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CNN Live Event/Special
Unprecedented Hamas Attacks Spark War, Death Toll Rising; Israeli Intelligence Crisis Deepens Amidst Escalating Conflict. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired October 07, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. It is now 4 a.m. in Gaza, where Israel is striking back at Hamas targets after these attacks we saw play out over the last 24 hours. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country is at war. The militant group launched an unprecedented early-morning attack, series of attacks on Israel, firing at least 5,000 rockets.
Israel says at least 300 Israelis are dead, more than 1,500 wounded. This was not just rocket attacks, though. The terror group overran border crossings, invaded by sea, by air and by land, taking over entire Israeli communities in the south, taking hostages as well. We must warn you, many of these images are graphic and frightening.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
Video obtained by CNN shows what appear to be dead civilians, gunned down in their cars and outside their cars, on a road near the border with Gaza. Hamas is claiming to have taken Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage. You see a video of one there, a woman forced into a car at gunpoint in Gaza, frightened, as you'd expect her to be. As we mentioned, Israel is now retaliating with airstrikes on Gaza. The Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 232 people have been killed there.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
The Israeli Prime Minister is vowing to find Hamas militants wherever they are hiding in Gaza. He is warning the people of Gaza to leave places known to be Hamas strongholds now, in advance of further Israeli military strikes. He also says Hamas is responsible now for the well-being of captives it has taken, and that Israel will settle the score, as he says, with anyone who harms those hostages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What happened today has never been seen in Israel, and I will make sure that it does not happen again. The entire government is behind this decision. The IDF will immediately use all its strength to destroy Hamas's capabilities, and we will take mighty vengeance for this black day that they have forced on the state of Israel and its citizens.
All of the places which Hamas has deployed, hiding and operating in, that wicked city, we will turn it into an island of ruins. I am telling Gaza's people to leave those places now, because we will take action everywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, it has now been nearly 24 hours since the series of attacks began, and they are still underway, still clashes underway between Israeli forces and Hamas militants who have taken over villages in the South Sea. And Sam Kiley, he shows us exactly how this conflict has unfolded so far. We do want to warn you his report contains some more graphic images that are disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A living nightmare begins for this woman taking hostage, as she disappears in a captured jeep with Israeli military plates into Gaza. Palestinian militants launched a complex attack, killing dozens of Israelis on assaults from the air, sea and land. And they have claimed to have taken numerous hostages. The Israel Defense Forces say they are prisoners of war, and this soldier was captured alive after his tank was destroyed at the Gaza border.
His fate is now unknown. The Al-Qassim Brigade released a heavily edited propaganda video that purports to show militants overrunning Israel's Erez crossing, the most heavily fortified location on the Gaza fence. The video shows dead Israelis and prisoners. Their fate is also unknown. These scenes are intended to galvanize widespread attacks against Israel.
Amid this, Hamas called 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 is the most glorious and a most honorable history begins. So far, that call has not been answered. But the Hamas operation involved unprecedented firefights inside Israeli territory, in which civilian cars were targeted in Sderot. And civilians gunned down on roads, where what are reported to be militants were also killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: We are at war, not on an operation or in rounds, but at 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY: This has arguably been the biggest Israeli intelligence failure since Arab nations attacked the country 50 years ago. Israel has hit back with airstrikes, pounding militant targets, and at least 198 Gazans have been killed. But the country's right-wing government will be under pressure to attack deeper into Gaza, and reserves are being mobilized countrywide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVI MELAMED, FORMER ISRAELI INTELLIFENCE OFFICAL: It's very possible that we will witness a massive Israeli ground operation in Gaza Strip. It basically will aim to try and to change totally from the ground the conditions that have been prevailed for the last almost two decades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY: Israeli forces have struggled to contain the attacks from Gaza, from the sea and bulldozer assaults on the fence around the Palestinian enclave. And with a hostage crisis looming, the initiative still remains with Hamas.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Sam Kiley, CNN. I shake my head every time I see those images, just imagining what lies ahead for those hostages. Joining me now, Ian Bremmer. He's president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. Ian, good to have you on tonight.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT EURASIA GROUP AND GZERO MEDIA: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I got a lot of questions for you. My first one is this. Where were the Israeli soldiers? Where were the IDF forces around Gaza that allowed it? General Hertling was watching those videos of militants seemingly easily overwhelming, highly fortified military positions in the southern part of that country. You make the point that a lot of Israelis' defense forces were on the other side of the country in the West Bank. Why? And do you think that that was impactful here?
BREMMER: I think it clearly was. This is a far-right government in Israel that has been actively trying to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That requires significant Israel defense force presence. And it has also led to significant Palestinian reprisals against Israeli settlers, against Israeli citizens.
So, there were far fewer Israeli defense forces in the south defending the border on Gaza. Israel represents the gold standard, not only in terms of border defense, but also in terms of intelligence. And we cannot, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the last few months before today's unprecedented attacks by Hamas were unprecedented for the state of Israel.
Massive demonstrations, unprecedented instability among and social uprisings inside Israel, including large numbers of defense forces themselves, many of whom said that they would not take up their arms if the judicial reforms went through. So, clearly that is a piece of why Israel was unprepared to defend their country, their sovereignty in the face of what is clearly Israel's 9-11, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Yeah. Yeah. Listen, and as you know, the settlements are a divisive issue inside Israel. There are Israeli mothers and fathers who don't want their children to go defend those settlements. It's divisive like so many issues there. Do you believe that the visions, the visions we've been seeing playing out in Israel over recent months, the protests over the prime minister's constitutional reforms, as he calls them, could have played into what is clearly a massive intelligence failure and military failure here?
BREMMER: Sure, I do. And I also think that Hamas leaders would have seen that as more of a time of opportunity for them. No question. I also think that the pending Saudi-Israel breakthrough deal, which was becoming close, not quite imminent, but close, certainly within a matter of months, and both sides were quite positive about it, that would have been a very serious stroke against Hamas.
It would have really isolated them. And we have to remember that over the past 20 years, the Palestinian-Israel issue has become marginalized in the broader Middle East. Israel was in a much stronger geopolitical position. They were engaging diplomatically directly with breakthroughs with the UAE, with Morocco, with Bahrain.
And meanwhile, Hamas was, they were still acting as if nothing had changed. They were still calling for the destruction of Israel. They were still, you know, making it seem as if the world was going to turn on the basis of Palestinian rights. That just wasn't the case. And so clearly, they felt that the time was running out for their message, for their extremist ideology, and that clearly has to have also played into their decision-making, which is suicidal for the leadership, let's be clear. But nonetheless, it was a decision that was taken by their leadership.
SCIUTTO: Iran, of course, backs Hamas. Deliberate attempt here to scuttle those peace negotiations, in your view, given the timing, the severity?
BREMMER: It is hard to imagine this level of planning by Hamas with the Iranians not being aware of it. Now, to what extent the Iranians took an active hand in helping to plan it, that would be certainly a very escalatory revelation for Israeli response, which right now has been focused on Hamas and Gaza. Having said that, let's watch Hezbollah and Lebanon very clearly. If this was Iranian involvement, I would expect that Hezbollah would be actively on the side of Hamas and joining in some of these attacks going forward.
So far, we haven't yet seen that. The Iranian statements have been incredibly incendiary, actively supporting this terrorism on social media. We saw that from the supreme leader just a few hours ago. But they would have done that in any case. So again, I think we should watch this very closely. But certainly, there's no hard evidence that the Iranians are directly involved thus far.
SCIUTTO: And the celebration. I mean, I saw I saw the tweet here of the supreme leader of Iran, punitively a religious leader who was gleefully sharing that video of all those young people running through the desert from this music festival that was one of the one of the targets of this attack. And it seems one of the sources of -- of some of the hostages been taken across the border now. In previous years, when there have been Israeli operations inside Gaza
since they left Gaza in the mid 2000s, they've lasted days, perhaps weeks, and then they pulled back and left Gaza to the Palestinians. This one. Now, do you expect an ongoing war, an invasion, a ground invasion, perhaps a reoccupation of Gaza in response?
BREMMER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think, again, this has brought together the entire Israeli population like nothing imaginable. They want to ensure that Hamas will never again be able to terrorize their civilians the way they just had. They have signed a death sentence for themselves, Hamas leadership.
And that means that the Israeli defense forces will need to attack on the ground. I think airstrikes will be inadequate for that purpose. I think that they will need to not only remove Hamas leadership, but they will need to disarm Hamas militants. They'll need to ensure that those cells no longer operate.
I don't think this is a matter of weeks. I think this will go on for months, if not longer. It is going to be incredibly bloody. The Palestinian civilian costs will be extraordinarily high. And Jim, we've seen that over and over and over again over the past decades. Now, the real question is, does this expand beyond Israel and Gaza? And that is an open, a very open, but very concerning question as of this evening.
SCIUTTO: No question. So many players there, easy opportunities for escalation. And even what is on the horizon right now, as you describe, a massive ground operation in an urban area, the most dangerous circumstances for civilians, also for Israeli soldiers, no question. Ian Bremmer, I'm sure it's not the last time we talk about this. Thanks so much for joining.
BREMMER: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Our Nic Robertson remains on the ground there, right at one of the checkpoints, as he described a short time ago, separating the safe areas from the areas still under threat. Nic, what have you been seeing and observing in this last hour?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, Jim, a change here. The first time we've seen this evening on our step out of the way, a movement of Israeli heavy battle armor. You're looking at -- at least five main battle tanks on transporters being taken towards Gaza. There are more of them lined up around the corner. We don't know how many. But this is the first time where we've been standing at this roadside and we've been here through much of the night now that we've seen heavy armor beginning to move towards Gaza.
Of course, it's going to take a lot more of this type of preparation if, as you and Ian Bremmer suspect and many others suspect, that Israel will make a ground incursion into Gaza. It is going to take a lot more of heavy battle armor than this, a lot more troops moved in. But this is the first indication we've seen on this, the main coastal highway linking Tel Aviv down to those areas around the Gaza Strip. So still we've had intercepts here over the past hour, Iron Dome intercepts.
I'm still hearing the fighter jets in the sky above me. But again, as we've been saying, a dynamic situation. Each step, each development, hard to predict, but all stepping in one direction. And that is a big response at Hamas in Gaza, Jim.
SCIUTTO: And well, on a scale we perhaps have never seen. On the side that you're on, I should say relatively safe because the rockets are still falling, the ones that are able to get through the Iron Dome defenses there. Are Israeli residents in that area moving further back from the border? Are they being encouraged to move further away for safety?
ROBERTSON: We have a number of big buses, coaches driving out of the area. It's dark and it's very hard to tell who are on those buses. It seems to us that all those buses are not full of troops. It seems more likely that some of the people on board those buses are civilians, are residents of this area who are getting out of the way while it's still a dynamic, fluid situation. And of course, it's not possible to take buses into all those areas throughout this evening.
But we've seen some leaving. There are very, very few people out on the roads tonight. Of course, it's the middle of the night right now. But earlier on for Israel, even on a Saturday night in this area, and we're hearing the rockets, we're certainly hearing explosions, detonations, not quite clear what they are at the moment.
If we hear the siren, that will mean Iron Dome is about to fire off. We'll see what develops. But certainly, the roads around here are much quieter than they would normally be tonight. So, most people staying at home, heeding what they're being told by the government, by the defense forces here, stay close to shelter and be ready to get in and use that shelter.
SCIUTTO: Yeah. Well, listen, it sounds like a cliche to say, keep your head down, but keep your head down, Nic Robertson. And thanks so much for keeping us up to date. Israel has, and this is diplomatic understatement, complicated relationships in the region and around the world. Ahead, we're going to look at the international reaction coming in as Israel now begins to fight back after this ongoing Hamas terror attack.
SCIUTTO: The EU says it unequivocally condemns the Hamas attacks on Israel and is calling for the violence to stop immediately. U.S. President Joe Biden offering his words, all appropriate means of support. The Ukrainian president is well, of course, familiar to bloody invasions targeting civilians. Volodymyr Zelenskyy had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Israel has every right to protect itself from terror. So does every other state. And it is very important for the whole world to respond to terror in a united and principled fashion. No support for terrorists. Wherever they aim their missiles and whomever they attack, terrorists must lose.
SCIUTTO: Salma Abdelaziz has been tracking more of the international reaction for us. And Salma, as we were discussing in the last hour, there's condemnation. There are also sadly some, including the Iranian supreme leader, who is celebrating Hamas attacks.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Jim, really, we're just at the beginning of this, right? This is a war that could take weeks in months. So, the initial reactions that come from nations, that come from other governments into what could take, again, this long period of conflict that includes hostages, that's going to be crucial to how Israel looks around it. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER US STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: They've improved relations with the Israelis, but they have been very supportive of Islamists. And I think they want to maintain their ties and contacts with Hamas. They may well come in to play a role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 TAPE)
ABDELAZIZ: I think you saw that key moment in President Biden's very short statement where he sort of wags his finger at the camera, Jim, and says no one in the region take advantage of this. And that's exactly the concern right now. Is Prime Minister Netanyahu, yes, of course, is focused on what's happening in Gaza, but he's looking around.
He spent the last few years trying to normalize relationships with several Arab states. He had just a few weeks ago been standing in front of the UN Security Council promising a dramatic breakthrough in talks with the kingdom, with Saudi Arabia.
All of that now looks very much in question. And then, of course, there's the usual actors like Iran, as you mentioned, supporting, again, these attacks, voicing congratulations. If you will, you have to be concerned about the mediators. In particular, you're talking about Egypt and Qatar. These are countries that could be leaned on when it comes to hostage negotiations. And then there's the fear that this escalates, that this widens, that this turns into something that potentially Hezbollah steps in. No signs of that happening now. But again, as this drags out, as this conflict takes the time that we expect it will, there is always that possibility of escalation.
SCIUTTO: No question. We'll be watching it. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks so much. We will have more of our breaking news coverage, including a live report from Jerusalem just after this break. Please do stay with us.
SCIUTTO: Coverage of breaking news from the Middle East. Rocket fire continued into the early hours of Sunday. This over Gaza City. This was the scene earlier. Israeli began striking back for the brazen, massive Hamas attack on Israel which is still underway in some southern parts of the country. This could be just the beginning of the Israeli response. Israel's Prime Minister has said his country is now at war.
Here is a look at southern Israel. This after waves of rocket fire. We should note this is rocket fire that managed to get through the formidable Israeli Iron Dome defenses. But perhaps the biggest, most brazen part of these attacks. Hamas fighters infiltrating across the border from Gaza into dozens of communities.
At last word from our Nic Robertson who is in the southern part of the country. There are still gun battles underway between Israeli forces and Hamas militants. An unknown number of Israelis were taken hostage. A man says he recognized his wife from this horrifying video of people loaded up onto a truck. Hostages, among them women and children, the elderly. The husband of one of them spoke to our Aaron Burnett a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YONI ASHER, WIFE AND DAUGHTERS HELD HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: I have no idea where they are right now. But earlier this morning they were visited in kibbutz near Oz. In my mother-in-law house on the kibbutz. And they were taken by Hamas to Gaza Strip. My mother-in-law, my wife, my two daughters, which are five-year-old and three-year-old, and I lost contact with them about 11 a.m.
When my wife was me on the phone, she told me that the terrorists of Hamas entered the house, and later on, the conversation was disconnected. Later on, I managed to track her mobile phone by using Google, and I tracked her mobile phone, and I saw that the location is in Gaza Strip, in Gaza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: I can only imagine the pain that he and other families are going through right now. CNN Hadas Gold is live in Jerusalem. First question, what steps is Israel taking right now for a larger military operation? Of course, we don't know the extent of their plans, but they appear to be mobilizing for something quite big.
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jim, they've called up tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of reservists up for duty, and as we speak, I mean, just here in Jerusalem, I can hear the roar of what must be fighter jets overhead. We haven't had sirens or rockets in Jerusalem for quite a few hours. That's earlier in the day. Today, we had several rounds of air raid sirens, but still, rockets continue to be fired into southern Israel.
We know of a direct hit on a hospital in Ashkelon just in the last hour or so, and we have also heard from Benjamin Netanyahu, who says that right now, they are embarking on what he calls a long and difficult war. He says that the first phase is going to be ending now, these hours, with the destruction of what he called the majority of the enemy forces that penetrated the territory, because as you noted, there are still ongoing gun battles in some of these towns and villages in southern Israel with militants who are still there. We're now approaching almost 24 hours of this conflict.
What's also been interesting in what he says is he says, among the decisions made by the cabinet are the stopping of the supply of electricity, fuel, and goods to the Gaza Strip, because Israel controls, of course, most of the electricity that's provided to Gaza. They have decided to cut that off. What does that mean for the fighters there? Of course, that can affect the militants, the Hamas organization, how they operate, but also for the civilians there. That obviously affects the civilians and how they will be able to endure what is coming.
We also know the Israeli military has given directives to civilians in Gaza, telling them to move away from certain areas. That's an indication that Israel plans to strike certain areas quite heavily. We have already seen the destruction of several high-rise towers in Gaza, and what we know that the Israeli military tends to do with these sort of airstrikes, they drop these sort of knocker bombs, or they even call residents of these buildings ahead of time, telling them to get out of these buildings before they destroy them. But Jim, this is going to be a very complicated situation, because as we've noted, there are likely dozens of prisoners of war, hostages, who have been taken by Hamas.
Many of these are likely to be Israeli civilians, and as we've noted, Hamas has claimed that they've taken them to strategic places throughout the Gaza Strip. So whatever Israel is going to be striking, we know that they're also going to be thinking about the Israeli civilians and soldiers who are within the Gaza Strip right now, and how to get them out. So far, we have seen no indication of a ground invasion of any kind, but we know that the Israeli military is preparing for that possibility.
SCIUTTO: Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thanks so much. An official says the U.S. could announce new aid to Israel as early as Sunday. It is not clear, however, whether the turmoil in the U.S. Congress, which has not had a House speaker for several days now, could affect funding. President Joe Biden addressed the attacks on Saturday, saying his administration's support for Israel is, quote, rock solid and unwavering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Today, the people of Israel are under attack, orchestrated by a terrorist organization, Hamas. In this moment of tragedy, I want to say to them and to the world, and to terrorists everywhere, that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have her back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Our senior White House correspondent, Kayla Tausche, joins me now. Kayla, the administration was having some trouble getting additional military aid to Ukraine in the midst of Russia's ongoing invasion. Do they expect any similar opposition, or do they expect more unity when it comes to further aid to Israel?
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's certainly, Jim, a hope that this will be a bipartisan effort, and resoundingly so, although some of the regular fractures in Washington are starting to show. Just a few moments ago, Leader Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, who was briefed overseas, says that he's been in touch with top Biden administration officials and expressed his support for providing anything to Israel that it would need. But Republicans have been very critical of the Biden administration, and essentially alleging that it was that prisoner exchange, that prisoner swap with Iran, that empowered Hamas to take the actions that it did in the last 24 hours.
A senior administration official calls that rhetoric irresponsible and says that the White House hopes that Republicans can see to it to overcome some of those divisions to provide bipartisan support on that front. We know from talking to our sources, Jim, that Prime Minister Netanyahu made some direct asks of President Biden when the two leaders spoke by phone earlier today and that President Biden told Netanyahu, according to a person familiar with that call, that he was going to direct his officials to do everything they could to make good on some of those military aid requests that was making.
And we know from officials who were briefing reporters tonight who suggested that support could be announced as soon as tomorrow, although I'm told that it could be a little bit later than that. And then, Jim, there's the question of intelligence sharing and whether there are deeper capabilities, more high-tech capabilities that will be needed in the region to keep a surprise ambush like this from happening in the future.
When I spoke to U.S. officials about that this evening, they said that there are already very vast intelligence sharing agreements between the two countries denying that there was any available intelligence from a third country or from Israel itself that was overlooked and just simply suggested that this was a lapse, although that's going to be something that's going to be researched and looked into for quite some time, Jim.
SCIUTTO: It's at a minimum an intelligence and a military failure there, given how far Hamas militants were able to penetrate. Kayla Tausche at the White House, thanks so much. Please do stay with CNN. A look at how the unprecedented surprise attack, exactly how it unfolded and where. We'll have that right after a short break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage. Israel is vowing to step up its retaliation against Hamas inside Gaza after a day of just deadly terror attacks, some still ongoing. At least 300 people are dead in Israel, more than 200 in Gaza. The question so many people are asking is, how did Israel not prevent this or see this coming? Here is the former head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence service.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EFRAIM HALEVY, ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE EXPERT: No, I think this is a unique attack. We've had intelligence failures before, and we've been surprised. But this is the first time that the people from Gaza have been able to penetrate into Israel, deep into Israel. We had no early warning of any kind. And it was a total surprise that the war broke out this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: A total surprise, he says. We're gonna have more now on exactly how the attack unfolded from CNN's Tom Forman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This extraordinary series of attacks began at 6.30 in the morning when Israel was asleep with this massive barrage of rockets flowing out of Gaza. Note that this would be the level at which their most rudimentary rockets would hit, about six miles or so. Then you reach out to maybe 25 miles, and their most advanced rockets, the ones that would most seem to rely probably on some technology beyond them, Iran, as many intelligence people would say, would reach up here to Tel Aviv. That's about 45 miles from here. Whatever the placement of them was, though, there were an awful lot of them.
We don't have an exact count, but it appears to be in the thousands. That would matter because that would make it easier to overwhelm Israel's missile defense system, the Iron Dome system, and make sure that some got through, even if many were stopped. More importantly, by doing this, all indications are that laid the groundwork for what came next.
At 7.40, an hour and 10 minutes later, that's when armed soldiers, fighters, started coming out of Gaza into Israel, some by knocking down walls and barriers here, some coming in by air with powered parachutes, some by boats going around here. This was something, again, that indicated it was a very planned attack, and soon you saw people with rocket launchers and rifles running in the streets.
They even went and engaged military bases where you would think they would expect the most opposition, gives an idea of their degree of planning and competence as they went in to attack the Israelis. And of course, we've seen those videos of the towns that had been raided near that area where we've had reports of people being taken hostage and other people being killed. All of it speaks to this very notion we've been hearing about from the beginning, that this represents a level of planning and execution that is far deeper than what has typically been seen before.
SCIUTTO; No question about that. Thanks so much to our Tom Foreman joining me now, former CIA operative, Bob Baer. Bob, good to have you on tonight.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Bob, this is a highly, highly complex attack by Hamas against one of the most formidable military and intelligence services in the world. How did they manage this? What level of not just intelligence failure, but military failure is this?
BAER: Well, it's a matter of discipline. First of all, let me go back and say, going back to 2006, 2007, Hezbollah has been preparing for attacks like this. Crossing borders by paragliders, keeping secrecy till the very last minute. And there's a close coordination between Hezbollah and Hamas. How that exactly worked in this case, I don't know, but I would imagine that a lot had to do with it. But more than anything, it's Hamas, it's communications discipline. If they're using push-to-talk radios, they weren't on them. If they were using apps, they weren't on those. They just completely went radio silence before this attack.
And they've gotten better over the years because they know that the Israelis listen to all their phone calls, all of them. I've been in the Israeli listening sites and the exchanges on the border. And every single call they listen into, the Palestinians know that and accounted for that. And their fighting forces are just getting better over the years. But more than anything is Israel lacks sources inside the military command of Hamas.
And that is a great failure. I know they try to get them, but they can't do it. Look at it -- Gaza is like a prison with, you know, Israelis can't get in and they can't recruit people. And the military command doesn't leave. It's a very, very hard target. And that's why they got away with this attack.
SCIUTTO: There's been some discussion of where IDF forces were focusing their attention. And given the military operations inside the West Bank, defensive settlements there, et cetera, is it possible that that played into this as well, that forces were focused elsewhere?
BAER: Oh, exactly. The West Bank is a lot easier to hit. I've walked through those targets the Israelis have hit before. And they can get into the West Bank anywhere they want, into the refugee camps, into built-up areas, but they can't get into Gaza, which is a huge problem for Netanyahu now, sending his forces in, because there's very narrow alleys.
[21:45:27] A lot of these hostages are going to be held in these apartment buildings, and it's going to be a slog getting through Gaza. And not only that, there's no safe way to rescue these hostages. And trust me, that's foremost on Netanyahu's mind.
SCIUTTO: So, if there's no safe way to rescue them, what does that mean? Does that mean negotiation is the only -- I spoke with the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post in the first hour of this broadcast, and he reminded me that for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, the exchange was for 2,000, I believe the figure was, Palestinian prisoners.
BAER: Well, that's on his mind. IDF cannot rescue these hostages safely. And they're going to tell Netanyahu, listen, we can go in, what's called combat entries, we come in with a lot of force, and we're going to kill a lot of people, and probably the hostages, and there's no way around that.
And so, it's up to him to decide whether to negotiate, which would be a political failure for Netanyahu of incredible dimensions, or go into Gaza full force, but it's a city, it's basically one large city, it's 2.3 million people that you're going to have to fight through. There's no easy outs on this.
SCIUTTO: I hate to ask, because this is one of the most shocking pieces of this story, and that is the civilian, and soldiers as well, but civilian hostages taken, and we've seen from the videos, and we've heard from accounts of families now missing family members, but they include women, they include children, they include the elderly. Hamas' past in terms of its treatment of prisoners?
BAER: Well it's not as bad as the Islamic State, but they're not going to be held under wonderful conditions, especially the elderly. It's a horrible, tragic situation, that too bad it happened, you know, and I just, I wish I could give you a solution to this whole thing, but I frankly don't see it at this moment.
SCIUTTO: Israel is girding itself, it appears, for a massive military operation, perhaps a massive ground operation in Gaza. Is that, does that portend the re-occupation of Gaza? The levelling of it? I mean, you heard the Israeli Prime Minister say he's going to turn many parts of Gaza, Hamas strongholds, into rubble.
BAER: You're going to have to, you're going to have to level it. Simply because the forces are dispersed in apartment buildings, in basements, you're going to have to knock those buildings down, you can give those people warnings, they can run, but where are they going to go? And you're going to need to occupy Gaza. I mean, look, they defeated Iron Dome, that missile defense system, by swarming. They've democratized war in a way, and they beat Israeli technology, frankly.
SCIUTTO: Lord, is there an American technology? I mean, the Iron Dome is already an American technology. It's enormously successful, but it's not 100 percent. It's not bulletproof, as it were. There's already an enormous amount of military aid that goes there in terms of advanced weapons systems, intelligence gathering systems. Is there an additional piece or category of military aid that can make a difference here?
BAER: No. Kamikaze drones, for instance, can be made in Gaza. Explosives can be put on them with detonators, can be smuggled in, and they overwhelm the Israelis and hit sort of where they want. We've seen the same thing in Ukraine. We're seeing it in Gaza right now.
SCIUTTO: And there's been some videos of that, of Hamas releasing its own videos of kamikaze drones. Bob Baer, it's sickening to discuss the events today and the events that we have to gird ourselves for, but thanks so much for helping us tonight.
BAER: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: We will have more of our breaking news coverage right after a short break.
SCIUTTO: You are watching our continuing coverage of the Hamas terror attack on Israel. When militants began firing rockets around 6.30 a.m. local time, hundreds of people were at a music festival in an open field celebrating a Jewish holiday. One attendee tells CNN about half an hour later, militants began firing on them. This is some of the videos she took there.
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SCIUTTO: No place to hide. Many people rushed to their cars. That ended up in a traffic jam trying to flee the area. CNN obtained some video. We need to warn you, it is disturbing. So disturbing, in fact, we're not showing you all of it. Here it is.
People rushing to clear that festival ground. You listen in closely; you can hear the sound of gunfire in the background. One concertgoer shot dead near a van. Another person dead inside that van. An attendee said the militants were shooting as if the field was a gun range.
By the way, that video shared on Twitter, or now known as X, by the Iranian supreme leader celebrating events undertaken by Hamas in Israel today. Here in Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The State Department says he urged the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to enhance steps for calm and stability there as violence continues. In both Gaza, firefights underway and Israel. A senior U.S. official says it is too early to say whether Iran played a direct role in the Hamas attack on Israel.
We do know Iran has long supported Hamas, both financially and with weapons and training. Orrin Lieberman joins me now. As the U.S. looks at this, what kind of steps are they able to take now and what kind of help are they able to offer Israel now, in addition to the military support the U.S. already provides Israel?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. will first try to engage diplomatically with the region. We saw that with, as you just mentioned, Secretary of State Blinken talking to the Palestinian Authority President and other regional leaders. The question at this point, what can diplomacy do, especially when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said this will be a long and difficult campaign that Israel carries out against Gaza. So, it doesn't look like there is a diplomatic off-ramp here anytime soon as Israel prepares to retaliate for this terrorist attack across the border.
What the Defense Department can do is provide Israel whatever intelligence it has. Largely, the U.S. relies on Israel to conduct its own intelligence-gathering capabilities, even when those failed in such a horrible fashion this morning. But the U.S. also has military reserve stocks that it keeps in Israel. Israel tapped into these back in 2014.
The question, if this goes on long enough, will Israel ask and need to tap into that? That's something the White House and the Biden administration can do relatively quickly in terms of what sort of weapons they could use precision-guided munitions.
If we see a ground incursion, perhaps artillery ammunition, tank ammunition, and other equipment like that, depending on how this goes and how long this goes, Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question. It portends to be long, and the Israeli prime minister is saying exactly that tonight. Thanks so much, Oren, for joining us. We're going to take a short break now. Our coverage continues with my colleague Michael Holmes. Do stay with us.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Israeli military officials say they will ramp up their strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza throughout the night. Now, that follows what was an unprecedented attack on the Jewish state on Saturday that Israel says has killed at least 300 people and wounded more than fifteen hundred others. Rockets rained down on Israeli cities as far away as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, well north of Gaza.