Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Hamas Launches Assault On Israel By Land, Sea And Air; Netanyahu Says Israel Is At War; Reuters: Netanyahu Says What Happened Today Has Never Been Seen In Israel; Israel: At Least 200 Israelis Killed in Hamas Terror Attack. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired October 07, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very good day to you. I am Richard Quest. CNN continues with our major breaking news this hour. As night arrives in Israel, it is a night of fear. The country's prime minister says it is at war with Hamas after an unprecedented shock attack by the militant group. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the declaration after Hamas launched thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel. And militants stormed across the border, taking what Israel's military says are hostages, and prisoners of war. So far, the latest reports has 200 Israelis who are reportedly killed.
Nearly 1,500 more have been confirmed injured. Israel has responded, with airstrikes into Gaza. This residential tower in Gaza city collapsed. Palestinian health officials are now saying that there are 200 deaths there and more than 1600 people have been injured. The casualty numbers on both sides, Israel and Gaza, are expected to rise significantly in the next few hours. And the last few moments, Hamas says it fired 150 rockets towards Israel. This is what Israeli military sp okesperson said after what a former IDF person called Israel's, Pearl Harbor moment.
RICHARD HECHT, IDF INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: A very severe morning here in Israel. And a combined defensive by Hamas, brought here in the scene, the numbers still are not clear. We're now going to talk about the numbers as we speak. But the numbers are substantial. A very severe morning. We are very much now focused on sending forces to this location with this ongoing fighting as we speak, and handling these terrorists.
QUEST: CNN's Nic Robertson arrived at Tel Aviv (INAUDIBLE) in the airport and quickly took cover, once he got off the plane because the air raid sirens were blaring. This is what it sounded and looked like just a few hours ago.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: [SIRENS] We just got off the plane here at the airport, the sirens have gone off, people are taking cover, we got off the bus, people are taking cover. You can hear the intercept missiles banging in the air. Nothing in coming here. Everyone is taking cover. Worried got down. A lot of concern about what's going to happen here this night. QUEST: Moments ago, President Biden said United States will make sure Israel have what it needs to respond to the Hamas attack. Israel is mobilizing its troops and calling up thousands of reserves. Senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley reports, and I must warn you. This report contains disturbing images.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Palestinian militants celebrate the destruction of an Israeli tank near Gaza, dragging what appears to be the body of crewmen from the vehicle. Dozens of Gaza-based Palestinian fighters have infiltrated Israel under the cover of a massive rocket bombardment. It could be the biggest Israelian intelligence failure since Arab nations attacked Israel 50 years ago.
Hamas brought one of the streets, its bullets tearing into a civilian vehicle in Sderot. Locals film fighters on rooftops, shooting at police. Here, the aftermath of a gun battle, Israeli civilians lie dead on the streets. Close by what are reported to be Palestinian militants also dead.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER ISRAEL: We are at war, not an operation or and rounds, but a war. This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the state of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours.
KILEY: Israel's already hit back with airstrikes. But the country's right-wing government will be under pressure to attack deeper into Gaza, as reserves are being mobilized countrywide.
AVI MELAMED, FORMER ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: It's very possible that we will witness a massive Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip, that basically will aim to try to change totally from the ground. The conditions that have been prevailed, uh, for the last almost two decades.
KILEY: Israel's death toll climbs through the day of fighting. Militants claimed they have taken several Israelis hostage, which the Israeli defense forces are saying are prisoners of war. and the Hamas lead operation is the most complex and ambitious in its history. [SIRENS] here, militants in Jenin on the west bank, foreshadow what was coming to CNN last October.
JENIN BRIGADE LEADER: There are extensive meetings with the resistance factions in Gaza and the West Bank, and with our brothers abroad about starting that fire.
KILEY: That fight now appears to have begun in Gaza, with this Hamas call to arms. if you have a gun, get it out, he said. This is the time to use it. Get out with trucks, cars, axes. Today, the most glorious and most honorable history begins. but that appeal has so far not been answered on the West Bank, or among Israel's Palestinian population. Not yet.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
QUEST: The U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to a short time ago, declaring the rock-solid support for Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Israel are under attack. Orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. And in this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world (INAUDIBLE) that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. We will make sure that they have the help that their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves. You know, the world has seen appalling images.
Thousands of rockets in a space of raw hours, raining down on Israel cities. We get up to this point and start at 7:30 or 8:00 (INAUDIBLE) killing (INAUDIBLE) Israeli's soldiers and Israeli civilians. In the street, in their homes, innocent people murdered, wounded entire families taken hostage by Hamas. Just days after (INAUDIBLE) marked the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar. It is unconscionable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: With me is a national security correspondent, Natasha Bertrand. She joins me live from Washington. When president Biden says rock- solid support and then goes to say to Israeli, we have your back, what does that mean in practical terms?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, it means that the U.S. is reiterating that Israel has the right to defend itself, and the U.S. is going to provide whatever support that Israel needs to do that. And so, the question now is whether the Pentagon is going to be providing additional military equipment to the Israelis, whether the U.S. is going to enhance intelligence sharing with them, what kind of conversations are going to be going on with the U.S. and regional partners in order to lean on those partners to potentially try to find a solution to this.
There are a number of diplomatic and security conversations happening right now to figure out where this goes from here, and if this escalates further, or if there is a way to de-escalate the conflict. Now, President Biden has been surrounded all morning by his national security team who have been really working the phones and trying to assess what exactly Israel needs at this moment. Because everyone was caught off guard by this, Richard. This was a huge intelligence gap, essentially. The Israelis are, you know -- many of them are offering it to as an intelligence failure.
The U.S. is also concerned that there were serious blind spots that may have precipitated this. And that, really, it raised questions about what kind of intelligence Israel is simply not able to gather about these terrorist groups, and whether the U.S. is going to have to step up its own intelligence-gathering capabilities in the region. So, all of this really catching everyone here off guard. QUEST: Let's just focus on that intelligence. Now, did the attack was timed at the same time roughly as 50 years ago, in the Yom Kippur War. Now that was out October the 6th. Yom Kippur War, of course, was last week by the Jewish calendar. But if you just take the -- if you take the civilian calendar, that it is a 50-year anniversary today. And yesterday. There will --there will be those saying, you should have been -- you should have expected something. It was 50 years.
BERTRAND: I think it's too soon to say whether they were linked, right? I mean at this point; they simply don't know what triggered this. Was it just opportunism? But then again, experts have been saying that this kind of attack really had to have been planned four months in advance it was so well prepared, well-orchestrated, and well-coordinated in a way, really that the Israelis have not experienced since 1973.
And so, the question now is, where there are signs that the Israelis simply missed? where the pieces there that they didn't put together, including, perhaps, this anniversary? or, was there simply no intelligence at all, and Hamas and other groups have gotten extremely good at hiding their communications and have gotten more sophisticated in the kinds of attacks they have carried, out really without the Israelis noticing? But this date certainly is significant. It will be examined as a potential trigger point for these hostilities.
QUEST: Natasha, grateful for you, please come back the moment there is more to report from the U.S. side from Washington. Earlier, (INAUDIBLE) we are tracking developments from London. Elliott is normally based in Israel but at the moment is in the United Kingdom. Uhm, just tell me what you are hearing from friends and family first.
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Richard, what I'm hearing, I suppose that case over the comments, we've been hearing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which that it feels like Israel is at war. And as you and Natasha were just discussing (INAUDIBLE) nothing on this even close to the scale has happened in Israel in 50 years, since the Yom Kippur war, where again Israeli intelligence was left wanting and Israel suffered a surprise attack by its neighbors at the time. At that point, it was of course a potential existential threat.
There is no suggestion that we are at that point right now. But certainly, as you've been saying, this is unprecedented. It is a work that's often banded about to become a clinch. But this is really something that hasn't happened in terms of the complexity, in terms of the scale.
And as far as the timing is concerned, you mention the potential, this 50th anniversary, 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Of course, is also a Jewish holiday (INAUDIBLE) It is supposed to be a very joyous holiday, which celebrates the Jewish people receiving the terror, the five books of Moses from God. And at the same time, of course, it is also a time, nine months since this government was formed where Israel perhaps its population has never been this divided. And of course, against this backdrop, you've got Israel's hopes and talk and chatter about normalization with the Saudis.
GOTKINE: So, perhaps all of those reasons, you know, joined together to make this a very opportune moment for Hamas to strike. And of course, as we have seen, Israel's intelligence was found wanting it to be taken by surprise, and i don't think we've even begun to see Israel's response to this attack, Richard.
QUEST: Right, I want to break that into two parts, if I may, Elliott. Firstly, let's just talk about that intelligence. Now, let's do the response because that's more immediate in a sense. The response, the initial response, has been one of military action, that has already had a retaliatory result from Hamas. But reading-- listening to what you are saying, this has only just begun from the Israeli point of view in terms of retaliation.
GOTKINE: Very much so, Richard. And I think no matter the government was in place right now, whether it be a left-wing government or centrist government, or the current government which of course is the most right-wing in Israel's history. There would be a severe response to something on this scale. We've got also potential politically for some kind of emergency government to be formed.
Leader of the opposition Ehud Olmert has held conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on that very subject. And of course, because you have this right-wing government in place, it would inevitably will respond. But I think perhaps even stronger than perhaps it may ordinarily have felt the need to because it needs to show that security is something that it is very much on top of, despite, of course, the surprise on this attack.
And they'll be plenty of questions about the intelligence failures about whether the government was asleep at the wheel as a result of its push for this judicial overhaul for the past nine months, but i think, right now, the questions or the expectation is that there will be a focus on the military response and potential for a ground incursion into Gaza. And then there is other questions about the government, about the failures of intelligence, will come for afterwards.
QUEST: You've come at this for many years, Elliot. How does Netanyahu -- how does Israel extract its price which it says will be high, without sending the whole thing over the cliff. into a full-scale war that could last for much, much longer? Or maybe -- maybe the Israeli government doesn't care?
GOTKINE: I'm not sure that it doesn't care, but I think that as much broader escalation that we've seen over the past few years, and we've seen flare-ups happening periodically between the Gaza strip militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel over the past few years.
But I think that what is in store will really put those previous conflicts and those previous configurations in the shade. And that we will see a massive response. And it is really hard to see right now.
I know we have been talking about diplomatic tracking, and speaking to other leaders, but I don't think the Israeli's, and i certainly don't think Hamas, are going to see this as a time for talking. There will be much more fighting. (INAUDIBLE) could last days could last weeks, it is really, really early days right now.
But I think it is inevitable that this will escalate. It may potentially, of course, as we've been discussing, lead to an escalation on other borders, whether it with the West Bank or whether it's with his Bulla(sp?) in the north. But certainly, I don't think anyone expects anything other than for this to escalate from where we are right now.
QUEST: Elliot, your watch events please will take you live the moment there is more to report to give us from what's happening there. The reaction to this devastating, surprise Hamas attack is coming all over the world. A Salma Abdelaziz is with me. She is in London. So, where do we begin? Which in many ways, of all the sorts of the reactions, expressing support for Israel, in a sense. But if you take the totality, which is the most interesting at the moment?
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let us begin, Richard, by just -- let me piggyback off of what my colleague, Elliot just said the wider escalation, that this could go on for days, weeks, potentially longer. because Prime Minister Netanyahu is not just going to be looking around him at what is happening in the Gaza Strip. What is happening in Israel, what is happening in the West Bank? He will absolutely have his eyes on the wider region. You heard there again, from my colleagues.
The concern about Hezbollah's involvement, the concern about this stepping up from southern Lebanon and this escalation growing. This being a wider conflict and what is so extraordinary to imagine right now, Richard, it's just two weeks ago, just about two weeks ago. Prime Minister Netanyahu was standing at the U.N. security council, saying that there was going to be a historic peace deal with Saudi Arabia, that it would make a quantum leap in terms of the peace in the region, that there was concessions, understood, that would be made to Palestinians in this deal, and that that could change this region. Instead, we are looking at a very, very different shift.
One, that of course, leans again towards those militant groups, towards Hezbollah, towards Hamas. And within that context, I want to bring you two reactions that I think are the most important right now. The first from Saudi Arabia, if we could pull up that quote, if I could read that out you.
The kingdom is repeating its previous warnings of the dangers of the situation blowing up as a result of the continuing occupation and depriving the Palestinian their legitimate rights, and the repeated and systematic provocations against the sanctities. Again, this is a statement from Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry. Saudi Arabia was asking for concessions for Palestinians, prime minister Netanyahu, again just two weeks ago said he was on a brink, on the brink of making a deal with them - QUEST: Uhm - Okay
ABDELAZIZ: Sorry -
QUEST: I just want to jump in there uh, because, when i read what they said, (INAUDIBLE) about provocations and the - the Saudi statement it is difficult to see how they -- they are placing it. Because on the one hand, at the end of the day, this is Hamas that attacked Israel. This is Hamas that got the hostages or the prisoners of war. So, this starts with Hamas, if you like. But it continues with Netanyahu. And I am not sure that it is immediately clear how Saudi wants to play this, because they basically just simply said (INAUDIBLE) worse.
ABDELAZIZ: And that's going to be the concern, but it's going to be the criticism against Prime Minister Netanyahu witching out in the recent weeks and months (INAUDIBLE) in trying to make that agreement is where did that all go if this is the first statement that Riyad is putting out.
But as you said, is being Israel for these provocations. What does that say about Prime Minister Netanyahu's whose goals attempts not just in recent weeks but in recent years you remember of course the normalization agreement with the UAE, and with others in recent years to try to pave, again, this normalization with the Middle East.
All of that now of course is absolutely under question and critics of prime minister Netanyahu will say, was that the right course of action? Especially when you are looking at the intelligence failures on the ground. Was he looking in the wrong direction if you will Richard?
QUEST: All right, Salma, we'll be watching, over and will come back in this mode report. This is CNN there is a huge amount to bring you, and our coverage continues.
A short moment ago, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a short statement, a speech. He was in Hebrew and we are awaiting the full translation. I want to make sure that we get it right. And as soon as we do get that translation, we will be able to bring you exactly what he said because that is an indication of what his thinking is and where Israel might take this in the next few hours.
Let me update you please with the events of the last few hours. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said his country is at war after Saturday's sudden and unprecedented land sea, and air attacks carried out by Hamas militants.
So far, we know at least 200 people in Israel have been killed. Hundreds of people have been injured by the rocket fire coming in from Gaza. The Israeli military says its troops continue to fight in at least half a dozen locations.
Hamas also claims to have captured dozens of Israelis, including soldiers. The former spokesperson for the Israeli defense forces is calling this attack a Pearl Harbor moment for his country. Today's events are also being called Syria's historic failure on the part of Israeli intelligence.
Yossi Mekelberg is with me. Associate fellow for the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. We break this down into two bits, don't we really? how did we get here, and what happens now. And I suppose that what happens now to be put on both sides. To minimize is more key, in a sense, because the goal here is globally, I suppose, for pressure any further loss of life.
YOSSI MEKELBERG, ASSOCIATE FELLOW FOR THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAMME AT CHATHAM HOUSE: Good evening, I think how we got here is an important question. I think (INAUDIBLE) thing is an (INAUDIBLE) question. But actually, this is when we learned when we mentioned earlier that (INAUDIBLE) think, what are the steps that led to this. But yes, what -- no doubt in mind.
Anything is certain right now, that Israel will retaliate and it is going to be a massive retaliation today. I keep saying the logic figures right now, talking about 250 years (INAUDIBLE), many kidnapped.
So, this is (INAUDIBLE) a worrying event. We need to see what is happening in the next 24 to 48 hours. But Israel, first and foremost, is tying assert back its deterrence, to establish some deterrence. The big challenge for Israel right now is it is not too (INAUDIBLE) into trying to see that whatever military operation it takes whatever it is going to do it won't enter into another year or two of war without any clear political aim.
QUEST: How do you do that? How do you step into the deep in dark on known, and try and manage that? Because if I read the comments, the international reaction there is a common theme amongst many countries, not all, obviously. They basically say that Israel has a right to defend itself. Now, if we assume that that happens. How do we avoid as politicizing to get involved in the north, any agitation from the West Bank, how do you prevent that escalation,
MEKELBERG: You see the kind of right to defend itself, (INAUDIBLE) the government has failed to do. There is an obligation to defend its citizens it obviously didn't work earlier this morning elsewhere today. So, there is a need for new thinking, because obvious what was happening the last 56 years, but definitely the last 60, 70 years, just doesn't work.
So, why do we understand that, you know what the international community (INAUDIBLE) has the right to defend itself, is giving it basically a blank check, to do whatever it likes. Right now, and to retaliate, again (INAUDIBLE) the question is, why the retaliation against Hamas is understandable.
It might be necessary, but when you think in this process, hundreds, maybe thousands of innocent Palestinians are killed. This won't solve the situation. This just answers an atrocity with an atrocity. And this knocks the thing beyond this conflict (INAUDIBLE) violence is how to think how to change also the nature of relations with the Palestinians, in the long term and probably, at this point, with Hamas.
QUEST: So, there is an air of hopelessness there, isn't it? Because, what you say sir, is absolutely undeniably and inarguably true. If you carry on like this, it will end up in a much worse situation. But, trying to convince the prime minister, who has just had this sort of attack, who is already deeply unpopular at home, in a country that is split with a far-right agenda and, i am not trying to make it sound worse than it is, but it is pretty bad.
MEKELBERG: It is bad. it is, it is a horrible day. And, no doubt that what has happened in the last ten months in Israel, contributed to this. And, it's Israel is probably a different government. This is, you know, I don't want to enter into domestic politics right now, because this is a really somber day, considering of what happened. But you know, there will be a point that there will need an investigation.
This is a Prime Minister that lied on the idea that it is a risk for security. And this collapsed altogether this morning. Who could have imagined that we had this interview yesterday, no one would imagine that Hamas so easily can enter, and then coordinate (INAUDIBLE). There was a conceptual inauguration failure on the highest order.
So there needs to be some questions at this point -- at this moment, probably there will be another government in a matter there will be two because some of the opposition (INAUDIBLE) already declared they are going to join an emergency; the government. And it is interesting, if this is going to actually escalate the situation, because the fact that a government like this, can use more force or with something that actually will try to hold it, to contain and really to sink also the political implications.
QUEST: Very good to have you Yossi Mekelberg. Thank you (INAUDIBLE)
MEKELBERG: Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: CNN's coverage continues.
QUEST: Fighting tonight in Israel, as the battle between Hamas and Israel continues. More than 200 people are estimated to have died on the Israeli side, the number is rising on the Palestinian side as well. And in fact, it derives a great deal, more in the hours ahead. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is near Tel Aviv, he joins me on the phone. And Nic, barely had your feet touched the ground, and you were deep into this story, as the sirens went off. What is the situation now?
ROBERTSON: Well, we have been traveling south from Tel Aviv, on the coastal highway towards -- towards Gaza. And probably about 15 miles north of Gaza, on the outskirts of (INAUDIBLE) and why we have been here in this position, because it is a police checkpoint, preventing traffic going for the south on that highway towards Gaza. We have been able to hear the sounds of, what's sounds like fighter jets flying in the air. And then shortly after some heavy detonations coming from the direction of Gaza.
So, it sounds like, from where we are standing at the moment, that there are airstrikes going on and I'm hearing another round of explosions there right now. It's sort of boom -- boom - boom - boom -- boom is what I'm hearing. And it is very indicative of missile strikes, that we have seen before in Gaza.
So, it appears that it is undergoing some strikes at the moment. There are the occasional flares, in the sky above the air, possibly being put out by the Israelis sort of counter I mean potential of incoming airborne. There unclear why those flare-ups from the sky.
But what is so noticeable here Richard, unlike Tel Aviv, where the airport was just functioning, although most of the flights by the time we have come in, have been canceled.
There are a lot of people turning up there, look like tourists planning to leave. It seems, perhaps unaware that their flights weren't coming in. That they won't be able to need. --the further south you go, the further you get to Gaza is just how empty the roads are.
We have seen a few ambulances rushing away from coming from -- coming from the sort of Gaza direction, headed north. Several ambulances there. They're ambulances close to where we are on standby. Police are out, I'm hearing more activations in the air again. So, this is very, very much an active and fluid, and dynamic situation, that is unfolding here. And of course, that is what worries everyone. No one knows what is coming next Richard.
QUEST: Those explosions that you are hearing in the air, is this the iron dome interception system, stopping the missiles?
ROBERTSON: We don't believe it is because, we are not seeing any smoke, or any trace of them firing in the sky. And, we have been here before, and we have witnessed this type of situation before. So, from our experience at the moment, we think that what we are hearing are distant detonations, coming from the northern end of the Gaza strip. And again, we have also heard those fighter jets, the sounds of the jets rolling in the sky, heading past our location, heading south towards Gaza. So, indicative or perhaps some airstrikes on Gaza.
QUEST: You have, you are unfortunately assumed at many of these events having had to cover them. And, what does an Israeli escalation look like?
ROBERTSON: There are several ways to answer that question. And this scenario is entirely different to the ones that the Israeli government and the IDF have faced in the past. It is different, because of the quantum steps, and the dynamic that Hamas claims have dozens of Israelis captured, civilians captured, by military personnel captured as well. And, on the scale that they are facing, that they have, we don't have definitive pictures of figures from the Israeli government at the moment.
But from the figures, Hamas is saying this presents problems for the Israeli government because the expectation would be an incursion or an escalation of airstrikes and artillery fire, that was witnessed in recent years, that could lead to dire consequences, four hostages, if there were an escalation of the type that we have seen, let's say going back a decade or so, where actually ground forces of Israeli defense forces, quite literally move into the outskirts of Gaza, again, that puts those potential hostages in danger.
So, this is going to be a difficult moment for the Israeli government, while it ways of how it moves forward, from this position. But we are not seeing, and we haven't seen this evening, a movement of military personnel, on a large scale towards Gaza. But I would stress this is very early hour yet, the government has (INAUDIBLE) to make on the moment.
QUEST: Nic Robertson, I will allow you and your colleagues to travel, travel on, to bring us more as soon as more happens and of course, as long as one can, in these circumstances. And look at these pictures, that we are just getting. They are live pictures, this is the skyline of Gaza, at the moment.
There is no sign or trace of explosions, that we can see. But it is a very wide shot. But we will obviously watch, that's a live picture coming to you from Gaza. It is 10:38 at night, 20 to 11 at night. And Sam Kiley is with me, he is watching events from London. And Sam is with me. Sam, I want to focus on what Nic was just talking about. This idea of the hostages, or prisoners of war, depending on which side you are calling them. This is, -- this complicates, aside from being fairly horrific and appalling for those involved. This complicates, dramatically, the Israelis' conundrum.
KILEY: It does Richard. And it is also extremely problematic because Israel has such a strong history, a history that is very proud of never giving up, on its hostages, that when they have captured them overseas before, or indeed struggling, for decades, to get the bodies of fallen soldiers back, from operations in Syria and Lebanon, and elsewhere.
So, it is a matter of national pride. And Hamas knows that, so they know that this is an extremely vulnerable pressure point, that they can use against the Israelis.
And, they had clearly planned this very complex operation, precisely to get into Israeli territory. Not only inflict casualties, and kill over some 200 Israelis, and wounded some 1400 plus, in this largely, I suspect, as a result of -- fire, as a result of these unprecedented incursions. But they have also rounded up, they claim, many hostages. We are likely to see a lot more evidence supporting that claim, over the next 24 hours, because they know that presents the Israeli government with a conundrum. As Nic was suggesting, some of your questions, what do the Israelis do next? And, at what scale, and how to control that so that it doesn't lead to a wider regional conflict, (INAUDIBLE)or indeed an uprising on the West Bank. I think clearly, Hamas is trying to ignite just that, Nic, I mean Richard, sorry.
QUEST: Yes, the two things that fascinate me at the moment is just, the Saudi response. Now, the Saudi response, you will remember, I'll paraphrase it, is basically recalling their own repetitive warnings. That goes to the existing, or pre-existing conditions for the Palestinians and the provocation that are brought us to the moment, where we are today. That can all be accepted, fully, as indeed I had an interview with a Palestinian ambassador with Christiane earlier. That can all be accepted. But the reality is, it was Hamas that attacked this morning.
KILEY: Yeah, I mean, the Palestinian, and the pro-Palestinian position, and indeed there are many allies of Israel that Israel that have argued for these over last 20 years, or most, since the Oslo peace process, is that if there is no hope for the Palestinians in the longer term, if you continue to build Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank, if you continue to treat Gaza as a pressure, cooker and seal its population in.
Then these sorts of explosions are inevitable. The counter-argument, of course, and we are seeing the beginnings of the counter-argument, coming from the Israelis, now in terms of the air strikes against territory in Gaza, is that continued violence, particularly out of the Gaza strip, means that they are trapped into this deathly embrace, in which they don't allow the Gaza strip to flourish, because they can't risk a flourishing Gaza strip, because a flourishing Gaza strip might continue to pose an existential threat to the state of Israel. And, that is the argument that Hamas makes. Ultimately, they are opposed to the existence of Israel that isn't the position of course of more moderate Palestine's groups taking on the West Bank, Richard.
QUEST: Sam Kiley, we have got many hours to go and will discuss all the attributes, and nooks and crannies. Thank you. This is CNN. When I come back, I will update you with the latest numbers, that we have of those who are known to have died, -- as our coverage continues, around the world, around the clock. This is CNN.
QUEST: In the last hour, President Biden has spoken. His first, in a video, (INAUDIBLE) he says, he basically says Israel -- United States stands rock-solid with Israel and Israel, and it has Israel's back. Interpreting what that means, at the same time as not giving, if you will, a nod and a wink and a blank check to Benjamin Netanyahu, for a full-scale military invasion, is a core aspect here. How to support Israel, in its moment of, a dark moment of need, but not let it run off to the races?
Kevin is back with me. He is at the white house. Very difficult, for Joe Biden, who was absolutely clear, that there is no blue water, between Israel and the United States, after this attack. But he wants Netanyahu, I presume, to show a certain element of restraint.
KEVIN LIPTAK, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Certainly, and it was a difficult tone for the president to strike. And I think that is part of the reason why he only spoke for about three minutes. There was not a lot more that he could say, as he hopes to avoid any escalation in this crisis, and in fact, as he hopes the crisis will diffuse. Obviously, I don't think we can expect that from Prime Minister Netanyahu, in the hours ahead, but it is certainly a goal of President Biden, to ensure that this crisis doesn't spiral into some further regional conflict.
And I think that is the president's objective, as he is responding today. He did speak on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this morning, the readouts from both sides, didn't necessarily get into a whole lot of detail, really kind of saying what the president eventually came in front of the cameras to say, later in the day. I think the real questions, that American officials are asking today are, what avenues President Biden might have, to ensure that this doesn't escalate further?
What are the diplomatic openings for him? And, you heard him in those remarks say that he would be in touch, or American officials at least would be in touch with leaders from countries like Egypt, Qatar, and other countries in the gulf, that might have some leverage with the Palestinians, to lean on them to try to talk to their counterparts, to see what they can do to ensure that this conflict doesn't get more out of hand than it already is.
That is the traditional role of the United States, in these conflicts, is to act as a broker between all of these parties, and to come up with some kind of cease-fire. And President Biden did that the last time violence like this flared up, in the Middle East, in 2021.
QUEST: So, when --
QUEST: -- there is a difference here, in a sense. Because, there is no speaker of the house, and Washington next week, would be all consumed, with the Republicans coming back. Now I know you are in the white house, not over in Congress. But, you eat, breathe, and sleep this stuff. So, is it likely to have an effect the fact that the U.S. is also consumed, by its internal politics?
LIPTAK: It certainly could. And one of the things that the President said twice in those remarks, is that he would make sure that Israel had all the help they need. If that helps requires any sort of congressional action, that won't be possible, while there is no house speaker. They cannot conduct any business.
And so, I think it is an open question, and you are hearing all of these statements from democrats, and republicans alike, standing with Israel, vowing to support Israel. But, without that key role, without that key person in that key role, it remains to be seen how much they can really do and so, President Biden will certainly want them to come to some sort of conclusion on that matter, quickly. They have been expected to speak, amongst themselves, their publican
conference on Monday. And, continue talking Tuesday, potentially a vote on Wednesday.
But certainly, this crisis is happening in real-time, and I think President Biden will want to ensure that all of these key positions are in place. The house speaker, traditionally is privy to American intelligence. It is not clear at all today, this afternoon, whether the person in that role, the speaker Pro Tempore, has that access. And so, there are all kinds of questions about that happening right now in Washington.
QUEST: Kevin, I'm grateful for the insight, thank you, sir. Wolf Blitzer spoke earlier to the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Michael Herzog. The ambassador said, his country appreciates America's unwavering support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: So, Israel is under attack. This is an unprovoked war, in the holy day in the Jewish calendar. And, Hamas, earlier in the day launched thousands of rockets and, we sent in dozens of militants, reaching the border fence. And with paraglide, in other means. And now, this fighting is going on, as we speak, in Israel's villages across the border. This is war, this is unprovoked war, and we have to fight this war and we have to win this war, and we will do it
WOLF BLITZER, CNN JOURNALIST AND REPORTER: As you know ambassador, President Biden has now spoken with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. What can you tell, us if anything, about that conversation, and the -- the partnership between the two nations, in this very critical moment?
HERZOG: I will say, it was a very good call and we appreciate the very strong statements of support, issued by the white house, and the State Department. I think everybody understands that this unprovoked attack on Israel, deserves a very strong unequivocal condemnation and support for its right to self-defense, and as I said, this is war, and we have to fight this war and win it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: The ambassador to the United States speaking to Wolf. we'll be right back, the news continues, and I will have all the updates. and, I'll bring you an update of exactly where we stand this hour, just after the break.
I told you earlier that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister had been speaking. We now got a translation, verified translation of what he was saying. And it didn't go well if you will (INAUDIBLE) non- escalation.
[15:55:04] He described today as something that has never been seen in Israel. He said, we will take a mighty vengeance, for this black day. Israel will reach every place Hamas is hiding, and it is I think important. I told Gaza's people to leave those places now.
I tell Hamas, you are responsible for the well-being of captives, which of course the first to those people that we were talking to a moment ago. Israel will settle the score, with anyone who harms them. So, on that core question of what is going to happen regarding prisoners of war (INAUDIBLE) Netanyahu has made his views quite clear. But I think the phrase that strikes me, we will take mighty vengeance, for this black today. It is already been seen.
At least 200 Israelis have been killed, and nearly 1500 wounded, in the attacks. Israel also says, Hamas has taken both civilians and soldiers captive, as referred to by the prime minister. Settle the score, he says. Israel launched air strikes into Gaza, and in retaliation, has killed at least 232 Palestinians. The situation tonight is grave, it is late at night in Israel. We will have a live report, after the break.