Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Biden Campaigns In Pennsylvania Amid Calls To Step Down; Projection: Left-Wing Alliance To Win French Elections; Tropical Storm Beryl Becoming Stronger, More Organized. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 07, 2024 - 15:00   ET


SPORTSCASTER: Lewis Hamilton wins the British Grand Prix. What a victory. Hamilton is back.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: So exciting and so this one also marks Mercedes' second consecutive victory this season.

Hamilton got to celebrate with his crew and family. He now has the most wins on a single track by any Formula One race car driver. Congrats.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and we begin this hour with President Biden back on the campaign trail as he tries to get ahead of any more calls to drop out of the race. Today, he is making two stops in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. And at any moment now, he will hold a campaign event in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

This morning, he was in Philadelphia speaking at a predominately Black church.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've always felt the power of your faith in good times and in tough times.

Fact is, the scripture says, all things work together for good.

(CROWD answer "yes.")

BIDEN: To those who love God are called according to his purpose, our purpose is to serve others. That's our purpose.


WHITFIELD: Biden's stepped up campaign push comes after his Friday interview with ABC News after it did little to calm the nerves of some members of his own party.

In the last hour, the top Democrat in the House, Hakeem Jeffries held a meeting with senior Democrats to talk about the president's future; and in the Senate, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Intelligence Committee plans to gather senators tomorrow to discuss Biden's re-election bid as some lawmakers weigh whether to go public with their private concerns.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is joining us now from the White House. Priscilla, what is the Biden campaign message today and what is the mood behind-the-scenes?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, over the last 72 hours, we are seeing a bit of a shift in strategy by the Biden campaign to go for more of those unscripted and candid moments by the president ditching the teleprompter at the behest of his allies, who have said they wanted and want to see more of that moving forward to remind voters of the President Joe Biden that they say that they know.

Now, of course, this morning, we saw that at the church in Philadelphia where the president spoke to churchgoers and then not long ago, we also saw him at his campaign office where he also talked to his supporters, including one interesting exchange where a woman said, "We need Dark Brandon," that's in reference to that meme and the president said Dark Brandon is coming back.

Of course, all of this is to try to put questions about the president's candidacy to rest, but that hasn't really done it completely yet. Many Democrats are still sort of skeptical here.

One House Democratic lawmaker I spoke with said, yes, the interview that we saw Friday night was better than the debate, but there are concerns about him regressing and in an interesting exchange, Senator Chris Murphy also said that not all questions are yet answered.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Voters do you have questions and personally, I love Joe Biden. I don't know that the interview on Friday night did enough to answer those questions. And so I think this week is going to be absolutely critical.

I think the president needs to do more.


ALVAREZ: And this is a high-profile week ahead. In fact, the NATO Summit will be taking place here in Washington, DC. Over the last few days on the campaign trail, the president mentioned that something that quite a bit and talking about reaffirming US leadership and something that he in particular is well-suited to do because of his foreign policy chops, and he will end the week, according to sources in Michigan. That will be his fourth battleground visit since the debate last month -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Priscilla, we've just learned that the Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff has tested positive for COVID. What can you tell us about that?

ALVAREZ: Yes, we got the statement moments ago from his communications director who said that after experiencing mild symptoms, the second gentleman tested positive for COVID-19. The vice president has also been tested, she was negative and remains asymptomatic.

I have reached out to the White House to see if the president has also been tested. The last time the two were together was on Thursday for the July 4th celebrations where both the President, the First Lady at the Vice President, and Second Gentlemen observed the fireworks from the White House balcony.

WHITFIELD: All right, we all remember seeing that picture and there it is, right there.

All right, all the best on that continued testing and evaluation to them.

All right, Priscilla Alvarez, appreciate that.

All right, joining me right now to talk more about Biden's uncertain future is Stephen Neukam. He has a congressional correspondent for AXIOS.

Stephen, great to see you.

I say uncertain future even though you hear from the president and he is pretty defiant. He says he is all-in. He is not going anywhere, but we also know that the top Democrat in the House held a conference call today with his colleagues in the last hour to discuss Biden's future, or have you learned anything more about what that conversation was about? Was it about Biden's future? Was it about their continued support? Or was it a moment to gauge support among top leadership?


STEPHEN NEUKAM, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: It was certainly about Biden's future. We haven't gotten a readout of that meeting just yet, but that is not the only meeting that is going to happen on Capitol Hill this week.

As you said earlier, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia is reaching out -- actively reaching out to Democratic senators about a meeting about the president's path forward that is tentatively scheduled for Monday night, and that is also going to be a big deal.

Look, I mean, it is interesting what we have seen, like you said, is the president out on the trail saying he is going to stay in the race, but what we haven't seen is a groundswell of senior Democrats, including Democratic senators coming out and saying that they support the president, that he should stay in the race. Instead, you've seen folks like, like Chris Murphy who said that that interview over last week, did not answer all the questions that need to be answered for Democrats.

WHITFIELD: You mentioned the meeting that might happen tomorrow involving Senator Warner who is soliciting a number of senators, Bernie Sanders was on another network this morning. Senator Sanders saying he was not invited to that call and he would not attend because he continues to support the president and the vision for the future.

Are you hearing anything about how that call or who will be in attendance for Senator Warner's call?

NEUKAM: We don't know exactly who will be in attendance. We have asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's team consistently over the last few days whether he will attend that meeting, they have not answered that question, so it remains to be seen if he will be at that meeting or if you will not be.

But the significance of the meeting is pretty big. Look, the Senate is a place where Biden was for decades. This was his base of support when he clinched the nomination in 2020, one of his main selling points was that he had these relationships on Capitol Hill, that he could navigate and use to be an effective president and this next week, the next two weeks, if he were to lose his base of support in the Senate with Democrats, I mean, I just don't see many options going forward for the president.

WHITFIELD: So Stephen, as we are talking, we're looking at live pictures right now, President Biden arriving in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was in Philadelphia earlier today. He spoke at a church with a predominantly Black congregation.

He also did some handshaking, some face time with supporters and now he will be doing something very similar in Harrisburg, not the church portion, but meeting with supporters and then later on in the week, he will be heading to Michigan.

So how important are moments like this? And you see Senator Fetterman behind him there who has said quite vociferously that he is behind the president. He doesn't -- he has expressed that -- Fetterman has expressed that he doesn't like what he has seen as a real piling on among Democrats.

How do you see visits like this being particularly or potentially influential for this president's re-election campaign?

NEUKAM: I think they are hugely important. I think that Democrats are paying attention to them closely. When President Biden met with Democratic governors last week, he told them that he would be you doing more events, unscripted events with voters around the country.

Since the debate, we've really seen controlled events, things with teleprompters, very short events where he hasn't taken questions and Democrats want to see him live and in person interacting with voters and with donors and with lawmakers without a script and just to reassure them that he is sort of up for this job.

So the trips that he is going to be taking this week including -- and then also the NATO Summit in DC.

There's going to be a lot of eyes on them and they are very important.

WHITFIELD: Generally, campaigns are also driven by money and we've heard this past week, there are some donors who are holding back on giving any more money to the Biden campaign until they get more assurances.

Senator Sanders, among those who said it shouldn't be up to the donors or even elected officials, but instead, the American voter.

At this juncture with four months to go, if President Biden indeed continues to stay in the race, does he need more donors or that participation at this juncture?

NEUKAM: Well, look, they are going to need the money. They're going to need both the grassroots money and the big money.

After the debate, we were told by national Democrats who were working on Senate Democratic campaigns that there were mega Democratic donors who told them that they would be doubling down on their commitment to Senate campaigns and House campaign, sort of hedging against a Biden loss at the top of the ticket and trying to protect against a GOP trifecta in January 2025, making sure they can have Democrats in the Senate and the House re-elected.


So they're going to need -- he is going to need both of those things, the grassroots and the megadonors and the donors are part of the equation of the nerves that he has to calm.

WHITFIELD: All right, Stephen Neukam, thank you so much, as we continue to watch the live pictures there. President Biden along with the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden there in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania touching down and then he will be heading off to yet another campaign stop there in Harrisburg. We will keep a close monitoring of things.

All right, we are also watching breaking news out of France where celebrations are now underway following a stunning result in the second round of the Parliamentary elections. A broad left-wing alliance is set to finish with the most seats defeating the far-right party, which was expected to make major gains, potentially even a majority for the first time since World War II.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is live for us in Paris.

So Jim, we are looking at also pictures of people who are assembling, some real excitement as a result of these elections. What are you monitoring?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is excitement at some people's party, but probably not so much on the National Rally Party. Those are the folks on the far-right part of the political spectrum and they were expecting and hoping for a much better result than what they had this evening.

They have now fallen in the third place in the Parliament in the number of seats that they have in the Parliament. I'm here at the prime minister's office and we are expecting him to come out any moment now because he is going to say something about what's going to happen next. And we heard a little bit of that from the former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe who said the truth is that none of the political box and the assembly has a majority on its own. The dissolution of the assembly, which was intended as a clarification, has ended up with vagueness.

The central political force therefore have a responsibility to stay which means I think that the prime minister is going to stay, the prime minister and see what happens after that because it will now depend on the Parliament to either vote and approve his action, his staying here or to bring a motion of no confidence in the Parliament, which would promote someone else for the seat of prime minister.

It is going to be a very complicated time coming up. My guess is, Fred that they will probably come up with some kind of a fudge.

Emmanuel Macron said, the will of the people will be respected. That was the one statement he said tonight after the vote, but they will keep things in place that leads to the Olympics because this is the next major event that is taking place here.

It is the kind of thing that they want to go well and everybody in the country, right and left would like to go well -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and so Jim, you know, of course, there is always going to be a lot of quarterbacking on, you know, what happened and how this came to be, but is there a kind of thumbnail's sketch explanation of how the far-right party would go from such gains in the first round of voting to such deficits now in the second round?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think one of the things, one of the factors we saw today is the turnout. Turnout was the highest it has been since 1981, which is when I came to France. That's the highest turnout in this kind of legislative elections since then, and because people were really motivated.

They really -- a lot of people were fearful of this idea of the far- right coming to power and that drove a lot of the votes away from the far right to the other blocs, the other coalition blocs and the coalition that's won tonight, the new popular front is basically a very loose coalition.

Indeed, it has politicians of every stripe from the extreme left to the center-left and even some centrist, the green party. There are five different parties that are involved in it, and they can't even decide on who would be the prime minister if they get around to electing a prime minister.

So the Parliament is going to be a mess, but what drove the -- I think the illusion that the national front, the National Rally Party was doing much better than it was is the fact that they did very well in the European elections and they came in here in the first round and they did very well in the first round.

And so I think that led people to believe that they were going to do very well in the runoff elections, but the voters proved them wrong -- Fred.


WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much, Jim Bittermann in Paris. Appreciate you.

All right, in the next couple of hours in this country, Beryl could become a hurricane again. It is set to slam into the Texas coast early tomorrow. I'll talk to the lieutenant governor of Texas coming up.

Plus, we will take you inside Rafah where our cameras toured the destruction for the first time since the fighting began in Gaza.

And later, when will the Starliner astronauts get to come home from the International Space Station?


WHITFIELD: All right, happening right now, Texas officials just gave an update on Tropical Storm Beryl. There are now 120 counties under the state's disaster declaration.

People are urged to prepare now for Beryl's arrival. President Biden is also monitoring the situation. The White House is in close contact with state and local officials in Texas and while FEMA has pre- positioned rescue teams in case they are needed.


Let's go now to Derek Van Dam, who is on the Texas coast in Port Lavaca.

All right, so we can see those dark clouds. What's happening?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, Fredricka. Well, yes, here in Port Lavaca, along the Texas coast, we are staring down what promises to be the first hurricane strike in the US of what promises to be very busy Atlantic 2024 hurricane season.

Now Beryl, Tropical Storm Beryl, still a tropical storm, not quite a hurricane just yet, but its track record is a dubious one. Think about what it has done.

Over the past 10 days, it has been a named storm. It has impacted multiple countries. It has made two landfalls, about to make a third landfall here on the Central Texas coast and it has also proven to be very deadly. So this is a storm that we do not want to take lightly.

The positives, the storm is running out of time to strengthen. That is the good news. It is also going to be low tide at the time of landfall. So that could help minimize somewhat the storm surge component.

But let's talk about the potential impacts and get right to the graphics because we are seeing some ominous signs. Look at the radar and satellite overlaid on each other and I thought that was interesting because we've seen a closed eye, meaning that it has given the opportunity for the storm to take advantage of the warm tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico, by the way, are running about three degrees Fahrenheit above average here in our new normal climates.

And look at this. This is explicit language from the National Hurricane Center, even though you don't see a Category Two on this projected path, the timeframe between the Category Ones that you see at 7:00 PM on Sunday and 7:00 AM on Monday, they talk about the potential of the storm ramping up so quickly, it could reach Category Two status.

So you need to prepare for that as you make your final preparations here going forward in to the coming hours before the sun sets this evening.

So get to the next graphic, you can see just how far this wind impact will be. It is going to be west and south of I-45 and Interstate 10. That will be our greatest threats. We are talking west of Houston all the way to the coastline, and that is where we could feel the brunt of those winds in excess of 74 miles per hour. Of course, that will take down power lines, trees, and of course brings some minor structural damage as well.

The storm surge component, four to six feet maximum that is above normally dry land. The positive here though, is that we are working across a low tide when this makes landfall overnight sometime between three and five PM.

Now, this is what people have to say here on the ground as their final preparations are underway.


TERRY BRADER, OWNER, TERRY'S SEAWORTHY MARINE SUPPLY: Whether this turns out to be nothing or something catastrophic, we don't leave any rock unturned in preparation, that's for sure.

After Harvey, just every hurricane approaching is huge.


VAN DAM: Fredricka, each hurricane is different. This will not be a Harvey because it will take forward steam, move out of the area rather quickly, whereas Harvey stuck around for several days with steering winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere, kind of stalled out and caused that 50-inch plus storm that impacted Houston. That's the good news.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Right. Hopefully, there will be no repeat of that, but still really smart to be he prepared just like that gentleman mentioned.

VAN DAM: Right.

WHITFIELD: All right, Derek Van Dam, we will check back with you. Thank you so much.

And coming up soon, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will be joining me to talk more about preparations and what they're bracing for.

We will be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, as President Biden faces headwinds here at home, his foreign policy capabilities will once again be on display when he welcomes NATO allies to Washington, DC this week.

During a stop in Philadelphia today, Biden talked about the importance of US leadership to the organization.


BIDEN: I'm about to host the NATO nations in Washington. We put them together. The world is looking to us, not a joke. The world is looking to America not to carry their burden, but to lead their hopes.


WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Josh Rogin. He is a "Washington Post" columnist and the author of "Chaos Under Heaven. Good to see you, Josh.


WHITFIELD: All right, so this week, senior US administration officials dismissed the idea that Biden's debate performance would impact this NATO gathering, telling reporters, "Foreign leaders have seen Joe Biden up close and personal for the last three years. They know who they're dealing with and they know how effective he has been."

At the same time, Biden was meeting with a number of them just last month in France. So is it really that simple right now?

ROGIN: If only it were that simple, that would be great for the Biden White House. Unfortunately, these foreign leaders and the ones that are coming to town this week, to be clear, Fred, those are the ones that like Biden the most. These are mostly Western European countries who are inclined to give Biden benefit of the doubt. They like his style of leadership. They fear the return of Trump for the most part. So it is a friendly audience.

However, they can't escape the fact that what is going on in US domestic politics is totally affecting them and if Biden is going to lose, nobody knows. But if it looks that way or at least there is a possibility that he might lose or dropout, all of these Western European leaders have to do something different. They have to appeal to President Trump. So they want to support Biden. They want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but they can't afford to alienate Trump either. So they are really stuck between a rock and a hard place.


WHITFIELD: Oh, it is interesting. So as it pertains to Biden, of course, they watch the debate, if not portions of it. They've read the publications.

What do you suppose they are going to be looking for when they are face-to-face with the president this week? And what Biden do. You know, what extensions does he need to make in order to kind of quell any concerns that his foreign counterparts may have?

ROGIN: Right. Well, I think, when the White House originally planned this Summit, Fred, they planned it for the week before the GOP convention on purpose. They wanted it to be a symbol of President Biden's strength, which is supposed to be foreign policy and alliances and all of that stuff.

And now, they couldn't have predicted this. But now they are in a fight for the president's political survival. So basically what these foreign leaders are going to be hoping and praying is that the focus is actually on NATO and maybe even Ukraine, which is the other topic that is on the agenda this week. President Zelenskyy will be here in Washington as well.

And if the focus is just on Biden's mental acuity or his ability to get through a press conference without making a mistake, well, that's really bad for all of these countries who traveled -- whose leaders traveled all the way to Washington to get something done on the foreign policy front.

So I think, they are going to hope that this focuses on foreign policy and not Biden's speech or his ability to respond to questions, but I don't think that is going to happen.

WHITFIELD: And then as it pertains to the potential of a Trump second presidency, how are many of these nations, what are they doing, perhaps even quietly or maybe even out loud? What kind of conversations are they having amongst themselves about how to prepare for that possibility?

ROGIN: Right. I think most allies are doing the same exact thing. They are trying to find people in Trump's orbit to talk to, to try to get a good wind, if they can't get to Trump himself. Some of them are traveling to Mar-a-Lago, some of them are inviting Trump and MAGA-type people, former Trump officials to their countries to host them, to try to make friends.

And the second thing that they're trying to do is they're trying to get out ahead of the Trump presidency by announcing things that they think the Trump world people would like, like increase defense budgets, less reliance to the United States and you know, they are hedging. They are trying to prepare for a world where Trump could return to the presidency.

And for allies, when I talk to them, the they officials, they always say the same thing. They say, they can't predict what is going to happen, and even if Trump comes back to the office, nobody knows what he is going to do, but they can't afford to ignore the fact that it might be going that way and so they're trying to make sure that when Trump comes back, they at least have somebody to talk to and something to say.

WHITFIELD: And they also can't ignore these parliamentary elections that have just happened in France and in the UK. How might that dynamic also influence, you know, their concerns? Any fears there may be? I mean, just what the landscape is?

ROGIN: Right. Well, it is absolutely true that sort of the rise of a more right populism and nationalism is not an American phenomenon alone and this is happening in Europe at the same time, every politics in every country is different.

And when we see countries like the UK turning back towards a more leftist approach, that is due to domestic reasons of their own. So I think what everyone is trying to do is to manage these big shifts in politics in a way that allows them to operate no matter who becomes president.

And so you'll see a left government in the UK look more to the Trump people and try to appeal to where they have some common ground and we don't know what is going to shake out in France yet, but we know that they are going to have to deal with whoever wins in Washington, too.

So it is a chess game and there is a lot of moving pieces, but, you know, how they are linked and what is going to happen in either country, nobody knows.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Josh Rogin, thank you so much. Another potentially pivotal week on many scales.

All right, CNN cameras go inside Rafah. We get a first-hand look at the destruction that has been going on since May.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Live pictures right now, President Biden in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is talking to supporters there. Let's listen in.

BIDEN: One of the things are going to change in the second term is we're going to have fair taxes. We got it a little fair we made those -- 55 companies didn't pay a penny in taxes and made $40 billion. We've made them pay, but at only 23 percent, so they're not paying -- 15 percent -- they're not paying enough.

You've got out there, literally, you've got a thousand billionaires in America, up to a thousand billionaires. You know what their average tax rate is, 8.3 percent.


BIDEN: Well, here is the point I want to make to you all. This is very serious. I am not joking about this one.

The fact of the matter is, Trump wants to give another -- and he said it -- $5 trillion tax cut over the next five years.


BIDEN: No, I am not joking. You know what we're going to do? We're going to stop it and we are going to spend that money on childcare.


BIDEN: We are sending that money -- no, I mean it. We are going to send that money on elder care. We are going to -- look, folks, all of those things that people gave me credit for, the critics said Biden is just a big spender -- first of all, we ended with actually a little bit of a surplus.

But guess what? That other guy had the largest deficit any president ever had in history. But here's the deal, I asked the judge -- I asked the Treasury Department to do a study. With all my pro-union stuff and organizing and marching and being on picket lines with you all, is that good or bad for the economy?


When unions do well, the entire economy and everybody's non-union does better.


BIDEN: Everybody, so I really mean it. I came to thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We are the most powerful country in the world. We have the best economy in the world, but now we've got to make sure that we start taking care of the families like Jill and I grew up.

Jill is from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. I am from Wilmington area and I'll tell you what? We lived in three -- she lived in a -- she had five sisters in a four-bedroom split-level house. I had four kids and my family in a three-bedroom house with Grandpop living with us, a small house.

I've wondered how my mom and dad did it now that I am looking at it, but the point is, you know, at the end of the month, my dad used to say, Joey, your paycheck is about a lot -- is worth a lot more than the amount of money. It is about your dignity. It is about respect. It is about what you have.

Any -- if you ever look at your kid in the eye at end of the month to say honey, were going to be okay. I mean it. Folks, there is a lot of people still struggling because since -- since -- we ended the pandemic, I'll be very blunt in a sense, when I ended the pandemic, he didn't.


BIDEN: Corporate profits have doubled, doubled. And we've got to do something about it. And one of the things you know, what we did when I first -- the first bill that I got passed and I didn't have a Congress to continue it. I made sure that we had payments for childcare, per child.

And guess what? Based on income. And guess what? We cut child poverty in half -- in half.


BIDEN: And the economy grew.

WHITFIELD: All right, President Biden there sharing his visions of the future. He is making a campaign stop there in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The president trying to have more unscripted moments with supporters. This is one of those, and after this morning, delivering a speech at a church of a predominantly Black congregation in Philadelphia.

And of course later on in the week, the president heads to Michigan.

All right, meantime, CNN has now gained access to Rafah, a city in Southern Gaza ravaged by two months of relentless Israeli military operations.

This marks the first time the media has been permitted to enter the city, and it is important to note, CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times, but CNN retained editorial control over the final report and did not submit any footage to the IDF for review.

Here now is CNN's Jeremy Diamond.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Thick clouds of sand shroud the road to Rafah, but as the dust settles, the destruction is unmistakable. Flattened homes and bombed out buildings, Gaza's last refuge devastated by the Israeli military assault on this city.

DIAMOND (on camera): We are now entering the third month of Israeli military operations in Rafah and you can see all around me the kind of destruction that these last two-plus months of military operations have wrought inside of the city of Rafah -- all around destruction, very similar to the kind that I have seen in Central Gaza, as well as in the northern part of the Strip.

DIAMOND (voice over): This is the first time CNN has gotten access to this devastated city. Israel and Egypt have barred journalists from Gaza except under tightly controlled military embeds like this.

REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAEL'S CHIEF MILITARY SPOKESPERSON: We are working in this area very, very precise, very, very accurate unfortunately the destruction is one to blame, Hamas.

DIAMOND (voice over): The Israeli military says it has killed over 900 Hamas fighters here and believes it is close to defeating the group's Rafah Brigade.

The fighting is clearly not over yet, nor is the effort to uncover Hamas' vast network of tunnels in Rafah.

HAGARI: This tunnel goes down over 28 meters underneath the ground.

DIAMOND (voice over): As well as along Gaza's border with Egypt.

DIAMOND (on camera): Right behind me here is the Egypt-Gaza border. We are now driving along what is known as the Philadelphi Corridor, a strategic corridor that the Israeli military seized two months ago. They say they did so because they believe Hamas was smuggling weapons across from each Egypt and then from this area deeper into Gaza.

DIAMOND (voice over): Israeli forces say they have uncovered dozens of tunnel shafts here, but cannot definitively say if any of the tunnel stretching into Egypt were operational.

HAGARI: We found dozens like the tunnels that you so and we are re- searching those tunnels carefully, making sure which ones were functional, which ones are not functional anymore because maybe they were from the Egyptian side stopped.

DIAMOND (on camera): So will this be the last ground operation in Rafah?


HAGARI: I won't say that because what you will see is when we will have intelligence that maybe, there are hostages in one of the points in Gaza, we will operate.

DIAMOND (voice over): Before leaving Gaza, our convoy drives by what is left of the Gazan side of the Rafah Border Crossing, once a lifeline for millions of Palestinians, it now lies in ruins.

The Israeli military says it is now facilitating a safe corridor for these trucks to deliver aid to Gaza via Israel's Kerem Shalom Crossing, but humanitarian aid groups say the roads are still not safe and simply not enough aid is getting in as the war rages on.

DIAMOND (on camera): And during the nearly three hours that we spent on the ground in Rafah, we didn't see a single Palestinian. This city that was once a safe haven for displaced Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip has been almost completely emptied out, more than a million Palestinians have been forced to flee that city. Many of them heading for that coastal Al-Mawasi area where they are simply trying to survive. And now, their hopes are simply resting on these ceasefire negotiations and the prospect of a deal.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Jerusalem.




WHITFIELD: All right in the last hour, we've got an update on Tropical Storm Beryl, which could hit the Texas coast as a Category One hurricane. One hundred twenty counties are now under the state's disaster declaration. People are being urged to voluntarily leave some coastal communities while heavy rains and wind could impact inland areas of the state as well.

We are joined now by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is the acting governor during Beryl, while Governor Greg Abbott is on an economic tour in Asia.

Good to see you, Lieutenant Governor.

So during your press conference, you expressed concern that more people have not left the Texas coast yet, even after evacuation orders were issued yesterday and today, specifically calling on visitors who may be vacationing along the Gulf Coast. What are your concerns right now? How are you going to get the message out?

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): Well, thank you for helping getting the message out.

This is a storm that will strengthen over the next 12 to 15 hours as it comes close and finally makes landfall early tomorrow morning, somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston, somewhere in that area and that will probably shift.

There are people on the coast, as you mentioned that I am very concerned about because it is a holiday weekend and it is summertime on top of that. So a lot of people, when they are away at the beach, they're out of their normal routine. They're not watching the news and the weather or they're not on their internet, and so we want to get the message out to all the people who are vacationing along the coast or wrapping up your trip, your four-day weekend to get on the road today and get home because we don't want you on the road tomorrow. You will not be able to get on the road tomorrow.

Wherever the storm hits and it could grow to a Category Two, by the way. In the last few hours there will be significant rain, six to ten inches. There will be significant wind, 80 to 90 miles an hour, you're not going to be able to drive tomorrow.

So wherever you are on the coast and if you have family, friends, either e-mail, text or call them and say, hey, I know you're away. Do you know that Beryl is on its way? As I said today, we've already had nine deaths in the wake of this storm. We don't want a death here in Texas. Flooding is the biggest a threat to Texas. And I want to add that inland, we are going to see places like College Station, Tyler, Texarkana, other small communities around Texas inland get flooding and heavy rain.

So this storm will be with us. It is a serious storm and I want to be sure that Texans are paying attention to be safe because our number one issue at the state is to prepare and protect, and save your life.

WHITFIELD: Sure. And with your remaining daylight hours since we are talking about the brunt of this storm overnight, early morning kind of hitting, what are the resources that you're making available to try to help facilitate evacuations or a greater urgency for people to get out of harm's way?

PATRICK: So the evacuations are called by the local mayor or county judge. That's their decision. We've had a number of voluntary orders given and a few mandatory given already.

For us, were staging are resources all across the state from power needs because we are going to have a loss of power. We have rescue teams ready to go. Swimmers, helicopters, whatever rescue teams we need, because at this point, this close to the storm, we go from preparing at the state level, we are prepared, ready to move where we need to move quickly, and we have the best emergency management team in the country and the world for that matter.

Nimkin is our chief. We've been through many of these storms. We know what to do, but we need cooperation from the people. It is a three- legged stool. It is the state, emergency response and your local county mayors, county judges, and listen for their instructions and then we will fill wherever we need to fill. We are ready at the state level.

And I also want, people in the water today, don't get in the water. The rip currents will take you out and you will drowned and the rip currents are only going to get worse. We are looking on our cameras, we see on social media a lot of people still on the beach going to the water, very dangerous. I strongly advise you to get out of the water and don't get in the water later today for a night swim or tomorrow.

Even if you say, oh, it looks great, it really didn't hit here hard. The rip currents are going to be really terrible everywhere. We are also going to have a surge, five to six feet in some areas and we are going to have a tornado watch as well along where the path is.

As I tell people, look, the storm is relatively narrow. A lot of people won't be dramatically impacted. But if you're in the -- if you're in the way of this path, six to twelve inches of rain, storm surge, 80 to 90 to a hundred mile an hour winds and gusting more, it is a serious issue and we don't know exactly where it is going to land, but a large part of Southeast Texas is going to see a lot of rain, again, all the way up to the Oklahoma and Arkansas border up near Texarkana. So please be safe out there if you're in Texas and if you have friends along the coast, call them and if you're in inland, don't be driving tomorrow because the rain and flooding will be across much of Texas tomorrow.


WHITFIELD: All important notations. You mentioned the resources on the state and local levels. What about on the federal level? What is -- what kind of reliance will you have on FEMA ahead of the storm or is it strictly post storm damage?

PATRICK: No, it is ahead. It often is post, obviously working with the federal government, but our FEMA coordinator is in Denton, Texas and they have been working with our management team and will work with them after the storm.

There are certain thresholds you have to meet. For example, FEMA does not come in and reimburse you until you have $54 million worth of public damage to public buildings and government structure. So we hope we don't reach $54 million. That means the storm is more serious than we see right now, but it is a serious storm. Cat One and Cat Two is very serious, but whether we get to that threshold of FEMA reimbursing us, we will decide that later.

Right now, our focus is on letting people know we are prepared. Your county judges and mayors are prepared, but individually, you need to be prepared.

Don't turn your back on. Beryl. This is a serious storm and where it lands, there is going to be significant devastation. Power will be out. Structures could be blown over and destroyed. Trees will be uprooted. Streets will be flooded, and heavy rain.

So take this storm very seriously. Again, between Corpus and Galveston Island is where the National Hurricane Center says it will hit. We don't know exactly, but experience will be that overnight, these storms can often move 15, 20, 30, 40 miles.

In fact, the Hurricane Center usually says that storms can move 50 to 60 miles from their last track. So everyone needs to be alert.

WHITFIELD: Yes. A great threat.

All right, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, thank you so much. All the best.

PATRICK: Thank you. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: We will be right back.