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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

IDF Rescues 2 Hostages from Gaza; Trump Says He Warned NATO Ally to Spend More on Defense if They Want Protection Against Russia; Off-Duty Cops Kill Female Shooter at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 05:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Good day to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I am Jessica Dean in for Kasie Hunt today. It is Monday, February 12th, and we begin with two hostages rescued in the special operation by the Israeli military in Gaza.

That mission conducted overnight in Rafah in southern Gaza included strikes on at least two Mosques and a dozen homes. The rescued hostages were in captivity for 128 days. They are reportedly in good condition -- you're looking at them right there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tracked the operation from a command center along with his Defense Minister and senior military officers. Our Nic Robertson is live from Tel Aviv for us right now. Nic, what do we know about this operation and how the Israelis pulled it off?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Fernando Marman, 60 years old, Louis Har, 70 years old, middle of the night operation, covert. The IDF say that this was a long time in the planning. They were waiting for the right opportunity. The task force, the special forces went in, literally 1:49 a.m.

They entered the building where the two hostages were being held on the second floor, the IDF says the forces engaged in an intense fire- fight with Hamas. Indeed, they say that a couple of the special forces literally threw themselves on the hostages to protect them.

Then one minute later, the Israeli Air Force began airstrikes in the same area. We understand from the Palestinian Red Crescent that about the same time there were airstrikes, they say that about 100 people, civilians, many of them according to the Palestinian Red Crescent were killed and injured women and children among them.

It's not immediately clear whether this was the -- these strikes were the same ones as this rescue operation. But they were at the same time in the same area. Then we understand that the IDF using this covering fire that was going on were able to extract the two hostages out of the building. This has taken literally, about a -- in a space about a minute's time,

taken them from the building to a safe place. They gave them a very quick medical check in this safe place, taking them out under fire they said, and then put them on helicopters and flew them to this hospital just outside of Tel Aviv here.

They got here about 3 O'clock in the morning according to medical officials at the hospital. And I just talked to a couple of the relatives of the two men, and they told me that they literally got a phone call at 3:30 in the morning, saying your loved ones are at the hospital, come here. And I talked to the niece of Fernando Marman, and this is how she described his condition.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How they are now? They are a little thin. A different -- a little different --

ROBERTSON: They lost some weight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They lost a little weight. They were in inhuman situation -- condition. And now, I'm thinking about the 134 hostages that are waiting and being in -- risk of their life. And I want them to be also released as soon as possible.


ROBERTSON: So they're describing their relatives here as alert, as asking questions. Fernando, Louis asking questions about their family members to see how they're doing. A lot of emotions the families are describing. But of course, like everyone here in Israel wanting to know that the other hostages are going to be released as well.

DEAN: Yes, so much pressure still to get those other hostages out. But of course, the families that got their loved ones back today. What a day for them. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for that reporting. Former President Donald Trump telling supporters if he's re-elected, he will not abide by the collective defense clause at the heart of the NATO alliance.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay. You're delinquent? He said, yes, let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You've got to pay.


DEAN: President Biden says Trump is making it clear that he will abandon our NATO allies, which the NATO Secretary-General says puts both European and American soldiers at risk.

[05:05:00] CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Abu Dhabi with more. Paula, how

dangerous would it be for Trump to essentially pull the U.S. out of NATO like this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, this is a great concern of those within NATO. President Trump has made no secret of the fact that he has disdain for NATO. When he was in power, he threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO. He called it obsolete, but it never actually happened.

And we have seen with President Biden that, that unity within NATO, especially after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has been far more tight. Now what we've heard is from the Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg of NATO, saying that this would put European and American soldiers at risk.

We've heard also from the European Council President saying it is reckless. It serves only Putin's interests. Now, there is great concern among many leaders of what a potential President Trump's second presidency could entail. Now, whether or not those within the Republican Party support this idea or at least tacitly ignore this idea, there are leaders around the world that do question whether or not there would be support from President Trump for an alliance with their country.

Certainly, given what happened the first time around when many of those traditional alliances were tested to the very core. Now NATO itself, part of article 5, is that if one member state is attacked, then it is like all member states are attacked. All member states would come to the defense of that one country.

Now, what Trump is saying is that he simply would not do that. So, this is the very core of the idea of NATO that is being questioned at this point. Now, we don't know if it was rhetorical. We don't know whether it was something he said at a rally. It's certainly an election period, so that could have some bearing on what politicians say at this point.

But it does concern many around the world that they may not have the support that they believe they have at the moment from the United States, especially when it comes to NATO. Jessica?

DEAN: Yes, your point that it gets right at the heart of what NATO is. Paula Hancocks, thanks so much for that reporting. We appreciate it. Up next, a woman in a trench coat opening fire inside Pastor Joel Osteen's Texas Church. Also why Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had to transfer his duties to his deputy.




SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): He told the story about how he used leverage to get people to step up to the plate and become more active in NATO. He's not the first American president. In fact, virtually every American president at some point in some way has complained about other countries in NATO not doing enough. You know, Trump is just the first one to express it in these terms.


DEAN: That is Republican Senator Marco Rubio defending former President Donald Trump after he told supporters he would encourage Russia to, quote, "do whatever the hell they want to NATO nations that don't spend enough on defense." Trump's comments drawing fire from European leaders and the White House.

Let's bring in Mariana Alfaro; politics breaking news reporter for the "Washington Post". Great to see you this morning, good morning to you. First, Mariana, what are we hearing from NATO and other world leaders? We just heard from our Paula Hancocks that in Europe, they are very concerned about this. What are you hearing?

MARIANA ALFARO, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, a lot of European leaders have said that this kind of shows that they need to rely a little less in the United States, and you know, start focusing more on their own work. But that being said, you know, Senator Rubio mentioned in his interview yesterday, a lot of them also know that President Trump has said this before.

But I think that, you know, the leader of NATO himself said that no matter who wins the election this year, the U.S. will remain a committed ally to NATO. And I mean, we have signed all of these treaties, but that being said, it was definitely marking once again this reality it should put European leaders at, if Trump wins this year, they're going to have to kind of pull away a little bit more relying on the U.S. so heavily.

DEAN: And it comes obviously, too, at an interesting time. NATO played such a key role in the West response to what happened in Ukraine, what's been going on in Ukraine. How is the White House responding to Trump's remarks? Because President Joe Biden has relied heavily on NATO nations and worked very closely with them in the last several years.

ALFARO: I mean, the White House immediately came out and said that Trump's comments were unhinged, and that, you know, he was off base, and I think that, that's -- you know, not the first time that a former president has said that. There were several a lot of first times, I think we've heard the White House collapse so strongly and say, you know, we stand with NATO.

And you know, as you mentioned, President Biden has really relied on this alliance, he really tops it, and I think, you know, especially with the war in Ukraine has become a solid point of his, to say that we are -- and continue to stand with our allies, and yesterday was another recurring theme when the Senate was voting on this for Ukraine.

Saying that, you know, they have to continue doing this because this is what we have and everyone on those stage. DEAN: Yes, and it is interesting -- when I was out on the campaign

trail when Mike Pence was still in the race for president, he gave a speech talking about the importance of supporting Ukraine. We're seeing this play out on the Hill with foreign aid where the Republican Party has really evolved on that issue forever for many years.

They were just staunchly in support of something like foreign aid to Ukraine in this situation when it's being invaded by Russia.


And now you have the front-runner, the former president, saying what he said about NATO, which is essentially if you don't pay, we're not going to support you. They can do whatever the hell they want to you, which drives right at the heart of what NATO is all about. Are you seeing too, this evolution play out with the Republican Party when it comes to engagement on the foreign stage on -- you know, with national -- international affairs like this?

ALFARO: Yes, and we're seeing it play out live as you mentioned. I mean, yesterday, I think it was only 16 or 17 Republicans that joined Democrats in advancing this bill. That, you know, it's kind of a byproduct that we feel was going to go, but they are still trying to send us -- if we're going -- still wasn't, you know, the whole -- the whole conference kind of backing it.

And I think that we're going to see, you know, a little bit more this week of maybe a few more Republicans joining Democrats in finally passing the aid bill, but a lot of the assistance we heard yesterday from Republicans who say why are we still, you know, paying for this when we need to address our own domestic concerns.

We still need to address the border, we still need to -- you know, help Americans before we go abroad and help someone else. And I think that, that was like a recurring theme among many senators I spoke to yesterday.

DEAN: And staying on the Hill for a minute. We heard there from Senator Marco Rubio, who, of course, went up against the former president in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, and they clashed and Trump said a lot of things, personally attacking Rubio who has come to support him and is supporting him now as we just heard he's endorsed him for president in this cycle as well.

But Mariana, we see on the Hill, you know, they didn't want to talk about Trump for a long time, they just wanted to focus on what they were doing up there. They didn't want to answer for every outlandish thing he said just like this. And now, we're going to see that happening again, but we're also seeing so many Republicans, both on the Senate and the House side, coming to President Donald Trump's defense already.

ALFARO: Yes, and yesterday was one of the first times that I actually realized that we're starting that general election-feel on the Hill. And a lot of the people I spoke to, a lot of the senators I spoke to about this, he said, oh, I haven't watched that clip, oh, like I haven't looked -- I said, yes.

But a lot of -- others we're seeing that we're just playing politics, like they're elevating this comments just because they want to, you know, make a sound-bite or make it a moment, and you know, emphasizing the fact that Trump has said this before. But I think, you know, when he said this before, there was not a war in Ukraine.

There was not -- this tension on NATO. So, I think that senators are starting to realize that they're going to have to start speaking more about the president on the hallways of Congress, which is, you know, a bit of a shift from where we've been in the last six months.

DEAN: It is officially 2024 and an election year. Mariana Alfaro, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it. Up next, a child fighting to survive after a shooting at Pastor Joel Osteen's Texas Church. And a Nor'easter targeting millions of Americans with some areas expecting up to a foot of snow.



DEAN: Quick hits across America now. A woman in a trench coat opening fire inside Pastor Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston, leaving two people injured including a 5-year-old child. Two off-duty officers killed the shooter. Osteen has said he's praying for the victims.


JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: We don't understand why these things happen, but we know God is in control, and we're going to pray for that little 5-year-old boy and pray for the lady that was deceased, her family and all, and the other gentleman.


DEAN: Osteen says that incident took place between services where it could have been much worse. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin transferring his duties to his deputy after being hospitalized again. Austin has symptoms that quote, "suggest an emergent bladder issue." Biden administration has been notified.

And tomorrow, critical special election to fill the seat of disgraced New York Congressman George Santos. That race pitting former Democratic Representative Tom Suozzi against GOP-backed Mazi Pilip. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

A form of Nor'easter is set to disrupt the northeast in the next 36 hours. That means over 20 million people are now under a Winter storm- watch with some areas facing up to a foot of snow by tomorrow night. Let's go now to Derek Van Dam, meteorologist. Derek, how is this one shaping up?

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning. You know, it has been 744 days since New York City has received more than 2 inches. That's January 29th of 2022, that's the last time we saw at least the potential for more than 2 inches, and that is what we'll likely receive with this storm.

Some of the latest information that we can pass to you overnight is that the storm has trended further south, and that brings the Big Apple into play. But first, let's talk about the more immediate threat, because this is the storm system across the southeast that will bring the snow to the northeast.

But we've got to talk about what's happening here because there is not only a flood threat, but there's also a severe weather threat. In fact, we have a tornado watch that's ongoing across the Gulf Coast states, particularly across southern Alabama, southeastern Mississippi through about 9:00 a.m. this morning.

So, we want to watch out for a few spin-ups of relatively weak tornadoes, but nonetheless, that threat is there, large hail, damaging winds, can't be ruled out, all the way to about the Atlanta suburbs. There's a large area encompassed with flood watches, with flood warnings, just south of Atlanta, heavy rain inundating this region.

The storm will shift along the east coast through the course of the day today, and then by morning rush hour into New York City, Philadelphia we think will have a rain-snow mix, eventually, transitioning to all snow, the majority of this kind of staying just along the coast line and you know what that means, a Nor'easter has the potential to bring significant snowfall to the east coast.


We're talking anywhere from 6 to upwards of 8 inches, potentially locally higher amounts, especially as you get into the higher elevations of the Hudson Valley and then into the Catskills for instance. Here's our projected snowfall totals, yes, that darker shade of purple, 6 to 8 inches, that includes New York City.

So, really, along the coastline of Rhode Island and Connecticut. And this is going to be at least beneficial in the short term because we haven't had much snow. We talked about that snow drought for several weeks now. We'll take what we can get, but of course, this could be impactful for anyone traveling in or out of a major U.S. airport along the east coast. So --

DEAN: Yes --

VAN DAM: Jessica, busy week ahead of us.

DEAN: I'd say so, all right, Derek Van Dam, thanks for that update, we truly appreciate --




DEAN: And coming up next, a Super Bowl for the ages. How Patrick Mahomes backed up his claim that the Kansas City Chiefs are a dynasty. And Nikki Haley ripping Donald Trump for his comments about her husband.


DEAN: A very good morning to you, and thanks so much for getting up early with us, I'm Jessica Dean in.