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CNN International: Israel Rescuers: At Least 260 Bodies Found At Music Festival Site; Israeli Citizens Recount Weekend Of Terror. Aired 4-5:00p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 16:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Isa Suarez.

We begin this hour with more of our continuing breaking news coverage from Israel. And I want to bring you some live pictures coming to us from Gaza City. Now, it is -- this is just from minutes ago, in fact, moments ago, we saw rocket fire lighting up the night sky. As you can see there, that's incoming been told an outgoing fire, as you can see flares there. This is Gaza. And it comes, as what, 11:00 just now, just turned 11:00.

And this airstrikes, of course, we've seen there in a densely, very densely populated part of the Gaza Strip, but Netanyahu in the last 24 hours vowing to avenge the hundreds of Israeli lives lost with ferocious firepower. We are now seeing in the last moments, incoming and outgoing fire, of course. And it comes after Israeli's government formally declared war on Hamas.

Fighting in Israel is raging one day after the Palestinian militant group reached the border from Gaza in a surprise attack. More than 600 people are dead, thousands are wounded. Hamas has taken unknown number of people captive. And we're now hearing, we've heard in the last hour in fact, that Islamic Jihad is holding at least 30 captives from Saturday's assault. An official tells CNN he expects the death toll in Israel to rise considerably.


RON DERMER, ISRAEL MINISTER OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS: We are well north of 600 people who have been killed. It will probably be more hundreds, several hundred more. Put that in American terms, Israel has a population of about 9 million people. America has a population of about 350 million people. It's about 40 times bigger than the Israeli population.

So when you lose 1,000 people in Israel in one day, it's like 40,000 Americans being killed in one day. That's about 10 9/11.


SOARES: One official tell CNN he expects the death toll in Israel to rise considerably. In response to the attack, Israeli airstrikes have been pounding Gaza. You are looking now at footage, this was early of nighttime explosions. Palestinian health officials say at least 413 people have been killed by Israeli bombardments.

And the shock horror attack by Hamas, I think it's fair we can say that, has led to the deadliest day in decades for Israel. I want to bring in CNN's Hadas Gold who joins me now from Jerusalem.

And Hadas, the casualties continue to rise. And now we're hearing, you and I were talking in the last half an hour that 260 bodies have been recovered at this medical -- at this festival, this is according to this medical site. Just bring us up to date what you're hearing about, because this turned -- this festival has turned basically into a massacre.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERU.S.ALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And what's even more just terrifying and horrifying to think about is that we don't have any indication that these casualties were necessary. For example, from a rocket landing on this festival. This was almost, from what we understand, entirely from militants rampaging this festival and killing people with guns. Some of them -- some of the survivors have even said things like RPGs were used against them.

The ZAKA, Israeli Emergency Medical Services say that 260 bodies have now been recovered from that festival. That might not be the total death toll from just this festival because, keep in mind, people were evacuated from the festival. Potentially, they were injured, they were taken to hospital. It doesn't account for the people who might have passed away while in hospital as a result of their injuries. These are just bodies that were recovered from this festival.

This was a music festival. This was a rave, you know, in the middle of nowhere that people like to do. There were videos showing that in the minutes before this attack happened, because, you know, these parties tend to go all night parties that just in the minutes before, hundreds if not thousands of mostly young people were partying, have a great time dancing to DJs and then the rocket attack started. And then the militants, we don't know the difference between when the rocket attack started towards Israel and when the militants then entered this festival and started attacking people there. But we've just heard harrowing accounts from survivors of how they escaped, of how they tried to get people out.


Keep in mind that many of these festival goers, they got to the location by bus, by buses, shared buses, shared vans, shared taxis, so a lot of them just tried to flee on foot. And several of them said that they actually just hid in the bushes, hid in the wilderness, trying to avoid these militants. And I think I mentioned this to you before, but we've also hearing harrowing accounts of these parents of these young people who are desperately seeking information about their loved ones who may have been at this festival, including one father who reported that he heard from his two daughters who called him while this attack was happening. He heard the attack happening. He heard men speaking Arabic he said around them.

He told his daughters to lay face down in the dirt, to not even breathe. But he said the last thing he heard from them were several deep breaths. And from what he said at this press conference, he doesn't know what happened to them. It's not clear if they were from the victims or if they were taken captive, because we do know that some of these festival goers were actually taken captive. This is, of course, now these infamous videos we've seen over and over again of people being taken from this festival, including that young woman on the back of a motorbike.

We don't know the full number, the full picture of how many of those were taken captive from this festival. But all we have right now 260 bodies, Isa, that alone by itself, just the number of bodies, number of casualties from this festival, that by itself might be the largest mass casualty event in Israeli history by itself. But now you have to take it into context, add it to what's happened so far in the last two days or so across Israel as a result of this attack.

SOARES: Given everything, Hadas, that you've just laid out there for us, what kind then of response are we likely to see from Prime Minister Netanyahu who has called for a political unity government?

GOLD: I mean, in terms of a military response, there has to be a strong one. I almost question, you know, what not if there will be a ground incursion, but when, because there's only so much you can do from the air. And of course, when you have the consideration of hostages and trying to potentially rescue them, Israel doesn't take hostages lightly. I mean, we saw with Gilad Shalit, who was abducted in 2006 and held captive for several years, that Israel traded something like 1,000 Palestinian prisoners just for one single soldier. This situation, this isn't a soldier who was on active duty like Gilad Shalit, these were civilians who were in their homes, these are children, these are toddlers, these are elderly in wheelchairs.

This is a totally different situation, a totally different equation. And mister -- Benjamin Netanyahu, as we said before, likes to call himself Mr. Security, but he's usually very careful when it comes to military operations. But he will not have a choice here. I think the Israeli population across the political spectrum will demand a very heavy handed response, and I think they will demand essentially a response to the likes of which Gaza have never seen before.

SOARES: And do we know how soon this offensive, I mean, at the moment, I know it's an active situation, do we know how soon that might happen, Hadas?

GOLD: I don't think that the Israeli military will tell us when they plan to carry out this ground incursion, but we have seen, according to, you know, our correspondents who are there on the ground, a reinforcement of personnel there, of tanks along the border. But the priority right now, actually number one priority, is to actually secure the Israeli villages and towns and cities around the Gaza border, because that is the number one thing. And there is still a concern that there's more militants that have made their way further, potentially into the country. So I think that's the number one thing is they're going to try to secure these villages and towns, and it's a very exacting thing to do, because they're going to have to go, you know, house by house, car by car, trying to make sure that a militant doesn't pop out of nowhere and start shooting randomly at civilians. And I think that will be the priority to be completed before --


GOLD: -- they stage any sort of ground offensive.

SOARES: Hadas Gold for us there with the very latest. Thank you, Hadas.

We want to take another look at the Israeli airstrikes pounding Gaza. We showed you in the last top of the hour, in fact, the last eight minutes or so. These are some of the latest images of the explosions. That was earlier, but the top of the hour we showed you really some flares coming, incoming and outgoing flares coming in. Palestinian health officials say at least 413 people have been killed by Israeli bombardments.

That's since Saturday. And the U.N. says tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Gaza as Israeli defense forces continue to target Hamas' positions there. Our Salma Abdelaziz is keeping a close eye on the latest developments.

So, Salma, just bring us up to date with the very latest on the ground there.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, Isa, Gazans are absolutely bracing themselves for a long period of suffering. You heard there from my colleague Hadas, that there is an expectation that the strikes, the operation that Israel carries out inside the Strip will be like something unseen ever before. And this is already a place where multiple conflicts have led to thousands of people being killed over the course of the last few years. But this is still the very beginning, the very early days of what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said will be a complicated and difficult conflict.


Take a look at how it's unfolding.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): These are the first moments of what Prime Minister Netanyahu warned will be a long and difficult war. Airstrikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip that the Palestinian Health Ministry says left hundreds dead and thousands more wounded. Israel's military says it is targeting headquarters belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and released this video. Netanyahu vowing to avenge the hundreds of Israeli lives lost with more ferocious firepower to come.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translator): All of the places which Hamas is 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.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But destroying or severely deterring Hamas will prove extremely challenging for Israel's army. A significant and unprecedented number of Israeli citizens were captured by the group, according to the Israeli military. This disturbing social media video geolocated by CNN shows a victim hands appear to be bound in captivity, and Hamas claims the hostages are distributed across the Strip, Israel believes to be used as human shields.

Israel's military is pressing on. With air assaults already underway, the IDF said it is preparing for a potential ground invasion and that all options are on the table. Thousands of Israeli reservists have been called up for the task.

Israel's army is telling Gazans to clear the way for their operations, ordering families to leave their homes and providing locations for evacuation. But with the conflict sure to engulf the whole of the Strip, for most, there is no way out. Gaza is largely isolated from the world by an Israeli air, land and sea blockade and Egypt's southern border closure. Electricity, which is mostly provided by Israel was cut off and Internet disrupted. Unclear how long services will be severed.

And with Hamas leadership reportedly going underground, the 2 million people living in the 140 square mile territory have nowhere to turn. Fears growing that an unprecedented attack on Israel could yield unprecedented bloodshed in Gaza.


ABDELAZIZ: You can only imagine, Isa, that with each one of those air assaults, with each one of those airstrikes being carried out by Israel, that potentially the families of those hostages are simply holding their breath, worried in concern that their loved ones could be caught in the crossfire. There are short term goals here and there are long term goals here. In the short term, Prime Minister Netanyahu has to do everything he can to get those hostages out safely. That is extremely complicated when you're talking about carrying out a military operation with those hostages already embedded all across the Gaza Strip if Hamas -- according to Hamas's statement.

And then in the longer term, Prime Minister Netanyahu has essentially vowed to break the back of the militant groups inside the Gaza Strip, render them unable to carry out such an attack again. But how does he do that? That is extremely complicated. And can the people who live in those areas near the Gaza Strip, the Israelis who live in those areas that were attacked and assaulted, can they live in those areas and feel safe ever again?

SOARES: These are all very important questions and questions that, of course, that we'll be posing to all our guests, of course, and speaking to our correspondents on the ground. Salma Abdelaziz, appreciate it. Thank you very much. That's important context and analysis. Urgent questions are also being asked over how Israel's military as well as intelligence apparatus appeared to be caught off guard yesterday in one of the country's worst security failures that really saw Hamas gunmen pouring across the border, shooting civilians, taking hostages, and leaving people fearing for their lives. The unprecedented attack, the deadliest in decades, took Israel by surprise, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told CNN. Have a listen to what he said.


NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I have to admit that we were surprised, and we're going to have to learn how that happens. But generally in military history, there are always big surprises, Pearl Harbor, Barbarossa, Yom Kippur war. At the end of the day, intelligence can go only so far.



SOARES: Well, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising mighty vengeance, saying Israel is preparing for, quote, "a long, as well as difficult war." His government stopped the supply of electricity, fuel, and goods to Gaza, as you heard our Salma Abdelaziz there. And he's urged all Palestinians in Gaza to leave for their own safety.

I want to bring in Yohanan Plesner, the President of the Israel Democracy Institute and former Knesset member for the Kadima Party.

Yohanan, thank you very much, sir, for joining us here on the show. I want to get first your reaction --


SOARES: -- some breaking news that we've had in the last well, last hour, in fact, that we've heard that 260 bodies were recovered at the music festival. Your reaction, sir?

PLESNER: Well, this is a terrible humanitarian, a terrible national catastrophe. It's a catastrophe for the entire democratic world. Two hundred and sixty Israeli youngsters went to celebrate in a festival, in a meat burn type festival, and found themselves being slaughtered for hours in a massacre. And similar massacres were perpetrated by the Hamas Barbaric Jihadist regime. It's a genocidal regime that went village by village, community by community, and murdered children next to their parents, next to the children, took hostages, took Holocaust survivors, 85 year old Holocaust survivors, took them as hostages, took young kids, and is torturing them.

I mean, this is a barbaric regime in Israel's back door, and it's probably the biggest security catastrophe in the country's history. And obviously, it will trigger a significant dramatic change in the approach of Israel towards the Hamas regime.

SOARES: Let's talk --

PLESNER: What Israel allowed to exist until now, the doctrine that assumed that Hamas will be, you know, although it has a genocidal doctrine, will sort of be tamed and live peacefully next to Israel and perhaps with a tamed round of violence. This doctrine has failed. And now there's -- gave room for a new doctrine that -- with a clear goal that Hamas can no longer have any kind of capabilities, because with a genocidal doctrine, we cannot afford it.

SOARES: We heard that several people were taken hostage at this music festival. We know that 260 bodies have been recovered, others have been taken hostage. We've also learned in the last hour from Islamic Jihad selling -- telling us that it's holding more than 30 captors in Gavas (ph). Hamas says it's holding a dozens, I think is what they said. What is the plan here for their safe release? What kind of response do you think we'll see or we ought to see from Israel here?

PLESNER: Well, this is a terrible tragedy. The numbers are not clear, but it's safe to assume that there's more than 100 Israeli hostages, both soldiers and many civilians, men, women, kids, old people have been dragged and tortured. And, of course, a high priority of the operation right now would be to bring about -- to put pressure on Hamas and to bring about the release of those hostages. But it's not the only goal. Probably the primary goal of the Israeli operation, alongside with our allies and of course the United States, will be to restore Israeli deterrence, to restore security and to pretty much remove Hamas' capabilities, strip off Hamas from its capabilities.

Now, we have to understand and we have to prepare, I think, many of the viewers to the fact that Hamas is perpetrating double war crimes. One war crime is to attack Israeli civilians as a goal. The second war crime is to situate its capabilities within Gaza, within the Palestinian, within the civilian population, so to ensure that if Israel attacks its capabilities, there will be collateral damage. This collateral damage that will occur is Hamas's responsibility. If civilians do not want to get hurt, they have to remove themselves, detach themselves from Hamas, because Israel is going to respond.


And Israel has to respond. If it wants to survive, it needs to remove and strip off Hamas from its capabilities. And it will be tough and it will take time.

SOARES: Israel has to respond, you say. But if Israel carries out any sort of ground incursion in Gaza, I'm guessing the concern here is that Hezbollah may get involved. How -- talk us through these different scenarios and how they're being weighed here with the IDF, with allies. Talk us through these scenarios.

PLESNER: Well, Hezbollah has nothing to do with the Gaza Strip. If Hezbollah wants to attack Israel and to declare war in Israel, it can declare -- it will declare war in Israel because it will decide that it is in its interest. Now, both Hezbollah and Hamas are supported, funded, provided with doctrine, ideology, money by Iran. So essentially, it's Iran that is trying to undermine the moderate order in our region. It's trying to undermine and trying to become a dominant force in the region, a dominant jihadist force.

This is why they're supporting Hezbollah so heavily. This is why they're supporting Hamas so heavily. And this is why they're encouraging them to attack Israel. They want to undermine the Saudi American deal that is now being contemplated, that is supposed to strengthen the moderate access, the partners of democracies. Obviously, if Hamas and Hezbollah will be strengthened, it will be bad for the west cause and for the free world cause.

Also, in the Ukraine, Iran is a partner and supplies Russia with ammunition. So clearly there's a strong interest here to send a strong signal to Hezbollah that it shouldn't jump into this war. And if they do, serious price will be exacted on them, as was back in 2006.

SOARES: Mr. Plesner, I really appreciate you taking this time to speak to us. Yohanan Plesner there, thank you very much.

And just as some context as well from we heard from Mr. Plesner, the Iranian president has said today that Iran supports the Palestinian. I'm quoting here, "The Palestinian nation's legitimate defense." What we don't know at this stage is how much to what extent Iran is helping Hamas in terms of material terms.

We also have heard from Hezbollah, because that's what we're talking about, Hezbollah today claiming responsibility for targeting Israeli sites. We continue the discussion after this short break, where we continue our breaking news coverage.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. It's past 11:00 p.m., 25 minutes past 11:00 p.m. now in Israel, and sporadic fighting continues to rage on between Israel and Hamas. Officials say at least 600 Israelis have been killed and more than 2,000 people wounded after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack Saturday into Israeli territory. Israel's cabinet has officially declared war on Hamas, and right now there is no clear end insight to this conflict.

As the fighting rages on, our Nic Robertson asked an Israeli doctor on the front line in Sderot to describe some of the horror he's been witnessing so far. Have a listen to this.


SHILOMO GENSLER, VOLU.N.TEER DOCTOR, HELMSLEY CHARITABLE TRU.S.T: So what I would say is the brutality that I saw here, I've been by many terror attacks in the past. Brutality that I saw here and the lack of compassion for other human beings was unparalleled. There were little children executed. There were people that were just like, burnt alive.


SOARES: Horrific. CNN's Nic Robertson is on the Israeli side of the border with guards in the town of Sderot, where he and his team say events have changed dramatically over the space of a few short hours. How exactly have they changed, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR: Yes. This area in Sderot is calm. Last night you couldn't have stood here because Hamas still dominated this area. There was a firefight in the early hours of this morning Israeli Defense Forces to take back control of the police station. But even this morning, the Israeli Defense Force was still picking up infiltrators coming in from Gaza, they arrested a man or detained a man who was here not as a terrorist to kill people, but had come in when Hamas came in. But his idea was to come and rob the people here in Sderot and got left behind.

He was caught and captured this morning. In other areas there have been infiltrators this morning, 24 hours after that original infiltration Hamas, four operatives there in the town of Ashkelon, not far away this morning, they were caught by the Israeli Defense Forces. There are other areas where confrontations are still underway between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas. This town itself, even late this afternoon, just as the sun was setting, there was word around the town that there was another infiltrator. We saw a number of police and Israeli Defense Force patrols out, they were clearly, I mean, on the super alert, you know, at the point where you're wondering, do they understand that we're innocent civilian journalists here because they're pointing their guns our way and looking, you know, you get the sense of the picture, right?


ROBERTSON: They were very concerned about anything that was moving that was not -- that they weren't sure that wasn't Hamas. So, yes, but the situation now is better. But it's quiet, there's no electricity in this part of town by the police station. People are still in their houses and when were here earlier on, they didn't really want to come out so much.

So there's -- the anxiety, concern, anxiousness about how this situation develops, it's still high. And there is still plenty of police and army here and they're still very much on the alert for the possibility of word of another infiltrator here. The priority, the Israeli Defense Force spokesman told us earlier, was to get the border sealed back up. And that's, I think, the process that's still underway.

SOARES: Yes, it's anxiety, you said. Hadas was telling me on top of the hour, there's also anger how this sophisticated attack could have happened, the intelligence failure here. What kind of response then, Nic, are we likely to hear from or to see from the Israeli government, militarily? Because in the last hour we've heard that 260 bodies were recovered at this festival. Islamic Jihad also saying they're holding more than 30 captives in Gaza. So what kind of response, militarily, could we perhaps see here from Israel, from Prime Minister Netanyahu?

ROBERTSON: The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is leading an exceptionally nationalist, right wing government at the moment. That has takes in terms of sort of previous Israeli governments, it takes very, very strong security positions. It is hugely forward leaning on that. So by virtue of its own political position. This is a government that is very predisposed to taking extreme political measures, the situation is war with Hamas right now. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he will take out the entire Hamas leadership, that they will get rid, deconstruct Hamas. It's not going to be easy.


How does he deal with the fact that there are hostages? How will he deal with the possibility that a big military operation inside Gaza would cause potentially high Palestinian casualties, as we've seen in the past, and that would bring increased international pressure on him to stop the attack? And would he be able to stop short of his stated goals to deconstruct Hamas, although proving a deconstruction is very -- would be very difficult for him or anyone else to be able to prove.

And then there's the reality that it's not just about what's happening in Gaza. There's the whole of the security in the West Bank. How will Palestinian groups in there, like Hamas, like Islamic Jihad, like proto ISIS groups there that are proliferating, how will they respond? Will more Israeli security forces be needed to deal with the West Bank? How will Hezbollah respond over the border in Lebanon?

How will Syria respond potentially under pressure from Iran to act? These are all things that the Prime Minister has to consider and the defense forces have to be able to come up with solutions for him. When he's going to say, I want the hostages back and I want all bases covered, this is a very difficult puzzle to solve. What's it going to look like down here? I think the hard reality is expect a large force and expect an incursion.

That's not the official statement at the moment. We're not there yet.


ROBERTSON: The forces aren't here yet. But the trajectory, I think, is set that way.

SOARES: Huge political test and challenge from Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nic Robertson for us there. Thanks very much, Nic.

We're going to have much more breaking news after this very short break. See you on the other side.



SOARES: And a quick recap if you're just joining us of the latest events in Israel and Gaza. Israel's government has declared war on Hamas, and Israeli missiles are pounding Gaza, seeking revenge for the horrific attacks Hamas unleashed on Saturday. The Israeli death toll is near -- already more than 600, and officials say it will go higher. IDF soldiers in southern Israel have been conducting door to door searches for Hamas fighters, and we are told that skirmishes are still happening.

I want to bring in our Senior International Correspondent, Sam Kiley with the very latest. And Sam, as you know, I know that as journalists, we tend to use -- overuse the word unprecedented, but this was an unprecedented operation both in terms of its ferocity and ambition. So, just talk us through what we're likely to see here, the next step from Israel and what kind of response we'll see militarily.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, in many ways, this is an Israeli nightmare scenario and a dream come true for Hamas. Even its ally, the PIJ, Palestine Islamic Jihad, another extremist group that is dedicated to this destruction of Israel heavily present in particularly northern Gaza, and also backed by Iran. They've claimed to have captured 30, that 3-0 Israeli hostages. Hamas, we know, have many, many more than that. The actual figure, I don't think Hamas probably knows quite yet, such was the scale of its military success, from their perspective, that is, of course.

Now, this is what it still looked like today.


KILEY (voice-over): It's official, Israel declared war, and this is what it looks like, Israeli troops in combat against Hamas. Infiltrators near the port city of Ashdod. Scenes like this, civilians murdered by Hamas and militants dead on an Israeli roadside today were inconceivable until yesterday, when Gazan militants swarmed out of the enclave. Israel's death toll has climbed past 600, and the Israeli Defense Forces say hundreds of Palestinian fighters have been killed. But they fight on, so Israel has evacuated 22 towns in Kbibutzim from around Gaza.

Hamas claimed to have launched a second wave of infiltrations the IDF incepted a seaborne assault at Zakim. In the biggest town close to Gaza, Sderot, an Israeli commander told CNN that militants were still attacking.

MAJOR DORON SPIELMAN, SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: As I'm speaking to you, there are seven different locations that they are trying to infiltrate into Israel. Their desire to come in here and to continue doing this, it's like a kamikaze.

KILEY (voice-over): Hamas' surprise attack focused on killing and kidnapping. Noa Argamani shouted, don't kill me, as she was snatched from her boyfriend Avinatan Or from a music festival near Gaza. The families of the victims wanted these images shown. Their fate is not known, but both Hamas and Israeli officials have said that large numbers of hostages have been abducted into the Palestinian enclave, complicating what Israel has promised will be a devastating response to the Hamas attacks.

The Palestinian Ministry of health says that the death toll there is at least 370. And as Israel has masked forces and continued airstrikes ahead of a likely ground assault, Hamas has called for regional conflagration.


KILEY (voice-over): In the Lebanon, Hezbollah launched a token attack on Israeli forces who responded in kind. But in Egypt, two Israelis were killed alongside their local guide according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry shot dead by a local.


KILEY: Now, Isa, a lot will depend on what happens next, I think, and what the reactions on the West Bank in particular among Israel's Palestinian population within Israel's own borders later perhaps from Hezbollah. But above all and this is the great conundrum for an extremely right wing government in Israel that has built its whole reason for being around the concept of security that they have proved vitally ineffective or fatally ineffective in terms of providing security. So they will be wanting to try to deal a death blow to Hamas. But the presence of these hostages on Israeli territory could not be more -- sorry on Gazan territory should not be -- could not be more exaggerated in terms of its importance. The last time there was an Israeli hostage held there, Gilad Shalit, he was exchanged for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners, was what was used to buy his freedom.


That ratio just with those held by PIJ, the Islamic Jihad, looks like almost all of Palestinian prisoners or maybe more that are even in Israeli jails. Isa.

SOARES: Sam Kiley there for the very latest. Thanks very much, Sam.

Well, the trauma Israeli citizens have been living through the past 48 hours is uncalculable. Daniel Gordis joins me now. He is the senior vice president of Shalem College in Jerusalem. His Saturday began with a celebration, really, of the end of the High Holiday season, and it ended with his son being called up in the army.

Daniel, first of all, I mean, how are you and your son feeling about being called up? I can't imagine this is easy for you.

DANIEL GORDIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, SHALEM COLLEGE: It's not easy for anybody. There are thousands and thousands of families whose kids have been called up. We spoke to our son at great length tonight. He's not the same young kid that he was when he was in the army seven, eight years ago. He's married, he has two children.

His youngest is a six old -- six week old daughter. So there's a very different sense about being in harm's way when you're the father of two children. But he said what he saw and what his friends saw was horrific. Bodies strewn all over the roads, car along the roads, cars burnt out. He said it's mayhem and savagery unlike anything he'd seen ever in his life.

So that while we're all very upset that our kids are called up and everybody's calling each other to find out what they've heard from their kids, everybody understands that this is a war about Israel's fundamental existence. And we're only still here because we're willing to fight these things when we have to. SOARES: I mean, it's terrifying specifically when you hear what we've reported in the last two hours or so, Daniel, that the brutality of it all, 260 bodies have been recovered at this music festival. Your reaction?

GORDIS: Well, it's a savagery. And I think that what this does is it sets the Palestinian cause with the Israeli population back very significantly, because it leaves no doubt in the minds of Israelis of what would happen to Israelis if Palestinians could do this time and again, not only from Gaza, but let's say, from the West Bank. But whatever everyone wants to say about Palestinian national aspirations, the idea that people would come across the border and shoot one and two year olds in the head at point blank range, that they would capture people and take them -- civilians and take them out of Israel into Gaza, which is without question a war crime according to every possible definition. Seeing people slaughtered, hundreds of people in mass graves, as you pointed out from this concert, which somewhere between 1,000, 2,000 thousand people apparently were attending.

We're just seeing savagery of the sort that we have not been victim to really since the 1948 War of Independence, when Israel was a fledgling just starting up country. And this has the country in a profound shock. If the 1973 failure, intelligence failure with (inaudible) and the Yom Kippur War led to massive seismic shifts in the Israeli political scene, what's happened this week is likely to do the same. Israel is never going to be the same after this week.

SOARES: And given the savagery, as you said, of what we have seen in the past 48 hours, what kind of response do Israelis want to see from their government here, Daniel?

GORDIS: Well, Israelis are not monolithic, quite obviously, just like Americans --


GORDIS: -- or any other citizens of any other country are not monolithic. What they would want to see in their gut is Hamas completely dismembered and so on and so forth. But they also understand that to do that you have to send in ground forces. It cannot be done from the air. Israel has always pounded Hamas from the air when all of these various Gazan conflagrations come up and Hamas suffers a bit, we suffer a bit, and then we go to quiet until the next time.

This is a thumbing of an entirely different order of magnitude. As the previous correspondent pointed out, Gilad Shalit, who was held in captivity from I believe it was 2006 to 2011, was traded for 1,027 prisoners for one person. That gives you a sense of how Israel thinks about prisoners and captures of war. The idea that there are now hostages of about 100 being held by Hamas and 30 being held by the Islamic Jihad, that just puts this into a whole different rate. So Israelis would like to see Hamas dismembered, but they don't necessarily want to pay the cost of sending in thousands of ground troops, knowing full well that Hamas is waiting for them and that buildings are booby trapped and landmines are being prepared. Hamas knows the ground invasion is likely to come, and it'll be very, very costly. And of course, you can't do a ground invasion without endangering the lives of all of the hostages. But if you don't act because of the hostages, then again, the country itself becomes a hostage to this horrible intelligence and operational failure.



GORDIS: So whatever one thinks about Israel's current political leadership, one does not envy them, these couple of days, they have some very, very agonizing decisions to make. And almost no matter what they do, they are going to have a country that remains enraged at their cataclysmic failure and its inability to keep them safe and respond to this. So we are likely to see a massive political earthquake in Israel in addition to everything else.

SOARES: Daniel Gordis, really appreciate you taking time to speak to us. Thank you, Daniel.

GORDIS: Thank you.

SOARES: We're going to bring you some life pictures coming in right now I'm being told from Gaza. It is now 11:45. Is that right? Yes, it's 11:45 p.m. in Gaza City. And I can see tiny little specs there.

But we have been seeing the past hour kind of incoming and outgoing flares in Gaza City. We have been monitoring the latest details, the latest pictures from Gaza, of course. We'll bring you -- oh, there we go. This was just moments ago, incoming and outgoing flares from Gaza City. As we've seen, Israel has continued to put pressure on Gaza.

Israel formally declaring war on Hamas, setting the stage really, for many are expecting to be a major military operation in Gaza. This is just moments ago. We'll have more video, more analysis on this breaking news after this.


SOARES: I'm showing you these live images coming to us in the last few moments, in fact. This is from Gaza City. It's now 11:49, so 10 to midnight. This happened just moments ago. These are incoming and outgoing flares that we have seen.

We know that Israeli warplanes have continued to pound Gaza. This is happening on Sunday morning with Israel defense forces saying it struck 426 targets in Gaza. We -- among the decisions we know from the Israeli government and from the cabinet to stop supply of electricity fuel and goods to Gaza. This will coming of course, as Israel formally declares today -- declare today war in Hamas, setting the stage really for what many expect to be a major military operation in Gaza.

[16:50: 19]

It follows this devastated and sophisticated attack that we have seen from Hamas. We'll keep on top of this breaking images coming to us from Gaza.

In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council has been holding emergency closed door meetings right now as it attempts to find a way to stop the bloodshed in Israel and Gaza. Israel's U.N. ambassador showed a photo of a grandmother, you can see there, being taken captive by Hamas militants before he walked into the Security Council meeting and laid out the scale of the crisis. Have a listen.


GILAD ERDAN, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Inhumane mothers and their babies.


SOARES: It doesn't seem we don't have -- oh, we have it?


ERDAN: This is Israel's 9/11. This Israel's 9/11. And Israel will do everything to bring our sons and daughters back home.


SOARES: Let's get the very latest. Elliott Gotkine is tracking the story for us here in London.

Elliott, we heard there, this Israel's 9/11. Just bring us some of the reaction that we have seen, what we've heard from security council if and what they can achieve here.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Isa, it's hard to see what the U.N. Security Council can achieve soon after this devastating --


GOTKINE: -- and unprecedented attack took place from Hamas infiltrating into Israel. And I don't think that the ambassador, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations is over exaggerating there. We're talking about more than 600 dead so far in Israel. Just to put that into context, that's already around about a quarter of the casualties that Israel suffered in the Yom Kippur War almost 50 years ago to the day. And of course, we're talking about a population of just over 9 million.

So everybody kind of knows someone in Israel or know someone who knows someone who has either had someone injured or a relative who's been kidnapped or taken hostage or has somehow been directly impacted by what we've been seeing over the past 36 hours. And I think, as the chief of the general staff in Israel said, now is the time for war. I don't think that the diplomacy for all of the good intentions of some people at the U.N. Security Council is really going to stick right now, certainly not when Israel is determined to hit back at Hamas. But as we heard from our previous guests, of course, it's a very complicated situation both militarily and politically, because you do have those hostages, dozens of them, inside the Gaza Strip who were taken there forcibly by Hamas militants from Israel inside the Gaza Strip. If Israel goes in with some kind of ground incursion, as may well be the case, then there's always the potential for more Israeli soldiers perhaps to be taken hostage, in addition to the civilians, of course, who have been taken by Hamas militants and the danger for more civilian casualties on the Palestinian side as well.

But of course, politically, this government has burnished its security credentials. It will live and die by the security provides to Israel, and clearly it has not provided that. So we may see political moves, perhaps for a government of national unity, the emergency government which opposition leaders have suggested, but only under certain conditions, Isa.

SOARES: Elliott Gotkine there for the very latest. Thanks very much, Elliot. We'll stay across the breaking news and we're back after this short break.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. An internal U.S. Government memo reviewed by CNN says at least three Americans have been killed during this weekend's attacks in Israel. Additional U.S. citizens are also not yet accounted for. The Israeli government has said Americans are among the scores of hostages now being held in Gaza. Oren Liebermann joins me now from Washington.

And Oren, the last hour and a half or so we've heard from Islamic Jihad, saying they're holding more than 30 captives in Gaza. What are you hearing from U.S. officials?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's worth pointing out. First, we'll deal with the internal memo --


LIEBERMANN: -- that said that there are at least three Americans killed in the cross border attack from Gaza. And the key word there is at least. Israel doesn't seem to have a firm number on how many hostages there are, so that number could very well rise. The internal memo reviewed by CNN also makes reference to Americans who are missing and could very well be hostages. And that raises the question also, of course, if they are live hostages or if they have been killed.

So, again, that number of at least three appears very much expected to rise. There is a very large population of American citizens in Israel, many of them dual citizens, American, Israeli. It is one of the largest American communities overseas in the entire world. So, that number, again, very much expected to rise. But it's not just American that we've seen.

From other CNN reporting we've seen that Mexico and Brazil also worried about their own citizens who potentially have been either taken hostage or killed in this attack. The number still rising at this point of those killed. And again, the number unclear on hostages. ECU (ph) pointed out that Palestinian Islamic Jihad claims 30 hostages. It's worth pointing out that Islamic Jihad is a much smaller organization than Hamas, a fraction of the size. So, potentially, Hamas has many more than that.

SOARES: And stay with us because we're just getting breaking news, Oren. We're just hearing that loud explosions have been heard across central Israel and the suburbs of Tel Aviv. That's according to CNN. It's according to our teams on the ground, but claimed the target to be Ben Gurion Airport. You were our correspondent on the ground in Jerusalem.

You know the country well. Just add some context here as we continue to hear now explosions being heard in central Israel. A huge concern, no doubt, for so many civilians.

LIEBERMANN: So one of the capabilities that Hamas has very clearly put on display is the number of rockets it has and how many it can fire and fire quickly. A capability that has shown multiple times over the course of the past 42 hours or so that it can overwhelm Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system as it has done and may very well be doing again. As I was looking at my phone here before I came on with you, I saw the red alerts coming up in the warning that Hamas may be targeting Ben Gurion Airport. The airport itself has Iron Dome interceptors around it to keep it safe. But again, the question, can they simply overwhelm it as they have before?

And it's a tactic we have seen them try out and trial, and it looks like very much improve over the course of the past several years. Iron Dome is a very capable system, but it is a quality system, not a quantity system. And Hamas has shown its ability to simply overwhelm it with batches of rocket fire that are simply too many in number for Iron Dome to intercept. The question then, where does it get through? Does it hit an open field, as many of them do?

These are largely unguided rockets, even if they are short range, medium range, long range rockets. But if you fire enough, they get through, and they can hit --


LIEBERMANN: -- for example, a populated area or if it gets through an airport.

SOARES: Indeed. We'll stay on top of the breaking news. But what we've been hearing in the last few minutes, if you're just joining us --