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Erin Burnett Outfront
Now: CNN Team Sees & Hears Loud Explosions Over Gaza; U.S. Aircraft Carrier Arrives Near Israel After Hamas Attack; White House: At Least 14 Americans Killed In Israel, 20 Missing. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 10, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Israel. The breaking news: 20 Americans now missing on top of 14 already declared dead. This as a U.S. aircraft carrier moves closer to Israel at this hour.
All while Israel prepares for what appears to be a major invasion after a barbaric ISIS-style attack by Hamas.
Plus, she hid in a safe room for nearly 12 hours, outsmarted the Hamas militants by jamming the safe room door. What she did, to keep the attackers at the, as they tried, again, and again, to get through. A miraculous story of survival, and that brave woman is my guest tonight.
And then, inside Gaza. It is as densely packed as the city of London. Underground tunnels, that could be booby trapped. What innovation there to truly look like.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett, live in Tel Aviv tonight.
And tonight, the breaking news this hour. As we were going to air, our crews near Gaza, hearing many loud explosions. And we are going to go to the ground there, in just a moment.
First, though, here off the coast, U.S. aircraft carrier is getting closer to Israel, at this hour, now in eastern Mediterranean Sea. On the USS Gerald R. Ford, a number of guided missile destroyers, guided missile cruisers. It is a major show of force, after the horrific assault by Hamas here in Israel that killed more than 1,000 people.
And tonight, we are learning that 20 Americans are now missing, after the attack, still unaccounted for. And, that is on top of the 14 Americans that we already know, declared to be dead.
The fate of these 20 is unknown. Are they being held as hostages by Hamas? Have they lost their lives as well? The U.S. government says they simply, at this point, do not know.
And, this raises a major question, just how will the United States respond? Israel, right now, preparing for an invasion, a ground invasion of
Gaza, that appears to be imminent. It is along the Israeli border with Gaza, there are thousands of paratroopers, snipers, artillery, and tank units lining up, ready for what could be a major ground invasion.
And, throughout the night, we have heard the terrifying sounds of explosions. And here in Tel Aviv, you can feel them actually through your body. And we have seen Israel's Iron Dome in action, intercepting rockets fired from Gaza, again and again.
That, of course, is where the massive and highly coordinated attack on Israel was launched from. And in just a moment, we are going to take you inside a town, that was raided by Palestinian gunmen. What our reporter found, was chilling. Bodies everywhere, some executed and beheaded, homes burned, and ISIS-style savagery and horror, committed by Hamas, is hard to comprehend.
And today, President Biden, delivering an angry and forceful condemnation of Hamas, and defending Israel's right to retaliate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an act of sheer evil. More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered, slaughtered. Stomach churning reports of being -- babies being killed, entire families slain, young people massacred.
The brutality of Hamas, this bloodthirstiness brings to mind the worst -- the worst rampages of ISIS. This is terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And I want to begin our coverage live here tonight, with Nic Robertson. He is OUTFRONT, live in Sderot, Israel, which is about 45 miles south of where I'm standing right now.
And, Nic, where you are, many loud explosions just moments ago. What's happening, as best as you can tell?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, there's a lot of helicopter activity in the sky. I heard fighter jets. This is not that uncommon, but we've heard a lot of mechanical, heavy equipment moving in the area between this town and the Gaza fence, which is less than a couple of miles, really, from where we are standing right now.
So there is a lot of mechanized -- machinery, mechanized units, military units being maneuvered, in that area at the moment. We don't know what for, but the explosions that we have been -- over the past perhaps hour or so, but pretty intense up here, in the past 20 minutes. You see a big flash go off behind, me counter three, a counter four, counter five. And then you will hear, a huge explosion, explosions have been enough to shake the roof of this building here.
[19:05:28] And so they are impacting in Gaza, a couple of miles away, and it is enough to shake the roof of the building here. But what we found, when we went to Kafr Aza, which it took, by the way, it took the Israeli Defense Forces 48 hours of fighting against Hamas, to take back control of it. What we found there, and what the Israeli Defense Forces want to show us, was what they were describing as the brutality of the way that people were treated there, of the residents that were treated. Some of them had their hands bound, whole families were executed, parents, children, people even beheaded, he said.
This is what happened on the road there.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The drive into Kafr Aza is chilling. The evidence of Hamas's butchery everywhere. This, Israel Defense Force general, shock, at what he found.
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: I saw -- General Eisenhower, I have come to the -- death camp in Europe at the -- front he said he brings the press.
ROBERTSON: He did the same, inviting about 50 journalists.
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: You will see, it is a big massacre, a big disaster --
ROBERTSON: Have you ever seen anything like this in your career before?
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: No, never.
ROBERTSON: Less than a mile from Gaza, 70 Hamas fighters stormed in here early Saturday. Some even flying.
They are telling us, this is one of the paragliders that flew in here. You could see the engine here, the propellers here that made a carbon fiber fuel tank up here. And the frame of it, at the front.
The IDF, in control now, after a two-day battle.
Hamas lie where they fell. Only now, the extremes of their barbarity becoming apparent. Seven hundred-plus civilians lived here. How many were killed, still unclear. How they died, brutally apparent. Some decapitated, they say.
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: They killed babies in the front of their parents, they think is the parents, they killed parents, and we found babies. We found dogs and a family that killed before him. They cut the head of the people off.
ROBERTSON: Each body bag, silent sentinel to the intelligence failure that allowed in Kfar Aza and other communities near Gaza to be overrun, and motivation for troops, too. ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: We wait to switch, to switch off --
because you know, we defend our people, and until now, we collect them.
ROBERTSON: When you say you're going to attack, will you be going into Gaza? And so --
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: You know, I look to the next 100 yard.
ROBERTSON: You take care of the next hundred yards?
ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE GENERAL: The next hundred yards, and I fight for the next hundred yards. And go forward.
ROBERTSON: Forward, to a possible showdown with Hamas. How and when, still to be determined.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And that's really where, I think, these troops find themselves at the moment. They are waiting for that political decision, the sense with them today was that they were sort of, there was a sort of a pause, but not a pause where you sit back and rest, but a pause where you change posture, and begin to lean forward. And you get that sense from, they are really waiting to get the political direction of what they need to do.
They know that if they go into Gaza, that this will be a very bloody fight, a very dangerous fight for them, because they will be fighting in streets and small streets and civilian neighborhoods, where they are the enemy, where Hamas, Islamic Jihad know the terrain, where the population is, against them, but also, an environment where the rules of engagement are to avoid civilian casualties. Yet, in an environment like that in Gaza, civilian casualties, as we have seen in the past, do, and will happen.
So, all of this stance in front of Israel, stands in front of the prime minister right now. And most particularly, stands in front of those troops that we were with today -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Nic, thank you very much.
Major Ben Walhaus is a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, for the IDF.
And I very much appreciate your time, Major.
On the back of this reporting, and here we are tonight -- Hamas obviously has always been a brutal organization. Now though, these reports we're seeing, beheadings, ISIS-like cruelty, babies. Have you seen a shift in their tactics?
MAJ. BEN WALHAUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Well, Hamas has always been a murderous terrorist organization, and it is firmly stated, it's explicit aim is to kill all the Jews, and all of the Israelis that it can. So in terms of who it is as an organization, that's nothing new. But surely, the extent, and the barbaric nature of these attacks, is something that we haven't seen before.
And as your journalist saw it today, as our forces were going through the south, clearing house by house, making sure there is no terrorist left. We are starting to hear those stories, we are starting to find those corpses, that were brutally mutilated, entire communities massacred. And yes, as you say, this is something that we haven't seen before.
BURNETT: Major, there are the strikes coming from Gaza. I also understand, there was a clash between IDF soldiers and Hamas militants inside Israel. In the north, meantime, three rockets were seen launched from Syrian territory, according to the IDF just tonight. Rockets were launched from Lebanon, earlier.
Where does security of Israel land stand on this hour?
WAHLHAUS: Yes, this is an extremely complex security situation. We are continuing intensive fighting in the south, with the aim of stopping Hamas's attacks, and make sure they can carry these kinds of attacks out again. Thousands of rockets are still being fired into Israeli cities, indiscriminately.
And at the same time, as you say on our northern border, and on our eastern border, we have attacks -- anti-tank fire, rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria. We have caught up with over 300,000 reserve soldiers, who have left their families, and have avoided their borders. And in the north, we're watching very carefully, and making sure that the message is clear, that no one should join in the fights.
BURNETT: "Reuters" is reporting, Major, that for months leading up to the attack, Hamas misled Israel to believe that it didn't want to fight, that didn't want to confrontation. And the report from "Reuters" cites a source close to Hamas, saying that the organization actually even went so far as to construct a mock Israeli town, a settlement in Gaza, where they practiced a military landing. They did all these things, they trained to storm it.
Can you confirm any of this?
WAHLHAUS: Well, Hamas's intentions have always been clear. The fact that it makes a mock Israeli town to invade, shows that Hamas's war is a war against civilians. Hundreds of terrorists screaming across the border, and massacring women and children and elderly, it is a war against civilians -- taking civilians, entire families into Gaza, abducting them, that is a war against civilians.
And at the same time, they are using their own civilians as human shields, placing them in military targets inside homes and mosques, hospitals, all in an effort to use their civilian population as shields.
BURNETT: So, in terms of any sort of a mock, you know, settlement that they may have created, do you now know where that is, or what they were doing? Do you now have the intelligence to sort of look at how this actually was trained for and accomplished?
WAHLHAUS: We're looking forward at the moment. Our immediate priority is to stop Hamas's attacks. They are rocket attacks art indiscriminately into our cities are continuing, as your viewers are seeing right now. Attempted attacks by land, by air, from Gaza.
And now, our immediate priority is to protect our civilian population from further attacks.
BURNETT: All right. Major, I appreciate your time, thank you very much. Of course, obviously it is passed two in the morning, so another late, or all night for you. Thank you very much, sir.
And in a moment, I'm going to be joined by Ricardo Grichener. His nephew Omer Winker was abducted from that music festival, here in Israel, where Hamas fighters killed at least 260 innocent people.
I want to warn you, that the video that I'm about to show you of Omer being taken, is disturbing, but we are showing it, because Ricardo and Omer's parents want the world to see it.
This is Omer, just 22 years old, in the back of that truck. His clothes appear to be missing. The Hamas militants are hitting him, whipping him. You can see the torture, the degradation that he is enduring. There is a gun pointed at him.
This is horrific to watch, for any human being, never mind and if this is your son or your nephew.
And Ricardo Grichener is OUTFRONT now.
And, Ricardo, for you, this is human, this is your family. It is incredibly hard for any human to watch that video. But I know that you and Omer's parents are insisting you want the world to see it, because you want the world to know what is happening.
You want the world to know what Hamas is capable of.
Have you heard anything about your nephew's condition now, and his whereabouts?
RICARDO GRICHENER, NEPHEW ABDUCATED BY HAMAS AT MUSIC FESTIVAL: Well, first of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to basically refer the situation as exactly as you said.
The situation is brutal. Whoever saw the video got intimidated. It's horrifying to see your nephew in this situation, basically being hit brutalized, it is something that anybody that is human, would be, of course, shocked, right?
From my point of view, I just want to see one thing. I want to see Omer getting back to his family. Omer is 22 years old. He's sick. He needs some medical attention. From our point of view, what we see is Hamas is responsible for his well-being. We want him back to his family. It can be done. And, you see there is enough attention from our point of view. So, anything that we can do, that can be done, this is best (INAUDIBLE).
BURNETT: Ricardo, you mention your nephew being in poor health. I know he has serious medical conditions. He does urgently need medication for colitis. What is your biggest concern, I mean, even on the basis? We saw how he was actually physically tortured, so I know that you have no idea what his actual condition is.
But, even the basics of going without his medication, what cost does that come out for him?
GRICHENER: So, of course, the situation can deteriorate. We don't know exactly will happen at the end of the day, because he could get very ill. High fever, and getting them to basically a physical illness, less certain a situation.
And, of course, we assume that he will not be treated very good. So the best thing for Hamas is to send him to his family. Omer is 22 years old civilian, restaurant manager. He has nothing to do with the situation.
He was abducted from a rock festival, a peaceful rock festival. There was no justification, what logic, whatsoever, yeah.
BURNETT: Well, I want to ask you, because I know you appealed to the Red Cross. They actually did appeal to Hamas, just asking them to allow your nephew his medication, right, the basic human dignity of his medication, even within the hostage situation.
Did they even respond? Was their response to that plea?
GRICHENER: Nothing, none whatsoever. We have no information. There is, of course, the international laws, the international agreements regarding taking care of sick, getting two visits. Even with the Hamas brutal murderers that went to jail to Israel get visits.
They know exactly the situation. The fact that we are out there right now 130 captives, that they don't even recognize their location --
GRICHENER: -- their well-being. Any information whatsoever, about their conditions, I know, regarding Omer specifically that he is okay, because as you can see from the video, right, you can see that he is not having any wound shots or any damages, right? So he should be back to his family, immediately, without any justification.
BURNETT: And, so you believe, you believe from the video, Ricardo, I am so sorry, I didn't mean to talk over you, Ricardo. But you, do believe at this point, from every indication that you have, that Omer is still alive tonight?
GRICHENER: Exactly. There is no reason to think something else. As you can see in the video, there is no blood, nothing to share this justification, only consideration that he is damaged. So, he should be okay, unless something happened only in Gaza, which is under responsibility of Hamas. When he was taken out, and you can see in the video, it's already in the area of the Gaza strip, because you can see in the background of the movie, that you can see the Gaza area. It's not Israel.
So he was perfectly fine. The only thing was, of course, (INAUDIBLE) took off his clothes, he was hit, but he was fine in terms of physical condition, as you can see in the movie. So, we expect him to be returned back to his family.
Again, he is a civilian.
BURNETT: We are all now hoping and thank you for sharing -- thank you so much for sharing the story and the video. And I know it has got to be so horrific, and a hard choice for you in his parent's decision to make to share. But it is important, and we thank you very much, Ricardo. You are my thoughts.
GRICHENER: Yeah, Omer, we are waiting for you. You have a loving family, two brothers and sisters. We are here. Omer, go back home. We will take you home.
BURNETT: And as we wait for Omer, and the other hostages, all of whom are still missing tonight, no one knows where they are their condition in Gaza. Our breaking news coverage continues, live from Israel, with a heart stopping story of survival.
Next, I'm going to talk to a woman. She was at home, Hamas stormed her neighborhood. She survived by barricading herself in a safe room. Hear how she was able to outsmart the militants, as they bang on that door.
And, live pictures out of Gaza where loud explosions can be heard this evening, and as casualties mount there, a look at what innovation could actually look like in what is truly one of the world's most densely populated areas.
And I'm going to speak to a hostage negotiator who has gotten American hostages out of Ukraine, in other countries around the world, including Afghanistan, he is with me tonight. And the hostages he is trying to free right here in Gaza, to save lives.
BURNETT: Breaking news, a U.S. carrier strike group just arriving in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, just off of Israel's coast. It is led by the USS Gerald R. Ford. It is a nuclear powered navy aircraft carrier which you can see here, and is accompanied by guided missile destroyers, and guided missile cruisers.
Now its arrival comes as the U.S. confirms 20 Americans are missing after Hamas's brutal attack on Israel, on top of 14 already declared dead.
Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT.
And, Oren, what more have you learned about the show of force when United States? Right now, that is a show of force, as opposed to actual force. But, that's the question, what could it mean for a much deeper and more serious involvement in this conflict?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the Biden administration has made it clear that it is not getting involved in this fight right now, between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. That's not the purpose of the USS Gerald R. Ford, and the carrier strike group that's coming with it.
But it is a message to other Iranian-backed groups in the regions, specifically Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-backed groups in Syria who may try to take advantage of the situation. In fact, we've already seen some firing at the Lebanese border with Israel. This is who that message is directed at, a message of deterrence warning Iran and its proxies, not to get involved. And it's not just the carrier in the eastern mid, the U.S. is sending fighter aircraft to the region, realizing Iran might try to take advantage of the situation in other parts of the Middle East.
So, this is very much the recipient of that message. It is also worth noting, that the U.S. is a special operations team in the Jerusalem, that is scheduled to be there as part of the cooperation with Israel, before the fighting started. And they have offered help when it comes to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance on the hostage rescue efforts. So, that -- another key element of all the support we are seeing from President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and others in the administration, all directed at Israel, to give the country the full U.S. backing, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Oren, thank you very much. The situation, obviously dynamic. And as you said, we look out here, Tel Aviv behind me, the Mediterranean in front. And you know that it is not far, that aircraft carrier is there.
OUTFRONT now, Irit Lahav, who survived a harrowing siege by Hamas, in the Nir Oz kibbutz. That is a community, in southern Israel, right near the Gaza border. And she survived, by barricading herself, barricading herself in a safe room in her house, for nearly 12 hours.
And, Irit, as I said, I don't want to say I'm glad to be with you, but I'm glad that you're here. I'm glad that you're okay, you're with your family.
You're inside your home. You're celebrating. And all the sudden Hamas storms the kibbutz.
What even happened -- when did you realize that there was something horrific happening? IRIT LAHAV, SURVIVED HAMAS SIEGE: Actually, we had just, we ran into
the safe room, just a regular bombing a lot, which we are used to for years and years now. And then, a few minutes later, my neighbor texted us a message, to the neighborhood, saying he sees armed Hamas people, entering the kibbutz.
BURNETT: Individual militants?
LAHAV: And so, he said close yourself in the security room. So, in the safe room.
So, we stayed inside, me and my daughter. We stayed inside, and then minutes later, I realize that actually, they could just open the door, it is not really locked. So, this is like, such a scary moment, because we started hearing shooting, automatic weapons, grenades. Like, a second later after he text us this message, the whole kibbutz was like, guns and, fire guns and. Just automatic weapons, everywhere, everywhere, like endless, endless, endless shooting, and grenades.
So I'm trying to figure out, what to do. They are going to maybe break into our door, how can I make sure it is locked, really. And then I started texting, and calling people from the kibbutz. You know, how to lock the door? And nobody knew how to lock the door.
BURNETT: Oh my goodness.
LAHAV: It was so scary, so scary. And then, in the next -- iMessage my family.
BURNETT: Your brother?
LAHAV: My brother responded with a picture of how he locked his door. He is in a small village just five kilometers from mine, and he was there, too. So, I saw how he looked. He is with some -- and I thought.
BURNETT: So like a makeshift barricade? It wasn't even technically locking. It is finding a way.
LAHAV: No. Yes. And then I thought, I don't have any brooms, how would I do that? But, then I then remembered that I have a rolling -- a stick, and I took that, and then I took off my Dyson vacuum.
BURNETT: We are looking at some of the pictures, your Dyson vacuum --
LAHAV: Vacuum cleaner.
BURNETT: The shaft of that.
LAHAV: Yes, I took this hose, and I met my daughter -- in, and we tried tying it first. I think every second counts, because -- you are hearing them approaching.
BURENTT: So, then you're hearing them. When they come in the house, you hear them.
BURNETT: What is that like, when they -- I mean --
LAHAV: The fear of death is this. The whole, it's just. It is hard to imagine, you know that you are just going to die, if they break in. And I was just tying these things to the door.
And, they -- large men's voices, screaming Arabic, banging everything, large bangs and shouting, and just the whole -- just fear, fear, and fear.
And after they broke everything, they reach the door and I was still hoping that they would pass that, or and not go in, but they did.
BURNETT: They come to the door?
LAHAV: They came to the door. And, they started trying to open, and trying to open, and banging it and shouting, and banging it. There is nothing we could do, except, you know, we were hugging, my daughter and I under the table hiding in the dark.
BURNETT: And you are just sitting, they're trying to be silent? Thinking --
LAHAV: Yeah, trying to --
BURNETT: At this moment, are you thinking seconds until you are dead?
LAHAV: Until our death. So we started saying to each other, I love you, my daughter says mom, I love you, I really appreciate everything you did for me. And I told her how much I love her. We thought we were just going to die, and they kept paying the door, trying to open, trying to open.
And I was sure that whatever I did, the vacuum cleaner and the rolling stick -- wouldn't hold. But it did and, after eight or ten minutes of trying and screaming, and shooting everything. And, they finally moved on, breaking more things in the house, and move to the next neighbors, and shooting there, and trying probably to break their doors, and terrible, terrible.
They just moved from door to door, from homes to homes, banging each and every house, in the kibbutz. And, I heard my neighbor's daughters, the ones who live right in front of me, they have a three years old, and five years old. They were screaming, screaming why is this automatic weapon, shooting.
BURNETT: Did they survive?
LAHAV: They did. They did, but the other side neighbors, they killed the whole family, a grandmother, her son and his wife, and three little children. And, so many people died. I think a third, 30 percent, one out of three people, either died or got kidnapped.
And we are small community. We are just less than 400 people, including children. So many were kidnapped, and my best friends' daughter and son were kidnapped. And we don't know if they are alive. My friend's parents, were kidnapped, killed, I don't know.
And you know, I'm s till -- this is like, what is the limit of somebody's behavior. Even if you want your own freedom, you want your own country, where is your moral limit? Where is your moral limit?
Shooting and killing children? Kidnapping five-year-olds, babies, babies? A woman with two little babies, who were just born. Where is one's moral behavior?
Would you do everything for that? Everything for what you want? This is really, and you know. I volunteer, I was a big supporter of the Palestinians, a big supporter. I used to volunteer, taking sick Palestinian kids from the border, to the Israeli hospitals. I volunteered doing this.
I mean, this is --
BURNETT: This is what happened.
LAHAV: This is what happened. This is such a -- it is breaking my heart, and my friends are crying and crying.
And, all of these people are missing, we don't know if they would come alive, so many people are dead, they destroyed our kibbutz. They destroyed completely, burned houses. Terrible.
But luckily, they left, but then we thought, okay, they left. We are alive, but then they came again, an hour later. Again, trying to breakthrough to the door, banging, banging, this Arabic shouting it, was so scary.
I couldn't open it again, luckily. And then the third time, again they came. It's like an endless nightmare, endless nightmare. We couldn't believe that we would come out alive, we were sure that --
BURNETT: Thank God.
BURNETT: Thank God you are here.
LAHAV: We are here.
BURNETT: I think anybody watching anywhere around the world, cannot truly comprehend what you went through.
BURNETT: But, I think it is so important, and thank you so much for sharing, so that we can all understand, or try to understand a bit of the pain and agony, of what you endured. LAHAV: Thank you. Thank you.
BURNETT: Irit, thank you to you and your daughter that you are all right, and I'm so sorry for the incredible loss, of your friends.
LAHAV: I hope everyone will be released, and will be alive. I don't know if they will come back alive from this. I hope so. I hope they will. It's terrible. Thank you.
BURNETT: Thank you for sharing that.
LAHAV: Thank you.
BURNETT: We are going to take a brief break, and we'll be right back in a moment.
BURNETT: And you are looking at live pictures where Israel is conducting right now wide-scale strikes on multiple Hamas targets. The Israeli defense minister warning tonight quote, Gaza will never return to what it was.
This as the White House, that says it does not expect Israel to pursue a siege of Gaza, that is the word they use, as a response to unprecedented attacks by Hamas. Attacks that we understand now have left at least 1,000 people in Israel dead.
Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Gaza, Israel is unleashing its wrath.
The small Gaza port, banded from the air. Israel's military says, more than 2,000 targets, in this densely populated area, including apartment buildings and mosques, have been destroyed.
Recent attacks by Hamas triggering a devastating response.
And in Gaza, it is a bloody one, too.
Palestinians are digging through the rubble, the flattened buildings, as the death toll climbs.
Health officials there, say more than 900 people have so far been killed.
ZIAD MUSLEH, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): My three sons were killed, along with their wives and children. There are nearly 50 martyrs in this building.
CHANCE: Israel's military says it has retrieve the bodies of another 1,500 Palestinians, who stormed Israeli territory. And they are now hunting Hamas down.
Hamas operatives will have nowhere to hide in Gaza, vows this Israeli military spokesman. We will reach them anywhere, he insists.
And that may mean going, and even harder. Already, Israel has deployed forces, and called up hundreds of thousands of reserve troops, and apparent readiness for a land attack.
But not only is Gaza one of the world's most densely populated areas, it's also crisscrossed by hidden, possibly booby trapped, networks of tunnels, used by militants to move undetected, through the area.
Israel's widely anticipated ground assault on Gaza, if it happens, we'll also be fraught with danger.
BURNETT: So, Matthew, obviously, the U.S. is saying there is no expectations of a siege. But you have a mass amount of Israeli defense forces, paratroopers, snipers, amassing on that border, for an unprecedented ground invasion. Is there a sense from Israel that they truly can do anything they need to do?
CHANCE: We certainly get that sense. I mean, look, Israel at the moment, as you've been reporting on, as you've been hearing yourself, is full of horror and full of rage about what's happened in this country. And a lot of anxiety about what happens next.
And, of course, if you speak to the soldiers and the officials of this country, they are saying we'll do whatever it takes now the gloves are off. Of course, all sides have a responsibility to protect civilians in a conflict and the humanitarian law. And Israelis reject the idea that the killing of Palestinian civilians can in any way be comparable to the way Palestinian militants killed Israelis. But nevertheless, there's more Palestinians die, more (INAUDIBLE) from Israel is going to go out as well.
BURNETT: Yeah, certainly will as you see in protests and now, counter protests around the world.
BURENTT: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you very much.
And, OUTFRONT now, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former Army commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army where he worked closely with the Israeli army including dozens of instances of providing air defense support.
So, General Hertling, here we are tonight, obviously, attacks again, counterattacks in Gaza. You hear the thuds. You feel the thuds through your body throughout the day. You've got the rockets then coming in from Hamas. We understand right now, 14 Americans have been killed, 20 or more
unaccounted for in Israel, we understand from the Biden administration. And President Biden has confirmed that there are American hostages.
So, General, in this situation, where you've got the Israelis massing on that border, prepared for a ground invasion, can the U.S. sit back and just send aid? Or will the United States do more and get more involved?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'd suggest, Erin, what we're talking about with both the carrier strike group, the Central Command headquarters, as well as the Air Force that are in the area, that there's an awful lot of planning going on across the entire spectrum of contingencies. There's no sitting back.
I guarantee you that General Eric Carrillo of CentCom is not sitting back. They are looking at all different types of options, not only for support but how they might engage others that would interfere with the operations that are about to occur, or that might provide more forces in the area that would counter what Israel's trying to do. So, again, I just say there's no sitting back, and there's a lot of planning and contingency operations being prepared.
BURNETT: We talk about Americans missing, Americans confirmed killed. Obviously, there are incredibly close ties between the two countries, many Americans in Israel.
Germany tonight has announced it's going to evacuate the German citizens who are in Israel. They want to get them all out of the country on Thursday and Friday. They say their airline Lufthansa is going to operate special flights to accomplish this.
General, does it surprise you when you saw that? A country doing a full-scale evacuation? And do you think the United States either should or will do something similar?
HERTLING: Well, it's interesting, Erin, because I had this conversation today with a member of the administration. And, in fact, American Airline is still flying into Ben-Gurion. That's the airline that normally flies the Israel routes. There are several others that are also supporting that.
And the question about conducting noncombatant evacuation, a neo operation, which is a military operation, which Germany is considering, I would suggest there's probably other countries considering that. As long as commercial airlines are flying in and out and Ben-Gurion is not damaged, those will continue. And there's no need for a military neo to support that kind of escape of people, civilians, who are in the area.
There's over 100,000 Americans inside of Israel right now. So that would be a pretty hefty lift in terms of a neo. So they're getting out pretty well with commercial airlines.
BURNETT: Yeah. You know, obviously, the airport is -- it is packed. I've never seen anything like it in an airport before. I can say that. Hamas has warned it will kill hostages if Israel continues its attacks. So they're saying that they will do this. And, of course, that's complicating Israel's decision on how and when to conduct any kind of a ground operation or invasion.
How much time do you think there's left, general, on the ground, to locate and rescue hostages? Are we looking at days, hours, weeks? What are we looking at?
HERTLING: That's a great question, Erin. And one of the things that is involved in military planning for hostage rescue is a series of questions. Where do we think they are? What kind of force is guarding them? Could they be moved?
Are there booby traps around waiting for us to come in to try and rescue them? What is the intelligence factors that are involved in determining where they are and how we might be able to get them out? How do we protect the rescuers?
And I could list a hundred different questions that rescuers -- hostage rescuers go through before they go in and conduct an operation? And I know for a fact that U.S. special operations are coordinating well with the Israeli special operations in what might occur.
And, truthfully, I would also suggest the Israeli government and the Israeli military is assessing the situation, and right now, Erin, I tell you it's hard. If you're asking me for a date when that might occur, it's going to depend on the answer to those questions. If you ask, is there a date that may occur where ground forces go into Gaza? Again, the Israeli government and military are assessing the situation, determining how they can do that, and conduct the operations and accomplish the missions, which they're determining and giving their commanders.
But I'd finish by saying this is going to be a very tough operation for the Israeli defense force.
BURNETT: Yeah. All right, General Hertling, thank you very much.
And Bryan Stern is with me now in Tel Aviv. He runs Project Dynamo. It's a veteran led donor funded international rescue organization.
You've rescued Americans in Afghanistan. Obviously, you and I have spoken. But you've rescued Americans in Ukraine. And now, of course, you are here.
BRYAN STERN, U.S. VETERAN, RUNS PROJECT DYNAMO: And Sudan.
BURNETT: And Sudan, I mean, it's around the world. Even here, before we went to air, you were dealing with a situation in another country as well.
So, let me put this question to you that I just put to General Hertling because you're dealing with a very specific situation.
STERN: That's right.
BURNETT: Time is of the essence to get people out if you're going to get them out alive.
STERN: Absolutely. The purpose -- the reason why terrorists take hostages is for leverage and utility. But they will use that leverage and that utility at some point.
We need to remember we've had hostage situations with the Iranians that have lasted just recently, the guys that just got released, it was years.
STERN: So, time is of the essence. The sooner the better because people can outlive their usefulness and their utility.
Hamas had 100 to 150 hostages. They have to be fed, cared for. That means food and toilet paper and care and feeding and they have to be hidden and moved around.
It's not so easy to keep somebody in captivity, especially if you're a terrorist group. There's a balancing act there that has to happen.
BURNETT: In terms of time being of the essence. So, what would you say in terms of the situation you're dealing with right now? Are you -- are you dealing with people in Hamas who are able to make decisions and do things? What is -- how would you describe that process right now, even?
STERN: The process -- where we are in this situation is new, right? This is where -- we're a hundred hours into this war. Which means that everything is very fluid, very dynamic, who's in charge today may not be true who's in charge tomorrow, who the real power brokers are may not be who is saying that they're in charge, if that makes sense.
BURNETT: Yes, yeah.
STERN: So there's a lot of really self-identified leaders who are actually --
BURNETT: Not leaders.
STERN: Not decision-makers.
So the newness of this, and that's also an opportunity from a hostage negotiation perspective and a hostage rescue perspective.
BURNETT: There's sort of micro players here.
STERN: There's these moments, these windows of opportunity, and that's in the hostage world. That's what we're looking for.
We're looking for these opportunities that we can make things happen and also not get in the way of other efforts that are going on. The U.S. government is actively working.
BURNETT: Yes, of course.
STERN: The State Department and the FBI are working really, really, really hard. They're the best at this sort of thing.
Our special operations forces -- you know, we have whole units of people that wake up every day, this is what they train for. So, we're really good at this stuff. The catch is that this war is a little different than other wars that we've had to deal with. This is a different flavor because it's Israel.
BURNETT: All right. Bryan, thank you very much.
STERN: My pleasure.
BURNETT: I know we'll stay in touch here because I know you've got situations you're working against the clock. Thank you.
And OUTFRONT next, Russia notably not among the many nations condemning the deadly attack by Hamas. Instead, on state television, they're mocking the United States and Israel.
BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT live from Israel. We've got breaking news. We are now learning that the death toll from the Hamas attacks on Israel has gone up significantly. That number is now at least 1,200 people, according to an Israeli public broadcaster. We've been saying about a thousand. So that number going up by at least 200 here.
And it comes as questions grow about who is behind the attack. And today Vladimir Putin had a very tepid response to Hamas' attack, which killed at least two Russian citizens.
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): After hundreds of Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas near Gaza, condemnation and condolences poured in from around the world, but not from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, now in his first comments, instead of empathy, Putin blasting the U.S.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is a clear example of the failure of the United States policy in the Middle East, which tried to monopolize any settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.
PLEITGEN: Kremlin-controlled TV followed suit, mocking both America and Israel for allegedly being caught off guard by Hamas' attack. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Mossad and its famous
counterintelligence as well as the U.S. and its CIA slept through Hamas' invasion. It's the biggest Israeli failure in security since 1973.
PLEITGEN: Russia has long been allied with Israel's staunchest adversaries and Hamas's most important backers, bombing Syrian rebels in support of pro-Iranian fighters battling on the side of Syrian President Bashar al Assad during Syria's civil war.
But Russia also maintained strong ties and security arrangements with Israel. Putin meeting Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on many occasions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We in no way underestimate importance of measures that would ensure very strong security of the state of Israel.
PLEITGEN: But since Putin launched his full-scale war against Ukraine, Tehran has become a key ally for Moscow at Israel's expense, fostering economic and military ties with Iran, while Tehran provides the Russian army with scores of Shahed drones the Russians used to hit Ukrainian cites and infrastructure, Kyiv says, even though Tehran denies it.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claiming Moscow's allegiance in the Middle East has shifted towards Tehran.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We see how Russian propagandists are gloating. We witness how Moscow's Iranian allies openly lend support to those who attacked Israel.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, the Kremlin has denied Volodymyr Zelenskyy's allegations that the Russians are trying to inflame the situations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, who, of course, fled Russia about two weeks after the full-on invasion of Ukraine, he today said that the lack of show op support of Russia for Israel is an ominous sign of deteriorating relations between those countries -- Erin.
BURNETT: Fred, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and Israel's former Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon.
I really appreciate your time, Ambassador.
So, Fred is reporting Russian citizens are killed in the attack. Putin silent, really for days. Many Russians live in Israel. There are very close ties between those two countries as well. And yet Putin showing virtually no sympathy at all for Israel, nothing at this point.
Why do you think that is? DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It is unacceptable. We
have witnessed a whole attack against the Israelis -- 1,200 people were killed, butchered in daylight. So we expect more than a leader.
We saw President Biden's speech, and we appreciated the speech. It was very emotional. It was a remarkable speech, I have to tell you, because we are still digesting those attacks. It was very hard for us. The pain is still in our stomach, and we're grateful for the support coming from the U.S., from Europe, from almost all over the world. I cannot explain Putin's behavior.
BURNETT: So, Fred Pleitgen pointed out, Russia has long been allied with Iran, and, of course, we've seen that intensify, if I could use that word, with the Ukraine war as well. Iran is the key backer of Hamas.
Do you think that if Iran had any advanced knowledge, that Russia would have had advanced knowledge? I mean, do you see any ties here that you're starting to tie together?
DANON: Well, Iran is very involved in what's happening here. They're founding Hamas and Hezbollah for years. They're training Hamas operatives. We know that Hamas experts went to Tehran to get training about explosives and other things. We know Iran is involved.
And maybe, I don't know for sure, but maybe we saw in the last few weeks, the relationship between Arabia and Saudi Arabia, it wasn't good for Iran. So, that maybe that is for the timing because it was unprovoked attack against Israel. Nobody can find logic for the timing of this vicious attack.
BURNETT: So how involved to you think Iran was? I mean, the White House has been careful. They sort of said there is ambiguous ties, that Iran is broadly complicit, but that there's no intelligence directly linking Iran to this actual attack. Do you buy that?
DANON: No. When you find Hamas and you give them hundreds of millions of dollars every year, you control Hamas. So basically, both Hamas and Hezbollah are proxies of Tehran. They control them.
And that is why we're sending a very clear message today to Hezbollah and to Tehran. Watch very carefully what will happen in Gaza. Don't mess with us. We're not playing anymore.
We're going hand down Hamas. And if anyone will try to play with us, either from north or somewhere else, it will be under our guns as well.
BURNETT: So as you're massing IDF forces, paratroopers, snipers along that Gaza border, is there anything that will be off limits when, if I assume at this point when Israel goes in?
DANON: We will do whatever is necessary to eliminate Hamas. We're going come from the sea. We're going come from the land. We're going to come from the air. We're going hunt them down.
They butchered 1,200 Israelis, and they went to the communities. They didn't attack soldiers. They attacked women.
Today, we actually saw the pictures of innocent babies that were tied up and burned alive. Those are animals. We have to fight them. We have to hand them down, and we are committed to do it.
You know, we're still in pain, in shock, and I think in a few days, we will start to show the might of the IDF, the strength of the Israeli people. We put politics aside now. We are united, and we're going go into war against Hamas.
BURNETT: Ambassador Danon, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
DANON: Thank you very much. Thank you for coming here now.
BURNETT: Yes. Well, we are -- it's important, and we are glad to be here with you. Thank you so much.
DANON: Thank you.
BURNETT: And thanks very much to all of you for joining us for our live coverage here from Israel.
"AC360" with Anderson also in Israel tonight starts now.