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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Visits Israel to Discuss Possibility of Humanitarian Pause in Israel's Invasion of Gaza; Israeli Military Reports Its Forces Surrounded Gaza City; Leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon to Speak Concerning Possibility of Opening Northern Front against Israel; Education Secretary Speaks with Students in Maryland Amid Rising Antisemitism Concerns on U.S. Campuses. Breaking Down the Differences Between Hamas and Hezbollah. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 03, 2023 - 08:00   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Phil Mattingly with Erica Hill in New York. Poppy is off today.

And right now Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in a warzone in Israel. A diplomatic source telling CNN he is pushing for a pause in the fighting to allow mediation as civilian deaths and suffering mount in Gaza. He spoke just moments ago right before his meeting with Israel's president.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We stand strongly for the proposition that Israel has not only the right, but the obligation to defend itself and to do everything possible to make sure that this October 7th can never happen again. How Israel does this matters, and it is very important that when it comes to the protection of civilians who are caught in a crossfire of Hamas's making, that everything be done to protect them and to bring assistance to those who so desperately need it.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The Israeli president in those comments also insisted Israel has followed international law and that went through the numbers even in terms of the warnings that had been sent to civilians, talking about the millions of text messages, phone calls, and flyers that had warned them to leave before the strikes. Blinken's visit comes after one of the most intense nights we have seen to date in Gaza, airstrikes raining down, flares lighting up the sky, as you can see in some of this video, as fighting raged on the ground. The Israeli military says troops and tanks have completely encircled Gaza City. This is the latest video this morning from the IDF showing their ground operations. We also should point out, casualties are rising on both sides.

MATTINGLY: Here is where things stand this morning. The IDF says 24 Israeli soldiers have now been killed since the ground assault began. There are 241 hostages still believed to be in Gaza, 79 Americans have been able to leave Gaza at the border crossing in Egypt.

Ed Lavandera is live for us in Tel Aviv. Natasha Bertrand is in Washington, D.C. Natasha, I want to start with you. Hearing word that the possibility that the secretary of state could pressure Israel for a pause of some sort. The administration has been talking about support for humanitarian pauses for a few days now. What does this actually look like?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That is the big question, what will Israel actually agree to? Because the administration wants to see Israel pause the airstrikes for enough time to get hostages out, to get civilians out. As you know, there has been a large effort to get up to 5,000 civilians out of the Gaza Strip who want to leave. So the question now is, how do you make it so that they can leave safely? It's like a humanitarian corridor without the threat of Israel launching airstrikes on those positions.

But again, it is unclear at this point what Israel would agree to. They have said that a ceasefire is completely off the table right now in terms of a broader, longer-term cessation of hostilities, the kind of which we have seen some senators calling for. However, Israel appeared to pause their airstrikes for a few hours last week, according to President Biden, to get some of those hostages out. And so the question now becomes, is this going to be a pause of a few hours, a few days? What are they going to agree with to, especially that the international pressure, including from the United States, is mounting so steadily on them to do more to minimize civilian casualties?

HILL: Mounting really quickly, especially out of Washington, how we have seen the language change in the last 12 to 24 hours, really. Ed, when we look at what's happening there, the IDF saying that Gaza is now fully encircled, what more do we know about these most recent military movements?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are still waiting to hear from Israeli military officials exactly what was the objective of what we saw, the dramatic images we saw last night of the air assault, and what we assume are ground operations inside of Gaza last night. The images were incredibly striking in northeast Gaza. And Israeli military officials say that they are trying to maximize the pressure on Hamas's military operation to get the missile strikes and the missile control under control.


And that involves dismantling this elaborate tunnel system from which Hamas military fighters operate from. And that is why this ground operation and the fact that it has, as Israeli military officials are saying, encircled Gaza City is very significant. But the language we are hearing from Israeli military officials is

that there doesn't appear to be any sense of slowing down. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that nothing will stop us. Other military officials talking about increasing that pressure on Hamas fighters inside the Gaza area. And then just hours before Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed here in Israel, we saw this major offensive last night with the air assault that lasted several hours. So that has very much intensified.

And if it is true that IDF soldiers have surrounded Gaza City, that is essentially kind of in the middle part of Gaza. So that would be a significant incursion in there, which theoretically maximizes possible civilian casualties in Gaza, but also comes as a great threat to Israeli soldiers that are operating on the ground there.

MATTINGLY: Natasha, the secretary of state, obviously understandable focus on this stop in Israel, but he is also traveling next to Amman. That is a critical visit. What is he hoping to achieve there?

BERTRAND: Yes, Phil, Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel amid the rising death toll in Gaza and in protest of that. And so this is going to be a really important visit for the secretary of state to try to ease tensions even further, to reassure them that the United States is doing everything they can to try to work with Israel to take concrete steps, as Blinken said yesterday, to minimize these civilian casualties.

But another really important part of this is going to be emphasizing to Jordan that the U.S. is not going to support any effort by Israel if that is what they decide to do to try to expel Palestinians en masse from the Gaza Strip. They don't want to see the Jordanians, Egyptians, other regional partners, they do not want to see a mass displacement of the Palestinians. They do not want to see that kind of refugee crisis emerge in their countries.

And so something that Biden -- or that Blinken is going to be reiterating to the Jordanians is that that is not something the U.S. supports, and they are going to be working against that so that Palestinians can receive aid inside Gaza rather than seeing them all expelled to other countries.

MATTINGLY: All right, Ed Lavandera, Natasha Bertrand, thank you.

HILL: Joining us now, political and foreign policy reporter at "Axios," Barak Ravid. Barak, it's good to see you this morning. When we look at where things stand this morning, Phil and I were both noting when we heard briefly from President Herzog and from Secretary Blinken, Herzog spoke first and was a little bit defiant in many ways in, I think, responding to some of the criticism that Israel has faced. He was very clear, saying, look, everything we have done has been according to the rules of international law, asking people to please move out before Israeli forces went in, talking about the notices that had been sent. What does that tell you about the conversations that are actually happening?

BARAK RAVID, FORMER MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, "AXIOS": Good morning. I think one of the things is Blinken discussed with Netanyahu, with Herzog, with the Israeli war cabinet is this issue of humanitarian pauses. We heard President Biden talk about it. We heard other U.S. officials talk about it. And I think that Blinken wanted to tell the Israeli officials, listen, let's try to find a way to get to such a humanitarian pause, and I think that Blinken also told the Israelis, he explained him, not only him, but also Secretary of Defense Austin and other U.S. officials in recent days explained to the Israelis the amount of pressure that the U.S. is under from its allies in the region, from its allies in Europe, other countries around the world, because the U.S. right now is being perceived as Israel's main supporter, which is a fact. So a lot of countries come to the U.S. and says you need to rein in the Israelis. And the U.S. is trying to explain to Israel that right now it's -- it can fend off those pressures, but not for much longer.

MATTINGLY: Does that have any effect -- I know Israeli officials listen. Clearly, they listen. They take it into account. But does that change their planning or strategy? They are consistently talking about, a, their right to respond, and, b, what happened on October 7th merits the operation that's underway.

RAVID: I think that if you look at the last three weeks, we can see that gradually time and time again the U.S. asked Israel to do something. It took a day or two, or three days, and it happened. I think it's that -- I have to say that Israel, the Israeli government is much more responsive to U.S. requests than I thought it would be considering what happened on October 7th.


And I think the reason for it, and that's what I hear from Israeli officials, that they know that they need the U.S. support. So if the U.S. asks for something, they will do it, even if they will do it slowly, but eventually they will do it.

HILL: We'll see then, what does transpire over the next day or two. There is a lot of focus on what we may hear later today from the leader of Hezbollah and concerns about perhaps this expanding to the northern border there with Lebanon. When you look at what we could hear, what could open up there, how much of that is a concern for Israel that this expands and what that means?

RAVID: I think there is a very big concern, on the one hand. On the other hand, at least from what I hear from both U.S. and Israeli officials, they think that for now things are sort of contained to the northern border, meaning most of the clashes that we saw until now were on the border, on the line of contact. Hezbollah did not send forces to try and penetrate into Israel, at least for now. It did not fire its long-range missiles yet. It did not use its precision munitions.

And even yesterday when some rockets were fired further into Israel, into the Galilee, to arrange that they were not fired until now, Hezbollah asked Hamas to take responsibility, meaning it did not want it to be perceived as if it is broadening the fighting. But still, I think all eyes are on Nasrallah' speech, and I think a lot of people hope that if he climbs a tree, he doesn't climb too high.

MATTINGLY: Barak, the military operations, are officials you're talking to surprised with the speed by which the IDF has been able to enter, surround, make a lot of, at least, ground progress when it comes to Gaza City?

RAVID: Yes, that's what I hear, that they did not think that they would get so far so soon. They are already in Gaza city, in several neighborhoods, in Telalahawa (ph) neighborhood where a lot of the Hamas security forces headquarters are. They are in the Shati refugee camp, in other places in Gaza City. And at least for now they are pretty satisfied with the results, with the number of Hamas operatives that they managed to hit so far, with the amount of Hamas military infrastructure they managed to dismantle, with the amount of Hamas tunnels that they managed to destroy. So that's what I hear from the Israeli side, that they're very, very satisfied.

HILL: Barak Ravid, always good to have you. Thank you.

RAVID: Thank you very much.

HILL: Well, as we have been discussing here, in the next hour the leader of Hezbollah is set to speak for the first time since Hamas's attack on Israel. This, as you just heard, the group was exchanging fire with Israel on its northern border.

MATTINGLY: And here at home, there has been a significant increase in antisemitic threats made against students. The Department of Education is reminding schools if they don't protect students from hate, they could lose funding. We're going to speak with Maryland Governor Wes Moore about a growing number of threats. That's coming up.




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: The Department of Education is preparing new communications for schools at all levels, laying out their responsibility to protect students from hate. Yesterday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona met with students in the Baltimore area who spoke to him about their struggles with antisemitism following Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7th.


MIKAYLA BERNSTEIN, STUDENT: I have stickers on my water bottle. I have keychains on my backpack that I have debated many times removing because I'm afraid of somebody attacking me from behind because they see Hebrew on my backpack.

MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I'm not Jewish, but I'm appalled and horrified at what I'm hearing across the country. And I want to tell you directly we've got your back.


MATTINGLY: Attorney General Merrick Garland says there has been, quote, "a significant increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab Americans in recent weeks." Joining us now, is Democratic Governor Wes Moore of Maryland. Governor, I appreciate your time, and I want to start with what we just heard from that Towson student.

Towson, obviously, in the state of Maryland, said that basically, she felt like she had to hide her Jewish identity. What are you hearing right now in the wake of October 7 from your residents?

WES MOORE, DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: It's unacceptable that anyone has to hide who they are or hide something that they have no reason to be ashamed of. We are watching a rise of both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim threats, language, and attacks, and it is not going to be tolerated.

Hate has no place in our state, and hate will not find oxygen in the state of Maryland. And so, it's the reason that we've both done things like putting $15 million towards hardening our homes of worship, putting an initial $5 million that's going into education programs to combat hate crimes.

But it's also making sure that people know that to the full extent of the law, you will be held accountable and responsible for people who are continuing to foment this and particularly how it's impacting our students. I mean, our students already have a lot to deal with coming out of COVID, coming out of the challenge that we're seeing.

We have to make sure we're protecting our students, and we will do just that.

MATTINGLY: You're an army veteran Governor you served in Afghanistan. It made me think of Senator Chris Murphy, who a few days ago said, "What we found in Afghanistan is that for every terrorist that we killed, we created two more because of the number of civilian casualties."

When you look at what's happening on the ground right now in Gaza, are you concerned about something similar happening here?

MOORE: What's happening right now it's beyond heartbreaking. And we do know that while Israel has a right to defend itself Hamas has already discredited itself from being a legitimate partner inside of the peace process and the larger goals for the region and a two-state solution.

I also know this is that we cannot and must be very careful about any conditions that are going to foment or create additional challenges that we're going to see towards a long-term solution where you can have two states that can live in independence and peace and security and sovereignty.

And so, it is watching what's happening right now and what's happened since the Hamas terrorist attacks has been heartbreaking, and it does mean that we have to be able to be able to approach this carefully to ensure that we're not creating greater levels of long-term concern. [08:20:00]

MATTINGLY: Back here at home, and I know this has been a significant focus for you and your state in terms of equity, opportunity, giving people chances, and maybe communities that have been forgotten. I don't know if you saw it, but our colleague John King had this piece from Milwaukee where he was talking to black voters, a critical part of the President's coalition.

I want to play some sound for you, take a listen.


UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Eric Jones is no Trump fan, but he thinks it's foolish to bet on Trump motivating black turnout.

ERIC JONES, MILWAUKEE VOTER: I get people saying they're not going to vote. That's my fear that if they see those two and they're going to say, screw it, we're damned anyway. The factories and the manufacturing left, jobs left. When jobs leave and opportunities leave, then you have certain things that are domino effects, right?

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Jones says the President should stop by and learn a lesson.

JONES: You bring opportunities, you bring jobs, you get votes, plain and simple.


MATTINGLY: Governor, we're about a year out. You're close with the White House, the President is quite fond of you and your counsel. How big of a problem is this for the White House right now?

MOORE: And I'm quite fond of the President, and the President's doing good work. And I tell you, so much of the momentum that we're seeing in Maryland is because of the partnership that we have with the White House. And I think it's important for people to remember that the disillusionment that people oftentimes feel is long-term.

I mean, some of my earliest memories in life were when I watched systems fail. I watched my father die in front of me when I was three years old because he didn't get the health care that he needed. I felt handcuffs on my wrist when I was eleven because I came up in communities that were over-policed and we knew it.

And so, our ability to show that government can work, that government is going to see everybody and not just some people. And when I talk about how in Maryland, we're not going to give into the binary choices of saying, well, are you going to support one group or another?

In our state, just in our first ten months, we've had the most aggressive, all-out assault on child poverty that our state has ever seen and at the same time created a better business environment and business community that we're not choosing. And that's also because of the partnership that we have with the White

House. And so, I think as we continue to see, there's one thing to continue to point fingers, there's another thing to use your hands to actually build together. And that's what I think the White House is continuing to show.

MATTINGLY: I think it's a good segue and maybe a preview of your answer to my next question. You're in Chicago, where the Obama Foundation is hosting the 2023 Democracy Forum today. What's your message at this forum?

MOORE: Well, my message is partly it's impossible not to be inspired when you get a chance to see people who are on the ground doing the work and working to build a better democracy. But the other message that I really want to share is that our democracy is fragile and it needs protecting.

And it's important that that doesn't mean having a blind optimism that you should also have a measure of skepticism, but that skepticism inside this work can be our companion.

It just doesn't have to be our conqueror, we have to use this moment to actually build together, to mold together, to get past these political divides and political lines, and to understand that everything that we are building, is worth fighting for.

And so, part of the reason that we've seen such great momentum in our state, where Maryland now has the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country, has some of the greatest measures of economic momentum, and we're attacking things like the racial wealth gap.

We're not choosing, we're doing both. But that's because we're working together, and it's because we're cherishing and really embracing the idea of what democracy can mean if everybody feels a vested interest in it.

MATTINGLY: Maryland Governor Wes Moore, we appreciate your time, sir, thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: The IDs says it is on a very high level of alertness at its northern border with Lebanon. This is the world awaits the first remarks from Hezbollah's Chief since Hamas attacked Israel. Why there is so much focus on his comments and what they could mean for the region, that's just ahead.

MATTINGLY: And Secretary of State Blinken will speak in Israel after meeting with officials there. This is a diplomatic source who tells CNN that he's pushing Israel to pause fighting to allow for mediation, more next.




MATTINGLY: This morning, for the first time since the start of Israel's war on Hamas. A leader of Lebanon-based Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, is expected to make his first significant statements on the war. This comes as Israel is intensifying its assault on Gaza, and concerns are growing that this war could expand into a regional conflict.

This begs the question, and it's an important one given how much we talk about it what and who is Hezbollah exactly? Well, let's go through some of the basic points here. Hezbollah actually translates literally to "Party of God" was formed in the wake of the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon.

Its stated goal was to push Israel out of Lebanon and ultimately to expel Israel and Western powers like the United States from the region entirely. It has used a wide variety of tactics, including suicide bombings and attacks on military and civilian targets to that end.

Hezbollah is also a political organization, currently holding 13 seats in the Lebanese parliament. And it is very, very well supported by Iran, which provides Hezbollah with the vast majority of its funding, its training, and its weapons, as well as diplomatic and organizational aid.

So, what are the kind of key pillars of Hezbollah's belief system? Well, it's important to note Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist group that seeks to replace Lebanon's secular government with its own. It also views Israel as an illegitimate state and sees both Israel and the United States as its two biggest enemies.

But unlike Hamas, which is a Sunni-based organization, Hezbollah is a Shia group. In fact, the two groups fought on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war at various points, with Hezbollah supporting the Assad Government and Hamas joining the Sunni rebels.

Hezbollah is also much more formidable than Hamas. It's not just a statement, it's an actual fact. When you look at their weapons capability, it's considered the most powerful paramilitary group in the Middle East, akin to some state armies.

Some estimates put the number of Hezbollah fighters at up to 50,000, compared to around 25,000 for Ham loss. Hezbollah also has far more sophisticated weaponry, including precision-guided missiles. Analysts estimate the group could have more than 100,000 rockets, compared to only 7000.