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U.N. Secretary-General Guterres Tries To Clarify Damning Comments About Israel-Hamas War; W.H.O.: Six Gaza Hospitals Close Due To Lack Of Fuel; Queen Of Jordan Accuses Western Leaders Of "Glaring Double Standard" As Death Toll Rises In Gaza. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired October 25, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: I'm Max Foster joining you live from London. We want to straight -- take you straight to the U.N. where the
Secretary-General is speaking after some controversial comments he made last night.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Secretary-General will make a statement, we will not take questions today. Sir.
GUTERRES: I am shocked by the misrepresentations by some of my statements yesterday in the Security Council, as if -- as if I was justifying acts of
terror by Hamas. This is false, it was the opposite. In the beginning of my intervention yesterday, I clearly stated and I quote, "I have condemned
unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented 7th October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel. Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring
and kidnapping of civilians or the launching of rockets against civilian targets".
Indeed, I spoke of the grievances of the Palestinian people, and in doing so --
FOSTER: OK, Antonio Guterres there speaking after some comments that he made last night which caused a rift with Israel, where he talked about
what's happening, the Hamas attack not happening in a vacuum. We're going to cross to Richard Roth now because, you know, the expert on these things,
Richard. He's basically saying his comments were misrepresented, and he wasn't in any way condoning what Hamas did. Do you think that's going to be
enough to patch things up with the Israelis?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israel was already --
Excuse me, upset with the United Nations for decades. So, it didn't take much, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. has called for Mr. Guterres to
resign, which is not going to happen. I think that we have an incredible volatile times, cancel culture, all kinds of things going on, and Israel
was ready to pile in when they heard the Secretary-General yesterday say that the Hamas attack didn't happen in a vacuum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTERRES: It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years
of suffocating occupation. They have seen their lands steadily devolved by settlements and plagued by violence, their economy is stifled, their people
displaced, and their homes demolished.
Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing. But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling
attacks by Hamas, and those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: Now, the Secretary-General has not spoken with the Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel since the war began, and that kind of tells you where
we're at in that relationship. The Israeli Foreign Minister, the Israeli ambassador at the Security Council table yesterday blasted Guterres for the
FOSTER: Yes, just take us through exactly what --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELI COHEN, FOREIGN MINISTER, ISRAEL: Secretary-General, in what world do you live? Definitely, this is not our world. I hear the calls, say him
before, for a ceasefire, tell me! What is a proportionate response for killing of babies? For raping women and burn them? For beheading of a
child? How you can agree to a ceasefire with someone sworn to kill and destroy your own existence? How?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: So, Israel keeping the pressure on the Secretary-General. It may not pay off now, maybe down the road in some sort of ceasefire talks, but
Israel has always felt the U.N. was biased against it. You can look at the facts. What kind of resolutions the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva
produced, there's more about Israel than there are about many harsh and anti-human rights governments around the world.
So just to clarify what we heard at the beginning there, Max, the Secretary-General said, "I'm shocked by misrepresentations by -- of my
statements yesterday in the Security Council, as if it was justifying acts of terror by Hamas, this is false, it was the opposite." Max, back to you.
FOSTER: We'll wait for another response from Israel on that, thank you so much, Richard. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency is warning it will be
forced to halt its operations in Gaza in the coming hours if fuel isn't delivered, exacerbating already grave humanitarian crisis. Right now,
supplies are critically low, the agency has repeatedly said that Gaza needs thousands of liters of fuel a day in order to power the enclave's hospitals
and other basic necessities.
The World Health Organization says six hospitals in Gaza have already been forced to close due to a lack of fuel. Israel says it will not allow more
fuel into Gaza over fears it would get into the hands of Hamas and be used to power rockets and its operational infrastructure.
While the crisis continues to unfold in Gaza, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz takes a closer look at the growing shortage of essential items in the enclave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aid is slowly trickling into Gaza, but in U.N. camps, families desperate for food and water say
they're getting bars of soap.
"This so-called aid provides nothing, we're dying a slow death", this man says. "You don't hear the people's screams at night when they fight over a
piece of bread. There's not even water to drink." So far, the total amount of aid delivered is less than 1 percent of what the enclave would receive
on a daily basis prior to this conflict.
And a crucial lifeline is missing. Fuel. Without it, UNRWA, the main U.N. agency on the ground says it will be forced to halt operations by Wednesday
night. The international community is begging for help.
RICK BRENNAN, REGIONAL EMERGENCY DIRECTOR, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We are appealing, we are pleading, we are on our knees, asking for that
sustained, scaled up, protected humanitarian operation.
ABDELAZIZ: Israel's reply? Ask Hamas for fuel.
DANIEL HAGARI, CHIEF SPOKESPERSON, ISRAELI MILITARY (through translator): Fuel will not enter the Gaza Strip, Hamas used the petrol for its military
infrastructure. Fuel Hamas stole from UNRWA should be taken back from Hamas and given to the hospitals.
ABDELAZIZ: UNRWA previously denied the claims of fuel looted. And as Israel intensifies its bombardment of Gaza with more than 200 hostages still being
held by Hamas, the fuel shortage is already costing lives, doctors warned. At least six hospitals have shut down due to a lack of fuel, and hundreds
of patients from premature babies to the many wounded in ICU are at risk.
"If the hospital is not provided with the necessary fuel for the generators, we are issuing a death sentence", this doctor says. The
execution is in the hands of the free world, everyone is guilty. Water pumps will soon stop working too, making it even more difficult to get
clean drinking water. Bakeries are closing, aid deliveries are more difficult, and more than 2 million people -- half of them children, already
under bombardment and under siege, could face starvation. The clock is ticking.
FOSTER: Salma Abdelaziz, there. Let's take a deeper look at the important role the United Nations Relief and Works Agency plays in Gaza. UNRWA was
established in 1949, it began operations the following year to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees. Today, there are 1.6 million registered
refugees in Gaza alone. And its clinics in Gaza gets almost three and a half million visits by patients each year.
All of this underscores the important work this U.N. agency carries out, and why it's essential for it to receive fuel to carry out its services.
Joining me now is Tamara Alrifai; a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency live from Amman in Jordan. Thank you so much for
joining us. So much concern, obviously, about fuel not getting to hospitals. How much longer can the hospitals operate without fuel?
TAMARA ALRIFAI, SPOKESPERSON, UNITED NATIONS RELIEF & WORKS AGENCY: Not long. The hospitals will not be able to deliver lifesaving services nor
keep the life-support machines nor the incubators on if they do not receive fuel that will help their generators generate electricity for all these
machines. We are very worried about the inability of hospitals to continue receiving more wounded, pregnant women that need to deliver or all kinds of
other -- of other sick people in need of help.
FOSTER: Are we talking hours, days?
ALRIFAI: We're probably talking a day. We have already warned that if fuel runs out by tonight or tomorrow, we at UNRWA, the largest U.N. agency in
Gaza, will no longer be able to work. And when I say work, we are talking about over 600,000 people in our shelters and our school, that who expect
to receive clean drinking water from our water desalination plant, who expect to receive bread that is baked in bakeries, all of these need fuel
to be able to operate.
In addition to the fuel needed for the trucks that go all the way to the Egyptian border to get the supplies that are coming in from Egypt.
FOSTER: If your staff are unable to work, what will they do? Do they stay there and do what they can?
ALRIFAI: Most of our staff, most of my colleagues are Palestinians from Gaza themselves. Most of them are within their communities, and most of
them are displaced in our shelters. They continue to work using whatever supplies we still have left. But again, our stocks are very low, and the
supplies that are coming in from Egypt over the last four days have really been a trickle, rather than a flow.
A trickle in the face of immense, colossal needs of the people in Gaza for food, for medicines, for mattresses, for blankets, for anything that around
a million people need when they're displaced.
FOSTER: IDF showing evidence, they say that proves that Hamas has got large tanks full of fuel that they could hand over to the hospitals and to the
agencies. What's your response to that?
ALRIFAI: Our response is UNRWA is a U.N. agency, and it has to be able to do its work and have its own supplies of fuel, of food, of medicine and of
personnel going into Gaza to support this operation. So, what I'm most concerned with is that my colleagues, my offices in Gaza do not have fuel.
And that it is very urgent now to bring fuel in and make it part of the humanitarian operation and not a stand-alone source of concern.
That fuel will go only to UNRWA, and will only be used for our humanitarian deliveries, and for the bakeries, the water -- sanitation -- water and
sanitation and water pumps to bring clean water to people.
FOSTER: But you say that, but how do you prove that to the Israelis, who are deeply suspicious if that is true, that, you know, that Hamas won't
take that fuel?
ALRIFAI: There's a very strict verification system in place for any aid that's going into the Gaza Strip through Rafah. The Israelis check every
truck going in, all these trucks are Egyptian Red Cross-owned trucks that deliver whatever they contain directly to us to UNRWA. We are a U.N.
agency, we abide by the strictest standards of humanity and impartiality and neutrality. And we have very --
FOSTER: Yes --
ALRIFAI: High-due diligence standards.
FOSTER: OK, and thank you so much, indeed, for joining us. That's Tamara Alrifai, appreciate your time. We're going to go to U.S. President Joe
Biden now, he's welcoming the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to the White House. Let's have a look.
And so, this is ceremonial welcome of course, they'll get very quickly to the -- you know, the primaries -- global international story right now
which obviously is the Israel-Hamas war and the various responses Australia like the United States is also showing some support in that region, but not
at the level of the United States, of course.
There's President Biden awaiting his Australian counterpart, and we expect them to say a few words at the podium. Now, very close allies, of course,
Albanese, a key ally for the United States in Asia. So, you know, the concerns about Chinese territorial control will certainly come up as well
at the waters of the South China Seas, something that Prime Minister Albanese is extremely concerned about and needs to work with President
So, welcoming the Australian Prime Minister to the White House with Jill Biden and the first lady of Australia as well, of course. And then, we will
await to hear -- they will be saying a few words there at the podium. And then, they'll go inside the White House for some one-on-one meetings, and
then there will be a wider comment to the media a bit later on about what they actually achieved in those negotiations.
Israel, Hamas, China, certainly coming up in them, and then some other bilateral issues. So they're going to walk out to the podium, having taken
OK, John Kerry; climate adviser, of course, Joe Biden also there, because big issue, of course, for the Australians too. We'll come back to that when
we hear some words. Now, Jordan's Queen Rania is speaking out about what she calls a glaring double standard in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour will join us next to talk about her interview with Jordan's queen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANIA AL ABDULLAH, QUEEN CONSORT OF JORDAN: I just want to remind the world that Palestinian mothers love their children just as much as any other
mother in the world. And for them to have to go through this, it's just unbelievable. And equally, I think the people all around the Middle East
including in Jordan, we are just shocked and disappointed by the world's reaction to this catastrophe that is unfolding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Jordan's Queen Rania there. She told CNN, there is a, quote, "glaring double standard" in the world's reaction to the Israel-Hamas
conflict. Jordan hosts around 40 percent of registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. Joining me now to talk about her exclusive interview
with the queen is CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour.
It was quite extraordinary interview, I'm not just saying that because I'm speaking to you, Christiane, but I've never seen her so open, so -- I've
never seen a monarch so open and involved in such a global issue.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Exactly. I mean, she always has been and she and the king, King Abdullah have always been,
obviously, very mindful of Palestinian rights. Remember, King Abdullah's father, King Hussein of Jordan was the second Arab leader to make peace
with Israel, that was back in 1994, after Egypt had done so in 1979.
And this came with it the implicit belief and agreement that there would be a fair and just resolution for the Palestinians in the general framework of
the two-state solution that the United States and Jordan, Egypt and other allies still believe in. So that coupled with what they're seeing and what
the world is seeing coming out of Gaza now, after that horrendous slaughter inside Israel on October 7th, they feel and the rest of the world is
actually -- can see shaping up in very distinct camps.
And I think the queen was giving voice to that as well as the personal anguish as a mother, as a person, as an Arab, as a -- you know, a leader of
what was going on. And so, she did call it a glaring double standard, and here's a little more of what she said to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL ABDULLAH: You know, are we being told that it is wrong to kill a family -- an entire family at gunpoint, but it's OK to shell them to death? I
mean, there is a glaring double standard here. And, it is just shocking to the Arab world. This is the first time in modern history that there is such
human suffering and the world is not even calling for a ceasefire. So, the silence is deafening, and to many in our region, it makes the western world
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you know, this is a harsh indictment, but it's one that a lot of people share. And as I said, even in the United States and campuses
around Europe as well, there is a growing, you know, push-back on the street in public opinion and elsewhere against what's happening to
civilians inside Gaza.
And of course, we're showing those images, we're covering all this regularly in this terrible catastrophe that is unfolding in that region.
Now, interestingly, on my same program, I spoke to a veteran Israeli hostage negotiator. He is Gershon Baskin, and he negotiated the release of
the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit back in 2011, and that was a very difficult job.
He'd been held by Hamas, and Baskin, you know, had these constant conversations with Hamas as he is doing right now to release hostages. But
what he said was, and I'm going to play a little bit, that he agreed with the framework that Queen Rania had put forth. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERSHON BASKIN, MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITIES ORGANIZATION: It should be no surprise to anyone that we've arrived at such
a horrific situation. It has to be a wake-up call for Israel that you cannot keep another people occupied for 56 years and expect to have peace.
You can't lock 2 million people in an open-air prison and expect there to be quiet.
And for the Palestinians, it should be a wake-up call that if you support radical fanatic leaders and refused to recognize the other people living in
your land as having the same rights that you do, then you're going to suffer this. This is the most traumatic event for Israel and Palestine
And the only hope is also in the words of Queen Rania, that we have a wake- up moment at the end of this tragedy, I call the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow will be too soon to draw these kind of conclusions, but
it's obviously that the people who brought us to here are leaders on both sides need to go.
We need a new generation with a new vision. And I hope that the trauma doesn't prevent us from looking forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, an incredibly important statement, and as she said -- and as many are beginning to ask, including, you know, the U.S. administration,
what does happen the day after tomorrow? And many believe or hope anyway, that we're too early to even imagine it right now, but that something can
emerge from these ashes, that will once and for all put an end to this terrible cycle.
FOSTER: I know you've --
FOSTER: Just taken also to the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, he's in Beijing, isn't he? And it's being described as a very high stakes
meeting. Can you just explain what that was about?
AMANPOUR: I certainly will. He also stopped off in Israel before going on to Beijing. He went to show solidarity, he met with victims, he met with
the prime minister. But, in Beijing, he's doing something equally important. And that is to try to be a bit of an emissary, if I can use that
word, ahead of the APEC Summit, which is going to take place in his home state in California, San Francisco, next month.
Where they're hoping for an actual meeting between President Xi and Biden. And this is what he told me about the general tone that he -- that he hoped
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Did you get a sense from him that this relationship is hurtling towards even a hot war in the next few years over Taiwan or whatever it
might be? Or what sense did you get from him of a relationship that he wants to have with America going forward?
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): And the fact that we had access to these high level meetings, I'll be meeting with five provincial governors tomorrow,
another extension of this visit. I think it's suggestive that we're entering -- I hope a new phase, but of a fine. The last few years have been
very stressful, I think it goes to your question, and we've got to turn down the heat, we've got to manage our strategic differences.
We've got to reconcile our strategic red lines, those are well established between our two countries. But I want to applaud the Biden administration
and on the basis of the engagement I had today with members of the Xi administration, President Xi himself, I want to applaud his willingness to
reconcile those differences, people-to-people exchange, the fact that he's meeting with the governor of California at the sub-national level, I think
is indicative of a fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So again, really interesting, important, it will be listened to around the world, and particularly right now, potentially in the White
House as you mentioned, as we've been showing, President Biden welcoming the Australian Prime Minister. All of them have issues with China's muscle-
flexing in that part of the world.
So, this will be -- this will be part of it. And as was obvious, maybe I didn't mention it, but Gavin Newsom met with President Xi, and that's an
important meeting. Max?
FOSTER: OK, Christiane, thank you so much. You can hear more of Christiane's interview with governor -- California Governor Gavin Newsom
today on "AMANPOUR", that coming up in a few hours, 6:00 p.m. in London, 9:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a
ground offensive is still on track amid a growing sense of delay.
He visited soldiers on Tuesday and told them their mission was to quote, "smash Hamas". CNN's Nic Robertson is on the ground in Israel near the
border with Gaza.
They've been saying a similar thing for several days, but when does it actually happen?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think diplomacy has taken the lead right now, Max. The debate over hostages, fuel
for Gaza, humanitarian pause, ceasefire, call it what you will, and all of this is up for discussion. We know the Australians, we know Prime Minister
Albanese meeting with President Biden right now.
But earlier on today, we heard from the Australians saying that they were in favor of a humanitarian pause, and that doesn't seem to quite align with
the U.S. position. We know that European Union diplomats in Brussels are sort of coming towards a position of unity around calling for a
humanitarian pause. That's not the same position that the British Prime Minister has.
So, the diplomacy around what should happen next, about humanitarian, about ceasefire, and then the issue of hostages and fuel. These are the -- these
are the real hot button, key issues that are being discussed. The -- a possible ground incursion, I think that takes a backseat at the moment. We
are just a few hundred yards away from an artillery battery here, and they are sending big rounds into Gaza.
Right now, you might hear one or two of them go off. We were down closer to Gaza earlier on today, saw the after-effects of a missile strike there, a
huge plume of smoke coming up from Gaza at that time. So, the incursion is there, we've seen the troops today in their armored APCs, coming out of
bases, heading towards that -- heading towards that border area.
It doesn't mean that they have a signal to go, but it means they're absolutely set and ready. And I can tell you from our interaction with some
of the soldiers here, you know, they have been in the field now for over a couple of weeks. And they -- you know, psychologically ready for the
possibility of combat. So, it's there, it's crime, but diplomacy has taken the primacy at the moment, it appears, over a military incursion.
FOSTER: Is there a risk for the Israelis that really want this incursion, that the longer this delay goes on, the more apprehension there will be
about it around the world, particularly in the United States?
ROBERTSON: You know, I think the Israeli calculation is many fold. One is that they knew Hamas was going to play a delaying tactic with the hostages,
that would slow an incursion. They're very aware that the longer you wait for an incursion, the greater the international criticism is, of the
aftermath and the high civilian death toll and casualty toll inside of Gaza for civilians, artillery going in there to Gaza right now.
That, the effect of these types of strikes means that there are implications, deadly implications for families and civilians inside of
Gaza. So I think the Israelis know that. But you talk to people around here, and we've talked to quite a few today, just citizens who live in this
area, whose livelihoods are here, whose homes are here.
And they will tell us, look, we will not feel safe until the IDF has gone in and beaten Hamas, because they came through the fence, they came into
our town, we were in the -- you know, the towns around here, Hamas was in them, killing people, kidnapping people. I talked to a young man who just
reopened his store after coming back to the town, because they've been sitting shiva for his sister, 19 years old, who was killed by Hamas on the
7th of October. So, for people here, it's -- there is the strong feeling that, that military action incursion --
FOSTER: I'm sorry, I'm going to interrupt you because President Biden is currently speaking at the White House alongside --
ROBERTSON: Yes --
FOSTER: Prime Minister Albanese of Australia.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On Australian book that answers treaty, for the first time to stand with the United States after we were
attack on 9/11. And we'll never forget those brave Australians and Americans, who, generation after generation, gave their lives to give us a
better world. We'll never forget our obligation to them, to keep upholding the democratic values for which they gave their lives, to keep forging a
better future for generations to come.
Together, Australia and America are meeting that obligation. As two proud Pacific nations, we're ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains free, open and
prosperous and secure, including through our historic, raucous partnership with the United Kingdom. We're building stronger economies, economies where
no one fears coercion, and everyone, as you say down under, gets a fair go.
Together, we're standing with Israel against Hamas terrorism, we're standing with Ukraine against Putin's tyranny, and we're providing and
proving that democracy can deliver on the challenges that matter most to people's lives, from climate change to cancer.
And today, we're fueling the spark of innovation that was long burned in the hearts of Aussies and Americans. Innovation that will help uplift
people in the Indo-Pacific and all around the world. Innovation that took us to the moon, will take us further in the years ahead.
Mr. Prime Minister, the alliance between Australia and the United States has never been more important than it is today, and we have never been more
committed than we are today. Australia and America stand ready, ready to do the hard work, the historic work to tackle the challenges we face. Ready to
take a giant leap together toward a better future.
One of greater opportunity, dignity, security and liberty. For Americans, for Australians, for all, may God bless our alliance and may God protect
our troops. And now, it's my great honor to introduce Prime Minister Albanese, and I'm honored to invite you to say a few words. Thank you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: President Biden, first lady, Dr. Biden. Firstly, thank you for the great honor of this invitation, and
the wonderful warmth of your welcome, including the wonderful dinner we had.
FOSTER: Prime Minister Albanese of Australia there addressing that gathering there at the White House for an official visit. President Biden
really reiterating there the strong alliance the two countries have and celebrating that. So no great progression on some of the key issues in the
world, but they're going to be coming up with Israel and Hamas included, in the meetings that follow. So we will bring you any updates. Back in a
FOSTER: Well, welcome back, I'm Max Foster in London in for colleague Becky Anderson. International aid groups are warning that efforts to deliver
basic services to the 2 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, are at the point of collapse. Officials from the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency say they may be forced to shut down their operations completely in the hours ahead unless more fuel is delivered.
The World Health Organization says six hospitals have already been forced to shut down due to a lack of fuel. Israel has so far refused to let fuel
shipments into Gaza, fearing it could be used in the Hamas war effort. And there's rejected calls for a ceasefire that would allow more aid into Gaza
overall, even as it steps up its air attacks there.
Now, sources telling CNN that U.S. officials are trying to convince Israel not to launch an all-out ground incursion into Gaza that would imperil the
lives of more Gaza residents as well as hostages. The U.S. is urging Israel to carry out only targeted raids inside Gaza, along with precision
airstrikes. Now, a Syrian state media saying meanwhile that eight of its soldiers have died, and at least, seven others have been injured after an
Israeli airstrike near the city of Dara.
The Israel Defense Forces is confirming that it carried out the attack in response to Syrian missile launches, targeting Israel's Golan Heights
region. Tensions in the Syrian-Israeli border are intensifying, even as Israel beefs up its military presence near the border with Lebanon. Israeli
forces have been exchanging gun and rocket fire with Hezbollah and other groups there, avoiding a spread of the conflict to Lebanon remains a main
goal of the United States.
Jomana Karadsheh joins us from southern Lebanon. I was really grabbed by an image that we've seen of the leader of Hezbollah meeting with leaders of
Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials, you know, so a very worrying scene, isn't it? For when -- many sort of politicians in the West. But also, I
think the first time we've heard from Hezbollah on this officially.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very significant statement, and a significant picture to be seen today, Max,
coming out from the Hezbollah press office. We haven't heard from the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, since this war started and since
this escalation that we have seen on the border here with Israel.
His silence has been notable and noticeable. It has really added to this mood of anxiousness and uncertainty here, and the speculation about what
Hezbollah might decide to do if it is going to escalate the situation even further, if it is going to open another front here for Israel. Now,
according to this statement, this meeting was held with leaders from Hamas as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, what they call the access of
And in a brief statement, Hezbollah says that this meeting, they made assessments they say of what must -- what they must do at this sensitive
stage. And I'm quoting here, "to achieve real victory for the resistance in Gaza and Palestine, and to stop the treacherous and brutal aggression
against our people." And it remains, Max, anyone's guess what Hezbollah is going to do.
It is a wild card, remains a wild card in all of this. If it decides that it is going to escalate the situation even further, but you know, it's
really right now, these exchanges of fire have been constant. They have been continuous for more than two weeks now. And it has really put the
entire region on a knife's edge.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): In these tranquil lands not far from Lebanon's volatile border with Israel, it feels like war is creeping closer by the
day. Many have abandoned the olive harvest they wait for every year. There are those who remain out, picking the olives for a few dollars a day to
feed their families. Across the southern frontier with Israel, more and more villages appear deserted.
In the town of Marjayoun, a few miles from the border, the streets are quiet, many shops now shuttered. About half of its residents have packed up
and left. They've heard the fighting, it hasn't hit their town yet, but people here have seen it all before, memories of the last big war with
Israel in 2006 still raw.
Nazira lived through that Lebanon's civil war, Israel's decades-long occupation of southern Lebanon and the country's economic collapse.
This little bakery is all she and her family have to survive.
"We've been through enough, we've had enough. We're old people, where do we go?" She says. "We brought up our families in poverty and look at what we
have to do now to live. We can't take any more."
For the past two weeks, it's been a daily exchange of deadly fire between the Iranian-backed Lebanese paramilitary group, Hezbollah and Israel. The
attack and counterattack, mostly contained to a 3-mile area on both sides of the border, but the threat of an all-out war calculated are inadvertent
So real, it's already driven nearly 20,000 people out of their homes, according to the U.N. In the southern city of Tyre, the disaster center is
back up and running, they've had to deal with more than 6,000 who fled here. Local officials say as the fighting spills out of the red zone, all
these now mostly empty villages along the border, more and more are fleeing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are afraid that the number will increase. We hope it will not happen, but we have to plan for the worst thing. The Israeli
enemy, we can't sleep. We have to be -- always sleep with open eyes as they said.
KARADSHEH: Schools like this one have been shut down and turned into makeshift shelters. With the state barely functioning, and Lebanon's
majority now living in poverty, they just don't have enough resources to deal with the new crisis. Many here don't want to speak to us on camera,
it's the indignity brought by displacement.
Amal barely made it out with only the clothes on her back when a neighbor sent her a photo of the damage her house sustained.
"We've endured the economic situation, stayed in our homes", she says, "in the land of our parents and grandparents, all that we've worked for. I just
hope it calms down, and we can go back to our homes. We cannot take any more." Israel and Lebanon say they don't want another war, but with
tensions this high and the two enemies so close, everyone is preparing for the worst.
KARADSHEH: And Max, in the last 30 minutes or so, we did hear several blasts. And this has really become the normal here over the past couple of
weeks. Earlier today we did hear from the Israeli military saying that their troops inside Israel were targeted with anti-tank missile. There were
no casualties, but they say they responded with artillery and tanks.
And you know, this is officially not a war yet, but Hezbollah has so far announced that 40 -- more than 40 of its members have been killed in the
fighting over the past couple of weeks. And, you've had several civilians who have been killed on the Lebanese side, we know there have been
casualties as well on the Israeli side, but they have not released those figures.
So, the situation is very volatile, Max, especially as this -- as they continue to trade fire across the border. And I can tell you, a lot of
people are really worried that it could take any miscalculation that could trigger an all-out war here. We've heard the warnings coming from Israeli
officials to Hezbollah and its backer, Iran, saying that they need to stay out of this.
That if they do escalate the situation, that Israel would respond with a force that would wipe out Hezbollah. But you need to keep in mind that they
were not able to do this back in 2006 during that month long, devastating war for Lebanon, and Hezbollah of today is not that of 2006, these are now
battle-hardened forces, there are troops who have -- there are fighters who have been in Syria for more than a decade.
They do have more advanced weaponry right now, precision-guided missiles. And you know -- and also, we need to keep in mind that the people of
Lebanon, that this country can't handle another war as you heard there, in our report. Max.
FOSTER: OK, Jomana, from southern Lebanon, thank you so much. Now, talks to secure the release of a large number of hostages been held by Hamas in Gaza
are ongoing we're told. Qatar's prime minister said he's hopeful there will be a breakthrough soon, and as the world waits to see if more hostages will
be released, new details are coming in tonight about how some of them are being treated by their Hamas captors.
Eighty five-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz said she went through hell whilst being taken and held for 16 days. She's also concerned for her husband
who's still being held hostage inside Gaza. But she also had this to say about how her Hamas captors treated her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS (through translator): They were very generous with us and very kind. They kept us clean and made sure
we eat. We ate the same food they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, she was seen shaking hands with her captors in this video taken by Hamas, that caused an uproar in Israeli media, with some outlets
calling the press conference a PR win for Hamas. Joining me now to unpack all of this is Gideon Levy, he's a journalist at the Israeli newspaper,
"Haaretz". Thank you so much for joining us. What did you make of that press conference, and do you think it was wise?
GIDEON LEVY, JOURNALIST, HAARETZ: It was wise because it was genuine. It was wise because this old, clever lady said the truth, this is what she
experienced, and we all deserve to know what that she experienced, for the good and for the bad. And I really don't understand -- there was a text by
my colleagues, some Israeli prominent journalists, who criticized her.
I saw the truth is what is leading us, and not propaganda? She spoke the truth. Israel always was proud of having a different system of propaganda,
I mean, that you really stick to the truth. So, this lady stuck to the truth, and I salute her for her courage and for her honesty.
FOSTER: The hospital is making clear it was the family's decision to go ahead with this. A spokesperson saying or reminded them that they should
remember there is an information battle on here. That does suggest the hospital has some concerns about how this played out.
LEVY: This is ridiculous. The hospital has no authority on a patient. A patient in Israel can say whatever he wants or she wants wherever,
whenever. There is no censorship by hospitals or by anybody. This woman was asked by so many media to give interviews, so they decided -- she decided
together with her family, and she's totally clear, don't be wrong.
She decided she would do it in a short press conference, and by this, the pressure on her would be decreased. And this is what she did, and it's so
ridiculous to ask a hospital to censor what a patient, any patient is telling the media.
FOSTER: Hamas were playing a PR game here, weren't they? Inevitably, this is a PR process otherwise wouldn't have a camera there. They were treating
the hostages extremely well, and then, you know, the hostages told the world that they were treated well, but they were in no way saying this was
a good experience, they said it was a horrific experience. What do think Hamas was trying to achieve by this moment?
LEVY: Hamas is trying to do two things now. First of all, to gain time and to postpone the ground operation as much as they can. And therefore, it's
releasing drop by drop, some hostages, which is clever from their point of view. And secondly, obviously, to improve its image because they also
understand that what their fighters did on Saturday, the 7th, was such a barbaric attack that nobody will ever be ready to excuse them for this.
So they're trying to improve their PR. But I must say, if one hostage was treated well, and I guess she was treated well, obviously, it was horrific,
I mean, to be a hostage in Gaza is a horrific experience. But if she came back healthy, and she felt that she was treated well, we should just be
happy about it.
FOSTER: I mean, if they're going to treat anyone well, they're going to treat the elderly and infirm well, aren't they? But there are going to be
other, particularly military prisoners who are not going to be treated well at all, we should remember that, looking at the history of hostages in Gaza
well under Hamas, rather.
LEVY: Absolutely. We have to be very cautious with compliments to Hamas, obviously. They don't deserve any. And obviously, I'm very scared about how
the soldiers are treated and the men are treated. Time will show. I think that Gilad Shalit who never spoke, our prisoner of war, was there over five
years. I think that by and large, if I'm not wrong by my impression, he was all treated quite well.
But this is not excuse for anything, please don't catch me in the word as if I am protecting Hamas by all means -- not. They're a terrible
organization and I'm sure that part of the hostages are being treated awfully. And if not, I would be so happy to be wrong.
FOSTER: There's talk now from Qatar, isn't there? About a big release of hostages. How likely is that? And what will be the factors playing into the
LEVY: That's a mystery because there are no free lunches, you see. And I wonder what will be -- what will they get in return? If they talk now, they
talk now about the release of maybe around 50, was double -- passports, double citizenship, this is again good for public relations. But the
question is, what will they get in return?
It will not be for free, I guess. And above all, we have to remember that the real struggle will be over the soldiers. And there are tens of
soldiers, soldier men and soldier women as hostages. And the real tough negotiation or bargaining will be over those soldiers. And then, if I may
guess, Israel will have to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners if Israel wants to see them released.
I know, for many Israelis, it's a hell of a prize, not for me by the way, but that's OK. But this will be the real choice. Finally, we have to stand
in front of this choice. Thousands of Palestinian prisoners, part of them serving decades in Israel prison, part of the political prisoners, part of
the prisoners with no trial, and part of the terrorists, but this would be the real choice. Prisoners, and many thousands in return of releasing the
FOSTER: Yes, I mean, that's the talk, isn't it? Thank you so much for joining us. Gideon Levy joining us from --
LEVY: Thank you --
FOSTER: "Haaretz". And as the conflict in Israel risks a wider outbreak of war, political chaos in the U.S. continues to hamper efforts to act. We'll
have the latest from Washington, next.
FOSTER: House Republicans now hoping the fourth time could be the charm as they get set for another floor vote to try to elect a new speaker. A little
over an hour from now, Louisiana's Mike Johnson is the fourth candidate after Republicans picked Majority Whip Tom Emmer on Tuesday, only for him
to withdraw within a matter of hours.
CNN's Stephen Collinson watching and writing about all this chaos in the last three weeks joins us now in Washington. I mean, you can't make any
bets, can you? And then you've done extraordinary work and an impossible story to tell. But how can we be so sure the fourth candidate is likely to
get through and who is he?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Max, I think there is a sense in Washington today that this one could be different just because a
lot of the far-right Republicans who have scuppered the last few speaker nominees seem to be shelving their opposition. You know, Mike Johnson is a
very hard right Republican himself, that's one reason.
So he's authentic to a lot of these conservatives. He was a leading figure in the efforts to not to certify President Joe Biden's election win. He's
very loyal to former President Donald Trump who helped overturn the last speaker nominee, Tom Emmer on Tuesday. So, he's got good credibility with
the right-wing of the Republican Party.
People are so exhausted that even more moderate Republicans who have to run for re-election in districts where Biden is expected to win in 2024,
they're not really coming out against him either because everyone realizes that this is absolute chaos and it can't go on much longer.
But the lesson of the last three weeks is, what we think will happen in the Republican conference often doesn't. So, you know, things could turn badly
very quickly and we're just going to have to watch how it plays out in a couple of hours.
FOSTER: Here with the -- it's such a tight vote, isn't it? That they -- you know, they need so many Republicans to actually vote in favor of him. But
who are you look at who may throw a spanner into the works here?
COLLINSON: I think some of those moderate Republicans in places like New York, they would be the people to object to Johnson, if that was the case.
It doesn't look like they will, though because they have not really come out and said ahead of time that they are opposing him. This fatigue as I
said is very strong.
I think one really interesting aspect of Johnson internationally is that, he is very opposed to aid to Ukraine. He's voted against aid to Ukraine
almost every time it came up in the house. President Biden, of course, last week asked for $60 billion more aid to help Ukraine survive its onslaught
from Russia over the next year, that's going to be a huge uncertainty if Johnson really does take the gavel and become a speaker.
FOSTER: Fascinating, if complicated. Stephen, thank you so much. That is it for CONNECT THE WORLD, stay with CNN's "STATE OF THE RACE" with Kasie Hunt
is up next.