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Erin Burnett Outfront
Two More Female Hostages Released By Hamas; U.S. Presses Israel To Delay Ground Assault Over Hostage Concerns; IDF Releases Bodycam Video Of Hamas Militants Near Festival. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired October 23, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Israel. Two women released tonight after being hostage by Hamas for more than two weeks. What does it mean for the other hostages and for Israel's potential ground assault? I'll talk two people who have reported extensively on Hamas's tactics, along with the niece of one of the hostages just freed hours ago.
Plus, our dispatches from Gaza tonight. We'll hear from a doctor rushing for cover, as he was taping a message for OUTFRONT. The sound of strikes nearby deafening.
And we'll speak to a woman -- a woman who miraculously escaped the music festival, only to take being taken hostage by Hamas. Have a gun put her head. You'll hear her incredible story of survival.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: And good evening. Welcome to the special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett live from Tel Aviv tonight.
We begin with the breaking news -- hostages freed. Two Israeli hostages are now making their way to a medical center in Israel, in Tel Aviv, after being held by Hamas for over two weeks. They are 79- year-old Nurit Cooper, and 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz. Both were taken from their homes in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz which is, of course, just near the Gaza border.
Now both of their husbands were kidnapped with them, they were not released with their wives tonight. We do have some video of Lifshitz making her way to an ambulance. Her daughter releasing a statement that reads in part: Well, I cannot put into words the relief that she is now safe, I will remain focused on securing the release of my father.
We also have new video of Cooper in a stretcher being treated by medics. Her husband, as I said is still being held by Hamas. And that is the reality, while these two women are free and that is something that is important and so wonderful for their families, there are still 218 civilians being held against their will, hostages in Gaza according to the IDF, ten Americans are still unaccounted for. And that is why according to sources, American officials are pressing
Israel to delay its ground offensive, something that appears to have at least been successful over these past few days.
Tonight, we are learning more about what that potential ground assault may look like. Here is the Israeli defense minister as he visited a navy base today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Keep preparing for our operation, it will come soon. We are preparing thoroughly for the next step, a multilateral operation in the air, ground and sea. Do your work, get ready. We will need you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Get ready, we will need you.
And Israel again putting out new video ahead of the ground assault, because as each day goes by, they feel the need for the world to remember why they are in this position. There is a reason for, and it is the unspeakable brutality that the world witnessed from Hamas.
I warn, you what you are about to see is graphic. It is body cam video from Hamas militants, because so many of them were wearing GoPros, that's how they've been able to identify them by the unit in charge. You see one of the assailants firing into a car, the militants then inspected the car, to make sure that the people inside are dead. This is horrific, it's hard to comprehend.
There is a lot worse out there that the documented, this is why Israel is rocking up of salt on Hamas and Gaza. According to the IDF so far just over the past, night they took out 320 military targets. That was one of the biggest airstrikes in recent days, and the targets they say they took out also happen, they say several commanders including a rocket division, this is, of course, in one of the most densely populated areas. There are few places for anybody who was an innocent civilians to hide.
And earlier tonight, OUTFRONT spoke to Dr. Hatem Edhair. He works at the Nasser Hospital in Gaza, so he wanted to send us a voice, memo these dispatches we've been trying to gather for you. He did.
And then in one of, them you're going to hear the reality of daily life in Gaza. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. HATEM EDHAIR, HEAD OF NEONATAL UNIT AT NASSER HOSPITAL GAZA: About critical supply, we have running of critical supply, IV fluid, antibiotics, some of the -- oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: And you hear that explosion in the background, I do want to note, we did speak to Dr. Edhair after that blast, he is okay.
But that is the reality of his life, in a hospital, hearing that as he is trying to tell you what's happening.
CNN analyzed that audio, at the same time that Dr. Edhair made those recordings for OUTFRONT, the exact same time that you heard that explosion, at 2:30 p.m. local time in Gaza today, CNN confirmed that there was a strike at a home near the hospital. That appears to be what you're hearing.
And as this is all unfolding tensions beyond Israel and Gaza are rapidly escalating. According to U.S. intelligence sources tonight, Iranian-backed militias are prepared to step up attacks against U.S. forces, in the Middle East, we're going to have a lot more on that in just a moment.
I begin though with Nic Robertson, who is live along the Israel-Gaza border. And Matthew Chance who is here with me tonight in Tel Aviv.
Nick, let us just begin with you. This -- is there any impact that the second release of hostages may have on the Israel planned to launch a ground war in Gaza. Certainly, it appears, while they are ill and health to be part of a strategy of one or two every few days, which, of course, would delay this in an unsustainable fashion for Israel.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That's exactly what Hamas appears to be trying to do, one or two a few days at a time. Is it going to put Israel completely off track? The Hamas alone? International pressure, United States and other countries, whose nationals are being held by Hamas who are speaking to Israel about the importance of hostage releases. Is that kind of pressure going to have an impact?
It certainly appears as if it is although Israel says that the U.S. is not putting pressure on it in that way. But it has been an interesting thing that the IDF actually had to put out a statement because the reports in local media here in Israel, they were stapling a prime minister, his leadership, IDF saying that's not true. Everyone is joined up.
But I think that just gives you a sense of the pressures on the prime minister. The impact this drip, drip, drip of hostage releases and whatever is happening behind the scenes, whatever Hamas is talking about in terms of other releases. In terms of is that pulling the troops away from their positions and their armor that have been close to the jumping off points, close to Gaza -- no, they're still in position. And I think it is a matter of time, that seems to be the indication coming from the military commanders.
It is a matter of time before that incursion happens. Is Hamas trying to put them off track? A hundred percent yes.
BURNETT: All right. Nick Robertson, thank you very much, in Sderot, where he has been monitoring right along that Gaza border. The back and forth of the buildup of this massive Israeli presence along the Gaza border these past 17 days.
OUTFRONT now, Rutie Mizrahi. She is the niece Yocheved Lifshitz, who is, of course, released by Hamas just a few hours ago.
Rutie, I know you've been desperate for answers about your aunt tonight, a miracle. I know your uncle is not released but she is. She's on her way home.
RUTIE MIZRAHI, NIECE OF YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: Yeah.
BURNETT: Do you -- how do you even respond? I know you were hopeful, I'm sure, after Friday when hostages were released. But did this come as a complete surprise?
MIZRAHI: Yeah, you know when everything happens, I was in a shock, I couldn't believe it. And today, it was, you know, also like a bit of a shock, but in a good way, of course.
BURNETT: I know you've been staying in close touch with your relatives and all of you trying to get answers. Do you know anything more about her release, Rutie? Or why they released her? And her friend any other information?
MIZRAHI: I really don't have any -- any more information. I was surprised, you know, even though for the last couple of days there were rumors that it was denied by the Israeli officials. I don't know anything yet.
I think she is on her way to Israel right now. She might actually already be there. I'm not sure, there is a big time difference ten hours difference between where I am, over there.
But I saw the pictures of what you're showing right now. And look I can't even express how happy I am, and relieved to see her. But at the same time you know I can't forget my uncle and the rest of the people, they are still we don't know what's going on with them. Not even if they're alive or whether, you know, the situation is.
And they can't wait to see everybody, you know, come home safe, in one piece. And then they will have a long healing process to go through, but like can't really wait until we see all of them back home.
BURNETT: Well, I can only imagine, even I know just seeing them, that little smile in the ambulance is -- you know, something about that.
MIZRAHI: This is my aunt. She's always smiling, always looking finding the positive, the good thing in every situation. And, of course, I'm sure she is also happy to be released, it might also be a shock, you know? But she's such a really brave and amazing, amazing lady. I'm so proud of her. I can't wait to actually see her in person, yeah.
BURNETT: Well, I hope you'll be able to do that very soon. And your uncle will soon be released as well. I know you will be awaiting that. But I know they've been married for, what, over 50 years. So I hope they will soon be together again. Thank you so much.
MIZRAHI: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much.
BURNETT: Well, thank you for talking about her with me. Yeah.
MIZRAHI: Thank you.
BURNETT: All right. And OUTFRONT now two journalists who have reported on Hamas extensively, Matthew Chance, our chief global affairs correspondent, and Shlomi Eldar, an Israeli journalist and columnist for "Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse".
So, thanks you very much to both of you.
So, the whole world is struggling to understand what happened here. I guess, Matthew, let us start in the moment we're in right now, that we're now seeing what appears to be very clearly putting out a couple, and then a few years, another couple in with an attempt to drip, drip the process.
It certainly gives hope that they are alive, which may be shocking given the horrific and inhumane behavior that was evident in the attack itself. What do you make of what they're doing right now? Hamas?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right. It gives hope that there are people alive. It gives home that people can be brought out alive as part of this process that's underway. But I think it also is potentially a tactic by Hamas to avert that land operation. We've been expecting it and it's a tactic that's working.
It's been 17 days since these attacks took place in Israel. And virtually every day of that, Israel has been promising it's going to go in and it hasn't done so yet. In fact, it's giving space for the process to yield more results in terms of people to get out, and get those people out of Gaza.
BURNETT: Shlomi, you have obviously, both of you have spoken to senior Hamas leaders. You actually have had quite extensive conversations throughout the day of attacks. On the day of the attacks, you reached out to a senior Hamas commander who was involved, and he responded.
SHLOMI ALDER, ISRAELI JOURNALIST: He responded. I have the American phone number. He answered, I was surprised. And I told him you murdered children. You burned babies. And he said we don't.
I started begging him, I told him, you have babies. You have babies of nine month old, please release him for humanitarian reasons. He started to say no we can't, we're starting a war. It's very
And believe me, I found myself starting to cry with a Hamas senior, trying to beg him to release the babies, only the babies. He shot down the phone. And later on he sent me a message.
BURNETT: He texts you?
ALDER: He texts me.
ALDER: And he wrote, Shlomi, first the death in Gaza must stop. The death in Gaza, talking about Saturday, the black Saturday on October 7th. Here is the mass killing in massacres against civilians in population. There are entire families that have been exterminated. Families in Gaza exterminated after we count 400 dead in Israel, and most of them babies.
BURNETT: He talks about the Gaza families --
ALDER: And we will not be able to talk about the prisoners until the aggression against Gaza stops.
Now they started to release, we saw this picture, old women. It's heartbreaking. Old women 80 years old, they are not prisoners. There are hostages.
ALDER: Does Matthew, this behavior, right, Israel had allowed Hamas to exist as a government, right? To be effectively ruling Gaza, knowing it was a terrorist organization. But they have felt that this was somehow could function.
And that something of this brutality could come out of this group.
CHANCE: I'm not sure Israel had much of a choice in it in the sense that these people were elected.
BURNETT: Right, elected government, yeah.
CHANCE: You're right. They have been destroyed. Looking at terms of could this have happened? Was there any indication of this?
You know what? I myself visited Gaza several times.
CHANCE: I've actually seen the Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas sort of training to carry out operations like this. This is years and years and years ago.
CHANCE: But you don't have to go that far back, I mean, even just a couple of months ago, a couple of years ago. There were Hamas setting up fake kibbutzim, and showing how they could storm them. That was all on Israeli television. Hamas put it out, it's been various radio interceptors.
It's just that this Israeli authorities they do not seem to have conceived that the idea that that kind of attack would have been possible or if it were possible would've been successful. They were wrong.
BURNETT: You have seen horrific videos that you described of actual rape, graphic. You are describing them to be before. They're hard to even imagine.
Is this consistent in any way with the Hamas leadership there are now that you have spoken to so many times? Or does it shock even you?
SHLOMI ELDAR, DOCUMENTARY FILM DIRECTOR: It shocked me. Something happened in Hamas. You know, I didn't go (ph) to Gaza Strip since the military coup. I think the viewers must know that what happens in Gaza, in 2007, they made a military coup. They kicked out the PLO, they shot them and took control of Gaza.
This is what happened in Gaza. So, they were elected in 2006, but they made the military coup. And I interviewed many of them, especially Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas leadership. And for me, it seems like, you know ordinary people, in a terror organization, but all of the time they knew the boundary of control, the boundary of power of Hamas.
ELDAR: Now, they've done something different. It's different. They came with hundreds, with instruction to slaughtering, to rape, and every direction and also to take video. To take video they got in order to harm the --
BURNETT: And they recorded it.
ELDAR: -- the public opinion of Israel, and harm the morale of Israelis.
BURNETT: And, Matthew, you know, you had a chance to sit down with the founder of Hamas. One of the interviews you conducted. When you see now years later, young guys with GoPros documenting the brutal rape and dismemberment of women, beheadings, they have documented us in their own GoPros.
Can you draw a line between what you saw then? And what you're seeing now?
CHANCE: That's a difficult question, difficult question to answer. I think it has something to do with the inhumanity of this conflict, generally. The fact that in Palestinians and Israelis as well are not really willing, in some ways, to understand how much suffering they cause on the other side.
I think it's hard hearing me say that, it's a definite feature of this long running generations old complex, and this is the latest terrible expression of that.
All right. Well, thank you both so very much. I appreciate it.
As we all just try to even -- trying to put words around to understand what is happening, what happened, and what will happen. Yeah?
ALDER: And I think if I can add, you know, just one word. I think our morale is down now. But we shall overcome.
ALDER: Really. We shall overcome. We must.
BURNETT: Words that certainly ring with significance to anyone watching in the United States as well. Thank you so very much.
And our breaking news coverage continues after this. I'm gong to speak to a father whose daughter is one of the ten Americans still unaccounted for her in Israel. Well, he's very hopeful that she will soon be back with him.
Plus, we're going to check in with the CNN producer who along with his family, has been trying to get out of Gaza. We've been sharing Ibrahim story with you. They made it to the Rafah crossing, but officials are denying their crossing. This exclusive dispatch from Gaza tonight ahead.
And then she escaped the music festival massacre with her partner, one of the first ten cars she says to get out. But then later was captured by Hamas. But she did something amazing and helped her get free.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know from where I have this courage to do what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We're back with the breaking news tonight, live from Tel Aviv. Two more hostages are free tonight after being held by Hamas for 17 days. This comes after those two American hostages Natalie and Judith Raanan were released on Friday, and reunited with family, so now for total.
CNN learning the IDF has told U.S. officials that more American hostages are still alive and being held in Gaza. Certainly what we've seen so far, it's giving hope to families that we have spoken to. It is giving them hope, many have thought that maybe their loved ones were alive. They now -- there is hope.
OUTFRONT, Yehuda Beinin. His daughter Liat is one of the ten missing Americans, many of whom are believed to have been held hostage after the Hamas attack. Son-in-law also, missing they were in kibbutz Nir Oz, just a couple miles from Gaza which, of course, is where the two Israeli hostages tonight, the elderly women also lived. One of whom was actually the founder of the kibbutz.
Yehuda, when you hear two hostages from here being released tonight, of course, Friday, there were two others. Does this change things for you? Does this -- does this give you true hope for your daughter?
YEHUDA BEININ, FATHER OF AMERICAN WOMAN MISSING IN ISRAEL: Good evening. Thank you for having me.
I, my approach to this entire episode is, one, where if I see it upon myself to remain levelheaded and not to get buoyed by one maneuver or another, as employed by the Hamas. I will take it as it comes and when my daughter is released, my son-in-law. Then I will -- when they arrive home safe, then I will find time to breathe a sigh of relief.
Until then, I'm not going to allow myself to get caught up in their games, their manipulative games of playing with peoples' lives like this.
BURNETT: I know you are in Washington, that's where you are joining me from tonight. You've been meeting with lawmakers there. I know you're from Philadelphia, you raised your daughter near there for a few years before settling in Israel.
Are you learning anything new about her situation from the U.S. government? Do you feel they have real information and intelligence?
BEININ: First of all, I believe it's clear I don't think I'm divulging any secrets if I say that the American and Israeli intelligence agencies are working very closely on all of the cases gathering intelligence as best they can. I understand -- my understanding is that Americans are using all of the tools at their disposal, developing channels of communication with Hamas in order to advance negotiations for the hostages.
And I think that from the way I have been getting information, from these sources, I have confidence that they are doing everything to the best of their ability to release all the hostages not just the American citizens among them.
BURNETT: Yes. Well, the kibbutz Nir Oz, of course, was one of the first areas attacked by Hamas. What they did to the kibbutz, it's horrific. The burning of destruction, we saw it in Be'eri. The children's toys are particularly hard to see.
I know you called your daughter on the morning of the attack. Is there anything more you can share about what you know she went through, and your son-in-law went through that morning?
BEININ: Well, officially her, my daughters designation, as well as my son-in-law, has been changed from missing to probably abducted, which to my understanding means that they didn't find any bodies anywhere of theirs, obviously. So that's -- okay. I just take that as it is.
Again, until they're back home back safely, I'm not going to let myself get overly confident or overly hopeful that they will have a sound resolution to this crisis.
BURNETT: Well, Yehuda, I appreciate your time. Certainly in all of your ability to manage it the way you do. I hope you have that moment for the emotion to truly allow that for yourself. Thank you very much.
And Yehuda and I are speaking, you're looking on your screen at the video of the two hostages who were released tonight. We actually believe we may have seen that helicopter raid as Wolf Blitzer was on the air, coming, heading to a hospital in Tel Aviv, landing on the roof, not terribly far from here. And that appears to have been the helicopter that, came obviously from down near that Rafah crossing where those two elderly women were released.
As we, know they are now in hospital being taken care of tonight. We have courts are hoping for their speedy beginning to their long recovery.
Also tonight, growing fears about a rise in attacks against U.S. forces in the Middle East, and the war escalating even further. The Pentagon announcing the two drones targeting U.S. forces were shot down today in Syria, as the White House also warns that Iran actively is facilitating attacks against military bases has American personnel and both Iraq and Syria. State Department, in fact, has actually ordered non-emergency personnel out of embassies in Iraq.
So when you add all of that together, it is a sinister, it is a stressful and worrisome situation. And it comes in the context of the U.S. shot down 15 drones and four cruise missiles near the coast along the Red Sea of Yemen, and that was nine-hour span of interception as Alex Marquardt is reporting.
OUTFRONT now, Seth Jones. His work on analyzing this conflict it's being utilized right now extensively by the U.S. government. He's the senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
So, Seth, I appreciate your time.
OK. Based on what you see right now and fears of getting rid of anyone essential personnel and embassies.
Look, after what happened in places like Libya, the precaution is always an important thing. But you know, we've seen 80,000 people demonstrating in front of a consulate in Turkey just a few days ago, how serious is the risk right now?
SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, Erin, I do think it's serious. We have seen an action so concrete actions taken by militant groups, all of them linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Quds Force, Iran's major paramilitary organization, those are the attacks against the U.S. and the Conoco oil fields in Syria and down for atop the Syrian-Jordanian border, the two bases in Iraq that have been targeted, the land attack cruise missiles coming from Yemen.
So, those are actions taken. Second, the U.S. intelligence has stated publicly that today it has intelligence of Iraqi groups and Iran linked groups preparing to strike targets, that is future intelligence about intentions of Iran. And finally, you do have embassies where, including Baghdad, where there is growing concerns. So, I think you put all those together the tensions are escalating.
BURNETT: And you've been talking I know with people and sources at U.S. embassies what are they telling you?
JONES: Well, I think what they have said repeatedly is that there is a real risk when this ground war starts of both civilians in multiple countries in the Middle East massing and demonstrating particularly against U.S. embassies, also the Israeli embassies overseas. And second, responses by Iranian linked groups against U.S. military bases in the region.
So, they are saying that they're starting to get out of some embassies, nonessential personnel, that is an indication -- we saw a little bit of that in Ukraine, before the Russian invasion as well.
BURNETT: Yeah, we did. You saw how that did presage, in the sense canaries in a coal mine.
Thank you very much, Seth.
And next, we have a new dispatch from Gaza on this Monday. You're going to hear from Ibrahim, our CNN producer, who's been desperately trying to get his wife and two young sons to safety. Today, a setback. They have reached the Gaza border it is a huge accomplishment but a setback today.
Plus, an incredible story. This story from a survivor of the Hamas attack. She was held for hours and then used as a human shield.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How does he go with you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He holds me in the back like this okay?
BURNETT: So you are shield?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I'm a shield. Yeah, a human shield.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Welcome back to the special edition of OUTFRONT live from Tel Aviv tonight.
We have stunning new aerial footage from Gaza, but I mean, looks like Bakhmut, as in it did in the early days. The death toll in Gaza now topping 5,000 according to Palestinian health officials.
Now, we told you earlier about Dr. Hatem Edhair at the beginning of the show. He is the head of a neonatal unit at Nassar Hospital. That is in Khan Younis, as you can see in southern Gaza. You heard the voice memo he sent us. It was interrupted by a loud blast.
Now when we heard that on his tape, we were actually able to trace back that there was an explosion at that time to a home near the hospital. We use the time stamps on the recordings that Dr. Edhair sent us. And here is more of what he told us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. HATEM EDHAIR, HEAD OF NEONATAL UNIT AT NASSER HOSPITAL GAZA: About critical supply, we have running of critical supply, IV fluid, antibiotics, some of the -- oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!
I can't continue talking. I want to go to the safe place now.
It's terrifying here. And in the last few days, it's more, it's more, more scary, scary situation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, he's there taking care of preemie babies, neonatal unit there. He had a panic in his voice, as he is still trying to do his job as a doctor. The situation is horrible there. Some vital aid has begun trickling in, but trickling would be all the operative word it is trickling in. And it is very far away pretty much from anyone who needs it.
As we've been doing every night on OUTFRONT, we have another exclusive dispatch from the journalist, Ibrahim Dahman. He is inside Gaza.
Ibrahim and his family as you know move from the north to the south they were hopeful that they would have finally be able to escape through Egypt. Those hopes though for now still hopes. Not yet successful. Ibrahim's wife and two young sons age 11 and seven evacuated northern Gaza when Israel told civilians to leave.
They complied. They fled to the south and now, they wait and wait. Here's the update that Ibrahim shared with us today.
IBRAHIM DAHMAN, CNN JOURNALIST (translated): Are we going to die today?
That's what my son asks me since we fled Gaza City.
Life in Khan Younis is difficult.
We're staying with at least 150 other displaced families from the north, eating the bare minimum to survive.
We spend our time watching airstrikes.
And filling the water tank.
It's like drinking toilet water.
Our children drink toilet water.
Because there's no electricity, my children can't see the horror online. And spend their time playing with other children.
Over the weekend, we were told to go to the Rafah crossing. So we loaded our car to try and flee again.
On the way, there was a lot of destruction. At the crossing, other families full of hope, were also trying to escape. But that hope quickly faded. We were told it's now closed.
We were at the Rafah Crossing. We were hoping to enter the Egyptian side, but the crossing was closed. It's only opened for humanitarian aid.
We make our way back, avoiding the chaos. Hoping that tomorrow, will be better than today.
We hear airstrikes in the distance.
Are you scared?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: No, I am not scared.
DAHMAN: But I can see the fear in his eyes, the same that's in mine.
BURNETT: That was Ibrahim Dahman, as we said, our CNN producer who is in Gaza tonight, hoping, hoping to be able to leave.
Joining me now, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. He is the Israeli defense force international spokesperson, of course, a familiar face to our viewers.
And, Colonel, I appreciate your time.
You obviously heard from Ibrahim Dahman there. You heard from that doctor, they're both in Khan Younis, and I know there have been strikes there. It is south of the original evacuation point that the IDF had urged all Gazans to go past for their own safety. Obviously, though there have been strikes there.
Is that something that's going to continue? Is that now an open strike zone as far as the IDF sees it?
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: Hello again, Erin. Thank you for having me.
What's happening all over the Gaza strip is that we continue to target Hamas. Whereas of course we are aware of the enhanced presence of civilians in various areas and we are careful not to strike them. As I also think that your producer insinuated, but we continue to hunt Hamas commanders. We continue to actively search and use the intelligence that we have available to create new targets in order to strike Hamas wherever they are.
CONRICUS: That is ongoing.
So, we have to be clear, we never said to anybody, in no language, not in Arabic and not in English, that we are not going to strike south of that area. We just said, north, northern part of Gaza is going to be a main combat zone. And it should be evacuated, because that will be a very dangerous place to be.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you a question on that. I want to show the video again. It is reminiscent of Bakhmut in the days as Bakhmut began to be completely destroyed, the not northern Gaza drone footage we have.
And you point out that you have been striking very specifically, if you add up your number of strikes even versus Palestinian reported number of civilians, you know the strikes are persistent. They are precision you put out today more competent commanders you said you've killed in a rocket unit.
The basic question is, how much is left? You've taken a lot a lot of the command. You've taken a lot of the infrastructure? Are you 10 percent done? Are you 80 percent done?
BURNETT: Yes, I heard you gave a very succinct break down a bit before with Wolf Blitzer. Spot on, I cannot say how many percent yet, I can say that there are unfortunately many, many more senior Hamas officials, senior commanders operatives from the Nukhba unit, the so- called select or elite terrorists.
And there is many more targets, but of infrastructure, weapon storage and many other things. So, no, we are not done and there are many more and many more new targets are created as we extract more intelligence, also from Nukhba fighters or terrorist that we have captive, that we are extracting intelligence from. They create new targets that we attack in the Gaza strip as well, both in the south and in the north. It is an ongoing campaign as we generate new targets as we speak as well. BURNETT: "The New York Times", Colonel, just reporting tonight some
new information, they're saying the Biden administration is concerned that Israel right now lacks achievable military objective in Gaza, and that they go on to report the Pentagon has specifically sent officers to help Israelis with the challenges of fighting in urban war, perhaps some with the experience in places like Mosul and Fallujah.
Can you confirm that the Pentagon has sent these officers, and there reporting some real specifics including the three star Marine Lieutenant General James Flynn?
CONRICUS: I can confirm that we are very closely coordinated and that there are boots on the ground, we share intelligence and we share perspectives and goals the highest levels in Israel, and, of course, in the military. I cannot confirm any such reports in "The New York Times" and I can only confirm that today I read something else in "The New York Times" that I found very interesting. Something that I haven't seen in a long, long time, that is close to an apology for their horrible and unprofessional coverage of the (AUDIO GAP).
BURNETT: They did -- they did issue an apology for that. Thank you very much, Colonel. I appreciate your time.
CONRICUS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jonathan Conricus there.
And next, you're going to hear from a woman who managed to escape the music festival massacre. She escaped with then was later captured by Hamas fighters. She, though, survived. She escaped by actually confronting the gunman and she's going to tell you her extraordinary story.
BURNETT: Tonight, two hostages taken hostage by Hamas now released after being held for 17 days. Another 218, though, are still being held in Gaza.
And one woman could have been another one of those numbers, another hostage. And you're about to hear her incredible story of survival. She was held captive by Hamas.
Yasmin Porat was held for hours, told her children she was going to die, and was used as a human shield. She was at the Nova Music festival with her boyfriend Tal (ph). When the attack started, but two frantically fled and looked for safety.
YASMIN PORAT, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: Tal was hysterical. We are driving for five minutes and then he saw, you know, shelter near kibbutz Be'eri, okay? So, he stopped there, without telling me. He decided to stop. He was
very frighten, he go out from the car and go to the (INAUDIBLE). So, I'm going after him.
After 20 minutes, we start to hear shootings, shootings.
PORAT: Some guys tell us they are terrorists. So, calling, tell him, there are terrorists here, let's go.
We are going to the car very fast. Drive for five -- and when we're going to the car, we can see them going and shooting everybody.
BURNETT: You can see them?
PORAT: Yeah. Two terrorist shooting everyone.
The traffic slowed down, and we see that there are people with gunshots. So, we're doing the turn and getting to the kibbutz Be'eri. In the center of the kibbutz, we're putting our car into some place and knock on people's door.
One family opened us, it was 7:00 in the morning. We told him where Israeli. We look Israeli.
We are afraid of the rockets. Please help us. They immediately gave us shelter. And they were 70 years old. Tau was very hysterical. The woman was very helpful.
BURNETT: She was very calm?
PORAT: Yes, she was very calm and told us to relax. We started to know each other, and after seven and a half, they are getting SMS and lots of messages that there is terrorist in the kibbutz and everybody has to go to the safe room. Time is ticking, okay? I mean, like 12 or not 12, a half --
BURNETT: This is after five hours?
PORAT: Yeah, we're sitting in this room for five hours. In this time, people are -- like in the WhatsApp something like that, Arabs enter to my home, they are shouting, and then she doesn't answer anymore. Like this --
BURNETT: Did you realize when that happened that they were being killed?
PORAT: Yeah. Yeah, because there was no answer. So, we don't know if it was killed or kidnapped. We were very innocent, you understand? We didn't think about these things.
In 2:00, (INAUDIBLE) the terrorist is --
BURNETT: Seven hours. PORAT: Yeah, near our house. Five minutes after that, we are hearing crush all over the house. You're hearing shotgun shooting, shoots, and a lot of screaming. You understand that there no one -- you heard a lot of people.
BURNETT: There was a lot of voices. In that moment when you are sitting, the four of you and they are coming, I couldn't even imagine how you felt.
PORAT: I didn't believe that it's happened to me. The owner of the house is holding, you know --
BURNETT: The door.
PORAT: -- the door hand -- yeah. For one hour, we are success not letting them to the safety room, but they are screaming all over, you know? After 15 minutes, they feel threw --
BURNETT: A grenade, they threw a grenade.
PORAT: There was black -- and after ten minutes, they success to open the window of the safety room and asked for us to surrender because me and Tal, we are hiding in the closet. So, they did not know we were there.
PORAT: Two minutes after they take (INAUDIBLE), the door was opened and three terrorists are putting a gun to our head.
BURNETT: I mean, did you --
PORAT: I didn't but --
BURNETT: Were you even able to think?
PORAT: I think about my children that they are going to lose their mother for nothing because I didn't suppose to be there. I was so sad that I was probably going to die for nothing because I didn't do anything. I am just maybe to kill because I'm Jewish, okay? At least ten terrorist taking two of us to another home.
I don't know from where I have this courage to do what I did, but the terrorist that talk Hebrew, he see that I am looking at them. He told me, come down, we don't want to kill you, just want to take you to Gaza.
And he tell told me, he asked me, you have friends from the police or the army? I said, yeah. So, he told me, let's take one of them. I told him my phone is stealing (INAUDIBLE) from me, I don't have my phone, I don't remember numbers.
And then he brought another phone, we called 100-911, the police answered. I'm talking with them. I'm talking and Hebrew, telling them hello, I'm Yasmin, I am in kibbutz Be'eri. We are hostages in a house in the kibbutz. Please come.
BURNETT: Why did they want the police to come?
PORAT: They want to kidnap, that's what's funny, they thought the army is there. So, they want to stay alive.
BURNETT: So, they thought if they took you to Gaza, the IDF would -- could kill them?
BURNETT: The IDF wasn't there, but they did not know that.
PORAT: Yeah. After two hours the police arrived. We saw Jeeps. Everybody, you know, get to stress the terrorists, put the guns, shot starting to happen between both sides. And it's one, two, three, wow, 100. We all -- the hostages and the terrorist were all lying down.
BURNETT: You have a bruise.
PORAT: Like this.
I feel something very hot. Then I understand that I'm really, really -- that's when this happens to me, I understand that I'm going to die. It's not possible to get a life from the situation.
I'm starting to cry for myself. And the commander is, you know, next to me, but we have enough that I am, you know, stop crying and put my hands at my head. He talked all the time in Arabic. Today, I know he spoke with the police and asked for surrender, because I was calling to the police, they know that there is women with the name Yasmin.
So, they tell him, go with Yasmin outside, put your clothes out, and take four minutes, he put out of a --
BURNETT: Put the vest.
PORAT: He was naked, and he is going with me slowly to the police.
BURNETT: How does he go with you?
PORAT: He holds me on the back, like this.
BURNETT: It's like, so your shield?
PORAT: I'm a shield. Yeah, a human shield.
He goes me to the police, and it's taken us four minutes there, and everybody's -- I'm telling, them don't you don't shoot.
BURNETT: What do the Hamas? Do they see him?
PORAT: They see him and they told him that if you are going to do this, they will shoot him, but they didn't.
BURNETT: They didn't do it.
BURNETT: So, you'll never know why.
PORAT: Yeah, because no one there stayed alive.
We are two meters from the 20 policemen from Israel. He pushed me a little bit and I'm running to the police. He gets arrested and I am saved. But, I understand that my boyfriend and the others are still there with 40 terrorist, because just one surrendered.
Five o'clock, the police don't understand that big --
BURNETT: They had no idea, 5:00 in the afternoon they, had no idea who big it was.
PORAT: They think that I was maybe, you know, don't understand. I'm telling them, no, they are faulty (ph). They tell me, look with us, we are faulty (ph). They are more from you. And they don't believe me.
BURNETT: So, did you know the terrorists had shot? I mean, did you know that they had shot everybody?
PORAT: I didn't know. In this -- in this time. I had hoped that Tal is still alive. Yes, for three days, we hope that he was alive.
But, Tuesday, three days after the attack, they have an announcement. That's it. He was dead. Everybody was dead.
I think it's a dream that maybe I am going to wake up. I don't understand it. Do you understand what I'm saying?
PORAT: I know the information, but I do not feel the information. I know he's dead, but I think he's okay.
BURNETT: You can't feel yet. You don't have the emotion yet.
PORAT: Sometimes I have the emotion yet, but most of the time I'm living in deny. I know I'm in denial, okay, it's not -- because it's weird for me that he's gone. He was younger than me, I'm 44, and he's 37. So, it's word to me that he won't get to my age today, you understand?
BURNETT: He'll never be 44.
PORAT: Yeah, never be 40. It's very strange.
BURNETT: So many stories, horrific stories. When you open the closet door, how do they not kill you?
PORAT: So, I think I have an answer. Also in the Hamas, there are a lot of kinds of people. There are radical people, and there are more, you know --
PORAT: Yes. I think and I understand after the situation, that the commander that surrendered, that he considered somewhat comeback.
BURNETT: He's not as radical.
PORAT: Exactly. I know after the police told me that there are two commanders there that are very radical. They said nobody is getting out. We are going back to Gaza, with everybody lives. They exist this.
BURNETT: Right, I mean, some of them are not --
PORAT: Most of them are our children, 20s. Okay? They are afraid to die. They want to get to Gaza with us.
BURNETT: You can tell that they -- they were also afraid to die?
PORAT: Yeah, yeah. They are humans. They are humans. They are afraid.
BURNETT: Yasmin, what -- I know you said you can't even necessarily feel sometimes. You have children, thank God for that.
PORAT: When I was in the closet, you need to understand we are in one hour that it was the most --
BURNETT: Right. And it's space is tiny.
PORAT: We were like this, holding hands, and we are very sweat because it was hot in the closet. And we are holding our hands.
And then I decided to write my children last words. I wrote to my girls, I love you. I'm probably going to die, so be safe, so stay sweet. It's very important for me that my three children will stay close.
BURNETT: And now, you are with your youngest child now, your son.
BURNETT: We're talking about children on the same age.
BURNETT: That he wrote -- he wrote you a note.
PORAT: My son told me he wants to take me to the room, and he wants to give me something. He wrote these two sentences. I hope you will be happy and please don't be sad anymore. I love you, Alon.
PORAT: And I tell him, thank you that you tell me that and I will try to be more happy like I used to be.
BURNETT: Extraordinary woman.
Thank you so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.