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IDF Opens Fire On Citizens In Gaza While Waiting For Food, Over 100 Killed; U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Testifies On Capitol Hill. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Well, welcome to our second hour of breaking news here on CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Deep desperation and hunger leading to a tragic loss of life in Gaza today. The enclave's health ministry says more than 100 civilians were killed

while they were waiting for food.


ANDERSON (voice-over): This video released by the Israel Defense Forces shows a large crowd rushing toward aid trucks just outside Gaza City. A

local journalist tells CNN that Israeli forces opened fire and many were killed when people were trying to escape, including the aid trucks which

were ramming into people.

Israel does not dispute that its troops opened fire. It says they were under threat but says the gunshots came after the stampede for aid.

More video coming in from nearby hospitals. And I have to tell you, it is graphic.

More than 700 people are said to be injured. This horrific incident underscoring the dire humanitarian situation for people living in Gaza. And

it comes as we get word of a grim milestone in this Israel-Hamas war.

The Gaza health ministry says more than 30,000 people have been killed since the war between Israel and Hamas began. Well, Paula Hancocks is back

with me this hour.

That is the backdrop to what we are reporting on here on CNN as brand new, the backdrop being we have passed the 30,000 dead milestone in this

conflict. And today, more than 100 more dead, possibly as many as 750 or more injured in what is a mass incident here in Gaza.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's worth pointing out that 760 injured, for some of those, that will be a death sentence. There

is no health service to speak of in northern Gaza at this point.

We've been hearing from many of the hospitals that our teams have been speaking to, to find out what happened exactly. Those that are going there

injured, they simply don't have the capability to be able to treat some of these injuries.

So that's another element to think of.

But what we're hearing at this point is two different narratives or at least two different chronologies of what happened: one from eyewitnesses,

from journalists on the ground that we deal with quite often as well, telling us that what they believe happened is that the chaos happened after

the Israeli fire.

There were hundreds of desperate Palestinians surrounding the aid trucks. They were trying to get any aid that they could. They say that then there

was Israeli fire. The journalists we spoke to believing about 20 were killed then and most were killed or injured in the panic afterwards as

those aid trucks tried to escape.

I'm going to be absolutely clear here for our viewers to remind you that Khader al-Zamini (sic) is on the ground. She is the correspondent, the

local journalist, that we are speaking to. I know Jeremy Diamond and the team in Israel have been in close contact with Khader.

And let me tell you why we are absolutely relying on the bravery of a journalist like Khader on the ground in Gaza. It's because we have no other

opportunity to get in. We are not given access by either Israel or Egypt.

Israel on an embed with the IDF is the only way that, as an international media organization, we can get in. There are repeated calls around the

world from journalists, myself, other journalists, calling for unfettered access to Gaza.

For this very reason you want to know what's going on on the ground. We want to know what's going on on the ground. It is our job to report what is

going on on the ground. We are relying solely on our local journalists, our fixers, those who have been working with us, risking their lives.

Often, you know that in Gaza and I hope this doesn't sound like a rant but it's important that you are aware.

Should we or could we get on the ground to report on this?

We would but we can't.

Paula, the backdrop, of course, to this, is the lack of aid getting in to Gaza in and of itself. Any aid that is getting into Gaza hasn't been

getting to the north.


HANCOCKS: Well, that's right. I mean, there were two crossings at this point that are functioning, not functioning to their full capacity,

according to NGOs. It's not nearly enough aid getting in.

But they're both in the south and so to be able to get these trucks to the north, the U.N. agencies, other NGOs have talked to us about how difficult

it is. They try and coordinate with the Israeli military. They have alleged that they have been fired upon by the Israeli military in certain cases.

This is also why we're now seeing more of a reliance on airdrops. Airdrops happen when you can't get aid to an area any other way. It shows the

difficulties, the desperation of being able to get the aid to these particular areas.

Now we know that this is also an area which, much of it is fairly uninhabitable. It is an area that the Israeli military has been focusing

on, northern Gaza, Gaza City -- this happened just in the east of Gaza City -- really, since the beginning of October.

I mean, people are not living in homes. They don't have food, they don't have aid. They don't have water, shelter. So any aid that is coming in, as

you see from some of the images, the sheer desperation to get whatever is on those aid trucks, to be able to survive.

And it also shows what we have heard again from NGOs, that the infrastructure, to be able to distribute aid, collapsed a long time ago.

They have trucks that have to be in a convoy with Israeli military protection, if you like. And yet they are still unable to distribute the

aid because of the sheer chaos.

And in this particular occasion, according to those on the ground, the Israeli military opening fire.

ANDERSON: Paula Hancocks is in Abu Dhabi with me.

Jeremy Diamond -- thank you, Paula -- is in Tel Aviv.

Jeremy, you've been working your sources on the ground. I know that you've been speaking to at least one local journalist that we've worked with now

for some time, who is on the ground at the scene.

What are we hearing and what do we know at this point?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky. I spoke with Khader Al Za'anoun, that local journalist. I also was just on a briefing

call with the Israeli military. And what is emerging are two competing narratives.

The Israeli military offering a very different timeline from what not only Khader is offering us but from other -- what other eyewitnesses on the

ground have told us as well. And that's where I want to focus and begin at least.

Because the people who are actually on the ground have told us that what happened was, after these crowds began to swarm these aid trucks, the

Israeli military, within minutes of those trucks crossing into this part of northern Gaza, opened fire.

It was that gunfire, according to people on the ground, that caused these truck drivers to begin driving away furiously, most likely out of fear for

their own safety, for their own lives.

Now Khader told us that the majority of the people who were killed in this incident -- and the Palestinian ministry of health puts that number at 104

-- were killed in that ensuing chaos.

But he was very clear that that chaos was caused by the Israeli military gunfire. Now I spoke with an Israeli military spokesman on this briefing

call, who offered a very different timeline, saying the truckloads went into the north, that there was a stampede that ensued, that people were

killed and injured in that stampede.

And it was only afterwards that he described what he called "a separate incident against our forces" is the wording that he used, saying that there

was a group of Palestinians, who began to approach that military post where those trucks had come in from.

They approach that position, according to the Israeli military, in a threatening way. And that it was at that point that the Israeli military

opened fire. They say that they first fired into the air and then they fired at the individuals who continued to approach that military position.

Now again, that is contradicted by the reports on the ground. The evidence that the Israeli military has offered so far is video from a drone that

appears to have been overhead.

In that drone footage, you can see huge crowds of people swarming around these aid trucks, getting on top of the trucks to try and pull bags of

flour or whatever it was that they were able to grab.

What it doesn't show critically, Becky, is those truck drivers driving over people, driving away with high speed. So it doesn't show that point of it.

And it also doesn't show the Israeli gunfire.

So we're certainly missing some elements. But based on what we're hearing from people on the ground, including a trusted local journalist who we've

spoken to in the past, he says that it was the Israeli gunfire that triggered this chaotic scene, resulting in the deaths of so many people.

ANDERSON: This just underscores how hungry, how desperate, how needy, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are in that part of

the Gaza Strip.


We have heard from a senior commander in Hamas today, suggesting that what has happened on the ground there in Gaza today could put at risk the

possibility of a breakthrough in negotiations, for one.

The release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, to a temporary truce, during which the idea is that more humanitarian aid would

be able to get in to an enclave, which, let's remind ourselves, has been locked down by Israel, pretty much since the beginning of October.

How concerning would it be that these very delicate negotiations were put at risk as a result of what we are seeing today?

DIAMOND: It's certainly a distinct possibility, Becky. We know that these negotiations are affected by real-world events. And despite the fact that

we have been seeing that progress has been made in the last week or so, we also know that they have yet to actually reach a deal.

So anything that happens on the ground can, of course, change that dynamic. But as you are noting, it also, this incident today, also underscores the

need for that deal to happen, the need for a temporary ceasefire to go into place.

Because that seems to be the only way that the sufficient quantity of aid that is needed in Gaza, in particular in northern Gaza, could actually get

in, get in safely and be distributed appropriately to the people on the ground, who desperately need it.

You know, we, in the last day, we've heard from humanitarian aid groups, including U.N. agencies, who have warned that, if the situation on the

ground doesn't changes (sic) within a matter of a month or two, about 0.5 million people in northern Gaza will face famine.

And so when you just look at the sheer numbers of that, you look at how desperate the situation is already, just imagine that situation worsening

even further.

And so it's very clear that more aid is needed. It's very clear that the conditions on the ground do not allow the amount of aid that is needed to

actually get in. And so something clearly needs to change.

ANDERSON: Jeremy Diamond is on the ground.

Jeremy, thank you. You are on the ground in Tel Aviv and Israel. Of course, we cannot be on the ground in Gaza because we are not granted access by

either Israel or Egypt to the enclave, unless, of course, as Jeremy has done, we travel with the IDF on an -- what's known as embed.

And you do what you can with that opportunity to really get a sense, as Jeremy has, of exactly what is going on on the ground. But ultimately

reporters need to be on the ground in order to report on what is going on.

That is not something that we are able to do at this point and nor have we been able to do that for more than 130 days. We're taking a very short

break, back after this.





ANDERSON: The United Nations is calling for an investigation into a CNN report on how indiscriminate Israeli fire killed half a family in Gaza. You

saw it here on CONNECT THE WORLD at this time yesterday, a gripping account of how Israel used deadly force in an area where civilians were told they

would be safe.

Here is the U.N. secretary-general's spokesperson.


STEPHANE DUJARRIC, U.N. SPOKESPERSON: Civilians cannot be a target. Civilians need to be protected. And we call for a full investigation into

what was reported.

We, from ourselves, have no information as to what happened in these events. But they need to be investigated. And I think, as we've also said,

there needs to be more reporters let into the area.


ANDERSON: There does. International media not able to get access to Gaza.

If you missed seeing this report yesterday, you can read about it online in a captivating, interactive web presentation at Use your CNN app on

your smartphone, if that is how you access your news. And so many people do these days.

CNN correspondent Jomana Karadsheh, who was involved, led the reporting on that investigation. She spoke to me in the last hour on a day where the

death toll surpasses 30,000 in this conflict. She put into context another horrific attack on civilians.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The death toll has surpassed 30,000 people who have been killed so far in this war. And yet another tragic

incident, yet another shocking incident that has happened, where you have civilians, you have people who have been killed.

But at the same time, there's no clarity on how this all unfolded, on what happened, what led to all these deaths and injuries, all these casualties

that we are now reporting. And the issue with that, Becky, has been with the same that we've -- it's exactly what we have been saying for months.

It is the fact that we are not on the ground, that we are not able to report firsthand on what is happening, what is unfolding in Gaza right now.

And what you end up having is a situation, as you and Paula were discussing, is when the IDF is presenting its own version of events and

when you have journalists from Gaza, Palestinian journalists, who are on the ground reporting different version of events of what actually happened

on the ground.

Months into this war, Becky, you are seeing this death toll continuing to rise. You are hearing from people in Gaza, saying that, if they're not

going to get killed by the bombs and by the airstrikes, it is starvation that is going to kill them.

It is a very dire humanitarian situation, where you hear from international aid groups saying that they have run out of words to describe the situation

on the ground and they continue to call for a cease-fire. They continue to allow for the access of humanitarian aid.

They have been very concerned about a situation like we have seen today. You have aid organizations that have stopped sending their aid trucks into

northern Gaza, because they have been worried about the situation there.

Because of losing -- because people who are starving, who are trying to feed their families, their children, have in the past looted these trucks

as they have come in.

So we are still going to have to wait and see to get further details about what happened today. But yet again, you are looking at a catastrophic

situation that is continuing to unfold on the ground, with no end in sight for civilians in Gaza, who have nowhere out of the enclave. They are

trapped in there.

And they would tell you, they have nowhere safe to turn. They have nowhere left to go. And another reminder, Becky, we are talking about a place

where, as we have reported time and time again, the majority of the population there children.


ANDERSON: We will get you more on this as we get it, the latest mass casualty incident in Gaza, as the death toll there reaches 30,000; another

100 killed in northern Gaza today, some 750 injured when Israel has admitted it opened fire on crowds around aid trucks coming in with what is

desperately needed food and medical supplies.


Well, happening now, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin set to begin testifying on Capitol Hill. In fact, I think that has already begun.

Lawmakers want to know why it took so long for Congress and the White House to be told that the U.S. Defense Secretary had been taken to the hospital

in January following treatment for prostate cancer. Let's just have a listen in. Lloyd Austin is speaking to them.


GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Number one, the deputy has the ability to -- she has access to secure communications. She has the

ability to participate in decision-making processes, for wherever she is --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary, our adversaries should fear us. And what you've done is embarrassed us. And let me sum this up by this.

A leading Chinese propaganda outlet said that what happened to you exposed, quote, "internal chaos."

A leading Russian propaganda outlet said that your disappearance, quote, "effectively compromised" --

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-AL), CHAIR, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The gentleman's time has expired.

The chair now recognizes -- the chair now recognizes the ranking member.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: First let me say it's not remotely surprising to me that the Chinese and the Russians are not

going to say anything positive about us. That doesn't come as a surprise to me. They seize on every opportunity to attack the United States.

So I don't really take their word for what was going on. And a couple of things to drill down on.

One is, it is fairly routine that the Secretary of Defense will be in places where you are not able to do everything you need to do and that

authority is transferred. I think a lot of people don't fully understand this.

So can you walk us through?

How often does it happen that you are in a place where you can't do -- you can't be as responsive as you need to be so that you pass the authority

onto your deputy secretary?

AUSTIN: Thanks. As pointed out in the 30 day review, there have been a number of times in the past, where we've transferred authorities because of

my inability to have access to secure communications.

And then once I had the ability to have access again to secure communications, that was transferred back. So that -- and the number of

times that that's happened is outlined in the 30 day review.

SMITH: And was there, again, just to emphasize, was there any time during this process in the first days of January, when you were in the hospital,

anytime whatsoever when the deputy secretary wasn't in a position to fully carry out the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense?

Regardless of whether she was in Puerto Rico or Mexico or Mar-a-Lago or wherever, she was in a position to carry out all of the authorities that

she had as the acting Secretary of Defense in that instance, correct?

AUSTIN: She is legally and logistically positioned to assume the functions. And she was -- you're right -- in a position to be able to

support the president as chief of staff (sic), as he made decisions so -- commander in chief.

So she always has secure communications with her, just like me. And she has a situational awareness that that's needed to be -- to be able to make

effective recommendations to the president.

And she, working with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the combatant commander, would propose options for the president in any


SMITH: Certainly. And one of these I want to emphasize as this hearing goes forward, is not to use this to the advantage of our adversaries, to

use it as a partisan attack. There was nothing embarrassing about what happened here.

There was nothing that makes us appear weak. The United States, as all of this was going on, as has been pointed out, was carrying out strikes

against our adversary in order to protect our force.

We were doing everything that we needed to do to meet the national security needs of this country. And if members of this committee incorrectly imply

otherwise, they are merely giving aid and comfort to those adversaries that they claim to care about confronting.

And I will also, one more time, emphasize that, if we care about confronting our adversaries, rather than nitpicking the Secretary of

Defense about his precise process in this situation, we should go ahead and pass the national security supplemental.

That the Senate has passed with 70 bipartisan votes, to precisely meet those national security needs.

Whatever Russia and Chinese propaganda machines may be cranking out about this situation, I assure you it pales in comparison to what they're

cranking out about the fact that they think the United States is getting ready to abandon our ally in Ukraine.

I would challenge any member on the other side of this aisle to claim that the Secretary of Defense not fully informing the president for three days

is somehow more important than walking away from that obligation that we have made and that the whole world is watching us on.


And with that, I yield back.

ROGERS: Chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson.

REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC): Thank you, Chairman Mike Rogers.

Secretary Austin, I first want to wish you a full and speedy recovery. And sadly, we're here today because of the failure, the properly communicate

directive 3020.04 of the Department of Defense, which is critical information requirements through the chain of command to President Biden.

As a grateful veteran myself, along with you, of the American armed forces, we both understand the crucial role of the chain of command to provide

time-sensitive information, to make the right decisions at the right time.

When communications fails, there is an increased risk to mission success but, more importantly, increased risk to the service men and women. For

this, to me, it's personal. As a 31 year Army veteran myself, having four sons who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt -- and currently my district

director is deployed in Africa, I just take this personally.

With the south China (ph) National Guard, that your service is just so critically important. And I appreciate having worked with you before your

appointment and we need to approve and (ph) capabilities more than ever as we are in a war we did not choose.

Of dictators with rule of gun, invading democracies with rule of law it began February 24, 2022, with war criminal Putin invading Ukraine on

October 7, 2023; Iran puppet Hamas invaded Israel as the Chinese Communist Party threatens Taiwan.

Sadly, Biden opened borders for terrorists makes imminent more 9-1-1 attacks across on American families. And we need our state National Guards

to be ready for duty. Every family actually should have a rally point when communications are cut within an attack.

With the current global threats today, their attacks on American and our allies and by Iran in the Middle East, with the lack of proper

communications degrade our ability to respond.

AUSTIN: Again, I would emphasize that there was never a break in command and control. There was -- we transferred authorities in a timely fashion.

What we didn't do well was a notification of senior leaders. So.


AUSTIN: And we put measures in place to --

WILSON: I deeply regret the response we had was ineffective by delaying a response and it should have been an immediate response on launch sites and

it should have been very effective and there should have been no notice.

And so what was done really has put American families at greater risk. And as I conclude, I want to express our sympathy for the family of Alexei

Navalny, who was assassinated by war criminal Putin.

His widow, Yulia, is a hero for the oppressed people of Russia. I yield back.

ROGERS: Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Courtney.

REP. JOE COURTNEY (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

And thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here today and for your 40-plus years of service to the defense of our country.

Again, just to sort of walk through one more time about the fact that there was no gap in terms of authorities and who was in control of the

department, you went into critical care on January 2nd.

Your staff then executed the law in terms of notifying the Deputy Secretary of Defense that she was in charge. And as a result, I mean, there was -- it

was seamless. There was just never any moment where there was any absence of authority within the department.

Isn't that correct?

AUSTIN: That's correct, sir.

COURTNEY: And again, actually, it was the Armed Services Committee back in 1962 that passed the law that again made this process happen -- again,

without any action, special action of the Secretary of Defense.

It's different actually than the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, where, if a president is going to go under anesthesia or is incapacitated, there

it actually says, in Section 3 of the amendment that there has to be a voluntary surrender.

Again, going back to President Reagan, he actually executed documents, filed it with the Congress, notifying that that was going to happen. That's

not the way the law works for the Department of Defense. Again, it happens, again, if the secretary's unable to perform duties, then that's it. The

deputy secretary is in charge.

Isn't that correct?

AUSTIN: That's correct, sir.

COURTNEY: And then on January 8th, before even the 30 day review or any of the recommendations, you already moved to put into place a regulation that

basically states that this now will be communicated in all instances to the President of the United States.


Whatever confusion surrounding the lack of communication now has been now codified at the department to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Isn't that correct?

AUSTIN: That's correct, sir. And we had the opportunity to put those procedures in play when I went back to the hospital on February 11th. And

it was -- there was timely notification in a seamless fashion.

COURTNEY: So speaking of gaps, let's talk about the supplemental, because, on February 13th, the United States Senate, actually by a vote of 77 to 21

-- it was more than the 70 votes than my friend, Mr. Smith, cited -- overwhelmingly endorsed a package, which will provide $60 billion to

Ukraine, who is in a very dire state today.

So 16 days later, we're here in this room. We're -- thankfully, it looks like we're going to move forward on a F.Y. '24 final package soon. But the

fact is that nothing has happened in the House to follow up with the Senate.

The Speaker explicitly said he will let the House work its will in terms of next steps with the supplemental package. I think everybody in this room

knows, if the bill was brought to the floor, we would get an overwhelming majority vote, pretty darn close to two-thirds.

I've talked to some Republicans. He said it would be 300 votes.

What's the risk?

What's the risk of that gap in terms of our national security and helping our allies?

AUSTIN: Well, we're seeing the risk play out on the battlefield each and every day, as the Ukrainians fight valiantly to defend their sovereign

territory. And I would remind everyone, that with our support and providing security assistance, they've taken back half of the territory that Russia


But each and every day, we see the Russians continuing to push and make incremental gains. And that's very troubling. And without our support, the

Ukrainians will be outgunned in terms of artillery.

And they'll also be at risk because of a lack of air -- adequate air --


ROGERS: The gentleman's time has expired.

The chair now recognizes the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Turner.


ROGERS: The chair now recognizes the gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Lamborn.

REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing.

Mr. Secretary, we do wish you a speedy and full recovery. I would concur with the points brought up by the chairman. I believe most members of this

committee are bewildered at how these events could transpire.

I am primarily concerned with the effect of your actions and the actions of your closest adviser on the confidence of the American people at a time

when overall trust in the government is declining. Americans must still believe that the government can protect them from the growing threats in

this world.

And one of the most serious threats is that of a missile attack from Russia, China or North Korea. I chair the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and

I'm charged by the chairman with the oversight of our entire nuclear arsenal, including the command and control of our nuclear forces.

Every day, our service members who maintain and operate the weapons systems that employ these destructive weapons are ready to act within minutes of

receiving a valid order from the president, that flows down through you or your designated representative.

Today, many on this dais will speak about disruptions and chains of command. I will say that the most dangerous change of command to break is

that which communicates orders to our missile silos, ballistic missile submarines and strategic bombers.

We will only deter attacks on our homeland if our adversaries are assured that we are capable and willing to respond in kind, massively if necessary.

Not only is our homeland threatened by adversaries' ballistic missiles but will increasingly be threatened by hypersonic missiles.

So all of these attacks are a matter of minutes, not hours. We can't afford to have the continuity of our nuclear command and control fail for even a

minute. My district of Colorado Springs is home to the Cheyenne Mountain complex, which is the primary site of our missile warning center.

The missile warning center maintains an unblinking eye that buys the president and the Secretary of Defense critical minutes in a crisis. They

initiate the conference between the national military command center and those in the chain of command.

So Mr. Secretary, my question is, when did the national military command center become aware of your hospitalization?

AUSTIN: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was notified on, as I understand it, on the 2nd of January and so the entire staff would have been notified

at that time.


LAMBORN: Was the military command center informed that the deputy secretary--

ANDERSON: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, testifying on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers want to know why it took so long for Congress and the White House

to be told that he had been taken to hospital in January.

That is happening now. Also happening now, President Biden has just spoken on Gaza. These pictures are just in to us from moments ago. Let's listen in

to what he said.


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) by Monday, sir?



BIDEN: I was on the telephone with the people in the region. I'm probably not (INAUDIBLE) but I'm hopeful.


QUESTION: -- 100 civilians were killed.

BIDEN: I (INAUDIBLE) for a second but not right now. (INAUDIBLE) to what happened. I don't have an answer yet.

QUESTION: Are you worried about --

BIDEN: I know it will.

QUESTION: Are you --



ANDERSON: "Hope springs eternal" for a ceasefire in Gaza, although "probably not by Monday," says President Biden, who has just been cross-

examined as he walked there across the grounds by the press.

Also, importantly, this is what we have been reporting just in the past couple of hours. According to local health authorities, more than 100

killed, more than 700 injured while they were trying to get access to aid convoys -- or at an aid convoy in northern Gaza.

Just earlier on today, when asked about that and what he knew about this deadly incident, the president said, and I quote here, "We are getting two

conflicting versions of what happened on the ground."

He says, "They are checking it out."

He also says that these deaths, the killing of more than 100 on the ground in Gaza today, he worries it will complicate negotiations for the release

of the hostages and indeed for a cease-fire.

We're going to take a very short break. After this.





ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, in the UAE, where this show is broadcast from. Returning to our top story this

hour, horrendous scenes emerging from Gaza. The enclave's health ministry says more than 100 people were killed while they were waiting for food.


ANDERSON (voice-over): This video released by Israel Defense Forces -- or the IDF -- shows a large crowd surrounding aid trucks in Gaza City. Israel

says its troops felt under threat and opened fire.

A local journalist tells CNN most of the deaths resulted from trucks ramming into people as drivers tried to get away from the gunfire.


ANDERSON: That contradicts what an Israeli military spokesman had to say. They claim there were two separate incidents.

First, trucks, he says, were rushed by crowds and rolled over people before Israeli forces opened fire on a group of Palestinians that approached them,

the IDF says.

Well, a senior Hamas figure has warned that the killings could cause the ongoing ceasefire and hostage negotiations to break down.

Izzat Al-Risheq saying, and I quote here, "Negotiations are not an open process. We will not allow for the pathway of the negotiations to become a

cover for the enemy's continued crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip."

Well, joining me now is the secretary general of Medecins sans Frontieres, Doctors without Borders, Chris Lockyear.

And as I understand it, Chris, you have some staff still on the ground in northern Gaza; not a lot. And those staff have, as I understand it, chosen

to remain not necessarily with MSF operations but you have been in contact with those staff over the past few days.

Have you been able to access any of those staff since this incident today?

What more can you tell us?

CHRISTOPHER LOCKYEAR, SECRETARY-GENERAL, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES: Well, Becky, thanks for having me on and highlighting this horrendous incident,

which is an unfolding catalog of horrendous incidents in Gaza over the last -- the last -- the last few weeks and months.

We're trying to get -- to answer your question, we're trying to get in contact with our staff, who remain in north Gaza. Contact with them is very

sporadic at the best of times. A few of them have remained in the north of Gaza to try and assist with patients and to look after their families.

But since this incident, not yet; we haven't had any contact with them on a daily basis. We're incredibly worried about them, especially when we hear

stories like this, because they themselves are telling us how desperate the situation is in the north of Gaza.

They're talking about themselves and their families going hungry amongst whole neighborhoods which have been destroyed in that part of the city

(ph). The reality being, as this incident and many others are showing us, is that there is no place left in Gaza which is safe.

And the only way out is for a cease-fire immediately.

ANDERSON: Your staff have told you, as I understand it, that starvation is very real in the north. They themselves, their families don't have food to

eat. There's no clean water and people are extremely sick.

The backdrop to what we have seen today is a very grim milestone of some 30,000 killed in the Strip. And those who have survived are in absolutely

desperate straits at present. You have spoken at the U.N. a number of occasions but I listened to what your last testimony.

What is your appeal at this point, Chris?

I mean, I feel as if we have literally got to the point where we have normalized conversations about starvation, about famine, about catastrophe,

about carnage.

Where are we?

LOCKYEAR: Becky, you're absolutely right. I mean, we're struggling. We're all running out of words to be able to describe this situation. Nothing

feels adequate. It's really desperate beyond belief.


The population of Gaza, who are who are trapped and are being victim to indiscriminate bombing on a daily basis, they've been told to move from the

north to the south, credibly worried about a ground invasion in Rafah.

And now we're hearing stories that they're going to be told to move north again. And today's incident is an example of just why that's totally

unfeasible. I mean, what we're able to provide in Gaza is a drop in the ocean.

The way I've been describing this is that, the aid going into Gaza is a convenient illusion. It's enabling the continuation, it's been used to

enable the continuation of this fighting. And our teams are really trying to stay and do the best that they can in a deplorable situation.

But it's minimal. It's absolutely minimal. We need to be able to provide high-quality surgical care, maternity care with consistency. A lot of the

injuries that we're seeing, are very complex, looking at complex fractures, amputations.

And we can't treat people well in that situation unless we can also provide the rehabilitation to them. And aid at the moment is a drop in the ocean.

And what we saw or what's being reported today is an example of how fragile that is in such an essential situation.

ANDERSON: You briefed the Security Council just some five or six days ago. And you said three times, as council has had the opportunity to vote for a

ceasefire that is so desperately, desperately needed.

You said three times, United States has used its veto power; most recently, just last week. And you have condemned the United States for its position.

Do you continue to call out the United States on this?

LOCKYEAR: Everybody that can have an influence to be able to stop this carnage must do so now. I mean, first and foremost, the warring parties,

without a shadow of a doubt, this has to stop. The fighting has to stop. There has to be a cease-fire.

And anybody, the United States or anybody else around the world, who can have influence on calling for and enacting a cease-fire, they must do so.

If they can hear me now, if they can hear what is going on in Gaza, I implore them to end this carnage now.

ANDERSON: Chris, I'm going to leave it there. I have to take a break. Your words resonate, sir. Thank you for coming on. We'll have you back

I'm going to take a very quick break. We will get to the White House up next.





ANDERSON: Welcome back. We're following a mass casualty event in Gaza. The health ministry, there says more than 100 people have been killed while

they were trying to get access to food.

Well, video taken before these aid trucks moved in shows a lot of people waiting in anticipation. So many there desperately hungry with aid

deliveries, of course, slowed to an absolute trickle. This is in the north of Gaza, just there to the east of Gaza City.

U.N. experts have peaceably warned that this part of the world, this enclave, this Gaza, is on the brink of a famine. One man, a surgeon at the

local hospital, was on the scene before the chaos and explained the dire reality he and everyone in Gaza is facing.


AMJAD ELEWA, SURGEON (through translator): I'm not ashamed to say it. It's become normal because we have reached the level of famine. Tens of children

have become martyrs because of the famine.

I cannot wait until my child is martyred because of the famine. We all have reached the stage that we are not ashamed to go and get a bag of flour.


ANDERSON: Well, let's cross to Arlette Saenz, who is standing by at the White House.

Arlette, we just heard from President Biden. He was responding to questions about the -- what happened in Gaza earlier today and about the prospects of

a ceasefire there.

What did he say?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, President Biden told me that they are still looking into the situation in Gaza City, where there are

reports that more than 100 civilians were killed as they were trying to access food aid, food trucks.

There are -- the president said that there are competing reports at this time. And then I asked him whether he believes that this incident might

complicate the negotiations that are currently underway to release hostages, get more aid in and potentially have a temporary ceasefire.

The president acknowledged that he does think it will complicate those negotiations. He also told reporters that he is hopeful that a deal could

be reached by Monday but acknowledged that that might be difficult to do.

The president said that he spoke with some people in the region a bit earlier today. We're still trying to get some clarity on whether that was

any specific leaders or simply his team there.

But the White House is watching the situation that's unfolding in Gaza City quite closely.

The National Security Council spokesperson responded this morning, saying that, quote, "This is a serious incident and we are looking into the

reports. We mourn the loss of innocent life and recognize the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza where innocent Palestinians are just trying

to feed their families.

"This underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including through a potential temporary

ceasefire. We continue to work day and night to achieve that outcome."

The Biden administration is really viewing this with a great sense of urgency. They're trying to get this hostage negotiation, completed working

around the clock with counterparts in the region, trying to bring the two sides to some type of agreement.

But there are big questions about how today's situation that's unfolding in Gaza City, with more than 100 civilians reportedly killed, hundreds more

injured, whether that will have any direct impacts on these talks.

The president, of course, had said that he had hoped that there would be a ceasefire by Monday. But certainly that appears to be challenging at the

moment as these negotiations are still underway.

ANDERSON: And while you have been speaking, Arlette, we have just seen a statement from the Egyptian presidential spokesperson, releasing this

statement about a call held earlier between Joe Biden and the Egyptian president Sisi.


Saying they spoke about the aid convoy that the IDF had fired on as well as the ongoing ceasefire talks, emphasizing, the spokesperson says, that both

countries are working hard to get a deal done and avoid an escalation of the conflict across the region.

And just to follow up and just getting a translation of this statement now, Arlette, President Sisi, condemning the targeting of civilians, saying that

the targeting of civilians violates international law, referring to the aid convoy.

Good to have you, Arlette. Always a pleasure.

Important that you, our viewers, kept bang up to date on what is going on. That is it for CONNECT THE WORLD at least. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi.

But stay with CNN. "NEWSROOM" is up next.