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CNN This Morning

Israel Defense Forces Begin Military Operations in Southern Gaza; New Polling Shows Former President Trump Leading President Biden; GOP Presidential Candidates to have Another Debate Without Former President Trump; Liz Cheney Says She is Considering 3rd Party Run; Democrats Eye Resolution Condemning Hamas' Use of Sexual Violence; UN Holds Session Examining Hamas' Sexual Attacks. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: And let me just read you a line from the paper. They said, "Taken together, our evidence is consistent with informed traders anticipating and profiting from the Hamas attack." In other words, someone knew something, and they made money off of it.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: It's something people are going to have to look into. It seems like --

EGAN: I think the SEC.

MATTINGLY: Yes, at some point. This is fascinating. Keep us posted on this, Matt. Great reporting.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Matt, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. It's top of the hour. And this morning Israel Defense Forces ground invasion intensifies with the new satellite images released that shows Israeli forces pushing into southern Gaza now. The United Nations issuing a stark warning that the situation in Gaza, is quote, quote, apocalyptic for civilians, and that there is nowhere safe for them to seek shelter.

MATTINGLY: And the GOP debate stage is set for tomorrow night. Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy will face off in Alabama. Noticeably absent once again, the guy who is up by 30 points, Donald Trump, who is opting to fundraise instead.

HARLOW: In two hours, three elite university presidents will be on Capitol Hill testifying before a congressional committee about the alarming rise in antisemitism on college campuses since the October 7th terror attack.

This morning -- this hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now. And we begin this morning on the mounting concern for civilians as

Israeli forces push into southern Gaza, which has been a refuge for Palestinians trying to escape the fighting. These are new satellite images, and what you see there are dozens of armored Israeli vehicles in the south of Gaza.

MATTINGLY: There is still intense and ongoing fighting in northern Gaza as well. The United Nations officials are warning there is nowhere safe in the Gaza Strip for civilians to go. The IDF says this video shows its troops in face-to-face combat with Hamas militants. And this morning the Israel military says it completely surrounded Jabalia, the largest refugee camp in Gaza.

Alex Marquardt starts us off live in Tel Aviv. The military operations in southern Gaza now intensifying. What do we know so far, Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, Israel has said that they will soon be wrapping up their operations in the north and heading south. And indeed, we are seeing evidence of those operations moving south. We have new satellite imagery. We also have new video showing armored vehicles in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, notably, on the Salahuddin Road, which is a road that runs north to south from northern Gaza to southern Gaza. That road heads down into Khan Yunis, which is the name of a southern city that we're going to be hearing a lot about in the coming days.

In the first stage of this fighting in the north, Israel had told northern Gazans, more than one million of them, to flee south, many of them going to Khan Yunis. Now Israel is telling those same civilians to go even farther south. Khan Yunis is going to be a target for the Israeli military because they do believe that some of the Hamas leadership is in Khan Yunis.

At the same time, we are hearing now a rather remarkable comment from the Israeli military. When pressed by our colleague Erin Burnett about the -- about a recent report that for every Hamas militant who has been killed, two civilians have been killed at the same time, that is something that is a ratio, two-to-one this IDF spokesman called tremendous. Here is a little bit more of what he had to say.


JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: If you compare that ratio to any other conflict in urban terrain between a military and a terrorist organization using civilians as their human shields and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendous, tremendously positive, and perhaps unique in the world.


MARQUARDT: So, tremendously positive. In terms of the numbers that we understand, Phil and Poppy, Israel hasn't put a specific number on the Hamas militants who have killed. They have just said several thousand. At the same time, according to the Gaza controlled ministry of health, the Hamas controlled ministry of health, the death toll in Gaza is believed to be around 16,000. So that ratio of two to one could actually be a fair bit higher. Phil, Poppy?

HARLOW: The fact that the U.N. chief put out this statement in the last 24 hours saying, look, what is happening on the ground in Gaza is now an apocalyptic situation, right, because they were told to flee the north, go to the south. But now Israel is targeting the south. They can't really go north because so much has been destroyed. And now the weather is set to make it much worse.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Another senior U.N. official, Poppy, was saying that just when you think things can't get any more apocalyptic, they do.


You now have the vast majority of the Gaza population displaced, 1.9 million people according to the U.N. The total population is 2.2 million. They had been told to go south. Now they are being told to flee even farther south. They have been issued very complicated maps by Israel of more than around 2,400 different zones so that Israel can tell them, OK, now move to a different zone. And that's making the assumption that they can even get online to find this complicated map.

So it is an -- it is an extreme situation where you have so many people on the move, so many people unable to find shelter, to get aid, to get medicine. And now, guys, you can see this weather behind me. It's gloomy right now in Tel Aviv and across the region, and it is poised to get even worse. The Israeli meteorological group said that there is a flash flood warning. We are expecting heavy rains later tonight across the region, including in Gaza. They estimate that around 0.6 inches of rain could fall on Gaza. So that could make a bad situation even worse. These are people who are coping with injury, without any shelter. They desperately need all kinds of aid. And so now soon they are going to have this weather to contend with as well. Phil, Poppy?

HARLOW: Alex Marquardt reporting from Tel Aviv. Alex, thank you.

MATTINGLY: Now to domestic politics. The Republican debate stage is shrinking. just four candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination will face off tomorrow in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all qualified for this debate according to the Republican National Committee last night. The GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, he will not attend, opting instead to attend a fundraiser for one of the super PACs supporting him.

Meanwhile, warnings are mounting about the threat a second Trump presidential term will pose to American democracy. CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten, you're joining us. That's always a good thing. It makes me happy on so many different levels, because you explain things. And the thing we want to kind of start with here is this idea of Trump trying to change the narrative, right. He wants on Saturday talking about he is the one who is going to save democracy, not Joe Biden, that had been a big pitch of Biden's. Trump, obviously, attempted to perpetrate a coup in the United States of America. However, how do voters feel about this? HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: They actually do

believe that Donald Trump committed a serious crime or at least believe there is credible evidence that he did. Look at this. This is a poll that was just a few months ago by PRRI -- 58 percent of Americans believe that there is credible evidence that Donald Trump committed serious federal crimes. Just 37 percent of Americans disagree. So that message is breaking through that Donald Trump did something very, very unusual.

More than that, a Trump reelection poses a threat to our democracy and way of life -- again, the majority of Americans believe that this is true. They agree with the idea that Trump is a threat. This is a message we have heard from Democrats and Joe Biden over and over again. It does seem to be breaking through. Just 41 percent of Americans disagree. So all the reporting that's going out, all of the talks from Democrats does seem to be having an impact.

Here is the question, though, Phil. Donald Trump is trying to pull this reverse Uno card. Here we go -- a Biden reelection poses a threat to our democracy or way of life. Look at this, a majority of Americans agree on this. What Donald Trump seems to be arguing does, in fact, seem to be working to some degree because 53 percent of Americans believe a Biden reelection poses as threat to our democracy. And again, that's fairly similar to that 57 percent who believe a Trump reelection poses a threat to our democracy and way of life.

MATTINGLY: Reverse Uno card, projection, gaslighting, all kind of the same on some level. How does that translate with favorability ratings for both? This is really interesting.

ENTEN: A favorable view of Trump 39 percent. That's actually slightly ahead of Joe Biden. Remember elections are choices. And there is a bunch of voters who don't like either candidate. Phil, this is going to be the key group going forward because there's a lot of them. How voters who don't like Biden or Trump say they'll vote in 2024, Trump holds a 10-point lead amongst this group. This is a group that we'll be paying attention to. Joe Biden's got to make it up. Otherwise, he will continue to trail in the polls.

MATTINGLY: Firm point, smart point. As always, my friend, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.


HARLOW: For more analysis, let's bring Alyssa Farah Griffin, CNN political commentator, former Trump White House communications director. Good morning, good to have you. Just staying on the Biden beat for just one minute, this sort of pretty shocking new poll out of Harvard says Biden right now is under 50 percent with young voters. That's 18 to 29. He comes in at 48 percent of them saying that they would for sure vote for him. Trump is at 33 percent, 19 percent are unsure. Biden had 66 percent of those voters in 2020. What is going on with young voters?


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and millennials and Gen Z make up the biggest voting bloc in this country. Listen, I support Joe Biden on how he has been handling the war in Israel, but the vast majority of young voters simply do not. That's going to be a major factor that I think probably affects these most recent numbers.

And I think that there is a general generational concern about the fact that we are going to likely have two candidates squaring off who are near or are octogenarians. So there's a number of factors here, but that is something I don't think we should look away from is the foreign policy distinction that is incredibly mobilizing with young voters.

MATTINGLY: To that point, the thing -- it's not just young voters. The entire Democratic coalition is soft right now. There has long been an assumption that they will come back over the course of the next 11 months when it becomes a binary choice, it becomes very clear. Do you think there is a risk that won't happen?

GRIFFIN: I think it's a tremendous risk to assume that it will be Donald Trump and therefore people will turn out for Joe Biden. He uses the line don't compare me to the almighty but to the alternative. Here is the fact. Where we stand right now, Donald Trump will likely be the GOP nominee. This is a historically unfit person, somebody who is a former president, the only in history who has been denounced by former chiefs of staff, former secretaries of defense, former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former White House communications director, former White House press secretaries, and the list can go on.

He is very likely to be the nominee. There is only three way to stop him -- the primary season, which we're still in, the courts, which very likely may not convict before an election or the general election. And for Democrats who I think rightly have argued he is a threat to democracy, you're saying we are putting one guy as the backstop to stop Donald Trump. We are not engaging in a primary, we're not considering governors or a younger fighter.

I worry that Democrats may be running into a sort of Ruth Bader Ginsburg moment or something where they put all their stock in somebody who they believe in but could end up losing to somebody so dangerous.

HARLOW: To be fair, other than Dean Phillips, Democrats aren't putting themselves out there. He is the one who is saying those things and saying more of us should be doing this and given Biden a real primary.

But can we talk about Nikki Haley? Really interesting to see her rise. Chris Christie, there's "New York Times" reporting that some Republican big donors have a message for Chris Christie, which is get out, and they are throwing their money behind people like Nikki Haley. And part of what is interesting to them is she is willing to talk about real entitlement reform on Social Security and Medicare. Listen to her.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The ones we change it for are those like my kids in their 20s coming into the system. We change retirement age to reflect life expectancy for them. We limit benefits on the wealthy. Instead of cost-of-living increases, we do increases based on inflation. And we expand Medicare Advantage plans which seniors love, allow competition, and reduce the cost of health care.


HARLOW: Big money donors like Ken Langone here in New York, for example, saying why do I need $3,500 a month? This has to change. What is the political calculus? Because that was sort of a third rail, untouchable.

GRIFFIN: I think that Nikki Haley actually has the political nuance to be able to tackle something like entitlement reform and not fall into the trap that Democrats often set, which is you're taking away entitlements. She is talking about reforming for the future generation. She is talking about its solvency 10 years from now, which is something that absolutely has to be addressed and we're all going to come to head with.

I also think, listen, the reality of it, she now has the support of the Koch network. This has been a major priority. They're true fiscal conservatives for many years. And I do think that this does resonate in places like New Hampshire and South Carolina where she has to do well.

MATTINGLY: The debate. Obviously, Trump's not going to be on the stage. It's been a central accelerant to Nikki Haley's rise. I think it's undeniable. What do you expect on the stage?

GRIFFIN: I think the fact that it's a shrinked stage and this is really narrowing it is going to give everyone more speaking time. It's going to give them a bit of time to go beyond just talking points and the fighting. I, just based on previous performances, would expect she will be the winner of this debate which her campaign is hoping is going to give her the momentum to rise to number two in Iowa and pull off a miracle in New Hampshire and then go to her home state of South Carolina.

But to the point of Chris Christie, I'm hearing from more and more Republicans on, let's say the more never-Trump side of things or who want a Trump alternative, saying we like what you did, but if this is truly about stopping Donald Trump and a different future for the GOP, you need to back Nikki Haley now.

HARLOW: Liz Cheney, interestingly, had said she wouldn't run as a third party. But she did this interview around her new book with "The Washington Post" saying she will do whatever it takes to prevent Trump from running for office, and saying, several years ago I would not have contemplated a third party run. But now she may contemplate that. Can she be sure that her third party run, if she does it, would help prevent a Trump presidency? Isn't that a gamble? GRIFFIN: She certainly would not be -- I think that her calculation

would be that she would be taking votes from Donald Trump. I think there is always a concern that you may be taking soft Joe Biden voters. Nikki Haley -- or, I'm sorry, Liz Cheney is not somebody who would do this lightly without data to show that she would only be able to help Joe Biden win the election if she were to do that, so I wouldn't get ahead of that decision yet.


HARLOW: Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you very much, be sure to tune in tonight Anderson Cooper will sit down with former Republican Representative Liz Cheney.

MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, this morning, two Democrats are drafting a resolution to condemn Moss's use of rape and sexual assault in response, in part to comments made by a member of their own party.

HARLOW: Plus, an emotional and very important session held at the United Nations highlighting that issue.


SHERYL SANDBERG, FOUNDER, LEAN IN": Do we believe the Hawaiian spokesperson who said that rape is forbidden, therefore it couldn't possibly happen on October 7? Or do we believe the women whose bodies tell us how they spend the last few minutes of their lives?



HARLOW: Welcome back. So, this morning, at least two-House Democrats say they are working to introduce a resolution to officially condemn Hamas's use of sexual violence. It comes after Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal faced criticism, continues to face criticism for not speaking out more strongly against that violence and rape.

The United Nations yesterday held a special session called "Here Our Voices" focusing on those horrific acts by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women during the October 7 attacks, allegations Hamas denies.

MATTINGLY: State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said he sees, quote, no reason at all to doubt those reports. He also said that Hamas is likely holding back from releasing further civilian women because it does not want them to talk about what they've gone through in captivity, he was asked to elaborate.


REPORTER: Do you, in my language, any evidence to suggest that, that is what it is? Or is it just -


MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I want to be very sensitive in my language when talking about people that continue to be held hostage, that have families on the outside. What I will say is we know Hamas has committed atrocities.

They continue to hold women, they were going to release these women, and then suddenly, at the last point, reneged on the deal and were never able to provide a credible reason why.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now is Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper. He's been out front on the story of allegations of sexual violence, doing a ton of work on it for weeks. Seems like people are starting to recognize how slow many organizations have been to pay attention to this. Why?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't know why they have not been more active and aggressive when it comes to recognizing the evidence and the eyewitness testimony that Israeli that atrocities against Israeli women and girls and men took place on October 7 by Hamas.

But because the United Nations and other international organizations and feminist organizations have been so silent. The Israeli mission to the United Nations held this special event yesterday at the UN in which they invited various feminist leaders, including Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and others, to talk about this issue and to invite others to bear witness as to what happened on October 7.


GILAD ERAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: On October 7, Hamas perpetrated rape and sexual violence, exploiting these unforgivable crimes as weapons of war.

TAPPER: Nearly two months after the October 7 attacks, the international community is finally beginning to investigate and recognize reports of brutal and inhumane rapes and sexual assaults by Hamas terrorists torturing and terrorizing the people of Israel.

For weeks, Israeli police have been collecting eyewitness testimony, video, and forensic evidence detailing countless accounts of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by terrorists on Israeli women and children. And for weeks, there has been very little outcry or condemnation from the international community, including from the United Nations.

ERAN: Sadly, the very international bodies that are supposedly the defenders of all women showed that when it comes to Israelis, indifference is acceptable. To these organizations. Israeli women are not women. The rape of Israelis is not an act of rape, their silence has been deafening.

TAPPER: But Monday, the United Nations held a gathering hosted by Israel examining sexual and gender-based violence committed during Hamas's attack on Israel. Hamas has denied committing any rapes or sexual assaults.

SANDBERG: There are exactly no circumstances that justify rape, none. Rape is targeted, rape is terror, rape is torture.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: It doesn't just strike fear in the hearts of Israeli women, it strikes fear in the hearts of every woman and girl around the globe, their bodies are not worth defending.

TAPPER: The chief Superintendent of the Israeli police read numerous accounts of the atrocities witnessed by survivors and first responders.

YAEL RICHERT, ISRAELI POLICE CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT: Everything was an apocalypse of corpses. Girls without any clothes on, without tops, without underwear. People cut in half, butchered, some were beheaded. There were girls with a broken pelvis due to repetitive rapes, their legs were spread wide apart in a split.

A witness from the Rave Party testified, we heard girls that were pulled out from the shelters, girls that shouted, they raped girls, burned them. Just after that, all the bodies outside were burned. A rescuer that arrived to a house on a kibbutz testified. Inside the shower, there was a body of a cuffed woman.

She was without her underwear; the body was in the corner and her hands were tight, another testimony from the Rave Party survivor, women without clothes, some without the upper body clothes.


Blood over the lower body, everyone was full of blood, butchered people. We found a woman's body dumped outside without pants, without underpants burn, barely any hair left on her.

TAPPER: And videos were played from a first responder, a paramedic, and a survivor of the music festival, detailing firsthand what they experienced.

WOMAN: The two we had been bound by their hands. Their hands were behind their back. There was a body of a woman that had a bloodstain on her genitalia.

WOMAN: There was a lot of gun wounds there. Shooting was targeted at sexual organs. We saw that a lot. They had a thing with sexual organs, both in women and in men. The women we received; they were civilian. We mainly saw either breast amputations or gunshots, just to the breast, simply shooting from one side of the breast to the other, they were conscious when they got to us.

WOMAN: They laid a woman down, and I understand that he's raping her. He's basically shifting her position, and then they pass her on to another person. Was she alive, the girl they raped? Yes, she was alive. She had long hair; he was pulling her hair. She's not dressed, and he cuts her breast. He throws it on the road, and they're playing with it. TAPPER: Another survivor of the attack describes seeing a horrific

rape at the Nova Music Festival to London Sunday Times. "I saw this beautiful woman with the face of an angel and eight or ten of the fighters beating and raping her. She was screaming, 'Stop it already, I'm going to die anyway from what you're doing, just kill me.'

When they finished, they were laughing, and the last one shot her in the head.

SANDBERG: Do we believe the Hamas spokesperson who said that rape is forbidden, therefore it couldn't have possibly happened on October 7? Or do we believe the women whose bodies tell us how they spent the last minutes of their lives? Who are we going to believe?


TAPPER: And in addition to the male hostages and the soldiers who are still being kept hostage, who are still kidnapped by Hamas, there are 17 women and children that Hamas either is still holding hostage or say they cannot account for. And those 17 are three children, four- year-old Ariel Bibas, ten-month-old Kafir Bibas, 18-year-old Liri Albag.

And the women include 26-year-old Noa Argamani, 19-year-old Karina Ariev, 19-year-old Agam Berger, 32-year-old Shira Bibas, who's the mother of Ariel and Kirbus. And we should note that Hamas claims that the Bibas family members, the mom and the two kids were killed in an Israeli airstrike. But that's not confirmed, and the IDF says it continues to look into the claim.

28-year-old Amit Buskila Esther, 39-year-old Caramel Gat, 19-year-old Daniella Gilboa, 23-year-old Romi Gonen, 27-year-old Inbar Haiman, 19- year-old Naama Levy, 30-year-old Doron Steinbrecher, 70-year-old Judy Weinstein Haggai, who's a dual US-Israeli citizen, 28-year-old Arbel Yehud. 24-year-old Eden Yerushalmi, 28-year-old Eden Zechariah.

Now, if you notice, Poppy and Phil, that those women are almost all teenagers in their twenties and thirties, and if the thought occurs to you, the horrific thought occurs to you as to why that might be, that these are the last ones. Those are fears that are shared by Israeli officials, and you heard the State Department Spokesman Matt' Miller alluding to those fears.

There is no evidence of those fears, but it is a reasonable supposition. When I was interviewing a survivor of the Nova Music Festival, she hid in a camper, and she told me that there was a fear at one point that the terrorists were going to just start taking the camper into Gaza.

And she thought that if they did that, she was just going to run out of the camper and get killed. Because people in Israel know what happens to women and girls if you get kidnapped and go into Gaza. It's just known that Hamas terrorists there's a chance that you will be.