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Biden Says He's Reached Deal to Get Aid Into Gaza; CNN: Hamas Gathered Extensive Intel Before Attack; National Security Council: U.S. Assesses that Israel is "Not Responsible" for Gaza Hospital Blast. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 19, 2023 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I am Kasie Hunt. It is Thursday, October 19th, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington and noon in Gaza where there is some hope that humanitarian aid could soon reach Palestinians in Gaza.

The strip has been blocked off and under heavy bombardment since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack that killed 1,400 people in Israel.

President Biden says he struck a deal with Egypt's president to get some much needed aid into Gaza starting tomorrow.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He agreed that what he would do is open the gate on -- to do two things. One, let up to 20 trucks through to begin with. Satterfield, my ambassador down there in -- not down there, in Cairo now, he's going to coordinate this. He has my authority to do what's needed to get it done.


HUNT: That was the president aboard Air Force One talking to reporters as he flew home from his trip in Israel, where he managed to convince the Israeli war cabinet to allow aid to cross the border. But, of course, he was also snubbed by the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. Plans for a four-way in-person summit were quickly canceled after that deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of people.

The president did back Israel's claim that they were not responsible, but the explosion was actually caused by a misfired Palestinian missile.

Tonight, President Biden will deliver a primetime address calling for continued aid to Israel in the face of Hamas's attacks, and to Ukraine and its ongoing war against Russia.

CNN's Becky Anderson is live in Tel Aviv with more.

Becky, let's talk about Gaza, because the president is focused on trying to get these trucks across the border. There's still a lot of logistical hurdles to getting that done.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ABU DHABI MANAGING EDITOR AND ANCHOR: There is. Joe Biden said that he had gone to get the job done, and I did it, he said, referring to getting that aid crossing open.

So let's talk about that specifically. That is the crossing to the south of Gaza between -- with Egypt on the other side and an enormous amount of aid built up on that side of the border in a place called Arish in the Sinai, in Egypt. So the agreement is, that some 20 trucks of aid will cross likely by Friday into Gaza to try and alleviate what is a near catastrophic situation.

When I spoke to the U.N. agency on the ground there today, which has shelters are very close to the Rafah border crossing. One would assume they would get some of the state, but when asked to assume that as they say, to sort of get into -- into Gaza. But the U.N. agency spokesman told me two things this morning. Firstly, they are still hearing airstrikes and seeing the result of Israeli activity in that area.

So that's an issue. There is clearly, you know, a real issue about whether that area is safe at present. And then we're talking about 20 trucks. I mean, you know, you talk to anybody on the ground here including the U.N. agency on the ground, he said we need hundreds if not thousands of trucks.

The problem for Egypt, the Americans, the U.N. getting this aid in at the moment, is that the roads are very badly bombed. They have sort of -- you know, partially destroyed as a result of strikes in that area, in the south. So there is an enormous amount of effort being made to try and make those roads passable in order to get that aid in.

The U.N. told me they have got 10,000 people in the shelter very close to the Rafah border. As I say, they are still under threat of airstrikes and their supplies are running extremely low. So this aid whilst me enormously important by Friday, really, is just the beginning of what both southern and northern Gaza need.


And remember, the Israelis have conceded to demands from the U.S. to get that border crossing open, in Egypt, but the rest of the borders around Gaza controlled by the Israelis, the Israelis say will not be opened. They are not prepared to do that. And therefore, there will be no aid getting into Gaza, particularly in the north where we know a real humanitarian situation is unfolding. Because, the Israelis are not conceding to demands to allow that in.

There is a lot of talk about a cease-fire behind the scenes. I mean, if Joe Biden came with a number of objectives, obviously one of those was to get this aid through that Gaza crossing. We also know the U.S. citizens in Gaza are a real priority. They want to get those out. You know, we haven't had any information about whether he achieve that, nor whether there was any movement on the release of these hostages.

We heard today that the IDF is now informed the families of 203 people, that number has gone up, that they are likely held by Hamas. They also said that more than 300 soldiers have been killed since the Hamas attack on October the 7th. We're talking about Israeli soldiers.

The numbers are hideous here, aren't they? Four hundred and seventy- one people now killed in that hospital blast according to Palestinian authorities. And behind every one of these numbers, of course, is a person behind this enormous humanitarian effort and the catastrophe unfolding, men and women and children whose lives are frankly at risk at this point -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yes, no, of course. Although I have to say, all those hostages are still being hard on a prospect of a cease-fire seems rather dim.

Becky Anderson, thank you very much for your reporting. I appreciate it.

And just ahead here, a CNN investigation reveals that Hamas had a remarkably detailed intelligence ahead of the October 7th terror attack. Where did they get it?

Plus, America's House is still without a speaker this morning. What happens now?



HUNT: There are lingering questions about how Israeli intelligence could have missed signs of such a large scale Hamas attack. But what about the intelligence operation on the Hamas side?

A CNN investigation is taking a closer look at the depth of intelligence that Hamas appears to have gathered before the attacks.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with detailed intelligence, not every Hamas objective was achieved. Nearby kibbutz Sa'ad wasn't even attacked, although we now have documentary evidence that Hamas intended to inflect the maximum possible human casualties there, and to hold hostages. A highly detailed street map found on another Hamas gunman, and obtained by CNN, shows individual buildings in Sa'ad identified and were assessed for their military value.

The communal kitchen, for example, is described as the main place suitable for holding hostages. Inside the guard room, the soldiers must be neutralized the Hamas instructions say. While the kibbutz dental clinic is designated a place for first aid for both enemies and friends.


HUNT: So, that was CNN's Matthew Chance reporting there.

Let's bring in former director of communications for U.S. national intelligence, Shawn Turner.

Shawn, some of these details are terrifying. What is your view on how Hamas was able to gather this? I mean, there were maps. There were battle plans. They knew about the locations of rural roads. They knew about generators.

I mean, how -- how is it possible that they gathered all this information?


You know, there's no doubt that Hamas has made significant progress with regards to military tactics and strategies. And even in their collection of intelligence. But make no mistake, there is no universe in which Hamas has the type of resources necessary to get the level of detailed information that we see in some of the documents and some of the reporting since this attack happened more -- just more than a week ago.

I mean, as you pointed out, you look at the fact that they knew where communication towers were. Those communication towers were critical to taking out some of Israeli's defenses, some of the remote defenses. They knew where there were openings in barricades across -- across the area. They even had a better sense of the fact that they could overwhelm the Iron Dome system if they launched multiple rockets at different trajectories.

So that level of detail tells me that there's definitely something else going on here with regard to how they obtained that intelligence, Kasie.

HUNT: So, when you say that there are -- there is something else going on here, what are the possibilities? Is it the Iranians? Do they have human sources inside Israel around these kibbutzes? I mean, how do you think this would be possible?

TURNER: Yeah. I think you hit the two key ones. I think that most likely scenario here is that Iran may have participated in gathering intelligence, either gathering the intelligence themselves or stealing intelligence through cyber insurgents that they provided to Hamas. That could have happened over a long period of time and that intelligence could have come from a range of different resources or different sources. That's a likely scenario.

The worst case scenario is that Hamas was able to recruit and place humans or human intelligence sources on the ground within Israel to return that intelligence back to Hamas. Now, again, I say that is the worst case and it is too early to conclude that that is what happened here.

But when you look at the level of detail, the level of specificity here, this is not the kind of information that you get from a Google search or the kind that you get from paying close attention.

[05:15:09] It's also the kind of information that -- that is very present. It's very relevant.

You know, intelligence changes very rapidly in Israel. You know, they tend to upgrade their systems, what have you. And so, their intelligence is fairly recent intelligence.

So I think those are the two most likely scenarios. But in either case, Israel was still caught off guard by what happened here.

HUNT: Right. Just really stunning, the level that Matthew Chance was able to kind of walk us through here that Hamas actually was able to obtain.

All right. Shawn Turner, I'm grateful for your time this morning. Thank you very much for being with us.

TURNER: Great. Thanks for having me.

HUNT: And U.S. intelligence is backing up Israel's claim that they did not strike the hospital in Gaza. Is it going to be enough to convince skeptics and does that matter? Ahead.


HUNT: U.S. intelligence assessment now backs up Israel's claim that Israel was not responsible for the Tuesday blast at the Gaza hospital, and that the explosion was actually caused by a misfired Palestinian missile. Both sides, Hamas and Israel are waging a furious PR campaign, trying to blame each other for the deadly explosion and fire.

CNN's Alex Marquardt lays out what we know.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The explosion rocked northern Gaza and lit up the night sky. Another angle appearing to show, according to a CNN analysis, a rocket fired from inside Gaza, it explodes in the air, and seconds later, a blast is seen at the Ahli Baptist Hospital.

CNN has not determined definitively that the rocket and explosion are related but in Tel Aviv today, President Biden said U.S. intelligence matches Israel's version of what happened.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Based on the information we've seen today, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.

MARQUARDT: Biden didn't name the group but Israel says it's Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is allied with Hamas and linked to Iran. The American assessment less than 24 hours after the deadly strike was based on what the White House now says is intelligence, missile activity and open source video and images of the incident.

The statement adding that some Palestinian militants in Gaza themselves believe it was carried out by Islamic jihad.

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, CSIS INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM: For the U.S. now to weigh in and the U.S. president to weigh in on this, this does strongly suggest this was likely not the Israelis.

MARQUARDT: The Israeli military published recordings it claims are audio intercepts of Hamas militants acknowledging the rocket came from inside Gaza.

HAMAS OPERATIVE #1: It's from us?

HAMAS OPERATIVE #2: It looks like it!

HAMAS OPERATIVE #1: Who says this?

HAMAS OPERATIVE #2: They saying that the shrapnel from the missile is local shrapnel and not like Israeli shrapnel.

HAMAS OPERATIVE #1: They shot it coming from the cemetery behind the Al Ma'amadani Hospital and it misfired and fell on them.

MARQUARDT: CNN cannot independently verify them. It's part of a vigorous effort to prove it wasn't their rocket, arguing the damage from the strike was far lighter than the bombs they usually drop from the air.

Assaults that have left buildings across Gaza flattened and huge craters in the ground. At the hospital today, charred vehicles littered the parking lot, which is pockmarked and has a small crater. Sources tell CNN that Israel shared its intelligence with the U.S.

And taken together, the U.S. now believes that the body of evidence paints a solid picture.

JONES: You have to piece it together with other sources of information not just from that ally, because that may be biased.

MARQUARDT: But the public outcry and blame of Israel were swift and fierce. Biden's summit in Jordan with Arab leaders was canceled as crowds in the streets grew.

BIDEN: I can understand in this circumstance they wouldn't believe. I can understand that. But I would not -- you notice, I don't say things like that unless I have faith in the source.

MARQUARDT: The theory now threatening to deepen the crisis, even before Israel launches a possible invasion of Gaza.


HUNT: All right. We're going to dig a little deeper on this.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster, who is live for us in London.

Max, good morning. It's always good to see you. We wanted to kind of give our viewers an opportunity to see everything that we here at CNN know about what happened here because -- and let's start there before we start talking about whether or not any of it actually matters to the Arab street. But there has been a lot of back and forth obviously with the Palestinians immediately coming out and saying -- we should say Hamas, Palestinian health authority is controlled by Hamas, saying that the Israelis caused the deaths of hundreds of people by striking a hospital, had huge global implications.

But now, it seems like all the information Israelis are putting out have at least convinced the Americans that they didn't do it.

What's the view from where you are in Western Europe and how much does that matter right now?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you need to look at it in terms of the rage that has built up here coming from a lot of Arab world where generally there is a huge amount of sympathy with the Palestinians and you automatically think that it was an Israeli strike, Israel then comes up with evidence to counter that and the Americans back that up with their intelligence. And they are pretty clear that it wasn't Israeli strike.

But it is almost as if emotions have already bubbled up before then and they would say that, wouldn't they, of course, America would back up Israel.


So I think what we've got is a lot of people aren't actually looking at the facts. They're looking at the long term trend here of suppression as they see it, of the Palestinian people and this speaks to it.

And I think one thing is worth noting is that Arab -- a lot of Arab leaders did immediately condemn Israel and they haven't since the intelligence come out supported Israel. So also a lot of people in those countries looking at their own government saying, well, do they really believe America and Israel?

HUNT: Right. Well, what are the dynamics for a lot of these Arab leaders as they to balance domestic pressures and the clear emotion and rage that has enflamed many young people and their country, sent them out into the streets and what they're going behind the scenes, because it does seem to me that there are domestic political considerations for each of these leaders and these Arab nations, that maybe are running into what their international imperatives might be.

FOSTER: Yeah, I mean, interesting to know what the conversations are behind the scenes, wouldn't it, particularly with key allies like the king of Jordan. But these countries, Lebanon and Jordan, they've got these huge Palestinian populations. So, Jordan has a bigger Palestinian population in Gaza.

They are absolutely concerned about destabilization within their own countries. As this rage rises up, they don't want to provoke more rage and prompt -- you know, a rush towards supporting Gazans and really trying to balance that language. So, there's all the diplomacy going on behind the scenes. We don't know what progress is being made there. There are a lot of key U.S. allies that they are speaking to.

But to the public, they need to manage this emotion and this rage and this massive distrust about anything that any of these Western powers are saying and Israeli powers as well.

Interesting to see -- I mean, Rishi Sunak has now gone to the Middle East. Not a huge player in any way -- in any regard if you compare him to President Biden, but perhaps there is a role for some of the European nations to come here and, you know, also create a bit of a bridge perhaps between more nations throughout that region.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, it really does underscore that the information war is as important as anything else here because regardless of what facts may come out about an incident in war, the initial narrative is going to drive so much of what happens. So, you know, that's on us. We got a real responsibility to be careful in terms of how we characterize these things.

Go ahead.

FOSTER: Yeah, and it is so hard getting all the information, isn't it, in any war, but also, you know, we brought in -- you know, the news networks were brought in yesterday when the Israelis were saying you were saying this and it wasn't true and these were things that CNN was not saying and they were criticizing us for running with the Hamas narrative which we just didn't do.

So, it's incredibly hard for us as reporters to try to be independent when we're being drawn into the story. It's the last thing that you want to do, is to be a part of the story. We're just trying to tell the facts as they are and allow people to make up their own choices.

HUNT: All right. That's right. Max Foster, thank you very much, my friend. I really appreciate your time.

FOSTER: Thanks.

HUNT: And President Biden says he has reached a deal for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. We've got more on how that could work up next.

And Jim Jordan falls short again to become House speaker. Will a third vote be any different?