israeli leaders right now?

SUOZZI: I mean, the bottom line is the Israel is a sovereign nation. It has to make its own decisions, but we are in a very precarious time and we need these global coalitions to stick together.

You know, it is not just the US, it is the West as a whole. The Kingdom of Jordan. I mean, the Kingdom of Jordan helped last night to save Israel. We have to recognize that we want to bring other people into the fold.

You know, I think that we all like to see Saudi Arabia line with Israel and the US and the West, and we can really make a big change in this region. So Israel has got to do what a sovereign nation wants to do that they think is in their best interests.

But let's recognize you've got a lot of very important partners here that have been helping you to supply you with these defensive weapons and there is a big team here and the one thing that this president has done that he has gotten very little credit for is he has managed to keep and hold a team together in the West when it comes to Israel, when it comes to Ukraine, when it comes to so much more.

Just think about when Ukraine was first invaded by Russia. I mean, people were worried that Germany and others in NATO were worried about their gas and oil imports from Russia. Would they stick together? He managed to hold everybody together and we need to hold everybody together here now, not only on Ukraine, but on Israel, on the Indo-Pacific, on Taiwan.

Let's keep our teams together and to do that, we can't just act unilaterally, I don't think.

SCIUTTO: As you know, prior to this Iranian attack, there were a number of Democrats who might vote against the supplemental because of additional aid to Ukraine. Many have been calling for conditions on that military assistance kind of weapons, how they're used, particularly in Gaza.

Do you see that opposition dissipating somewhat in the wake of this Iranian attack, or might that be another obstacle this week.

SUOZZI: No, one of the big things that last night's attacks emphasized is that a lot of the aid that the us gives to Israel, most of the aid that the US gives to Israel is for defensive weapons to protect them from incoming attacks.

I mean, they're in a tough neighborhood as we all know for 70 years and they are worried right now about attacks, not only from Hamas, the brutal attacks that we saw, but also now we see from Hezbollah, from Lebanon.

Now we've got Iran trying to flex its muscles and we know that Iran is really using Hezbollah and Hamas as their proxies. So this is a tough neighborhood that needs defensive weapons.

We should be highlighting that this is a defensive weapons that are being used in many, many instances and this is packaged with very, very important things that are important to the west, Ukraine.

Ukraine is urgent right now. I was just in Ukraine about a week ago, there for a week. They are getting very anxious because they're running out of defensive weapons again to take down the tolls that Russia is lobbying in.

And Russia is about to start a new offensive and we need to stop them and Ukraine is doing the work and we have to support them.

We've committed to support them. We can't -- you know, one of the things I highlighted in my "Wall Street Journal" article, I know I am going a little off topic here, but the bottom line is, we are being corrupted by Russian disinformation from the Chinese Communist Party and from Iran and other strategic adversaries of ours.

We can't let that disinformation take us off our game plan, which is to really save democracy.

SCIUTTO: Listen, your Republican colleague, Mike McCaul as you know, I believe you quote him in your article, he called out some of his fellow Republicans for parroting Russian disinformation on the war in Ukraine.

I wonder what you would say here to your colleagues, some Republicans who are doing so. What do you say to them?


SUOZZI: I am not even going to spend my time talking to them. I am going to speak to the rest of the Republicans. I mean, I hear some of my Democratic friends are some of my constituents say "Those Republicans."

You know, it is not all the Republicans. It is this small group of people that are holding everyone hostage with their crazy talk that happens to be parroting the same messages coming out of Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

So we need to recognize what is going on. It wasn't just Mike McCaul who is the Chairman of Foreign Affairs, it is also the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, a Republican. It is the same thing about the danger of so many Republicans parroting these Russian talk points.

So, you know, this is not some crazy tin foil hat conspiracy theory.

I did a post when I was leaving Ukraine, I think it was in Moldova at the time. And I never saw the vitriol that I've -- I have been in politics 30 years. I've been on social media as long as anybody else. I never saw the volume of vitriol coming from what I believe were Russian agents and Russian bots just corrupting the whole argument.

That is happening all over the world. That is happening in Eastern Europe. You talked about this in your writing. It is happening throughout -- it has been happening throughout the world. It is happening right here in America.

Our adversaries are trying to pull us apart as Americans, using our diversity, using our freedom of speech, using our social media, and getting us at each other's throats by using disinformation because they figured out its cheaper to get a bunch of people in the basement putting out fake messages and getting us to hate each other than it is to buy a tank or a missile.

We can't let them win.

SCIUTTO: No question. I see it every day.

Congressman Tom Suozzi, thanks so much for taking the time tonight.

SUOZZI: Thanks, Jim. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: And we will be right back.



SCIUTTO: This news just into CNN from US Central Command.

US forces we are now told successfully engaged and destroyed more than 80 uncrewed aerial vehicles, drones, as well as at least six ballistic missiles intended to strike Israel, both from Iran and from Yemen.

This is more than we knew. So at least 86 projectiles aimed for Israel by Iranian forces were taken out by US forces, that a piece of the more than 300 missiles and drones and other projectiles Iran fired at Israel during those several hours yesterday in the midst of this unprecedented attacks.

The US piece of this, larger than we realized as we learn more about the extent of this attack.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. She is in London following all the developments, and Jomana, I know there is concern that an Israeli military response to this attack could escalate this from what has largely been between Iran and Israel, a shadow war into an all-out war, direct military confrontation.

What is the feeling in the Middle East right now?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you're hearing, Jim, the warnings coming from various leaders across the region who are calling for restraint, who are calling for calm, who are calling for de-escalation and you are also seeing the concerns, the worries, the fears of so many not just these leaders in those countries, people in Iraq, people in Jordan, people in Syria, places where you have US military presence and elsewhere across the region who are very, very concerned about what is going to happen next.

Of course, this is a region that has been on edge as you know, very well since October, there have been fears as Iran's proxies, and allies in the region have stepped up their attacks on US forces, on Israel since then. There was always this fear that any sort miscalculation could lead to a widening conflict.

And now, what you have over the past 24 hours is we have been reporting, this is unprecedented. This is a dangerous new chapter in the region, a worst-case scenario that so many have been concerned about, not just since October for a very, very long time, as you know.

This is a direct confrontation between Iran and Israel that many have really feared. So the question right now, everyone is on edge waiting to see what the Israeli response is going to look like.

The scope, the scale of the Israeli response, because the Iranians have made very clear, Jim, that they are going to respond if Israel strikes them. They are going to respond with what they have described as a much bigger response.

They've also threatened the United States saying that if the US does cooperate, does support the Israelis in any possible attack, that US forces will also be targeted in the region, and this is something that raises a lot of concerns for those countries where there is US military presence and you saw that today when President Biden spoke with the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah, who again has called for de-escalation saying that any sort of escalatory measures by the Israelis now will widen the conflict.


And of course, his country, yesterday, I can tell you speaking with people in Jordan, people were rattled, Jim, by what they saw where you have these projectiles flying over their country, and also Jordan taking part, these interceptions. We don't know if it was the Jordanians or the Americans, the Jordanians saying that they did shoot down these -- whatever was aimed, whether it was the drones or missiles, they say that they did intercept them, but this was to protect their own country they say.

So, it is a very tough situation for so many countries, including Jordan and the Jordanian monarch saying what we've heard from others, President Biden, the only way for de-escalation, the only way to end this right now is for the war in Gaza to end, for a ceasefire, immediately -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, it is a reminder that this was a regional response, not just Israel and the US, European allies, the UK and France, but also Arab allies taking part in this defense against this Iranian attack on Israel.

Jomana Karadsheh in London, thanks so much.

And just to reiterate the breaking news, just in the last several minutes, the US confirming that in the midst of this Iranian attack on Israel, US forces in the region shot down more than 80 Iranian drones, at least six ballistic missiles, more than we knew yesterday in the midst of this attack. We will have more on this breaking news just ahead.



SCIUTTO: We turn now to the US southern border and an exclusive look into how Mexico is strengthening its border security. CNN got unprecedented access to temporary base camps in places where migrants are known to easily pass through. Our David Culver reports on how effective this new border enforcement really is.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see behind me here, there's a huge gap in the wall in this is where Mexican officials tell us that a lot of the smugglers are either directing or bringing some of the migrants to so that they can easily cross.

CULVER (voice-over): Which makes these rugged back wrote that preferred and profitable routes for cartel-backed migrant smugglers.

We're about an hour east of Tijuana, driving with Mexican migration officials along the US-Mexico border, but we detour after learning a group of migrants has been rescued, has officials here say.

(DAVID CULVER speaking in foreign language.)

CULVER: We pull up and find about a dozen folks who described to me there were attempts to claim asylum in the US.

CULVER (on camera): And he said he tried to cross but Mexican officials stopped him from being able to go.

CULVER (voice over): That's because Mexico is now stepping up its efforts to stop migrants from crossing illegally into the US.

Following requests from the Biden administration, Mexico is now pouring resources like the National Guard and Mexican Army in to help patrol and detain migrants like these, eventually transporting them to Southern Mexico.

DAVID PEREZ TEJADA, HEAD OF THE MIGRATION NATIONAL INSTITUTION: Where we separate them by nationalities and then from them, we determined the deportation process.

CULVER (voice over): What's happening here goes beyond stepped up patrols. In recent months, Mexican officials have built base camps, deploying troops to some of the most popular illegal crossings sites.

CULVER (on camera): The smugglers van, are there several of these vehicles just left abandoned and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like seven vehicles in total --

CULVER: In this area.


CULVER (voice over): As we pull up, we realize we've been here before.

CULVER (on camera): We've seen so many people cross through this property.

This right here.

CULVER (voice over): At this spot late last year, we met US residents fed up with migrants coming through their land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can come to the front door.

CULVER: Our cameras captured hundreds each day and night.

CULVER (on camera): That has stopped in recent weeks and it stopped primarily because of what we are seeing on the Mexico side of things.

This is a remote base on the border. You've got Mexican immigration officials. You've got National Guard and you've got Mexican Army who are here 24/7.

TEJADA: We have our fridge, microwave, coffee -- everything.

CULVER: You have moved resources to live 24/7 on the border. Why is this important for Mexico to be doing that?

TEJADA: We want to prevent migrants to get in touch with the criminal groups.

CULVER (voice over): The number of migrant encounters reported by US Border Patrol appears to reflect the impact of Mexico's actions, dropping 42 percent from December to January alone and seeming this stay low.

But officials warn cartels and their smugglers frequently adjust their tactics and keep close watch.

CULVER (on camera): They're watching us right now.

TEJADA: They see when we are patrolling and when we leave a spot.

CULVER (voice over): It's a crisis that has also sparked uneasiness for Mexican residents.

CULVER (on camera): It's gotten so frustrating for these folks in particular that a community got together, wrote a letter to their governor petitioning for more resources and for that reason that you have, where you can see right here, members of the Mexican National Guard who are patrolling neighborhoods like this one to keep migrants from coming through.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

CULVER (voice over): Authorities here urge migrants to use the US.' CBP One app rather than to risk crossing with smugglers.

Mexican officials at this location even help pre-screen up to 500 migrants daily for the US asylum interview process.

CULVER (on camera): So he's in communication with US officials but on the other side and they're sending documents back and forth to make sure that they have the right information.

CULVER (voice over): While this is a more orderly way to claim asylum, it can take a while to get an appointment.


Martha Gila (ph) says she's waited five months for this day.

(DAVID CULVER speaking in foreign language.)

(MARTHA GILA speaking in foreign language.)

CULVER (on camera): So I asked why they didn't go through the smuggling route, which so many choose to do.

(DAVID CULVER speaking in foreign language.)

CULVER: And she said that for one, it costs an extreme amount of money and the other aspect of it for her was they wanted to be able to enter legally through the appointment, try to build a better future there.

CULVER (voice over): The road ahead is uncertain for both the migrants and for those protecting the border. We see that firsthand as we leave the remote border camps.

CULVER (on camera): The reason why we stopped and pulled over is because there are these spikes that we've noticed all along the different dirt roadways that take us to the border wall.

CULVER (voice over): Evidence of smugglers' desperate attempt to salvage their profits.

CULVER (on camera): There are dozens, if not hundreds, of these.

CULVER (voice over): And while it slows them down momentarily, for now, they forge ahead in their efforts to curb the flow of a migrant crisis that's consuming resources on both sides of the border.

David Culver, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


SCIUTTO: Thanks, David for that report.

Israel is weighing how it will respond to Iran's massive drone and missile attack with major implications for the US and the broader Middle East. How the White House is fighting to make sure that response does not go too far.