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IDF Carrying Out Strikes Against Hamas Targets at Gaza Port; IDF Troops Engaged in Firefight with Hamas Militants near Town of Mefalsim in Southern Israel; Air Raid Sirens in Ashkelon, Israel as Hamas Launches Attacks. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 10, 2023 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on "Inside Politics" the story written in the sky of a four day old war in Ashkelon you look up and see bursts of the fight. Rockets exploding as it looks like the Iron Dome is largely doing its job knocking down Hamas artillery before it can do harm and in Gaza thick impenetrable smoke, the aftermath of a furious Israeli response.

Today, the Israeli death toll crossed 1000 lives; the true toll is largely greater. We believe that will be the case and in many ways it is immeasurable. Every corner of the small country of just 10 million is mobilizing. Israelis government green lit additional military call- ups running the total number of reservists drawn into the fight at 360,000. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: And I'm Erin Burnett in Tel Aviv Dana. And this hour the IDF of course has been responding to Gaza answering more rockets, hundreds of bombs of its own, and I can tell you, here in Tel Aviv, we can hear those thudding and we can feel it, you literally feel it through your entire body. Those thuds even one just a few seconds ago.

And let's get straight to Ashkelon where there has been an onslaught of rockets. Clarissa Ward is there and Clarissa what are you hearing and seeing?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, just moments ago, we were trying desperately to get your attention. The sirens went off. We heard a bunch of loud booms, rockets firing, they appeared to go right over us actually, that time, you could see the night sky lighting up with the flash of those rockets.

I think as well, we heard some Iron Dome interceptions. But this has just been a relentless tempo Erin I mean, for the last three hours now it has been very, very rare that you get a gap of 10 minutes without another siren going off people than trying to run for cover. I would say at this stage most residents of Ashkelon are staying in cover.

We can hear some jets in the distance that you probably wouldn't pick up on this microphone, but a real ratcheting up of the focus and intensity of bombardment here in Ashkelon. Hamas had warned that this was going to happen. They said that this was payback, if you will, for the displacement of civilians inside Gaza.

They warned that people should leave the city by 5 pm. And at 5 pm on the dot, this onslaught began. It's been difficult for us Erin to get a sense exactly of what the impact has been. We've certainly heard a lot of interceptions from the Iron Dome.

But we have also spoken to one woman whose house has taken a direct hit. She was very distressed when we spoke with her and so we were not able to really finish the conversation. Understandably, she has more pressing immediate concerns like getting to a safe place.

But yes, a very tense night here in Ashkelon, particularly for ordinary residents who have absolutely become use to coming under a rocket attack, but have probably not experienced anything like the intensity of the last few hours Erin.

BASH: And Clarissa, it's Dana in Washington. Just to follow up on that you are in a border town or at least near the border. So as you mentioned, it is not out of the ordinary for people of Ashkelon to maybe feel under threat. This is obviously quite different.

And as you mentioned, it is something that Hamas warned was going to happen. What is -- what does it feel like there, given that sort of context of what it you know, you're not usually there but I now that you've also been talking to a lot of residents there?


WARD: I think it feels like a different ballgame, frankly Dana when you talk to people, as you mentioned, they have experienced rocket fire before, every floor of this hotel has a shelter on it, every person more or less has a shelter either in their home or near their home.

This is part of the fabric of daily life here. However, the intensity of the last few days is something that they have not experienced before. And it's important to remind our viewers, we're not just talking about barrages of rockets coming through, we are talking about consistent fears that there could still be more Hamas militants out there.

We heard from the IDF earlier, they said that they largely believed that they had cleared the area of Hamas militants that the breaches in the border had been taken care of. And yet, we are hearing repeated reports. Also, from our own colleagues who are along that border, there are the sirens going off again.

I'm just going to step out of the way slightly, so that we can try to get our camera and make sure that we have a little bit of cover here. But again, this is just constant now every 10, 15 minutes, it seems you hear the sirens. And you don't have a huge amount of lead time, honestly, to get to a shelter before you usually start to hear those rockets. Now I will say the siren just stopped. And we're not actually hearing any rocket fire at this precise second. But I do hear what sounds like potential intercept in the distance there obviously very difficult. Now I hear something -- very difficult to get a good sense in these situations of exactly what's going on.

And that is the reason Erin, that this is such an effective tactic for Hamas, why they use asymmetrical warfare, because you're constantly trying to keep people in a state of high alert in a state of not being able to focus on just one thing, but being drawn in many different directions.

And whether it's the fear of Hamas militants infiltrating the border, whether it's the -- you're seeing the Iron Dome at work now intercepting those rockets, and the night sky lighting up. You can also hear jets overhead in the air. And you're hearing those explosions as those rockets are intercepted.

I will say that the tempo has been a little bit less today in terms of the bombardment from the Israeli side to the Gaza border that had been incredibly intense before. Now, it appears to have slowed down somewhat, but one can only presume.

And this is how you get into this endless cycle of tip to -- tit for tat violence that in the light of what we are experiencing and seeing here in Ashkelon over the last few hours, that there will be retribution and there will be retaliation Erin.

BURNETT: Absolutely. And Clarissa one thing also that stands out in all this is what seems to be and you know, I don't want to use the word incorrectly, but at this point and endless, relatively endless supply of rockets from Hamas, right? That it isn't that they had one giant barrage, but it's again and again and again. And it's wave after wave and day after day. Is there any sense of how deep that arsenal is right now? Or why how they managed to do that?

WARTD: I think that's, that is such a good point. It's a really good point, Erin. And it's something that we've been really struggling to get our heads around, because you're talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of rockets. Where are they all being kept? How are they stockpiled? How is it so difficult to know where they are?

Obviously, there are many reasons for that. But I think everybody has been taken by surprise on the Hamas side by the extraordinary amount of weaponry in terms of those missiles and rockets by the sophistication of this entire operation, particularly in that opening day.

I mean, Israeli forces now saying they killed 1500 Hamas militants that is a huge amount. There were dozens and dozens of breaches along that border. There were Hamas militants driving up and down in pickup trucks just spraying anything and everything that moved.

And so it is clear that perhaps the capabilities of Hamas have been underestimated drastically. And the real question becomes how many more of those rockets do they still have? How many more particularly of those long range rockets some of which we have seen making impact in Tel Aviv?


Do they have? And what does this portend for the future of this conflict, Erin?

BASH: And Clarissa, its Dana again, the barrage of fire coming from Hamas from over in Gaza. As you've been talking about with Erin, it is relentless. And it is so surprising given that we have been able to see the images thanks to you and your team of the Iron Dome, doing its work intercepting the fire and the rockets coming towards these towns of the town where you aren't in particular in Ashkelon, is there any fear that at some point, that could get depleted? I mean, eventually it will but in the short term?

WARD: I think there's a fear that listeners can get overwhelmed. If you're willing to fire that many rockets, the Iron Dome will not be able to intercept every single one of them every single time. And while you look at the direct impact of these rockets, in terms of casualties on the ground, and they are quite minimal, because of the Iron Dome, but you can't underestimate the impact that they have on the psyche of a people of a country.

BASH: Yes.

WARD: -- trying to live your normal life, absolutely impossible at the moment. And also, I would imagine, for Israeli forces and leaders makes it more challenging as well, to try to navigate the various different threats that confront it's not just the threat of rockets, it's also the threat of militants who are infiltrating it's also an information war.

It's also perhaps most importantly, a very active hostage situation. And so how do you respond in that sense? When the Israelis respond with force in Gaza we see the result of that Hamas come out and they tell people by five o'clock we're going to start -- we're going to start bombing Ashkelon, we're going to start rocketing Ashkelon.

They come out and say we're going to start televising or broadcasting executions of hostages. And so it's a very, you know, it's sort of a tightrope, if you will, that Israeli authorities and the military have to walk when they're confronting so many different threats at the same time Dana.

BURNETT: All right. Well, also along the Gaza border, Jeremy Diamond is also there. And Jeremy, what are you seeing where you are? And obviously looking at that border, you know, Clarissa is in Ashkelon where you're seeing that barrage of rockets, as Hamas said it would do starting at five o'clock time here and they have done? What is happening where you are also along that border?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been South East effectively, of where Clarissa is where Ashkelon lies. And we have been seeing the other side of that barrage of rockets, just as you were on air with Clarissa moments ago, and she was seeing the Iron Dome intercepting those rockets from her vantage point, we were seeing the other side of that on the south side of where she is.

And we are near the Town of -- where we were essentially going further south with my team here. And we came across a corner of the road and intersection here where we suddenly were hearing gunfire, and what effectively multiple troops here told us is that there was an ongoing gunfire with Hamas militants near the town of -- about a kilometer from where we are right now in the fields between where we're standing right now, and that very town.

And that's just an indication of the fact those three days after, or nearly four days, I guess, at this point after Hamas launched that surprised terrorist attack in this area. We are still seeing Hamas militants are still operating in the area, they are still actively engaged in combat, it seems with troops with Israeli forces.

The troops who we were with here, they were essentially establishing a perimeter to ensure that if that battle came closer to our direction, they would be the last line of defense, preventing them from getting any further and so you are seeing this situation continuing.

We saw rocket fire. We are seeing these intercepts and we are seeing these militants continue to engage in battles with the IDF all of this as around us. What we are watching is a movement of troops a massive movements of IDF troops and reservists who are being called up for duty all along the roads, convoys of Humvees and other transportation methods for these troops to get to their rally points and to prepare for what some are saying could potentially be a ground invasion of Gaza.

As of now though, there has been no confirmation that that is taking place. The speech last night from the Israeli Prime Minister had a lot of fire and brimstone but certainly no official language about what exactly is going to unfold next Dana?


BASH: All right.

BURNETT: All right, Jeremy. And of course, no idea of what happens next ground invasion. Obviously Dana would be -- would be a huge step and unprecedented step and would come with great loss of life. And in all of that, obviously, you're going to have President Biden speaking again, addressing the United States nation about all of this.

BASH: That's right. It is incredibly, incredibly complicated to say the least Erin and I want to talk about that and more with the IDF Spokesperson Major Doron Spielman. Thank you so much for joining me.

I just want to start with what we're seeing right now. Hamas promised to fire into Ashkelon, as the sun was setting. That's exactly what happened. Are you confident that the Iron Dome can do its job and keep Israelis as safe as they possibly can be given the barrage that they're seeing right now.

MAJOR DORON SPIELMAN, IDF SPOKESPERSON: We today, of course, we're holding two different positions. We see, of course, nobody doubts throughout the world, that Hamas is truly dedicated and trying to massacre, the State of Israel, whether it is civilians in -- a small community that have visited today or its Ashkelon, whether it is people coming in with paraglider by the air, or with rockets or if it's sending jihadists to go over the border, to try to kill our people?

Israel understands clearly that they want to commit -- to commit a massacre. And we are ready in all of our situations. We're deploying our forces throughout the country. We have four divisions now operating in the south. And our priority has been in remains to be to protect the people of Southern Israel.

Those people, as you mentioned are unfortunately conditioned, because while we see the ugliest side of Hamas today, Hamas has been shooting tens of thousands of rockets against innocent civilians for years. We know the drill. We're doing everything we can to keep our people safe. And at the same time, as a nation, we're dealing and trying to accept this tragedy. We've seen the scenes and the bravery and courage for people stand strong.

BASH: The IDF has said that Israel is now free from the Hamas terrorists who entered into the country and killed now up to about 1000 people, maybe, maybe more, we'll see. And that is sort of flying in the face of some of what CNN teams were told by some people who say that they are still engaged in some firefights with Hamas terrorists near the town of -- just for example, can you clarify that? Are there still Hamas terrorists on the ground inside Israel?

SPIELMAN: There are right now no Hamas terrorists on the ground inside of Israel. But what we see and we are controlling the border perimeter is constant waves of Hamas terrorists that are trying to continue and perpetrate the same massacre that they did on Saturday again, today is the same drive to try to kill innocents we see wave after wave of jihadi Hamas trying to break through that fence -- to try to break through that fence coming to Israel.

We're ready for them. As you mentioned, thousands of them had been killed because they continually swarm with a madness that's hard for us to actually understand. It's this thirst to try to destroy the State of Israel. But we're ready they keep charging through almost in a kamikaze like way.

BASH: We have heard from many of the families of those who don't know where their loved ones are hostages, who were taken by Hamas across the border in Gaza, some frustration that they have not heard from the Israeli government. We heard it on air. I'm getting texts from people in Israel who say that they're not hearing from the IDF or anyone in the government. What can you say to that?

SPIELMAN: I can say that the IDF every one of us, you have to understand the size of our country is the size of a small state perhaps in the United States. Each of us know somebody each of us is tied in even personally knows people who either somebody has been taken as a hostage or somebody that's been killed all of us are feeling this personally. The IDF has now placed two generals and an operational staff both to deal with those families and try to address this as quickly as possible and also on an operational level to deal with the hostages. But we have to understand how difficult this is.

Families and parents are now we're standing in lines with DNA of their children to have the DNA checked and matched against their bodies. The massacre that was carried out against Israel was on such a wide scale that this is something that is taking time. And we're dealing with the families and we're continually trying to do a better.


But we have to remember that the tragedy that was inflicted upon Israel is not going to be easy for us to solve, certainly not in a day. That is the scale of what Hamas carried out here.

BASH: Yes. It is very, very overwhelming. And that is understandable, as is the pain and the uncertainty of so many families who don't know where their loved ones are. Last question is about something that our viewers might not know about.

But it's a practice that is called door knocking, which is, before you retaliate, you do something where you drop, not really a bomb, but drop something to let the people who are -- who are there know that a real bomb is coming and that civilians can get out of the way? Is that happening right now as you respond to this attack?

SPIELMAN: Again, we have to understand, Hamas gave Israel one advantage and that we know today that we have no choice but to survive and to defeat them because if we don't, we don't want to see more images of the bodies of young children who are going to festivals lying on the sides of the road.

What I would say is that our operational objective is to go after Hamas. There is no army in the world that is more concerned with human life than the IDF. And certainly we are much more concerned with human life even of the Gazans than Hamas.

Door knocking is great when it can be done. We try to alert citizens when we can. But the priority here is to go after Hamas who are both terrorizing the Gazan civilian partial population, but of course massacring the Israeli population. And that is our objective.

BASH: Again, understandable they are threatening if that doesn't happen to kill hostages and to do it live stream and of course nobody wants that any of this to be exact. Thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on.

SPIELMAN: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Coming up, we will speak to an Israeli man whose friend was killed when Hamas militants shot civilians and took hostages at Saturday's Music Festival, his story and that of his friends and his family coming up.



BURNETT: And this is the night sky moments ago just above Ashkelon, where there has been a barrage of rockets from Hamas, striking ever since about five o'clock local time here just over the past two and a half hours.

Onslaught after onslaught what you see those explosions in the night sky, Israel's Iron Dome at work trying to intercept that overwhelming barrage of missiles as I said these pictures just moments ago from Ashkelon, just south of where I am in Tel Aviv.

And I'm Erin Burnett here in Israel, of course, along with Dana Bash. And for families for everyone in this country and on both sides of the Israeli Gaza border. It is a nightmare a horrific nightmare and families of four presumed hostages, none of whom have been heard from since Saturday.

So these families were speaking to more than 150 hostages, they have not heard from their loved ones missing. And today we heard from a few of those families they pictures of their loved ones beside them, the people that they are so desperately missing, praying hoping will be returned alive. Here is what one family said speaking through tears today.


NAHAR NETA, SON OF MISSING AMERICAN TAKEN BY HAMAS: My mom is a 66 year old lady. Proud mother of me and my three other siblings who are in the room with me along with seven grandkids she was sitting on the porch of our home in Mefalsim on Saturday morning when this ferocious attack happened. My mom devoted her life to helping other people of all races and genders in her practice as a nurse in the hospital. She installed this passion for people in the house, her kids.


BURNETT: Nurse Mother he's speaking of who was taken hostage. I mean Dana, just to think about he talks about 7 am sometimes it's just hearing that time again, to imagine civilians in their homes 6:30 and seven o'clock in the morning, and then just militants rushing in and attacking them. I mean, it is truly incomprehensible, and which is when you put that that time stamps on it almost to imagine in your own life.

BASH: Yes.

BURNETT: -- maybe gives us all just a taste of how terrifying it truly was.

BASH: Erin that's so true on the Jewish Sabbath. And on a Jewish holiday on top of that, and it does, that's an important way to put it about the time stamp. And I want to now go to somebody who represents what is going on across Israel. And that is the fear that people have about loved ones who are now hostage to Hamas, those who have had those who are closest to them die, and others who have those in their family or those themselves who have been called up to serve.

Joining me now is Shmuel Hoagie (ph). His childhood friend was among the victims at that music festival. Festival for peace I should add in Israel over the weekend. He knows of at least five people from his hometown who have been killed at least 12 of his friends and co- workers are missing friends and family.

Shmuel, thank you so much for being here for people who are not in Israel for people who don't maybe understand what we just heard from the IDF Spokesperson just how small a country it is and just how devastating when you think about 1000 people who are killed never mind those who are missing.