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Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. Orders 2,000 More Troops To Prep For Possible Deployment; Hamas Release Video Of Woman It Claims Is Being Held Hostage; OutFront Speaks To Father Whose Wife & Kids Are Hostages. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 16, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Israel. The U.S. putting 2,000 troops on notice as Israel is on the brink of invading Gaza.

This as Hamas releases the first video of a hostage. The family of a hostage just sharing new photos with OUTFRONT.

And also this hour, inside the massacre. We are going to take you to a community that suffered some of the greatest losses in the Hamas terror attacks, more than 100 people were slaughtered there. Homes torched and the chilling evidence that Hamas was going to take many, many more lives.

And we'll check back in with Yoni Asher, whose wife and two young daughters were taken hostage. Yoni opening up about the guilt he feels for not being able to rescue them and why he wanted to show us his little girls' shoes.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett, live from Tel Aviv tonight.

And we begin this hour with the breaking news. American troops on notice. The Pentagon has told roughly 2,000 U.S. troops to prepare for potential deployment to support Israel, a second carrier strike group has also been deployed to the region. This order coming as President Biden weighs a trip to Israel.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region at this hour. He was here today trying to stop the deadly violence in Israel and Gaza from spreading. While he was here in Tel Aviv, air raid sirens blaring overhead, disrupting a high-stakes meeting with Israel's war cabinet.

And those strikes here in Tel Aviv have been constant throughout this day. This is video from earlier this evening of Israel's Iron Dome taking out what appears to be live rockets. Not far from where we are broadcasting this evening.

It comes as Hamas releases a video that the group says is of one of the hostages, 21-year-old Mia Shem (ph). Her family just moments ago providing us these pictures of her from before she was captured. This is the first hostage video that Hamas has released of any of the 199 people believed to have been held by Hamas. And CNN has decided not to air it.

But in the video she says she suffered an arm injury and was brought to Gaza. In a moment, I'm going to be speaking with her mother.

But now, in a moment, we're going to check in again with Yoni Asher. His wife, two young daughters and his mother-in-law were all taken hostage. We have spoken to him several times after he recognized his family in this viral video. His daughter is huddled in the back of the truck.

He spoke to me about the incredible amount of guilt that he feels for not being there for his girls.


YONI ASHER, WIFE, DAUGHTERS, MOTHER-IN-LAW TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: You know, the worst thing as a family, I have three girls, a wife and two little babies, is this guilt, this guilt. Why are you not coming to get us?

I'm thinking about them sitting there maybe if they're alive and thinking, why daddy's not coming. I can't, I want to.


BURNETT: And we'll have much more of our interview with Yoni Asher in just a moment.

But all of this in the context of an invasion, which, by all accounts, appears to be imminent, still imminent and a probable feeling here. We reported earlier from an Israeli military base not far from the border. And while we were there today, we, of course, saw the Iron Dome at work. Israel's Iron Dome, this is a base that we saw clearly at war. Mats lined up on the ground for troops to sleep, hundreds of them out in the open air.

There is little time, though, are of course, to sleep. These troops are ready to act at a moment's notice.

We'll have our team of reporters standing by right now ready to give you the very latest on this story on the Gaza border. We also begin with -- and Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

I do want to start with you, though, Nic, along the Gaza border. And, Nic, what -- as I mentioned, we have these new photos of Mia shared with us by her family from before she was captured. What is the very latest you could tell us about what's going on?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it is the first video of hostages, as you say. It was always anticipated that Hamas would use the hostages and videos of them, and it would put out a steady drip feed of videos to put pressure on either Israel or the international community, and the nature of this video appears to be already in that vein.


This is, you know, we understand that her family has authorized their release of this video. But it's not instructive about the big picture of where the hostages are or anything beyond a piece of propaganda coming from Hamas. Hamas itself says that it has between 200 and 250 hostages. The IDF say they believe the figure is 199.

And Hamas says as well that it has already, or, rather, already 22 of those hostages have been killed, they imply in airstrikes that have been going on. You have heard artillery back and forth. We've heard Apache gun ships along the border as well with their heavy machine guns, indicative of, perhaps, a softening up of targets just over the border. It's not clear.

Each night there's something different in the level of military activity. Tonight, it's the apache gun ship.

BURNETT: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you very much, along the Gaza border this night.

I want to go to Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon right now.

And, Oren, the U.S. show of force is escalating in the region. And every night, there's been additional development, now a very significant step. What are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Two different moves here, both of them significant. A marine rapid response force is moving towards the waters off the coast of Israel. The 26th marine expeditionary unit on the Gulf of Oman, on the USS Bataan, which is itself an amphibious assault ship is now making its way towards Israel, according to a defense official familiar with the plans.

Keep in mind that the amount of U.S. military assets and capabilities they're already near Israel. The USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group is in the Eastern Mid. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group is headed towards the Eastern Mid and should arrive in just a couple of weeks.

So, there is more military assets as the U.S. tries to do two almost contradictory things it seems. One is a show of support for Israel and a message of deterrence for Iran and Iranian proxies in the region. And the second is to try not to get directly involved militarily in a conflict that right now is between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

So, more assets in the region and more U.S. involvement as it sees this conflict, a very hot conflict between Israel and Gaza. At the same time, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued orders yesterday for 2,000 troops to be ready for possible deployment to Israel.

These are not combat troops. They are not intended to get involved in combat according to U.S. -- multiple U.S. officials. But they are support troops for the possibility of planning logistics and medical assistance if that order comes. More options for President Joe Biden as he decides what to do and how to handle this along with his national security leadership, Erin.

BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much at the Pentagon.

And I want to go now to retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former Army commanding general for the Seventh Army.

And also joining me now is Chuck Pfarrer, he's a former SEAL Team 6 squadron leader who has gone all over the world doing hostage rescues.

So, much to talk to both of you.

General Hertling, U.S. officials have stressed that there are no plans to put American boots on the ground to fight in this war. So then why would the marines go in to strike groups, all of this every day more and more? How big do you think this war may get?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Erin, you have to understand that the makeup of a strike group, first of all, a marine rapid response force is about 2,000 soldiers, and that's exactly what is part of the Ford group. They were in Oman conducting theater security cooperation exercises with governments in the area, militaries in the area.

So they were pulled off of that exercise, put back on their ship, the Bataan, and sent as part of the strike group into that area. It's a prudent move. It's to get forces in the area to handle any contingency that might arise. And those contingencies fall along an entire spectrum of things. Along with the Ford and the Eisenhower strike group, one has been in the area for about six months, the Ford, they were getting ready to leave the area, be replaced by the Eisenhower.

So it was a prudent move to actually ask the Eisenhower group or task them to go forward earlier to have two carrier strike groups in the area. It is a show of force. Make no mistake about that.

But it's also to handle any kind of contingencies. And I think the deterrence effort is to prevent this from turning into a wider conflict than it already is.

BURNETT: Chuck, how do you see it?

CHUCK PFARRER, FORMER SEAL TEAM SIX MEMBER: Well, it was a very unusual step for Washington to announce that joint special operations command, advanced units would be put into Israel.


That has never been done, in my memory. A joint special operations command also includes Delta Force, SEAL Team 6. They will be joined by the FBI's critical incident response group, which includes the FBI's hostage rescue team, critically their hostage negotiation unit as well.

So I agree with General Hertling, this is -- this is the United States putting some cards on the table and showing that they are prepared for any contingency. BURNETT: Chuck, I also want to talk about that new video of a hostage

that Hamas released. I know you watched it. We've chosen not to show it to viewers, because Hamas released it. We're not going to show it at this time. But you did have a chance to watch it. What did you take away from it?

PFARRER: Well, I was listening very carefully. I heard the sound of ventilators, which maybe confirmed what I suspect that she was being held underground. I noticed some audio inconsistencies. There were some sound of some shelling off screen. She didn't react to it.

There was also very incongruously the sound of an automobile horn. I would suspect that she and all of the other hostages are in fact being held underground. I also noticed her hair and makeup had been done.

She has an injury to her arm, pretty severe injury, from what I could see. It appeared to me she had been prepared for a video appearance.

BURNETT: And what do you read into that? I mean, I know it sounds like an odd thing to say. But it's not just the incongruous sounds and holding underground. But the hair and makeup, what does that say to you about what Hamas is trying to do?

PFARRER: Well, they're trying to present the image that she is well cared for, that she's receiving medical care. They also took pains to make sure that there was not much else to be gleaned from the video. I expect these videos to keep coming.

There are somewhere between 160 and 199 hostages. I believe there are probably somewhere around 12, maybe 15 Americans. Those are the prime pieces for Hamas to play.

BURNETT: General Hertling, what do you think the strategy is here? They pick one, they do this now. What is that about?

HERTLING: Well, it's a proof of life video, Erin. And I think Chuck would agree with me that that's something that's been studied a lot. There are different outcomes whenever a terrorist group sends a proof of life video. Sometimes the terrorist captors are in the video. It didn't seem like, although there was someone there, you never saw anyone else's face.

It appeared that she was talking under duress, which is understandable, and, as Chuck said, her arm was being bandaged as she was talking. And it looked like it was either broken or sprained or something.

So, all of those things are factors in this. But it's also showing Hamas, at the same time they released this, they were talking about having more hostages than what Israel had already concluded. Israel saying 199, they said between 250. So that tells me there's more -- it's an opportunity for them to say, hey, Israel, you don't know everything you think you know. So all of those things are factors in intelligence-gathering.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both so very much. I appreciate it. And, next, I visited with Yoni Asher, a father who we have spoken to

over the past week after his wife and two young daughters were taken hostage. In a powerful interview, he will open up about what it has be like since the attack.


ASHER: Sometimes we think what is the apocalypse in area, what hell looks like. And I saw the images, every minute is forever.


BURNETT: Plus, the harrowing journey to get out of northern Gaza. A special report from CNN journalist who is there, who lives in northern Gaza with his young family. Explosions surround them as they attempt to flee.

And tonight, you will see it. He will tell his story first here OUTFRONT.

And a miraculous story of survival. A 74-year-old who cannot walk was home when Hamas stormed his kibbutz. His home burned, his neighbors dead, but he survived.

And his daughter is my guest.



BURNETT: All right. Well, we are back with the breaking news tonight live from Tel Aviv, Hamas releasing its first hostage video since its attack on Israel. Showing the 21-year-old woman Mia Shem who was taken from that music festival where hundreds were killed. It comes as Israel confirms that there are 199 people being held in Gaza right now. Hamas says there are more than 200.

One of the family members desperately holding out the hope that one of these hostages will be rescued is Yoni Asher. He is missing his wife and his two young daughters. They were taken while visiting his mother-in-law near Gaza.

Our viewers will remember that we first spoke to Yoni on the day of the Hamas attack, just hours after he first saw his family in this viral video online. You can see a gunman placing a cloth over his wife's head. His mother-in-law and his two daughters are huddled in the back of the truck. After seeing this video, Yoni tried to track his wife's location. It said her phone was in Gaza.

Well, we have been checking in with Yoni ever since then. And I was able to meet him in person over the weekend, traveling to his home north of Tel Aviv.

Here's our conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: Well, Yoni, we get a chance to see each other, to see you in person. How are you doing now?

ASHER: Well, eight days since my wife and two daughters got kidnapped.


I am realizing that I got to see the gates of hell. I got to see how hell looks like. I don't know if there are any more tears left in me. But it became -- it became clear to me that I saw hell. I saw what hell looks like.

And you know, it's not only the phone call that I got from my wife 10:00 a.m. telling me that they're entering the House shooting and we got disconnected. And it's not even the video -- nine seconds long video which I saw my wife getting taken with my two daughters recognizing them, just like that after a few hours of nerve-wrecking time, which I tried to get information.

The hell was the images. I didn't watch them. I heard, I understand very quickly. That, when I saw that, when I knew that there is a possibility that they are held by such -- I don't know how to call -- but they are held by them. It was even worse than the video.

BURNETT: Because you think about what? I mean, at every moment.

ASHER: I don't know. I only saw them kidnapped. I only saw them get in on some kind of vehicle. You can see from the video, it's pretty familiar, my wife getting covered on her head, Allahu Akbar screaming all around. That was the image I saw last Saturday, 7th of October.

And I tell you I don't know if I can explain yet. But, like I said, I don't know if you ever thought about it. But sometimes we think what is the apocalypse in area, what is the -- what hell looks like. When I saw the images, Erin, every minute is forever.

BURNETT: You're living it.

ASHER: Forever.

BURNETT: Yoni, what have you heard about them? Is the government, are they updating you? Are they telling you anything about what they're doing or where they think they may be? I mean, even thinks like, are they even able to tell you whether they think they're together?

ASHER: Well, you know, there is the channel that the authorities are in contact with me. But, as you know, these things are not simple, they sometimes can be extremely complicated.

I am not diplomacy -- I have no diplomacy or security training. I have no understanding of these kind of matters. It's not my area, but they're in touch with me, and I only know what I knew last Saturday. It's the only thing I knew.

And I live here in uncertainty, and I'm hanging between the earth and heaven. And I am moving between the desperation, sometimes hope, but I don't know. I know the time is critical.

I know that I need medicine. I know that there are babies, my little baby daughter Avi is not yet 3. In January, she will be 3. And the same month, January, also my older Raz will be 5. They are celebrated together in the same month. They are good friends. They love each other.

I hope that they are alive and they are well. And I hope that they are -- they take care of each other.

BURNETT: With their mother.

ASHER: What happened to this house, how it became a media, an office to save them. I just want them to be here. I cannot start to explain to you what smart beautiful girls they are. I can't even start.

BURNETT: Well, we sit here. I think that you sit here. You have so many visions of when you and Doron were in the kitchen and they were here, they were playing, this is their special area.


ASHER: Well, you know, Erin, I don't allow myself to -- I can't. I can't profound in this visions. I want to remember the sound of their voice, the smell of their hair. But it's hard.

I know that I have to be strong for them. I can't look at a video of them not even one. I know that many videos were published by us, me and my friends and family that are helping. I didn't watch a single one.

BURNETT: So you don't go over your phone and watch --

ASHER: I can't. You ask me about the last few days. Something that the body and the mind is very hard to -- I don't have any psychology training also. But I guess it's something that takes the spirit out of the body of something. Because there is -- I can't even process.

BURNETT: You wanted us to look at their shoes. Why their shoes, Yoni?

ASHER: You know, they are girly girls. They like shoes.

BURNETT: I see pink. They like pink.

ASHER: They are willing to wear only dresses. It's -- you need to convince them to wear shirt and pants. All dresses. They like girly stuff, making us food in this toy kitchen, bringing me that food.

I can't talk with you about it right now, but -- I guess something happened to the mind and the spirit in a situation like this, for me, anyway.

BURNETT: And your wife, you must be thinking of her and how strong she is.

ASHER: She is, she's, you know, since I have two little daughters, I learned that what is the power of a woman, what is -- how strong a woman is a lot more than us men, you know. She sacrificed so much. It took us three years to bring to the world our firstborn.


ASHER: Women, they are strong, and my wife, particularly, it's a very strong person, but the situation is impossible and the uncertainties.

BURNETT: Are there things you think about in your head or things you would say to her? I can only imagine you say now if I could talk to her now, if I could have said, is there anything you would want to say to her right now?

ASHER: That I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry that I never not always appreciated her. And I did. But, you know, in these moments, you think about all the times that you were on the phone or busy. The girls would say to me, daddy, come sit with me and the wife, my wife Doron.

Just wanted her to know that I love her with all of my heart, and I'm sorry. And, you know, the worst thing as a father, I have three girls, a wife, and two little babies, is the guilt, is this guilt. Why are you not coming to get us? I'm thinking about them sit there maybe if they're alive and thinking why daddy's not coming.

And I want to -- I pray that they will forget me. I pray that they will -- won't recognize me. For children, a day, it's like a month for us adults.

BURNETT: Oh, they will remember you.

ASHER: I want -- I will be in their mind like they are in my mind. I have to be strong for them. I am going to the fight of my life today.


I don't know what will happen. But today, it's living or dying. I will do anything by any means.

BURNETT: Yoni, their spirits are here again and soon with you.

ASHER: I hope so. I believe in all of my heart that they will come back to me. It's hard, but I got to keep on believing that I will hug them and I promise that I will never tell them to go to their bed and not come to mine again. I will sleep with them, and they can bother me to sleep as long as they are with me in my bed.

BURNETT: Thank you, Yoni.

ASHER: Thank you, Erin.


BURNETT: Yoni is doing everything he can, everything he can to bring his wife and his two daughters home. He is set to talk to the German chancellor Olaf Scholz tomorrow. Yoni's wife and mother in law have dual citizenship in Israel and Germany. He's already spoken with the foreign minister of Germany, pleading, pleading for anything to be done to save his wife and children. We hope the German government is listening and doing everything it can to get that family back together.

Well, OUTFRONT next, a special report on the dangerous trek out of northern Gaza. A CNN journalist who lives there with his wife and two young children chronicled his journey south. You will see this view inside Gaza and you will see tonight. He's scared, unsure of where to go. His lives are lost around him. You will see it all.

Plus, we take you inside a community that has been turned into a mass grave. More than 100 people were slaughtered. Everything else burned and destroyed.


BURNETT: And the kitchen even on the refrigerator, the charred remains of all the pictures that somebody would've just had on the outside of their fridge.


BURNETT: Breaking news. Israel's defense forces announcing strikes on Hezbollah terrorist targets. Those are in Lebanon. This as Iran warns that Israel that the spread of war to other fronts, those are their words, might be in their words, unavoidable if it does not stop what it calls the siege on Gaza.

And In Gaza tonight, the harrowing journey of one of our own trying to flee. You know how hard it is to know what's really going on in there. Well, Ibrahim Dahman is a CNN journalist. He lives in northern Gaza.

He and his family, and his wife, their two sons are aged 11 and 7. They attempted to leave their home as they were told to do after Israel ordered civilians to evacuate. I wanted to bring you Ibrahim's story in his own words.



IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN JOURNALIST (translated): I'm with my family fleeing airstrikes in Gaza.

My son is terrified.

I tell him, don't be afraid, son.

But the truth is, I'm afraid too.

My name is Ibrahim Dahman and I am a CNN journalist. For years, I have covered the stories of people in Gaza. I never thought that I would become part of the story.

Last week, I was in Gaza City when I was told to evacuate.

I don't know where to go. Where?

But where do I go? My home, my family and my life are here. Like so many others, I don't have anywhere else to go.

We reach a nearby hotel. There are journalists, families and people on their own.

We're now among the displaced, 1.1. million people told to evacuate Northern Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: They don't strike hotels, right?

DAHMAN: They don't strike hotels, no.

I know deep down no building is safe.

We watch airstrikes, and the sound of explosions keeps us awake at night.

On our third day, a nearby building is hit.

This man was injured in the explosion. He is my father's cousin. Thankfully, he only suffered minor injuries.

I must get away from the hotel. The situation is very difficult.

We load our car and head south to Khan Younis.

Seconds after we left the hotel, they fired a rocket that heavily damaged the entire area.

Now we're in Khan Younis. There are still airstrikes but it is safer airstrikes. It's only a matter of time until we flee again. I hope one day we can return home.


BURNETT: Incredibly moved by that. That was Ibrahim Dahman. I told you his name, as you heard him speak. He is a producer with CNN. He lives in northern Gaza to put a face of who live there's and what they are going through.

His story, of course, is one of many of thousands, so many in Gaza trying to flee to safety, consumed by fear. CNN is in constant contact with Ibrahim and we will keep you updated on his story and his family.

And also tonight, I want to show you what is left of the kibbutz Be'eri, home to one of the bloodiest scenes of the Hamas terror attack. Nearly one in ten of the residents in this Gaza border kibbutz were murdered, slaughtered, more than a hundred people. And in the most brutal and horrific ways, we visited the horrific scene.


BURNETT (voice-over): Men came at dawn through the main gate to this town of just over a thousand people, burning, shooting, slaughtering. Now, this kibbutz is a mass grave, and still an active fighting zone. We're told terrorists have still been found hiding.

This day, IDF guns pointed at Gaza just beyond the barbed wire. One soldier we saw on duty there has served 25 years in the army.

IDF SOLDIER: What we saw here, nothing can prepare you for this kind of brutality of evil, pure evil. So you ask me how do I feel? Determined. Very determined.

BURNETT: Determined because here, you breathe the crime through your nose, your mouth, the presence of human death hits us.

This family that lived here were the Hadads.


Their names on the outside on the floor inside we saw a bus pass for one of them. And this is their home, completely charred, destroyed.

This is the front garden. Everything is now dead.

I'm standing inside someone's home where they were celebrating. Exercise bike behind me. Everything burnt and destroyed.

And the kitchen even on the refrigerator, the charred remains of all the pictures that somebody would've just had on the outside of their fridge, the medicine, the medicine containers that you would label by day to make sure you took your right pills every day. All of that just part of a normal life left behind.

Home after home after home. Here someone was a bike rider. Here someone loved gardening that. That life now gone. Now, bulletproof vests worn by Hamas and zip-ties right outside his home, evidence Hamas was ready to tie up many more victims.

And, still, it is the children that no human can comprehend. We learned the fate of one of them.

IDF SOLDIER: We opened the door, we saw a baby girl, the entire room is upside down, and the baby lying on the floor, her hands --

BURNETT: Burned?

IDF SOLDIER: No. She was so beautiful, so beautiful, shot in the head.

BURNETT: He says they carried her outside like an angel, an infant. And children's toys and drawings are scattered everywhere in Be'eri.

In this house, you see children's homework, children's books, the deck of cards just spread out here along the ground. There was clearly fighting inside this house, outside this house, Arabic graffiti. A name of the brigade, al Qassam brigade, Arabic writing displayed all the way on the outside, bullet holes in the glass as we walk in.

The words also say Allahu Akbar and victory. Only, there is no victory here, only death and hate.

IDF SOLDIER: Since Saturday morning, we are dealing with a holy mission, not less.

BURNETT: A holy mission?

IDF SOLDIER: A holy mission, yeah. Not less.


BURNETT: Remember that bus pass that I mentioned a moment ago? Well, we took a picture of it, and we tracked down the man whose face is on it. His name is Mir Hadad (ph). He's 74 years old, and miraculously he survived.

His daughter Dafna was visiting the kibbutz last night. She doesn't live there. She was visiting. She was staying with her brother where there was more room. Her brother Eton did not survive.

But Dafna Gerstner is OUTFRONT with me tonight.

And, Dafna, I am so sorry for your immense and indescribable loss. Although I know it is miraculous that you have your father. When we called you, you had not seen any of the images of your parents' home. So you wouldn't have known that a journalist was in there seeing it at all.

But I know you grew up in this kibbutz, your parents moved into this house when you were just a teenager. Can you -- can you tell me these images as you see any of this now? Can you even understand what happened?

DAFNA GERSTNER, SURVIVED HAMAS SIEGE: Well, as I was writing down with his caregiver, she said, the house is burning. For me, it was unbelievable. Now when I see it, it's -- I'm shocked. I'm shocked. It's something I cannot grasp at the moment.

BURNETT: You did share some of the messages among your family during the attack. Some of them I'm just sharing, obviously not saying who said what. But someone says, you hear the shootings, a reply it might be the army, no army. Maybe they set fire to the house, someone writes, please hurry, it's smoke all over the mamad, which is, of course, the safe room.

And then Dafna, so many outside, please help us, oh God, our house is burning, the door is so hot. Your father miraculously was able to get out. But that is not the case for so many of his neighbors in those houses we saw around, is it, Dafna?

GERSTNER: Yeah, yeah. So, the whole neighborhood, it's the front line of the kibbutz. It's directly next to the border. The border of the kibbutz, the fence, basically. So, it's super dangerous. Most of our neighbors did not survive.

My father, I don't know how he made it alive, because they were there outside. Being just described everything in the chat, saying she hears noises, she hears people crying, people talking in Arabic, a lot of bombings, shootings.


It was a total chaos out there. And then she said around 9:00 that they are burning the house. And we could not help her at all because I was at my brother's place at the safe room at my brother's house. And at that point, we didn't even know, is the army there, who is there, we didn't know anything.

And I was trying to help her and trying to convince her, okay, the army will come, they will save you, I'm going to call someone. And every minute, there was another terrible message from her, another terrible message. And I just -- we didn't know what to do because we were at the same situation, but in another place in the kibbutz.

So this was just horrible, horrible. I didn't think they were going to make it alive. At some point I was, like, okay, you cannot do anything, and nobody came to help until they were rescued around 4:30 in the afternoon.

BURNETT: And it started in the hours of dawn. The incredible -- it's excruciating to even hear it, Dafna. Now, I know you don't live in the kibbutz now. But, as you mentioned, you were there visiting. You were staying with your brother Eton who rushed out to help.

And I know that's the last time you saw your brother. But others did see him. What did they tell you?

GERSTNER: Well, the last time I saw him was ten minutes after the shooting was started, the rockets, they were shooting at 6:30 a.m. Ten minutes later he got a message. He is in the small security unit of the kibbutz. We're talking about 10 to 12 people max.

He said, oh, my God, the terrorists in the kibbutz, I have to go out. He packed up his things and just rushed out. I didn't say -- you know, we were all shocked. We didn't know what's happening. And that was the last time I saw him. And now from what I know from people who told me, people were fighting next to him.

He was fighting about six hours outside of the kibbutz, and killing terrorists as much as he could until he got to the clinic in kibbutz Be'eri where there were a few people who got injured. And they -- he and unfortunately a friend of mine also passed. They were securing the injured people.

When a lot of terrorists came in and attacked them, they managed to kill 12, I think. More and more came in, and they just could not handle it. And at some point in the time as much as I could understand someone threw a grenade.

And they all died, except the two people who miraculously just survived this attack and managed to get out. But it took a long time until the army came in and could help. They basically did not have any chance to survive this attack.

BURNETT: Dafna, thank you very much for coming on. I know it wasn't an easy decision. And thank you for responding to us and talking about your family home, your brother and your dad. Thank you. GERSTNER: Thank you very much.

BURNETT: And, next, our breaking news continues because we are just learning that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has just wrapped up his meeting with Israel's war cabinet. So he is still here looking here. We are at 2:48 in the morning. He is expected to make an announcement at any moment.

Plus, Hamas is releasing the first video of a hostage. The spokesperson for the Israel's defense forces, the IDF, responds next.



BURNETT: All right. Breaking news, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his meeting with the Israeli war cabinet has just ended. And let me just tell you how long this meeting was. And Antony Blinken was in the war cabinet, here in Israel. Seven and a half hours, it is 2:48 in the morning.

Blinken has just gotten out of a meeting with a war cabinet. He is right now, as I speak heading to the U.S. embassy to make an announcement. So, we're going to let you know exactly what that is, but it is -- it is obviously the middle of the night here, in a seven and a half hour meeting.

It comes as we await that announcement, as Hamas has released its first video of one of the hostages. They are holding a 21-year-old French Israeli woman named Mia Shem. She says she was injured in her arm and taken to Gaza.

We are not airing the video. But these are photos of Mia that her family shared with OUTFRONT after her video was released.

OUTFRONT now, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson.

Colonel, I appreciate your time. I'm glad to speak with you again. Can you tell us anything about this war cabinet meeting, as you understand it?

We understand it lasted nearly eight hours. You and I are speaking at 2:50 a.m. Secretary Blinken has just gotten out, going to the U.S. embassy to make an announcement.

Do you know anything about what happened in this meeting?

LT. COLONEL JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Hello, Erin. Good to see you again. No, I do not. I will learn about it just like you and many others will, from the press statement. I am all focused on the events on the ground in Gaza.

BURNETT: How significant is it that the U.S. secretary of state would be making an announcement at 3:00 in the morning, as the world is waiting for the possible imminent ground incursion by IDF forces into Gaza, sir?

CONRICUS: Well, I think it's obviously very, very important. Any statement made by a senior U.S. official when it comes to this matter carries a lot of weight. And so far -- and I suppose this will continue -- we are enjoying very intimate cooperation, planning, calling of intel resources and many other things together with the U.S.

I think that the perspective here is to try to make sure that this doesn't turn into a regional conflict and to make sure that Iran and its proxies get the message that it wouldn't serve their purposes or the purpose of the civilians in the area to join in the fighting and to keep the situation contained around Gaza.

BURNETT: Colonel, I want to ask you about the hostage, Mia Shim. Obviously, Hamas has released this video of her. Do you know any more about it? I'm sure you had a chance to see it. You know, one expert tells us, it does appear there are ventilators. It could be underground. It appears they made her look nice, with hair and make-up done for it.

You've obviously seen it. You know the analysis of it. What does the IDF think about this video?

CONRICUS: Listen, Hamas are the scum of the earth. People who are capable of abducting and raping and mutilating and butchering and executing, this very shallow and obvious attempt at humanity is despicable. And this will not help the leaders of Hamas or the animals who executed the attack. It will not save them.

No video and no messaging of humane support and no amount of make-up in the world will make up for their crimes. They will pay for their crimes, and it will be by the dismantling of Hamas and their own death.

BURNETT: Colonel, do you believe, from your understanding, that there's going to be a lot more of these videos? And do you believe that most, the vast majority, if not all of the hostages, are possibly still alive?

CONRICUS: I can't go into detail about the situation of the hostages or their location. It's, of course, very sensitive, and it's at the heart of what we are doing in order to find them and get them out. And I can't elaborate.

But I can say that it's clear, Hamas took these people, these innocent women, children, grandmothers, babies, and toddlers.


They took them for a reason, because they want to do exactly what they started to do now, and that is to gain some kind of political prize from it. I think they may still harbor hallucinations about something in return.

But I think that it is obvious and it should be obvious for anybody watching. This is a terrorist organization that is bargaining in human life. This is behavior of the most despicable kind. And to abduct civilians that have nothing to do with fighting, nothing to do with Gaza, nothing to do with anything, and to hold them hostage and to use them like they are, I'm sure that they will continue to do, is reprehensive. But it goes to show the world --

BURNETT: All right, colonel --

CONRICUS: -- anybody who is looking what Hamas really is.

BURNETT: Colonel Conricus, thank you very much. I appreciate your time again this evening. Thank you.

CONRICUS: And tonight, that desperation mounting on Gaza's border with Egypt. As you heard Ibrahim reporting, as anyone moves from the north, south, it is this giant pressure to the bottom of Gaza.

And that border is closed. It is the only way for thousands, maybe many, many more than that, who want to leave the Gaza Strip altogether. But it is closed. One of them that is trying to get out is Dr. Barbara Zind. And we had spoken to her several times.

You may remember here, she is an American pediatrician. She was in Gaza when Hamas attacked, a place she had been before to help children who desperately need vaccines and help with treatments like diabetes. She was actually here with us on CNN at the moment a bomb went off near her.


DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN DOCTOR STRANDED IN GAZA CITY: Well, whenever you go to Gaza, you always know that there is danger and violence whenever you're there, but no, I wasn't -- whoa, sorry -- prepared for this. I startled.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT is Dr. Zind's husband, Paul Preston.

Paul, I'm glad to speak with you. I hope that soon it will be under very different circumstances. Ten days since Hamas attacked Israel, your wife has been trapped in Gaza. We saw that moment there, when you can hear the explosion very close to where she was staying at the time in Gaza City.

I know she has since made the journey to southern Gaza. I -- she is now -- she's trying to get out. I know it's harder for her than it is for you, but it has got to be incredibly hard for your family. When is the last time that you have heard from her?

PAUL PRESTON, HUSBAND OF DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN DOCTOR TRAPPED IN GAZA: I got a text message from her about four hours ago.

BURNETT: And, to your understanding, she's -- obviously, I can only imagine the state of what she's dealing with -- but she is okay and she is waiting to get out?

PRESTON: Yes, she's okay. So, my wife doesn't like to complain. And, you know, her main concerns were two, is that number one, the plight of the children in Gaza and also the deaths in Israel and Gaza, the children.

And another concern, more trivial, is that she thinks that she's causing too many people to worry about her and that we should not worry about her as much.

BURNETT: Of course, you worry about her. You love her and you want her home safely. But, as she's talked about the conditions in Gaza, they've always been bad. And they've been getting even worse. Scarcity of fresh water, scarcity of electricity, if any is even available, and obviously the constant fear of air strikes. You know, we hear them here. We hear the explosions. And there, on the other end is death.

How is she managing it? I know your contact with her is not extensive, right, the power issue. But how is she handling this?

PRESTON: Well, you know, she's a tough woman, you know? And you know, she's been through crisis situations before. We were in Lebanon in 2006 when Hezbollah attacked. And there was the Israeli response.

And, you know, I mean, she knows she's a bit of a fatalist saying, that, well, I don't -- whatever happens happens. And, you know, I'll just try to make the best of the situation I have.

BURNETT: And I know she's about five miles, at least as I understand it, Paul, from the border of Egypt, where the U.N. compound is totally out of room. So, you talk about how tough she is. She's been sleeping the in a car. And I understand, from what you say about her, she'd say others have it a lot worse. But does she have any sense of when she may be able to get out?

PRESTON: No. You know, she's dealing with -- as your organization is. We're hearing misleading, missing and incomplete information. So, you know, she's actually hearing less than we are.

So, like I told her when Blinken the other day said that there was -- it was a priority that Rafah border crossing becomes open. So, she's getting a lot of her information from me. And unfortunately, her texts are a bit sporadic. They don't come through all of the time.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I'm glad you had one in the past few hours. I know each one of those has got to give you at least a sense of calm.

Paul, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us and we all hope that she and others will be out soon.

Thanks so much to all of you for being with us for our continuing breaking coverage.

"AC360" begins now.