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Erin Burnett Outfront

Pentagon Confirms U.S. Navy Warship Shot Down Multiple Missiles And Drones Launched By Iran-Back Forces In Yemen; Israel: Troops Will "Soon See" Gaza "From The Inside"; Soon: Biden To Deliver Rare Oval Office Address To Nation. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 19, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Israel, breaking news, the U.S. Navy intercepting multiple land attack missiles and drones. Pentagon officials say they potentially are targeting Israel.

It comes as Israeli officials say that the army has been given a greenlight to wipe out Hamas. We're going to take you live to the Gaza border tonight.

Plus, a new dispatch from inside Gaza OUTFRONT. We're going to hear tonight from the brave CNN journalist who's been documenting what it's like inside Gaza exclusively to OUTFRONT. Tonight, he says air strikes are intensifying where he is, in southern Gaza.

And the incredible story, how a group of volunteer Israeli guards took on Hamas and protected and entire community from a massacre. And what they found on the bodies of dead Hamas gunman even more chilling. You'll see their story, let's go OUTFRONT.

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

And OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with breaking news. Shot down, CNN is learning that a U.S. warship stationed in the Red Sea near Yemen has intercepted three land attack cruise missiles, some of them potentially heading towards Israel.

According to the Pentagon, all of them were fired by Iranian-backed militants, and heading north along the Red Sea. You can see how far away that is from Israel.

This development comes as Israel inches closer to a potential ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Israel's defense minister today telling forces that are stationed along that Gaza border, we've seen so many of them, there's 350,000 of them, it's impossible to miss them. He goes there and he says, you see Gaza now from a distance, you'll soon see it from inside, the command will come.

You will soon see it from the inside -- inside of Gaza, of course, millions of people, more than 2 million people in a 25-mile long tiny strip. The defense minister's words, an ominous sign of possible urban combat, fought not only above ground, Fallujah-style, but below as we've reported Hamas fighters. They have a massive network of tunnels that almost certainly are housing not just militants, but hostages tonight, 203 of them, according to Israel's latest numbers.

Israel and Hamas could be locked in a months-long war, which is why tonight, in less than an hour, President Biden will be speaking to the nation. It's only the second time he has a delivered an address from the Oval Office. Biden expected to press Congress for another $100 billion, the majority of that aid for Israel, and, Ukraine. The scene is inextricably tied together by this administration.

Tonight's address coming after the president announced this morning that the U.S. had secured a deal with Egypt and Israel to send that critical humanitarian aid into Gaza.

I want to show you some new pictures of the aid trucks, because we have some reporters, and even some of those truck drivers talking to CNN, lineup as long as the eye can see.

It looks like the border leaving Ukraine did. That's to go into Gaza, supplies. It is unclear when those trucks will actually be allowed to enter. A close counselor of the Prime Minister Netanyahu said that crossing would open tomorrow, but sources tonight tell CNN that the rocket crossing is not expected to open on Friday.

And every hour is of the essence. You know, we've been talking to various people inside of Gaza getting just brief clips of it, because you can't get a signal established to have a real conversation with anyone there.

American Wafa Elsaka is there. She's a retired art teacher from Florida. She traveled to Gaza to visit family before the war broke out. She's now trapped, but she sent us this audio message of what life is like tonight there.


WAFA ELSAKA, RETIRED ART TEACHER: This trip for me, in this war, it's an open graveyard. It's death everywhere. You can smell it around you. You can feel it. It's scary.

We're all scared. I'm scared when the night comes, but I'm scared also won the day light comes out. Don't know what to expect.


BURNETT: And you will hear much more from Wafa coming up because a dire situation there as we are learning new details this hour about the explosion at that hospital in Gaza City, according to U.S. intelligence assessment obtained by CNN, it's believed there were likely 100, 200, 300 people killed in the blast, not 500 Palestinian officials alleged, although I think it's important to say that to say 100 to 300 innocent lives losses are horrific thing. It may be less. It's still an annex -- an inexplicably horrible number.

We have a team of reporters standing by. Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon. Nic Robertson is live along the Israel-Gaza border, and MJ Lee is at the White House this hour.

I want to begin with you, though, Oren, at the Pentagon with this breaking, news disturbing news, that U.S. warship near Yemen, that is -- that is not close, okay? We are not talking about Gaza or Hezbollah. This is all the way in the Red Sea, interjecting -- intercepting multiple projectiles, drones, light attack missiles, what do you know about this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon says the interceptions, here are those three cruise missiles as well as some drones, were potentially targeting Israel. So you can see what that would take. The Pentagon says they were launched by the Houthis, Iranian-backed militants in Yemen, who fired them. And they were moving along the Red Sea, towards Israel, and that is likely why the Pentagon says that Israel may have been the target here.

It's worth noting there is, of course, the destroyer. The USS Carney intercepted these drones and missiles, but there's also the USS Bataan, this assault ship and the marine expeditionary unit in the Red Sea. So, that perhaps also a potential target. On the Red Sea, there is the Israeli resort city of Eilat, right at the southern tip of Israel, that perhaps is what the Pentagon looks at and seeing these missiles heading north and saying, look, this may have been the target.

Either way, Israel and the U.S. are not the only threat they're facing in the region. In Iraq, over the course of the past few days, there have been a wave of drone attacks against U.S. and coalition forces there. So, the U.S. is facing pressure there, even as U.S. officials including, the defense secretary Lloyd Austin, are trying to keep this from becoming a regional conflict, Erin.

Austin spoke with Arab and Israeli officials earlier today, to try to make sure that the U.S. has Israel's back, but also to try to keep from spreading. Right now, that seems a very, very tall order.

BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much.

And let's go to Nic Robertson, on the border with Gaza, where he has been over these past 12, 13 days now. And, Nic, you just saw tank fire and flares, hearing heavy machine gun fire. So, how does this compare to what you have been hearing, especially in light of the Israeli defense minister saying you will soon see the inside of Gaza.

What does soon mean where you are?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think everyone's looking to see if there's any signs of an incursion, and just looking over my shoulder here, where we were seeing the tank rounds where the flare was hanging in the other -- there's a second one a few minutes ago, and hearing that heavy machine gun fire coming from over there, that's exactly the area you would expect some incursion to go in, from heavy machine gun fire, tank fire, and flares are exactly the sorts of things that would be associated, potentially with an incursion. We are having -- had some heavy explosions slightly ahead of that. So when we see that here, we watch really carefully. Does it build into something? It's at the beginning of an incursion? Or is it just a little bit of tension along the border fence there?

But you go back to 2014 at the time in the last incursion, that is exactly where Israeli forces went into Gaza, in that area. So, that's why we're watching it so closely. And yes, the defense minister today, when he was visiting IDF forces, some really heavy detonations there as well. While he was visiting IDF forces saying, look, it won't be too long before you're in Gaza.

We've been hearing from other officials who are saying flatly and clearly, the politicians have given the greenlight to the military, it's down to the military now to decide when to go in.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Israel's war with Hamas, more than 60 of the terror groups are operatives arrested early Thursday in the West Bank. The clock now ticking on far more dangerous phase of the war for the IDF, going into Hamas's heartland, Gaza.

NIR BARKAT, ISRAELI ECONOMY MINISTER: The Israeli government made a decision. They gave a greenlight to the army, wipe them out. And now, it's in the hands of the army.

ROBERTSON: Israeli politicians are preparing expectations for a long war, and for the first time, hinting at what an end of war may look like.

AVI DICHTER, ISRAELI AGRICULTURAL MINISTER: The Gaza Strip, all along, we'll have a margin, that they will not be able to get in. It would be a fire zone. No matter who you are, you'll never be able to come close to the Israeli border.

ROBERTSON: Dichter, a former head of Israeli security, says what Israel wants is the level of security control they currently have in the West Bank -- complete access on their terms.

DICHTER: Today, whenever we have a military problem, in every single place in the West Bank, we are there.

ROBERTSON: So, that's what you'll have in Gaza going forward?

DICHTER: Gaza in terms of security.


Remember that in the Gaza Strip, one, there's no administration. It has to be built another administration.

ROBERTSON: But as these plans take shape, and troops prepared to go into Gaza, airstrikes are triggering international calls for a humanitarian pause, to ease civilian suffering. Dichter rejects the need for a pause.

DICHTER: We don't activate against civilians.

ROBERTSON: But there are civilians collateral damage.

DICHTER: In a war, in a war -- in a war (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). In a war, we do understand, and totally, we have suffered.

ROBERTSON: With or without a pause in strikes, 20 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid are expected to enter Gaza from Egypt soon. Against the scale of need, it's a token, ahead of a possible ground incursion, maybe all that gets through for a while.


ROBERTSON (on camera): Well, one of those flares over there, that area I was talking about, Erin, up in the sky there. Now, this as the U.N. secretary general, the sort of world's top diplomat, if you will, is calling for that humanitarian pause. Aid he says in from Israel, to get the hostages out. No indication that is actually going to take root and happen.

BURNETT: Wow, look at that.

I'm just watching that flower come down along with Nic, here in his, as he moved his -- standing next to the camera watching this come. Down the flares and, we don't know what was on the other side of that, and what happened to anyone underneath, it and that of course is the real tragedy of the situation we are in right now.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus joins me now, the Israeli Defense Forces international spokesperson.

Colonel, I appreciate your time again tonight.

You had the Israeli defense minister with troops today, saying that you will soon see -- you see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from out -- from inside, I'm sorry. That command will come.

Nic Robertson just reporting, I know as you heard that he's seeing an uptick of activity on the border with Gaza. We just saw that explosion here live.

So, is a ground war eminent? Is it truly in a position or the command is already done? The army can do when it's ready? Is that how it is?


The situation is that the IDF is deployed along the Gaza Strip, the reserves already equipped, mission-oriented, and standing by for the next stage of our operations. But at this time, of course, we will not advertise, when, where, and how we will advance, or do, or enhance our military activities. And ground activities, one of the options, one of the tools at our disposal.

BURNETT: So I also want to ask you about the missiles that -- our breaking news that we led our program with tonight. Oren Liebermann reporting that a U.S. warship near Yemen intercepted fire, that the Pentagon believes was intended for Israel, these rockets were coming from faraway, from the Red Sea, even aiming at the south of Israel, this is a much further distance than anything else we're talking about. And they came from the Iranian-backed militias, according to the U.S.

Is this an escalation from Iran, Colonel?

CONRICUS: Well, all of the information currently is coming out of the Pentagon, and we haven't briefed about it yet. Of course, we are in touch with our American counterparts, but all of the official information is based on U.S., sources.

At this time, I can only say that our air defenses are ready of course, taking into consideration the various weapons that we know Iranian militias have, Iranian terror organizations around the Middle East, both in Syria, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Gaza, and anywhere else. And wherever they will try to fire from, if they do, and our air defenses will be ready. And we will respond accordingly.

BURNETT: More than 60 alleged Hamas operatives who arrested today in the West Bank, and that's a lot. Do you believe there are a lot more Hamas militants in the West Bank right now?

CONRICUS: Yes, Hamas has built, it has actually spent a lot of money, time and resources on building the infrastructure, personnel, but also physical infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, in Hebron, in Jenin, in Nablus and many other locations. We, of course, have been attacking that infrastructure, even before this war against Hamas and Gaza happened or erupted.


So this is an ongoing situation, exasperated by the war that Hamas launched. We continue to operate in Judea and Samaria, together with the ISA (ph), based on various accurate intelligence, and we arrest different terrorists, some of them in a preemptive arrest, so that they won't be able to execute terror attacks that we know are in the works, and so for other purposes, the aim here is to maintain stability, to protect Israeli communities, Israeli lives, and to make sure that this doesn't escalate into another battle front.

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

And I want to go straight to Seth Jones. He is senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is at the forefront of the international conflicts, and this one, this war zone, U.S. government relying heavily on Seth's work and the work of his colleagues in this war.

So, Seth, I know -- you know, sometimes when you're not here is because you're in those meetings.

So, tonight, we have a chance to ask you what you know. You just heard the IDF spokesperson talking, the Pentagon confirming that U.S. warships near Yemen shot down three missiles, launched by an Iran- backed Houthi forces. That's what the U.S. is saying.

I know you had a chance to speak to U.S. officials about this today. You are in the loop about what they know. So, what is this? And is this coordinated at all with what we're seeing from Hamas?


These are great questions. I think the concern as we take a look at the region right now is that there is escalation right now. The Houthis, who shot the land attack cruise missiles and the drones, are funded, aided, and their weapons are provided by the Iranians, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Quds force.

But we've also -- Oren indicated some of this is as well, but we've also seen attacks against U.S. bases, two separate ones in Iraq, as well as in Syria within the last 48 hours. One U.S. forces at al Tanf in Syria. The other one, at the Conoco oil fields.

In addition to that, we've seen fire exchanges along the Israeli- Lebanese border, and then obviously what's happened in the West Bank as well. Those are multiple locations, Iran has links with all of those organizations. We don't know at this point to what degree Iran has actually orchestrated these groups, they're not all puppets of the Iranian government, but it is a concern that we're seeing some escalation here.


And so, I know you also have been in contact with Israeli officials, and you know we hear the defense minister saying soon, you'll see the inside of Gaza. What's the latest you're hearing about the Gaza plan?

JONES: Well, two things. One is I think the Israelis are indicating that they need to have a presence on the ground. That, you know, we're not clear at this point what the size of the force that's going in, and how long it's going to go in for, but that it will definitely have a ground presence.

But I'm also hearing some, what I'll call good news as the IDF is definitely thinking about reconstruction efforts after buildings are destroyed, and letting in some humanitarian activity into Gaza. So it's not just pure military operations that are part of the planning process.

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

Next, President Biden is about to address the nation. We've got new details coming up on exactly what he's going to be focused on in his remarks, moments away.

Plus, dispatches from Gaza. We bring these to you and tonight, CNN journalist Ibrahim Dahman who's trapped in Gaza, with his young family, is giving OUTFRONT daily updates, and tonight he's going to tell you about the strikes and the increase he seen in strikes coming in. Remember, there is no water, and there is no Iron Dome there.

And I speak to a group of brave men who banded together to stop Hamas, and as you will hear, they found out that Hamas knew things about their community that they as the security, and people living there didn't even know.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN sources warning of a really dangerous, situation as we learned that the Rafah border crossing in Egypt is not expected to open, tomorrow to bring vital into Gaza. Now, this has been a sort of back and forth, Israel had indicated that it was going to open and then tonight, sources say it's not. That aid is desperately needed.

A CNN journalist Ibrahim Dahman is reported exclusively for OUTFRONT. You've been watching his dispatch, as you saw his evacuation from the north, along with his wife Rasha and their two sons, who are aged 11 and seven. They are now in Khan Younis, where there was a major strike, today and he says they're drinking water meant for toilets now, that that's what it is come to. Here's this latest dispatch from today.


IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN JOURNALIST (translated): The situation in Khan Younis is still the same, since we left the hotel. We are still in the same house.

At first, the house was safe, but since yesterday, and the day before airstrikes, and artillery have increased.

Life here is difficult. Water is difficult to get and when we do get it, it's very hard. There is no drinking water.

There are very strong airstrikes and the world is turning into a white cloud.


BURNETT: It gives you chills to, here it and how adorable those kids, are even amidst what they're going through.

We also tonight of an American who is trapped in Gaza sending her dispatches to OUTFRONT because we want you to hear what's happening there anywhere we can. She sent some pictures of rubble that she saw.

Wafa Elsaka is a retired teacher from Florida. We told you about her earlier in the show. She's huddled in a home near the Rafah Border crossing, along with 50 other people, she's desperately hoping to be able to get out. Wafa has been sending us voice messages to play, because her internet and her phone connection also are not stable enough to appear live on the air. She's been telling us about how dire her living situation is as

humanitarian aid has yet to arrive.


ELSAKA: Water is the issue right now for more than anything, and utilities. We don't have any utilities. We ask people not to flush the toilet so it's absolutely disgusting, and stinky.


BURNETT: I mean, just to even imagine, that and as Ibrahim said, drinking toilet water is what this does come, two for many.

It is especially precarious. I mean, for every single human being there, there is -- there is no situation that makes you immune to what's happening there, unless perhaps you're someone from Hamas and a tunnel with air conditioning. Wafa also telling us about the challenges of caring for her mother-in-law, who has less than eight weeks worth of the medications that she needs.


ELSAKA: She's going to need high blood pressure medication, and inhalers for her asthma, the painkiller for her back. And also, we're going to need some diapers because she's bedbound now with diapers.


BURNETT: Wafa says Gazans wants one thing, an end to the carnage.



ELSAKA: I really wish to hold the camera, and just walk through Gaza strip by strip, because I know it by heart, and to show you the destruction. I'm sure you've seen lots of, pictures and I'm sure you've seen lots of death but when it's going to stop. That's the question.

Please, please, ask them to stop. All I wants for it to stop.


BURNETT: And she also talked to us a bit about how, you know, the smell of death is everywhere. It's horrible there. Absolutely horrific, and among the estimated 500 to 600 Americans still in Gaza, mostly now mass, those Americans along that southern border, Khan Younis, and along the southern border near Rafah, as Dr. Barbara Zind, she has, of course, you know, we've been talking about her every single night here, her ordeal of what she's going through.

She's a pediatrician. She was in Gaza treating patients, when Hamas attacked Israel. She's been there many times, but actually this time arrived just today before this all began. She's been trapped. We have not been able to establish a stable enough connection to speak

with her since last week. But this is what it was like when we last spoke to 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: Her husband Paul has been getting sporadic updates from Dr. Zind, and he's OUTFRONT now.

And, Paul, we speak again and still, we wait for aid, we wait for your wife to be able to come out of that exit, from the Rafah crossing.

I know you told us that the toilets weren't working. You know, we're hearing that from others too, and having to drink toilet water. I mean, these things, these things hurt that humanity in person. You told us she was sleeping in a car, sharing it with other people, a clean water situation was dire.

What is the very latest that you've heard from her, Paul?


So, actually, I've been getting text messages from her last night, and it's much better for her. So, Nigerian Mercy Corps gave them a lot of food and water. So, actually, now they have working, toilets and they have water and food. So, that was quite a relief for me.

And as you said -- in your previous story, I mean, she's in a much better situation than a lot of the other people around her.

BURNETT: Well, that certainly sounds like it's the case, I know she care so deeply, but I know you must be relieved there's something like that. Nigerian Mercy Corps, I just want to emphasize that, right, just to show that help in humidity can come from anywhere, Paul. it has to be an amazing feeling for you, and for her. I mean, this dire situation, but the help would come in.

PRESTON: Oh exactly, you know they delivered some eggs to them, and so what they did was people on the compound made a makeshift of an out of scrap metal, or burning wood pellets, for fuel. They actually are making some sort of dinners now.

Her sleeping, she is now sleeping on a cushion outside -- because it was getting too crowded in the car she was taking in, and she said actually, you know, things could be worse.

BURNETT: Well, they can, and certainly there they are, for so many as you point out, although dire for her as well. Now, we understand, Paul, that, you know, obviously accounts close to

Prime Minister Netanyahu had said the Rafah border crossing would open tomorrow, but now, sources tell CNN it is not expected tomorrow.

So, gosh, how disheartening is this? At this point, I mean -- I know you're holding out hope any day, but how do you even manage this?

PRESTON: Well, this is not the first time we've had our hopes dashed, you know? I think at one point, Secretary Blinken came on and said the border was going to open. So we're all kind of taking this, you know, with cautious optimism. You know, I must say, I spoke to someone with the State Department Gaza evacuation task force called me last night, and I was reassured talking to him, it sounds like they really are trying to work getting these Americans out but that, you know, there's a lot of moving parts here. And it's, you know, much more complicated than -- you talked to me for like 20 minutes. you know, it's much more complicated than I thought, so things that seem a little bit easier to solve from our standpoint, are not.

BURNETT: Well, I'm glad you had that conversation. I'm glad it was 20 minutes because I know you've been frustrated with their lack of communication. So I'm glad that -- I'm glad that that's changed. You deserve that.

Thank you very much, Paul. I appreciate your time.

PRESTON: Well, I appreciate you having me.

BURNETT: And -- all right.


And right now, you are looking at live pictures out of New York City where a large crowd attending a rally organized by the Israeli American Council in Times Square is going on. That obviously is Israeli Americans, so pro-Israel and comes as Egyptian facials are calling for a day of nationwide protest Friday.

Friday, of course, a holy day in the Muslim calendar, and often, when you see protests, they say this is in support of Palestinians and President Sisi's opposition to letting displaced residents of Gaza into Egypt.

So, they are not happy with Israel, but they don't want the Gazans. One day after Sisi himself predicted, quote, you will see millions of Egyptians in the streets if they are told to protest. And I think this is just really important to emphasize, okay, protests have been outlawed in Egypt for the past 10 years, since Sisi assumed power, and I remember being there for the Arab spring, all those people on the streets. It hasn't happened since. And now, now, he's willing to let it happen.

OUTFRONT now, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon.

And, Ambassador, I very much appreciate time. Sisi is doing something, a lot of people thought he would never do,

right? All of those mass protests in the streets, in the Arab springs that we were there for, and now ten years, nothing, and now, he says millions of Egyptians could come in the streets. How focused are you on what happens in Egypt, and how big those protests may be?

DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Let's make it very, clear the border between Gaza and Egypt, it's not under our control. For the last 18 years actually, we disengaged from Gaza completely. Egypt took over the checkpoint. So, it's absolutely the Egyptians who decide who is allowed to come into Egypt, who is not. By the way, we have received millions of refugees from other countries over the years, we have seen Jordan, we have seen refugees from Syria in the past.

So, it's not up to us to decide for the Egyptian what to do.


DANON: We are focused on our goal, which is the eradication of Hamas.


DANON: That's our focus.

BURNETT: Do they have a reasonable point, though? I mean, King Abdullah would say, he's got millions of refugees, and they're not refugees anymore. They don't leave, right? That becomes permanent. That's what's Egypt's facing from other diaspora, from other -- refugees of other crises and elsewhere in Africa. Do they have a point?

DANON: Well, we have enough on our plate. We are not going to run the policy of the Egyptians, and I think it's up to them. I heard some countries within Europe are looking to accept refugees from Gaza and we welcome those initiatives. But we are not focused on those issues. We are focused on eliminating Hamas.

It's going to be a long term operation. You saw what's happening in Israel now. We'll go to the shelters every once in awhile, but we are willing to pay that price.

BURNETT: So, I know you said it's going to last a long time. We did have the defense minister of course go to the troops massed on the border and say, you will soon see Gaza from the inside. Maybe he needs to rally the troops because they've been sitting there for two weeks waiting, and we've seen them all there, right?

They're the busing in and out every day. They're sleeping out in the open air. They want to know they're going to do. But does this to you signal a different -- a different posture? That this is indeed finally about to happen?

DANON: Well, you knew from the beginning that we are of no choice. We're going to have to go into Gaza. Chase those terrorists, and kill them, period, and I tell you today, we don't care about when. We care about what.

The cabinet is meeting as we speak. And I expect in the near future, there will be a decision, if we need another week, another day, that's okay. But at the end of the day, the goal should be to finish with the problem. It would be better for the Palestinian in Gaza, you spoke with some people, you heard how much they suffer, so not only we suffer from Hamas, also the Palestinians deserved a better future.

BURNETT: All right. Ambassador, I thank you very much.

And as he says, the cabinet meeting right now, as it is, 233 in the morning here in Israel.

And next, an incredible story. I'm going to talk to a group of volunteer security guards, they actually fought off Hamas. They saved their kibbutz from a massacre. There was not a single death in their community. They say it was a miracle, but we'll tell you how they did this miracle, next.

Plus, live pictures of the White House where President Biden will address the nation, at the top of the hour. We have new details on what he is about to say.



BURNETT: You are looking at live pictures tonight of the White House, where President Biden is just moments away from a crucial primetime Oval Office address. The president will be talking about the dire situation here in the Middle East, and why he believes that the United States must help Israel fight its war.


And, MJ, this is rare, the presidents only given an Oval Office address once before. So, what are your sources telling you about what he's going to say tonight?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, even the decision to deliver this speech from the Oval Office speaks volumes about the gravity of this moment, and the sober tone that we expect to hear from the president tonight.

One senior official told me earlier today that the scenes of violence that were pouring in from Israel prompted the president to tell his advisors in recent days that he wanted to have an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, not just about the situation in Israel, but the ongoing war in Ukraine as well. And advisers tell us that the president believes that there is a powerful message to be said to the rest of the world, but that there is also an important case to be made the U.S. continuing to support Israel and Ukraine is a matter of national security.

Now, Erin, of course, this comes at a moment of importance for the White House in trying to shore up public support for both of these conflicts, as you know very well, public support for Ukraine has waned in recent months. We also know that the majority of Americans are sympathetic to the people of Israel, but that when it comes to the question of supporting Israel amid this conflict, that there are mixed views.

Now, this speech also comes on the eve of the White House preparing to send a supplemental package request to Capitol Hill, to the tune of some $100 billion. We are told that $60 billion would go towards Ukraine, and ten billion would go towards Israel. ,

And, Erin, you can very much easily imagine the president sort of hearing the voices of the leaders of Israel, and Ukraine as he has been drafting the speech for the past several days. I was told that he actually worked on this speech with his aides on Air Force One as he was traveling back from Israel yesterday. And we also, of course, know that the president spoke again with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier today to once again get an update on the conditions on the ground there.

BURNETT: All right. MJ, thank you very much. And if MJ has more, of course, we're going to go back to her as we await this important speech. MJ, thank you.

Joining me now, the Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

And I appreciate your time, Senator.

So, President Biden is going to be making an argument, I would assume more than just about funding, right? That funding would be an offshoot of a much bigger point about national security and democracy. What is the speech really about do you think?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, these are big dollars, right? When the American people hear us spending 50, 60, 70 billion dollars overseas, right, they have a high bar in order to prove the efficacy and the need for that money. And the president I think is going to meet that bar tonight because in Israel, we are engaged in a communal fight against terrorism.

This country has lost thousands of people to terrorist attacks. Israel has now lost over 1,000, and if you don't fight Hamas alongside Israel, then these groups grow in strength. They start to contemplate attacks against the United States. And Ukraine is a bit of a different case to be made, but it is another leader this time in Russia that is trying to shutter the rules based order, and if you don't beat him in Ukraine, I think it's likely he marches on a NATO ally and its U.S. troops in the fight.

So, he's got to make that case as to why both of these fights are really important, why they both make the United States safer.

BURNETT: So, your Republican colleague J.D. Vance said something that reflects what a lot of people think. Honestly, yes, Republicans, but also, you know, we've seen support for Ukraine, as an example, dropped in the Democratic Party as well. He says tying new Israel assistance to Ukraine aid is a slap in the face to our Israeli friends in their time of made, making it an either/or decision. He says continued funding hurts America and its allies.

And as I said, a lot of -- a lot of other Republican senators agree with him and public support for Ukraine has dropped sharply.


So, what do you do here?

I mean, the reality, of course, is that a lot of the aid that goes to Ukraine goes to U.S. companies, right? Lockheed Martin makes the HIMARS rockets. So, we're giving more HIMARS rockets to Ukraine, well, that money is going to Lockheed Martin and jobs in Lockheed Martin. You can make that argument, 20 percent increase in hiring, in fact, in one plant just due to that.

But how do you breakthrough to people at this point? It's gotten to the point that you need an Oval Office address to do this?

MURPHY: Well, I think this is an exceptional moment. I think there are moments when the world is on fire in which the president can help make sense of that chaos for the American people. Yes, he's got to make a specific case on why this money is a good use of their dollars. But I think it also has a calming influence on a nation that feels like the world is falling apart a bit.

The president can anchor us in a sense of what our role is when it comes to trying to bring order to that chaos.

Listen, J.D. is a friend but he is in a minority position. We're not holding one set of aid hostage to another set of aid. We're just acknowledging the fact that right now, there is a majority in the Senate and in the House that supports both Ukraine aid and Israel aid. And so, we might as well vote on them together, because there is a majority support for both of those.

J.D. is in a minority position in the Senate. Most of his Republican colleagues support aid for Ukraine and support aid for Israel.

BURNETT: Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight,

MURPHY: Great, thanks.

BURNETT: All right. And next, you're going to hear from a group of men, suddenly, waking up very early on a Saturday morning, 6:30 in the morning, gunshots, finding themselves at war with Hamas. They saved their community. And what they found on the bodies of the dead gunmen shocked them.



BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures of the White House where President Biden is moments away from a primetime address from the Oval Office as Israel inches closer to its potential invasion of Gaza, in response to the deadly Hamas attacks that killed more than 1,400 people.

But in Mefalsim, one kibbutz that came under attack, no one was killed, despite detailed planning by Hamas, anti-tank missiles fired at the gates, and a gun battle that lasted for nearly six hours.

I spoke with four of the civilian fighters from Mefalsim, that battled with Hamas, and here's what they saw and how they survived.


BURNETT: Eli, they came three different -- three different sides of the kibbutz.


BURNETT: And yet nobody died.

LEVY: Yeah.

BURNETT: I mean, how did you and a few others do this?

LEVY: Yeah. So, first of all, it is a sort of a miracle. I mean, we succeeded to do what we were training for, I think for years. But that's not exactly what we were training for. I mean, for years the fact that we have those squads in every kibbutz is to prevent like a small -- to intercept a small group of terrorists, maybe trying to do something very pinpointed, not a full military assaults with numbers, with dozens of terrorists coming to us with anti-tank missiles --

BURNETT: How many were there altogether, about?

LEVY: More than 30. The estimation is that around 35 terrorists were participating -- participating in the three assaults on the kibbutz.


BURNETT: It all began, of course, around 6:30 in the morning.


BURNETT: You are sleeping, you and your wife and --

KAZAZ: Yeah. Me and my wife in the second floor. We start to hear the missiles, and the missile, and I said to my wife, I think I hear missile, she said, yes, I hear this also. We ran to the first floor and then we got a missile on the second floor.

BURNETT: It hit your house?

KAZAZ: Yeah. It came from the roof and blew everything.

And then the smoke started to go down. I opened the shelter and to the second floor with -- to see if there is fire or something like this. BURNETT: Right.

KAZAZ: And I see that there's no fire. Suddenly, I started to hear shooting all around. I said to Abbie, Abbie, it's not normal.

BURNETT: Do you have radios? Are you texting? How are you figuring out where each other --

LEVY: Yeah, we have radios, but quite in the beginning, some of them were malfunctioning already. So most of the communication actually goes through the WhatsApp messages, which is very uncomfortable (ph), yeah.


KAZAZ: So, we have -- we have started to -- after everything is finished, so we start to hear the messages. So, we start to understand where exactly everybody was, and what happened.

BURNETT: Because it wasn't actually even going through?

So, afterwards, it's ding, ding, ding, ding. So, you are really operating alone, each of you alone in a sense.

YARDEN RESKIN, MEFALSIM VOLUNTEER SECURITY FORCE: Basically, yes. Basically yes, at some points, I had the connection at some points. Although most of us didn't have any connection, the radios were -- I didn't know they had a battery. They were in the other side of the kibbutz, I couldn't hear them.

BURNETT: Right, because there were three points.

RESKIN: I couldn't hear them. I had no idea they were in a battle until noon. Maybe, because I was on the gate.

BURNETT: But you were at the gate, they try to come in, the vehicle, and I know, in there, we saw all the burned out cars they used to block, you are able to stop that, but they burst into the pedestrian, we have footage of some of this from the security cameras.

RESKIN: They were actually -- they were actually shooting anti tack missiles on the, gate so there is an actual carnage going on outside of the gate. People are trying to rush in from the party, people that were just driving.

BURNETT: Because, right, they're trying to come in for safety.

RESKIN: They're trying to come in, the gate is closed. They cannot say the terrorists, they just go outside and run to the gate, and they're being shot at from a short distance, fall down.

BURNETT: So, the terrorists at the gate are trying to come in and these people are rushing in. So, they basically just -- they were like picking them off as they run.

LEVY: I'm actually taking cover on the gate from the outside. RESKIN: And firing at them.

LEVY: And firing at those civilians that are running through the gate, stabbing them after they were shot down, to make sure they are dead, and they are engaging -- there is a small grenade, this bomb shelter, they are outside the gate. Some of the party members were hiding there.

So, you can see a group of terrorists going and doing their massacre there..

KAZAZ: They throw hand grenades.

BURNETT: Grenades into the shelter, yes.

KAZAZ: Yeah, you can see in the movie -- the security movie, you can see the hand of the terrorist throw hand grenades inside.

RESKIN: So, I went out solo, and starting moving towards the main gate, but not -- in a straight line. I went through the houses, I got to parking plot number , it's like a hill -- a small hill over watching it but from outside. There were three guys wearing black, looking at the road. I wasn't sure if this was our people, or maybe I don't know what, and then the moment they turned, around they saw AK- 47s.

BURNETT: That's how you know, because you all have, M16s all of you.

RESKIN: We don't use AK-47s. It's not us.

BURNETT: Immediate signal, that that -- yeah.

RESKIN: That's not us. We shot at this group. One of them got hit, the other one -- the other two scattered.

BURNETT: Do you have any idea how many -- obviously, you have M16s, you have magazines. but do you -- just a sense of this went on for hours. How many bullets did you even shoot? I mean, do you have any idea of what this took, you kow?

LEVY: I shot hundreds, I shot 240 bullets,

DAVID ROSENBERG, MEFALSIM VOLUNTEER SECURITY FORCE: I knew that I have only six magazines, and I counted every bullet. I knew that I cannot shoot like -- I have a backup, or something like that. So, I have been shooting every bullet, it has its own targets. I didn't shot just make them lie --

BURNETT: Right, you had to shoot -- you had to shoot to kill.

ROSENBERG: I had -- I had shot to kill.

BURNETT: So, I -- I know you all know you've seen these, this is what was found on them, I mean, at least on somebody, right?

[19:50:02] This is their plans, I mean, of what they were going to do. I just was reading through it. I mean, it's dated October 2022, if that was, they were trying to plan it for a whole year. The details in here, Eli, I want to ask you one specific thing. I mean, they knew everything about your --

ROSENBERG: Except our names

BURNETT: Yeah, except your names. But they put their phone numbers in here. They put the task, kibbutz Mefalsim, read plan B14. I mean, its military.

LEVY: Very specified, very military-like.

BURNETT: God is great, the martyr, al Qassam Brigades, they labeled it all. But at the top, they -- they have, you know, the cameras that are going to be visible. Who is going to come to help you? They needed a tank brigade.

But this is the part that I want to ask you all about. This was exactly what they planned to do inside the kibbutz. The duty of they were supposed to go, what street numbers, everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They knew where the generator is, there's a --

BURNETT: Indeed they -- did you know that you see this, and you saw them, where they are trying to execute this plan?

LEVY: Yes, exactly.

BURNETT: Exactly.

LEVY: Their plan was actually to engage the security group, to open the main gates to allow vehicles in, to sabotage the main power and the generator, and to make as much casualties for -- from the security team, to allow the second wave to go in. And the fact that they knew the exact street where to go to, where the generator is --

BURNETT: Yeah, I mean, street by street.

LEVY: Street by street. That's exactly what they were executing, exactly. They came to the exact points where the gates are, for instance, the point beside of my house is the gate --


LEVY: The small gates that is closed.

RESKIN: The hidden gate.

LEVY: It's the plan. I actually saw a page --

RESKIN: Which I saw symbols.

LEVY: With actually arrows.

RESKIN: Arrow, gate, gate, gate.

BURNETT: When you sit here and think about it, that they did -- they didn't just planned and trained. I mean, that this is -- I mean, this is military. I mean, this is -- how do you even react to that? This took, the debate is October 2022.

LEVY: It's, terrifying because it is a military plan that -- the competence, the terrorist trained on it. It was quite clear they knew exactly where they were doing, they were disciplined. This is a military grade planning, very terrifying,

RESKIN: Military grade information.

KAZAZ: To make this plan --

BURNETT: To make this plan --

KAZAZ: -- you need inside information.

LEVY: A lot of information.

KAZAZ: A lot of information.

LEVY: All kinds.

RESKIN: It's not only (INAUDIBLE).

KAZAZ: We know -- we know that many people from Gaza also from the west bank, they came to the kibbutz to walk, and to build houses.

BURNETT: So, it was inside help.


KAZAZ: So, they -- all of these plans are very specific, very information from inside, someone that came to the kibbutz every day.

RESKIN: We're talking about it.

KAZAZ: Make locations, and give information to the --

BURNETT: I mean, the faction advances from street 49, then street 50, then the junction Klobal (ph) Mefalsim's gate.


RESKIN: The number they gave.

BURNETT: They gave it, right.

LEVY: The number of cameras inside kibbutz, you cannot see it from inside. You cannot see it with --

BURNETT: They would've had to have someone, that does not look like the number, and let's all the surveillance --


RESKIN: I don't know what these cameras are.

LEVY: I cannot tell each and every cam --

BURNETT: Yeah, but they do.

LEVY: And they do. So, we tend to think, like, it's for sure some information from the inside the kibbutz.

BURNETT: But you saw outside your gates? What happened?

So the world understands, can you just talk about what happened? What you saw? I mean, just --

RESKIN: Massacre. In every sense of the word, massacre, blood thirst, it's not just -- okay, target killing, he's down, continue. No, no, they butchered. They -- it was barbaric in every sense. There is no need to fire 15 rounds at a guy that's already dead on the floor, okay? There is no need for it.

LEVY: I can tell you that one of the most terrible I think few minutes in this day was actually when we went out of the kibbutz , me and David, families, we want out of the kibbutz at three a.m. in the morning. And there was no electricity also on the road. Meaning, it was complete darkness, and we went outside the gate of our house, the military told us, drive very fast only to the, north and we were driving like crazy and from the gates, we told immediately the children, you are lying down on the floor don't look at the windows.


In front of the gate, there were burnt cars, Gazans.

GOLDBERG: Apocalyptic view, you can't imagine it.

LEVY: In sheer darkness, in sheer darkness, we were driving on the road which -- to our own. It's normal life, it's an everyday road to my house.

GOLDBERG: But driving like that between dead bodies.


BURNETT: They described it as being in sort of a zombie movie, like a video game zombie movie.

And I'll say one other thing, one of the most talking, they were around afterwards saying to me something I thought very significant. He said he walked in the street and he thought that one of the Hamas terrorists was a friend of his.

He said he looked like my friend. So I shouted the friend's name, the guy looks back, he feels kind of friendly, shouts my name -- shots a name back at me because he thinks I'm one of his guys, and he said it was at that moment I realized, we do look so much alike, we actually could have been friends, and then he moved, of course, to shoot him.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is a little just before 3:00 a.m. here in Tel Aviv. And in Washington, in just a few minutes, President Biden will be making a rare address from the Oval Office. He is expected to lay out the administration's next steps in the crisis here, and the war in Ukraine, and asked Congress to approve tens of billions of dollars to pay for it.

High price tag, high stakes, and what he says, and what Congress does come at a time -- a key moment for both Israel and Ukraine, with what has been steady support for Ukraine now tangled up by dysfunction in the House. And with this country, edging closer, and sending ground forces into Gaza.

Israel's defense minister earlier today telling troops they would soon see Gaza, quote, from the inside. Another administer saying the government has given the army the green light, which will transform a war that is already being fought on several fun fronts, and could widen even further. Artillery and rocket battles continue in the north between Israel and Hezbollah forces which are, like Hamas, back by Iran.

And earlier today, a U.S. Navy destroyer shot down several missiles and drones launched from Yemen. U.S. officials saying Iran-backed Houthi militants were responsible.


BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we have built in the Middle East, and that we are prepared to utilized whenever necessary, to protect our partners, and our interests in this important region.


COOPER: So, against that potential escalation, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues. I want to show you new video of the Rafah border crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt. Trucks full of relief supplies, lined up, waiting.

Several drivers telling CNN that Egyptian authorities have started removing concrete blocks, but the border remains closed and it's not expected -- not expected to open, today, Friday, here in the region.

With me here right now, as we wait to hear from the president at any moment, "THE SOURCE's" Kaitlan Collins. Also, CNN's Kayla Tausche at the White House, and CNN's Nic Robertson near the Gaza border.

Nic, I understand that you have been hearing some activity down there, what have you been seeing? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, Anderson,

because we are hearing that the troops have the green light to go in, the defense minister saying that they could be in Gaza soon. We are really watching for any signs of an incursion.

We saw in the area over my shoulder here, a little earlier, tank fire. We can see the tracer, the red light, and the red illumination, if you will, on the tank fire. Heavy machine gun fire, flares being fired in that area. Now, that is an area, if there were to be an incursion, it would be a likely place for an incursion. Why? Because in 2014, that is the area in that the IDF went into.

Just a few months ago before we came on air, right now, we were hearing quite sustained, small arms fire over my shoulder. And in this direction, there were flares up in that direction, a little earlier as well. This is not saying that there is a ground incursion. This is really, I think, telling us that there are troops down there. They are close to the wire with the fence with Gaza. They have really been on high alert for any indications of Hamas trying to spot them, trying to target them, trying to get ready for their reproach, if and when it comes.

So, they are really on, the triggers. Their fingers are on their triggers, and that is what we have been hearing this evening. Where it goes in the coming hours, we don't know. But, this is where we are going to be watching, because if there were an incursion, we would expect, potentially, this to be one of the places, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, we'll check in with you.

Kayla, what's the White House saying to expect from the president, in a few minutes?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the president, as he is known to do, is making finishing touches to the speech, right up until delivery.

We know that this is going to be a broad message, that the world is at an inflection point, and it is fighting a war against tyranny. This is a shared enemy by democratic countries, and that Ukraine and Israel are finding themselves on the front line of this fight.

And, while it's a speech directly to the American people, it's meant to be accessible.