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Israeli Airstrikes Bombard Gaza After Hamas Attacks; U.S. Has Specific Intelligence Casting Doubt on Iran Being Directly Involved in Carrying Out Hamas Attack; Netanyahu Says Attack is Savagery, Not Seen Since the Holocaust. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired October 11, 2023 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JASON CROW, (D-CO): We are democracy and we are a free and open society, so Americans can travel and it's very hard for the State Department and any administration to ever keep tabs on folks.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': Sure.
CROW: So it takes time to actually get those numbers but the administration is being transparent about it.
BASH: Let's turn to Iran and questions that everybody is asking about Iran's involvement, we should say that we know it's an open secret that Iran funds Hamas and as Director Clapper, the former DNI, just told us, may be more involved with Hezbollah than Hamas historically. But the question right now is Iran's involvements in the planning of this terror attack. Have you heard anything behind closed doors that tells you anything new about any suggestions that that happened?
CROW: Well, Dana, I can't talk to specific intelligence and what we have learned in briefings, I will talk generally. And what we know is that there is a distinction between direct involvement in any situation and indirect involvement. As your prior guests indicated, very well established that Iran is indirectly been supporting Hamas for many years, right? They train, they equip, they provide intelligence, they provide operational support. Hamas largely exists and has the capability that it has because of Iran involvement.
That's different than saying that Iran knew about coordinated or approved of a specific attack. And as public reporting has indicated, there is public reporting and even some indications from the administration in the last 24 hours that Iran may not have known about this specific attack or been involved and approved of it. Now, this could get worse though, and also this is a very important point. As horrific as these attacks were, there is a scenario in which the situation gets worse for Israel in a couple of different ways.
One, with respect to the operation in Gaza, they are amassing combat power the likes of which Israelis have never done and if they attempt to do a full sweep and to exercise total control over Gaza, a place that's extremely tough to fight in, maybe the toughest in the world to fight in. I have experienced fighting in urban terrain like this in Middle East, it takes a lot of blood, a lot of treasure, a lot of time and it's very hard. That is number one. That has to be done right.
Number two is preventing Lebanese Hezbollah from joining the fight, taking advantage of this situation in the north. Three, is prohibiting -- preventing Iran from also directly joining the fight and taking advantage of it. And then the fourth is the political situation with Israel and some of the other Arab nations, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There have been a lot of discussions to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. That needs to move forward. We have to make sure that this situation does not derail that really important effort.
BASH: Congressman, the first point that you made is something that I really wanted to get your thoughts on, and that is about urban warfare. And because you do have experience, you were an army ranger, you understand what it is like to engage in such a tricky and challenging situation, can you shed more light on that? Particularly since as you describe it, going into Gaza for these soldiers is going to be more difficult even than what you encountered in the Middle East.
CROW: It will be horrible. It will be absolutely horrible, Dana. Urban terrain like this in the Middle East absorbs combat power. It absorbs troops. When I was a platoon leader, during invasion of Iraq, I had 50 paratroopers under my leadership and 50 paratroopers, it was sometimes hard to control a city block, let alone a portion of a city. So, it takes tremendous numbers of troops when you have a situation like Gaza that is built and designed to be a death trap for these types of invasions.
Booby-trapped with thousands of Hamas fighters, it's bad for the soldiers, and it's also horrible for the civilians sort of caught up in that. I mean we are looking at the prospect potentially of tens of thousands of Palestinians being killed or wounded and caught in the crossfire. So, it's bad for everybody involved. So, Israelis have to make sure they are dealing with this the right way. And they are good at it, but it's certainly going to be difficult.
BASH: And just last question, is there any scenario where there can be a path created for those innocent civilians who will get caught in the crossfire if they can't leave, the Palestinian civilians?
CROW: Well, it's very -- I do believe we need to find a way to set up a humanitarian corridor for those civilians to leave. Now, the challenge of that is making sure that those corridors aren't abused by fighters, aren't abused by terrorists to send more fighters in, to send arms and equipment in. There's a mechanism to do that, but there's no other way to think about two million Palestinians caught in this area. There's got to be some mechanism put in place, in my opinion, to find a safe pathway for those folks out of the fighting. Otherwise, we are looking at tremendous civilian casualties.
BASH: Well, to hear from someone like you who has been in the battlefield that that is doable is important to know. Thank you so much, Congressman, for coming on. Appreciate it. CROW: Thank you.
BASH: And live pictures right now out of Gaza. We are going to continue to follow the latest developments out of the region as we see it is nightfall and things are heating up. Stay with us.
BASH: The breaking news out of Israel this hour, the State Department says 22 Americans have been killed in the early days of the war. Also, the IDF says they've gotten reports of incursions from the Lebanon side of the northern Israeli border, setting off alarms in Israel's north and we are getting word that people in the coastal town of Haifa have been told to take shelter, lock their doors and turn off the lights. That is happening right now.
CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. Hadas, you brought up this news when you first saw those alerts going off on your phone. What can you tell us now?
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So we are now hearing from the Israeli military saying that after the reports they've had no impacts reported in Israeli territory, but they are continuing to search the area and are asking residents to continue following the instructions. Actually, not just residents in Haifa, but anyone from Haifa and then the line across going north into northern Israel have been instructed to enter their homes, not necessarily the bomb shelters, but enter their homes, lock the doors and turn off the lights, lower the lights.
This is out of fear of infiltrations of some kind because they got these reports that the airspace had been infiltrated and the entire north was blanketed in these alerts going off about a possible infiltration. Bigger fear, of course, being that there are militants -- that there are terrorists on these aircraft of some kind, similar to what we saw coming out of Gaza into Israel, and they are armed and they are going to start infiltrating communities in the northern Israel.
This would obviously be a major escalation because the northern border, of course, is so volatile with Hezbollah's presence there. And it would be -- if Hezbollah is involved in any way with this infiltration, which they kind of have to be because Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon, nothing happens there without their OK at least. Even if this ends ups being attributed to a different Palestinian group, Hamas (inaudible) presence up there. Hezbollah is the one who will ultimately say whether it is OK or not, so then the question becomes, how will Israel respond to this?
Even if it ends up just being a bunch of drones, unarmed drones that were sent up into the sky just to cause these alarms to go off to cause panic for the residents of northern Israel, I do expect we will see some sort of Israeli response. But right now, the Israeli military is trying to just figure out what in the world is going on up north. Where these drones? Where these armed people on paraglides? Where these armed drones of some kind? So that's why the residents up there are being told to continue sheltering in place.
BASH: Which is completely understandable given the trauma of what happened on Saturday. And I should just tell you and our viewers that as you were talking about what's going on in the north, there continues to be shelling the response going into Gaza and we are seeing that in the night sky in Gaza
Speaking of Gaza, Hadas, because this is such a fast-moving story, we intended to talk about what I am going to ask you about at the top of the hour, and it is something that we cannot underscore enough which is, the information that we are now learning about the brutal, savage murders in a kibbutz in the south, near the Gaza border, on Saturday, having to do with toddlers, having to do with babies. What have you learned?
GOLD: We now have confirmation from the Israeli prime minister's office that in Kfar Aza which is a kibbutz, a small community near the northern part of the Gaza strip, that they found decapitated babies and toddlers. They did not give a number of the number of children or babies who they found in this state, but even just one is absolutely horrific to think about. This is absolute brutality. This isn't just you know -- they -- I mean, we knew that they had gone in and shot and killed and abducted women and the children and the elderly from their homes, literally from their beds, but we did not know the extent of this brutality.
We had heard reports about decapitations happening to soldiers. We had heard reports about decapitations happening to civilians and children. And now, we have confirmation from the Israeli prime minister's office about the brutality of what is there. We have been hearing from some of the first responders who were on the scene to begin with, and you can hear it in their voices, that what they saw with their eyes has completely scarred them and forever has changed them.
And I think that what has happened in the south has completely scarred and forever changed every single Israeli and that's why the rhetoric that we are hearing from the Israel military and the Israeli government is completely different in regards to Gaza, in regards to how they plan to respond specifically to Hamas, to completely obliterate them.
They have now been making the -- saying that Hamas is ISIS, saying that Hamas is the same as the brutality we saw from ISIS. And in a way, it's just hard to imagine anything worse than not only going into a civilian community and targeting and killing babies and children, but then doing something just so brutal. It's just so hard to understand and to comprehend that any human being alive on this earth would be capable of doing such a thing.
BASH: It sure is, Hadas. And we see on the screen and you are referring to the -- some of the language that we've been heard from the Israeli government, including the prime minister. The attack, the savagery not seen since the holocaust. As a parent and as just a member of the human race, it is hard to digest. Thank you so much, Hadas. We will be right back.
BASH: Families across Israel with missing loved ones who were taken by Hamas terrorists are still hoping for their safe return. One young boy abducted was Erez Kalderon, an 11-year-old who was taken from a kibbutz near the Gaza border. What you are about to see is very difficult to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH (voice-over): This is video of Erez Kalderon being taken by a Hamas terrorist. CNN has geolocated this video and confirmed its authenticity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Erez's cousin Ido Dan joins me now. Ido, thank you so much. You were on with us earlier this week. First, I know that you are aware that we were showing this and it's video that you wanted the world to see.
IDO DAN, FAMILY MEMBERS MISSING: Yeah. Yeah. It took -- it took his mom a while to agree, but eventually she did.
DAN: Because, first of all, she hasn't seen it. We just described to her what's in there, and we convinced -- she thought that it will harm him and we convinced her that actually it's really important and maybe even will help bringing him back home safe. But that's our hope, because in light of what happened on Saturday, we cannot be sure anymore.
In fact, we're very worried. Because what happened on Saturday was totally different than anything that we've seen in this conflict and, in fact, I think at this moment, we already know that it's nothing even closer to anything that happened since World War II and the holocaust. This brutality, you know, butchering of kids, we just heard that in the next kibbutz -- the adjacent kibbutz, babies heads were decapitated. I mean, this is just -- I can't even repeat the thoughts. I mean, this is not human being behavior. Something terrible is going on in the heads of those people.
I mean, I've never -- I'm not young and I've been to the military and I've seen stuff. Such a stomach sickening -- I've never felt such a nausea, browsing through videos from the Hamas and actually, you didn't have the guts to play them because they're so horrible. Just -- you know -- but, you know, my family told me, some of my family members, that actually you need to look the evil in the eyes. You need to see that to understand, much like in the holocaust.
You know, Hamas -- some people think that Hamas is the military of the Palestinians. We need to rethink that. This is not the situation. Hamas is an extreme terror organization, much like ISIS and Al Qaeda. And actually I think that the Palestinians, most of the Palestinians in Gaza, are hostages as well and they're brainwashed and they're being kept by extremely dangerous group of people that we just got a glimpse of what they can do. It's unbelievable.
They went house by house and they broke everything, they shot everything. They shot, you know, in all directions and they just threw grenades. They looted all the houses. There was so much rage. My cousin says that she heard a weird music, very loud music that she couldn't really tell what language it was, that almost felt like -- I don't know, like psychedelic music and maybe to give them some kind of motivation or energy or collective psychosis (ph) -- I have no idea.
But they were trying to get her out of the shelter, the safe room -- in Israel, every house, it's mandatory to have a shelter, which is a safe room that's supposed to basically protect the citizens from bomb shelling, you know, from missiles. I don't think it was ever designed to protect the citizens from terrorists who come from within the apartment.
BASH: Door to door.
DAN: Within the house.
DAN: Yeah, it is impossible to lock it.
BASH: Ido, I just want to mention that we saw the video and we saw pictures of Erez, your cousin's child. He is one of many of your family members who are missing. Have you heard anything at all from the Israeli government, any guidance on any aspect of their disappearance?
DAN: I feel a bit ashamed to admit that the answer is no. We haven't gotten any official announcements, nobody approached us. In fact, we did have a conversation with a lady from the State Department because Carmela, my aunt, is 80-years-old American citizen, and with her, three of her grandchildren were abducted, and the father of two of them. And so, actually we just -- you know, we had --
BASH: So you have heard from the U.S. State Department?
DAN: Only with the State Department. Can you believe that? But you know what, I don't blame Israel because it's really unprecedented, what's going on here, and there is a mess before things will be organized.
DAN: So I think that eventually, it will -- I mean, they will contact us and get things right.
BASH: Yeah, your understanding is notable because the Israeli government is a little bit busy right now and that is obviously something that you are alluding to. And I should just underscore you talked about your aunt Carmela, she is a U.S. citizen. She was born in Massachusetts, so she -- as we're looking at a photo of her beautiful face now -- she is one of the American citizens that the U.S. government is talking about, that is missing and they're not sure where they are. But everybody is praying and hoping that everybody who is missing and unaccounted for comes back safely, including and especially your nephew Erez. Thank you so much for coming back and telling your story, Ido. I really appreciate it and we will definitely stay in touch. Thank you.
DAN: I just hope that they will get back alive.
BASH: Yes. We all do. Thank you so much.
DAN: Thank you.
BASH: And thank you for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after a quick break.