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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN International: Israel Security Cabinet Declares State of War; IDF: Hamas Has Taken Hostages Into Gaza; U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting; Loud Explosions Heard Across Israel. Aired 5- 6 pm ET
Aired October 08, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: -- airport.
ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: 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, urgent explosions have been heard in central Israel, as Hamas claims to target Ben Gurion Airport.
Of course, what we've heard there from Oren Liebermann that maybe it overwhelmed the Iron Dome system if they fire many, too many of them, we'll keep on top of this. We'll bring you all the details as it comes in after this very short break.
SOARES: Hello and very warm welcome everyone. I'm Isa Soares coming to you from London. Just in the last few minutes, in fact, we have received reports of loud explosions in Central Israel. This as Hamas says, this is Hamas telling us saying, that it's launching a major missile attack on Ashkelon.
Earlier, the Israeli government said it was declaring war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack Saturday into Israeli territory. Hamas says its fighters are still in several Israeli cities, there you see dotted around. Officials say at least 600 Israelis have been killed and we are hearing that at least 260 bodies have been found at a music festival site, that's near the Gaza border. That's in the last hour and a half or so. Those numbers coming to us from the Israeli rescue service ZAKA.
In response to Saturday's attack, Israeli airstrikes have been pounding Gaza and this video from explosions just a little bit earlier. Let's get more on all of this breaking news, our International -- Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley joining us from London.
And Sam, let's start first with the breaking news we've had in the last two three minutes. Hamas claiming to target Ben Gurion Airport, explosions heard in Central Israel, explosions heard in the Center of Israel, in the Ashkelon. What more can you tell us? SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a
statement coming from Hamas. Now, obviously we take that with a degree of skepticism until we get a second source on it, which inevitably would be the Israel Defense Forces with the assessment of how many missiles were, indeed, fired.
Now, they know because they're -- they're tracked by their anti- missile missile systems, and brought down most often. But this I think is also very much an important gesture and a lot of this has been about gesture, not just bloody reality. But how it is perceived Hamas wants to be able to show the world, show its supporters in the close near Middle East particularly on the West Bank, particularly inside Israel not very far away in Hezbollah territory in southern Israel to show the supporters there and all the way to Tehran that they're still, to use a phrase, alive and kicking, that they are still fighting in spite of the latest round of air attacks targeting their command-and-control structures according to the Israeli forces.
And that really has been the pattern all day. They began the day with more firefights with Israeli forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KILEY: It's official. Israel has cleared 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 Gaza 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 Kibbutzim from around Gaza. Hamas claimed to have launched a second wave of infiltrations. The IDF incepted a seaborne assault at Zikim. 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 is 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 massed forces and continued airstrikes ahead of a likely ground assault, Hamas has called for regional conflagration.
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, the issue of hostages, I think, is going to go up and up right to the top of the mines if it's not already there for the planners for any kind of further military action against Hamas, because the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was not the group that was behind the planning for this, but clearly exploited Hamas' efforts, claimed to have 30 Israeli hostages.
If they're able to prove that claim, that would be -- would be dramatic enough. But we know that Hamas claims to have dozens, a figure that nobody on the Israeli side is disputing. There are large numbers of Israelis that are missing at the moment.
The numbers of people being held against their will inside Gaza, abducted from Israel, are frankly unknown, and may even be unknown to Hamas and the Israeli government, for example, at the moment, Isa.
SOARES: Thank you very much, Sam. I know you'll keep on top of the very latest there. Appreciate it.
Well, at the United Nations, the Security Council has just wrapped up its emergency meeting as the fighting continues between Israel and Hamas. The Deputy U.S. Ambassador strongly condemned the attack by Hamas and called the current situation a very difficult time.
Earlier, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. said his country's suffering ruthless terrorist attacks and referred to Saturday's assault as Israel's 9/11. Our Senior U.N. Correspondent Richard Roth joins me now.
So, Richard, we've heard international condemnation from many leaders around the world, but what can we realistically expect here from this Security Council emergency meeting?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, the one hour, 45- minute session is over. The U.S. said afterwards that it really wasn't counting on a statement. There are still major divisions, especially on the Middle East. But he was happy that, as Robert Wood was happy, that several countries spoke out against the actions of Hamas.
The two face-off ambassadors, one from Israel, one from the Palestinians, spoke before the council meeting, giving their issue a strong pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILAD ERDAN, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Look at this grandmother being forced to hold a Hamas terrorist rifle as he takes a picture with her. This is inhumane. Inhumane. Mothers and their babies, as well as babies separated from their mothers were brutally taken hostage.
RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN OBSERVER TO THE U.N.: Israel expects and demands political and military support while advancing goals that are fundamentally at odds with international legitimacy and consensus. Its policies are an assault on our humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: The ambassador of the United Arab Emirates says she expects many more meetings to come. I think all the developments were happening so fast in the last day or so that the council was not going to try to touch the situation with a statement.
First they heard a briefing from the U.N.'s Middle East coordinator and then there were some blood comments made. But I think it's going to be a day or two at least until there's even a statement, and so which all 15 countries have to agree to. The U.N. was never going to solve the Middle East peace crisis.
ROTH: Certainly not now.
SOARES: Thanks very much, Richard Roth for us there at the U.N. appreciate it. And I'm keeping a look at -- looking at my phone because we have just had breaking news in the last few moments, Hamas militants claiming to launch a major missile attack on Ashkelon in southern Israel.
We've had these pictures as well coming into us, just moments ago, in fact. This is outgoing fire been told from Gaza. We've seen some rocket in certain deception. This is the Gaza skyline basically lighting up.
We know that the Israeli warplanes have continued to -- to -- to pound Gaza today. But in the last few moments, what we're hearing Hamas claiming to launch a major missile attack on Ashkelon in southern Israel Hamas militants claiming to have launched an attack with about 100 rockets they said with Israel.
We're keeping on top of the latest images today. This comes of course as Israel declares formally a war with Hamas. The fear is that this sets the stage for a major military operation in Gaza. Let's add some context to all of this.
I want to bring in a former United States Ambassador to Israel and Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center, Edward Djerejian. Sir, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. Let me ask you, your reaction, get your reaction first of all to the breaking news that we would just brought to our viewers. Hamas claiming to have launched a major missile attack in central Israel on Ashkelon. Your reaction, sir? EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: This attack is confirmed. It is amazing that the Hamas -- that Hamas has demonstrated this massive military capability to have such success on the battlefield, if you will, since yesterday that was unforeseen by the Israeli intelligence system.
And that it is a coordinated military effort which shows that there's been a major buildup over time, major planning over time, and they chose their moment and there are reasons why they chose this moment.
SOARES: A coordinated military effort, we've seen how sophisticated we -- this attack has been from, you know, this three-pronged attacks, sea, land and air, and how devastating it's also been. You say it's a coordinated military effort, what questions do you have about who helped, who aided, who supervised, who provided anything in terms of material to help Hamas here?
DJEREJIAN: Well, there evidently has been a buildup from countries and organizations that support Hamas financially, militarily, but certainly the missile capabilities, but a lot of these missiles are constructed within Gaza, but they have to bring the parts in, they have to have the financing, they have to have the indigenous technical support to do it. But they demonstrated that they have all this.
But one simple thing, it's not a rocket science, is the hand gliders, the motorized hand gliders that were so successful yesterday in penetrating Israeli territory and getting into Israeli neighborhoods and capturing Israelis and killing and et cetera. So it's a -- it's very sort of asymmetric to see Hamas as a militant terrorist organization succeeding on the battlefield with one of the world's strongest military establishments.
Now, I think there are many reasons I mentioned, I think the timing of this, but one thing is that I think Hamas and its supporters proceed that there's a weakness in Israeli society now because of the major confrontation within Israel between the right-wing extremist government ministers and Bibi Netanyahu's cabinet and the more secular sectors of Israeli society.
It's been going on in months, as you know. So the Israeli government is not perceived to be a unified force. I think that's one factor. Another factor, I think, is that with this government -- it's plausible that attention was taken away from the southern border, Israel's southern border, with Gaza and military assets of the IDF concentrated more on the West Bank and protecting settlers and the settlement enterprise.
So I think that's another factor. And the other one is the regional developments. The so-called expansion of the Abraham Accords and whether or not there's a geopolitical game being played here to stymie that from going forward.
SOARES: Ambassador, very important analysis there. Appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you, sir. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back with more of
our breaking news coverage.
SOARES: If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with the breaking news that we've had in the last few minutes. Hamas is claiming it has launched a major U.S. assault on Israel. CNN teams on the ground are hearing loud explosions as the militant group says it's fired 100 rockets on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
And you can see it there just moments ago. Also aiming fire towards Ben Gurion Airport. Our International Diplomatic Editor is on the ground in southern Israel, Nic Robertson. He joins me now.
Nic, just give us a sense of what you're hearing and what you're seeing this hour?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we've been able to see in the past 20 minutes or so, maybe 30 minutes, a couple of missiles that were fired out of Gaza that weren't intercepted immediately. If they're fired towards this area, they're intercepted super quickly.
If they're fired up the coast towards Ashkelon, we can see those interceptions. So there were a few missiles that were fired, it appears, intercepted, fired, it appears towards central Israel. Not as many as Hamas is claiming. But the missiles that were fired towards Ashkelon, absolutely, we saw the Iron Dome intercepting those missiles.
Now, we are aware that some or one of those missiles may have impacted in Ashkelon. And that's Hamas's tactics to fire a big cluster of rockets, to try to penetrate and at least get a couple of the rockets past the Iron Dome, which defends system, which tries to intercept all those incoming missiles.
So that's what we've seen. So from where we are here, Gaza is literally just over that -- over the hill up here, over the horizon there. And as soon as you have those rockets fired out and the intercepts taking place, then we heard Israeli jet fighter activity overhead, a helicopter, a gunship, we could hear that overhead as well, though. There was more intense drone activity going on.
So when Hamas puts out rockets, you not only have that defensive shield springing into action, which we heard, but also there is an effort by Israel to get eyes on those launch sites to see if there's anything, anybody that they can -- they can target there.
It's cat and mouse, I mean, Hamas and the Israeli Defense Force have been chasing each other on rocket attacks for over a decade now. So both sides know what the other is going to do and Hamas will come out at night, under the cover of darkness and hope that that's an opportunity to get some of its missiles through. I think the big takeaway here is that these salvos of missiles we're
seeing tonight are not as big as the salvos last night and certainly nowhere in comparison to the huge salvos of missiles that were fired on the -- when this offensive operation by Hamas began.
SOARES: Yeah, important context, but it does at the same time shows just how of the sophisticated this attack is by Hamas and the fact that it's overwhelming, as you say, the Iron Dome. But talk here, Nic, to the challenge for both politically, both militarily, for Prime Minister of Hamas.
As you were talking, we had a graphic that showed some of the cities, some of the areas that Hamas militants are still operating in. We've now reported more than 30 Islamic jihad, reporting more than 30 captives in Gaza. This is a huge challenge as we look at the map on our screen, the challenge within Israel, but also what's happening in Gaza and those hostages. How much of a challenge politically, militarily will this be for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Nic?
ROBERTSON: Biggest challenge right now is to make sure that there's no Hamas operatives on Israeli territory. And this town, Sderot, that's an -- the answer to that is unknown at the moment. Operations are still underway here for potential Hamas militants in the area.
And we know that that's reflected similarly in other parts. It's very hard to prove a negative, but when there's some information that the Defense Force here think that they have, that leads them to believe that there may be some militants, they will go after it. And we know that's happening here, this town, right now.
That challenge of going into Gaza to try to get the hostages back, they'll be dispersed, they'll be hidden, they'll be in Hamas tunnels, bunkers, safe houses. It's hard to tell where they are and certainly almost impossible for Israel to think that they can even bring any of them back alive. That's a challenge. So Hamas in a way has an upper hand, uses the hostages to blackmail Israel and say, don't attack, otherwise we will, you know, we will take retribution against the hostages and we will show that publicly. That will likely be the scenario.
So politically, the Prime Minister has to decide if he's going to do what he said he'll do about Hamas, which is take out the leadership structures, take them out. He's going to need to put troops inside Gaza on the ground to try to effect that. It cannot all be done by air. There will be pushback internationally because the Palestinian casualty count would be very high on that. There'll be a big loss of life there and Israel's seen that in the past.
And then there's the challenge, of course, of how other actors in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Syria, choose to respond to what Israel does here. So there's a lot of variables.
SOARES: Nic Robertson for us on the ground there. Thank you very much. If you're just joining us, bringing you up to date, Hamas claiming to have launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon in southern Israel. This is coming directly from Hamas. We'll try and bring you the very latest on the ground after this very short break.
SOARES: Well, it's just after midnight in Israel now at this hour, CNN crews in Israel have heard major explosions across the country as Hamas says, it's targeting Ashkelon and Ben Gurion Airport with rockets.
Meanwhile, Israeli missiles have been pounding Gaza. Earlier, its government declared war on Hamas, seeking vengeance for the horrific attacks. Hamas unleashed on Saturday. Officials say at least 600 Israelis have been killed in those attacks.
Many have taken and been taken hostages. And a short time ago, we learned at least 260 bodies had been found at a music festival site near the Gaza border. I want to go to our Jerusalem Correspondent, Hadas Gold.
And Hadas, before we talk about those 260 bodies that have been recovered, that image is just so hard to look at. Bring us up to date what we're hearing in the last few minutes. Explosions across the country Hamas says it's targeting Ashkelon and other regions. What are you hearing? What are you seeing?
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just in the last few minutes, there was a barrage of rockets fired not just towards the cities and towns near the Gaza Strip, which is kind of what we expect in these situations. But once again, towards the areas around Tel Aviv. Now, none of them reached central Tel Aviv, but they reached some of the southern suburbs of Tel Aviv, including some that are close to Israel's main airport, Ben Gurion Airport, which is just outside of Tel Aviv.
And the Hamas group was saying that they were trying to target Ben Gurion Airport, obviously, with the goal of trying to shut down operations there. As far as we understand, operations were not affected at that airport.
But what's interesting is that the Tel Aviv area had not been targeted in this way in, I would say, almost 20, maybe 24 hours nearly. It's been quieter for us in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in terms of rockets, of hearing these sirens.
But this change now, of course, in the last few hours. And we also just heard from the Israeli ambassador to the United States that there have been more than 4,000 rockets fired. That number is actually likely higher. That means more than 4,000 rockets fired in less than 48 hours, Isa, to give you a context of just how massive this is.
In 2021, during that 11-day war, there were 4,300 rockets fired in 11 days. We haven't even reached 48 hours now, and we've likely already surpassed that number. SOARES: And in the meantime, Hadas -- and in the meantime, Hadas, you
were telling -- you and I were talking about earlier, this horrific news that we've heard in the last hour or so, that 260 bodies have been recovered at this music festival. This was a carefree, open festival, and what unfolded was just truly barbaric. Just tell us what you're learning.
GOLD: So we have now confirmed from Israeli medical officials that 260 bodies were found at the site of this music festival. This was called, I think it was the Festival of Nature, was connected to the Sukkot holiday, was essentially an all-night music dance party rave that was happening in the desert that was attacked by militants. 260 bodies found, but also we know this was a major place where many of the dozens of hostages were taken captive as well.
GOLD: Militants can nap a group of distraught women and children. In video posted on social media, it's terrifying to watch. Even more so if the people who are being abducted are your family.
Yoni Asher is safe in his home in Israel, but he says he's terrified for his wife and two young daughters, abducted by Hamas militants from his mother-in-law's home near the Gaza border.
He says the last days have been difficult. He hasn't slept and desperately wants to send this message to their captors.
YONI ASHER, WIFE AND DAUGHTERS KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: I want to ask of Hamas, don't hurt them. Don't hurt little children. Don't hurt women. If you want me instead, I'm willing to come.
GOLD: His anguish felt by families across Israel as videos emerge of other kidnappings. Israeli officials say Hamas has taken dozens of Israelis captives including women, children and the elderly.
Hamas says they're keeping them in locations across Gaza. Many hostages were taken while attending an outdoor music festival near the border with Gaza. Witnesses say militants fired at them as they tried to run away while rockets were flying overhead.
Many didn't make it out. As this next disturbing image shows. More than 200 people were killed at that festival, Israeli officials say. One video shows militants separating a couple at the festival. The woman named, Noa Argamani, is taken away on a motorbike, leaving her partner with his hands bound surrounded by captors.
The families of both victims say they want the video to be shown in hopes of finding them. But Noa's roommate says it's still extremely distressing to watch it.
AMIR MOADDI, ROOMMATE OF KIDNAPPED NOA ARGAMANI: It's very difficult when you see someone that is so close to you and you know him so much, being treated like this, it's very difficult to see it. It's make you like shock. GOLD: The Israel Defense Forces say they are doing everything it can
to find the hostages and to further protect its citizens. It's evacuating communities around the Gaza Strip, but tells our Nic Robertson the safe return of the missing is a top priority.
DORON SPIELMAN, SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: What I can tell you is that we're not going to stop until we exhaust every means possible of doing so. We will not leave any person behind, and we will do anything to make that happen.
GOLD: Israel has opened a missing persons command center so that friends and family can register people who are unaccounted for and they've been advised to bring items that could be used for DNA matches. It's an agonizing wait. This mother pleads for help to find her son missing since Saturday. She says, I want my child. I want you to help me find my boy. A pain shared now by many Israeli families, not knowing if a loved one is dead or alive or ever coming home.
GOLD: And Isa, of course, the hostage situation directly impacting Israel's military operations in Gaza because Hamas has said that they are keeping many of these hostages in strategic locations, Isa, essentially using them as human shields. Isa.
SOARES: Thank you very much, Hadas Gold there with the very latest. Appreciate it, Hadas.
And just bringing up to date with some breaking news that we've had in the last few moments. Hamas militants have claimed in the last few moments they have directed their rockets towards Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. That is according to one of their statements, part of the al-Qassam Brigade, which is the armed wing of the Hamas militants. So the missile barrage was in response to continuing crimes and targeting of civilian homes. The last few minutes, Hamas militants claiming to target Ben Gurion Airport. We've also seen them targeting parts of Israel, Ashkelon.
I want to bring in the former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Yossi Kuperwasser, who joins me now.
Sir, first of all, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. Let me get your reaction to what we heard from our correspondent there in the last few minutes, Hadas Gold, that 260 bodies have been recovered at this music festival, some, as we understand, have been taken hostage. Your reaction, sir?
YOSSI KUPERWASSER, FORMER DIRECTOR GENERAL, ISRAELI MINISTRY OF STRATEGIC AFFAIRS: Yes, I think that it's really terrible. So it tells you how true fanatic the field was hit, people that are right in these terror attacks are. We look at the brainwashed, the day they were born by the constitution, both on Hamas and France, in society, hate, choose the way that justifies killing them without any reason. That's just for the sake of killing them. It's unbelievable. And that's what we have to face. And this cruelty tells us that we cannot keep businesses usual as they were before this attack. And we have to adopt a policy that understands that the goal of these people is simply to kill us.
And we cannot build only on deterrence. We should also adopt a policy that decisively put an end to this threat. That's what we have to do now. This is the goal of what Israel is prepared to do now. And it's going to be long. It's going to be painful, maybe. But we already paid such a heavy price that we should be ready to pay this price, too.
SOARES: What would -- what would you like? What do you think the response ought to be here? Because we heard in the last few moments Hamas trying to target Ben Gurion Airport. I'm not sure if you've heard anything. I'm not sure if you've seen anything on the ground. But there's a huge concern about this operation by Hamas militants, by Hamas operatives inside the country.
KUPERWASSER: Yeah, of course, there's a huge concern. First of all, we were caught totally by surprise and this is the reason why they managed to achieve such a result of killing so many Israelis, more than 750. It's terrible, and kidnapping the more than 100, they say it was something around 130 people who were kidnapped.
And the situation in Israel is really depressing and we have to recuperate and that's what we're focused on now. And our goal is to create a situation where Hamas cannot rearm itself and that's the minimum or maybe lose the control of Gaza altogether. But that's what we have to achieve. That would mean that we should have to put a lot of pressure on Hamas, hit many targets, cause it damage that it will never want to experience again. And by that put an end to this idea of re-arming Hamas because what we did and did now was -- was re-arming it again and again in between the rounds of atrocities that we were experiencing with Hamas. This has to come to an end.
In a way, we are in the same point where we were in March of 2002 and the terror attack took place in the Park Hotel in Netanya, that led us to change our attitude towards the Palestinian terrorism from the West Bank at the time. And the Balkan Operation Defensive Shield that put an end to the Second Intifada eventually, and it took time.
Here too, we should back on an operation called its Swords of Iron that would put an end to terrorism from Gaza Strip. That's what we need to achieve in this very painful time.
SOARES: Yossi, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. Really appreciate it.
And as Yossi was speaking, I wonder if we can play that video again, that was just in the last few minutes, rocket fire coming in, fired from Gaza. They're rewinding the tape, so to speak, and they're replaying it for you.
But this was just moments ago. It's 30 minutes past midnight there in Gaza City. The sky being lit up by those rocket fires, as you will see in the next few minutes. This is live images you're looking at right now. Let's get the very latest on what is happening on the ground, because
we've also heard from the Palestinian Ministry of Health saying that more than 400 Palestinians have been killed, 2,300 injured during the weekend's hostilities. Among the dead in Gaza being told are 78 children. According to United Nations, tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes in Gaza.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning people living there to get out, well, what they can. The reality though, and this is something that Hadas and I have been talked about and we are seeing now those fires being rocket, that rockets being fired there from Gaza City, is that many of these people have nowhere else to go.
Salma Abdelaziz joins us now. And Salma, as you're joining us, we're looking at these explosions, rockets being fired from Gaza. Just bring us up to date with the very latest from what you understand is happening, is unfolding on the ground in Gaza.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: And as long as those rockets are being fired from Gaza, Hamas is still able in some ways to operate, to send a message, to inflict damage on Israel, something that Prime Minister Netanyahu is vowing to end. He wants to break the back of that militant group.
But you've already laid out, just in the first few hours of what we expect to be a lengthy military operation, one that could take weeks or months, that already, according to the Palestinian officials, more than 400 people killed, tens of thousands displaced, electricity cut off to the strip. There is an expectation, Isa, that the most unprecedented attack on Israel would require the most unprecedented response on Gaza. Take a look at how that's unfolding.
ABDELAZIZ: 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, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): 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.
ABDELAZIZ: 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 militant group according to the Israeli army. This disturbing social media video, geolocated by CNN, shows one of those victims.
Hands appear to be bound and in captivity. And Hamas claims the hostages are distributed across the Strip. Israel believes to be used as human shields.
Still, Israel's military is pressing on. With air assaults already underway, the IDF says it is preparing for a potential ground incursion and that all options are on the table. Thousands of Israeli reservists have been called up for the task.
Israel's army telling Gaza's to clear the way for operation, ordering families to leave their homes and providing locations for evacuation.
But with the conflict shorting golf 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 to the enclave and internet disrupted, unclear how long services will be severed. And with Hamas leadership reportedly going underground, the two million people living in the 140 square mile territory have nowhere to turn. Fears that an unprecedented attack on Israel could yield unprecedented bloodshed in Gaza.
ABDELAZIZ: Hamas is of course in control of the Gaza Strip, but it is also home again, Isa, as you heard there to two million people, two million people, many of whom absolutely did not get a say in what unfolded, the attack that Hamas carried out. But they will be suffering the consequences. There is fear that Gaza could face the bloodiest chapter yet even as Prime Minister Netanyahu promises to break the backs of this militant group. He knows, the Israeli government knows that the civilian toll will be massive.
SOARES: Yeah, and many of whom those civilians have nowhere else to go, which is exactly the point you laid out for us there, Salma. Salma Abdelaziz, the very latest, appreciated. Thank you.
We're going to take a short break. We're back after this.
SOARES: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage from very latest out of Israel as we've been reporting Hamas now claims it has launched what it calls a major missile attack on the coastal city of Ashkelon in southern Israel. And it says it's targeting rockets on Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.
CNN crews have also been hearing explosions across Israel over the past hours. We brought you the view from Nic Robertson's position, but also Hadas Gold's. Israeli warplanes continue meanwhile to pound Hamas positions in Gaza
as well. The number of people known to have lost their lives in Israel after the Hamas attacks has also risen sharply. Israel now saying more than 600 have died within its borders. At least 260 bodies have been found at a music festival site in southern Israel.
Meanwhile, an internal U.S. government memo obtained by CNN says at least three Americans have died in the attacks. The Islamic Jihad, now says Islamic Jihad, that it's holding some 30 hostages in Gaza.
Our Oren Liebermann is keeping an eye on all the very latest from Washington. So, Oren, just bring us up to date. What more does this internal U.S. memo reveal here?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key words there, as you pointed out, Isa, are at least three Americans killed according to the Internal Memo. Part of the difficulty there is that Israel hasn't put out a number of hostages taken or a definitive number of how many were killed. So, it's difficult for the U.S. to know for certain, how many Americans may have been killed here.
And it's worth pointing out that in Israel, there's one of the largest communities of American citizens. Many, if not most, of those dual American-Israeli citizens living within Israel. There's also a question in this internal memo that was obtained by CNN addresses this to some extent about how many were taken hostage. There is the belief that at least several were according to the memo, but how many is still very much an open question. That's something both the Israeli government and the U.S. government are trying to get a more firm hold on. But again, that number very well expected to rise simply given the numbers we're dealing with here and the confusion about where those numbers fall.
SOARES: Thanks very much, Oren Liebermann there with the very latest, appreciate it.
We are getting in the meantime new images from Ashkelon in Israel, which is said to have taken a direct hit from a rocket fire. As you can see then those images, rescue crews working there in the last hour. They've been hearing loud explosions across Israel. We brought you the breaking news.
Hamas says it's launched new rockets targeting Ashkelon as well as Ben Gurion Airport. And what we've heard from our correspondents on the ground as we look at these rescue operations there in Ashkelon is that, you know, if they fire many -- if they fire many rockets from Gaza into Israel, it tends to over, it can -- I should say, overwhelm the Iron Dome system.
And the targeting, the intention of trying to hit Ben Gurion is to hamper, to impact operations. But now we're seeing some of the rescue operations on the ground in Ashkelon. So the first images coming in, in the last few minutes.
We'll have much more on our breaking news coverage when we return after this short break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SOARES: We're bringing up today breaking news. We have been getting in the last few moments, new images from Ashkelon in Israel, which is said to have taken direct hit from Rocket fire, about 50 or so minutes ago. We had heard that Hamas militants had claimed to launch a major missile attack on Ashkelon. This is in southern Israel.
We've had teams, rest teams on the ground, hearing loud explosions across Israel. And what you're looking at on your screen right now, rescue crews in Ashkelon. As Hamas says, it launched new rockets targeting Ashkelon as well as Ben Gurion Airport.
Our Nic Robertson, our International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is on the ground in southern Israel. Nic, what can you see?
ROBERTSON: Well, we've seen another salvo of missiles go out from Gaza in the last sort of 15- or 20-minutes separate to the one that went out to Ashkelon where at least one of those missiles got through.
We don't know where that most recent salvo was going but where the iron dome interceptor missiles were being fired from seemed to indicate that again Ashkelon, Ashdod, along the coast north of the Gaza Strip was the intended target.
We could see that interceptor missiles from iron dome intercepting as those rockets were coming out of the northern end of Gaza, shooting them down before they could get through to their targets. It seems that this is the way that the night is going. This night is going to operate. I'm hearing fighter jets again in the air. You know the situation sort of goes through a lull, it goes quiet, then there's a salvo of rockets, then the interceptors fire off and then you hear the jets overhead again with the potential for explosions in Gaza following that.
There's really forces trying to figure out if they can see or pinpoint, and I'm hearing a helicopter in the distance now as well, if they can pinpoint where those rockets were fired from in Gaza. That's the mission.
What you're seeing here at the moment is the police here are moving back in. It was only less than 24 hours ago they took back control of the police station here and stood up some police officers here, turning up here to begin to sort of re-establish physical presence around the police station here again.
SOARES: And you were telling me, Nic, in the last hour or the top of this hour, I've lost track of time, apologies that the plan here is to overwhelm the iron dome system. Talk to the strategy, the thinking here to target Ben Gurion Airport?
ROBERTSON: Ben Gurion Airport is quite a distance from Gaza and the way that the interceptor rocket system works is the network across the country is integrated. It quickly analyses where the missile is flying to, its trajectory, its speed, which is the best iron dome interceptor to try to intercept when the missiles are flying to Ben Gurion. It's left to intercept the systems further deeper into Israel to intercept because they can get a better calculation of the trajectory of the incoming missile. And therefore hope to connect with it in the air and therefore stop it hitting its target. That's the way that it works. And of course by trying to fire a lot of rockets together Hamas tries to get some of them at least past those interceptor missiles because the interceptor sites can only themselves fire up so many defensive missiles that any one time, they can only track so many incoming missiles.
So, but I get the sense tonight that the size of the volleys of missiles fired by Hamas is not as big as the volumes we've seen yesterday, for example.
SOARES: Important context, Nic. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. While this is all happening on the ground, international reaction to the Hamas attack on Israel has been swift being told.
Elliott Gotkine, joins me now from the very latest. Do we have Elliott with us? We do not have Elliott.
The Turkish President really taking his stance, Erdogan, is ready to do its best to stop the conflicts. At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden has been telling Israel's Prime Minister that more aid is on the way.
And if you're just joining us in the last few minutes, what we've been reporting on, we've received reports of loud explosions in central Israel. As Hamas says, it's launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon.
We will, of course, stay across the latest developments in Israel. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer will start -- Wolf Blitzer, as you say, will start after this short break.