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IDF Conducting Operation Inside Gaza's Largest Hospital; Today, Biden, China's Xi Hold High-Stakes Meeting in California; GOP Representative Says Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Elbowed Him, Ex-Speaker Denies It. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 07:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Split screen yesterday.


Yes. Sara, thank you so much, good to have you, John Avlon, as always.

CNN This Morning Continues now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel is carrying out a precise and targeted operation at the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have intelligence and operational necessity in order to defeat Hamas and perhaps rescue hostages.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very complex operation, thousands of people are still at this hospital.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Negotiations underway to try to secure the release of some 240 hostages.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I believe it's going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Biden suggesting China's economy has, quote, real problems ahead of his meeting with President Xi Jinping today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Relations right now, they are at their lowest point in at least half a century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he wants to do is signal to the American people and signal to our allies that he is engaged with China in a responsible way.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A government shutdown likely averted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaker Johnson had to rely heavily on Democratic votes to get this over the finish line.

COLLINS: And, apparently, a few fistfights as well.

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I got elbowed in the back, and I turned back and there was Kevin.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If I would hit somebody, they would know I hit them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look like a Smurf here.

SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): Stand your butt up then.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking at the impact of a party that is not a functional party.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): This place is a pressure cooker.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everyone and welcome.

Happening right now, Israeli troops are carrying out an operation inside Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa. A Palestinian journalist tells CNN there's been intense gunfire as soldiers search the complex and interrogate young men.

The IDF just releasing this video claiming to show soldiers delivering aid to the hospital's entrance. The Red Cross says reports coming in from the hospital are, quote, very worrying.

HARLOW: The IDF has accused Hamas of running a command center underneath the hospital and using civilians above as human shields. The Israeli military is calling this a precise and a targeted operation that is based on intelligence. Listen to this doctor from inside the hospital.


DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON, AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: We can't look through the windows or doors. We don't know what's happening. We have tanks moving within the hospital. You can hear continuous shooting. You can hear it now.

But, again, it's a totally scary situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, what are these sounds, Doctor? I'm hearing sounds.

MOKHALLALATI: It's continuous shooting from the tanks.


HARLOW: And thousands of civilians have been sheltering at Al-Shifa Hospital. Conditions have grown dire in terms of a lack of food, water or any power.

MATTINGLY: Now, this all comes as President Biden says a deal to release hostages held in Gaza is, quote, going to happen. Hamas says the negotiations are focused on releasing 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting. Israel pushing for at least 100 hostages to be released.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us in Tel Aviv. Oren, I want to start on the operation that has been ongoing. What more do we know? What are the updates in terms of where that stands?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Phil, at this point, the operation inside Gaza's largest hospital, the Al-Shifa Hospital, has been ongoing for some 12 hours starting in the early hours of the morning. The Israeli military says it's operating in a very specific part of the hospital.

But take a look at this map and you get a sense of how large the entire hospital complex is. They won't be any more precise about where they are operating or where they're looking for the Hamas terror infrastructure they say has been there and that Hamas has used as a command and control center. They do say they have evidence of that that they can't release yet, but will release at a later point today.

A senior Israeli military official in a briefing with reporters a short time ago said they trained for a couple weeks for this, a very specialized operation that required its own specific training to be able to work and function in a hospital, and that includes Arabic speakers to be able to work with the local staff, the doctors, the officials and the civilian.

Here is video of the IDF released a short time ago. This is the IDF dropping off incubators, baby food and medical supplies to Al-Shifa Hospital. We have been able to geolocate it but cannot independently verify what's happening on the ground because of the inability to report in Gaza.

Meanwhile, we have known conditions inside the hospital have grown increasingly dire on the example of the neonatal intensive care unit. A number of babies have died in recent days because they had to be pulled out of incubators and the officials there have tried to keep them warm with hot water and tinfoil.

On the question of what the evidence is that Hamas was using at the hospital, at this point, the senior Israeli military official wouldn't be any more specific. When asked, does it show any tunnel shafts within the hospital, the military official refused to answer and that's note worthy, because, several days ago, the IDF put out what they called an illustration, a digital video of what they claimed are tunnel shafts that are in the hospital. So, that is a key question.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about that. I also want to ask you, Oren, about the hostages. There have been -- I feel like there has been an uptick in chatter and then it ebbs over the course of almost every day for the last two weeks.

Last night, President Biden, Prime Minister Netanyahu having yet another phone call, in which this was a central, if not the priority issue that was discussed.


We saw the huge marches in Israel. You were marching with the hostages' families and supporters. We saw the huge gathering of individuals in Washington, D.C. Do we know anything about what is going to happen next with these negotiations?

LIEBERMANN: Right now, it's more hints and reports here and there, nothing definitive that says that a hostage release or exchange will happen. But as you point out, President Biden appeared to express some optimism and Hamas appeared to say the framework is there, 70 hostages or so in exchange for a number of days of a pause in the fighting. So, the framework appears to be in place. But whether it's able to get over the line, that, of course, is a key question.

The other question right now with the Al-Shifa Hospital raid going on, does that affect the willingness on either side to go for hostage negotiations. Meanwhile, at the same time, Israeli radio reporting, according to the army, that they found no evidence of the hostages in Shifa Hospital. So, that search is ongoing.

At the same time, the defense minister here, Yoav Gallant, met with Brett McGurk, the White House's special coordinator for the Middle East. He said the operation would continue until the hostages were rescued and Hamas was defeated.

So, there appears to be some optimism that a hostage exchange or some sort of deal may be possible, but if that can get over the line, it's still an open question, Phil and Poppy.

MATTINGLY: All right. Oren Liebermann live for us in Tel Aviv, thank you.

HARLOW: And joining us now, CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour. And, Christiane, let's begin with that important question that Oren just posed, does this operation, Israel going into this hospital in this way while there are still patients there, that the IDF says, look, we told them to evacuate, we tried to help them get out, does that change the hostage negotiations that seem, according to President Biden, to be making progress?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, hard to say exactly, as Oren pointed out, that if it can happen, great, if it doesn't, well, who knows. And, actually, I interviewed Mark Regev, and he is, as you know, Netanyahu's international spokesperson. I asked him about what Biden said. And he said, well, we'd love it, but we don't see any indication of any release mechanism happening right now.

And on top of that, he said, if there was to be, it's because of the pressure we're putting on Hamas. But, of course, they have been putting that pressure on Hamas since is October 7th, and since those terrible slaughters in Israel. And hostages have not been released except for a small handful. So, that is not working.

And when I asked him, as Oren has asked, what is your intelligence information about what's under Al-Shifa, where are the hostages, where is the main Hamas leader, Yoav Gallant said that Yahya Sinwar was hiding in his bunker. So, I said, well, where? If you know, why don't you close in on that? And there are no answers to any of these questions that they are willing to give. So, we're not sure about the strategy.

What we do know over here is that it is being seen very, very grimly by Israel's allies. Not only neighbors in -- literal neighbors, like in Jordan, but let me read for you what the king of Jordan has said. In the name of our common humanity, how can such brutal acts and murders be accepted? Today's human suffering and global tensions urge us to adhere to the norms of humanity before we all reach a moral breaking point. It's a very pointed message from the king of Jordan, who has a peace deal with Israel.

In the U.K. here, again, a very close Israeli ally, the British government, there is going to be a very highly charged debate in parliament tonight about the matter of a ceasefire. The French president has called on a ceasefire, and they really want to see at least five days, at least some kind, like the IRC, the refugee organization has called for, some kind of meaningful ceasefire to really relieve the unacceptable pressure on civilians in Gaza right now.

HARLOW: I'm so glad you brought up what the king of Jordan, King Abdullah said. Because in this Washington Post op-ed, he also says this, Israelis cannot continue their lives as usual expecting security solutions alone to ensure their safety, while Palestinians live in misery and injustice. He goes on to write, with no political horizon, the promise of a peaceful future will evade both Israelis and Palestinians.

The key question of how does this end in a two-state solution that the United States continues to press for, what is the significance of him writing this?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's a huge significance because he's -- obviously, Jordan, Egypt and other allies, including Russia, China, the whole P5, permanent five of the Security Council, Europe, everybody has signed to the notion and they continue to adhere to it, of a two-state solution.

And this is getting more and more difficult to envision because the current Israeli government is essentially made up of very strong settlers, settlers who are really the driving force at the moment, it's considered, and who have increased the settlements particularly over the last few years in the occupied West Bank.


So, there are 700,000 or so settlers there, which make it very, very difficult to hang on to the notion of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank. But that is still the aim, even though both Palestinians and Israelis are really questioning that entire concept because it has failed, because it hasn't been implemented. Neither the United States nor Israel, nor any of those around the Oslo Accords have actually implemented something that the Palestinians back then agreed to, which was to recognize Israel in return for a state. And then, of course, you've had the intervening vie violence and it's all gone -- it pretty much went off the boil. As you know, the U.S. administration took its eye off the region until it was now forced to put its eye back on. But this is the question, what happens next.

HARLOW: Can we turn to a critical meeting today in the United States between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi Jinping is coming to this country under very different circumstances, certainly more tense between the U.S. and China than his last visit here. You had this great, I think, very revealing and telling interview recently with Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, who had just gone to China. And she talked to you, Christiane, about the economic ties between the two that are key as being a ballast, she hopes, for the rest of their relationship. I want to play what she told you and then get your thoughts on the other side.


GINA RAIMONDO, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I think they have a desire and we have a desire to stabilize the relationship. In my case, when I met with my counterparts, we talked about using the economic relationship as a ballast for the rest of the relationship. We have to protect away what we must but trade where we can. It's time to ratchet down the temperature and look to -- I think, the world, truthfully, Christiane, is looking to the U.S. and China to be responsible in managing this relationship.


HARLOW: So, then, Christiane, coming out of this meeting, what is the best possible outcome for the world, for global stability?

AMANPOUR: The best possible outcome, as she said, is to lower the temperature. I asked, are we going to see a war in Taiwan on top of all these other wars that we're seeing. And she said, I don't think so, and I don't think the Chinese want to see that. The best possible deliverable is, in fact, the meeting between the two presidents. They have not had a significant meeting at all in President Biden's presidency.

So, it's very important that they actually meet together and deal with what they can deal with, that she said the economic is very, very important. And it's very good that she was on our program. Because of all the main issues between China and the United States, economy and commerce matters make up a majority of them, which is under her purview, basically.

HARLOW: Yes, that's right. It's a great interview, very telling ahead today. Christiane, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Well, as Poppy was just noting, China's Xi Jinping is set to meet with President Biden in just a few hours. What the White House is hoping to achieve from the summit, that's next.

HARLOW: And watch your back, Republican Congressman Tim Burchett accusing his former party leader of elbowing him in the kidneys on purpose. Kevin McCarthy says that's not true. Burchett joins us.



MATTINGLY: Last, we've been discussing President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet in a high-stakes summit later today. It comes after months of tension between the two nations.

CNN Senior National Correspondent David Culver tracking it all from San Francisco.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sharing a sofa and a smile at Mar-a-Lago, serenaded by former President Donald Trump's grandkids, singing in Chinese for a visiting President Xi Jinping, the blossoming, it seemed, of a new friendship, and with it, closer ties between the U.S. and China.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think, long-term, we're going to have a very, very great relationship, and I look very much forward to it.

CULVER: Not quite how the story played out. In the six years since Xi's last visit to the U.S., U.S.-China relations have plummeted to all-time lows.

BIDEN: They must play by the rules.

CULVER: The issues, where to begin, a bruising trade war, a devastating pandemic.

TRUMP: It came out China.

CULVER: Rising tensions in the South China Sea, growing threats from Beijing over its goal of unifying with Taiwan, and amidst Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, an alarmingly cozy Xi and Putin relationship, in the war between Israel and Hamas, China refusing to condemn Hamas.

President Xi's first trip to the U.S. was 1985 as a local Communist Party official taking in the sights. Today, he's China's most powerful ruler since Mao, demanding near total control of a population of 1.4 billion people.

Xi now returns to an increasingly divided United States, something Chinese state media repeatedly highlight in its propaganda. But if there is one topic that consistently unites Washington, it's being tough on China, a sentiment bolstered by the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon earlier this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are testing us. They are mocking us. They are trying to embarrass us.

CULVER: China has its own issues. After years of record growth, the world's second largest economy is struggling. Its housing market is in crisis, youth unemployment at record highs, and for the first time in 25 years, a deficit in foreign direct investment. International companies increasingly uneasy putting money into China in part because of Beijing's unpredictable crackdowns.

The U.S.'s reputation has taken a hit in China fueled by state media's anti-west messaging and nationalistic post on China's tightly controlled social media.

Ahead of the summit, rising skepticism towards U.S. intentions. One Weibo user posting that this is a U.S. delaying tactic, its strategy of containing China won't change but only intensify. Another posting, anyone who thinks that China-U.S. relations will become better is simply naive. It's just your wishful thinking.

Many in China supporting Xi's proposed new world order, one that's not led by the U.S. The U.S. now hosting this high-stakes West Coast meet- up with low expectations on the outcome.


No more love seat for the leaders of two superpowers, instead both on a hot seat with the world watching if they can tamp down tensions.


CULVER (on camera): And this morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping being portrayed by his country's state media as, again, a warm, heroic welcome even, Phil, here in San Francisco. They have been showing the images that we actually were hearing firsthand. In fact, yesterday we were reporting here, heard crowds gathering, heard chanting, recorded music blaring from speakers with nationalistic Chinese songs being broadcast.

So, Producer Yeung Chong (ph) ran over there, captured some of these images. And you can see big groups coming together. It looks impressive. They have huge Chinese flags that happen to be also blocking some of the anti-China protesters who were out there. They were being drawn out what seemed to be very patriotic Chinese nationals.

We have learned that many of them were bused in from Chinese students being part of U.S. universities. And so that's what made up most of that crowd. It shows you the optics are important for China.

MATTINGLY: Incredibly, as U.S. officials have made clear over the course of the last couple of days. David culver, thank you.

HARLOW: Yes, that's fascinating. All right, ahead, coming up, words that you probably haven't heard from a former House speaker.


MCCARTHY: No, I did not elbow him. No, I would not elbow him. I would not hit him in the kidney.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: The man, Kevin McCarthy, talking about Republican Congressman Tim Burchett says otherwise. He joins us live next with his side of the story.



MATTINGLY: Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker, accused of elbowing in the kidneys one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust him as speaker, Congressman Tim Burchett. The alleged incident happened Tuesday morning outside the GOP conference meeting while Burchett was talking to a reporter. The reporter captured the audio of the aftermath.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I think it went all right.

Sorry, Kevin, didn't elbow, why did you elbow me in the back, Kevin? Hey, Kevin, you got any guts? Jerk.

Hey, Kevin, why'd you elbow me in the back?

The reporter said it right there. What kind of chicken move is that? You're pathetic, man. You are so pathetic. What a jerk. You need security, Kevin.


MATTINGLY: And McCarthy denies he intentionally elbowed the congressman, but the back and forth between the two continued.


BURCHETT: It was a clean shot to the kidneys.

You just don't expect a guy who was a one-time three steps away from the White House to hit you -- sucker punch you in the hallway.

MCCARTHY: No, I would not elbow him. I would not hit him in the kidney.

I'd run and hit the guy. I did not kidney-punch him. I did not do anything like that.

REPORTER: You didn't shove him?



MATTINGLY: Well, tensions are clearly still high in the Republican Party since McCarthy's ouster as speaker last month, and this all happened just hours before some positive news, the House actually passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown, relying primarily on Democratic votes.

Republican Congressman Tim Burchett of Tennessee joins us now for his weekly check-in that we have begun to colloquially refer to as breakfast with Burchett.

I'm going to be honest, every week, something new seems to pop up before our conversations. This was slightly unexpected. What's going on, man?

BURCHETT: I don't know. It was Claudia Grisales. She's -- you can follow her Twitter. She actually tweeted about it, cgrisales. I think it has like almost 8 million views on her X account or whatever you want to call it. We're just standing out there after conference, and I always talk to the press.

And she was interviewing me and I fell forward and -- after Kevin popped me in the back, and then he just kept walking with his security detail. Really, it's just a sad commentary on him and his spiraling leadership.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you about that? And you're referring -- Claudia is an NPR reporter. We're playing her sound. As the congressman notes, she's on Twitter, she's a great reporter.

Whatever has happened between you and the speaker, former speaker, in part because of you, does it go back to when you thought he was being condescending in a phone call before you voted to oust him? Is there something deeper here? Why are you at this point with him right now?

BURCHETT: Yes. I have no idea. It's really a bizarre thing that just happened. And I'm sure right after he did it, he regretted it, and I have moved on. I have got no vengeance towards him. I prayed for him this morning, as a matter of fact, because I know he's hurting, even though he does have $17 million in his account to play mischief in everybody's campaigns, which he's frequently said that he will do. So, it's just a sad commentary on his life. And I'm sorry for him. I really am. I feel sorry for him.

MATTINGLY: Would you like to see him leave and resign?

BURCHETT: I don't care what he does, really. It doesn't matter. The sooner he leaves, though, the sooner he will be making seven figures being a lobbyist. I mean, let's be honest, he's not going back to Bakersfield. Let's just be honest about that. He will be lobbying up here and making big money. And if he feels like he doesn't have a shot back to the speakership, and I suspect after Mike Johnson's deal last night, he won't be back.

MATTINGLY: I want to ask you about the new speaker and what happened yesterday in a second. But, quickly, I want to go back to a conversation we had out front of the Capitol shortly before Kevin McCarthy was ousted, where you talked about that phone call that you thought he was condescending in terms of when you were talking about how you were praying over the vote. I want to play what you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BURCHETT: I have got a recording of what was said. It was --

HARLOW: You recorded it?

BURCHETT: It was just -- but it was between us. But the conversation went on in a belittling tone.


MATTINGLY: The reason I swing back to that is, one, you haven't given me the recording yet, which is, to some degree, frustrating, and you're more than welcome to at any point, but, two, you clearly had an idea or had some issues leading into that phone call that made you want to do that. What was that?