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Palestian Officials: 1,400+ Killed, 6,000+ Inured In Gaza; Bombs Level Gaza As Israel Masses Troops On Border; Blinken Shares Emotional Moment With Survivor Of Music Festival; Crisis Deepens As U.S. Pledges Full Support For Israel; Netanyahu's Office Releases Photos Of "Babies Murdered And Burned" By Hamas; Protest At U.S. Colleges & Concerns Of Anti-Semitism Rising As Israel Responds To Hamas Terror Attacks; Blinken: "Unrelenting Agony" For Families Of Hostages Held By Hamas; Blinken: U.S. Stands "Shoulder-To-Shoulder" With Israel. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 12, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, pledges, promises and fleas through the thick black fog of war. Right now, Gaza is in the dark, and Israelis are sheltering as sirens send shivers across the country.

From Tel Aviv this morning, we heard an American pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terror. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves no daylight between the U.S. government and that of Israel.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The message that I bring to Israel is this. You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself. But as long as America exists, you will never ever have to.


BASH: From the Israeli prime minister, there was a promise again to banish Hamas to the ash heap of history.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: President Biden was absolutely correct in calling this sheer evil. Hamas' ISIS and just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed. And Hamas should be treated exactly the way ISIS was treated. They should be spit out from the community of nations.


BASH: From Gaza, pleas for mercy, amid suffering as far as the eye can see. The relentless Israeli response to a barbaric terror attack has displaced hundreds of thousands. The sweep of devastation touches every man, woman and child. There is no power, and now there is the prospect of no food within days. A key question. Where are Gaza's Arab neighbors, like Egypt when it comes to helping innocent Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire? We will be exploring that question this hour. But first we want to get to Israel and start our coverage with CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Dana. We in the last few hours have gotten two barrages of rockets headed in this direction right here to the city of Ashdod. There were red alert sirens going off. That last barrage that we had, which was about an hour, hour and a half ago, was directly above us.

We heard those booms of the Iron Dome system intercepting those rockets very, very close to our hotel. And as we went into the shelter on our floor, we encountered a family that is also staying in this hotel, they are actually from the city of Ashkelon, which is just over my left shoulder here, closer -- which is closer to Gaza.

They fled north to the city of Ashdod to this hotel, in the hopes of finding a little bit more safety and also because their home does not have a bomb shelter. The father, I spoke with him, and he said that his children were afraid when they were in Ashkelon that they feel slightly safer over here, but clearly, not entirely out of the danger zone.

But I also want to talk about what we saw from the Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because what we saw was not only an expression of solidarity from the United States an effort to show that there is no daylight between the two countries.

But also talking about the brutality and the barbarity of the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas over the weekend. And what that was really seemed like an effort to kind of bottle up all of the emotion that exists in this country, the shock and the outrage from those Hamas terrorist attacks.

And use it to effectively as a rationale for what is going to come next for the Israeli military campaign that is sure to unfold, whether or not that is a ground invasion. It certainly appears so, but we do not yet know. But whatever comes next, there is no doubt that there will be more casualties. If there is a ground invasion, that means casualties on of Israeli soldiers going into Gaza.


And also, of course, on the Palestinian side. We know that anytime there is active fighting in Gaza, including the airstrikes that we have seen from Israel and onto the Gaza strip over the last several days. There is always a very high civilian casualty toll as well.

Just given the congested nature of Gaza, given the fact that Hamas operates from within residential areas and Israel is undaunted in striking at those very targets as well. We have watched the death toll in Gaza worryingly, mounts over 1400, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. And this situation almost certainly, Dana, only going to get worse, especially for the civilians caught in the crossfire.

BASH: That is a certainty. Thank you so much for that report, Jeremy Diamond. And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, made an unannounced visit to a donation site in Tel Aviv. He met with a 24- year-old Israeli American who survived the massacre at the music festival. I want to play part of their emotional exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went through for really, I'm just like, I'm 24. And I never imagined something like this would happen ever in a dance and a music festival. We celebrated love and we dance. And it was amazing. And then the rocket started and gunshots everywhere.

We managed to escape. But there were a lot of friends that didn't. And there were a lot of friends that are kept captive now in Gaza. And we were saved by a miracle, but there are friends that we love that weren't (Inaudible).

Thank you for being here. It's really important. And if there's any way to help, like first priority, first priority are our friends and family that are now in Gaza. We're strong here. We're powerful here in this place now in Tel Aviv and everywhere.


BASH: Joining me now from Tel Aviv is Danny Danon. He is a member of the Knesset, and member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party and the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you so much for being here.

I want to begin with that moment we just played for our viewers of the U.S. secretary of state at an Israeli relief center, having that emotional conversation with a survivor. Talk about the importance of that kind of moment inside Israel right now.

AMBASSADOR DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Dana, we are in deep pain. We are still trying to digest the numbers of casualties, while actually attending funerals day and night. And I think it's very important for us to see the secretary coming to visit us and to have President Biden in a very emotional speech. We need that. We need that support. We know we have the friendship of the U.S.

And today we are in the process of coming together. We're going to have a unity government. In about an hour, we will vote in the Knesset about our new government, including members of the opposition. And we starting to get ready for the retaliation. Yes, we are in pain.

But we also understand that we have to fight back. We have seen the brutality. I don't know if you have shown the horrible picture. But every day we see more and more pictures of whole barbaric behavior. We never believed that in a Jewish state, after 75 years of independence, we will have to see, it seems that we started the Holocaust in World War II. And all of a sudden, it's happening here, more than one thousand innocent victims. BASH: We're going to show that in a minute. But I do first want to ask about, one of the first things that you mentioned which is going to happen later, which is the formation of a national unity, or emergency government I should say, and it is with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Unity Party leader, Benny Gantz.

It's basically a war cabinet. I think it's probably the best way to put it. And you can correct me if I'm wrong. But in practical terms, does this mean the end of the Netanyahu government?

DANON: No. I think you're very accurate about the war cabinet. You know, I spoke with Benny Gantz. I urged him to join the government. I think it was the right decision. We know we have no intention to stay in Gaza. So, we hope to finish the war as soon as we can. And then we will go back to regular politics, to the argument to do the necessary inquiry about what happened.


But for now, we put politics aside. We come together as a nation and to see the amount of support that we have in Israel for our troops. You know, my own son is down there, and we all come in and hug the boys and girls, and tell them, we are behind you. Go do what you have to do to bring security to the people of Israel, fight evil, fight those barbaric. And I can tell you that we know it's not going to be easy. It's complicated to go into Gaza and to attack Hamas. But we have no other choice.

BASH: If I'm hearing this in the United States, I know that you are hearing there in Israel, particularly as an elected official there, real frustration among some Israelis right now, even through the deep, deep pain. Frustration from civilians who feel that the Netanyahu government was unprepared and failed its people. What are your thoughts on that?

DANON: So, I think now we realize it's not time to start the blame game. We know something wrong happened. You know, 50 years ago, we were caught by surprise during the Yom Kippur War. And we thought that's it, from now on it will never happen again.

And you know, in less than a week ago on another Jewish holiday, we were caught by surprise. And also, the number of casualties, you know, the fact that it's more than one thousand civilians, you know, babies and the kidnapped. You know, Hamas kidnapped one year old baby. A Holocaust survivor at the age of 86.

And the brutality, you know, raping women. You know, I don't want to go into details, but that thing that it's like a whole movie. So yes, I can tell that we are in shock. And we are not getting now into fighting about who is to blame and why it happened. We are united now winning the war. After that, I'm sure we will have to do that.

BASH: OK. Let's talk about, as you call winning the war. You have called for civilians in Gaza to quote, "move out." You know, again, far better than I that they don't have anywhere to go right now. There is talk about a humanitarian corridor to get Palestinian civilians out through Egypt. What is the status of those talks? Will Egypt allow that?

DANON: Fair, Dana, I beg to disagree with you. They can move out. For example, a few hours ago, we warned the residents of a neighborhood in northern Gaza. It's called Beit Hanoun, to move out from the neighborhood. We sent --

BASH: Where will they go?

DANON: -- pamphlets, text messages. They can go to southern part of Gaza. Gaza is about 40 miles long. They don't have to stay next to the headquarters of Hamas. We urge them, we tell them to move out, don't stay where you are, it will be dangerous. So, I think seeing those innocent people staying there, it will be a mistake.

We urge them to move out to go south. And what you mentioned about Egypt, you know, it's up to the Egyptians to decide how to handle it. But still within Gaza, there is place for people to move. It's not going to be permanently. We're going to come, fight, clean the area from Hamas terrorists, and then they can come back to the neighborhood.

BASH: You mentioned the horrific images and information that we are getting. Prime Minister Netanyahu's office released truly horrifying images of babies it says were burned and murdered by Hamas.

Now CNN has not independently verified this image. And I want to warn our viewers, Mr. Ambassador, that this is very upsetting, but I want to give you an opportunity to speak about it. And obviously, there's the image. The government is releasing it, because they want the world to see what these Hamas terrorists did. Again, I want to emphasize CNN -- CNN cannot independently verify it. Your reaction?

DANON: Dana, that's shocking. You know, we have seen war until attacks, but to see the inhumanity of those, they're not animals, the brutality. You know, we think babies that were caught in the community of (Inaudible) in the border with Gaza. They capture the babies. They handcuff their hands, and then they burn them alive.

So, when we bought the doctor to look at the bodies, you know, they couldn't stay in the room. They never saw that happening. And I asked myself, why you come and attack civilians? And then you go in and you go to the babies, and you make sure to burn them alive. You know, no words to describe such act.

I saw what we saw ISIS decapitation, also horrible be ever that will be the worst. But today we realize that Hamas is even worse than ISIS. The images we saw coming from different communities, the way they executed, decapitation of heads of people, pregnant women. And you know what, I don't want to go into the detail. It's very hard for me.

But I can tell you that that is something we cannot sit idly by and wait for the next time they come against us. And within a week or two, we're going to talk and you're going to ask me about the problems of the people in Gaza. We should think about those pictures which you just showed to understand why we are actually going to go into Gaza and to fight Hamas. It was an unprovoked attack, a major massacre against civilians, we have no other choice.


BASH: To say that it was a major attack against civilians is an understatement. And the questions, of course, is -- are about civilians in general and there are questions. And I know that there are questions being asked in your country about how to avoid the death of more civilians, no matter who they are.

But I just want to underscore that image that we showed and the images that you're describing that the Israelis have seen, and the attacks on their own people, it is important for the world to know what happened just like it was during World War II.

Thank you so much. I appreciate your time, Mr. Ambassador.

DANON: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: In any minute, we expect to hear from the American secretary of state, live from Israel. And also, here in the United States on high alert. Security officials are warning about the potential for antisemitic violence in the U.S. tomorrow. We have new reporting next.




BASH: Soon we'll hear from the secretary of state live from Israel. Today back in the United States, there are concerns about antisemitic violence and a troubling cultural undercurrent. In the days after, during and barbaric terrorist attacks by Hamas. We have witnessed a stunning attempt in some corners to blame the victims, dead Jews.

At Harvard, a letter addressing the Hamas slaughter, a letter co- signed by 33-student groups contained this line, the apartheid regime is the only one to blame. The most charitable reading of that letter is that it tried to provide context and failed a test of moral clarity. There is no charitable reading of this next image.

This is a post from the National Students for Justice in Palestine, their Instagram account. A particular attention to the paraglider in the right corner. The general call for protests is prompting real life security concerns.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Brooklyn. And Shimon, all NYPD forces have been ordered to show up in uniform tomorrow. In the meantime, you are at a college campus looking at the protests that are happening.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes. We're outside of Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, obviously. Here is the site of one of these protests, we have the supporters of Palestine. This is the group from the college here. They're called the Brooklyn College students for justice in Palestine. It's just about a hundred of them or so gathered here outside the campus. They came together, they say because they were angry over the statements that were made by the college president in support of Israel. And so, they wanted to gather here, they say to show their support for Palestine, and they're against what's happening.

You can see some of the signs here. On this side, let me be frank, let me just show some of the signs on this site here. The bombing of children is not self-defense. And so, we're hearing chants like that, from this side, saying free, free Palestine.

And then on the other side, where frank was just showing you, are supporters of Israel. Just about a handful or so that are gathered on this side, of course, the college is open. There are students you could see that are coming through here, leaving the campus going to the other side.

But this is the other side of it. It's been peaceful. And most of the folks here on each side holding signs. And then you could see, there's a lot of extra police officers here and law enforcement officials. There is officers behind frank here, and they're just standing around. And basically, this is not a very large group, Dana, that is gathered, but certainly they're making their voices heard.

BASH: Shimon, thank you so much for showing that one example of what we're seeing and hearing across college campuses. It's very nice that there is a peaceful protest going on right there.

Speaking of that, I want to bring in CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller. Thank you so much for joining us. I know that you've been talking to your sources in law enforcement. What do we know about any specific or credible threats to Jewish centers?

John Miller: Well, right now, we don't have any -- -

BASH: John, hold, hold that thought. We're going to go to the secretary of state, and we'll be right back.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In my meetings with the prime minister, with the President Herzog, with the ministers, and Israel's newly formed national emergency government. We discussed in detail what Israel needs to defend itself, its people, and how the United States can help to meet those needs.

We're delivering on those needs as we speak. And we will work closely and swiftly with Congress to meet them as they evolve. This afternoon, I met with families of American citizens Hamas killed or taken hostage, the enormity of their anguish. Their loss is immeasurable.

For the families of the missing, there's an unrelenting agony of not knowing the faith of their loved ones, something that I don't think most of us can truly understand, truly contemplate. If you're not in their shoes, no one should have to endure what they're going through.

There is so many families like them. United States is one of more than 30 countries where family members, friends, entire communities are being forced to go through this wrenching experience because of Hamas disdain for human life and basic human dignity.


We're doing everything we can to secure the release of the hostages, working closely with our Israeli partners. I brought with me to Israel. Our deputy special representative for hostage affairs Steve Gillen, who joined my meetings with the families and will stay on the ground here to support the efforts to free their loved ones.

I also had a chance to see up close the genuinely inspiring solidarity of the Israeli people in the wake of Hamas' attacks. When I visited one of the many sites where citizens have swiftly organized efforts to collect, to sort, to distribute donations to those in need, including many families who have been displaced from the south.

I had a chance to meet with some of the volunteers, several of them, dual the U.S.-Israeli citizens. One young couple told me how they narrowly escaped with their own lives when Hamas terrorist attack the supernova music festival. They told me about their friends who were not fortunate, who were killed at that festival. Others taken hostage were still missing.

In our time here in Israel, everywhere we've gone, we've met people who've been touched in one way or another, by Hamas is bloody hand. A loved one, a friend, a classmate, a neighbor, a colleague, killed, maimed missing. We encountered a nation knit together by grief, but also a nation united and resolve. United States shares that resolve. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel.

From here, I'll go on to Jordan, where I'll meet with His Majesty King Abdullah, and with Palestinian Authority President Abbas. And then over the coming days, we'll visit with leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Qatar. Across each of these engagements, we'll continue pressing countries to help prevent the conflict from spreading, and to use their leverage with Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages.

We'll also discuss how we can continue to make real our affirmative vision for a region that's more peaceful, more prosperous, more secure, more integrated. And in fact, that is the choice. And the choice in some ways has been made even more stark by the actions of Hamas on Saturday.

One path forward is a region that comes together integrated, normalized relations among its countries, people working in common purpose to come benefit, more peaceful, more stable. Then there's the path that Hamas has shown in stark, clear, light, terror, destruction, nihilism. The choice could not be more clear. We know the choice that we're making, our partners are making. We have work to do to carry it through.

In all that I did today, I was supported by an exceptional team here in Israel. It's been doing crucial work in incredibly difficult conditions, led by remarkable Charge d'Affaires Stephanie Hallett. Stephanie is doing an extraordinary job. We also look forward to welcoming our future Ambassador Jack Lew to Israel. As many here know, Hamas launched this attack on Simchat Torah. This is the day that Jews celebrate finishing the reading of the Torah. This Saturday, Jews around the world will chant the first words of the book of Genesis. They'll read that in the beginning, there was darkness, and then there was light. That the first person was alone until a partner joined them.

I'm standing here today, alongside our Israeli friends, and all those who reject terror. To help find the glimmers of light, even in this moment of deep darkness, and to make clear that as long as there's the United States, Israel will never be alone. With that, happy to take some questions. First go.

First question goes to Shaun Tandon with AFP.

SHAUN TANDON, AFP CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good evening. Can I just ask you to begin with Prime Minister Netanyahu has shared what you -- what he's -- what are very gruesome photos. He said that he shared them with you.


TANDON: I know, they're very disturbing to look at. But I wanted to see, first of all what you -- what your reaction was to those. If I may like well, understanding and acknowledging the great suffering that's been experienced by Israelis. There was a lot of concern in some quarters about the situation in Gaza as well. People looking for food and in light of the cut off.

Was that discussed at all in terms of the humanitarian situation in Gaza? Was there any call for easy in some of these conditions are very strange as we expect to ground offensive? And if you allow me just one thing that's been reported just recently.