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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

IDF Renews Airstrikes in South Gaza, Expands Ground Operations; Fate of American Hostages Unknown After Stalled Negotiations; Dems Plan Resolution Condemning Hamas' Use of Sexual Violence; Heavy Rain, Winds, Snow Blast the Pacific Northwest. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 05:00   ET




Hope for the American hostages in Gaza? What's the plan to save them now that talks have broken down?

Plus, a cold calculation. The Israel Defense Forces say they're killing two civilians for every terrorist they kill in Gaza, calling it a positive ratio.

And the final four. The GOP reveals who's made the debate stage tomorrow in Alabama and who got left up.

HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Tuesday, December 5th, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington. It's noon in Gaza, where Israel has intensified their airstrikes in the south while expanding ground operations. Battalions of tanks now rolling across the region, that part of the region for the first time.

U.N. officials are warning of an apocalyptic situation, nearly 1.9 million Palestinians displaced, tens of thousands of them fleeing to the Rafah crossing near Egypt in the last two days.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says nearly 16,000 civilians have been killed since October 7th. The IDF says that the death of two civilians for every Hamas militant is, quote, tremendously positive.

Meanwhile, multiple U.S. officials tell CNN that hostage negotiations are unlikely to resume anytime soon. The White House reports one American woman and seven men remain unaccounted for.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There are still intensive discussions among us, Israel, Qatar, and Israel about how to best get traction on a strategy that will get all the hostages out. But, of course, for the United States, the permanent priority is getting the American hostages out.


HUNT: And CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live now from Paris.

Melissa, good morning to you. With these formal talks in Qatar broken down, what is the next play to tried to free these hostages?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's important to remember, Kasie, that even while the formal talks broke down there are still frantic efforts going on behind the scenes in and around those talks that involved, of course, Qatar, the United States, Egypt, Israel and Hamas to try to figure out what can be done between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of those remaining hostages.

And, of course, their fate very much is in the balance, and you mentioned that resumption of the fighting, the furious bombardment now with the entire Gaza trip. It's 137 hostages that remain in the hands of Hamas. And, of course, to the United States, that focused very much on that one American women, seven American men now unaccounted for since the October 7th attacks.

Now, what we understand has been happening is that the aim is to get some kind of traction, as you heard they said that these talks can resume around how to get the specifics of anyone further out. The trouble is, of course, given that breakdown, given the ferocity of the fighting how difficult that is going to be to get everyone around that table for the time being. We're also hearing from the United States that they have very little hope, for instance, that there could be anything like the similar deal that we saw struck by the Russians, other nations, to Thailand, of course, as well, who managed to speak directly to Hamas to secure the release of their hostages.

The feeling amongst administration that there is no sense that Hamas would want to do any favors to the United States.

So furious negotiations still going on to try to get everyone back around the table in order that some kind of hope, some kind of solution can be found of these hostages. But for the time being, Kasie, I think very dim prospects. And a great deal of gloom around what hope there might be that the situation would be unblocked.

Fundamentally, this remains a blockage that is around the IDF says, Hamas's inability to speak about what it had negotiated, which is the idea of the women hostages being released. The Israeli position is that they will go no further with those discussions until Hamas releases all of the women hostages, with the question at the heart of that of what it is they will have to say about their time in captivity -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, and potentially, some very difficult things. We're going to dig into that a little bit later on in the hour.


Melissa Bell, thank you very much for that report.

Here in Washington, two House Democrats planning to introduce a resolution this week condemning the use of sexual violence and rape by Hamas in Israel. Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal upset some of her Democratic colleagues when she told CNN's Dana Bash this.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas, obviously, are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.


HUNT: I spoke with the Congresswoman Debbie Dingell who really feels very emotionally about this. Here's what she told me.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): I'm going to talk to Pramila. I have a call into her. I think -- I managed to speak for myself on this subject, and I'm raw on this subject --

HUNT: Yeah.

DINGELL: -- because of the hate that I have had directed at me for speaking the truth, I will speak the truth and I don't care who it is. Rape is an active violence and it becomes too often a tool in any active war. And as women, everywhere, we must stand up for women, everywhere.

HUNT: Yeah.


HUNT: CNN's Annie Grayer joins me now.

Annie, you've been covering this on Capitol Hill. What do we know about how this resolution is unfolding? Congresswoman Dingell told me she may get Republicans to sign on to it as well.


The resolution is still being worked out, and the goal is to introduce it at some point this week. But I'm told that two Democratic congresswomen are involved in shaping this resolution, in addition to Congresswoman Dingell. And the other is Congresswoman Lois Frankel who was a part of the Progressive Caucus but I'm told, recently, left the group because of frustrations over how the Progressive Caucus, the divisions in the progressive caucus over the war in Israel and Hamas.

So, they are leading this charge and are hoping to introduce the resolution, at some point this week. I'm told, from a source familiar to Frankel, though, that this resolution was not crafted in direct response to Jayapal and it does not -- this is not in response to any lawmaker's comments.

HUNT: Right. Yeah, when I -- when I was speaking with the Congresswoman Dingell off camera, she basically said that this has been in the works for a while. But, obviously, the comments from Jayapal have thrust this out into the public.

Annie, I mean, just to kind of bring people behind the scenes, with Congresswoman Frankel deciding to leave the Progressive Caucus over this, they may seem semantic to some but a really underscores the divisions and the emotions around this issue. I mean, I was -- I was struck by Congresswoman Dingell being around a long time. She's dealt with a lot of emotional issues. She says emotional as I've ever seen her talking about the horrific things that happened, and the things that happened to her when she was told that, hey, what you're saying is not true.

How are you reporting the emotion and what is your sense from all the conversations that you are having about how this is playing up behind the scenes?

GRAYER: Kasie, emotions are absolutely at an all-time high on this issue. I mean, since October 7th, Congress has been trying to come together around something to try around the war. But the route is that there's so many different opinions. And even in the Democratic side on how to speak about the war, and what side people are on that it has been really hard to find a ton of unity on this subject. And at times has gotten really tense between members.

I mean, one issue with congresswoman Jayapal's comments, I'm told is, you know, that she is going on television and having interviews speaking for herself but she also stands for the chair of the Progressive Caucus, with is a broad group, representing over 100 members. And some lawmakers tell me that they are frustrated that Jayapal is out there speaking her opinion when it doesn't represent the entire conference.

And the conference hasn't taken an official position on anything having to do with the complicated war between Israel and Hamas.

Now, Jayapal's office is, you know, trying -- is defending the congresswoman's comments and says that she always only speaks for herself, not the entire caucus but these are just some of the dynamics at play here.

HUNT: It's a really, really tricky situation although the reality is, condemning the rapes by Hamas should not be a complicated one, which is, of course, how we got here.

Annie Grayer, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I really appreciate your reporting.


All right. Still ahead here, a former U.S. ambassador not being accused of being a Cuban spy. We'll have details on his arrest.

Plus, a House explodes in Arlington, Virginia. Why police were there serving a warrant.

And, later, four Republican candidates will take the stage for the next presidential debate. Who qualified, and who didn't? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back.

With Israel expanding their military operations in Gaza, they are continue to be questions about what is being done to protect the civilian population.

An IDF spokesperson was asked by CNN's Erin Burnett last night to confirm an AFP report that senior military officials said about two civilians have been killed for every Hamas fighters killed in the Gaza Strip.


LT. COLONEL JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: I can come from the report. I can say that if that is true and I think that our numbers will be corroborated, if you compare that ratio to any other conflict in urban terrain between a military and a terrorist organization using civilians as their human shield and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendous -- tremendously positive and perhaps unique.



HUNT: CNN's Bianca Nobilo is live for us in London.

Bianca, good morning. It's wonderful to have you.

I think it is very difficult -- it is just very stark to hear human lives talked about in this mathematical way? What more do we know about what he had to say and how it is being received as a -- across the globe as -- it's obviously 5:00 here, 10:00 where you are in London this morning as officials have woken up to this?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, for any non-military person, it is indeed stark, difficult to stomach, probably a fairly repugnant concept to hear civilian life spoken about in any form of the calculus or the idea that it can be justified to kill a civilian in order to achieve a military objective. But, of course, that is the reality of war.

To put this statement from the IDF into a broader context, to perhaps help your viewers understand what is being set here, so, in World War I and II, the civilian casualty ratio was around -- well, I put it in percentages, was around 60 percent supposedly. According to the IDF, they're saying around 33 percent of the fatalities inflicted in Gaza are currently civilians. The Iraq were the lowest estimates, were around that same ratio, but most likely, they were much higher than that.

So they are framing it, even though it sounds so stark as to try to underscore that they are actually doing a fairly good job in the context of recent warfare. The U.N. has published a report with experts citing that most modern wars have a civilian casualty rate of around 90 percent. So, the IDF is trying to communicate that even though they have been widely criticized and our reporting has so much evidence of it of the civilian collateral damage, huge scale, they are trying to say, actually, within the context of modern war, we are doing a good job.

And just to provide a little bit more information -- so we heard from the Israeli defense minister that thousands of terrorists have been killed. The AFP reported that they put the number at 5,000 Hamas militants being killed, to their sources and that the IDF said that number is more or less right. But a very difficult conversation to have, and also fundamentally, we must point out, that this rests on the premise that it is even possible to get really anything approaching an accurate picture of numbers in an active conflict.

And we know that is just notoriously difficult prospect, not to mention the propaganda value of any act they're wanting to inflict the casualties of their side are receiving and deflate those if they are inflicting.

HUNT: Yeah, no, I mean, it's fascinating information background and context on that. And, of course, we know that this conflict is, obviously, a kinetic one with much, you know, devastating loss of life. It's also, though, an information war, and we are seeing pieces of that play out here.

Bianca Nobilo, thank you very much for sticking around and spending some time with us I really appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead here, the stunning new research suggesting stock traders might have known the October 7th attacks were coming.

And more rain and snow out west. Our weatherman, Derek Van Dam, joins us up next.


HUNT: Welcome back, we have quick hits across America now.

New research shows bets against the value of Israeli company spiked in the days before Hamas's October 7th attack. It suggests that some traders might have known it was coming, and profited off of it.

A massive explosion levels an Arlington, Virginia home, where police were executing a search warrant Monday night after reports of shots fired earlier in the day. Officials, say a suspect inside the house discharge a flair gun about 40 times as officers tried to speak with him. Moments later, the house exploded.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee released payments made by Hunter Biden to his father, but neglected to include documents that prove he was repaying the president for a pick up truck. The White House said committee chair James Comer continues to, quote, lie and mislead the public, end quote, in what they call a failed impeachment stunt. All right. Now, let's go to weather. Waves of heavy rain and winds in

the Pacific Northwest, more snow in the higher elevation. The cause, this year's back to back atmospheric rivers expected through tomorrow.

Here to explain, the science behind that is Derek Van Dam, our weatherman.

Derek, good morning. What's going on?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you know, I think it's best that our viewers think of this as a literal river in the sky. The ability for this to transport water vapor from the tropical regions of the planet to the mid-latitudes where you and I actually live is just incredible. And we're talking about the tremendous amount of water vapor. So much so that it has the ability to transport as much as an equivalent of 25 times amount of water that flow through the Mississippi River.

So this river on the skies, the atmospheric rivers we keep talking about produce significant heavy rainfall and mountain snow. That's when the freezing level is far enough down in altitude where we can get so much snow. But this time, it's a little different because you can actually trace back the origin of this atmospheric river all the way back to Hawaii. And that moisture means it's pulling in this tropical influence moisture. So it's going to be a warmer AR event, or atmospheric river event, and we believe this will be more of a rain event.

So, the snow we got early in the week, well, that's going to melt. It's going to add to the flooding concerns because we have a level five of five, according to some of the authorities out there. So, this is the significant event for the coastline of Oregon, even into portions of Washington. Again, heavy rain on top of snowpack means quick melting and that will offer rivers to rise rather quickly. So we're going to look up for the potential of flooding across that part of our country today and the rest of --

HUNT: All right. We will keep an eye on that. Thank you, Derek, very much. Appreciate it. See you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: All right. Up next, Israel ramps up their incursion into Gaza. Is there any hope of getting the remaining hostages out?


And a funding fight brewing on Capitol Hill. What Republicans are demanding in exchange for aid to Israel and Ukraine? That's next.


HUNT: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's just before 5:30 here on the East Coast, 2:30 out West.

Israel intensifying its military operations in Gaza this morning with expanded ground operations, including tanks rolling across the region, and more airstrikes in the south. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled the Rafah Crossing in the last 48 hours. And the U.N. says the number of civilian casualties is rapidly increasing. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, nearly 16,000 people are dead.

Meanwhile, hostage negotiations remain stalled. And U.S. officials say they are unlikely to resume anytime soon. There are still eight Americans unaccounted for.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst --