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Isa Soares Tonight
Israel Says A Female Israeli Soldier Kidnapped By Hamas On October 7th Is Being Reunited With Her Family; Israel Bombs Gaza Refugee Camp; IDF Holds Briefing After Airstrike Hits Gaza Refugee Camp; Netanyahu Faces Harsh Scrutiny. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired October 31, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. We begin this hour with breaking news. Israel says a female Israeli
soldier kidnapped by Hamas on October the 7th is being reunited with her family. The army says she was released as part of ground operations in Gaza
and appears to be healthy.
We have heard in the last -- in the last how -- well, 20 minutes, I would say, that Israel Defense Forces have attacked -- caused attack, I should
say, IDF attack caused an enormous blast. And you're looking at that right now at the packed Jabalya Refugee Camp. Now, authorities in the Hamas-
controlled Palestinian enclave said there are many casualties.
And just moments ago, my colleague Wolf Blitzer spoke to the international spokesperson for the IDF. Have a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HECHT, INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, IDF: We'll be coming out in the next, hopefully, our with more data. But I can update you neither. There
was a very senior Hamas commander in that area, sadly, he was hiding, again, as they do behind the -- within civilians. And that's all I can see
at this point. We're looking into, and we'll be coming out with more data everywhere and what happened there.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, can you confirm it was an Israeli attack that destroyed a big chunk of that Jabalya Refugee Camp?
HECT: Yes, I can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: See, if you're just joining us in the last minute and 40 seconds or so, let me just bring you up to date. The IDF as you heard there in that
interview with our Wolf Blitzer confirming there was an airstrike from them that hit Gaza's largest refugee camp. And these photos of the site just
shows multiple large craters in the ground, surrounded by rubble of destroyed and damaged building.
The director of the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza telling CNN that hundreds of dead and injured people have arrived at the hospital, and that many are
still under the rubble. Salma Abdelaziz is following this and has the very latest. So, Sam, we just heard there from the IDF, just talk us through
what you're hearing from our sources on the ground.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I just want to emphasize that our Wolf Blitzer pushed the Israeli --
SOARES: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: Spokesperson, the Israeli military spokesman, particularly on the issue of civilian casualties. Because as you heard there, Wolf saying
there were civilians in that area. And he responds -- the spokesperson responds by saying, this is the tragedy of war. Now, let's roll those
pictures and look at that tragedy, Isa, because there will be families torn apart by that bombardment tonight.
There will be parents burying their children tonight. This could be potentially from eyewitnesses we're hearing on the ground, one of the
deadliest episodes in this conflict, in what already has been one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest conflict to hit the Gaza Strip. This is
going to be horrendous. And I just want to give you a bit of context -- we call this a refugee camp --
SOARES: I was going to ask you about this --
ABDELAZIZ: Exactly --
SOARES: Yes, just explain --
ABDELAZIZ: But it's not a refugee camp. These are historical terms. This was established in '48. It's one of the most densely-populated
neighborhoods in one of the most densely-populated areas in the world. It is in the north of the Gaza Strip. There are families living with families
living with families. You have to understand at this stage, half the population has been displaced.
SOARES: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: Everyone is looking for a safe place. So when a building is struck -- and we understand according to officials on the ground, 20
buildings leveled. When a building is struck --
SOARES: Several blocks you're talking about here.
ABDELAZIZ: And you're talking about a lot of human lives. You're talking about dozens and dozens of people living in those buildings. Now, the
Israeli military will say, well, we've told people to evacuate from the north. But that's why you hear the international community call for a
ceasefire. How do families evacuate under bombardment, under siege, and where to in the south?
SOARES: And where to is something that I have been hearing from NGOs as well. Where do they go? There is no infrastructure for them to go. And just
remind us yet again of what the IDF has said in response to this.
ABDELAZIZ: Yes, so again, speaking to our Wolf Blitzer, and there is going to be a press conference, I believe in about an hour --
So we're going to find out more, that they were targeting the Israeli military, was targeting a senior Hamas commander who is responsible,
according to the Israeli military for the loss of life in Israel, for killing many Israelis. That was the quote from the Israeli military
But these images that you're going to see of civilians, of the youngest, you have to remember, half of Gaza's population is children, up to --
SOARES: Of course --
ABDELAZIZ: The youngest being killed in these airstrikes potentially. That's just going to add to that chorus, add to that --
SOARES: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: Growing condemnation we're hearing around the world.
SOARES: Incredibly hard to watch. Thank you very much for the very latest there, Salma, thank you. I want to bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond who is in
Sderot in southern Israel. And Jeremy, let me just pick up where Salma Abdelaziz just left off. I mean, the images we have been seeing so hard to
watch, so hard to comprehend. So many children, one would assume, part of this, you know, living in this Gaza's largest refugee camp. What more are
you learning about this explosion at the refugee camp in northern Gaza here?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the images of the craters alone where it appears that multiple buildings used to exist
are just absolutely breathtaking and stunning, and just so awful to imagine what the people who were there went through when those bombs struck.
The IDF is saying that this strike was designed to take out a Hamas commander who they say they successfully killed. They say that they killed
Ibrahim Biari; the Commander of Hamas' Central Jabalya Battalion. Biari, they say was one of the Hamas operatives who orchestrated the terrorist
attacks on October 7th.
They also say that he was responsible for other terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, and they also say that numerous other terrorists were
hiding in civilian buildings in the Jabalya Refugee Camp when this strike took place. According to the statement, they say a large number of
terrorists who were with Biari were killed.
And they say that his elimination was carried out as part of a wide scale strike on terrorists and terror infrastructure, belonging to the Central
Jabalya Battalion. They also say that Biari has been the commander for Hamas forces in the northern Gaza Strip who have been fighting Israeli
forces since that expanded ground operation was launched five days ago today.
But again, when you are -- we are now seeing images of people rushing into the hospital, according to a member of the staff at the nearby Turkish
hospital, saying that hundreds of dead and injured are being brought into the hospital. Of course, it's not clear how many of those are civilians,
how many of those are combatants.
We do know that Hamas has a history of embedding itself in civilian areas, in residential areas, and of course, as Salma noted, the IDF has been
urging civilians to leave northern Gaza for southern Gaza. Of course, there is a massive challenge for civilians to actually be able to do that. We
will see if we get more from the IDF on the exact number of terrorists that they say that they were able to eliminate in the strike.
But clearly, there are civilian casualties as a result of this. The question is, how many?
SOARES: Yes, indeed, we do not know, but confirming here what you're just telling us, the Israeli military claiming it killed a Hamas commander in
this strike. We've also, as you said -- the director of the Indonesian Hospital also telling CNN that hundreds of dead, injured people arriving at
the hospital. But many, as we have been seeing, Jeremy, from the images we've been showing our viewers, fears of course, that many are still under
the rubble of these high-rise buildings.
This is packed refugee area camp here in the north of Gaza city. This comes, Jeremy, just put this into context for us, comes as Israeli Defense
Forces push deeper into Gaza as they enter its fifth day. Just give us a sense -- put this into context for us, and what you've been seeing, what
you've been hearing.
DIAMOND: Yes, well, we were actually in Sderot today overlooking the Gaza Strip when around the same time of this explosion, we saw a massive
airstrike on a part of the Gaza Strip. It appeared to be coming from this direction. We have yet to actually fully geolocate this and confirm that
this was the exact same strike.
But there was a very large strike that we were able to see at that same time. And what's interesting is that, you know, the IDF is still carrying
out a number of aerial bombardments of the Gaza Strip, even as its ground forces move in. But they have been carrying out fewer airstrikes than they
were before. It appears that they're relying a lot more on artillery and also on forces on the ground who are using tanks, but also calling in
This could have been one of them, but clearly, based on the extent of the damage here, you know, this was not just a precision strike to take out a
part of a building, which we sometimes see with the IDF employing those kinds of tactics as well.
But what has been interesting is to watch the ways in which Israeli forces are moving in on Gaza city from the south, as well as from the north. But
they are doing so deliberately, taking over a number of reinforced Hamas positions before they move into the more densely-populated areas. And
instead, in those more densely-populated areas, like Jabalya Refugee Camp, it appears that they're relying on air power.
SOARES: Jeremy Diamond for us there, thank you very much, Jeremy. And if you're just joining us, let me just recap what we've been discussing in the
last what? Nine, ten minutes. The horrific, truly horrific scenes coming out of northern Gaza this hour after a powerful blast at a crowded refugee
camp. Now, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces say they did hit the Jabalya Camp -- Jabalya Camp in an attack.
The IDF speaking to our Wolf Blitzer in the last 20 minutes. They say they were targeting a very senior Hamas commander. In the last few minutes as
you heard there, from our Jeremy on the ground, he was saying the Israeli military claims it killed Hamas commander in the strike.
The U.N. says the Jabalya Camp is the largest refugee camp in Gaza. At last count earlier this year, there were 116,000 Palestinian refugees registered
in this camp, and as we heard from our correspondent, many of those would be children. Once we have more clarity on what is happening or what has
happened, and the toll this has taken, of course, we will have -- we'll bring that up -- we'll bring to you the director of the Indonesian Hospital
telling CNN that hundreds of dead and injured people have arrived at the hospital.
Many, he said, are still under the rubble. As we look at these images, we've seen people there trying to find their loved ones, trying to see if
they can here, to rescue anyone. But these were high-rise buildings, packed in an area that was incredibly packed. Let's get more on all of this, Leo
Cans is the head of Mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF for Palestine, he joins me now from Jerusalem.
Leo, let me pick up with these images that we've been seeing right now on our screen. The blast at the Jabalya Refugee Camp in northern Gaza, I mean,
the images are incredibly hard to watch. What are you hearing from your contacts?
LEO CANS, HEAD OF MISSION IN PALESTINE, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES: Yes, we're hearing as well from colleagues in Indonesian Hospital that it is
full of patients arriving. Some in Shifa Hospital where we have more teams are also receiving many patients including many children at the hospital.
Now, it is one more blast in a dense civilian area.
I think at some point, we have to say enough is enough. This is way too many bombings. This is directly targeting civilians. I'm sorry, but this is
too much. We -- since the beginning of the war we're receiving so many children with injuries that are unbearable to watch. We see that the
picture from the -- from the -- from the doctors they're sending to us as well, we are talking to them almost every hour. It's too much.
I am -- the doctors are distressed, they're calling us crying every night by the horror they're seeing. And this blast is just one more horror, but
the horror that is happening since the beginning of the war. Children, women, 100 of them are coming to the hospital. It is too much.
SOARES: And Leo, we've heard from the Israeli military, they claimed they killed the Hamas commander in the strike. What is your reaction to this?
They say they were going after Hamas commanders, and they say -- they claim they have killed a commander. What is your reaction to this?
CANS: You know, my reaction to this is to stress that currently in hospitals, we're operating children without anesthetics. Children with
their face totally burned, we don't have morphine for them. This is the reality. Currently, at the time of speaking, there are probably children
suffocating beneath rubble. This is the reality of what we're talking. It's too much. This has to stop. This is hell.
This is -- we are beyond our capacity to take care of the wounded people. We are operating people on the floor of the hospital because OTs(ph) are
full. We don't have any more work to describe what is happening now. I think enough is enough. This has to stop. Bombing has to stop. We cannot
bomb people like this.
And again, I don't know about Hamas, I don't know about this political scene and this war --
SOARES: Yes --
CANS: What we know, what we see in the hospital is children coming, women, young men, those are civilian people coming to our hospitals. And we don't
have the means to take care of them in -- with dignity, because we are lacking bandage, we are lacking antibiotic, we are lacking morphine, we are
lacking sedatives to painkillers. We don't have the resources to do. So basically now, doctors are working with --
SOARES: It basically sounds like you're lacking everything, Leo. You're lacking everything by what you're telling me. And we have seen -- I think
it was yesterday --
Twenty six aid trucks, but like we have heard from many NGOs, that's just a drop in the ocean.
CANS: Exactly. This is nothing. And I'm telling you, we are -- we are -- we are changing patients including children.
I mean, since, you know, the children, because this is what is the most striking. We have many children, too many children, way too many children
in the hospitals. And I was discussing with one of our doctors, he was -- children were burnt, because we have many burns, 60 percent of the body
surface. Normally, you change a bandage like this, you put people to sleep.
What the doctor said, he get paracetamol. Paracetamol to change a bandage - - someone who's burn on 60 percent of the body --
SOARES: Right --
CANS: This is -- this is unacceptable. There is no justification for this. There is justification for this -- there's absolutely no justification for
this. And we are calling since the beginning of the war, we are seeing -- we are sending the alert, we are ringing the bell, we are seeing -- this
has to -- we need some more to come in. We need medicine.
The health scare, also people are exhausted. They're exhausted, they cannot even work anymore. You know, they spend the whole day working, and then
they have to come back to their houses, they're terrified for the -- for the surviving of the families, they're sleeping all in the same room
because they're scared to pass the night. And they say, we live together or we die together.
And then in the mornings, they go back to work again, completely terrified for their life and for the life of their children and family. And the whole
day, they see such horrific things. And these are people who are doctors who work --
SOARES: Yes --
CANS: In previous wars. It's not the first time they have war wounded. But this time, I'm telling you, they're calling us crying on the phone like NGO
doctors who have seen many things, they're crying on the phone. And for us, when we see the pictures of the patients, we are -- also we cannot sleep.
I'm telling you the truth. We cannot sleep. It's --
SOARES: And I believe you, Leo -- and I believe you, because this -- you know, it's a scene that I have heard from NGOs on my show almost daily. And
you've painted a truly catastrophic and dire situation on the ground. Leo Cans, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us, really
appreciate it. Well, as we mentioned earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out any ceasefire, you know, he said that
yesterday, roughly yesterday at this time on the show. I want to remind you of what he said. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: This is a time for war. A war for our common future. Today, we draw a line between the forces of
civilization and the forces of barbarism. It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand. Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: A time for war, in his words. So, let's take a look, a closer look at Israel's strategy right now. I want to bring in colonel -- Colin Clarke;
a Director of Research at The Soufan Group. His research focuses on terrorism and international security. Colin, thank you very much for taking
the time to speak to us this evening. I want to start with what we've heard in the last 17-20 minutes or so.
An IDF spokesperson telling our Wolf Blitzer that an Israeli airstrike hit Gaza's largest refugee camp. He says it was meant to take out a senior
Hamas commander. As we've been hearing from our correspondents, there have been dozens of civilians that were injured -- or killed or injured. Just
your reaction by this decision to go after Hamas commander in such a hugely, densely-populated refugee camp as we have been seeing.
COLIN CLARKE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, THE SOUFAN GROUP: Yes, I mean, just the images are horrific. And if Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming to be, you know,
fighting a war on the side of civilization, this doesn't look like it. You know, this looks like the barbarism that he abhors. And so, I think, you
know, in terms of military strategy, there's other ways to go about this.
You could talk about commando raids, but dropping a missile into a densely- populated area like that. Whatever Israel achieves with its military strategy, it's likely to lose in the battle for international public -- if
we keep seeing images like this, and as your previous guest alluded to, dead children day after day after day. At a certain point, I agree with
him, enough is enough.
There's got to be a ceasefire at some point. And I think the United States should push the Israelis to come to that point soon. But I just don't think
we're going to get there.
SOARES: And we've heard from the IDF today saying that they were able, they claim they killed a Hamas commander in that strike in the camp. We've also
heard Israeli officials confirming that first -- that the first two IDF deaths since the incursion have taken place. We don't know about the
circumstances of the Israeli soldier's death from what I understand.
But what we have been seeing, Colin, is Israel Defense Forces pushing deeper into Gaza with two main objectives, and correct me if I'm wrong, to
dismantle Hamas, break the back of Hamas, and to bring home the 240 hostages. How does it do that?
Can it achieve both those goals? How realistic is that?
CLARKE: Look, in terms of, you know, being a military power, Israel is one of the most capable militaries in the world. But I just don't -- I see
those two objectives working across purposes. How you can rescue 240 hostages while also decimating Hamas and breaking the back of that
organization when it's embedded in the fabric of Gaza, it's likely co- located with all of these hostages.
No one has explained that to me. And I haven't seen the IDF come out and talk about how they're going to do that. Obviously, you know, those are
tactical and operational secret. But I've studied this for my whole career, and I just -- you know, I don't even see how a military as talented as
Israel's can pull it off. I think there's going to be mounting collateral damage and civilian deaths in the days to come. And I just -- I see this
conflict getting worse, not better. And I don't really see any end in sight.
SOARES: And what we have been seeing in the last few days, Colin, is the incursion -- I'm not sure if we have a map, we can bring it up -- focused
on northern Gaza. Of course, we know the IDF are asking people to move south. We've heard from NGOs, there is no infrastructure, much
infrastructure to support the millions of people that would have to move.
But what we have seen them -- is them -- the IDF moving in from both the northern corners, the east and the south, and then also from the south.
Almost like I imagine, and correct me if I'm -- like a pincer. What is your understanding of the strategy there?
CLARKE: Yes, it looks like an encirclement strategy, typical and counter insurgency to clear and hold some of these areas. They're targeting Hamas
command and control nodes, and likely attempting to gather further intelligence on Hamas' underground labyrinth of tunnels. This tunnel
network known as the Gaza Metro.
So, it's fighting while also gathering intelligence, using drones, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to map out what the Hamas
infrastructure looks like, and then to target it accordingly.
SOARES: Colin, really appreciate taking the time to speak to us this evening. Colin Clarke there, thank you. And still to come tonight, a major
explosion reported at a packed refugee camp in Gaza. That is our breaking news story in the last 20 minutes. We will continue, of course, to follow
the very latest. That's just ahead.
And then tense moments in Washington earlier, as protesters interrupted the U.S. Secretary of State as you can see there, as he pressed Congress for
more aid for Israel as well as Ukraine. We'll bring up that story after this.
DANIEL HAGARI, SPOKESPERSON, IDF (through translator): Regarding to the scene, during the battle, eliminated infrastructure, this is a complicated
fighting. We lost fighters. We gave notice to two families. We eliminated Biari.
He is leading the fighting in the north of Gaza since the massacre on the 7th. During his elimination, many terrorists died that stayed with him
underground. In Jabalya, there was wide ground in order to fulfill the infrastructure collapsed. The -- Hamas is using the population as human
shields in a cruel way. Sinual(ph) doesn't care. He built this infrastructure of Hamas on purpose.
And he's standing not just behind the massacre, but also is destructing the Gaza Strip. We call to the residents of north Gaza, please move south. We
will give you areas to go. This is going to be safer. We're going to act powerfully in the Gaza city. We're going to eliminate any terrorist in the
Gaza Strip, in the Red Sea. We eliminated and detected missile, and we used the HERT(ph) system.
This is the first time using the HERT(ph) system, aero system. Airplanes managed to eliminate two additional targets that were in the sky, and that
was used with the very advanced Air Force system. And we have global defense in the air and regarding the south area as well. There are -- the
Houthi, the Houthis are working in Iran.
They're trying to make us lose our focus on the Gaza war. We are going to defend ourselves everywhere. We are working together with the army, the
U.S. Army. Our central command, we have infrastructure that we are using to pass intelligence. The Air Force with the U.S. and the Americans in order
to protect -- IDF knows how to protect civilian interests.
And we will know how to attack in the right time, in the right place. In the north, there are still attempts for shooting. The IDF attacked and
managed to eliminate this shooting. We are going to eliminate any squads in the north, air defense or any time that they will try to shoot us. So far,
we managed to notify 300, and we are working to return the abductees.
I advise everybody to join our formal update. This is our obligation, and we're going to save our forces, the security of our forces. Don't spread
rumors. We call the north Gaza residents to move south.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to the citizens who do not take your advice? Regarding the aero system, this the laser system. Has that had any
HAGARI: Our defense system have many layers. We have additional projects, and defense system project, and I'm not going to give you additional
details. We are working hard in order to increase our abilities. And this is the way it should be. And it should be in the media.
Regarding your first question, we are working against an enemy. It's a murderous enemy and using the citizens, the residents as human shields. We
managed to allow them to go south in order to be focused on the enemy.
There are some medical areas. And where the residents are going there, like Shifa Hospital, we can't let them have terrorist infrastructures in the
hospital. It's against the law to use the hospital as a terror infrastructure.
QUESTION (through translator): Can you give additional details regarding the fighters that died today?
Is the IDF going to attack or just defend in that sense?
HAGARI (through translator): The death of the fighters, face-to-face battles, it's a battle that we are taking over an area of the terrorist
infrastructure with equipment. And this is face to face battle.
And the fighters fought heroically. This is complex battles. There is no other way.
Regarding the Houthis, we have to say that we defend the citizens of Israel. We have the navy and the air force in a wide way. It is going to be
right to protect our interests in the right time, the right place. The IDF is all around Gaza.
The smart thing is not to say what we are going to do. We are going to say a grand operation. And we are going to do it exactly the way we planned it.
Hamas is relying on the media. And we are going to make it hard for him that we would like to secure defenses. We are going to do operational
efforts with a plan. And in order to destroy Hamas. And we are focusing on the north.
QUESTION (through translator): Can you see that Hamas is using kids as a human shield?
HAGARI (through translator): We updated 240 abductees. The number is increasing because sometimes the details are complicated. It's going to
take time. We are doing everything -- intelligence, operational and everything we can in order to return the abductees.
Regarding the kids, I'm standing here and would like to say it in an honest way. They use human shields in hospitals. And I explained it. We have
evidence and we showed it to the world. Everything that is happening on the ground we are going to document and show.
QUESTION (through translator): You talked about Yemen. They are affiliated to Iran.
Is it going to be an attack on Iran?
Yemen is divided, too.
HAGARI (through translator): There's two areas where the Houthis are in fight.
HAGARI (through translator): And saudia (ph). We realize that in the interception we have the Iranian Houthis. We are creating a defense in this
area and we are going to make it thicker.
This is a strong defense in the south area of Israel. It is clever not to say it in here in the media and to protect our security interests. Thanks.
SOARES: You have been listening there to Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, talking us through the images we've been seeing for the past 25 minutes or so.
Horrific scenes that, if you are just joining us, let me bring you up to date. They are coming out of northern Gaza this hour.
After a powerful blast at a crowded refugee camp. These are some of the images coming in from the Jabalya refugee camp. Now the IDF said and has
been saying for the last 20 minutes that they were going after and they killed, they claim they killed Hamas military commander there, Ibrahim
Hamas, in the last few minutes, has strongly denied the Israeli claim that one of its leaders was in the Jabalya camp. What we heard from Mr. Hagari
in the last few minutes is that Hamas was using residents as human shields. They are using civilian infrastructure.
They are calling for civilians in the north, in Gaza City, to move south. Let us get the very latest from our Nic Robertson, who's been listening in.
And Nic, what we've heard in the last few minutes, IDF confirming there that they indeed struck the Jabalya refugee camp, densely packed. The
images are horrifying. Bring us up to date with what you just heard.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, what the IDF spokesperson was saying there was that this was a targeted strike against a Hamas
leader, who they said was hiding in tunnels with many other Hamas terrorists. Those were their words.
They said they were eliminated, taken out in this strike. They described a situation whereby the location he was at was in a civilian neighborhood.
But the translation that we have so far at least seemed to imply that it was sort of clear in the area that was being described as the focus of that
But there is no doubt here at all that the IDF is taking ownership of this strike that has caused huge civilian loss in the Jabalya refugee camp. This
is the largest refugee camp, according to U.N. agencies, inside Gaza.
According to those same agencies, about 110,000 people live there. It is a very packed area. It's about six miles from where we are standing. The huge
plume of smoke that rose up from the impact earlier this afternoon was caught on camera by one of our other CNN teams that was here overlooking
So this was a very big strike. There are many strikes, very large ordinance over the past number of days while the incursion has been going on, while
troops have been there on the ground. The artillery strikes are continuing at this time into the same sort of area.
We heard earlier on today, when we were further south along the Gaza border, more artillery going into Gaza. The IDF says this is supporting the
ground troops there. But there is no doubt that this strike has caused huge civilian casualties.
A doctor in one of the hospitals is treating some of the wounded. He's described what he said were hundreds of casualties, dead and injured, who
were being treated in overflowing surgeries, being treated in corridors, on floors and in cubicles.
He paints a picture of a medical system and that was already reported to be crumbling, which is absolutely overstretched by the magnitude of this
strike. There is some very, very heavy ordnance being used. The IDF is saying it's targeting Hamas in deep bunkers.
ROBERTSON: And some of ordnance is intended to explode deep underground. The images appear to show multiple detonations in this particular
neighborhood. And according to officials in the Hamas-run neighborhood there, the Hamas-controlled, if you will, part of Gaza, there were 20 homes
So the images are absolutely horrific. And the IDF now dealing with the outfall of what is undoubtedly going to add to the growing chorus of calls
for Israel to have a cease-fire, to have a humanitarian pause.
Many civilians are getting the message that they need to move south. They just don't know how to do it. They lack the means or they just don't know
which routes are supposed to be safe. This incident seems to highlight the desperate nature of the situation in Gaza right now.
SOARES: What I've heard from NGOs, Nic, regarding that call for them to move south without a pause in the fighting, there is no safe route for them
to move. There is no infrastructure in the south, they argue, to support that.
On the -- as we saw these images coming in from the Jabalya refugee camp, Nic, you know, we were talking to our Salma Abdelaziz and we were talking
about the condemnation will start. We'll start to hear from leaders around the world and NGOs to the images we are looking at around here, doctors
saying hundreds of dead, injured people arriving the hospital.
Many as we look at these images, Nic, supposedly one would assume still under the rubble. We've heard in the last few minutes from the Pentagon --
I will read you out what they said.
The Pentagon spokesman, Brigadier General Pat Ryder telling CNN the Israeli military is not deliberately targeting civilians, unlike Hamas. They are
responding, of course, to this airstrike on the refugee camps.
The Pentagon saying Israel not deliberately targeting civilians. But this, I would imagine, would put more pressure on prime minister Netanyahu here.
ROBERTSON: Undoubtedly it will. And he was trying to deal with precisely that pressure when he spoke at a press conference yesterday, number one,
saying the October 7th attacks were akin to a Pearl Harbor moment, a 9/11 moment. No one would expect the United States to have called a cease-fire
at that moment.
To the point of civilians being killed, the Israeli point of view and the prime minister's point last night was there is a moral distinction to be
made. He said Hamas comes out and kills civilians, targets civilians.
I was speaking with a witness who was going back to that music festival, today for the first time she had gone back, barely left her house since.
She described seeing her friends lying on the ground quite literally begging for their lives and being shot in cold blood.
So what the prime minister says is that Hamas comes out to intentionally kill civilians. The Israeli government doesn't; that there can be
collateral damage but that is a message that, while it strikes at the core of understanding in Israel, it appears to lose traction with even some of
Israel's strongest allies.
And that's why we are hearing the increased calls for this pause to avoid all the civilian casualties.
SOARES: Nic Robertson for us this evening. Thanks very much, Nic.
In the last few minutes we heard from the State Department declining to comment, I should say, on the Jabalya refugee camp strike but says the U.S.
expects Israel, expects Israel to protect civilian lives.
We will take a short break. We are back after this.
SOARES: If you are just joining, us let me bring you up to date with our breaking story. A massive explosion at a refugee camp in northern Gaza. The
IDF say they did strike Jabalya, targeting a senior Hamas commander.
People now searching through the rubble. You can see these images of survivors. We have new video from a nearby hospital, which you may find
disturbing. A warning, the director there telling CNN hundreds of dead and injured people are now there. One person in the camp says it felt like the
end of the world.
I want to bring in CNN's Nada Bashir in Jerusalem.
Bring us up to date with the very latest, please.
NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you laid out there, we are seeing horrifying, nightmarish videos emerging from the Jabalya refugee camp in
northern Gaza. This is among the largest refugee camps in the Gaza Strip entirely. More than 100,000 people live in this residential area.
As we've seen from this video, as we heard from people on the ground, the devastation here is hard to put into words. We heard from doctors and
medical teams working at the nearby Indonesian hospital.
They say they are overwhelmed with the number of dead and wounded, including the paramedics on the ground that we've been speaking to, who've
been working tirelessly over the last few hours, helping other survivors, residents to dig through the rubble in the hope that they will find more
Of course, as is sadly anticipated, there are many still beneath the rubble and the fear that this death toll could continue to rise. At this stage,
the full extent of the human casualty, the death toll we are seeing, it is not fully clear.
We heard from the director of the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza who has said the number of those killed and injured is already in the hundreds.
We've been hearing disturbing reports from these medical teams on the ground.
They say they have found bodies, dismembered and charred. Of, course as we heard from authorities inside Gaza, at least 20 residential buildings were
completely destroyed in this latest airstrike. As we've heard from the IDF, they say they were targeting a senior Hamas commander, who was killed in
BASHIR: The IDF, the Israeli government overall throughout this war has said it is targeting Hamas. But as we well know, civilians are paying the
As you've seen in this attack, in numerous attacks across the Gaza Strip, we are seeing that civilian death toll mounting each and every day. Of
course, those civilians in northern Gaza were warned by the IDF to evacuate southwards.
But the message I'm hearing from rights groups and medical teams on the ground is that there are many who simply cannot evacuate, who have to
remain in the north for various reasons and, therefore, continue to come under this relentless air bombardment by the IDF.
SOARES: Indeed. We've also heard from Hamas in the last few minutes. They've denied the Israeli claim that one of its leaders was in the Jabalya
camp. Nada Bashir with the very latest from Jerusalem, thank you very much.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been striking in the last three, four hours a defiant tone as he rejects calls for a cease-fire The Israeli prime
minister had long warned the label of Mr. Security until that identity was shattered by a Hamas attack on October, 7 which killed, of course, 1,400
He wasn't widely popular before overseeing the country's worst ever security breach, facing scrutiny over ongoing corruption allegations and a
controversial push to overhaul Israel's judiciary, a story we have focused on on the show.
Some of the headlines in the last few days have been brutal, including one from Haaretz, referring to the prime minister as "a puppet." As you can
see, in his most difficult hour referring to foreign policy, "we will never forgive Netanyahu for what he did to us."
Israeli citizens vowing to never forget and forgive him there. Let's get more on the mood inside Israel. I will bring in Avi Mayer, the editor in
chief of "Jerusalem Post."
Avi, I think it is fair to say that we heard a pretty defiant speech from prime minister Netanyahu yesterday, when he rejected calls for a cease-
fire, saying it wasn't the time for war; it was a battle against tyranny, i think he said in terror.
A speech clearly directed at Israelis but also directed to the rest of the world.
How are his words, first of all, received at home?
AVI MAYER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "JERUSALEM POST": Look, I think, as you said, there was a dual message here. I think he actually did have a domestic
audience preparing the Israeli public for the possibility this was going to be a long term presence in Gaza.
There will likely be fighting that will go on for quite some time. They are also sending a message to the world, that this is not only Israel's battle
but in fact it's a battle between the forces of, as you said, tyranny and extremism and those of democracy and freedom, which are represented by the
state of Israel.
So I think his words were, in that respect, well received within Israel. But as you said, there is a great deal of frustration within Israel about
the role his leadership played in the failures of October 7th and his failure up until this point to take responsibility for those failures.
SOARES: Let's talk about that. You know, as we set out, there he was already facing criticism even before the horrific and barbaric attacks on
Israel on October 7th. But that criticism, correct me if I'm, wrong has only intensified following, of course, the devastating intelligence
Add to that the concern over the 240 hostages. From what I, understand some of the relatives wanted to give a chance to these negotiations. Talk to the
sentiment right now in the country.
MAYER: Israel is largely unified, as the country often is at times of crisis, having just undergone the worst crisis, the worst massacre of Jews
since the Holocaust. Israelis are united wall-to-wall in their determination to, on the one hand, secure the release of those 240
hostages, including infants and elderly, people and dealing Hamas a blow it cannot recover from and deny it the ability to ever carry out a massacre
like October the 7th again.
So there is that consensus within the country. At the same, time there is this confusion, this lack of understanding as to why the prime minister is
the only leader of the country who has yet to take personal responsibility for the failures of October the 7th.
The heads of the, military of military intelligence, other security agencies have, said we played a role in those failures. The prime minister
has yet to do so.
SOARES: Why hasn't he?
Why do you think he hasn't taken responsibility?
MAYER: I'm not the prime minister's spokesperson, so far be it from me to plumb the depths of his decision-making process.
But look, he's an individual who has long balked at the notion of taking responsibility for failures in this country. He is, as I think you
mentioned earlier --
MAYER: -- someone who has the impression of being someone who is focused on security, who is Mr. Security. And that has kept this country safe in many
respects. I think there is certainly a lot to his credit.
But this is a cataclysmic failure that will be a stain on his record for many years to come. I would be very surprised if his political future
weren't in question, once the dust does indeed settle.
SOARES: There have been some quite vociferous (ph) people, who said he's part of the problem. One doctor, one professor, saying he is in survival
mode and added the only thing driving him is staying in power.
Very briefly, do you agree with that?
MAYER: I don't think that is incorrect. I think, ultimately, look, he is the prime minister of the country. He wants the best for the country. He
wants to make sure this campaign ends successfully, the Hamas is dealt that blow and it never has he capacity to carry out a massacre ever again.
But ultimately he is a politician, he's thinking about his political future. We have to wonder to what extent that is contributing to his
decision-making at this time.
SOARES: Avi, always great to get your insight. Thank you very much.
And that does it for us for this evening. Thank you very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" up next. We will have
much more, of course, on those horrific images we've seen out of the Jabalya refugee camp, as we start getting a better picture of what caused
it. IDF taking responsibility of that.
We will have much more after this.