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CNN International: Israeli Says Hamas Has Kidnapped Dozens of Israelis; More Than 700 Israelis Killed in Hamas Attack; At Least Four U.S. Citizens Killed in Attacks; Israeli Security Cabinet Declares State of War; No Security Council Action Taken after U.N. Emergency Meeting; Hamas Targets Southern Israel with "Major Missile Attack". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 21:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome everyone I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company is now early morning in Israel. And just hours ago Hamas militants say they launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon in Southern Israel. You're looking at video of that strike or the aftermath of it.

Israeli police say and apartment building there received a direct hit. It's been nearly 48 hours of strikes and retaliation.


MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday Hamas launching unprovoked war against the State of Israel, firing until now over 4000 rockets, which is more than the fired in the 10 days of the last round of a war we had with them two years ago and sending hundreds of terrorists into Israeli territory, butchering hundreds of Israelis.


HOLMES: The death toll in Israel now reaching 700, 1 day nearly two after Hamas carried out a horrific multi-pronged assault. Israel is responding by pounding Gaza with air strikes. The Palestinian Health Ministry says more than 400 Palestinians are being killed, including 78 children.

Some of the first known victims of the attack inside Israel were at a music festival. Israeli officials say at least 260 bodies have been found at the venue near the Gaza border killed by Hamas forces. For more on all of this let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem.

And Hadas, yes, perhaps the most shocking part of what's happened over the last nearly 48 hours is the ability of Hamas to get perhaps hundreds of fighters on Israeli soil and take dozens of hostages back into Gaza. It's unthinkable. But that's the reality that Israel was dealing with. HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that's the reality also just how many breaches not only of the fence, but that these militants were able to some of them were able to paraglide and some of them came by sea. And many of them came by land. It's also not clear, you know, in these breaches of the fence.

How many of the people who were coming in, were you know, full on Hamas militants? And how many of them were Gazans just kind of along for the ride who, came in as well? And I almost wonder if even they didn't expect to be as successful as they were.

The most stunning aspect of this, of course, in these militant infiltrations is not only the fact that they went essentially, you know, house by house just killing whole families while they were in their homes, and but it's also the fact that they took hostages with them. We do not know the conditions of these hostages.

We don't even have an official tally that we have from Hamas is saying they claimed that they have more than 100 in their captivity. They also claimed that among those are senior members of the military. Islamic Jihad, which is another militant group in the Gaza Strip, says that they have 30 in their possession.

And they both say that they have them in strategic locations across Gaza. But what we do know is among the hostages are many if not mostly civilians.


GOLD (voice-over): Palestinian militants kidnap 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 commerce. Don't hurt them. Don't hurt little children. Don't hurt women. If you want me instead, I'm willing to come.

GOLD (voice-over): 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. Witnessed the same 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. 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 shocked.

GOLD (voice-over): The Israel Defense Forces say they're doing everything it can to find the hostages and to further protect its citizens evacuating communities around the Gaza Strip but tells our Nic Robertson the safe return of the missing is a top priority.

DORON SPIELMAN, SPOKESPERSON OF 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 (voice-over): Israel has opened, a missing persons command center so that friends and family can register people who are unaccounted for. And they have 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 (on camera): And Michael, as we speak, I've been hearing what must be fighter jets flying overhead even here in Jerusalem. We know that the Israeli military has been bombarding the Gaza strip with airstrikes. I believe that there are now been more than 1000 targets that the Israeli military has targeted in the Gaza Strip.

If noted the death toll in the Gaza Strip. But these airstrikes are expected to continue essentially nonstop. The question now, Michael, of course, is whether there will be a ground incursion. We have seen a buildup of Israeli military capabilities along the border, not yet clear whether that's enough for the ground incursion, or if it's just the buildup of trying to re secure the border.

But with that number of hostages still in the Gaza strip with just the size of this attack with a number of casualties in Israel. I don't know if there's ever been another 24 hours in Israeli history with these many Jews were killed, or these many Israelis were killed in one day. And so I do expect it's almost going to be a question of when not if that ground incursion will take place.

HOLMES: I'm curious. I mean, you live there, I've been there. I can't remember how many times covering this overall story. And nothing has happened like this. I'm curious. It's always a bit of a shaky sense of security in the region anyway. But this must have really torn the Israeli psyche in terms of that feeling of security.

How are people who live there feeling with this extraordinary breach? And is there anger that it could happen?

GOLD: I mean it's been tense and worrisome here now for I would say more than a year and a half. But so much of that focus has actually been on the occupied West Bank on the increasing number of military activity in the occupied West Bank, an increasing number of Israeli military raids into Palestinian cities there, the rising death toll.

It had already been a record year for deaths for both Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians, mostly from clashes with Israeli military, and police in West Bank, and for Israelis in attacks by Palestinians, both across the occupied West Bank targeting settlers, but also in Israel proper.

So there was already sort of a shaky sense, but so much of the focus was to the east, was to the West Bank. And whenever you spoke to Israeli security officials, and he asked them about, you know, their worst case scenario, they would often mention things like the West Bank completely descending into chaos.

But also they would talk about the north and Hezbollah this sort of attack by Hamas. This was completely unexpected.

HOLMES: Yes, getting on to Israeli. So Hadas Gold, appreciate your coverage. Thanks so much. And joining me now in Washington, D.C. is Charles Lister. He is the Director of the Countering Terrorism and Extremism Program at the Middle East Institute. Good to see you again, sir.

In terms of how this plays out, there is no sign that Hamas or even Islamic Jihad has any desire to lower the temperature. What do you make of that and their apparent resources to continue the fight inside Israel, even with Israel now responding militarily?

CHARLES LISTER, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF COUNTERING TERROISM & EXTREMISM PROGRAM AT MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, thanks again for having me, Michael. I think that's ultimately the question when you're dealing with a non-state actor like Hamas, and partner alongside them Palestinian Islamic Jihad, they do have finite resources.

I think what we've seen over the last 36 hours or so, is clearly a significant sort of surprise. It was unexpected in scale, it was unexpected and ferocity and intensity. But as we know from previous significant flare ups over the past 10 to 15 years, there is a kind of finite limit whereby this rate of rocket fire across the border can continue.


There will be only so many sorts of mid-level Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders that will remain to be hit by Israeli airstrikes. So at some point, something will have to give. That's where Hamas, frankly, and its partners in Gaza have the leverage in terms of holding so many hostages.

They can, you know, force that over Israel's heads in terms of determining what happens next. But likewise, Israel has more than enough resources to sustain the kind of air campaign that it's doing right now. And at some point, something has to happen. Does that push the conflict regional?

Do we see Hezbollah get more involved in what we saw earlier this morning with some limited missile strikes? Do Iran's proxies next door in Syria get involved? Do we see the West Bank become part of this conflict? You know, all of these things I think remains to be seen.

The dust is starting to settle after the chaos of yesterday, but still very much everything still remains up in the air in terms of what next is to come.

HOLMES: You mentioned the hostages, Israel swapped I think it was 1000 just over 1000 Palestinian prisoners for the soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. After he'd been held for five years, while Hamas has, you know dozens of hostages perhaps more than 100 Islamic Jihad claims hostages. How do you think those groups in Gaza are going to exploit leverage those hostages?

LISTER: Frankly, this is the question that I don't think really anyone knows the answer to, this is, as I think you said a little earlier, completely unprecedented. Nobody really ever expected the Palestinians to be capable of an assault like this.

Certainly nobody expected to see dozens if not more than 100 Israeli hostages are being taken back across the border into Gaza. So I don't frankly think anyone knows what's coming. I think the Israelis are still figuring out exactly what's next. I was quite surprised to hear an IDF spokesman just about an hour ago, issue a video statement online.

Where, he seemed to be indicating that a ground incursion was in the works. He said, very clearly that 100,000 men and male and female personnel have been mobilized for what he called an attack against Hamas inside Gaza. That seems to be suggesting something that I wouldn't have expected might be developing quite so quickly.

But I think that speaks to the almost the panic on the Israeli side. But the longer they leave this, the harder it's going to be to, you know, ameliorate or fix the situation quickly. And then as you say, it took five years to get one man back all those years ago, negotiating the fate of 100 plus, Israeli citizens is an all but impossible task and then, you know, all bets are off.

HOLMES: Yes. It's hard to imagine how that even takes place. I mean, in the broader picture, how is and will this play in the Arab world, not the government's many of which are moving closer to Israel, normalization and so on. But I mean, with the Arab Street where empathy and sympathy with the palace of Palestinian people is often very different to their governments attitudes and actions.

LISTER: Well, I think this is one of the most, it will be one of the most interesting and important things to watch play out in the coming days. I mean, as an analyst, I think many of us have been concerned watching the Abraham accords and the follow up and the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and directly, obviously, with U.S. facilitation.

I think one of the big ongoing concerns amidst all of those significant regional developments is that the Palestinian cause was sort of just being shoved aside like, you know, old news story. It's a conflict that's unresolvable. And so we'll push it aside. But I think what we've all known is that the populations all across the region still hold that Palestinian cause very close to their hearts.

But many of these populations around the region have been thrown a bit of a dilemma here, because the attack we saw take place yesterday was horrendous. And as someone who has watched ISIS, very, very closely over the past 15 years. This is more brutal, and bigger in scale than anything we've seen from ISIS anywhere in the world ever.

And so that does pose a real dilemma about what is the sort of Palestinian cause going forward? How do activists and Fatah and others continue to push this, if this operation has dealt a real kind of reputational damage to the ultimate cause, which is to continue to push for Palestinian rights?

And so I don't really think we know the answer to that yet. I think we've seen governments come down on the idea that clearly this attack was abominable and has to be condemned, but Israel remains part of the region. And I think we'll continue to see them push for the integration of Israel and the region.

But what that means for Palestinians, I think remains almost as unclear if not more so than it was before this attack took place.


HOLMES: Before I let you go I mean Hamas is not the Palestinian people writ large. It is a terrorist organization. Do you think there's been a strategic mistake by Israel and others to, in a way push the Palestinian issue into the background do and in the case of Israel's right wing government basically bury that issue as anything that is worthy of debate?

And do you think that's a strategic mistake? Those people are still there the occupation continues?

LISTER: Yes, I think unquestionably in terms of long term considerations. You know, I mean, there have been a long standing debate in academic circles about negotiating in conflict scenarios, negotiating amidst occupation scenarios. Ultimately, you've got to engage these groups, or many of these groups at some point, if you're going to come to a resolution.

And yes, you're absolutely right, that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian cause. Although we do have to recognize that they do control a fairly significant proportion of the power that's being exerted against Israel. HOLMES: Yes.

LISTER: And so there have been efforts over the last couple of years to try to force them into negotiations. But as I think I said, last time, I spoke to you it seems to be that Hamas has played everyone along trying to make us believe that it was willing to do that, to be pragmatic, to engage, to not engage in violence.

And of course, what we've seen over the last 48 hours tells us a very different story, but as I say, ultimately, I think Hamas has dealt with the broader Palestinian cause the mainstream Palestinian cause a very, very significant blow over the past 48 hours and I think it will remain to be seen what the future holds for it.

HOLMES: Yes, well put good points as always. Charles Lister, our pleasure as always thanks so much.

LISTER: Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: All right. Well, what is it like in Israel right now. Just ahead a live look at the situation on the ground plus information about the horrific attack on concert goes out a music festival. You're watching CNN "Newsroom", we'll be right back.



HOLMES: Hamas claims to be holding more than 100 people hostage in Gaza, including high ranking Israeli officers and announcement coming just hours after the militants launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon in Southern Israel. You're looking at video of the aftermath of that strike.

Israeli police say an apartment building there received a direct hit. The death toll in Israel has now reached 700, Israel responding by pounding Gaza with air strikes. The Palestinian health ministry says more than 400 Palestinians have been killed in those strikes.

Joining me now is CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward. Clarissa, you've been up all night there. Tell us what you've been seeing and hearing and I know you were near the scene of that horrific massacre of young people at a music festival as well.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Michael. So now we're here in the City of Ashkelon. And really it has not led up for hardly a minute since we've been here as we arrived. There was a barrage of rockets, most of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome, but some or at least two that we know of, as you just showed actually did make impact one reportedly hitting a bus stop the other hitting a building here.

We've also been hearing and seeing a series of flashes in the sky fighter jets overhead. We were just hearing a drone as well. There is just no lead up whatsoever in the tempo, Michael. HOLMES: Yes, well, what do we know about the ongoing threats from infiltrators? You know, we're getting under 48 hours into this attack by Hamas. The infiltrations themselves are extraordinary. But the fact that they're still out there is really incredible.

WARD: It is, and you can imagine what a chilling effect that has on society and people particularly who live in this neighborhood. Earlier today, we were driving through an area near the border. We had to turn around because there was a firefight between Israeli forces and allegedly Hamas militants as well.

The IDF has reported about seven incidents, I believe, as of earlier today, in which they are still battling to contain this series of fighters who managed to infiltrate the country Hamas has said they've been able to get people in and get hostages out as early as Sunday. We're now of course now early Monday morning.

But clearly this is a major priority now, Michael, for Israeli forces before they can even consider next steps on the ground in terms of Gaza. They have to be able to contain both the fear and also the chaos that these sporadic outbreaks of violence have led to. I mean, we saw soldiers at checkpoints very nervous.

Not knowing that any car coming towards them, could have gunman in the back that had been, simply opening fire often at civilian vehicles, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, unprecedented in so many ways. What's going on Clarissa Ward there on the spot for us appreciate it. Now, a source telling CNN members of the U.S. Congress have been told that four Americans have been killed in the attacks in Israel and that number is expected to rise.

Earlier U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that Washington is working overtime to verify reports of missing and dead Americans. And earlier today, the Israeli Minister of strategic affairs told CNN that Americans are among the scores of hostages being held in Gaza.


Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged his full support to Israel in the wake of the Hamas attacks. He told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a call on Sunday that additional assistance from the U.S. is quote on its way. Sources telling CNN Israel is requesting precision guided bombs, more Iron Dome interceptors, and other items from the U.S.

U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin also promising help for Israel. He announced on Sunday that a U.S. a carrier strike group is headed to the Eastern Mediterranean. The carrier will be accompanied by a guided missile destroyers and guided missile cruisers, U.S. also sending more fighter jets to the region.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann has much more on all of this from Washington, and Oren, it was your reporting in the last few hours about Israel asking for weapons from the U.S. tell us more detail of that? And is Israel likely to get what it's asking for?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Israel almost certainly gets what it's asking for from the United States. And that is clear from the statements we've seen from President Joe Biden, from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and others. Israel keeps fairly large stores of the ammunition it needs for an emergency, and certainly something like this.

But at some point, Israel knows and the U.S. knows that we'll have to tap into additional stockpiles. U.S. Defense Department keeps some of those stockpiles in Israel. They are officially U.S. stockpiles belong to America. But it's also understood that Israel can tap into those if it needs to. So the request according to an Israeli and a U.S. official was for precision guided munitions, aerial munitions, in this case an Iron Dome interceptor.

As of right now we've seen Israel attacking from the air so it makes sense that that's what they want to backfill on that front and make sure they have on hand and then Iron Dome interceptors. We just saw from Clarissa how critical that's been in at least holding back many of the rocket attacks.

Some have gotten through purely from the volume of fire that has come from rockets, but they have still played a crucial role in protecting Israeli areas from rocket fire so those interceptors also important in the U.S. almost certainly ready to provide those. Austin, the Defense Secretary promised he would arrive within the day.

HOLMES: And I guess despite the unequivocal U.S. support for Israel, and that is historical. Is there any nervousness about how heavily to get involved in terms of direct military support weaponry and other support in that regard?

LIEBERMANN: No hesitation that we've detected in the conversations that I've had or that my colleague Natasha Bertrand has had. And that's because the U.S. government, the Biden administration, is really putting on this full court support for Israel. And in this instance, it's worth looking back at 2014.

And the war, then, that's when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President then Barack Obama had an incredibly fraught relationship. But when Israel needed more ammo, Obama approved it immediately. And we're likely to see that happen even faster, given President Joe Biden's long record of supporting Israel.

So it's certainly not at the beginning of this as Israel and Netanyahu have signaled this will be a prolonged campaign. Do we expect to see any sort of hesitation on the U.S. part in supporting Israel? Now look, if this goes on for weeks, or longer than that, could that change?

Perhaps that'll also depends a lot on the diplomatic conversations, the intensive efforts that aren't likely to yield any results in the short term here, but it all depends on how that plays out at the moment though, Michael, no indication of U.S. hesitation here as it watches all this play out. HOLMES: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, also our Former longtime Jerusalem Bureau Chief, thanks so much good to see, Oren. Now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of course declaring war on Hamas just ahead we'll find out what that means for Palestinians living in Gaza. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Israeli forces are hammering targets in Gaza after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas following the militant group, surprise attack on Israel early on Saturday morning. The UN says tens of thousands of people have been displaced across Gaza since the Israeli airstrikes began.

Nearly 74,000 people are now being sheltered in UN buildings in Gaza, displaced from their homes. And the agency predicts many more will need protection as heavy shelling and airstrikes continue to hit civilian areas. Israeli Prime Minister has urged Palestinians to leave any place in Gaza where militants might be hiding or operating as Israel embarks on what he's calling a long and difficult war against Hamas.

Salma Abdelaziz is in London for us. Salma, Israelis and Palestinians are about to enter day three of this conflict. Netanyahu is declaring war on Hamas? What does that look like now? And what does it mean for the people, the civilians living inside Gaza, two million people in a tiny area?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, we're entering D3 now and Hamas still able to inflict damage, still able to send messages through these rockets being fired, still landing, of course in Israeli territory. And then there's the claim from Hamas today that they've been able to take more hostages potentially dozens in captivity.

You also mentioned that warning from Prime Minister Netanyahu telling the people of Gaza to go to leave in any place where there might be operations. But where do they go, Michael? You're talking about a tiny enclave where military operations are sure to incur a bloody cost.


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.

[21:35:00] BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: All the places which Hamas is deployed, hiding and operating, that weaken 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 are captured by the militant group according to the Israeli army. This disturbing social media video geo located by CNN shows one of those victims, hands appear to be bound in 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 is telling Gazans to clear the way for operations, ordering families to leave their homes and providing locations for evacuation. But with the conflict short, they 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 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 the 140 square mile territory have nowhere to turn, fears that an unprecedented attack on Israel could yield unprecedented bloodshed in Gaza.


ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Now we're only as you mentioned, again, just a few hours a few days into Israel's military operation in Gaza. But already we're beginning to see the toll of it more than 400 Palestinians killed that's according to Palestinian health officials.

Tens of thousands have been displaced from their home, many now piling into Gaza City, making every strike there ever more deadly, potentially ever more risky for civilians trapped in that tiny space. And Prime Minister Netanyahu is nowhere near achieving his military objective of breaking the back of Hamas.

HOLMES: Yes, Salma, I appreciate the reporting, Salma Abdelaziz there for us. All right now, Robin Wright is a contributing writer for The New Yorker and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It's great to be able to get you on, Robin.

It's not just the fact of surprise on the day; it's that this attack would have taken months perhaps longer to plan. And one of the most vaunted security apparatuses in history didn't have a clue how damaging has what's happened been to Israel's security and intelligence, infrastructure. I mean, it's humiliating as well as deadly surely.

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Humiliating would be a major accounting down the road about what happened, why it missed it. Why I focus so much on the West Bank, and not enough on Gaza, where its real rival was deployed. This is a moment for Israel to kind of regroup and figure out what it missed.

It's an important lesson that, frankly, the United States has gone through as well in understanding al Qaeda when it was about to attack on 911. And in dealing with groups like the Taliban and Afghanistan, in the aftermath, it's very hard to, to destroy an idea to understand what an idea or an ideology is promoting, even if you can deal with the arms, the command posts and the personnel. This is a real challenge for Israel.

HOLMES: Israel has been saying for years that it wants to end will decimate Hamas cut the head off the stake destroy its capabilities. And here we are with those capabilities seemingly more effective than ever before. So what are Israel's options?

WRIGHT: Well, Israel can go in and as I said, destroy facilities and behead or decapitate the leadership. The problem is what impact will that have? Will it only foster a deeper commitment to the cause? You've seen what Israel experienced in Lebanon with Hezbollah since 1982. It confronted tried to defeat Hezbollah. And today it is the largest law non-state actor in the world.

It's more far more of a threat to Israel down the road than Hamas is, its arsenal is much larger, its range of its missiles are longer. And so there are some important lessons from Israel's own experience that it should have understood and dealing with militant groups.


HOLMES: Some, some Israeli analysts I've been reading have been making the point that Israel made a critical strategic mistake by pushing the Palestinian issue to the side. The core issues, you know occupation and so on got distracted by domestic factors, a settlement expansion and so on settler extremism and so on.

They just basically kept a lid on things with incursions and arrests in the West Bank and left Gaza alone in many ways deprioritize it. Would you agree with that?

WRIGHT: Absolutely. Iran, sorry, Israel has basically tried to circumvent the tensions with the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. It's been focused very heavily on its domestic crisis and the political polarization. But it also was given more attention to the region bettering relations with Arab states, trying to engage in a kind of shadow war with Iranian forces in the region.

And it hasn't paid attention to the issue, the root cause of all the conflicts in the Middle East since 1948. And I think that's a strategic mistake.

HOLMES: And that point I mean, how much of that switch of focus to the West Bank is political, you know, because of the makeup of the new far right, cabinet ministers determined on the record to expand settlements, and eliminate Palestinian rights, keeping an eye on potential annexation.

That's all come with this government and the cabinet. Do you think they played a role in moving the West Bank ahead of Gaza in terms of government priorities? And how might they influence Israel's response to these attacks?

WRIGHT: That's true to some extent. I think one of the things -- Israel actually supported the creation of what became Hamas that it thought that the emerging Islamist factions that were beginning to coalesce were an alternative to the PLO.

And that's an irony given that Israel eventually made peace with the PLO. And today it faces those religious Islamist factions as the greatest threat, an existential threat today, to its future. And so, yes, this is in some ways, Israel has always been good at understanding and dealing with the short term. It hasn't been as good in strategizing the long term and it's facing the consequences of that today.

HOLMES: And how damaging is that to Benjamin Netanyahu?

WRIGHT: Well, I'm not involved in domestic Israeli politics. But I think that short term, you can mobilize support, the various rivals have come together and said we want a united Israeli Government to confront this threat. But down the road, I think there will be a cost to him, because he's the one who's in power as this played out his intelligence didn't manage to deal with it on understand that it was coming. And politically or regionally he didn't really focus on what was the real threat.

HOLMES: Always great to get your analysis. Robin Wright, thank you so much for making the time.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

HOLMES: Now, Israel's UN Ambassador called Saturday's assault by Hamas his country's version of 911 ahead of a critical meeting, we're live at the United Nations after the break.



HOLMES: In New York, no action was taken following the United Nations Security Council emergency meeting over the fighting between Israel and Hamas. That's according to several Security Council members who spoke to the media after today's meeting. In other remarks, Israel's ambassador said his country is suffering ruthless terror attacks, and referred to Saturday's assault as Israel's 911.

The deputy U.S. ambassador, meanwhile, strongly condemned the attacks by Hamas, and called the current situation in his words a very difficult time. CNN Senior UN Correspondent Richard Roth joins me now. Good to see you, Richard. The UN is so often and impotent in situations like this, what has it been doing? What can it do?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: It's been too long, Michael. There it is tough for the UN; I remember the countries will contest even just one word in a statement. And that could go on for hours. The 15 nations of the Security Council were not ready to issue a statement, even if it just condemned violence anywhere in the world doesn't rule it out. It might take a few more days.

And we as another guest you had said we don't know what's going to happen next. I mean, if more hostages are taken, I'm not going to say that countries on the Security Council will immediately flee to support Israel, but you have different factions there.

You have the United Arab Emirates, who spoke relatively sympathetically about what happened in Israel. But they're not going to just give up on the Palestinians; no matter that Hamas is not a member state. The Deputy U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood was asked by an Arab journalist about where's the U.S. support when the Palestinians are killed by Israel?


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: That's Robert Wood of the United States. Not every country spoke, not every country felt they had to speak. There's a big meeting on Ukraine. But does that sound familiar? Tomorrow, Monday morning in New York, that's probably the 78, 79th meeting of the Security Council. Hopefully we don't get there when it comes to the Middle East, but you can't rule anything out.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly, right. Richard Roth, you're quite right. It has been too long. Good to see my friend. Thank you. And we will take a quick break here on the program. And we'll be right back.



HOLMES: Less than 48 hours after Hamas militants launched a devastating surprise attack on Israel. An IDF spokesman is telling CNN more than 700 people have been confirmed dead including soldiers and civilians and Hamas says it has taken more than 100 hostages.

Israel has been pounding Gaza with airstrikes and government formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday. The health ministry in Gaza is reporting the deaths of more than 400 Palestinians. Late Sunday, Hamas said it was launching what it called a massive missile attack on southern Israel.

And CNN crews in the city of Ashkelon say explosions are still being heard there in the early hours of the morning. That's a quick update on developments.


I'm Michael Holmes, do stick around as we continue to follow this breaking story, I'll have another hour of news after the break.