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Air Raid Sirens In Ashkelon, Israel, As Hamas Launches Attacks; IDF Carrying Out Strikes Against Hamas Targets As Gaza Port; Hamas Fires Hundreds Of Rockets Toward Ashkelon, Israel; Israel Embassy: Death Toll From Hamas Attacks Crosses 1,000. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 10, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: 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 idea of spokesperson, just how small a country it is and just how devastating when you think about 1,000 people who were killed, never mind those who are missing. How close this hits to home for every single Israeli?

SHMUEL HUGI, CHILDHOOD FRIEND KILLED AT MUSIC FESTIVAL: Yes. And even, like, worse -- it feels like we're surrounded by everywhere, by this news. I just watched the hostages family, families talking and speaking. So I'm -- it's very emotional now. And I don't know the guy that just talked, but I feel like I know him because I know other stories and there are very similar and I hear it all day long.

And hour after hour, we're getting more and more names. Right now, my boyfriend is next to the border, is serving in the army as his job all year long, but now we know it's urgent. And he and his soldiers just lost seven of their friends. And they have to keep their heads up and fight for us and protect us. So --

BASH: And we're saying -- Shmuel, I'm sorry to interrupt, but we are seeing, as we speak, what you're talking about, the need to protect Israelis right now, because this wasn't a one-time deal. This is an all-out war. And we're looking at live pictures in Ashkelon in Israel where rockets are coming down.

The Iron Dome is intercepting many of them, but we're not going to know how successful. So this is very, very much an active situation that your boyfriend and so many of your friends and family continue to try to fight.

HUGI: Yes. And I just want to say it's not a regular war. The American people and everybody's watching us now should understand. We saw in the past operations in Israel and in Gaza, and we still fight. But this one is nothing that we saw. We're strong, but we're shocked, because the violence is so brutal.

Today, the foreign media got some pictures from (INAUDIBLE). They entered illegally this village and they killed in shelters and everywhere they could. And they kidnapped babies. I know about four months old baby, and I don't want to talk about how they treat the bodies as they filmed because it's too brutal for TV.

But if people like, you know, 50 years ago, we had the Yom Kippur War, the October War, and people always comparing to that. But like a lot of people that killed and it was a surprise attack as well. But I'm sorry, but this is not 2023 and it is not 73. It's 43. These stories of people remind us this time and we won't let it happen again. I put my trust in the forces.

BASH: 43, meaning the time of the Holocaust.

HUGI: Yes, I didn't -- it's too hard.

BASH: Shmuel, thank you for coming on. Thank you for explaining to the world what it feels like to be there. And we are -- we're thinking about you and your boyfriend and everybody else. Thank you.

HUGI: Thank you for having me and thank you, the American people that give us a huge hug now, and we feel the support. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you, Shmuel.

Speaking of the American people, the American President will be speaking soon from the White House about Israel's war. And we have new details about what assurances President Biden has and has not given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That's next.



BASH: Back to what we've been watching all hour. Rockets lighting up the night sky above Ashkelon, part of an unrelenting aerial assault from Hamas terrorists. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.


Erin Burnett, as you saw, is in Israel. We will get back to her as soon as we reestablish communication there. Now I want to try to go to Clarissa Ward, who is in Ashkelon. Clarissa, there you are. Tell us what you're seeing right now.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just about five minutes ago now, Dana, the sirens went off again. There was a little bit of a pause, and then we heard -- I mean, again, it's really hard to estimate the number because they just fire them in these, like, dense volumes. But quite a few rockets certainly fired and they were closer this time. You could actually smell that very distinctive smell of explosives.

Again, the Iron Dome doing its work and intercepting many of them. But this has now been going on, Dana, for almost three hours, I think. Hamas has been updating all along, saying that this is going to continue. We are striking what they call the occupied city of Ashkelon. This is what they are calling retribution for the displacement of civilians in Gaza. They said it was going to start at 5:00. It started at 5:00 on the dot, and it's been pretty much continuous with a few lulls of maybe 20, 30 minutes in there. But the city of Ashkelon, I mean, it's -- you could sort of hear a pin drop honestly at this stage. A lot of people presumably have left, but those who remain are staying in cover.

The hotel where we're staying is completely full now, and that's because a lot of ordinary civilians living here have come to places like that, this, like, bigger, sturdier structures with more shelters on every floor as a place to stay while they wait this out. But I think there is a growing sense now, Dana, that waiting it out.

Nobody knows how long this could be, how long this could last, how many rockets Hamas has, how or when the issue with a complete clearing of Hamas militants who were able to cross that border will finally be resolved. Let alone the question of the fate of those 100, 150 hostages who are being held in the Gaza Strip, Dana.

BASH: You know, you talked about where you are right now and it being a hotel which has shelters on every floor. It just speaks to the reality when building initially there where you are in Ashkelon, how close it is to the Gaza border. And we heard from a spokesman for the IDF I spoke to just a short while ago, just underscoring that, yes, this has happened before. That this means rockets have come across the border.

Nothing, nothing like what you are experiencing and you are witnessing right now, Clarissa.

WARD: I mean, Dana, I've been covering this conflict since 2006. And as you say, people here are accustomed to rockets coming in. It happens. There are shelters. Every bus stop has a shelter next to it. It's part of the fabric of daily life.

What we have seen in the last 72 hours is something completely different altogether. And just in the last few hours, with regard specifically to the city of Ashkelon, we have not seen anything approaching. That level of bombardment.

And I do think it's important to underscore, we're not aware of any casualties at this time, despite the ferocity of that bombardment and the intensity of it, but it's still nonetheless has a crippling effect both on the psyche of people who live here, but also on the work of Israeli security forces, who are essentially put in a position where they are trying to put out multiple fires.

I'm speaking metaphorically and literally at the same time at any given moment. And this is, you know, the advantage that Hamas has, is that it can engage in asymmetrical warfare and it doesn't care about the rules. And so, you're seeing this continued, continued bombardment here in Ashkelon tonight, Dana.

BASH: Doesn't care about the rules is quite an understatement given what we have seen and what the atrocities committed. The massacre of innocent civilians, old and young to the youngest that we can even imagine. Clarissa, I probably don't need to say this to you, but please stay safe and our team as well. We will be getting back to you.

Up next, an exclusive one on one interview with a member of Congress who was on the ground in Israel just hours ago.



BASH: We are joined now by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was on the ground in Israel earlier today Thank you so much for being here. You are now not in Israel.


BASH: You're next door in Jordan. Can you describe what you witnessed on the ground in Israel today? What did you see? What did you hear? Who did you talk to?

SCHULTZ: Dana, we were in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem today meeting with the -- both the leadership of Israel. I met the Prime Minister Netanyahu, Minister Dermer, opposition leader Lapid, and we met with families who have had their family members taken hostage, or murdered in cold blood.


We heard described the unprecedented savagery that Hamas has perpetrated on Israel, Dana. It's really the equivalent of 10/9/11s, as if we had 10/9/11s in the United States. That's how you should think about it. The equivalent of 40,000 Americans executed, or 4,000 taken hostage, not -- but even worse than that, it would be like that was perpetrated by our next door neighbor.

And that's the dangerous, vicious neighborhood that Israel lives in. And we came here with a bipartisan, bicameral delegation to meet with leadership, which we did in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain about the Abraham Accords.

And within hours of our first meetings in Saudi Arabia, we woke up to the savagery, and executions that happened here. And the resolve of the Arab leaders to still continue with the normalization process in Saudi Arabia was heartening. But there's a long road ahead here that we wanted to make sure we came to Israel and didn't go home.

And so we could stand in solidarity with Israel. And not just talk about our support for Israel, but demonstrate it, which was further demonstrated by President Biden, bringing in our carriers to ensure that this vicious savagery does not spread to other parts of the region to perpetrate more evil against Israel.

BASH: Erin, I want to -- you're in Tel Aviv, I want to give you a chance to talk to the Congresswoman.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, Congresswoman, I guess I'm wondering, you know, you brought up obviously that you were in Saudi Arabia when you heard news of the savagery and Saudi Arabia and Israel, of course, were on the cusp. I don't know whether cusp is weeks or months, but at the verge of what would be an historic and unprecedented agreement, a normalization of relations such that, you know, Israel recently reached with the UAE.

Widely, people are now saying, OK, that's on the back burner. If that, it's dead. Would you say that? Is that now just basically dead and over for the time being?

SCHULTZ: I wouldn't, I wouldn't because we were there before and in Saudi Arabia for the day on Saturday, got there and began our meetings on Friday evening. And like I said, we had a buoyant and hopeful meeting with Saudi leadership on Friday evening, woke up to the savagery that was perpetrated by Israel -- on Israel by Hamas, and then had an opportunity through the day to take the temperature of Saudi leaders and civil society members and ask them whether they thought that this would turn them back and then went to Bahrain and have the same kinds of conversations.

And universally, they believed and remained committed to continuing and not allowing Hamas to do what their intention was, because, you know, what the purpose of this was? Besides their stated goal of repeatedly eradicating Israel and killing, you know, all Jews, it was to execute the peace process, because the peace process normalization is the death of Hamas, the death of the terrorist organizations who wish to continue their obsession wiping Israel off the map.

BASH: Congresswoman, I just want to follow up on something you said at the beginning there. You did meet with Israeli leaders. What did they tell you?


BASH: What did they ask for?

SCHULTZ: Our conversations were primarily about the horror of seeing women raped and their soldiers beheaded and children burned. I mean, this is like ISIS level evil. But that we also talked about, and the reason that our CODEL wanted to make sure, our congressional members wanted to make sure, instead of going home. And we pushed back against our own nation's leadership, our own nation's instructions to ensure that we could come to Israel as we had planned and stand with them.

And that's the message that we got from Israeli leadership, from Prime Minister to the opposition leader, Yair Lapid. They are united, Dana. As difficult as the last few months have been since the coalition government took power here, they -- universally, Israelis are united on the ground. Their leadership is standing side by side, that they're pulling together an emergency coalition government so that they can -- or Cabinet, so they can work together and fight this evil.

It was --

BASH: Yes.

SCHULTZ: -- so important to come to be a member of Congress, but also as a Zionist and a Jew for me, Dana.


BASH: Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming on with us and telling us about your experience today in Israel. Appreciate it. Safe trip back.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BASH: Erin --

SCHULTZ: (INAUDIBLE) will provide.

BASH: Erin, again, you're going to be there all night until, you know, who knows when, but the idea of what we just heard, I feel we're going to hear a lot more of the brutal, brutal details.

BURNETT: The brutal details. I do think it was interesting, Dana, and I know, you know, obviously the congresswoman and many others, you know, hope very much for the Saudi deal to continue, but with normalization with Israel.

It was interesting, though, that she was actually there on that day. And as the attacks were unfolding, talking to Saudi officials, a different perspective than we've heard before.

BASH: Yes. No question. Erin, thank you so much for being here this hour.

Thank you for watching Inside Politics. We're going to see you, Erin, throughout the day. And of course, tonight on Erin Burnett OutFront at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.