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CNN Live Event/Special

Israel Strikes Gaza After Hamas Terror Attack; Israeli Mother Describes Children's Kidnapping; IDF: Hamas Holding Hostages And Prisoners Of War; Israel: At Least 300 Israelis Killed In Hamas Attack; Blinken Calls For Calm In West Bank In Call With Abbas; Former Israeli PM Calls For Formation Of "Emergency" Government; World Reaction Pours In To Attacks On Israel. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 07, 2023 - 23:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. It is 6:00 a.m. in Israel where the death toll is rising from the devastating surprise attack by Hamas militants. The government now says more than 300 people have been killed after a day of rocket attacks and attacks on the ground. Israel's iron dome missile system defense intercepted many of the missiles, but debris fell on cities and towns below and some of the rockets did hit their mark.

The IDF says as many as a thousand members of the terror group overran border crossings and invaded by sea as well, taking over Israeli communities in the south. Israel is retaliating well into the overnight hours with strikes on Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry saying at least 232 people have been killed.

The Israel Defense Forces are warning civilians in Gaza to leave their homes for their own safety.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translator): 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.


HOLMES: An Israeli mother who says she was on the phone with her children when militants broke into their home and kidnapped them described the terrorizing moments. Here's what she told our Jake Tapper.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On 6 a.m. in the morning, we all woke up to the red alert that we all unfortunately used to. Since I was away, they were alone in the security room. Unfortunately, they used to that as well. They were with me on the phone, and by about 8:00 in the morning, they said they are starting to hear shootings, gun shootings, outside.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They heard gunshots outside?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And I started getting messages, texts from other people, telling that terrorists are walking around freely, and trying to break in and get into houses. And about 8.30, they heard the door break. They said someone was breaking the door, someone was breaking the door.

They were scared to death. I can't even imagine what they felt. And I wasn't there to help. I was on the phone. And I said, just be quiet, stay quiet. You stay in the security room. Lock the door. But the doors don't really lock. They're not meant to give a solution to that kind of situation.

No one ever thought terrorists would walk down free in our spaces. At about quarter to 9, I heard online on the phone the door break. I heard terrorists speaking in Arabic to my teenagers. And the youngest is saying to them, I'm too young to go there. It was like, 16 and 12, so it was very, very hard to hear.

And the phone went off, the line went off. That was the last time I heard from them. It was a very, very hard day. Many, many people from our place and from other places were taking. They took babies. They took two year olds, five year olds, mothers, just innocent citizens. They did nothing wrong.

They were just sleeping in their beds. I mean, even war has rules. They just don't have any morals. They just -- it's something that you don't do.

TAPPER: I can't imagine what I would be --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't matter what I'm going through. You know, what I'm worried about is what they're going through.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if they eat. I don't know if they have something to drink. I don't know if they're together. I don't know if they're apart. I don't know if they're dressed. I don't know if they're tortured. I don't know anything.

TAPPER: Has anyone from the military or the government come by to say anything, to talk to any of you? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no, but I can't really blame anyone. It was a very, very difficult day in Israel. I mean, hundreds died, thousands wounded, and probably hundreds taken, kidnapped to Gaza Strip. We don't really know how many. It's a very, very hard day. So it's going to take -- it's obviously taking time to get to all the people and to have everything reorganized in some way.


HOLMES: And Israeli mother there powerfully speaking with our Jake Tapper describing the moment militants kidnapped her and her children.

All right, more now on how the day unfolded from CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): In the early hours of Saturday, Israelis woke to a sudden assault from Gaza militants. The surprise attack, claimed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a complex and massive operation, marking a steep escalation of hostilities. The attack began with a huge barrage of missiles fired from Gaza.

Thousands of rockets, some making direct hits on targets across southern Israel. Under the cover of the missiles, a large scale infiltration began as Hamas militants crossed by land, sea, and air, even using paragliders to cross into Israel.

Videos from border crossing stations show Hamas fighters storming into Israeli territory. A few miles away in the border town of Sderot, Hamas was seen driving and opening fire at civilians. The gunmen tore through the streets, leaving a trail of casualties behind. The full extent of the casualties is unclear, but hundreds have been killed and more than a thousand injured on both sides.

A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force gave a frank assessment of the situation.

LT. COL. RICHARD HECHT, INTERNATIONAL IDF SPOKESPERSON: A very severe morning here in Israel, and a combined offensive by Hamas, land, air and sea. The numbers still are not clear. We're not 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 these locations where there's ongoing fighting as we speak.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): During the raid, some fighters also took Israelis as hostages and prisoners of war, the Israeli military said. Videos geolocated by CNN show militants taking civilians captive in southern Israel and Gaza. A woman is seen forced into the custody of Hamas. Israel quickly retaliated, hitting multiple targets along the Gaza Strip. In Gaza City, two high rise buildings collapsed after an airstrike. The unrest continuing late into the night, with both sides trading rocket fire. As we touch down at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, air traffic was halted as sirens wailed and travelers took cover.

(on-camera): We literally just got off the plane here at Ben Gurion Airport. The sirens have gone off. People are taking cover. We got off the bus. People are taking cover. And you can hear the intercept missiles banging in the air. Nothing incoming here. But everyone is taking cover. They've got down. A lot of concern about what's going to happen here this night.

(voice-over): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been unwavering in his message that Israel is at war with Hamas. Now Israel rushes to regroup with its allies despite the intelligence failure that appeared to lead to the attack. It is clear that the true force of the Israeli government's response is yet to come.


HOLMES: CNN's Hadas Gold is live for us now in Jerusalem. Hadas, we're nearly 24 hours now into the beginning of all of this. What do we know about the state of the fighting? Is Israel back in control of all of its territory?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: So just in the last hour or so, the Israeli forces, Israeli police saying that they have regained control of Sderot where militants had been engaging in fierce gun battles with security forces there, especially around the police station in Sderot.

That's just happened in the last hour or so. We're still trying to parse out exactly whether Israel has control of all of the communities that were infiltrated.


It does seem as though they have more control than they definitely had in the earlier hours of the day. But there's still a major question about whether there are further militants that had made their way deeper into Israel. And that's why you're going to see a lot of Israeli military and security officials on the ground here in communities around Israel because of the fear that militants may have made their way even further inside Israel, maybe are laying in wait, maybe waiting to do something else.

Also Hamas had called on all Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Palestinians who are also citizens of Israel to come up, raise up against all Israelis. And so that's why we are expected to see Israeli military, more military presence on the streets.

Now, the Israeli military has been striking Gaza from the air. We have seen several towers that have been demolished as a result of these airstrikes. The Israeli military also telling Palestinian civilians in parts of Gaza to leave the area to safer areas, indicating that they plan to strike there as well.

We have no indication yet that a ground incursion by the Israeli military has started yet. I think that the Israeli military will be focusing on clearing out the communities, the Israeli communities from militants before they start any sort of ground incursion. And of course, you have the issue of the hostages.

Because right now, Hamas militants have taken what may be dozens of hostages, civilians and soldiers into the Gaza Strip. So any activity that the Israeli military undertakes in the Gaza Strip, they need to be aware of where those hostages could be at the same time. Michael?

HOLMES: Yes. I was just going to say real quick, this is a real political test for Netanyahu, isn't it? I mean, he's already called for political unity. How is he likely to proceed politically?

GOLD: Well, what's been interesting is actually opposition leader Yair Lapid has said that he is willing to join an emergency unity government in the wake of this, because I think this is -- there had, there had been the question. You know, during all of this political drama over the judicial overhaul, reservists saying that they aren't going to serve because of the judicial overhaul, what would happen in a crisis situation.

But I really don't think that anybody expected this level of crisis to happen and that's why you're seeing some of the reservist organizations who had been protesting the judicial overhaul saying that they want the reservists to heed the call to serve, that this is Israel in crisis and everyone needs to band together and serve together.

So right now, Benjamin Netanyahu has the political support, including from the opposition, including -- even from the protest movements, who of course, have canceled their protests that were -- that normally would have taken place on Saturday night. So right now he has that political support. But there is a major question, of course, about all of the security failures, and how did Israel just not see this coming?

HOLMES: All right, Hadas, appreciate your reporting throughout the night there in Israel. Hadas Gold there for us.

HOLMES: Now, a senior U.S. intelligence official telling CNN concerns are rising over Israeli and American intelligence missed anything after the sudden attacks by Hamas militants. Meanwhile in Washington, President Biden strongly condemning the attacks, pledging U.S. support for Israel.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. There's never justification for terrorist attacks. And my administration's support for Israel's security is rock, solid and unwavering.

This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. The world is watching.


HOLMES: Now, this comes as ties between President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have been strained by the far-right governing coalition in Israel. It also comes as the Biden administration is working to broker an historic normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

And U. S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the 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 Gaza.

Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann joins me now from Washington. Yes, this does appear to be a massive intelligence failure. And if Hamas prepared so well for this operation, I guess, you know, is there people wondering there how well it might have prepared for what's to come?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Of course, and that's a major question that the U.S. is likely looking at and that Israel is certainly looking at. Israel didn't know this attack was coming. And now the question, it doesn't know what it doesn't know, meaning, that Hamas has had time to prepare for the possibility of an Israeli ground incursion, which makes it even more difficult since Hamas is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, frankly, which makes urban combat incredibly difficult.


And for now, Israel to carry out a large scale campaign involving likely some sort of ground incursion that can encounter resistance that Hamas has had a tremendous amount of time to prepare. And I'll make one more point on this answer and that is that, in the last couple of major rounds of escalation we've seen between Israel and Gaza, Hamas has stayed out.

It has largely been with Palestinian Islamic Jihad. There were some analysts and think tankers who said this may be an opportunity with Hamas. In hindsight, that looks very different. It looks like Hamas was preparing for this and trying not to get involved so it could prep for what was a massive multi-pronged operation this morning that caught Israel by surprise, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. And I should point out, you're not just our Pentagon correspondent, you're our former long-time Jerusalem based correspondent. I'm curious if you think, from your reporting then to what's happening now, if you think Israel's focus on the West Bank led them to, in some ways, taking their eye off the Gaza ball given how woefully unprepared they were on that border.

LIEBERMANN: It certainly looks like it. Israel and the Israeli military have carried out a number of raids in the West Bank including in places like Tulkarm in the northern West Bank, in Jenin, and several others as they focused on terror cells there. But that, it appears, it looks like right now, drew the forces away from the focus on Gaza.

Whether Israel felt it had deterrence restored in Gaza, that will remain an open question on how they missed this so badly. But it certainly looks like right now Israel kept its eye on Gaza. And it's worth pointing out, Michael, it wasn't just a failure in intelligence to see this coming, but once this started, there was a failure to stop it, and then a failure in response.

Netanyahu promising a major retaliation, but it's quite clear that the Israeli forces aren't even there to carry out anything but the airstrikes you're seeing. So getting that ready, in and of itself, will take time. So those are failures compounded upon failures at this point, as Netanyahu and the Israeli security Cabinet have to figure out what their goal is for what comes next.

HOLMES: All right, great analysis. Oren Liebermann, always a pleasure. Thanks so much.

And joining me now from Washington, Charles Lister, is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Countering Terrorism and Extremism program at the Middle East Institute. Thanks for being with us. I've been on the Gaza side of that border many, many times over the years. It is highly protected, highly surveilled. It's hard to understate the significance and success of this Hamas operation. What were your impressions? What did you make of it?

CHARLES LISTER, SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: I think very much like you, I'm sort of staggered at the scale of this offensive, the multi-pronged nature of it coming from the land, the sea, the air, the sophistication that Hamas has demonstrated. I think, is a marked, you know, enhancement from what we've seen from them in the past, which I think raises serious questions about Iran's potential involvement.

But, yes, I mean, from an Israeli perspective, this is just a staggering intelligence failure. Clearly, they weren't looking in all of the right places to try to predict something like this. But I also think, you know, analytically speaking, it's no surprise that the tension has been ticking up and up and up in Israel. Sorry, these are the Israel and the Palestinians writ large.

This has never been just about the West Bank and Hamas has always been the biggest and most powerful potential sort of weapon for the Palestinian cause. So from an Israeli perspective, this should not have been missed. But, of course, the repercussions now cannot be understated.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, we're just discussing with Oren Liebermann if Israel turned to the West Bank and took its eye off the ball there in Gaza. Israel, you know, obviously saying it's going to wreak havoc on Hamas, but Israel has been, for years, saying it wants to and will decimate Hamas.

And here we are with Hamas capabilities seemingly more effective than ever before. What then are Israel's options?

LISTER: Well, I mean, first of all, you're absolutely right. It's -- this is the most intrinsically difficult thing in terms of challenging a terrorist organization that is so deeply embedded within society and in an intensely urban environment. So Israel has, as you say, long harbored those ambitions to sort of smash Hamas into irrelevance.

Those ambitions have never really been realistic. And I think when you insert which is what I think we've seen over the last 18 months or so, a much more aggressive Iranian attempt to influence the ability of Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza to push back. This is what we get.

And I think it has been really interesting to say that, you know, even speaking with senior Israeli security officials over the last year and a half, they've been very open saying Hamas has been working with us behind the scenes. They have agreed and during every flare up not to get involved.


There's been this sense that for the first time, Hamas has become more pragmatic, more willing to cooperate. We've heard that from Qatari mediators as well. I think this clearly shows that was all a ploy. They have spent the last 18 months using that guise of pragmatism to prepare themselves for just this, you know, very development that we've seen over the last 24 hours.

And it is truly game changing. I mean, taking dozens, if not more than that, Israeli hostages places Israel in an extraordinarily difficult position here when they're speaking about sending Hamas back down to the Stone Age as well. Doing that is going to put all of these Israeli hostages lives at jeopardy. So they can't do that. So they really are in a very tricky situation now.

HOLMES: Yes. And again, when we talk about capabilities as Hamas has been buying time, they -- I mean, what was extraordinary to first start. I mean, I've been going there since 1988. And the notion of militants on the streets of Israel driving around in pickups and shooting at vehicles is just mind blowing. Never seen anything like that.

But we also saw the use of drones attacking a tank and taking it out paragliders, seizing military vehicles, the hostage-taking, as you said, and many thousands of rockets. What struck you most in a tactical and resources sense?

LISTER: Well, I think -- and it really goes to show a sort of revolution in what we call asymmetric warfare, warfare conducted mostly by non-state actors in environments like this. I mean, many of the tactics and the weapons. And the procedures that we saw Hamas demonstrate this morning have been developed on the battlefields of Syria over the last 8 to 10 years replicated and enhanced in Ukraine over the last 18 months, particularly the use of drones to drop armor piercing munitions, which is what we saw Hamas do this morning onto sophisticated Israeli-Merkava tanks. The use of paragliders to insert fighters into sort of hostile territory is something we've seen the PKK develop in Turkey and across from Syria into Turkey over the last four or five years. So really, this is, you know, from -- in a much bigger picture perspective, goes to show how armed groups and terrorist organizations around the world are learning from each other and proving a lesson that, you know, terrorism and insurgency academics have said for a very long time, which is if you are the asymmetric actor, not the conventional government entity.

You always have that inherent advantage if you can think three or four steps ahead. And if you can use these less sophisticated, but more kind of ingenious tactics and practices, you'll always have that advantage and you'll catch your enemies by surprise. And I think that is very sadly and quite horrifically what we saw take place --


LISTER: -- just 24 hours ago.

HARRIS: Yes, a lot of low tech and also getting around Israel's, you know, massive surveillance system. They didn't know about any of this. I mean, it was unprecedented in scale and effect, but how much more could things unravel? Notably, you know, what are the odds of Hezbollah entering this fight, regional spread?

LISTER: I think a lot will depend on how sort of viscerally Israel responds. If there is a major ground incursion into Gaza, I think that will probably force Hamas' allies elsewhere in the region to, potentially, to choose to back it up. But I think when we have the conversation of Hezbollah getting involved, we do also have to remember that Hezbollah has generally since the 2006 war been very hesitant to repeat that experience, even though it perceives itself to have won that war against Israel, which is a debatable subject.

The consequence domestically within Lebanese political environment wasn't altogether positive for Hezbollah. So very, very tricky. It's much more likely, frankly, that we might see some Iranian proxies next door in Syria, perhaps choose to create a second front against Israel kind of diversionary front. And that's, of course, a challenge and a threat that Israel has been trying to deal with for many, many years amidst the Syrian crisis.

So it could potentially become a multi-pronged. I think what's more likely is what your correspondent pointed to a little while ago, which is that Hamas may have used this infiltration attack not just to kidnap and take hostages, but also to infiltrate fighters much deeper into Israel as a kind of second front, as a second wave.

Israel will be very aware of that potential threat. There's also not a great deal they can do if those fighters have gone to ground. But again, that restrains Israel's options here. And again, the fact that we have dozens of Israeli hostages in Gaza does put Netanyahu in an extraordinarily tricky situation whereby a major escalation could see Israeli hostages executed, which would -- it'd be an enormously destructive development for him domestically. [23:25:09]

Politically, it will be humiliating, it will put great pressure on him to do other things that may also be unwise. So I think that's why we're seeing Israel respond yes, very aggressively, but very methodically and slowly at this point. I think they're measuring up those options right now.

HOLMES: Terrific analysis. Charles Lister, thank you so much, there in Washington for us.

Well, hundreds of Israelis killed as we've been saying, many, many more wounded and Israeli civilians taken hostage. Israel has begun its retaliation for the brazen and murderous attack by the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

We will have the latest update on what Israel's Prime Minister says will be a long and difficult war. That's when we come back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to destroy the Palestinian militant group Hamas, wherever its leaders and fighters hide. And it's already trying to carry out that threat.

Israel unleashing furious rocket attacks overnight against Gaza and the Israeli military telling Gaza civilians to get out of residential areas, though, there's two million of those civilians, and it's not clear where they could go. This all comes after that brazen and unprecedented assault on Israel by the Gaza-based militant group.

Israeli sources say Hamas has launched thousands of rockets now against Israeli towns and cities, including Tel Aviv. And, incredibly, it sent fighters into these Israeli towns, killing some 300 Israeli civilians and soldiers, kidnapping others. Israel's Prime Minister says the nation is facing a, quote, "long and difficult war".

Former Israeli Prime Minister and opposition leader, Yair Lapid, is urging Mr. Netanyahu to put aside their political differences and form an emergency government. In a statement, he said, "Prime Minister Netanyahu knows that with the current extreme and dysfunctional security Cabinet, he can't manage a war. Israel needs to be led by a professional, experienced and responsible government", he said.


He went on, "We need to put politics to one side for the sake of an emergency government, which will manage this situation with determination and won't deal with anything else until we achieve victory over our enemies".

CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now live from southern Israel. Nic, you have been there all night. The sun is now coming up. What do you expect the day to bring?

ROBERTSON: Well, we've seen an increase in flow of vehicles, military vehicles, tanks going in. We've seen a few howitzers going towards Gaza as well some armored personnel carriers, but relatively few in number, but there's been an increase in traffic there. We've seen buses bringing, we believe, civilians out of the area around Gaza.

I'm listening to a couple of drones we've been able to look at in the sky above us here. So it's clear the Israelis obviously now with daylight, getting assets in the air to take a look on the ground, continue to hear heavy explosions coming from the direction of Gaza. So, you know, I think what we'll see is an increasing tempo as Israel begins to posture its forces and readiness for whatever decisions the government decides to take potentially incursion.

Potentially, we're expecting them to further and strengthen and secure the border with the fence line with Gaza to make sure another incursion doesn't happen. So I think this is what we'll see today, Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Nic, thanks so much. Reporting throughout the night there for us in Israel near the Gaza Strip, Nic Robertson.

You are watching CNN's breaking news coverage, Israel at War. We will show you how the unprecedented attack by Hamas militants unfolded when we come back.


HOLMES: We continue to follow the breaking news, Israel at war with Hamas. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing the militant group will have nowhere to hide after a day of deadly attacks.


At least 300 Israelis have been killed. Soldiers and a significant number of civilians have been captured, taken hostage. Israel has been pounding Hamas targets in Gaza in retaliation. The IDF warning civilians in the territory to leave their homes for their own safety.

Joining me now is Bobby Ghosh, editor and foreign affairs columnist for Bloomberg. Good to see you, Bobby. Gaza, after all, is one of the most surveilled areas in the Middle East. It is constantly surveilled and yet this apparently comes out of the blue in the military sense, Israel blindsided. Talk about the failure of that and where Israel's attention was while this popped out.

BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR & FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG: Well, it is an astonishing intelligence failure of a scale of an order. I can't think of anything to compare, even the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The Israelis knew something was up. They either neglected or misread the signals, but they did have some signals.

Here, apparently, they saw, heard nothing at all. And Michael, you've been to these places just as I have. We may have actually passed across in Gaza at one time. There's nowhere in Gaza where Israeli eyes are not watching you and Israeli ears are not listening to. There's signals intelligence. There are dirigibles in the air. There are, you know, spies on the ground, cell phone taps, all kinds of technology are deployed into this very small, very densely populated area. And the videos that we're seeing put out from the Hamas side of the operations, these parachutes, these -- the attack on the checkpoints, these would have required quite extensive rehearsals, practice.

I can't imagine how you can practice for that kind of an operation in Gaza without the Israelis seeing it in their cameras, from the air, from satellites or having their human intelligence sources report the same.


GHOSH: What the margins (ph) some of the practicing took place elsewhere, we'll find out in the days to come. But even so, the intelligence failure that this represents is really earth shattering.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. I was last in Gaza just two or three years ago and we were watched the whole time. I mean, what are the risks do you think of this erupting in the West Bank as well? I mean, there have been ongoing Israeli military incursions in the West Bank, there's been ongoing settler violence, settlement expansion, Palestinian violence as well, of course we should say. But can you see the West Bank rising up, particularly if Gaza is hit even harder?

GHOSH: Well, I think that is a reasonable expectation. We have seen celebratory videos from the West Bank. We've seen -- and these are quite predictable videos from fighters in the West Bank promising to join the fighting on the -- against Israel. We know that Israelis now that they've had this intelligence failures will be doubling down on their intelligence operations in the West Bank. Will be keeping a very, very close eye.

They'll also obviously be keeping a very close eye in the north of the Golan Heights to see if Hezbollah joins the fight. This is a -- it'll be hard to do that while conducting a major military operation in Gaza. But this is the situation Israel has found itself now. It has a war, a full scale war on one front and the threat of others joining the fighting on two other fronts, in the West Bank and in the Golan.

HOLMES: And when it comes to the hostages, Israel has very capable special forces, but they would rely on intelligence in terms of where those hostages are being held. And we've already talked about the intelligence failures and how this unfolded in the first place. So that just makes hostage recovery that much more perilous as well. And the hostages being there are going to, you know, sort of hamper Israel's actions, right?

GHOSH: Absolutely. And with their already indications or reports that Hamas has moved quite a lot of the hostages into Gaza and is spreading them across again, this very densely populated area to try and make sure that, a, they are hard to detect. And also that if Israel attacks Gaza with any kind of sort of land offensive as well as a sort of -- if it increases its aerial bombardment place, then there's a high risk that some of those hostages will fall victim to Israeli bombs.


Now, Israel places great value, great -- takes great pride in the fact that it goes the extra mile to recover its lost whether they're hostages, whether they're soldier, it goes the extra miles, several extra miles to recover them. The complicating factor here is that, as far as we can tell, we're not talking about one, two, five, 10, 15 hostages, we're talking much larger numbers, two digits, possibly three digit numbers.

That's unprecedented. Israel's never had to deal with that. It's one thing to have a battalion surrounded by your enemy during a conventional war, but to have civilians as well as soldiers, some commanders, we understand being taken hostage and being held in places unknown in Gaza. That's something Israel has never, no army that I can think of, has ever had to contend with that kind of a crisis.

HOLMES: It really is mindboggling. Never seen anything like it.

Bobby Ghosh, always good to talk to you, my friend. Thanks so much.

All right, we're going to take a quick break here on the program, but there is much more to come here on CNN, including European leaders speaking out and showing their support for Israel. We'll tell you what they're saying after the break.


HOLMES: Well, Israel's Prime Minister says his country is digging in for a long and difficult war. Israel has been pounding targets in Gaza for nearly a day now, after Hamas militants brazen rocket and ground attack. Hours ago, missiles were still being fired towards southern Israel, and you see there the Iron Dome defense system taking them out mid-flight.

Israeli forces were just battling for control of some towns just recently in the next -- the last few hours. In addition, the IDF says Hamas forced a number of Israelis into Gaza as hostages. Large number, by all accounts. Hundreds reported dead on both sides now.

European leaders and others around the world are reacting to the Hamas attack on Israel. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on the phone to the Israeli President Isaac Herzog. She offered the E.U.'s full support and posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the E.U. mourns the victims and stands by Israel's right to defend itself.


Salma Abdelaziz joins me now from London. Good to see you, Salma. Tell us more about the regional and international reaction.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Michael. I think as these shocking images have poured in in the last 24 hours of this absolutely unprecedented and wide scale assault on Israel, countries have reacted and Israel is looking to that reaction and for that support as it heads into what Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised will be a lengthy war. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): 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.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): 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.

JOE 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.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): No signs now of the previous rocky relations between Biden and Netanyahu, not flared between the two leaders after a controversial judicial reforms in Israel. Germany, France and the U.K. 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 BAERBOCK, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Hamas' terror once again move the region further away from peace. Through these terror attacks, there is now the incalculable danger of a large regional escalation.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): 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, though some experts say, Qatar could possibly play a part in future efforts to deescalate the crisis.

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: It improve relations with the Israelis, but they have been very supportive of the Islamists. And I think they want to maintain their their ties in context with Hamas. They may well come in to play a role.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): 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.


HOLMES: Great piece there, Salma. And as you raised in it, Israel has been forging relationships in the region. You have the Abrams Accords, these efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia. If there is a massive retaliatory attack on Gaza, might those efforts be impacted, that regional outreach?

ABDELAZIZ: You can only imagine that they will be impacted, but again, I turn to that word that we've been using over and over again, Michael, which is unprecedented. This is an unprecedented assault. You can expect that Israel's response is unprecedented, and that makes it very difficult to predict how the region will move.

But you know who the actors are. You know where the eyes will be. It will be on Tehran. Of course, Iran seen as the major backer for Hezbollah, the arch enemy of Israel. Does Southern Lebanon step into the fray that could widen the conflict? Could that also happen potentially from Syria again, potentially widening the conflict? No indication of that yet, but you're talking about potentially here a lengthy war.

The other concern will be the mediators, Egypt and Qatar. There are hostages inside the Gaza Strip, so there will need to be some form of communication, whether indirect or direct. That will be through those mediating nations. And then, as you mentioned, Saudi Arabia. That was a big prize for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Just a few weeks ago, he was boasting that there was going to be this dramatic breakthrough, this huge peace deal with Riyadh. And now you have the response from Saudi Arabia, which, yes, calls for both sides to deescalate, but also very much says that it justifies these attacks within the context of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.


The question will be, has Netanyahu actually made any friends in the region with these normalization agreements, and can he depend on them at all at this time?

HOLMES: All right, great reporting. Thanks so much, Salma. Salma Abdelaziz there in London for us.

And more coverage of Israel at war. After a short break, we'll tell you about the heartbreaking way some Israelis learned that their loved ones were taken hostage by Hamas and taken into Gaza. Stay with us.


HOLMES: One of the most extraordinary things that has been going on in this conflict between Hamas and Israelis, Hamas' claims that it has captured, in its words, dozens of Israeli citizens and soldiers during that incursion, a fact confirmed by the Israeli military.

Videos have surfaced online, such as this one, geolocated by CNN showing an Israeli woman forcibly pushed into a vehicle and taken away. An IDF spokesman says it doesn't have a firm number of possible hostages, but described it as a significant number. Families of the missing are being urged to share information, including DNA, with police, as soon it is safe to do so.

Now, the former head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence, tells CNN there was no warning sign before Saturday's attack. He calls it a total surprise. CNN's Tom Foreman has more now on how it all unfolded.

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 6 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 has 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.

HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. I will be back with more coverage after the break.