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Erin Burnett Outfront
CNN Team Witnesses Israel Intercepting Incoming Rockets; Israel Says, Fighting Ongoing At This Hour, Will Intensify Into The Tonight; Israel At War As Death Toll Rises To 300 With 1,500-Plus Wounded; Witness Says, Music Festival Goers First Took Cover From Rockets, Then Gaza Militants Began Shooting At Us; Israel Retaliates With Airstrike Near Palestinian Mosque. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 07, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special edition of Outfront, Israel at war.
The breaking developments at this hour, Israel intercepting a number of rockets by Hamas just moments ago near the Gaza border. These incoming strikes around just coming after 2:00 to 3:00 here in the morning, coming after Hamas launched its most coordinated assault in decades, militants storming Israel's border, taking hostages and firing thousands of rockets.
Right, now intense fighting is still taking place between Israeli Security Forces and Hamas fighters, as Israel is trying to regain control of all of its communities and bases. And Israeli official says at least 300 Israelis have been killed, but the former prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, tells me that number is much higher. He'll be with me in a moment.
We do have gruesome video in, though, right now which appears to show Palestinian militants opening fire on a civilian car. You hear the gunshots, the car crashes, and there are no signs of life inside.
Dozens of Israelis, we know, have been taken hostage, including this young woman who was kidnapped and taken away on a motorcycle. And in just a moment, I'm going to be speaking to her roommate this hour.
Now, Hamas is warning anyone taken hostage is now, quote, present in all axis of the Gaza strip, what happens to the people of the Gaza strip will happen to them and beware of miscalculation.
Meantime the Israeli military is mobilizing tens of thousands of reservists, fighter jets and drones are now carrying out strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
The show of force, though, really coming only after Israel was caught completely by surprise, despite investing enormous amounts of money and resources into its intelligence agencies. And tonight, we're learning the United States may be just hours away from announcing new assistance to Israel.
Our team of reporters is standing by. Nic Robertson live in Israel tonight, Sam Kiley also with us from London.
And let me begin with you, Nic. There were rockets behind you when we just spoke about a half an hour ago. You had sort of a barrage, an assault coming in, which was fended off successfully by Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense System. What is happening now?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Since then, we've heard a helicopter coming through the area again, a heavy machine gun from the helicopter opened up. It appears to be supporting Israeli Defense Force troops on the ground, still combating those Hamas militants.
This checkpoint behind me marks the area of what is considered safely controlled Israeli territory, and beyond that an area where the Israeli Defense Force does not have 100 percent certainty that it has full control.
Just over the hill to my left over this direction here, earlier on this evening, we've now learned that Hamas tried to assault the beach there with a seven-man force to have another incursion after nightfall into this area of Israel. That's a completely separate incursion to those that occurred this morning.
Now, that was intercepted by Israeli Defense Forces. They did control that situation. But, of course, the concern is, as you say, all of those Hamas militants that came across the border, where are they? That's something Israel has to be able to answer, and it's trying to do that tonight.
BURNETT: They're trying to do that tonight. I mean, there is obviously no sleep, no rest. They are fighting actively, when you think about that, right, not even knowing necessarily where some militants are. I mean, I hate to use the word expecting because obviously you're in a situation that's fluid, you don't know what to expect. But does it seem that it's just going to, you know -- this will be a relentless continuation of the fighting here in these final hours of darkness?
ROBERTSON: You know, I think it's going to be a while until we see the really heavy Israeli Defense Forces move in around here. We've seen one tank maneuver and go over towards the beach area this evening, come out of the Gaza area, toward the beach area over the hill there.
But what we have seen maneuvering around here are groups of Israeli IDF, Israeli Defense Force, Special Forces, maneuvering through the area. Are they coming off one operation and going onto another? Are they relocating to something more important that's happening at the moment? That's not clear. The only thing that we can say from our vantage point here is it is active, it is dynamic, it is fluid, and Israel still does not have full control where it wants to. Erin?
BURNETT: And we also have some video here of these -- some of the terrifying moments. Nic, this was hundreds of people running from gunfire. They were at a festival, and they're literally just running in terror. So, when you're just talking to people, this is a country, right, a country full of civilians, now, obviously, completely militarized. And despite how much they may be prepared theoretically in Israel for something to happen, nothing like this ever has. How are people responding that you're talking to?
ROBERTSON: Yes, people are very afraid. They've witnessed and experience in the past rockets coming in. They've heard sirens. They've seen terrorist attacks on their streets, cars ramming people waiting to get a bus, a lone gunman, a lone knife man. But something on this scale is completely out with their experiences, not what they've been expecting.
It is, in some ways, people's worst nightmares. People living close to Gaza earlier on today found themselves cowering in their houses with Hamas militants banging on the doors, pulling some of them out in some cases, hiding, trying not to get caught. And, of course, everyone in Israel is aware of this. They've seen the pictures. They know what's happening in their country.
And what we witnessed earlier today when we flew in here and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, Israelis very afraid of the situation that they were in. I saw people clutching loved ones and hugging each other as sirens were going off, as intercepts were happening in the air above, people lying on the ground crying because they were afraid. It has brought a level of fear even to scenarios like missile attacks that people are familiar with. It is unsettling and unnerving, and it will take quite naturally a little bit of time for people to get accustomed to that and to find their feet with it and to know where they are in terms of their own emotions about it.
BURNETT: All right. Nic, thank you very much.
And tonight, an IDF spokesman telling me that dozens of Israelis, including a substantial number of civilians, are being held hostage right now by Hamas. He told the story of one group that had been freed as we were speaking but saying it is dozens remaining. It's a terrifying situation and one that he called delicate in terms of what it does to limit Israel's potential response.
We do want to warn you, some of the images that we are going to share about what we know about these hostages are graphic, and Sam Kiley is out front.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A living nightmare begins for this woman taken hostage as he disappears in a captured jeep with Israeli military plates into Gaza.
Palestinian militants launched a complex attack killing dozens of Israelis on assaults from the air, sea and land. And they've claimed to have taken numerous hostages. The Israel Defense Forces say they are prisoners of war. And this soldier was captured alive after his tank was destroyed at the Gaza border. His fate is now unknown. The Al-Qassam Brigade released a heavily edited propaganda video that purports to show militants overrunning Israel's Erez crossing, the most heavily fortified location on the Gaza fence. The video shows dead Israelis and prisoners. Their fate is also unknown. These scenes are intended to galvanize widespread attacks against Israel.
Amid this, Hamas call to arms, if you have a gun, get it out, he said. This is the time to use it. Get out with trucks, cars, axes. Today is the most glory notice and honorable history begins.
So far, that call has not been answered. But the Hamas operation involved unprecedented firefights inside Israeli territory, in which civilian cars were targeted in Sderot and civilians gunned down on roads, where what are reported to be militants were also killed.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We are at war, not an operation or in rounds, but at war. This morning Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours.
KILEY: This has arguably been the biggest Israeli intelligence failure since Arab nations attacked the country 50 years ago.
Israel has hit back with airstrikes, pounding militant targets and at least 198 Gazans have been killed. But the country's right-wing government will be under pressure to attack deeper into Gaza and reserves are being mobilized country-wide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very possible that we will witness a massive Israeli ground operation in Gaza strip that basically will aim to try and to change totally from the ground the conditions that have been prevailed for the last almost two decades.
KILEY: Israeli forces have struggled to contain the attacks from Gaza from the sea and bulldozer assaults on the fence around the Palestinian enclave.
And with a hostage crisis looming, the initiative still remains with Hamas.
BURNETT: And, Sam, you have this situation where you've got the fighting ongoing, there're militants, they don't know where they, even in Israel territory that they have not yet fully regained control of, and yet all these hostages in Gaza that tie Israel's hands somewhat in terms of their response. You've got dozens of people, Israelis, that they can't risk killing. So, what does this mean?
KILEY: Well, it means that it's -- the IDF spokesman told you earlier on, it's a very delicate thing that they're going to have to deal with. This is the IDF approach to not only Gaza but also managing the level of violence they unleash against Gaza that doesn't result in a conflagration elsewhere, an uprising on the West Bank or within the Israeli-Arab population, the ethnic Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship, live inside Israel. There's a heavily armed population, according to a Knesset report.
So, all of these are combined, and all of them are part of the Hamas planning. They know, and the Israelis know, that they're going to walk into some kind of trap that's already been set in Gaza for which the bait really are these very significant numbers of hostages.
Now, Israel takes hostages extremely seriously, and this does give the Hamas militants a very, very serious advantage when it comes to any kind of future negotiations they might enter with Israel through third parties, such as Qatar and Egypt, as they have done in the past, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much.
And Outfront now, the former Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett. And thank you so much for being with me. I know that you have spent the day with soldiers and residents. What are you hearing right now?
NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It's been a very tough day for the state of Israel, for the citizens of Israel. The numbers of murdered Israelis is huge. Right now, it's been made public is 250, but it's higher than that. And we've got lots of kidnapped citizens and soldiers. We have babies that have been kidnapped into Gaza. We have 80-year-old woman with -- seems like she has dementia kidnapped into Gaza. So, it's been one of the hardest days in Israel's history. But Israel is strong, and we're striking back, and we will win. But I have to admit it's been a tough day.
BURNETT: Have you -- has Israel and the IDF been able to regain control?
BENNETT: Well, at this specific moment, there're still several villages where Hamas is fighting and shooting civilians, and we've got soldiers there, but there's fighting going on. The citizens are typically hunkering down in their shelters.
Throughout the day, what the citizens, what the residents of (INAUDIBLE) did was enter their shelters, lock the shelters, and then Hamas terrorists came and sort of knocked and pretended to be soldiers. And then if the residents didn't come out, they started burning their houses so the smoke would push people out.
I was on the phone with people while this was happening. They were sort of whispering so the terrorists don't hear them. This is reminiscent of horrible things in our past. And it should not happen. It was sort of like a pogrom but this is the state of Israel.
And at the same time, I can tell you, Erin, that our soldiers, our fighters have a very strong spirit. We're ready to go. They want to fight back, and they are fighting back. Unfortunately, not few commanders have died in action, and the commanders have fallen because that's what Israeli commanders do. They fight in front.
A good friend of mine, the mayor of this area, (INAUDIBLE), was killed while he was out fighting with his own pistol, and he was shot and killed.
BURNETT: I'm very sorry to hear that. I know you speak because you know you, of course, were an officer in an elite IDF commando unit. And when you saw this today, Hamas was organized, they made it through the wall, you're describing what they were doing to people in shelters. They're in towns. What stands out to you about the scale, the depth, the clear planning of this attack?
BENNETT: Well, this was a very well planned and deliberate attack.
It wasn't planned for two weeks but for many months in advance. You know, in fact, the Israeli government, Netanyahu's government had opened up the Gaza and allowed Gazan employees to -- workers to enter Israel, no reason whatsoever for this sort of unprovoked attack.
And, yes, it's -- for us, it's sort of Israel's 9/11. But we -- you know, we're fighting back. And it's going to be a prolonged war. It's not going to take a day. We need to destroy Hamas.
BURNETT: And, of course, you know this has been discussed from the very moment this started, the intelligence missed, the intelligence failure. I don't know what you think the right word is, but you talk about something that's been planned for months. And, obviously, you know, the preeminent intelligence agency, one of the preeminent intelligence agencies in the world, how did this happen? How did Israel not know that this was in the works?
BENNETT: Well, it's too early to tell. And I think it's premature to enter these sort of investigations. We're fighting right now.
BENNETT: My friends are fighting. One of my other friends, (INAUDIBLE), that served with me in my unit was also killed in action protecting his family, protecting other citizens. So, it's way premature for all of this.
What I can tell you, though, is that while the past year has been fairly polarized and divided year in Israel, right now, Israelis are united, left and right, religious and secular. We all stand together behind the government, behind the IDF. We all want to defend ourselves and we all want to destroy Hamas.
BURNETT: There's also in the U.S. been discussion about whether the needs that Israel may have right now will -- what that would mean for the U.S., for U.S. stockpiles, for U.S. aid to Ukraine, what do you need right now? And is it a matter of choosing between Israel and Ukraine?
BENNETT: No, it's not. In fact, our needs don't really overlap. What I do want to say, though, is how much we appreciate America standing behind Israel so clearly, President Biden standing up very clearly and saying that you're with us, and that means a lot. We're going to do the job. We don't need -- we never asked for American soldiers to do the job for us and defend us. We'll defend ourselves, that's fine. But, still, knowing that the good people of the United States of America stand behind the good people of Israel means the world to us. So, for that, I want to thank you.
BURNETT: Well, thank you so very much. I appreciate your time. I know it is the early hours of the morning where you are. I know that you, yourself, are hunkered down in shelter. You've lost some of your friends. I'm glad that you and your family are safe.
BENNETT: I had to jump into the shelter several times throughout the day. But we're going to -- we're going overcome this and we're going hit back, strike back very strong.
BURNETT: Thank you so very much. I appreciate your time. Naftali Bennett is the former prime minister of the state of Israel. Thank you.
BENNETT: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And our breaking news coverage continues. We're going to go back to Israel where forces are still in a grueling battle right now to take back territory that Hamas currently holds, plus Israel's prime minister now warning Hamas will pay an unprecedented price. What does unprecedented look like?
BURNETT: Breaking news during this special edition of Outfront, Israel at war, there's a flurry of activity in the United States after this unprecedented attack by Hamas within Israeli borders. Defense Secretary Austin just holding a call with the Joint Chiefs chairman and the commander of U.S. Central Command, this as a senior U.S. official tells CNN the United States could announce new assistance to Israel within hours. President Biden, meantime, has vowed the United States is 100 percent behind Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We will not ever fail to have their back. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.
Let there be no mistake, the United States stands with the state of Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: General Hertling, Robin Wright and Phillip Smyth are back with me.
And, General, what does that mean, 100 percent, full stop, in the context of an unprecedented situation and an all-out war that Israel says its response, you know, to Hamas will be tremendous and unprecedented in turn. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And you're going to see, first of all, the secretary of defense talking to General Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM, and they're going to reposition forces from the Central Command area of operation. That includes, Erin, the Fifth Fleet, naval forces of the Fifth Fleet, Air Force Central Command, some elements of space command to collect additional intelligence that they can pass to the Israelis, concerning what is happening with Hamas and others that may be threatening.
What's interesting, President Biden also put out a message just a few minutes ago on Twitter basically saying other countries in the area who are thinking of interfering, don't. That's a signal to Hezbollah, Iran and various other nations that might pile on to this terrorist attack by Hamas.
So, I think a combination of forces plus equipment, you know, more ammunition for the Iron Dome, we're in conjunction and coordination with the Israeli Defense Force on that, as well as intelligence passing is going to be critical in the next couple of days and hours.
BURNETT: Robin, how worried are you that this is just the beginning of a much wider war, Biden's warning notwithstanding?
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, we have to remember that Israel faces not just Hamas and Islamic jihad in the Gaza strip, but it also faces a much larger arsenal along its border with Lebanon because of the rockets and missiles that Hezbollah has.
And then on its border with Syria, you have several groups inside Syria, Iranian allies, allies of Hamas and Hezbollah, who are equipped with Iranian missiles, as well. So, the potential on three fronts is high.
Now, the interesting thing is that in the first 24 hours we have not seen Hezbollah pile on, not open a second front, which could reach overmatch militarily in terms of Israel having one major airport, one major power grid, and leaving it very vulnerable, much more vulnerable than it is now. But the reality is that we know that there are other parties in the region who share Hamas' goals, and that the potential down the road is obvious. Whether it plays out that way, I think we have to be careful about not speculating how the future of wars.
BURNETT: Phillip, of course, there are many parties that benefit from destabilization and crisis in the Middle East, right? We talk about Iran, and the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee was saying, in his view, very clear, Iran is involved here. But there are questions about who else, and Russia has also come up.
I know you've pointed out here a few things. Hamas has been meeting with top Russian officials for years, including the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, a familiar face to our viewers. Hamas has touted those meetings on their website they. They put press releases out about it. There have been multiple meetings, in fact, between Hamas and Russian officials since Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, you take those dots and tie them together and say there's a real chance that Putin and Russia are connected to what happened today. What do you see, Phillip?
PHILIP SMYTH, FORMER SOREF FELLOW, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Well, the Russians are thinking geostrategically here. They have a huge issue in Ukraine, and what are you going to do to draw attention away from it and also assist your ally who's assisted you, and I'm talking about Iran, with thousands of drones that have been used.
For the Russians, this is -- thinking in that geostrategic fashion, they are trying to execute this as thumbing their nose at the United States. This is what it really comes down to on that kind of side note for them. For them, you know, they look at all these losses that they have suffered, I mean, even look at the Aziri-Armenian conflict and what's going on there. They feel like they're being rolled back. And this is a great way for them to really put themselves out there and hit back.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time tonight on this very important evening. Thank you all.
And next, a spokesman for Israel's Defense Forces tells out front that dozens of Israelis have been kidnapped. And next, we're going to talk to the roommate of this young woman you see there. She was abducted by militants, taken away on a motorcycle, and is still missing tonight.
BURNETT: We're back with a special edition of Outfront, Israel at war. And our CNN camera moments ago, during the commercial break, caught another rocket being intercepted near Gaza. There has been an intense stream of rockets and activity there as the fighting has been intensifying through these evening hours. It is now, of course, the early hours in the morning in Israel.
And we've got more new video coming in showing the carnage after Hamas militants raided a peaceful music festival in Southern Israel, near Gaza. I want to warn our viewers, you see a van riddled with bullet holes and bodies two of people lifeless, seeming dead on the ground after being gunned down in cold blood, just as they're running, just gunned down.
This is more new video into Outfront shows an Israeli who attended that music festival being abducted, taken by militants. She's crying out to her boyfriend who's also has been abducted. I'm going to speak to her roommate in just a moment.
But, first, I want to go to Hadas Gold. She is out front on the ground in Jerusalem this hour. And, Hadas, obviously here approaching dawn hours where you are, as the fighting continues, what more are you hearing about the Israeli civilians who have been captured by Hamas and are being held hostage at this time? HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have confirmed from the Israeli military, is that they are confirming that both soldiers and civilians have been taken as both prisoners of war have taken into Gaza but also there have been hostage situations on Israeli territory, where militants who had entered Israeli villages and towns around the Gaza strip had taken hostages there.
I believe one of those hostage situations has been resolved, although there are still ongoing firefights on the streets of Israel.
In terms of number, we do believe that the numbers who have been taken into Gaza is somewhere in the dozens. We have not received any sort of confirmation on specific numbers of soldiers and civilians who have been taken and how many of those are believed to be alive or dead. We know that the Israeli military is still gathering information.
And, Erin, in fact, Israeli police have told family members if they don't know where their family members are, if they can reach out to the Israeli police and bring them pieces of clothing or hairbrushes that have DNA samples on them so that that could potentially help them identify family members.
We are seeing harrowing accounts of -- we've heard them on air and we've heard them also across social media, people looking for their family members. They're going from hospital to hospital. They're calling around. They're trying to just find any sort of information on where their family members are, if they're in hospital, if they've been killed, if they've been taken into Gaza.
I have never seen anything like this before, Erin. There have been situations where soldiers were kidnapped, but those would be one, two. And so rarely have listens ever been taken hostage in this way. We are talking about numbers that are going to be very high.
And this is in addition on top of the casualty numbers we're having of at least 300 dead, more than 1,500 wounded and what's going to be an increasingly and larger Israeli military campaign in Gaza for the civilians there who, Erin, they don't have the luxury often of bomb shelters there.
So, civilians there are going to be likely experiencing a very, very difficult air assault that's already started. They're being warned by the Israeli military to leave certain areas, to find shelter elsewhere. There's not much shelter in Gaza and there's not really anywhere to go for those civilians in Gaza. It's going to be a very difficult next few hours, next few days, potentially weeks.
And even as we're speaking in the last few minutes, rockets have continued being fired from Gaza into Israel. Most of it has been focused on Southern Israel. We haven't heard sirens or rocket impacts here in Jerusalem in a few hours. We've only been hearing the regular roar of fighter jets. We know of a direct hit, Erin, on a hospital in Asheklon, so far, though, no injuries reported from that direct hit. Erin? BURNETT: All right. Hadas, thank you, in Jerusalem.
And Outfront now, Amir Moadi, the roommate of Noa Argamani, who was taken hostage on that motorcycle that we saw. And, Amir, I am sorry to be talking to you and to be talking to you about this right now. I know that you have had a chance to speak with Noa's father, her family wants her story to be told in hopes that it can help bring her back.
You saw this video of Noa being abducted by militants. She's at this festival, she's celebrating. And then you see this video, she's crying out for help, taken away on a motorcycle. When you see this video, what do you even think -- I mean, this is a person you know incredibly well.
AMIR MOADI, ROOMMATE OF NOA ARGAMANI WHO WAS KIDNAPPED: It's very difficult when you see someone that is so close to you and you know him so much being treated like this, it's very difficult to see it. It makes you like shocked and ask what did she do to get this -- like why they should act like this to her.
When I spoke to her father this morning, I tried to tell him not to see it. But I didn't -- like he didn't manage. He saw it already, and it was shocking. When you hear about parents see children kidnapped like this, treated like this, it's very, very difficult.
BURNETT: Oh, just the anguish and fear he must be feeling. What did he say to you? I know that he wants you to share her story.
BURNETT: What else did he say?
MOADI: So, first of all, I want to say that like this is the first time in our lifetime in Israel as young people, we experienced an experience like this. Like we had a lot of operations, but a surprise attack like this, we've never had in this magnitude and the scale. It's like crazy for us.
I can say that when I heard about all of my friends that are missing from the party, we all got like super trying to get a lot of details about them, to ask people, put on some groups on Facebook and WhatsApp to get as much as we can about them, and we still don't know about many of them. We're talking about a lot of people, about 500 and more that is still missing and we don't know what is going on with them.
BURNETT: Amir, how many people do you know -- I mean, I know that, obviously, Noa, her boyfriend, others at this event, I mean, how many people do you know that are missing tonight?
MOADI: So, we know -- yes, we know about Noa and Avi Nathan, for sure, that they got kidnapped, you can see on these videos, and we have like more five or six close friends that we're still looking for them. And I'm getting a lot of messages on Facebook from other people in my country asking me to put pictures on Facebook, try to see for more people to seek information for them. But we're talking about a lot of young people who went to the party, and all of the families and this -- the younger children and elder people that were in their houses and just terrorists from Gaza get inside their houses and threatened (ph) for their life. It's very, very difficult to see, to hear about it, especially when it's like close people to you.
BURNETT: You shared pictures with us of her and you together. Can you tell me a little about her?
MOADI: Yes. So, Noa is like an amazing friend. She's always smiling. She's always trying to get the best of the situation. She's always trying to get the best of time. Like if we have some free time, let's go do something. Like I'm sharing her pictures from our trip in India from one month that we met over there last year, and from then, we're like very good friends. And now, we were supposed to live together, to -- like she moved to my apartment, and, hopefully, we'll get her back, and we will continue everything.
MOADI: But, yes, we won't give up, all of us, all our friends and families will do everything that we can. And we're calling our country and our government, we know that there's a lot of stress, and they are now trying to get the control to everything that is going on.
But still, we have people missing. We have friends and families, young and old, everyone that got to Gaza strip and we need to do everything now to get them back.
BURNETT: Amir, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. I hope that your friend, Noa, and, as you say, five or six others that you know of that are not accounted for yet all come home safely. Thank you.
MOADI: Thank you, thank you.
BURNETT: Next, our breaking news continues, CNN learning American officials are deeply concerned that Israeli intelligence was unaware Hamas was planning and preparing the highly coordinated and brutal assault, something that clearly took an extensive amount of time. What went wrong?
BURNETT: Our special editions of Outfront, Israel at War, continues tonight with breaking news, new explosions in the Gaza strip, an Israeli airstrike hitting near a Palestinian mosque. It's in retaliation for the massive assault launched by Hamas on Israeli territory, one that caught Israel and the entire world by surprise, a stunning intelligence failure.
Out front now, Oren Liebermann, our CNN Pentagon correspondent, who has done extensive reporting and, of course, spent a lot of time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as a reporter yourself, six years as a correspondent there, Oren. So, what are you hearing about this intelligence failure tonight?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key question here is how American officials got no warning about this, but primarily a warning such as that would come from the Israelis.
America may have some intel-gathering and surveillance capabilities there, but it is primarily the U.S. relying on Israel using its own state-of-the-art tech, its own advanced capabilities to monitor Gaza, something Israel does from sides, the navy on one side and army on the other two, as well as signals intelligence, its cyber capabilities.
And yet for all of its vaunted abilities in doing so, Israel, it seems, was caught completely by surprise. And that's something that Israel will have to figure out and the U.S. will also have to figure out. A U.S. Official telling CNN there will be after action reviews to try to figure out if there is a gaping hole in intelligence, which Hamas was able to use to carry out this cross-border terror attack.
Israel even has a border wall there that's supposed to be able to detect underground digging as well as motion sensors, and yet this attack came across from the sea, from the air, and from land. So, there will have to be some serious questions asked about how Israel was unable to pick up on this.
When CNN spoke earlier to a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces, he said that will come later. That's a future issue about trying to figure out how this all played out. But that will be a question, Erin, the U.S. is also trying to figure out. Is there something that should have been picked up on that would have led to something that must have been months, if not longer in the planning?
BURNETT: Yes, certainly. And, of course, it raises the question. Obviously, right now, they're focused on regaining territory, so you've got to focus on that. But at the same time, what else do you not know right now is got to be a question they're asking.
All right, Oren Liebermann, thank you very much.
I want to go to Ian Bremmer now, world renowned global affairs analyst, host G-Zero World on PBS.
So, Ian, you've said this is Israel's 9/11. You hear Oren talking about this, I mean, a massive attack months in the planning, the former prime minister of Israel was saying that to me, as well. And now they have to be fears of what else they don't know. I mean, such an intelligence failure by such an elite intelligence force, right, one of the world's -- the creme de la creme. How unprecedented is this?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: It's the gold standard, Erin. And, you know, many intelligence forces would tell you that it's their surveillance, digital surveillance. It's their surveillance on the ground with human intelligence, operatives. It's their border security, and it's also the Israeli Defense Forces, and all of them failed in unprecedented fashion.
But I remember a few months ago, Erin, when you and I were talking about Israel before, we weren't talking about the Palestinians. We were talking about something else that was unprecedented, demonstrations that were going on, larger than you've ever seen, every day, you know, consistently across the country because of the judicial reform. And that included a lot of defense forces of Israel. There was obviously a lot of distraction going on because the Israelis were focused on their own internal instability.
Also, so many of Israel's Defense Forces have been focused on the West Bank, on border security there, as well as on settlements, Israeli settlements that have been expanding under this right wing coalition Netanyahu government and also on Palestinian backlash and violence against Israeli civilians and Israeli settlers. All of that means that you had far fewer Israeli troops on the ground in the south that would be defending against the Palestinians, Hamas radicals, coming over these borders.
So, you're right, of course, I do believe this is Israel's 9/11. We already know of hundreds of Israeli civilians dead in a country of less than 10 million people. Just imagine what that would be in a country like the United States, not to mention the fact that you now have the -- all of these civilians being held hostage, many of whom -- dozens of whom have been brought back to Gaza where the Israelis have now declared war. So, I mean, this is unprecedented territory but it's true in many different ways.
BURNETT: And when it comes to Netanyahu, as you point out, we've been talking a lot about him, right? Shaky ground internally to say the least. I mean, there was often chaos on the streets of Israel, right? Thousands of protesters, as you point out, protesting those judicial -- the judicial overhaul plan, saying it was undemocratic, autocratic. He was facing an existential crisis of his own making, bribery, corruption charges. But now, at least at this moment, right, you've got a country that is coming together. Does this make all that go away for him?
BREMMER: Well, it goes away for the time being because this is obviously a national security priority of the highest order. I mean, the other thing you and I have talked about for the last year-and-a- half has been the Russian war in Ukraine and how it's brought NATO together. That is nothing compared to what Hamas militants have just done for unity among the entire Israeli people.
And the Israeli population is very diverse. It is a wide, wide political spectrum from the far left to the far right, with many, many political parties of different stripes.
All of them have as their top and abiding priority right now to defend the state of Israel, the sovereignty of Israel, to get the Israeli civilians back unharmed, and to wreak vengeance against the leadership of Hamas so that they no longer are capable of leading a terrorist organization and leading Gaza. That is -- it's almost unimaginable the amount of unity presently being experienced on the ground in Israel, by the way, very different than the response we're seeing in the United States, which is very partisan.
BURNETT: Immediately, completely partisan, right.
BREMMER: Many Republicans have seen Trump, DeSantis (INAUDIBLE) into that.
BURNETT: And on that front in the U.S., obviously, there have been big focus on this -- what would have been a breakthrough deal, right, normalizing of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Now, the Biden administration says that even though people were talking about that being on the cusp, but that they were it was still months away. And maybe that's the case but it also, of course, would buy them some time in the context of the current conversation. Is that deal dead?
BREMMER: Think -- well, first of all, it was very close. I certainly met with a lot of Saudi officials over the course of the past weeks and talked with Americans as well. This was a deal that everyone was feeling more optimistic about, a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia that would have actually normalized diplomatic relations between those two countries, also a deal that would have improved U.S. relations with the Saudis, giving them major non-NATO ally status and improving the nature of the defense relationship.
As of now, I'd say that deal is dead. It doesn't mean it can't ever come back, but, certainly, the Saudis were expect is at least some window dressing that the Israelis would improve the situation with the Palestinians. That obviously the exact opposite of that, will now necessarily happen in response to these terrorist attacks.
Also, the idea that the Israelis are going to be cutting a deal with the Saudis in today's environment, when the Saudis' initial foreign ministry reaction was not that -- they were still condemning the attacks but they were saying that Israel was partially responsible for them because of what they had done to the Palestinians historically. That deal is dead.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Ian Bremer.
And in Tehran, thousands of Iranians gathering in the streets to celebrate Hamas' attacks across Israel that have left at least 300 dead and hundreds more wounded, this as the words of the former chief of Israel's spy service in July seemed unbelievably prescient tonight, taking on new significance.
Yossi Cohen warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's widely controversial play to overhaul the judiciary was hurting national security and that Iran was ready to pounce. He said, quote, the Iranian threat hovers over our heads on a number of fronts, and we must ensure that Israel's security resilience is not harmed. Out front now, Noa Tishby, former Israeli special envoy for combating anti-Semitism. She was dismissed by Prime Minister Netanyahu after criticizing the controversial judicial overhaul he has, of course, championed and spearheaded. And, Noa, I appreciate your time.
How prescient are those words today from the former Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen?
NOA TISHBY, ISRAELI ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST: Look, those words were indeed prophetic ask sadly so. There's no doubt that a lot of military operation, Mossad operatives and people from the former IDF that were saying that this is weakening Israel's resolve. However, nobody is having this conversation right now. What we need to do is take care of the situation on the ground and make sure that Israel gets sovereignty back.
I want to say one thing. The fingerprints of this attack are on Iran. Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world and is a state that is the greatest sponsor of anti-Semitism in the world. We've been saying this for a very, very long time. Iran is out to get Israel. Iran is out to destabilize the entire region. And this attack is exactly what they had intended to do.
BURNETT: So, when you hear this again and again, reference to a tremendous and unprecedented response, in response to a tremendous and unprecedented attack, what does that mean for Iran?
TISHBY: Well, we're not sure what it means for Iran, but Israel could not sit still after an attack like this. No country would sit still.
The thing to remember as well, every time there are conversations about peace in the region, Palestinian militants are sabotaging this. This is exactly what happened around the Oslo Accord and why the Oslo Accord failed, because the Palestinians unleashed terrorist attacks all over Israel. So, it's not surprising that this is happening again while we're discussing peace with Saudi.
I have to be clear here. There are no whataboutism about what happened today. There is no defending it in any way, shape or form. Democratic Socialist of America is hosting a rally tomorrow in New York City in order to support whatever just happened today.
When you put women and children on trucks and elderly and babies and you take them into Gaza and parade them, there is no defending this.
The Palestinian, as a national movement, need to figure out what it is that they're after. They need to figure out what it is that they want. Because if they are after living side by side with Israel, I'm sure there is a conversation to be had about that at some point, not any time soon. But if they're going to continue chanting from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, which is essentially ethnically cleansing the Jews from their ancestral land and wiping Israel off the map, we're going to keep having these issues. BURNETT: Now, I was clear, Noa, at the beginning here, you were dismissed by Netanyahu for criticizing the judicial overhaul and reform.
BURNETT: But at this moment, he is vowing mighty vengeance. You have a united Israel, of course, in a moment of incredible existential threat. Does this moment strengthen Netanyahu? Does the country rally around him after the initial moment?
TISHBY: The Jewish people are extraordinarily resilient. The Israeli people are extraordinarily resilient and nobody is thinking about politics today. I think I'm the clearest example that you can be a true Zionist while criticizing some actions of the Israeli government. Questioning the Israeli government's actions has nothing to do with delegitimizing Israel's right to exist. This is what Israel is dealing with.
The Palestinian militants, Hamas, are after destroying Israel. They're not interested in two-state solution, they're not interested in peace. Nobody is thinking about politics and, yes, everybody is united and united together against -- with government and the opposition.
BURNETT: And, Noa Tishby, thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time. And thanks for joining us for this ongoing, rolling breaking news coverage.
This special continues after a break with Jake Tapper.