Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Israel: 6 Injured By Rocket Attack In City Near Tel Aviv; Republicans Elect A House Speaker, Ending 22-Day Standoff; Trump Takes Stand, Fined $10,000 For Violating Gag Order; China Flexes Military Muscle As Global Conflicts Escalate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 25, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Tel Aviv, the breaking news, new rocket attacks here in Israel as the prime minister says, quote, we are raining down hellfire on Hamas.

Plus, OUTFRONT's exclusive dispatch from Gaza. Tonight, an American pediatrician stuck there, sleeping outside, says there is one toilet for 800 people to use.

And the breaking news in the United States. The House has a new speaker after a 22-day debacle. He is Mike Johnson from Louisiana, an election denier with fewer years in the House than any speaker since 1883.

And the dramatic day in court for former President Trump. He took the stand, he was fined, called a liar by the judge, and he stormed out of court.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

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

And we are following several breaking stories around the world here in Israel. New video of a rocket attack just about 10 miles from where we are tonight. Israel says several people were injured as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his forces are now, quote, raining down hellfire on Hamas.

And that is indeed what seems to be happening there constant strikes. Netanyahu says they've killed thousands of terrorists and, quote, this is only the beginning. Strikes are now reported up and down the Gaza Strip where, of course, civilians are caught in the fire.

Much more of all the developments on the ground, including the latest on hostage negotiations and new reporting OUTFRONT of Hamas military capabilities as well as our exclusive dispatch from inside Gaza where the U.N. relief efforts warn that those efforts could stop as soon as tonight. I should say it is 2:00 a.m. here in Tel Aviv.

But first, we do have two major stories in the United States this hour. After 22 days, the House finally has a speaker, and he is a Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana. The little known congressman was able to do what no one else in his party could do, which was actually get the gavel.

Johnson was first elected in 2016. He does have less experience in the House than any person elected speaker since John Carlisle back in 1883. He's a vocal opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights and was a key player in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Tonight, Trump is taking credit for Johnson's win.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: At this time yesterday, nobody was thinking of Mike, and then we put out the word and now he's the speaker of the House.


BURNETT: Trump taking credit on what was a monumental day in court he had other things to pay attention to. He took the stand during his fraud trial after he was accused of breaking a gag order under oath. Trump said he was talking about Michael Cohen and not a clerk when he said this.


TRUMP: This judge is a very partisan judge with a person who's very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.


BURNETT: All right. Here's the thing. Judge Arthur Engoron didn't buy what Trump was saying under oath about the person next to him, Michael Cohen. And the reason is because you can see who's sitting next to the judge. It is the clerk. That is the clerk. That's who's sitting next to the judge. Not Michael Cohen, the clerk sitting there.

And Trump, in fact, has attacked that clerk in the past, which is why he was under a gag order in the first place. So the judge saying he found Trump, quote, not credible when he said he was talking about someone else and he fined the former president $10,000. Shortly after that, Trump stormed out of the courtroom.

Paula Reid has more on Trump's heated day in court, a dramatic day.

I want to begin, though, with Manu Raju on Capitol Hill because, Manu, you know, the courtroom mess aside, a victory for Trump on Capitol Hill today. House Republicans electing Mike Johnson as their new speaker, end the 22 days of paralysis in the House, but, of course, the person who was very outspoken election denier.

How did he pull this off?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans were weary of all the infighting, members who are more moderate, including ones who are more conservative, simply wanted to move on because they had been battling an intense discussions behind the scenes for days and have not been able to come to any sort of consensus.

And as a result, this chamber has been completely paralyzed, unable to act on key issues of national, international significance, whether it's aid to Israel or taking steps to reopen the government.

And ultimately, after three nominees of their party who could be the speaker of the House after Kevin McCarthy was ousted in historic fashion, unprecedented fashion.


After those three nominees saw their bits collapse, ultimately, they decided Mike Johnson was the one to get there. Even though he has little experience in Congress, having served only since 2017, not a committee chairman or a rank and file member but someone who was well liked across the conference, ultimately deciding he was the person to go with.

Now, Johnson, after he was elected along party lines not losing any Republican votes took to the House floor and said the House is back in business.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: want to thank my dedicated wife of almost 25 years, Kelly. She's not here. We couldn't get a flight in time. This happened sort of suddenly.


We've learned a lot of lessons, but, you know what? Through adversity, it makes you stronger. Yeah.


And we want our allies around the world to know that this body of lawmakers is reporting again to our duty stations. Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear, the people's house is back in business.



RAJU: Now, Johnson is well known in the House Republican conference, but he is not well known among some key Democrats, Hakeem Jeffries for one told me he had not spoken to Mike Johnson, and also Senate Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, doesn't have any relationship with Mike Johnson, and that is going to be a test going forward as McConnell, for one, pushing for Ukraine aid, Johnson another not saying how he would deal with it.

It's just one of the many issues that Johnson will have to confront as speaker. But one person who does know him well, Donald Trump, taking credit for his victory today -- Erin.

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

And let's go to Paula Reid because she was following the developments in Donald Trump's fraud case in New York, right, which was really the focus for him today. He stormed out of the courtroom. Judge fined him $10,000 for violating his gag order, second fine that he's faced.

So, Paula, what more can you tell us about what actually happened in that courtroom today?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Remarkable, Erin. Trump made a brief appearance on the witness stand, but he wasn't testifying about the substance of this $250 million fraud case. Instead, he was facing questions from the judge about whether he had violated a gag order. The judge has barred Trump from commenting or talking about members of the court staff. And that was imposed after Trump posted about the judge's clerk.

And then today, Trump complained about the judge suggesting he was partisan but then also implied that the person sitting alongside him was also partisan.

To most people, it was pretty clear he was talking about the clerk, but Trump's lawyers denied that. And then when Trump took the stand under questioning from the judge, he said, yeah, I was talking about you being partisan but I wasn't referring to your clerk, I was talking about the star witness of the day, Michael Cohen.

But, Erin, the judge wasn't buying it. So that he found Trump, quote, not credible, said his comments were intentional, and fined him $10,000. But this is going to be a challenge for judges not only in this case in New York but also in at least one of the federal cases.

It's one thing to impose a gag order. It's another thing entirely to enforce it, especially against someone who is determined to try to paint all the proceedings against him as partisan pursuits.

BURNETT: Absolutely. So, Paula, it all comes as four of Trump's codefendants in the Georgia election case, four, four of them have now pleaded guilty. Obviously, that's very significant. You went from zero to four, and four important players, right? What are you hearing about the possibility that more people will flip?

REID: That's what we expect, additional deals. And we've learned in our reporting that they're already talking to around half a dozen other people about possible plea deals.

Now, among the people they've approached are former elections supervisor Misty Hampton, former Trump campaign official Mike Roman, and even a pro-Trump lawyer Robert Cheeley. Now, Cheeley, we've learned, he was approached but so far rejected the deal, but negotiations are ongoing.

And we've learned that prosecutors are willing to strike a deal with almost anyone, anyone except for former President Trump. There doesn't appear to be a lot of willingness on the prosecution side.

But this is pretty common. This is how you handle a RICO case, right? You charge 19 people, you try to whittle it down to a few key people. So far, prosecutors appear to be making some considerable success.

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

And, you know, what does this mean as more and more people possibly may flip for Trump himself? A crucial question.

Ryan Goodman is the former special counsel at the Department of Defense, and now co-editor in chief of the "Just Security" legal blog.

So, Ryan, let's start with Trump question under oath, he denied violating his gag order, but, you know, he said, oh, I was talking about Michael Cohen, you know, when he slammed someone sitting next to the judge and, of course, the person sitting next to the judge wasn't Michael Cohen, it was the clerk.

The judge didn't buy, say he didn't think Trump was credible.


But how significant is today's ruling?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it's very significant. This is the second time that the judge has found that Donald Trump has violated the judge's gag rule. And he's escalated the financial penalty from $5,000 to $10,000.

If Trump were to do it again, the judge said it's going to get worse. And what he could be dangling there is at some point jail time. I mean, at some point, the judge excuses the options that he has in terms of what he can do to try to deter this kind of behavior. And Trump seems to have run, you know, roughshod over it twice now. So we'll see.

And I think it also maybe sends reverberating effects, as Paula mentioned, to the other judges in other cases that are looking very closely at this.

BURNETT: All right. So, on other judge in other cases, I want to get your reaction to this exclusive reporting, Paula was sharing, that the Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis has discussed plea deals with at least six more of Trump's codefendants in his election subversion trial. So, six plus four is ten, and four have already flipped.

So, you start to -- this is a strategy in a RICO case, you start and then you try to peel back that onion to get to the core. Where does this end for Trump, Brian?

GOODMAN: So, it's not a good sign for him that the district attorney is starting to just roll up these codefendants, each one of them getting very sweetheart deals, at least at the start. That's what's going to encourage more of them to come forward. You have to imagine that they're having -- the other codefendants are

having conversations with their lawyers saying, my goodness, I can put all of this behind me, all I have to do is probation? And I can get on with my life? So they would be probably knocking on her door trying to get certain kinds of plea deals that are like these ones.

And then at the end of the day, she then has a number of people that could easily be testifying against him as witnesses, admitting already to the court that they are guilty of some of the crimes that she's charged them with, leaving one person or very few people standing.

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

I want to go now to Van Jones, our political commentator. He was, of course, also special adviser to President Obama, and also with me the former Republican Congressman Barbara Comstock who served with the new speaker, Mike Johnson.

So, Van, you hear us talking about that moment, Trump stormed out of a courtroom today. And I know that it is consistent with what many may expect. But, nonetheless, this happened. It's a former president.

He's angry with Michael Cohen who is testifying. He gets fined another $10,000 for violating the gag order. He just walks out of the courtroom.

I mean, Van, is this a moment to say this is the conduct of a former president of the United States?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's certainly not. And he's going to learn this is not people's court, this is not Judge Judy. This is not reality television. Those fines can go up and up and up. And he can get put in jail.

This is democratic republic, this is not some, you know, kangaroo court in a banana republic and he's going to have to comport himself. And if he doesn't, I think this judge should show that he's willing to impose law and order, by the way, Republicans supposed to like that, law and order in that courtroom.

BURNETT: So, Congresswoman Comstock, it comes as we see the House elect one of Trump's allies to be speaker. Mike Johnson obviously not a household name, right, as he made the joke there that this came rather suddenly. Mitch McConnell Senate majority leader said he's never met him. Senator Susan Collins told reporters this morning that she had to Google him. He was of course first elected to the House in 2016, which was the year after you were elected.

But, you know, he was able to pull off something no one else was able to do including a lot of very well-known household names, okay? So he was able to succeed.

Do you think he's ready for the job?

BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, listen, you know, it's been a real split screen this week. You have all of these MAGA lawyers who've been pleading guilty to basically 2020 election denial lies, while you have it basically being a qualification for being speaker that you have to be an election denier.

So, it certainly was disappointing to see that basically the disqualifying factor for Tom Emmer was that he had voted for certification for the 2020 election because Tom Emmer certainly is a conservative, it was disappointing to see that Donald Trump put the thumbs down on him so he couldn't be speaker.

But, you know, you're going to now see can he manage this unruly group of people, he did vote against keeping the government open, that November deadline coming up, that will be his first big test.

He also has not been a supporter of Ukraine. So he'll need to deal with that. So it's a lot of big challenges coming ahead where he'll have to expand what he's normally been doing.


And, Van, Speaker Johnson not only supported Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He took it further than that, right? He played a leading role.


He asked Republicans to sign a legal brief, in fact, supporting a Texas lawsuit that actually was all about challenging Biden's victory in multiple key states.

Here's what he said then.


JOHNSON: The allegations about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with the software by Dominion, look, there's a lot of merit to that.

I've spoken to the president myself about this over the last couple weeks since the election, encouraging him to exhaust all the legal remedies.


BURNETT: Of course, there was no merit in that. And here's how he's responding to questions about all of that now.


REPORTER: Mr. Johnson, you helped lead the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Do you --



BURNETT: So, what's the significance of him being speaker, Van? It is, as Barbara just said, it is the litmus test.

JONES: This is a very dangerous moment for the country. Very soon, about a year, that guy is going to be presiding over the certification of the next presidential election here in a couple months. You have not just an election denier, but someone who was an outright plotter and planner to overturn the election who is now sitting in the chair.

January 6th last time, the coup plotters were outside the building trying to get in. Now you've got a coup plotter who's going to be sitting in the seat. That is a very dangerous moment for democracy.

And, so, while everybody's just glad that we got somebody and we can turn the computer back on and have America go back to work, there is a virus ticking time bomb in that computer because you have somebody who has no respect for democracy, who has no respect for the voters, who is has no respect for states, who is going to be presiding very soon over the next election count in that body and that's very scary.

BURNETT: All right. But the former president urged Republicans to support Johnson, came out and said that before today's vote. He wrote, my strong suggestion is to go with a leading candidate Mike Johnson and get it done, fast, love, DJT.

I mean, just to make this point clear, because it's not a laughing matter, Tom Emmer who was the speaker nominee before Johnson received opposition from some Republicans, couldn't win, because he actually voted to certify the free and fair and legitimate 2020 election. I mean, that is the reality that your party has to face.

COMSTOCK: Let me point out that case that Mike Johnson, that amicus brief that he put forward, he circulated an email saying, hey, sign onto this, I'm showing Donald Trump the list, and you're either going to be naughty or nice. He didn't say that, but, do you want your name on the list because I'm showing it to the president.

Certainly, we know if you don't sign on what Donald Trump does. And that case was dismissed within three days. And the case was so bad that even Chip Roy, you know, Congressman Chip Roy, very conservative, he said that it was, you know, just not a legitimate case. So, yes, big cause for concern, and as someone who now works on these issues to protect election officials and election workers and to protect elections, this is a question that he should answer.

And Rachel Scott, who asked that question, deserves an answer, ABC's Rachel Scott. And the treatment she got last night was very unseemly and she deserves an apology, too.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you both very much. I appreciate your time.

And our breaking news coverage continues here from Israel. The IDF tonight is releasing new video of what they say are Hamas divers clashing with Israeli naval forces overnight. A special report next on Hamas's military capabilities. We are learning more tonight.

And our exclusive dispatch from inside Gaza this hour. We're going to follow up with American Dr. Barbara Zind. She is trapped in southern Gaza still, and is now witnessing and living Israel's punishing air assaults.


DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN DOCTOR STRANDED IN SOUTHERN GAZA: Last night, there was so much bombing in the south.


BURNETT: You can just hear the exhaustion. And I'll speak to a cousin of one of the two Americans released by Hamas. She still has seven other family members who are being held captive tonight, including one who was just 3 years old.



BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT.

We are live in Tel Aviv, where tonight, new attacks against Israel have happened. It strikes Gaza in the water in this war. This is video from about ten miles south of where we are.

This was an area actually hit by a rocket attack tonight here in Israel. Several people were injured. And Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sent Hamas this warning about what's to come.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): When we go into Gaza in the continuation of the fighting, we'll exact the full price from the murderers.


BURNETT: Netanyahu not saying when a ground stage could begin. President Biden today saying he told Netanyahu all efforts should be made to get Hamas to release all of their hostages first.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have indicated to him is that if that's possible to get these folks out safely, that's what they should do. It's their decision. But I did not demand it. If they get them out, we should get them out.


BURNETT: Of course, there are 220 of those hostages there. Well, Israel says tonight that it has video that actually shows it thwarting another Hamas attack by sea.

So our chief national security analyst Jim Sciutto has this new video OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (voice-over): On Tuesday, a Hamas terrorist team attempting to enter Israel from Gaza by sea, an IDF video which CNN cannot independently verify, Israeli naval forces seen intercepting the divers, gunning them down on the beach and in the water. It is not the first time Hamas has attempted to enter Israel by sea.

During the October 7th attacks, Hamas divers carried out another raid, and made it inside Israeli territory before they were intercepted by the Israeli navy. Hamas' seaborne attacks demonstrate the continuing depth and breadth of Hamas military capabilities even in the midst of devastating Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.


Hamas has now attacked by sea, land, and air.

On October 7th, aerial drones disabled surveillance equipment along the Gaza border, and fighters air-dropped into Israel in motorized paragliders. Fighters breached border walls and sped into southern Israel on motorcycles and in armed SUVs. Hamas dive teams form a formidable third front.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This force is one that is a combination of a terrorist force as well as has some attributes of a conventional military. And what's particularly interesting about it is the fact that it -- they were able to integrate land, air, and sea components into their efforts.

SCIUTTO: Hamas has honed these capabilities with intense training. Hamas videos show training exercises on mock-ups of military bases. Much like those they stormed October 7th to deadly effect. And Israel plans a possible ground offensive inside Gaza, the concern among U.S. military officials is that Hamas will again demonstrate such military capabilities against Israeli forces in dangerous urban warfare.

Gaza is a densely populated urban area. And Hamas has constructed a complex network of tunnels rigged with explosives.

LEIGHTON: It's very clear that if Hamas can mount a coordinated combined force attack against Israel, they can also mount a combined defensive operation, and that combined defensive operation is going to be, I think, extremely significant.


SCIUTTO (on camera): And this is part of the message that U.S. military officials are communicating to Israeli military officials in advance of any Israeli ground offensive inside Gaza, and it's notable, Erin, that the marine general U.S. has dispatched here to Israel is a general who had experience in Fallujah in the 2000s, it was a bloody campaign for U.S. forces there. Enormous losses on the U.S. side, it took weeks. And, notably, the fighters inside Fallujah had weeks to prepare for

that U.S. assault, still caused so much damage. Of course, Hamas has had many years to prepare -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim.

And now with me, Shlomi Eldar. He's reported extensively on Hamas. He's the author of "Getting to Know Hamas". He's been in regular contact with Hamas leaders.

And on the day of the terror attacks, Shlomi, you've received -- you shared with our viewers one of the texts you received from a Hamas senior commander who said there would be no conversations about any of these hostages until Israel stopped attacking Gaza. This is even as you were crying on the phone with them as these horrific acts of depravity were just becoming known. Just some of the first ones.

All right. So I just want to start here with Jim's report. You've got this Hamas diver team even now, right, after there's been thousands of strikes, many Hamas commanders, according to Israelis taken out. Hamas diver team even now infiltrates Israel by sea. They say come up on a tunnel, and then we see the explosions sort of like whale spouts from underwater.

What more do you know about Hamas' capabilities, naval and otherwise, which clearly still exist?

SHLOMI ELDAR, ISRAELI JOURNALIST: Yes, still exists and we have to say something about the tunnels. They invested billions of dollars of building tunnels since 2008, since the end of the Cast Lead. We have to talk now there is upstairs Gaza and downstairs Gaza. It started to build because they want to protect themselves, hiding from Israel assassinate them.

So, they invest many, many billions of dollars. For example, all the money that Qatar providing them getting suitcase from Qatar to Gaza, instead of giving it to the population to relief the situation, the economic situation in Gaza, they build tunnels and starting weapons. This is the situation of Gaza.

And all the time, you see the situation of Gaza and what the difference between Hamas wanted to build tunnels, a project of tunnels for many, many years.

BURNETT: Yeah, a massive investment, which even now they're able to use them.

ELDAR: I try to reach my sources in Gaza for many years. The last days I can't reach them. All of them underground.


BURNETT: Because they're underground, so no signal, back to the landlines.

ELDAR: Secret, and I know they can't reach them by phone. BURNETT: Okay. So, to this point about these tunnels, two days since the last hostages were released and then before that it was three days. What do you think is Hamas' next move with the hostages?

ELDAR: An Israeli source says that we are close to a deal. But I must say that I'm following Hamas for many, many years. I don't think that they release a large amount of hostages, because they don't have any interest, and for two reasons.


One reason they would like to show the Palestinian -- the Gaza inhabitants that they achieved something, they've not released the hostages for nothing. They need to release the Palestinian prisoners from the Israeli prison. And one second point that they need the hostages for guarantee. Otherwise, Israel invades -- the ground invasion to Gaza.

BURNETT: Kills them all.

ELDAR: And kill them all.

So I doubt even Israeli sources that say that we are close to that, I'm not sure it will become true.

BURNETT: Yeah. All right. Well, Shlomi, thank you very much. Shlomi Eldar, as I said.

And OUTFRONT next, an exclusive dispatch from an American who is trapped inside Gaza along that Rafah crossing. She tells us conditions outside her compound are so bad that 800 people are now having to share one toilet.

Plus, President Biden slamming the Chinese on the very same day that the California Governor Gavin Newsom has a one-on-one meeting with President Xi Jinping. What is going on?


BURNETT: We're back with our breaking news tonight live in Tel Aviv. The U.S. calling for a humanitarian pause to allow desperately needed aid to reach Gaza. The situation there deteriorating.

As you know, more than 2 million people in dire need of food, medicine, fuel, a lot of concern about disease spreading, only a trickle of humanitarian aid has been allowed into southern Gaza. The World Health Organization says 12 of Gaza's 35 hospitals are no longer functioning because of lack of fuel and power even generators.

And tonight, exclusive dispatch from inside Gaza. We speak to a doctor, the American Dr. Barbara Zind who's trapped there.


She sent us this voice message describing the conditions in southern Gaza that she and so many are enduring. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DR. BARBARA ZIND, AMERICAN DOCTOR STRANDED IN SOUTHERN GAZA: Outside, there are probably 800 people per toilet, and yesterday the water, they didn't have -- fuel for the pumps to pump the water into the tank in the toilet. So they were without functioning toilets, all of them. Each person gets one piece of pita bread. When we first arrived they had one can per two people of canned meat. And now it's four people. So they are getting some food for very little.


BURNETT: And joining me now, Hisham Mhanna. He is the Red Cross spokesperson. He has been based in Gaza since 2019. He is currently in southern Gaza.

Thank you very much for speaking with us tonight.

I know it's very difficult. The U.N. has warned they are going to have to stop relief efforts as soon as tonight unless fuel starts coming into Gaza. Is this the case for the Red Cross also?

HISHAM MHANNA, RED CROSS SPOKESPERSON IN SOUTHERN GAZA (via telephone): Yes. Actually we are going through what most of the population is going through right now. We're a part of it. And we are still here. We are going to stay here. And we are trying to do the best to support the people in need.

BURNETT: Hisham, how much more time does the Red Cross have before you're not able to do your job, to do what you're there to do?

MHANNA: It's very difficult to do our job, given the security, the lack of safety and the huge demands are increasing day by day, hour by hour. We will not be able to continue our operations (IANUDIBLE) in Gaza for the next few days given the short supply in fuel.

And we almost ran out of humanitarian aid, medical supplies, mattresses, (INAUDIBLE) kits, body bags.

BURNETT: Hisham, the airstrikes that you're experiencing are constant. I know they're terrifying, they're across all of Gaza. They've led to widespread devastation. Can you tell me what it's like where you are tonight? What this experience is actually even like to live yourself?

MHANNA: Yeah. I'm starting to see along with hundreds of thousands of families, many of them are staying in United Nations shelters. Some of them are staying literally in -- without a roof over their heads, without any access to central services. No water, no fuel, no food, no medicine.

Their hygiene situation has become somewhat deteriorated. It's really tough conditions. And people fear they will not live to next morning, literally. They fear for the children that some of the families have to write the names of their children on their own hands and legs so that if they get killed, if they, you know, don't survive, they can be identified. It's that tragic in Gaza right now. BURNETT: Hisham, thank you very much. Thank you so much for taking the

time to share all of this with us.

MHANNA: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now is Danny Danon, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations here with me in Tel Aviv.

Ambassador Danon, I appreciate your time.

Obviously, the U.N. had said that tonight was a night that may be the end of their ability to provide relief aid. Unclear if we're exactly at that moment in that hour, 2:40 in the morning here. But we're on the edge. And you hear this from people, Barbara, Dr. Zind talking about 800 people per toilet.

What's your reaction to this?

DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: What about humanitarian crisis? What about more than 200 kidnapped Israelis for more than two weeks, babies 9 months old, grandmothers?

So with all due respect to the crisis in Gaza, this is an unprovoked attack by Hamas. We are defending ourselves. So the blame is on the shoulder of Hamas. And I would urge the population in northern Gaza to move south, to move south with all the difficulties because once we will go inside Gaza, it will not be pleasant to be there.

BURNETT: President Biden acknowledged that Hamas uses human shields, right? Of course, the world should acknowledge the horror that happened to the Israelis obviously on October 7th and what the hostages were enduring. But he also made the point about the crucial role that Israel plays as a democracy in defending civilians and humanitarian rights.


Here's what he said.


BIDEN: Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians, and it's despicable, and not surprisingly cowardly as well. This also puts an added burden on Israel.

Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians.


BURNETT: Do you agree as difficult as it is that Israel has to do everything in its power to protect innocent civilians, Palestinian and Israeli?

DANON: Absolutely. And that's what we are doing. We are trying to minimize the number of civilian casualties. But it's going to be a war zone in parts of Gaza. That's why what we did, we actually told the population where they should go. We allow them to go. And they still can't go to the south.

BURNETT: But there are strikes in the south.

DANON: It will not be the same. With all due respect, it will not be the same.

We are going in, Erin. We are going in with a lot of force. After what happened to us, it's about our survival.

So, those people who are still in northern part of Gaza should imagine what will be -- it will be a war zone. So I would encourage them to move south.

President Biden is right. We will do whatever we can to minimize the casualties. Hamas will do exactly the opposite.

Take the issue of the fuel, for example. We're hearing a lot about the fuel.


DANON: They have a lot of fuel in Gaza today. But they are not taking it to the hospitals. Hamas took the fuel for the tunnels, for the rockets.

So we have to ask ourselves, if we're bringing fuel into Gaza, who can guarantee that it will not go to the rockets flying into Israel?

BURNETT: As more and more hospitals there shut down, the man from the Red Cross there, Hisham, his wife is having a baby in a few days. You know, there are people who very well could die in these hospitals because they don't have the fuel.

Does Israel bear responsibility for that? I know you point the finger at Hamas, but does this Israel bear responsibility for those civilian deaths by refusing to allow fuel in? The U.N. and WHO speaking to a representative there on the West Bank, he was very clear that they absolutely would be able to confirm that that fuel was going for civilian purposes.

DANON: Unlike Hamas, we care about the civilian population in Gaza. But, at the same time, we care about our existence. And we realize that we have to fight back. We have to defend ourselves.

BURNETT: Do you think the WHO is wrong that they're not able to guarantee that that fuel goes to humanitarian purposes?

DANON: No. We have seen that in the past. Even with the cement, aside the fuel. The U.N. tried to build a mechanism to control the cement to make sure it's not going to tunnels.

Look what happened. Once it entered Gaza, Hamas took over the cement, and (INAUDIBLE) metals beneath Gaza. The same goes with fuel, medicine, everything. So, I encourage the community to think wants to bring aid to Gaza, we will make sure it's not going to the hands of Hamas.

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

DANON: Thank you.

BURNETT: As I said, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N.

And next, I'm going to speak to a woman whose American cousin was freed by Hamas. One of the four people freed. That same woman, though, is still waiting for word on seven other relatives being held, confirmed just today that two more had died.

Plus, China picking a side in the Israel/Hamas war, as more Chinese citizens take to social media to post antisemitic comments, a disturbing development tonight.



BURNETT: Breaking news live from Tel Aviv, Israel saying 135 hostages with foreign passports from 25 countries are being held in Gaza tonight, 12 of them Americans. Just four of the hostages have been released so far.

My next guest is Ayelet Sella, Judith Raanan's cousin. Judith and her daughter Natalie are both Americans and were the first hostages released by Hamas, of course. Now seven of Ayelet's other family members at this hour are still being held by Hamas. One is only 3 years old.

I spoke with Ayelet Sella earlier today.


BURNETT: Ayelet, I know you just were with Judith and Natalie for the 18th birthday, which was a miracle to be able to celebrate that. I know, obviously, they are keeping their privacy. Is there anything that they or you want to share about what that moment was like to actually be together for that?

AYELET SELLA, COUSIN OF FREED AMERICAN HOSTAGE: I can tell from my side that I've never felt such relief in my life. It was a very intense hug. It's also very, very mixed emotions because being happy is a privilege that we cannot have right now. We have seven other family members among them children, women, innocent civilians. They were taken from their homes.

And we also did not have the privilege to mourn our loved ones who have been murdered. So, at this -- at that moment, being happy and relieved was also tainted with being sad and anxious.

BURNETT: Well, I know just as you and I were speaking, you thought nine of your family members earlier today were hostages, and you're still finding out now it's seven because you found out that two of them died. It's got to be hard to find that out now, so many days in. SELLA: It's very hard because the implications, the thought of why it

takes so long to identify the corpses is just -- it's -- I don't have the words. It's so horrible. We can't think about it.

We give it time. We give it a minute a day, two minutes a day before we go to sleep. And then we just go on with thinking about the ones who still need rescue from Gaza.

BURNETT: And I know obviously that's got to be everything that you have and to that. We heard from Yoche, of course, a little bit about what she chose to share about what happened to her. I know she had been beaten as she was taken to Gaza and then, of course, held there for these nearly three weeks.

Here's one thing that she wanted to share with everybody when she talked about this last night. Here she is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are huge network of tunnels underneath. It looks like a spider web.


BURNETT: I know you've got -- I don't know how you even compartmentalize this or think about this. But how does what you heard from her, what you've heard from your own family members, what does it make you think about what you know seven of your family members are dealing with right now?

SELLA: Hearing Yoche describe what she's been through and that they were treated relatively well. We all had those thoughts about what it must be like to be there. And having heard Yoche speaks makes me hopeful that the other hostages are being treated fairly okay.

This is a trauma. This will be horrible. But the things that we imagine late at night makes for way worse scenarios than what we heard so far.

BURNETT: Yeah. I'm sure, I mean, I think it gives you hope that if there's any decency in the treatment for whatever -- whatever PR purpose it may be, that it could help your family.


SELLA: My family and over 200 others that are still being held hostage in the Gaza Strip.

BURNETT: Thank you for coming and talking to us. I know it's hard. I know you barely sleep. But thank you.

SELLA: Yeah. Thank you so much.

BURNETT: All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, publicly, China's president putting on a show of strength, today meeting with the California Governor Gavin Newsom. But behind the scenes, his inner circle is reeling with purges and mysterious disappearances. A special report is next.

Plus, Israel's war with Hamas is bringing a rare moment of unity to the U.S. Congress.


BURNETT: Tonight, a warning shot. President Biden putting China on notice after the Philippines accused China of intentionally causing collisions in a disputed area of the South China Sea.


BIDEN: PRC vessels acted dangerously and unlawfully. I want to be very clear, the United States defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad. Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.


BURNETT: Biden's tough words coming on the same day that the California Governor Gavin Newsom met with Xi Jinping in Beijing. Xi putting on a strong front on the global stage. But the reality is this: his inner circle behind the scenes has been plagued with problems, purges, disappearances.

David Culver is OUTFRONT.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newly released video from above the south China sea shows Chinese fighter jets within feet of military aircraft. Watch as this PLA pilot crosses in front of a U.S. plane, forcing it to tremble in the wake of the turbulence, a flexing of strength that the ruling Chinese communist party and its president, Xi Jinping, want to project amidst spreading global conflicts.

Most recently, the turmoil between Israel and Hamas.


Israel has the right to establish a country. So does Palestine.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi careful not to endorse either side, but notably refusing to condemn or even mention Hamas, telling his Israeli counterpart this week that all countries have the right to self-defense, but also calling Israel's actions in Gaza beyond the scope of self-defense.

Chinese social media using the conflict to amplify the divides between China and the West. One Weibo user accusing Israel of failing to side with Beijing it was sanctioned by the U.S., asking their millions of followers, where is Israel when China needs its support?

There are also antisemitic posts gaining popularity. China's strict sensors allowing debates over external conflicts to play out, but posts on a spate of high profile oustings within China's leadership ranks tightly controlled.

The topic Li Shangfu dismissed banned on Weibo. It refers to Tuesday's announcement that the general who was made China's defense minister only in March was fired without official explanation. He'd not been seen in public since late August.

This post asking, why was Li Shangfu dismissed? No answer found.

Li's removal comes after the recent firing of China's once highflying foreign minister Qin Gang, and follows the ousting of two top generals within the PLA rocket force, an elite unit that overseas China's arsenal of nuclear and ballistic missiles.

DREW THOMPSON, VISITING SR. RESEARCH FELLOW, LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: This is an ongoing campaign to ensure absolute loyalty to the communist party and to Xi Jinping himself.

CULVER: All the unexplained turnover not a good look for a country that boasts its political stability --

The military might of China on full display.

And increasingly parades its power.


CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, you can bet China is going to want to push past these internal shakeups. They want to position themselves -- and you and I have talked about this, similar to how they position themselves with Ukraine and Russia or the Middle East. They want to be seen as this global peacemaker.

And you can bet, that's going to be the messaging that they would bring here in California should President Xi come as expected next month to attend APAC -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, David Culver.

And one rare moment of unity today in the United States House after Congressman Mike Johnson was elected speaker after 22 days of pathetic paralysis. Israel bringing both parties together.


BURNETT: Finally tonight, the first order of business under the new House speaker passing a resolution supporting Israel's war against Hamas. It passed with a vote of 412-10, a rare moment of close to total unity, at a pivotal time.

Thank you so much for joining.

Our coverage from Israel continues now with "AC360".