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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN International: Israel: Residential Building in Ashkelon Hit by Hamas Rocket; Gunfight Between Israeli Border Police and Hamas; 413 Dead and 2,300 Injured Palestinians in Gaza; In a Music Festival Site, Rescuers Report Finding At Least 260 Bodies; Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport is Allegedly the Target of Hamas Militants; Hostages Taken by Hamas to Gaza, According to IDF; Hamas Attack Claimed Over 700 Israelis Lives, says IDF; Hamas Claims to Have Abducted Additional Hostages on Sunday; State of War Declared by Israeli Security Cabinet; According to Biden, Help is "On Its Way" for Netanyahu; U.S. Continues to Investigate Iran's Role in the Attack on Israel; Horrifying Aftermath of Festival Attack; More Than 100 Hostages Allegedly Being Held by Hamas; Interview with Israeli Embassy to the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Eliav Benjamin; U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting; War in the Middle East; At Least 2,000 People Killed in Afghanistan After a 6.3 Earthquake; Hamas Launched More Than 4,000 Rockets at Israel, According to Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 20:00   ET




RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN. I am Richard Quest in New York. And a warm welcome to all of you watching us wherever you are in the world.

The headlines, Hamas militants are claiming to have launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon in Southern Israel overnight. Hundreds of missiles, blanketed the night sky. Israeli police say they're responding to a direct hit on an apartment building there. And the number of people dead in Israel, has now reached 700, and will likely rise.

The Israeli ambassador to the United States has told CNN, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets since the attack started. And, Israel's response, pounding Gaza with airstrikes. The Palestinian ministry of health now says, at least 413 Palestinians have been killed, and that includes 78 children. There is a particularly horrifying discovery, 260 bodies have been found dead at a music festival site near the Gaza border. They were killed by the Palestinian militant group that invaded Israel.

Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. I almost don't know which atrocity is greater to begin with. But I think that probably we just need to update on the overnight of events. I say, it's 3:00 in the morning, have things quieted down or they're still going full throttle? HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: I mean, in terms of just the intensity of the rockets being launched, those have calmed down a bit, especially compared to last night, and even in the last few hours. A few hours ago, there was a barrage of rockets, as you noted, towards Ashkelon, as well as towards the Tel Aviv area, and towards the airport.

The Hamas militant groups saying that they were specifically targeting the airport. But as far as we understand, airport operations were not affected. We were also still hearing reports that they were active engagements with militants still at this hour. So, we are almost 48 hours into this with militants in certain communities in Southern Israel. So, it's kind of starting to believe that there are still militants on the streets and that the Israeli military has not yet been able to completely secure all of the Israeli communities in Southern Israel.

I -- here in Jerusalem, it has been quiet, but I have to say I continue to hear almost on a regular pace what must be fighter jets above us, flying from bases, maybe towards the Gaza Strip or back, even all the way out here in Jerusalem. It is a very eerie. It's -- you can feel that, really, the Israeli society is in shock.

We also have now just heard from Hamas claiming that they have more than 100 hostages. This is in addition to Islamic jihad, which is another militant group in the Gaza Strip saying that they have 30 hostages, not clear how those numbers potentially overlapped or not.

The Israeli authorities have not yet given us a specific number of hostages, but we have been told by them that these numbers are in the dozens. And Richard, these include women, these include children as young as toddlers. These include elderly, including elderly in wheelchairs. In some cases, Richard, they were taken literally from their homes.


GOLD (voiceover): Palestinian militants kidnapped 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 is 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 (voiceover): 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 the hopes of finding them. But Noa's roommate says, it is 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 and you know her so much, being treated like this, it's very difficult to see it. It's make you, like, shock.

GOLD (voiceover): The Israel Defense Forces say they are doing everything they 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, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: What I can tell you is that we are 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 (voiceover): Israel has opened a missing person's 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 is 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.

The pain shared now by many Israeli families, not knowing if a loved one is dead or alive, or ever coming home.


GOLD (on camera): And Richard, we do understand that it might not just be Israeli citizens who are among those captured and being held by Gaza. We also understand there might be Mexican, German, American nationals among them. Not clear if they are dual nationals or if they were tourists, because many of these people, especially those who were taken from the music festival, may have just been tourists who had gone to this, sort of, all night dance party.

QUEST: One thought -- early -- in the last hour, I was speaking to the IDF international spokesperson, you might have heard. His last answer was very telling. And I asked him, you know, two weeks ago if I had put this scenario to you, what would you have said? He said, I would have thought it was the product of the mind of an over enthusiastic exercise designed to take us to extremes that whenever possible.

I guess that's -- you said earlier, you know, Israel is in shock. I mean, this shouldn't, couldn't, wasn't supposed to ever be possible.

GOLD: No. And Richard, when I would -- anytime I would speak with, you know, Israeli security officials and any kind you talk about, you know, what is your worst-case scenario? This wasn't even something that would come up. They would often talk about the north, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and some sort of coordinated attack.

The idea of these infiltrations, that is something that Israel just was obviously not prepared for, not expecting. There's a lot of questions, of course, not only over the security failures of just not anticipating something like this, not seeing the preparations for it. And then of course, not having the ability to respond so quickly to so many infiltrations. That will be the big question.

This is something that I really don't think anybody expected or could have ever imagined had -- would happen because in the past, there had been, you know, certain people who had tried to infiltrate the fence, like here and there. We would hear reports about somebody trying to cross the fence, and it would be very quickly shut down and that person would be very quickly apprehended.

So, this is a failure on a scale that I think it is very hard for people to imagine. And I won't be -- I mean, we're already hearing the comparisons to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, almost 50 years ago to the day, to when this started. The failures and the intelligence on that situation. But you know, we're 50 years later where Israel has very sophisticated surveillance now on all of its borders. So, it is just stunning to think that this could have happened in this day and age.

QUEST: I'm grateful, Hadas, in Jerusalem.

Salma is in London where events have been -- the reaction globally is crucial, in a sense. And people have been handing off, or at least standing back from the -- the line is Israel has a right to defend itself. But the overnight activity is again lumping up.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, again, and Hamas just in the last hour, issued a statement saying that they have been able to take, allegedly, more hostages today. And you heard there from my colleague, Hadas, this is not just about the tactical advantage that these hostages provide. Hamas, essentially being used as prisoners of war, Israel fears. But it is about the psychological impact of this assault.

And there is a sense, Richard, that the most unprecedented and biggest attack that Israel has seen in its history can only illicit an unprecedented response on Gaza. Take a look at how that operation is unfolding.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): These are the first moments of what Prime Minister Netanyahu warned will be a long and difficult war. Air strikes 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 release 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 into an island of ruins. I'm telling Gaza's people to leave those places now because we will take action everywhere.

ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): 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 Gazans to clear the way for operations. Ordering families to leave their homes and providing locations for evacuations.

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 in 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 2 million people living in 140 square mile territory have nowhere to turn. Fears, that an unprecedented attack on Israel could yield unprecedented bloodshed in Gaza.


ABDELAZIZ (on camera): And already Richard, in less than two days of this military operation taking place, and really what is the early moments, just the initial indications, you have more than 400 Palestinians killed, hundreds more wounded, that is according to Palestinian health officials. You have tens of thousands of people displaced just from being in Gaza in the past, that means families basically migrate from those borders areas and then condense themselves into Gaza City itself. That means with every single air strike, there is a higher possibility of civilian casualties of a larger death toll.

And again, this is only the beginning. And you heard there inside Gaza, there is nowhere to go. There is a blockade. There are travel restrictions. There are no air raid sirens or bunkers. It means that this could turn out to be one of the bloodiest chapters in Gaza's history, Richard.

QUEST: Right. I mean, there is nowhere to go. And at the South of Gaza, the border -- the crossing with Egypt has also been closed, and has been closed for some time. So, the Egyptians are not exactly anxious to have large numbers of people coming over the border. And one has to consider exactly where -- Salma, very grateful to you. Thank you, Salma Abdelaziz.

Our senior international -- our CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem is with me. I want to just advance that thought. The Egyptians clearly don't want large numbers of Palestinians coming south. And Hamas must have known that if you're going to launch an attack like this that there would be a concomitant response from Israel.


QUEST: So, square that circle for me, Juliette.

KAYYEM: Yes, and it can't be squared. I mean, from the -- we can't get inside the mindset of why they would have done this now. They had to have known. You don't even have to guess what Israel's response would have been. And so, there's two -- there's likely two things going on. One is, this disruption and violence are exactly what was welcomed. That the trickling of violence and terror attacks was something that Hamas, and if they had any support -- supporting nations would have said this piece of it has come to an end.

The second though is the victory that Hamas has felt that they have already achieved.


Even without a counteroffensive by Israel, and that is that Israel has survived and has thrived with both the real strength, military strength, intelligence strength, character strength, and the perceived strength of the kind of nation it was. Both of those fell apart 24 hours ago when this massive attack is launched without any knowledge, seemingly, knowledge by the Israelis. And secondly, that their response to the attack seemed so flatfooted for so many hours. Neither of those are an image that Israel can survive.

QUEST: OK. So, if we advance that forward, to say for example the United States, in deciding really -- I mean, first of all, one of the aircraft carrier groups has -- is headed to the region, the Gerald Ford.

KAYYEM: Right.

QUEST: Next, there are these requests for missiles, whether they're paid for a not, it doesn't seem to be the issue. Then you've got the question of how far. I see nothing. I'm looking in the other direction. The United States does as Israel prosecutes its vengeance.

KAYYEM: Yes. So, this is where one does not know -- I guess I'll be clear, one we do not know the conditions placed on that kind of weaponry that we may have given to Israel in terms of not so much Hamas or Gaza, because Israel is going to demand that they re-secure their borders but outside of Israel to Iran or elsewhere. We simply don't know what the conditions are, but that is of course the United States' biggest concern right now is this tragedy for Israel does not expand into a Middle East superpower war between Israel and Iran, which we've managed to not have so far.

That is our role. That's the United States' role right now, because the unfolding of how that will -- what comes after that is just -- it's unmanageable from the perspective of the Arab world.

QUEST: So, how far do you think Iran was involved in this?

KAYYEM: Yes. So --

QUEST: A bit of a light touch on the teller (ph) or full steam ahead?

KAYYEM: It's hard to know, and I want to be careful. Of course, there's been reporting so far, and obviously speculation given around strong support of Hamas in the Gaza. There are attributes of this that are hard to deny, it would have required a much more sophisticated capability than what we have seen from Hamas in the past.

Including, like -- it's not like Hamas can practice flying with, you know, flying over the border, right? This -- those are -- with those backpacks, that's not easy to do. You got to practice it. Where are you practicing it? You're not practicing it in Gaza. So, the more information we are getting, the more, you know, I would want to know where were these people trained.

I will say one thing, the number of people who were involved with this, without there being a single asset, a single disclosure, a single whisper that either U.S. intelligence or Israeli intelligence picked up, does suggest a -- an effort that was not done by technology. That this may -- we may very well find out that this were, you know, conversations that were had, pieces of paper that were shared. The planning never made it online, because that would have been captured by a sophisticated intelligence agency, like ours or Israel's.

QUEST: Right. But like 9/11, and you know, I always remember that famous IRA statement, we only have to be lucky once, you have to be lucky every time. And this is on a different scale. Like 9/11, you know, when ISIS was able to basically take its moment, make its horrendous attack, but was never able to repeat it in a sense or get even close to it. There is an argument that will say, all right, Hamas, you have done your worst. You cannot maintain a war and number of rockets at this sort of level against a sophisticated world class army. KAYYEM: It could be -- the problem with the 9/11 analogy is that the world was united with the United States after 9/11, and you just simply don't have that for Israel right now. You have lots of support for Israel, of course, but its neighbors are hardly running to its defense right now, obviously. I think the second --

QUEST: Why does --

KAYYEM: -- challenge for Israel.


QUEST: Hang on, why does that matter? Why does that matter if --

KAYYEM: Because --

QUEST: -- because they haven't supported Israel so far, so arguably, as long as the right countries, in a sense from Israel's point of view supports it, that's all that matters.

KAYYEM: Right, except for them. But al Qaeda was isolated from the world after 9/11 compared to Hamas. We're not -- maybe, you know, maybe we'll see that isolation in time. We're not seeing it immediately, that's for sure. And so, that is the difference, sort of, in the days after both the attacks that everyone including Pakistan, except for Afghanistan, who we eventually went to war with, isolated themselves from al Qaeda and the movement and you're just not seeing that with Hamas right now. And I think that is the scary difference for Israel right now.

I think the other 9/11 analogy is, of course, Israel has experienced this as 9/11 is that -- or the question that Israel will have to ask itself, not now but soon is, for a nation that always knew that it was surrounded by this kind of threat. That they just simply were not unable to pick it up or response to it fast enough is an intelligence failure similar to 9/11, but maybe even worse to the extent that they could imagine this.

Remember in 9/11, it was the failure of imagination. Israel obviously could imagine this because they've been imagining it for their entire existence, and I think that's the reporters are saying before. That's the cycle -- the physical, emotional hit that Israel has right now. But also, I think, there might also a psychological one about their strength.

QUEST: And gosh, Juliette, I'm going to add, I'm grateful for your time tonight to put all these things into perspective.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

QUEST: Thank you.

KAYYEM: Welcome.

QUEST: It is CNN, our coverage, global coverage of the events in Israel. The horrifying aftermath, this time we're going to be talking about the music festival attack. More than 200 people dead, in a moment.


QUEST: Hamas says, it has launched a massive missile attack on Southern Israel, and there have been many explosions reported in the City of Ashkelon near the border. This video on social media seems to show a rocket launch in the ceiling of an Israeli apartment. And in return, Israel has been pounding Gaza with airstrikes since Saturday's attack.

Clarissa Ward is in Ashkelon. Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa is with me now. So, as the night draws on, more -- dawn is still a few hours away. Has there been a letup?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, there has been absolutely no letup. From the moment we arrived, there was a barrage of rockets coming in. I'm just going to have to take the out because I'm getting my own voice back in my ear.


But we've just been hearing drones overhead. We've been hearing fighter jets. I've been seeing bright orange flashes coming from that direction, probably strikes on the Gaza Strip. And so, absolutely no letup in the tempo here.

Now, Richard, earlier on today, we actually went to the scene of that music festival, the Nova Music Festival where thousands of young people had gathered for what was supposed to be a night of dancing, and what ended up being at night of absolute carnage, mayhem, and horror. And as we found, you can still see the scenes of that massacre, take a look.


WARD (voiceover): What happened I just up that quiet border road was a massacre.

WARD: I see a body.

WARD (voiceover): The bodies of the perpetrators still remain, while the fate of many victims is unknown. Organizers of the Supernova Music Festival say that thousands of young revelers had gathered to celebrate the end of the holidays. And just after 6:00a.m., Hamas militants launched a bloody attack.

WARD: So, we're just now on the approach to the Kibbutz (ph) where that dance party was taking place. You can see there's vehicles all around here that have been shot at. We see the bodies of at least one, two, Hamas fighters. I think there are more down this way.

WARD (voiceover): Many of the victims spent hours in hiding, waiting to be rescued, and calling their loved ones.

WARD: Many of them are still missing. Many of them are dead. It has been very difficult to try to get a precise number. WARD (voiceover): Now, a volunteer group that handles human remains says that at least 260 bodies have been found at the festival site. The government here, took a bold step, releasing an image of scores of body bags in a tent where investigators were tasked with identifying them.

WARD: So, you can see over here the body of at least one other person. I don't think you want to get too close to it, it's pretty graphic.

WARD (voiceover): Active fighting continued along this stretch of the border throughout the day as Israeli military forces poured in.

WARD: So, we're seeing a bunch of tanks being brought down this way. You can also -- I've been hearing a steady stream of booms, apparently rockets landing in the distance in that direction. And certainly, a feeling that people are on high alert. We tried to push further down that way. We were told in no uncertain terms we needed to turn around.


WARD (on camera): Now, Richard, earlier today, the family members of some of the people who had been at the Nova Festival, which I should add, was supposed to be a festival about peace. They held a press conference, it's important to underscore that it's not only people who have lost their loved ones, but some people who simply don't know what has happened to their loved ones. Have they been taken hostage? Have they been killed? So many unanswered questions. And really, such desperation in the eyes and hearts of these family members, Richard.

QUEST: Clarissa, you've seen some pretty horrible things over your career, covering wars and the like. But this must be up there. I mean, to have seen just bodies strewn, the sheer numbers, 260 youngsters, who went for nothing more than a bit of a dance and the invasion takes place.

WARD: Richard, it's grim. It's shocking. I think that when you talk to people here, they are still struggling to get their head around this. I think there is an understanding that it has profound implications, the likes of which we are only just starting to get a sense of, if indeed we are really at all.

And for the moment, people are choosing to try to remain strong and to fight. But they are prepared for the fact that, as the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that this is going to be a long fight, potentially. And that almost certainly, it is going to be a very difficult and potentially very bloody fight, Richard.

QUEST: Clarissa, in Ashkelon, I'm grateful. Thank you.

Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing vengeance in response to the attacks. In a moment, what does vengeance mean? We will discuss it with the deputy chief of mission from the embassy of Israel.





QUEST: And moments ago, Hamas said it's holding more than 100 hostages after its attack on Israel, including high-ranking military officers. And worse, the group says, it has taken more hostages on Sunday.

Overnight, a major missile attack on the Southern City of Ashkelon, where Clarissa Ward was reporting from moment ago, the police in Israel say one rocket landed on an apartment building. And we are told from the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Hamas has fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel in the past 48 hours.

The number of people who died is known to have been 700 in Israel since the attack began. Israel is continuing launches of airstrikes in Gaza, and there, the authorities say, more than 400 people have been killed.

Eliav Benjamin is with me. Deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Sir, good evening to you. I'm grateful for your time.


Let's start, we now have a number, Hamas says more than 100 hostages, including high-ranking military officials. And we know, from what we have been told, that not all of the militants have been rounded up. How on Earth does Israel now handle a military campaign knowing 100 of its citizens are being held hostage?

ELIAV BENJAMIN, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, ISRAELI EMBASSY TO THE U.S.: Yes, thank you. Thank you, Richard. We are at a very severe situation right now for the past 48 hours, starting early morning on Saturday, Israel time, when people were on their way to services, on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, celebrating the Torah cycle, the bible.

And now, 48 hours later, we are still finishing off some of the operations within Israel after the infiltration by Hamas into neighborhoods around the Gaza Strip. We are talking about hundreds of Israelis who have been killed. We are talking with thousands who have been injured. And yes, we are talking about a very large number of those who have been taken hostage into Gaza.

And, Israel will and is retaliating. And we'll do everything, on the one hand, to return all the -- those in captivity, and all of those who are kidnapped safe and sound. And we will also, at the same time, do everything that we can to send a very clear message to Hamas, and to any other terrorist organization around, not to try continuing any of these activities they've been conducting in the past 48 hours.

QUEST: Right. So -- and in that last part of your answer, therein lies the contradiction. How can you, wreak the vengeance, to use the prime minister's word, massive vengeance of this black day? How can you have massive vengeance, and at the same time take care that the hostages aren't harmed, other than by threatening even more of violence if they are?

BENJAMIN: Well, what we are looking for now and what we are doing now is basically aimed at both protecting the citizens of Israel and returning stability to the area around Gaza. And of course, at the same time, sending a very clear and strong message to Hamas on everything they've -- that they've done up to now.

Now, naturally, I'm not going to go into a conversation now of military strategy and tactics of how we go about it from house to house, and so on and so forth. But I think that our watchers and viewers and listeners are well aware of the Israeli capabilities of striking precisely where we need to strike, and taking care of our own at the same time.

QUEST: If we look at -- you're in Washington, and you've had extremely strong support, which I know you welcome from the administration, but words go so far. You need missiles. You need Iron Dome replacements. What else do you need from the United States in practical terms?

BENJAMIN: So, you stated very accurately. We are working very closely and we are very appreciative, of course, of the verbal support that we have received thus far. But it's not just verbal support or oral support. We have already seen the statement that came out about maneuvering some forces into and around the Mediterranean. Sending a very clear message, not just to Hamas, but also to other foes in the region. First and foremost, of course Iran, and Hezbollah, and anybody else.

And we are in negotiations or rather discussions, not even negotiations, with the administration here on material equipment that Israel is in need of or Israel is in need of refueling, I should say, of our supplies.

QUEST: I'm going to ask you the same question that I asked the lieutenant colonel of the IDF, the spokesperson earlier. If two weeks ago, I had said to you, there will be an attack, a thousand people, a thousand militants will infiltrate Israel, 260 dead, hostages will be taken, up to over a hundred or maybe more. And you -- basically, you will have lost the plot. You would have said to me what? You would have told me what?


BENJAMIN: I would have -- probably at the time, raised my eyebrow a bit and questions that, on the one hand. On the other hand, I am saying this as somebody who is -- grew up in Israel, who served in the IDF for quite a number of years, also on reserve. And whose youngest brother lives in a -- in the closest neighborhood to Gaza, saying this, unfortunately, has been our life, and our way of weather, we for so many years. Learning to live on the guard, and learning to look over our shoulder, and to worry about the next terrorist attack that will come and hit us in our homes. As we have seen unfortunately now unfold. And anybody who thought that Hamas is a peace seeking organization. And I can't think of too many of those around the world who think that today, see exactly what Hamas is about. And this is something we have been saying for years, and we have been saying very clearly about the relationship also between Hamas and Iran, and other proxies of the axis of evil around the region, around the world.

So, in essence, if -- even if I'm not looking at this particular incident as something that we necessarily foresaw on a -- in an accurate way, the message of Hamas being a terrorist organization, carrying out terrorist activities, in Israel, across Israel for years, and still seeking and calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, the Jewish State, the only state for the Jewish people around the world, this is something that I hope now people understand even in a much clearer way.

QUEST: I'm grateful for your time. I realize how busy you must be, Sir. Thank you for talking to us tonight.

BENJAMIN: Thank you very much and good evening.

QUEST: Good evening to you, Sir.

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has strongly condemned the Hamas militants' attack. We're going to be live at the U.N.



QUEST: It is early morning in Israel, it's coming up to 4:00 in the morning. And in the past few hours, Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Southern Israel, particularly at the town of Ashkelon. Hamas says, it now holds more than 100 hostages in Gaza, and it says that includes high ranking Israeli officers. Apparently, it says it took more hostages on Sunday, we can't verify any of those claims. The IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces are now telling us that 700 people have died at least since the start of the attacks. Officials in Gaza say 400 Palestinians have been killed by retaliatory Israeli strikes.

Now, the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council met at an emergency session, discussing the events of Israel and Hamas. No action was taken following the meeting, according to several security council members. In remarks to the media, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said, a good number of countries condemned the Hamas militants attack against Israel.

Richard Roth is our Senior U.N. Correspondent. He joins me now. I was much taken in your -- when we spoke an hour or two ago, when you said, the time isn't right. I mean, they got together, but there's always a time in a moment for diplomacy, and this is not it.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, all of these crises have their own timing or momentum. The Middle East flare-ups have occurred, and sometimes, it seems the council waits until it settled like Egypt and other countries, and then they hold their meeting. They have an -- they have a monthly meeting about the Palestinian situation, no matter what's going on there.

So, we've kind of heard it all. There hasn't been a dramatic change until the last two days. The shooting, the hostages, that doesn't happen here at the U.N. It's the house of talk and sometimes there is a benefit. Too early to say though. They -- I don't think any -- you would've gotten all 15, I think, to agree on a statement today that all.


ROBERT WOOD, DEPUTY U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: When you say protecting civilians, we are very much concerned about the impact of this invasion by Hamas. Not just on civilians, right in that immediate area, but in the region. This conflict could grow, and we don't want to see that happen. And obviously, our thoughts are with all civilians that are hurt. But what we need to focus on is this ongoing terrorist violence being committed by Hamas.


ROTH: The Palestinian envoy told reporters, why is everyone so upset now with Israeli deaths than where they've been talking about harassment and crimes against Israel -- committed by Israeli soldiers, settlements, things like that. Richard.

QUEST: So, what role will the U.N. take in the days ahead, do you think?

ROTH: Well, some parts are tricky. There is the organization known as UNRWA, which handles Palestinian schools, education, sometimes a rocket or two has been found in one of those schools. I believe, overnight, they were saying there are hundreds of people in Hamas taking shelter in those U.N. schools.

They have a U.N. special envoy. If the -- if enough people trusted him, I guess Israel and the Palestinian could talk. But this is Hamas, they're not a member state of the U.N. So, it's -- the communication is very tough. We know that Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, has been making calls to everyone.

The -- you would agree, this is going to take time. I mean, the amount of deaths, the shocking nature of bodies, and the kidnappings. This is different than the other ones. You've got member countries of the U.N. who have lost citizens.

QUEST: Richard Roth at the United Nations.

President Biden says, additional support to Israel is on its way. The White House says, the president told the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S. is in the process of sending assistance to the Israeli Defense Forces. Also, we'll be sending even more support for the IDF in the following days -- excuse me. The two leaders spoke on Sunday to discuss the future support. With me is our Senior White House Correspondent MJ Lee. So, the big issue now, because clearly Hamas in its original state, was by no means sophisticated enough in terms of number of weapons, the execution of such thing to do this. Iran, everybody I've spoken to, MJ Lee, says Iran certainly was behind, helped execute this attack. What's the U.S. saying on that?


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, what I can tell you is that at least as of tonight, U.S. officials are still saying that they haven't found a smoking gun directly connecting Iran and this attack that we saw over the weekend. But look, it is exactly as you put it, U.S. officials say, of course, that there is a history of Iran supporting and funding Hamas, and that that is not news.

One U.S. official I spoke with earlier tonight saying, of course Iran is in the picture. That they have known for years that Iran has been involved in aiding Hamas. I think what is interesting is that U.S. officials increasingly, over the last 48 hours, have been openly pointing to the likelihood that it will soon be shown that Iran was involved in helping to execute and plan for this attack.

But again, at this moment in time, U.S. officials are still being careful and saying they have not found anything to corroborate the fact that there was a direct linkage, but the history there is pretty plain and obvious.

QUEST: So, how does the White House now manage the next 24, 48 hours?

LEE: Look, I think a huge question, of course, and you reference that phone call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu, this was the second time that they have spoken since the attacks began. The big question is going to be continued assistance to Israel. We, of course know that the U.S. has now in the process of very quickly moving extra military assets into the region. And the administration has been very clear that they intend in the coming hours, in the coming days to discuss what additional assistance they can offer Israel as it fights off these attacks.

But the important context here in the U.S. is what's going on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill. There has been some political drama, as you know. We are in a situation right now, really unprecedented where there is not a permanent speaker of the house. And what that means is that Capitol Hill's ability, Congress's ability to legislate is really up in the air.

So, just as an example, if the U.S. were to try to move forward with an assistance package for Israel, actually, administration officials aren't even sure how that would play out in the absence of a permanent house speaker. So, that is going to be one huge question confronting administration officials and lawmakers as well as that, sort of, hangs out there as a very, very big question mark.

QUEST: MJ Lee at the White House for us this evening, I'm grateful. I will update you with the latest events as we head towards the top of the hour, those eight minutes away. We're nearly 5:00 a.m. in Israel, dawn will be arriving shortly. We'll see the awfulness of the overnight events in a moment.



QUEST: Other news to bring to your attention tonight, more than 2,000 people are dead following a powerful earthquake in Western Afghanistan, according to the Taliban government. It was a 6.3 magnitude quake which struck on Saturday morning, west of the City of Herat. Searchers are finding more bodies in the rubble. The victims described the heart wrenching devastation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This Earthquake has affected us a lot. I personally lost two of my family members, one was my sister, and the other was my son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): 13 members of my family are injured, and they need urgent support. You can see the situation here. Many people have been martyred (ph), and in some places, the entire family is dead. We are so worried and we need help.


QUEST: According to a Taliban spokesperson, more than 1,200 people have been injured. 1,300 homes have been completely or partially destroyed.

Israel's ambassador to U.S. is telling us Hamas militants have fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel since early Saturday. Hamas said it was carrying out a major missile attack on the Southern Israeli town of Ashkelon. As retaliation for the IDF's targeting Hamas safe houses in its own attack. A short time ago, Hamas said more than a hundred Israeli hostages have been taken since the assault began.

And that's all we have this hour. I'm Richard Quest. The news continues. Michael Holmes will stay with you in a moment.