Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Israel Mobilizing Troops, Intensifying Strikes After Hamas Attack; CNN Team Sees Hamas Rockets Break Through Iron Dome; White House: At Least 22 Americans Killed in Israel, 17 Missing. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 11, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Israel. Breaking news, a major show of force from Israel tonight signaling a ground invasion could come any time. Three hundred thousand troops are now standing by. I will also show you what our own crew encountered in the city of Ashkelon live on the air.

Plus, an American killed by Hamas. I'll speak to the father of a 25- year-old woman from California killed at the music festival, along with her boyfriend, losing her life while trying to escape the brutal attack.

And a story that we have been following here on this program. You now know Yoni, his wife and two young daughters taken hostage, their kidnapping posted on the Internet. I'm going to speak to the brave man who's looking for any sign of life, any sign of hope for his family.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And, good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I am Erin Burnett tonight live in Tel Aviv.

And this hour, the breaking news and the massive show of force along the Israeli border with Gaza. There are heightened fears across Israel tonight that its war with Hamas is on the verge of possibly taking another dramatic and bloody turn. Israel says 300,000 troops right now are amassing on that Gaza border, ready for a potential land invasion in the coming hours.

And we saw some of them today. We were there along a ridge. We were just about three miles from the Gaza border. We could see all of those forces amassing, tanks.

And while we were there, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards the area, which is near the city of Ashkelon, a city of roughly 100,000 people. And roughly 60 rockets were fired by Hamas. At least six were able to break through that Iron Dome all or, in part, as we understand it.

And I want to show you some of what we witnessed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: You can see those Iron Dome interceptions right above us interceptions right above us.

There is a real sense literally of a dome. Because when the strikes come in, you literally look straight above, and you can see those interceptions right above us.


BURNETT: The Hamas rockets that we saw coming, of course, as we heard the sounds of explosion in Gaza. Now, those were coming from the Israeli fire, which we could hear those deep thuds, and that acrid smell of smoke from those attacks literally blocking out the sun at some point was completely unavoidable anywhere in that area.

This is a country on the cusp of what could be a much bigger war ahead. In the meantime, in the United States, there is growing pressure for the Biden administration to do more to support Israel and retaliate for what officials now say is at least 22 Americans killed during the savage onslaught by Hamas. Seventeen at this hour, 17 Americans are also still unaccounted for.

And officials believe that some of those are among the hostages that are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. The number of Israelis killed during the attack has now risen to a hard to imagine 1,200 lives. We have a team of reporters standing by across Israel.

And I want to start with Nic Robertson live in Sderot tonight.

And, Nic, you have started to hear the sirens, streaks across the sky during these night hours, the thunderous sounds of explosions.

How high is the tension where you are at this hour?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I would say it's high. We heard some distant explosions just a couple of minutes ago further south in the Gaza strip. But this evening we've had a couple of things that we haven't seen here before, which give you an indication of how high the tensions are getting.

We saw tank fire down between us. The border with Gaza is about two miles away. We saw tank fire down in that area. We haven't seen that before. We've know there are tanks deployed there. We've heard them moving around there.

And there was an exchange, a heavy exchange of heavy machine gun fire about a mile and a half from here for about 15 or 20 minutes this evening, really blasting away over the hill in that direction over there.


We later discovered that was a Hamas cell that was discovered. Three Hamas operatives neutralized by the military when they found them, came onto them, and clearly, there was quite a long exchange of gunfire, flares were put up in the sky. But, again, we've had that heavy barrage of artillery fire going into Gaza, the huge flashes behind us, the huge booms coming off of that.

Perhaps, notably this evening, in this area at least, not really many missile strikes from fighter jets. That's been -- that side of things has been a little quieter. But I know in fields just a few miles from here, there are huge arrays of heavy artillery battery guns.

I've seen them in the same fields a couple of years ago when there were airstrikes and artillery strikes on Gaza. So, this is -- the Israeli defense force is really dipping into their previous playbook to know exactly where to go, exactly where to position their hardware to get the maximum effect on Hamas. So this is a military position that's just moving forward and forward and forward right now, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Nic, thank you very much.

You know, Nic talking about the heavy military buildup in those fields around the Gaza border. And it's extremely visible. Important to emphasize there is no trying to hide it. There is no trying to put those tanks or armor personnel carriers in trees or anything like that. They are out there in the open, and they are ready.

And I want to show you more about what our crew encountered near that Gaza border today just about three miles away from the actual Gaza border. That's what we could see, some of that buildup, heavy bulldozers there as well. We saw troops, military equipment building up. A bus came up and an entire bus load of soldiers got off that bus and went and joined that group.

This is what else we saw and experienced on the ground there, much of this happening actually as we were broadcasting live right here on CNN.


BURNETT: What we see here are armored tanks. We see armored personnel carriers. And we counted just along this one ridge about 15 bulldozers, heavy bulldozers, obviously, military bulldozers. And, obviously, that's significant in the context of where we are, three miles from the Gaza border. An ominous sign of what a ground invasion would look like and what it would really entail when you talk about 2 million people so densely packed on the other side of that border.

And, as we were here, an airstrike that we heard, one where we literally ducked for cover as we heard it. As we're standing here pausing within a few seconds, up to 20 people in Gaza were killed in that airstrike.

Just -- okay. All right. Are you coming to us? I'm not going to be on camera, okay? Come to us. You can come to us. Tell me when I go.

Oh, my gosh.

Yes. Are we live?

All right. We're going to let you all listen. We are right here. I'm next to the camera. Albert is filming. You can see some streaks in the sky. We have just seen the Iron Dome

here right about three miles from the Gaza border. A lot of -- there's one right over there coming in. You're going to hear it right up there.

Let's see if we can watch that one. And you can see those Iron Dome interceptions right above us.


BURNETT: I'm letting you all listen. You know, you've seen from the incredible reporting of Nic and Clarissa when they've been experiencing this as well. But when they call it an iron dome, and I'm sort of looking around at our team right now, I think we understand what that feels like. You're sitting under it, and they're coming in and there is obviously the adrenaline and the reality of where you are, but to actually watch it, as I said in that dome intercepting is a pretty incredible thing to witness firsthand.


We're going to be leaving -- that is a checkpoint, and I'll just say right now they're asking us, any journalists here to leave. So, Poppy, I'm going to send it back to you. We're going to do exactly as they say and move away from this area where obviously we've seen so much incoming and outcoming fire this past hour.

Earlier when we saw just the barrage of rocket strikes above us where the forces were amassed, Israeli forces along the Gaza border, those rockets obviously were all aimed here in greater Ashkelon where we are right now. And you talk about the cadence that you get the sirens and a few seconds later you hear the noises and you see the interceptions.

Well, out of about 60 rockets, we understand, a few of them managed to break through or were only partially intercepted. So, we're standing where one of this happened. So, this is the outcome right when they do break through, a rocket comes into this apartment building, goes through.

There's still a live fire going on here. When we came here, there were still emergency crews for this apartment building where we are.

And, look, you see these things here, you see these things in Ukraine. But it does make you realize, right, that this is the precariousness of human life, and this is the randomness of these rocket strikes.

We're here now in the apartment building that was struck by a rocket earlier. You can see the water coming down from the firemen. We're here because we all ran in here along with many others, one of the air raid siren alerts usually followed immediately by strikes that obviously here in the middle of Ashkelon sound incredibly close.

That happened, the government now says everyone should be keeping shelter for another ten minutes. So we're going to do that right in here.


BURNETT: And, you know, that's what it's like, that they come in and then there are those barrages. You hear the thuds. And some of those thuds, obviously incredibly close. We understand one of them was actually had impacted a hospital where we had been thinking about going just a few minutes after that.

So, this is what it's like. This is what Israelis here are living under and, frankly, yes, they are used to living under it. But there is a whole new, as Nic said, cadence. There is a new tempo. There is a new speed. There is the feeling that they are in the precipice of something much bigger.

And OUTFRONT with me now here in Tel Aviv is Matthew Chance, our chief global affairs correspondent. He has been working with his sources throughout his conflict and has some fresh reporting tonight.

And also with me, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who's the former commanding general for the U.S. Army in Europe.

Both of you with me. And I appreciate your time.

So let me start with you, Matthew, and your reporting. U.S. officials are saying in terms of what started this attack and possibly what could determine how much bigger this conflict gets. U.S. officials are saying that there is no proof or suggestion of direct Iranian involvement. What are you learning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, in general terms, Israeli officials I've spoken to agree with that assessment in the sense that they're saying, look, the backdrop of this is that Iran provides material support, training, political support for Hamas. But there is a difference, there's a gap between what we just said then and what Israeli intelligence is suggesting.

They are saying to me, the senior Israeli official telling me earlier that Iran greenlighted the idea of this operation, didn't know about the timing perhaps, didn't quite understand perhaps as many of us didn't, the consequences of what this operation would be, but knew this operation was in the offing, and it was being planned. And that's very different to having no involvement whatsoever. It's not that Iran was pulling the strings --

BURNETT: Yes, very different.

CHANCE: -- but it's somewhere in the middle.

BURNETT: So, General Hodges, a senior Hamas official is now claiming that they spent two years -- two years, I mean, that's amazing to think about that as Matthew and I are standing here -- two years preparing for this unprecedented Israel and that it have financial as well as weapons support from Iran, also saying that Russia reached out after the attack.

General Hodges, when you put all this together, how significant is this? The involvement they are saying they had from both Russia and Iran. But also the length of time that they are saying they planned this that Israel did not see it coming.

LT. GEN. BEN HODGES, FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL OF U.S. ARMY EUROPE: So, Erin, I think this is Russia opening up a second front. I mean, what's going on now is distracting so much attention and even resources away from Ukraine, which, of course, benefits Russia. Nobody even has mentioned Ukraine hardly in the last 96 hours. I think it's probably accurate when the administration says there was no direct involvement, but the way you and Matt have laid it out, it's green lighting the weapons, I mean, I watched the training video of these guys, what, they were doing to prepare for this attack.

This is not something you do in your garage or your basement. I mean, this is really high-quality effort on the side of Hamas.


BURNETT: And, Matthew, you know, we're talking -- I was talking to someone today. There are these stories about IDF fighters taking on eight to ten of these fighters and fighting for hours and hours in hand-to-hand combat, that this was also going on for quite some time, that these were not just highly motivated but highly prepared and highly armed individuals.

CHANCE: Yeah. And this has been an incredible shock, Erin, of course, to the people of Israel, they're enraged by it. And, of course, it's been surprising as well. And I think it's probably surprising for Hamas as well.

From what I've been hearing, they thought they were going to be so successful, if I can use those terms. Perhaps they wanted to get some Israeli hostages, perhaps they wanted to use that to negotiate better terms in Gaza, but where they've gone to has led to the brink of utter catastrophe for them and for Gaza.

BURNETT: And, General Hodges, when you think about what we actually saw on the border today right along that border three miles away, very blatant massing of Israeli forces. They are busing them in.

We saw all of that on the ridge. We heard heavy outgoing fire. We heard the fighter jets and the explosions and we saw them in Gaza.

And then at one point 60 rockets came in. It was a barrage, it was an onslaught. That's the tempo that we experienced throughout the afternoon today. General Hodges, what does this say to you about what is next? Do you sustain this sort of back and forth if something isn't about to imminently occur?

HODGES: Well, you know, I'm putting myself in the shoes of the commander of, say, a battalion commander. And I want to know, what is my mission? Soldiers cannot stay in a crouch or coiled like this indefinitely. So, what you have shown very clearly is that they are in this crouch getting ready for something.

But are they going in there to do a punitive strike, go in for a few days, kill as many Hamas as they can? Or is this going to end up in an occupation that maybe lasts for several months? That's a different sort of thing.

That's what I would want to know if I was the commander. What's the end state we're going -- we're being sent in to achieve.

No matter which, either of these two possibilities, it's going to be very, very difficult. You've pointed out the bulldozers. The Israelis are probably as good as anybody in the world at using bulldozers and other capabilities inside a densely packed -- a densely populated area like this. They know how to do this. But even with that, it's still going to be very costly.

BURNETT: And, Matthew, as you have spent so much time in Ukraine, and we were there as the war began, there are more than double the number of troops that Putin had at one point on that border at the beginning along this border with Gaza. A very small -- everything here is in a very small space. Just to give everyone a sense of the massive force that is prepared.

CHANCE: They are going to need overwhelming force because Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, it's got thin narrow streets, terrible fighting conditions. It's crisscrossed by a network of tunnels that are controlled by -- and the other thing is 150 hostages inside Gaza. That's got to complicate any kind of military operation.

BURNETT: Absolutely. All right. Well, General Hodges, thank you very much. And, Matthew, thank you very much.

And our breaking news coverage continues after this. We're going to take you to Israel's border with Gaza. 300 Israeli -- 300,000 Israeli reservists are now standing by right now in a ground invasion, possibly very imminent. This is some of what I'm talking about, what Nic is talking about, what we all saw today.

The spokesperson for Israel's Defense Forces is next.

Plus, we are learning new heartbreaking details tonight about an American killed by Hamas. She was at that music festival with her boyfriend when they were attacked. And her father just hours after the most horrible news a parent could ever comprehend joins me OUTFRONT.

And I'll speak to an American pediatrician. She is trapped in Gaza tonight with no way out, fearing the very worst as rockets and attacks from Israel already on Gaza are hitting dangerously close.



BURNETT: We are back with our breaking news live in Tel Aviv tonight. Israel has now called up 300,000 reservists to fight this war. Tanks and other heavy vehicles are now at the ready. And strikes have been continuing regularly throughout the day. We saw them from fighter jet. We saw even artillery.

The question tonight is whether there will be a ground invasion, and, if so, when will it begin.

Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT tonight from Ashdod.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At a military base in southern Israel, columns of Israeli Merkava 4 tanks at the ready, awaiting orders for an invasion of Gaza that everyone expects, but no one has yet commanded. This is a country on a war footing.

The Israeli military has called up more than 300,000 reservists. It is one of the largest mobilization efforts in this country's history. And this right here behind me is that mobilization effort in action. You are witnessing thousands of reservists, Israelis from all across the country coming to this military base in southern Israel to begin to prepare for the next phase of this military campaign.

But it's not just the scale that makes this mobilization different.

ALON KAMIL, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES RESERVIST: I've been in the older campaigns in the last 30 years. Never something like this.

DIAMOND: For the soldiers converging on this base, the shocking brutality of Hamas' surprise terrorist attacks is still reverberating.

KAMIL: Every person here has lost someone. Every person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monday morning, I came here, you know, to enlist to the army and to fight those bastards.

DIAMOND: It's a very emotional moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A very emotional moment. Yes.

When we see children die and (INAUDIBLE), it's -- it's like an animal. It's not --


DIAMOND: Driving down roads east of the Gaza Strip, preparations for the next phase of Israel's military campaign are everywhere. Trucks loaded with ammunition. Armored vehicles, thousands of Israeli soldiers mobilizing, and just seven miles from the Gaza border, this formation of armored personnel carriers.

We are about a dozen kilometers from the Gaza border, about six or seven miles. And what we are seeing here are the preparations for what many people in Israel believe is going to happen next. And that is the possibility of a ground invasion.

You can see here armored personnel carriers, perhaps nearly two dozen of those, as well as trucks, and you see soldiers, all here preparing for the next phase of this war.

But amid the preparations for tomorrow's battle, today's is still very much alive. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (on camera): And, Erin, just with that number 300,000 reservists into context for you, that is roughly 4 percent of the Israeli population. But when you compare that to the United States, which has a population that is 34 times larger, those 300,000 reservists, that is about the size of the United States total military reserve force. It just shows you the scale of this potential operation that can unfold.

But as of yet, of course, as we know, Erin, while those preparations are clearly on the ground, armor, equipments all in key staging locations along the Gaza Strip, the Israeli prime minister has yet to give the order to go forward -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeremy, thank you very much, from Ashdod, just south of where we are tonight.

Joining me now, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. He is the international spokesman for the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces.

And I appreciate your time again tonight, sir.

So, the columns of tanks ready, troops gathering, the heavy bulldozers, we saw all of that ourself today just about three miles from that Gaza border. Is a ground invasion imminent?

LT. COLONEL JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Well, as -- I mean, you are on the ground. You have seen the preparations and you have seen a lot of what can be seen with the naked eye in the area. And I don't think that I should be advertising too much in terms of schedule, and intentions.

I think it is enough to show the pictures and pair that with what we have said that the end result that we are aspiring is, which is the dismantling of Hamas's military capability. That is what we have been ordered by the Israeli government to achieve. And that is what we are preparing to implement.

BURNETT: So, Colonel, perhaps I should ask it this way. Is there still hope? Do you still hope that you can avoid a ground war in Gaza, to achieve your goal?

CONRICUS: I hope for a day when Israeli communities around the Gaza strip can live peacefully lives without rockets, the threat of terrorists invading their communities and people in Tel Aviv and central Israel won't even be bothered by thinking about rockets landing down on them from Gaza. That is what, really, I hope will happen.

In order to achieve that state, then it is clear and understandable that what needs to be done is that all of Hamas's military capabilities need to be taken off the map. How that will happen, by what means, and what tactics, that is a few days in the future, maybe more than that. And at this stage, we are preparing, mobilizing troops, preparing them, equipping them and getting them ready for the next stage of operations.

BURNETT: Obviously, the situation with the hostages. We understand about 150 of them, complicates this for you, incredibly, Colonel. Do you believe at this point, or do you know at this point, where those hostages are? Do you know if they are being held together or being held in a lot of different places?

CONRICUS: It is an extremely sensitive and complex topic. I mean, no country, I think, has ever dealt with a situation like this. We definitely haven't, even though we have a long track record of fighting terrorism. And, unfortunately, some experience with hostage situations. But never like this, not in the scope, not in the magnitude, and not in the complexity of where our hostages are.

Reason dictates that they are underground. Reason also dictates that Hamas, since they planned to launch this attack, and they planned to take these people hostage, reason dictates that they planned in advance locations to hide these hostages and keep them safe from Israeli intelligence and efforts to get them out.


So, one could guess that they are underground, scattered in various locations, in locations that, perhaps before, have not been used by Hamas. And I am sure that Hamas sees this as a strategic asset for them to try to use. Of course, that is a terrible, terrible way of thinking. It is, I think, at the bottom of inhumane activity.

I know that you've said it, that you've spoken about holding women, children, disabled people, and even a Holocaust survivor, maybe more than, hostage is deprived, at totally different levels.

BURNETT: Colonel Conricus, thank you very much. I appreciate your time again tonight.

CONRICUS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And our breaking news coverage continues after this. President Biden tonight with a message for the families of Americans that are right now being held hostage in Gaza.

Plus, it is a story we have been following. We are going to talk to a father whose wife, his two young daughters, his mother-in-law, were all taken hostage, huddled in the back of the truck. Has he heard anything about their safety?


BURNETT: Breaking news -- you are looking at live pictures right now out of Gaza, a new round of explosions rocking the area, as Israel continues to strike Hamas targets inside Gaza, as President Biden tonight vows that the United States is doing everything it can to bring home Americans who are being held hostage by Hamas.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to make it real clear. We are working on every aspect of the hostage crisis in Israel. There is a lot we are doing, a lot we are doing. I have not given up hope of bringing these folks home.


BURNETT: The White House also warning that the rising number of Americans killed in the Hamas terror attacks in Israel as likely to keep going higher. A top advisor John Kirby saying that, Americans, his words, need to steel themselves, that the death toll will rise from 22. The White House says right now that 17 Americans are unaccounted for.

And this comes as we are learning new and heartbreaking details about the Americans we already know have lost their lives.

Erica Hill is OUTFRONT.


ILAN TROEN, DAUGHTER AND SON-IN-LAW KILLED BY HAMAS: Deborah was a child of light and life. She went the equivalent of the Berkeley School and Music in Boston. She went to the Ramon (ph) School in Tel Aviv, when she met Shlomi, her husband. She is a singer, a child of life in the kibbutz which she chose to live.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli American Deborah Mathias and her husband died, protecting their 16-year-old son, Rotem.

TROEN: We were on the phone with Deborah as she was killed. We were on the phone the entire day with our son, our grandson, Rotem, as he lay first under her body, and then found a place to escape under a blanket in the laundry.

HILL: Hayim Katsman, a musician, deejay, and community volunteer is being remembered as a brilliant academic by his sibling. The Association for Israeli Studies also noting the emerging scholar who earned his PhD at the University of Washington was deeply committed to community service and engagement. He was killed while hiding in a closet with his neighbor.

AVITAL ALAJEM, FRIEND, HAYIM KATSMAN, KILLED BY HAMAS: He absorbed all the bullets into his body and when I went out, I saw him. He was a wonderful person, was a talented person, he was a funny person, and he was someone who wanted to live.

His name is Hayim. Hayim in Hebrew is life. That's the meaning of his name, and he gave life to this planet, as he saved me and I was able to save two kids.

HILL: IDF Sergeant Roey Weiser's mother says her son always had a smile on his face. When his base was overrun by Hamas terrorists, she tells CNN, Roey diverted their attention. The 21-year-old, quote, died as he lived -- by putting others first because of his bravery, at least 12 other soldiers are alive today.

New Jersey born Itay Glisko, also in the IDF, was covering a friend's shift when the attack came. His aunt said, he was always offering to help and wanted to serve in the army, like his father. The family is devastated. Itay Glisko was just 20 years old.

Danielle Ben Senior was working at the Nova Music Festival. Born in California, she worked as a medic and also served in the IDF. Danielle last spoke with her father Friday night.

JACOB BEN SENIOR, DAUGHTER KILLED BY HAMAS: My heart, it's on the floor. She is everything for me. Without her, there is no value for life.

HILL: On Wednesday, Jacob's worst fears were confirmed when he was told his 34 year old daughter had been murdered.

Erica Hill, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: And to that tragedy, another American who lost her life in the attacks. We now know to be Danielle Waldman. She's a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, originally from Palo Alto, California. She was 24 years old.

She was at the music festival with her boyfriend who was also killed. And her father had initially believed she was missing. He was actually hoping that she was a hostage that, there was a chance that she would come home.

And today, I sat down with him just a few hours after he got the devastating news that his daughter was dead.


BURNETT: It's only been a few hours. Tell me about her, about your girl.

EYAL WALDMAN, DAUGHTER KILLED BY HAMAS AT MUSIC FESTIVAL: She's my youngest daughter. She was born in Palo Alto, California. She's an amazing person. And each and every one that met her had loved her.

She's done nothing wrong and nothing bad to anyone. Her boyfriend Noam (ph) was an amazing man. They've been together for over six years. They loved -- they went to a party to celebrate peace and love with many friends.

And then the Saturday morning came, those unbelievable inhuman people. And they killed 1,200 citizens of Israel that have done nothing wrong.


I went down to see the location of where she was murdered. I have found the car. BURNETT: And this was -- this was because she called you, an

emergency. You knew where her phone was, you knew where the car was.

WALDMAN: My son and daughter have tracked down and located multiple -- about five locations that we have identified the whereabouts of their phones and Apple watch. I have located this place, went there, and have seen exactly how she was murdered from two directions by at least three to five people.

BURNETT: Surrounded the car.

WALDMAN: I think the first was from behind. From the shells that we have found, there were at least three guns that were shooting at the car. And then we saw from the front, we saw the motorcycle in the front and a truck in the back with the bodies of the terrorists.

BURNETT: Eyal, talking to people who are missing family members, and they are so terrified about their family members who were hostages. But I know for you it was the hope, even after seeing that car, there was hope that maybe Danielle was one of them, that maybe being in Gaza, it was better than what has happened.


BURNETT: And you held out that hope.

WALDMAN: Yes. Not only that, I've held out that hope in me and in my family, and my two other kids and my ex-wife, Danielle's mother Ella. I hoped and thought that they may have been taking hostages to Gaza and we will see them again. I think of the people that are going through this period without knowing where their beloved ones are, and my heart are with them.

But we need to understand that Israel will defend itself. We need to take Gaza and its citizens and show them that this thing will never happen again. This is a defense action in order to protect our borders, to protect our people.

BURNETT: Eyal, I admit it's hard for me to be here with you knowing that you just found this out a few hours ago, that you were hoping -- but you mentioned that she and Noam were together for six years. They had a dog, her love of animals.


BURNETT: I just -- pardon my asking because it feels wrong almost. But what were your hopes for her?

WALDMAN: She told me in our last meeting that -- we went to a psychology treatment together and she told me in the last meeting that she and Noam have decided that they will get married. Unfortunately, we may need to bury them together. Not may, we will bury them together tomorrow because of the actions that we have seen on Saturday morning.

They have just moved to a new apartment where they have refurnished it and decorated it about a month and a half ago. It's an apartment they have wanted to share for many years. They've only been there for a few weeks, and now, we will need to see what to do with all of their belongings and all of their future thoughts with us.

BURNETT: And you do -- does it even now give you any sense of -- peace, of course, the wrong word --

WALDMAN: No, it's not the wrong word.

BURNETT: Closure to know what happened, to have her, to be able to bury her?

WALDMAN: First, it does give us some peace of mind. But I want to talk about peace. I was one of the first persons that have employed Palestinian employees. We have treated our Palestinian employees the same as the Israeli employees, hoping for peace.

Even today, our hand is reaching out for peace. We want to learn to live together, not to continue killing each other. What they have done on Saturday morning, they came in and they have killed kids.

I have seen many things in the past two and a half days. I have seen heroic actions of people I have met that have fought for more than nine hours against eight to ten terrorists, single-handedly. The citizens of Israel will defend themselves.

After that, I think we need to solve a few things inside Israel, but Israel will stay strong and will be strong for the long term.

BURNETT: Eyal, may Danielle's memory be a blessing to you and your family.


WALDMAN: May Danielle and Noem rest in peace. And I hope they're in a good place, that we don't know yet, but I'm sure their lives will continue to be celebrated by our families and the people that knew them.

BURNETT: Thank you, Eyal.

WALDMAN: Thank you very much.


BURNETT: And as I said, Eyal had just gotten the news just a few hours before that his hopes that he was hoping that his daughter was not a hostage, and that she is dead. His family is sitting Shiva as we spoke there.

Incredibly powerful just to think of the ability of the father to even have that conversation and want to send that message at an unspeakable time in his life.

And, next, I'm going to speak to an FBI hostage negotiator, someone who knows about what could possibly happen here to try to free some of those 150 hostages who are being held. He spent 14 years rescuing captives. What he says should be done to get those hostages back home safely.

Plus, I'm going to speak to an American doctor who is trapped in Gaza right now. She'll tell you what it's like to be under constant attack.


BURNETT: And the breaking news, we are live in Israel where moments ago there were some new air strikes that we can show you right now over Gaza in the darkness. It comes as an Israeli defense official told us moments ago that the 150 or so hostages abducted from Hamas have likely been hidden underground in Gaza, scattered in various locations, which he specifies they believe that Hamas has not been known to use before.

This comes as countless families in Israel desperate for information about their loved ones. This includes Yoni Asher, whose wife, two young daughters, and mother-in-law were all taken hostage.

We first spoke to Yoni over the weekend, after he recognized his family in this viral video, where the militants appear to put a bag over his daughter's head. His daughters are ages five and three. They are missing tonight. And in this video, they're huddled in the back of a truck.

Yoni is back with us now.

And, Yoni, it's been five days now. Have you heard anything about your wife and children and where they are?


BURNETT: I know that, since we last spoke, you have had a chance to speak with Israeli authorities. I know your wife is a dual German citizen. And the German embassy as well, you had a chance to speak with them.

Have -- what are they telling you? Have either the German authorities or the Israeli authorities told you anything at this point about what they know?


ASHER: Well, I don't know yet. They told me that they're trying to look for information. But at this moment, I don't have any new information unfortunately.

BURNETT: Yoni, I know your wife called you from the safe room in your mother-in-law's house. And you were actually speaking to her when the terrorists first broke in to the house. I can only imagine that call has to be engrained in your mind, every single second of it you can remember as you're sitting there waiting and waiting.

Can you tell us more about what she said to you?

ASHER: Well, she was whispering. She didn't say a lot. She was whispering and told me that they entered the house and they make a mess. And we got disconnected.

So, it wasn't a lot -- it wasn't a long call. Since then, I didn't hear from her and I don't know what happened and I don't know what's going on with them, what is their condition.

BURNETT: Yoni, how are you filling the space right now in your life, with this waiting and the fear, the hope, the desperation that you must feel? How are you filling the space in your life?

ASHER: My two daughters, my two baby girls, I don't know if you are showing their pictures, their photos right now or not, but -- and my wife -- probably got kidnapped. I don't know where they are.

It is devastating to me. You are talking to a man, who lost his entire family right now and don't know where they are. And, you know, I live in a nightmare for the last days.

And I'm exhausted. I didn't eat, didn't sleep. You know, the word is not coming out of my mouth anymore. It's hard for me to speak. There is no words that I can describe, this horrific feeling.

BURNETT: Yoni, your little girls -- I know you told us they love to sing, they love to dance, have lots of friends. So, you know, if you could speak to them right now, is there -- are there any words for what you would say?

ASHER: Just want to tell them to -- I just want them to know that I love them and I miss them and if they are hearing me, I am asking them to take care of one another, to stay with hope, to try to survive this. And I just want to tell them that I love them.

And it's hard because I don't know anything right now. I want to be hopeful, and I don't know if I see them anymore. But if there is any chance that they will hear me somehow, I hope that they know that I love them and I miss them and I want them to be strong and keep going and don't be afraid. I can only hope that they will hear me.

BURNETT: Yoni, thank you very much, as we all hear you and your love for them. Thank you for being with us.

ASHER: Thanks.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now is Karl Schmae, the former FBI supervisory special agent with 14 years of experience in hostage negotiations.

Karl, of course, this is Hamas, a terrorist organization, designated by the U.S. and E.U., said to be holding as many as 150 people hostage. When you hear a story like Yoni's, his wife, both of his daughters, ages five and three, such young children -- how does that, the ages of those children, how does that impact this situation?

KARL SCHMAE, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Erin, this is just a terribly difficult situation. It's heartbreaking to watch that and the images that we've seen. As much as Hamas and Israel hate each other, what I think we need to remember, they have negotiated in the past. In 2006, there is an Israeli soldier that was kidnapped. He was held for five years by Hamas, and ultimately Israel released over 1,000 soldiers. Israel has gone to great lengths to get its people back.


BURNETT: So, an Israeli defense official just a few moments ago told me a few things, Karl, that I wanted to share with you. He said they believe the hostages are likely being held in scattered locations that are underground tunnels, and those locations are specifically places that Hamas has not been known to use before. How much more difficult does that make any rescue effort, if they're in tunnels, scattered?

SCHMAE: That makes it incredibly difficult. Obviously, Hamas has put a lot of thought and planning into this. A hostage rescue is always the most difficult counterterrorism mission. And the fact that they're underground in unknown places, they're going to limit any sort of electronic communications. That's going to be really, really difficult. And clearly, Hamas is going to use them as human shields as well. So, the possibility of rescue, I think, is going to be extremely difficult.

BURNETT: Of course, very somber in words, as you think about the possible ground invasion that Israel may be about to stage. Thank you very much, Karl.

And a top Israeli official vowing to deliver, quote, blood, fire, and hell to Hamas. CNN is learning that talks are underway to allow Americans stuck in Gaza to exit safely into Egypt.

And I spoke to one American, Dr. Barbara Zind, a pediatrician. She was already in Gaza. She was there to treat children when Hamas attacked Israel. I started by asking her how stressful, how tense the situation is in Gaza tonight.


DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN PEDIATRICIAN TRAPPED IN GAZA CITY: Well, it's concerning, especially since we know that Israel's going to, kind of, maybe do some ground battling. So, there's a little bit of want to get out a little faster than just waiting. But a lot of people here are people who live here and are working for relief organizations, and now they're in the compound too just to get safe shelter and just awaiting, whether -- a couple of people I talked to aren't even sure if they're going to evacuate. They're just waiting to see what's recommended by their organization and what evacuation is arranged.

BURNETT: I mean, I know when we spoke with you on the show Monday, there were air strikes happening. You -- we actually could hear them outside your hotel room. I want to play that moment, because I know you have been through so many of those since then, but that moment for our viewers.


ZIND: Well, whenever you go to Gaza, you always know there's dangerous environments while you were there, but no, I wasn't -- sorry -- prepared for this.


BURNETT: Dr. Zind, the bombing in Gaza has been almost nonstop since then. We hear on the Israeli side. You are living it in a very small and densely populated place. From what we're hearing even right now, what is it like to be living through this? Especially because obviously you don't have an Iron Dome. It's a very different situation where you are right now.

ZIND: Right. I mean, it's scary. And I feel like -- here I feel safe. I felt safe in the hotel where I was. On the drive here, there was a totally demolished building, maybe 100 meters from our hotel. But I just worry so much for the people of Gaza. You mean, I'm hoping to have an escape plan and go home, and those people are just here and they have no place to go. And that's a concern.

BURNETT: So, what happens now? If there's a ground assault on Gaza, which it is widely expected that there will be. And certainly from what we see on the Israeli side of the border, seems all but certain. From where you sit, with all the time you've spent there, what does that mean?

ZIND: Well, I'm concerned. I mean, I think that, you know, when I talk about -- you know, these are kids that have diabetes. They don't have ten extra insulin pens at home. They just barely get by. So, if you start -- if you stop medication delivery, if you stop those services for children, PCRF has like 12 kids on chemotherapy in their cancer center.

You stop that, and that's -- you know, that's dangerous. That's life threatening to those children. And then normal children are at increased risk for dysentery, increased risk for all the things that come when you don't have the basic life needs met.

BURNETT: I very much appreciate your time. We're thinking of you, hoping that you are able to get out of there. I know it is incredibly stressful and a very fraught situation.

Thank you for taking the time to join me.


BURNETT: You know, one thing to think about, as we were sitting there under that barrage of rockets today, when we heard the outgoing fire and then the giant smoke that you could see from Gaza, in one of those cases, we understand up to 20 people in Gaza died. And for each of these explosions, there could be a loss of human life. It is a perspective worth remembering for all of us in these hard days.

Thank you so much for joining us.

"AC360" begins right now.