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CNN Live Event/Special
Unprecedented Conflict Erupts; Israel Faces Unprecedented Attacks From Hamas, Ground Operations Loom; International Outrage Over Unprecedented Hamas Attacks On Israel; Regional Tensions Escalate. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 07, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Jim Sciutto. Live in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Israeli military officials say they will ramp up their retaliation on Hamas targets in Gaza throughout the night. This follows just an unprecedented, historic attack on Israel, which authorities say has killed at least 300 people, wounded more than 1,500 others. Rockets rain down on Israeli cities as far away as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, well north of Gaza. But this is the most alarming part.
Hamas militants stage massive cross-border raids on Israeli communities in the south, as well as attacks from the sea and the air. Israel says some of its soldiers and a significant number of civilians have been captured by Hamas, taken back into Gaza as hostages. We do have to warn you that so many of these scenes are truly graphic.
Video obtained by CNN shows what appear to be civilians killed, gunned down inside and just outside of their cars, this on a road near the border with Gaza. Another video obtained by Reuters shows a disabled tank with Hamas militants climbing aboard appear to be dragging out Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces are now retaliating with relentless airstrikes on Gaza, one of them, they're taking down an entire building. The Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 232 people have been killed in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to find Hamas militants wherever they are hiding, he says. He's warning the people of Gaza to leave Hamas strongholds there as Israel prepares bigger military strikes. He also says Hamas is responsible for the well-being of captives and that Israel will settle the score with anyone who harms those captives.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What happened today has never been seen in Israel, and we will make sure that does not happen again. The entire government is behind this decision. The IDF will immediately use all its strength to destroy Hamas's capabilities. We will destroy them, and we will take mighty vengeance for this black day that they have forced on the state of Israel and its citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CNN's Hadas Golds is live now in Jerusalem. And Hadas, I know we're getting information in bits and pieces as we proceed here. Are there any updates on the number of people taken hostage and any sense of how many are soldiers, how many are civilians?
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: My understanding from the sources I've been speaking to is that it's in the dozens. We're not talking about one or two or even five. This is a significant number of Israeli soldiers and civilians who have been taken as prisoners of war. We don't know in terms of those who have been taken how many are alive, how many are dead.
We have heard harrowing accounts from Israeli civilians saying that their family members were taken from their homes. This includes very, very young children. This includes women. This includes the elderly. Many of these family members are desperate for information. They've seen their family members on social media videos that have been posted, often from Gaza, of their family members within Gaza itself.
The Israeli police have now set up hotlines for Israeli civilians concerned about their family members whereabouts, also asking them, Jim, to bring in pieces of clothing or hairbrushes or things that might have DNA on them, to bring them to Israeli police to potentially help with identification in the future. We're seeing a lots of activity on social media, you know, lists that are being created about missing people. We're seeing kind of posters, social media posters, going around people seeking information on their family members. There have also been hostage situations.
So, in addition to the prisoners that have been taken into Gaza, there have been hostage situations in certain communities in southern Israel that may still be ongoing. We know that as we speak on the streets of certain parts of southern Israel, there are still active firefights with militants. All of this is still happening as rockets continue to rain down, mostly on southern Israel.
We haven't, like here in Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv, it's been a few hours since we've received our share of sirens and rockets and things like that, although I've been hearing quite a regular rumble of what's likely jets flying overhead. But just in the last few minutes, there was a direct hit on a hospital in southern Israel. No information yet on casualties. There have been direct hits on houses in southern Israel just in the last few minutes. Again, so the casualties and the information will still be updating. So that's why when we talk about the death toll, both in Israel and in
Gaza, these are quickly developing situations that are likely to rise. Jim, I cannot tell you the last time there's been a death toll this high in Israel in a conflict. It has been definitely decades, if not more, especially when you look at just the civilian casualties.
SCIUTTO: No question. The scale of this, it's an order of magnitude bigger than anything we've seen. We have heard now that members, reservists in the Israeli defense forces are being called up now for folks watching. They may not be aware, but many Israelis, most have to serve military service and in certain age groups, they will be called up in situations such as this. Is Israel now preparing for ground operations inside Gaza, perhaps an invasion?
GOLD: I think they are preparing for the possibility of a ground invasion. They haven't declared that that's what's going to happen. We know tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of reservists have already been called up for duty. And part of the reason for that is not just because of the offensive on Gaza, it's because they are planning to have the military help protect and try to root out these militants and all these communities in southern Israel. In the last, and previously when there's been a conflict with Gaza and they've called up soldiers to fight, you know, it's not to have soldiers be stationed within Israeli towns. That's what's different about this.
What's also interesting is in the last hour or so, the Israeli military, they have sent out a message in Arabic to citizens, to civilians in Gaza, telling them to leave certain areas to find safety in city centers. That's an indication of what may be to come from the Israeli military. No indication of a ground offensive just yet, but there's no question that they are preparing for that possibility, especially when you think about the number of Israelis that are likely to be in Gaza.
SCIUTTO: Distributing those hostages around Gaza as human shields. Hadas Gold, thanks so much. We'll be back to you. Our Nic Robertson, he is also inside Israel, in southern Israel in fact, very close to the location of ongoing attacks there and engagements between Israeli forces and Hamas militants that have infiltrated the country. Nic, can you tell us what you've seen since we last spoke? Any update on those ground operations?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Very hard to tell, to give a clear update, Jim. I think from our vantage point here, we can say that they're still ongoing. The Iron Dome intercepts, they haven't picked up again, which means there have been no outgoing missiles from Gaza in this direction. There have been no heavy explosions coming from Gaza, as we were hearing a little earlier this evening. No fighter jets in the air, so whatever the package of targets was that Israel was targeting in Gaza earlier on, perhaps they're going through analysis, bomb damage assessment, to see what they've hit to try and analyze the success of those raids.
As far as the military operations, the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces on the ground trying to get control of all those Hamas militants, neutralize them or chase them back into Gaza. That, as far as we can tell, is ongoing. Hard to judge. The helicopter that was in the air a little earlier that I think we spoke about, we heard it's having machine gun fire, that has also gone quiet. But this situation just changes in a heartbeat here, Jim. You know battlefields well yourself. It's volatile, it's dynamic, it can be quiet one moment and busy the next. Right now, it's a sort of lull. Let's see what happens.
SCIUTTO: Now, the Iron Dome, which is, for folks watching now, it's an air defense system supplied by the U.S., highly effective. But I presume what we saw here, Nic, over the last 24 hours is just such a multitude of rockets coming from Gaza that Iron Dome was not able to shoot everyone down. Is that the impression? Do we have any sense of how many hit their targets inside Israeli territory?
ROBERTSON: You're absolutely right, Jim. I mean, when you look at Hamas tactics, the tactics that they've used before and the tactics they absolutely used early hours today, 2,200 missiles fired in those initial salvos, that was definitely intentionally planned to overwhelm the Iron Dome. Quite literally, you cannot fire out enough defensive rounds to intercept all of those missiles. And again, I think that's what we saw this evening.
The 150-missile salvo that was fired towards Tel Aviv earlier this evening, some of those missiles got through, quite literally, Iron Dome, overwhelmed. And I think that's what we've seen again this evening, the numbers of salvos that came back-to-back to back seemed to create the impression that they were, you know, one salvo reduced Iron Dome's ammunition, another salvo on top, another salvo on top, try and get around the defense system that way.
SCIUTTO: That's a brilliant analysis there, right, and intentional, right, while taking advantage of whatever chinks in the armor, as it were, in the Iron Dome system. Listen, Nic, always good to have you on. We're going to keep checking back in with you there. Well, these attacks, as we were saying, by land, sea, and air, they completely caught Israel off guard, leaving the nation now in shock, raising serious questions about exactly how this happened. Intelligence failures? Not just intelligence failures, but military failures, defense failures. I'm joined now by CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier. One of my guests last hour, Avi Meyer, he called this Israel's 9-11.
You also heard comparisons to Pearl Harbor, and the element of both, well, beyond just the carnage, right, you know, for civilians, mostly civilians here, is the surprise aspect of this, but also the fact that they didn't see it coming, right? With all the resources that Israel has pointed at Gaza, intelligence, military, and otherwise, they missed this. How is that possible?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Israeli media is already reporting that there are investigations ongoing to figure that out. How were these militants communicating that they were able to plan such a complex, multilayered operation that attacked on, to use military language, on three vectors, air, land, and sea, and to have stocked up so much hardware to carry it out? That's one of the reasons we're likely to see at least raids, if not a full-blown ground incursion into Gaza, because the Israelis will want to capture and question some of these fighters to figure out how they missed this.
It's possible that what Hamas did was they went old school, the same way Osama bin Laden for years avoided capture, was by going with written messages, human message mules carrying things from place to place to avoid Israel's saturation through drones in the air, its saturation of monitoring of the communications networks. So, all of that will be looked at later. But right now, I think those hostages inside Gaza are going to be the priority, figuring out how to get them out.
SCIUTTO: The Palestinian militants have in the past tried to propose hostage swaps to get a number of their prisoners back. That has been done sometimes in the past. You know, one Israeli hostage for several hundred or even thousand Palestinian prisoners. But those I've spoken to do not seem to be in the mood for any negotiating. I think they're going to probably try to go in and get them out.
Yeah, there was a good point made by Avi Meir that Gilad Shalit, when he was released, many hundreds, I believe, 2000 prisoners were exchanged. So when you're talking about dozens, which is the best figure we have so far of the number of hostages held by Gaza militants now, presumably if there were to be an exchange, you're talking an order of magnitude bigger there. The U.S. and Israel are very close, of course, militarily in terms of intelligence as well. But would the U.S. share in this intelligence failure?
DOZIER: Israel's got that area saturated. And there's also a bit of while -- while the U.S. and Israel are allies, they have in the past spied on each other. There's a bit of rivalry between the intelligence services on both sides. So, there are certain areas where, yes, the U.S. would be watching the edges and the fringes, but they wouldn't be saturating it the way the Israelis are. So, there will be concern on the U.S. side, as there is concern right now inside Israel. What else might they have missed? But I have to say, when you look at newspapers, news sites from the Arab world, they're looking at this very differently.
They remember many of the news headlines that we in the West haven't been paying so much attention to. Our focus has been on the war in Ukraine. There have been a number of Israeli security actions in the West Bank. And more recently, some incursions into the territory of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is in the old city of Jerusalem. And it shares space with a very holy site to Jews. Ultra-nationalist Israelis have physically raided that area.
And two Middle East officials that I've been in contact with today brought that up. So, yes, they think what's happening to the Israelis is horrible. But the second thing I get from people is, but they had something like this coming. Now, that's an awful thing to say out loud. But that is the sentiment that I am picking up from the Arab world. SCIUTTO: Listen, not uncommon. I've heard similar things in the past.
What we should be clear about here, though, is you have Hamas terrorists coming across the border and taking women and children and the elderly as hostages and others killing in their homes and on streets. This is a terror attack. This is a terrorist attack of immense proportions by a group that, of course, has not hesitated to do so, only been capable of doing so on a smaller scale to date. But the brazenness of this is just off the charts.
DOZIER: Which is -- which is what makes the reaction I've gotten from some of these Middle East officials concerning, because when the gulf is that wide between the different sides, that's when nations can look the other way and allow violence to happen. There is concern within Israel, among those I've spoken to, friends who've had to dash for bomb shelters with their grandchildren and former officials, current officials, that this could only be the first step.
Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has more than 100,000 missiles and rockets that can reach much of Israel, has warned if there is an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, that they might also attack. So what Israelis are worried about is facing attacks from all sides if, as they see it, allies of Iran decide to join Hamas, take up the call of Hamas militants and attack from all sides.
SCIUTTO: Yeah, and I'm certain and we've already seen reports of this, of Israel hardening its northern border as well with that very threat in mind. Well, Kim, what you just described are the circumstances of a broader war, sadly, and that's something that this could very well escalate into. Kim Dozier, thanks so much. Thanks.
And we will have more of our breaking news coverage right after a break.
SCIUTTO: The attacks on Israel prompted shock and anger around the world. Condemnation pouring in as the scope, the brutality, the brazenness of the attacks became apparent. Salma Abdelaziz is tracking the international reaction from London, and for the most part, it has been complete and utter condemnation.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim, and you would expect that support. You would expect that solidarity, of course, from Israel's Western allies. But the question really from Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to be what's going to happen in the region? How is the Middle East going to react? And as these images, these shocking images poured in of the events of the day, countries around the world began to give their response. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: An unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel. Israel's full- bore response, including a declaration that it was at war with Hamas and a vow to exact a huge price on those responsible. NETANYAHU : I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.
UNKNOWN: Many of Israel's allies say they stand with Israel, saying it has the right to defend itself after such a large-scale and brazen attack.
JOESPH BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say this as clearly as I can. This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching.
UNKNOWN: No signs now of the previous rocky relations between Biden and Netanyahu that flared between the two leaders after a controversial judicial reforms in Israel. Germany, France and the UK also weighing in. All three countries calling the attacks an act of terror, with Germany's foreign minister warning of the dangers of further violence.
ANNALENA BAERBOCJ, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Hamas's terror once again moved the region further away from peace. Through these terror attacks, there is now the incalculable danger of a large regional escalation.
UNKNOWN: Regional players like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are appealing for calm, calling on both sides to stop the fighting. Before the hostilities erupted, Riyadh was in talks brokered by the U.S. to potentially normalize relations with Israel, with Saudi Arabia pushing for a resolution on the treatment of Palestinians before any deal could be reached.
Qatar, which historically has had both financial and political ties to Hamas, says it solely blames Israel, saying it provoked the aggression with recent raids on worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Though some experts say, Qatar could possibly play a part in future efforts to de- escalate the crisis.
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER US STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: They've improved relations with the Israelis, but they have been very supportive of the Islamists. And I think they want to maintain their ties and contacts with Hamas. They may well come in to play a role.
UNKNOWN: Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is backed by Israel's arch-enemy Iran, praised the attacks, saying it was in contact with Palestinian resistance groups both at home and abroad, adding further concerns that what began with a shocking start could spread into a wider conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Salma, thank you for that review, because it's important to hear the breadth of responses. And Kim Dozier just a few minutes ago noted that she's spoken to officials in the region who delivered a message that sadly is not uncommon in the wake of events like this around Israel, where you will hear something along the lines of, they had this coming. And I wonder, are you hearing that? Are we seeing that in some of the public comments from some governments in the region that are providing some, I don't want to say cover, but hinting at justification for this? Are you seeing any of that in official statements or comments?
ABDELAZIZ : We absolutely are seeing that in statements and comments. You can see in our story there the statement from Qatar pointedly saying that the treatment of Palestinians provoked this, again, Qatar being a major backer of Hamas, and also one that would be a key negotiator, potentially a key mediator in the future. There are some reactions that you would expect, of course, Iran voicing its support. That is no surprise to anyone.
But for others, there is a little bit of surprise, I would imagine, from Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I say this specifically about Saudi Arabia. You'll remember just a couple of weeks ago, Jim, Prime Minister Netanyahu was literally standing in front of the U.N. Security Council saying, I am about to make peace with Saudi Arabia. This is going to be a major breakthrough in the region. I am on the path to peace. And now we're looking at the statement from Riyadh today, yes, calling for both sides to de-escalate, but then going on again to blame Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians.
So, for critics of Prime Minister Netanyahu, they're going to point to not just his talks with Saudi Arabia, but really his relations with the region at large. You'll remember the normalization agreements, of course, and ask, did you actually make any friends? And are those friends with you, if at all, right now?
SCIUTTO: No question. And was this a deliberate effort, perhaps, to scuttle that potential deal? Salma Abdelaziz from London, thanks so much. Turning now to reaction from the White House, Kayla Tausche joins us now. President Biden, in his comments, making very clear, Kayla, that the U.S. stands with Israel here and is prepared to offer help. What is the administration's plan, or how much have they let onto their plans now, and how they're going to help Israel going forward?
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the administration is working around the clock not only to engage with Israeli counterparts to figure out the scope of the need in that country, as they work to figure out exactly what it is and how they can deliver it, but also acknowledging that there are some real obstacles here at home, with the lack of a speaker of the House of Representatives and the lack of a permanent U.S. ambassador to Israel being confirmed, in the efforts to get that support in a timely and fulsome way. But even so, President Biden earlier today said, in no uncertain terms, that support, once provided, will be unwavering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back. We'll make sure that they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves. In the street, in their homes, innocent people murdered, wounded, entire families taken hostage by Hamas, just days after Israel marked the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar, is unconscionable. You know, when I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, I told him the United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist assaults. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.
TAUSCHE: As far as that aid package, a senior administration official this evening says that there could be an announcement as soon as tomorrow, that those conversations are accelerated and they are ongoing, Jim. And to the prior conversation that you were just having about the possible predication for this attack and the fact of the nascent normalization pact between Saudi Arabia and Israel tonight, a senior administration official was asked specifically about that and whether these attacks would derail some of the work that the U.S. has been helping to broker. And that official said, absolutely not, Jim.
SCIUTTO: We'll see if that plays out. Kayla Tausche at the White House. Thanks so much. And we will have more on our breaking news story. Israel at war just after the break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of Israel at war. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Israel now says at least 300 people have been killed since Hamas militants launched their attack. That was nearly a full day ago. Gun battles still underway in southern Israel as Israeli forces attempt to take back villages taken over by Hamas militants. An unknown number of Israeli civilians and soldiers have been taken as hostages in Gaza. Perhaps dozens of them. Israel is now striking back. It hit targets in Gaza. Military is now warning Palestinian civilians in certain areas that are Hamas strongholds to leave those areas due to upcoming attacks.
More than 200 Palestinians already reported killed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is declaring that Israel is now at war. Hamas struck Israeli territory in the early morning hours. It launched thousands of rockets. It infiltrated Israeli communities and it has taken many hostages. CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now with exactly how this unfolded. Walk us through this because the scale of this, the sophistication of this, and just the number of areas they were able to strike out from Gaza into Israel is truly unprecedented.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're really hitting it right on the head there, Jim. 6:30 in the morning. Israel is asleep. That's when this barrage of rockets started flowing out from Gaza here. I want you to notice, Jim, I know you will understand this in particular, this area right in here, this is going to represent from the border here somewhere six to eight miles.
This is going to be from right in there the range of their most rudimentary rockets, sort of point and shoot rockets, easily built on their own. This goes to the sort of mid-range rockets. And then by the time you start talking about something hitting Tel Aviv up here, which some of these did, now you're talking about the rockets where many intelligence people say this had to involve outside technology, maybe from Iran, maybe from somewhere else, the most advanced rockets there.
In any event, as you noted, there were an awful lot of them, thousands by all accounts. We don't have a correct count, but nonetheless somewhere in that range. Why does that matter? That matters because one military idea, of course, is when you're attacking a place that has a missile defense system, such as the Iron Dome, which Israel does have, you can try to overwhelm it with just so many that even if many are intercepted, others will get through and that will create chaos.
And that, from all appearances, laid the groundwork for what came next, which was at 7.40, an hour and ten minutes later, when actual fighters started flowing out here, knocking down barriers, flowing out into Israel here, some coming in by these powered parachutes, basically wing gliders with paragliders on them, and some by boat in here. And that's when we started getting these reports of people in the street with rocket launchers and rifles. Not a few people, Jim, but a lot of them, even at that early hour.
SCIUTTO: Yeah, no question. And as you said, air, land, and sea speaks to the complexity of this. We have seen incidents like this before on a much smaller scale, where militants will come across, strike, but then retreat. So, explain how this one is different.
FOREMAN: Yeah, you're right. It's usually, it's a much smaller squad. They strike and retreat, or in some cases, they're in effect suicide squads. They don't have any idea of getting back. Here's one of the big differences. The attacks on military facilities down here, not just one, but numerous ones, and what appear to be sustained attacks, where they went into what would be theoretically the hardest, most hardened targets in Israel. And yet all indications are they went in and struck and tried to strike hard against them.
And then of course, the raids on towns down here as well. That's where we're getting all these reports of people being abducted and perhaps killed down there, civilians being struck. This really is, Jim, from your experience and my experience, very, very different. The number of people who seem to be involved, the amount of planning that seemed to be involved, the stealth of it all, the fact that intelligence forces did not seem to see this coming, and the sustained nature of it. The fact that here we are all this time later, and Israel appears to still be fighting for full control of its land. That's a big change, Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question. Well, thanks so much for breaking it down, Tom Foreman. Very helpful there. So, let's dig into this from a military perspective here. I wanna speak about that with CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Good to have you on, sir. Thanks so much for joining tonight.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to be with you, Jim, thanks.
SCIUTTO: So, beyond the brazenness and brutality of this is just the enormous surprise, not just that it was a surprise attack, but that a ragtag group of terrorists, granted with enormous outside funding and support from Iran, but still was able to take on one of the most formidable militaries in the world, and intelligence services, and catch them off guard like this in a complex attack. Everything from busting through barriers to flying in on powered paragliders. What would be required to carry out something like this with success, and I use the word success, as you know, not to praise this, but they were able to accomplish their goals here.
HERTLING: Yeah, not such a ragtag group, Jim. I mean, your conversations with Tom just now really points out the surprise that I had, truthfully. I've been to a couple of those military bases that Tom just pointed to during our engagements with the Israeli army. And truthfully, what I saw, first of all, is not only the complexity of Hamas, an organization that in the past has only conducted rocket and artillery attacks, and some suicide bombings, putting together a force that can cross the border, and as you said, go land, air, and sea, and at the same time doing some other things like the denial of cybersecurity forces.
You know, they've broken into some of the Israeli computer systems and security systems. And what I noticed is the film started coming out from various sources in the Middle East, is not only did we see the things we expected to see, like the attacks that you're seeing here on the film, the air attacks, but seeing Hamas fighters go into some of those military bases and their motor pools and destroying vehicles.
And what struck me was, where was the IDF? And as I saw Hamas moving through the barrier locations, where were the guards, the border guards? It seems like they had been depleted a little bit, and it didn't seem like there were a whole lot of forces on alert. And it also seems like that could have contributed significantly to the intelligence capability of the Israeli defense force in this area.
But the questions are gonna be is, why was this an intelligence failure? Where was the Israeli defense forces in the area? Why did it take so long to get protective forces from Israel to defend the various people in the houses that we're now hearing about were raided by Hamas fighters? Why did this seem to be so easy?
And if you take it to the other direction, you then ask the question, how did Hamas get the intelligence to not only form these complex operations, but also to know when to do it, how to do it, and where to do it? A lot of questions gonna come out of this, Jim, and it's really surprising that Israel was caught so off guard during Yom Kippur.
SCIUTTO: Well, you make an important point here, because what you're describing is not just an intelligence failure severe enough, but a military failure. Are you suggesting that the forces were allocated elsewhere?
HERTLING: I'm not going to say that directly, Jim, but there are indicators that, yes, that's been the case, that the government of Israel has given directions to their military to be in other places. What other places? The West Bank, the territories, as it were. It has been part of the Netanyahu's government approach to really secure that area for political purposes. So, I don't know for sure, but I'm certain that's going to come up in any kind of investigation that Israel has about why there were so many first-day failures.
That's not to say that it's going to continue this way. Israel has been known to adapt very quickly to the battlefield. They're going to come around. But this first day, these first 24 hours, again, this is all conjecture on my part. And as a military guy, I hate to do that because I'm not in the commander's shoes. But it sure seems like there were some things missing on the primary enemy's front. You know, as a military guy, you put your priority on where your primary enemy is. Hamas is the primary enemy of Israel right now. And it seems like there were a lack of forces, a lack of intelligence.
And by the way, you know, when I say Hamas got the intelligence, they have been collecting this not for days or weeks. This has been something I'm sure Hamas has been collecting intelligence and reconnaissance on the Israeli force probably for months.
SCIUTTO: Listen, they're talking about an investigation. Our reporter was saying a short time ago parts of that investigation may have already begun. Will they answer that question, among others? Where were the forces? Was there a question about allocation? General Hurling, always good to have your your insight on things like this.
HERTLING: It's been a really tough day.
SCIUTTO: It is. Anybody who's seen these images, it's hard not to have your stomach turn. We appreciate having you. I'm sure it's not the last time we talk about this.
HERTLING: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: And I will have more on the breaking news on the situation in Israel just after a short break.
SCIUTTO: It is almost 4 a.m. now on Sunday in Israel, almost 24 hours since this attack first began. An official there is saying the death toll to date has risen to at least 300. More than 1,500 others injured, this according to Israeli media, since Hamas militants carried out a surprise attack early Saturday morning. Hamas is also claiming it has captured dozens of Israelis, including soldiers. The Israeli military is urging civilians in Gaza to leave their homes in areas known to be Hamas strongholds. As retaliatory operations continue to target Hamas militants, more are expected.
The Palestinian Health Ministry says more than 230 people have died so far in Gaza. Last hour I spoke with U.S. Congressman Dean Phillips. He is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recently returned from the Middle East. I asked him first for his reaction to today's brazen attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN):: I'm horrified. I'm appalled. I'm disgusted. I would hope that every American who has seen those just disgusting depraved images of women, children being kidnapped, some of the most horrifying things I've ever seen. And I just I hope our fellow Americans can recognize how lucky we are to have countries bordering us, Canada and Mexico, that do not -- not only don't pose a threat to us but are our friends and allies. Israel and Israelis live like this all the time, Jim, as you well know. And what I'm seeing right now, I said, and I'll tell you what really saddens me. This is Iran and Hamas's reaction, their response to peace.
So for anybody watching right now, if you really want to understand what's going on, they are objecting to the notion of the Abraham Accords. They're objecting to the notion of Saudi Arabia normalizing with Israel. This is their effort to create a massive disruption, a regional war, perhaps. They want Israel to respond with full force, which saddens me that I think will exactly happen. And it's going to be some dark days. But I don't think Israel has a choice, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I was going to ask you about Iran's role here. Do you believe Iran has a role? Of course, Iran already has a role because they backed Hamas for years. But do you believe that they would have ordered an attack such as this, but directly involved in planning?
PHILLIPS: I've seen no intelligence yet that would indicate that. And I don't even want to infer it, but I can tell you with certainty that Iran finances Hamas and Hezbollah. They are deeply aligned. They are committed equally to the destruction of Israel. They like to use proxies so that we find it sometimes difficult to find their fingerprints, if you will. We will find them. I suspect that, indeed, this is Iran-influenced, if not initiated, and just once again demonstrates how complicated, how difficult this is going to be. But I do want people, again, to pay attention to the fact that they are trying to prevent the very peace that for 50 years, 50 years, so many have lost their lives in pursuit of.
And that we, many of us, Democrats and Republicans, in both the House, the Senate, the Biden administration, along with the Saudis and Israelis, so close to a historic regional peace that would, by the way, be a domino effect, perhaps through the Muslim world. That's exactly what they wanted to disrupt. We cannot let them do that, Jim.
And there are going to be some tough days ahead, but I ask that we all be resolute in pushing for peace. And, by the way, also for Palestinians. I'm horrified by what is almost certain to ensue. Women, children, the innocents will be collateral damage in something that, of course, Israel has to protect its citizens, just as the United States of America would have to if missiles were raining on us from Canada or from Mexico. That is the sad truth. We have got to end this as quickly as we can and pursue peace, and that is my mission.
SCIUTTO: Well, one constant in this conflict, right, is that innocents on both sides, frankly, usually pay the highest price. I do want to ask you about your sense. They were close, right? The parties were close, it seemed, to a historic agreement between a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's statement tonight does not inspire a lot of confidence, given the way they reacted to this, with really not an explicit condemnation at all. Do you see this as, if not derailing, destroying that peace effort?
PHILLIPS: Well, the Saudis have shared with many that they issued that a little bit too soon, that initial statement. Having just travelled to Riyadh and met with some of their senior leaders, having travelled to Jerusalem, met with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and also Turkey, I can tell you that indeed, not only are they close, they were eager, I believe, to do so. The Saudis and every member of the Arab world has a complicated path ahead because many of their citizens do not approve of the bold and courageous steps that their leaders are taking to normalize with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: U.S. Congressman Dean Phillips there, joining us just a short time ago. I will have more news on our leading story now, Israel at war, right after a short break.
SCIUTTO: As violence continues inside Israel and now in Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Palestinian leadership to enhance steps for calm and stability in the West Bank. The State Department says he spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This is a flurry of phone calls going on right now in and around the Middle East. Oren Liebermann joins me now from the Pentagon. We heard President Biden a short time ago as he was commenting on this promise all support to Israel. The U.S., of course, gives many billions of dollars in military support to Israel every year. So, what additional support might be in line in response to these attacks?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we can look at that from a few different perspectives. One is on the diplomatic front, where the U.S. will no doubt protect Israel at the United Nations from condemnation that is almost certainly coming as Israel ramps up its retaliation. Then there's also behind the scenes diplomatic efforts.
As you point out, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is engaged with not only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but other leaders in the region. But it's difficult to see how any of those make any progress, given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promise of a prolonged campaign. And that is where the military steps in.
The U.S. Defense Department has stockpiles of weapons that it keeps in Israel, reserves essentially that Israel can tap into. Now, that can be approved very quickly. It doesn't rely on Congress having to approve any sort of transfer. Biden himself can do that. And that would be in the short term here, as we see how this plays out. And that might involve something like precision guided munitions, which Israel uses for airstrikes. If there's a ground incursion, perhaps artillery ammunition as well as
tank ammunition. So that would be one of the big steps. The longer question is, if this continues for weeks, if not longer than that, does it require congressional approval at that point? If so, how do you make Congress work so you can get through aid to Israel? Because they've clearly said this is a priority. Make it happen.
SCIUTTO: Can they do it without a speaker? Right. I mean, by the rules, it seems they need a speaker. Of course, we have an ongoing speaker fight here to play out this week. Oren Lieberman, good to have you on. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. In a show of solidarity with Israel, the European Union, their monuments displayed the colors of the Israeli flag.
In Berlin, the flag projected right onto the Brandenburg Gate. And there you see it. This is video from Rome, where Italy's prime minister's residence, the Palazzo Chigi, was also lit with the flag, depicting the Star of David on a field of white. Between the two horizontal blue stripes. And in Paris, the city's mayor announced that the lights of the Eiffel Tower will be turned off on Sunday in a show of support for Israel. We are going to take a short break. Please do stay with CNN for our continuing coverage.