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CNN International: Israeli Military: More Than 700 Israelis Killed In Hamas Attack; Israel: Long And Difficult War After Hamas Attack; Desperate Search For Hostages Taken By Hamas. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 08, 2023 - 22:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. It is now Monday morning in Israel. Hamas claiming to be holding more than 100 people hostage in Gaza, including high ranking Israeli officers. An announcement coming just hours after the militants launched a major missile attack on Ashkelon in southern Israel. You're looking at aftermath of that strike.

Israeli police say an apartment building there received a direct hit. The death toll in Israel is now past 700 people. Prime Minister Netanyahu vowing vengeance with Israel responding by pounding Gaza with airstrikes. The Palestinian health ministry says more than 400 Palestinians have been killed in those strikes. And we need to tell you this next image is disturbing.

Some of the first known victims of this assault 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. Joining me now is CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, good to see again Clarissa. Tell us what you've been seeing and hearing and what you expect over the next 24 hours. Where could this head next?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, it really, it just hasn't stopped for a moment. It's pretty extraordinary. We hear drones in the background, we hear very loud booms, jets overhead, series of bright orange flashes from that direction as there has just been an endless onslaught of strikes on the Gaza Strip.

When we arrived here in Ashkelon, earlier in the night around midnight, or just after there was a large barrage of Hamas rockets. Most of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome, but a couple of them did get through, one of them reportedly hitting a bus stop the other one, hitting a building not far from here.

So make no mistake, there has been a steady uptick in the tempo. I think the question now in terms of what happens for the next 24 hours is, are Israeli forces able to effectively eliminate the remaining Hamas militants who have been able to infiltrate across that border and really cause a lot of chaos and mayhem and bloodshed here, not just on Saturday, but all throughout Sunday, as well.

At least seven skirmishes reported between those militants and Israeli forces. We were actually driving near the Gaza border and had to turn around because of a firefight between the Israeli military and alleged Hamas militants. So clearly, this is the priority of the highest order. But of course, very closely behind it, if not equal to that is the quest for Israel to try to return these scores of hostages. We don't know how many are alive, how many might be dead, where they're being held, or how they will be returned. Michael?

HOLMES: All right, Clarissa, thanks very much. Good to have you there on the ground following it all for us. Clarissa Ward there. Now as we mentioned, Hamas says it is holding more than 100 hostages in Gaza, including high ranking Israeli officers. Families of those captives say they're desperate and pleading for their safe return.

CNN's Becky Anderson spoke with some of them.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The unspeakable anguish of a father describing the moment he saw a video posted on social media of his daughter pleading for her life. It was Noa, frightened and threatened he says. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry.


ANDERSON: I'm so, so sorry.

ARGAMANI (through translator): It's OK. You don't want to believe it even though you can clearly see it your daughter.

ANDERSON: He now wants this video to be seen widely. 25-year old Noa Argamani seen here on the back of a motorcycle being driven away. Her boyfriend Avi Nathan Or is seen here with two men, holding his hands behind his back.

A dark plume of smoke can be seen in the background. They'd been among the more than 1000 people partying at an all-night Music Festival in southern Israel near the Gaza border when it was raided by armed Hamas militants, early on Saturday morning. Her father's says Noa and Avi Nathan were kidnapped. Their whereabouts unknown but are assumed to be held in Gaza.


ARGAMANI (through translator): I'm so sad at this moment. She's my only daughter.

ANDERSON: And Yaacov's pain mirrored by so many others. Parents, family members, wives husbands, filled with horror and despair, thinking about the fate of their loved ones.

In this video that's been circulating widely online, a woman is seen in the back of a truck as a militant puts a scarf over her head. CNN has not been able to independently verify it. But Yoni Asher, a resident of the Sharon region, told CNN his wife and two daughters aged five and three were visiting their grandmother near the Gaza border.

He lost contact with them on Saturday morning, and suspected they may have been abducted. Later that day, his suspicions confirmed when he saw the video. The woman was his wife. He told CNN he wants the video to be shown in the hopes of getting them home safely.

YONI ASHER, ISRAELI: There was no doubt in my mind, I recognize them surely. My wife, my two daughters, my two little daughters that were on this car. So I know for sure that they were taken.

ANDERSON: The Israel Defense Forces told CNN, it's taking pains to establish the exact number of hostages taken, emphasizing the complicated nature of the situation.

So far, they estimate there are dozens, possibly more in captivity. Yaacov has a message to whoever is holding his daughter.

ARGAMANI: You have casualties just like we do. This is an opportunity to connect between the two nations to reach an honest peace.

ANDERSON (through translator): For now Yaacov sits at home and waits for news taking comfort from his family and Noa's friends.

ARGAMANI (through translator): She's a very special kid. So loving, so giving. I miss her so much. It's only been two and a half days. I cannot believe she has gone he says. She made this house so alive. Felt like this house is empty without her.

ANDERSON: Becky Anderson, CNN, Tel Aviv.

HOLMES: And joining me now from Jerusalem, Yaakov Katz is a Senior Columnist and Editor for The Jerusalem Post. It's good to see you again. It really, it looks like this hostage taking, the targeting of civilians was the main aim of Hamas, given the numbers apparently taken. Hamas literally operating on Israeli soil.

I mean, how has that all impacted Israelis? And whatever their relative sense of security was before all of this?

YAAKOV KATZ, SR. COLUMNIST & EDITOR, THE JERUSALEM POST: Well, I think that the taking of the hostages was definitely one of the main objectives, but looking at the numbers and just the appalling murderous rampage that they carried out on Saturday with the numbers are going to reach unfortunately, Michael, expectations are to cross the 1000 mark over the next 24 hours.

Israel is still counting its dead. You spoke about before the 260 or 270 bodies that were picked up just at that rave that took place outside of the Gaza Strip. So it was to kill, it was to maim, it was to hurt and weaken Israel. And one of the ways to do that is to take hostages, right? Each Israeli life is precious. We've seen in the past. Every -- every life in the world is precious, but Israel will have to fight to get those people back and will have to pay a painful cost. And they know that and they will use that to manipulate in a cynical way and rip out the hearts of Israelis in the weeks and months to come by using the people they've taken.

HOLMES: Yes. Israel clearly when it comes to their options, Israel obviously does not want to occupy Gaza again. So what are the options in the military sense in terms of a resolution to the ongoing Hamas threat especially with those hostages in the strip?

They've not cut off the head of the snake before five wars. Hamas still exists. So what are the options?

KATZ: Look it's very difficult to talk about collapsing Hamas. It's very difficult to talk about toppling a terrorist organization that's embedded inside a civilian setting as Hamas cynically makes use of the people of Gaza to use them as human shields. You can hear it I don't think but I've just been listening for the last couple hours to fighter jets flying.

I'm in Jerusalem but they're -- they're flying all the way over here all night long, you know, between here and Gaza and -- and carrying out those -- those airstrikes, but we've gotten used to these airstrikes as if it's possible at least for the last 10 years since the last time Israeli troops crossed into Gaza as if it's possible to do all this from the air.


But what Israel has -- has a situation right now is you're right, bad options. On the one hand, it will send ground troops in. Their objective and stated aim will be to degrade Hamas' capabilities, to weaken Hamas. There's only so much you can do from the air. There's more you can do on the ground, but then both sides will pay a heavier price right.

Israeli soldiers will be there, and the Palestinians who live inside Gaza and but on the other hand, Michael, if you think about it, Israel after such an attack, about 1000 Israelis dead, people murdered in their homes. The whole region is watching us right now. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Ayatollah is in Iran, they are waiting to see what is what Israel will do.

If Israel boxed, is not go into Gaza, what lesson will they learn? That is what's existential here, Israel has been tested in a way it has not been tested in decades.

HOLMES: I'm curious when you look at the broader -- the broader picture. You know, this horrific attack speaks for itself that, you know, the notion of a two state solution is long gone, particularly under this right wing government. Do you think in some ways Israel made a mistake by sidelining the Palestinians, not the militant groups, but the people in terms of their situation under occupation, their aspirations? Has that been a mistake? Have there been miscalculations, particularly with this cabinet?

KATZ: Look, I think that the big -- the biggest miscalculation right now that we need to deal with is the fact that for the last 20 years or so, since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip, there was pretty much a policy of containment. Israel thought that it could throw economic incentives that occasionally it will have rounds of violence with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they'll hit us will hit them. And that'll happen every couple of years. And will -- Israel will, you know, Palestinians will come from Gaza into Israel for work, and the world's will invest money in the World Bank and infrastructure in Gaza.

And we'll be able to contain that situation, that situation cannot be contained. As we saw on Saturday and even yesterday, as these pockets of terrorists were still fighting inside Israel, what they have carried out is a murderous rampage that cannot be contained. And unfortunately, they forced Israel's hand, it has no choice now, but to go into the Gaza Strip, and hurt and weaken Hamas.

The overall, the bigger picture of the two-state solution is one that unfortunately, Michael the Palestinians have consistently rejected any prospect of a of a resolution for the last 30 years since the Oslo accords were signed just in September of 1993 in that famous signature and peace ceremony at the White House, and have embarked once again on a palace -- on a terrorist war against Israel and Israel is forced to defend itself.

HOLMES: Are you worried that you know Hamas has called for Westbank Palestinian to rise up or groups in the West Bank? There have been clashes there have been Palestinian deaths over the last couple of days in the West Bank. And then there's been more than 200 deaths over the last few months with increasing incursions, settler violence and so on. What are the risks of a bigger reaction on the West Bank Street. Is -- is that a major concern for Israel that you know that this spreads?

KATZ: Oh, you know, the possibility of this spreading is of extreme concern. West Bank is of concern. Not the biggest concern, though. Where Israel's eyes are right now, besides for the Gaza Strip, is in Lebanon. Israel is very, very concerned that Hezbollah and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, its Iranian supportive leader of that terrorist proxy, will think that they can also take advantage of the situation to do something.

We saw mortar shells fired yesterday, from Lebanon into Israel, some Israeli retaliation response that lots of troops are up there right now. 1000s -- 10s of 1000s of reservists have been sent up there to beef up that border. And Israel wants to make sure that Hezbollah does not enter into this conflict, because if they do, Michael, the amount of firepower that Hezbollah has, because of what Iran has given it, is astounding.

It's something that we cannot imagine, it's over 100,000 rockets and missiles of all ranges and warheads and types and sizes that can strike anywhere inside Israel. This would be a devastating blow to Israel if those rockets were to be unleashed, Israel needs to try to keep this conflict contained, and not to have it spread.

HOLMES: I wanted to ask you too that because this is a -- obviously the focus is on the carnage that has been caused and wrought by Hamas and what's going on now, but this is also a domestic test for Bibi Netanyahu given -- especially given the clear security failures and -- and the extreme right of his government pushing the West Bank as a priority which diverted resources from Gaza.


What questions is Netanyahu going to face? Is this a moment of reckoning for him in some ways, potentially?

KATZ: I mean, look, Israel, let's remember where we came into this conflict from and into this war. We were nine months of unprecedented social protests throughout the country over the judicial overhaul and the legislation and Netanyahu was trying to push through. While there were people who were warning that Israel is appearing weak that these -- these protests of hundreds of 1000s every week, that the fight and division within Israel makes this country vulnerable and susceptible to an attack, the likes of what we saw over the last 48 hours.

But he continued to plow ahead. And let's remember, Netanyahu has made a name for himself throughout his career, definitely over the last 15- 16 years during which he served mostly as Prime Minister as Mr. Security.

Well, he's not looking like Mr. Security right now. After the failures that led to this intelligence, just drop of not knowing what Hamas was preparing, their ability to invade Israel to cross off the border defenses, and the slow military response, Israel is now regrouping.

But those first 24 hours was not what we would like to see out of the Israeli military and out of the Israeli government. And he's the head of it.


KATZ: So when this is over, and that could take some weeks, there will have to be a national reckoning of what has happened here inside the State of Israel. And how did we find ourselves in this situation?

HOLMES: Always a fascinating conversation. Yaakov Katz, good to see you. Thanks so much.

KATZ: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, Israel not lacking international support after the attacks. Ahead, we'll tell you what the U.S. president told the Israeli Prime Minister. That's when we come back.


HOLMES: Sources telling CNN that members of Congress were told Sunday evening that four American deaths have been confirmed in Israel and that toll is expected to rise. Earlier U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that Washington is working overtime in his words to verify reports of missing and dead Americans.

That follows comments from the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs who told CNN that Americans are among the scores of hostages being held in Gaza as well.


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

All right, I want to bring in Senior White House correspondent MJ Lee standing by for us in Washington, DC. Good to see you, MJ, there's been a lot of speculation about what if any involvement Iran had in this attack? We know there's been financial support. But what is the U.S. looking at in terms of any more direct link?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, as of tonight, I can tell you that U.S. officials still say that they haven't found any kind of smoking gun that directly links Iran to this specific attack that started over the weekend. And Israel, though they say, of course, that there is no denying that there's a history of Iran funding Hamas, U.S. officials are also saying that it is apparent that there could be sort of a likelihood in the coming days or maybe in the coming weeks that that connection will ultimately end up being drawn.

One official saying on a call, a briefing that was held by administration officials with lawmakers tonight, that just because that connection hasn't been found yet, doesn't mean that it ultimately will not be found. Now, of course, this is just one of the many things that U.S. officials are looking into in the aftermath of this attack, which by all accounts, again, Israeli intelligence, U.S. intelligence didn't know that this kind of attack of this scale was going to come over the weekend.

HOLMES: Yes, I was going to ask you too, you know, what -- what other reaction has been from the White House and what else is in the White House quiver if you'd like to help Israel going forward?

LEE: Yes, that is going to be one of the biggest questions in the coming days. Of course, we have seen the conversations taking place directly between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And for the second time, they spoke earlier today, and one of the key things they discussed, of course, was what kind of assistance the U.S. can provide to Israel.

And since then, we have seen sort of the rapid deployment of military assets to the region. And we know from administration officials and lawmakers who are being briefed that that conversation is going to continue happening on a rolling basis. One thing I should note, though, as we are talking about the possibility of additional aid is that on Capitol Hill, we have a very unique situation right now where we don't have a permanent House Speaker.

That means that it's sort of confusing, and unprecedented, frankly, as to how exactly that legislative chamber could move an assistance package, even if something were to be brought up and agreed upon in the coming days.

HOLMES: All right, MJ Lee, thank you so much there at the White House for us. Still to come here on the program; civilians, children, grandmothers and high ranking officials among the many people Hamas is claiming to have taken hostage. And this is one of the hostages, a young German Israeli dual citizen kidnapped during that music festival in the south -- south of the country. We'll hear from her mother in just a moment.




HOLMES: We are a little over an hour away from sunrise in Israel, a new day dawning and more deadly fighting expected. Just a few hours ago, Hamas militants claimed to be holding over 100 hostages, including some high ranking Israeli officers. Islamic Jihad also said they're holding at least 30 hostages in Gaza.

Authorities in Israel have not confirmed the exact number of Israelis captives in the area, but have said that dozens are being held. For more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Bring us up to date, Hadas. What's the latest on the ground? I mean, the rate of rocket fire has fallen but there are still infiltrators running around on Israeli soil.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we haven't received sire of alerts that sirens are going off meaning incoming rockets in some time, including in some of the communities around Southern, around the Gaza border. But there are still potential reports that there are still militants on the ground in Israel.

Israeli military has not said that they believe that they now have complete control of the Israeli communities around there. Civilians in the communities around the Gaza Strip have been ordered to evacuate. Here, Jerusalem, I mean, even as I speak, I can hear what must be fighter jets flying overhead.

There's been a regular pace of what are likely fighter jets flying overhead. We know that Israeli military has been striking the Gaza Strip pretty consistently overnight. They've -- they've been striking what they say are hundreds of Hamas targets. They're striking what they say are senior Hamas leaders. We've obviously seen some several buildings being destroyed in Gaza.

We know that the death toll there has been rising as well. I'm not sure if you can hear in the background, but I can right now hear, what must be a fighter jet overhead. It's a little bit eerie, because right now the streets of most places in Israel have been very quiet, people are staying home, people are not going out.

And so instead what you hear instead of this -- instead of this, the normal noise of traffic or of the city, even out here in Jerusalem, what we're hearing are these fighter jets overhead even though we ourselves have not received Red Alert sirens meaning incoming rockets in probably at least 24 hours or so. But the situation is still not stable at all.

The Israeli military still does not -- it's not clear that they have full control, that they fully believe that there are no more militants to be dealt with in southern Israel and there's still very much a concern that more militants have made it in and what they're aware of and that they could be popping up really anywhere.

HOLMES: Yes, and whether sleeper cells might have been inserted for later, all very worrying. Hadas, thanks so much. Hadas Gold there in Jerusalem for us. There is still uncertainty over how many hostages Hamas is holding, but we do know who some of them are and we're seeing some really disturbing videos of militants abusing them, parading them down the street in Gaza and so on.

One such video is of Shani Louk, a German Israeli dual national who was kidnapped from that is rally Music Festival on Saturday. Shani's mother has given us permission to show that disturbing image of her daughter. She spoke earlier with Anderson Cooper. Some scenes in this report are disturbing.



ANDERSON COOPER: First of all Ricarda, how are you doing?

RICARDA LOUK, MOTHER OF SHANI LOUK WHO WAS KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: Yes, I don't know I'm -- I'm still not understand everything what's happening. Until I don't know exactly what happens with my daughter, I will -- I will not know for sure. So we're kind of waiting, waiting for news.

COOPER: When did you first get word that she had been taken.

LOUK: It started yesterday morning with a rocket in the early in the morning, around six o'clock, we had many rockets and alarms. And then I start calling her and see where she is if she's near to a secure location, and she said she's at the festival in the south. And she was panicked a little bit and she said she's going to take the car now and go to a safe location.

And then we stopped talking and since then I didn't hear anything from her anymore. And then she wasn't responding on our phone and a few hours later we got a video from a friend through social media. And we identified our daughter on a pickup truck in the back lying on the floor with the militant men around her and pushing her down and with the arms and they were driving into the Gaza strip with her. So we saw that there were in the Gaza Strip already.

COOPER: I mean, the video is obviously extraordinarily disturbing and -- and is that the last you have seen of her.

LOUK: Yes, it's the last we've seen. We're always looking for more videos, more news, something that shows her in some other places and we -- we cannot really see anything yet. We saw that somebody tried to use a credit card in the Gaza Strip multiple times. And that's all -- that's all we have. Like no other clue.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about Shani?

LOUK: Shani was such a loving and peace loving person. She -- it was a music festival. She likes to travel. She's an artist. She traveled a lot in the world. And she has many friends abroad. She was there also with the tourists group with Mexican and Guatemalan and European people. And most of them are also still missing.

They have no idea where they are. They're probably also kidnapped together with her. And I don't understand really how such a brutal thing can just happen in the middle of the day. And it was a complete surprise. I mean, we got used to the rockets, we live here with the rockets, we have a kind of a routine to go the safe room and to take care of ourselves.

But this was a completely different attack that nobody was prepared for. And nobody can ever be prepared for such a thing, I guess and there are two other families that their son and daughter-in-law were brutally killed in their beds in in their house and they left two little children babies alive alone the whole day there.

And another family where her son is a soldier and was that so -- and it's -- it's a small town of 200 families maybe and just the three cases here, it's -- it's just terrible. I don't know we -- and it happens in all -- in every town, there are cases like this. It's just unbelievable like we can't understand it.


HOLMES: Hard to imagine, isn't it? That was Ricarda Louk, the mother of Shani Louk, a German Israeli hostage speaking to Anderson Cooper, earlier. Well, Benjamin Netanyahu warns Israel will take in his words mighty revenge against Hamas and urges Israelis to brace themselves for a long and difficult war. But where does that leave the Palestinian people? The view from Gaza, coming up?




HOLMES: Israeli forces are hammering targets in Gaza after Israel formally declared war on Hamas following the militant group's surprise attack early Saturday morning. The UN says 10s of 1000s of people have been displaced across Gaza since the Israeli airstrikes began. Nearly 74,000 people now being sheltered in U.N. buildings in Gaza and the agency predicts many more will need protection as heavy shelling and airstrikes continue to hit civilian areas.

The Israeli Prime Minister has urged Palestinians to leave any place in Gaza where militants might be hiding or operating, adding that Israel is embarking on what he calls a long and difficult war against Hamas. Salma Abdelaziz is in London, it's pretty hard to know where they expect Gazans to go. 25 miles long, Seven miles wide, 2 million people.

I mean, what will war on Hamas in Gaza look like? What does it mean for the civilians who live there?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's important to remember is what we're seeing Michael is really just the beginning of what we are expecting will be a protracted conflict. One that could stretch into weeks, potentially months but we are getting a statement this hour from Israel's military.

It says that it's been able to "severely degraded the capabilities of Hamas overnight." They've been carrying out hundreds of airstrikes, hundreds of strikes on locations what they say what the Israeli military says are terrorist sites, but what that looks like in that densely populated enclave, that's a really complicated and bloody picture, Michael. Take a look.


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 1000s 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 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: 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 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. [22:40:00]

1000s 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 evacuation. But with the conflict shortly engulfed 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 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: And entering day three Michael already we're beginning to see the toll of this 10s of 1000s of people have been displaced. Many of them leaving their homes and migrating to Gaza City that makes that already very tightly packed population center even more densely populated. So every strike carries the risk of more civilian casualties, more than 400 people killed, according to the Palestinian health ministry with hundreds more wounded and again, this is expected to take some time and Prime Minister Netanyahu nowhere near that goal of breaking the back of Hamas.

It was only a few hours ago that the group claimed it was able to fire yet another barrage of rockets at Israel. And it claims that on Sunday, it took more hostages. I mean, this is horrifying, of course for the families. It deals a major blow to Israel, and it extends really that psychological impact of this assault.

HOLMES: Yes, five wars on Gaza. You mentioned the hostage thing. Israelis on the other side of the border on Israel, proper Israelis have lived through rocket attacks for years, but they've not lived through a ground attack in their lifetimes. I mean, can Israelis you know, feel safe to live in those areas near the Gaza border, again?

ABDELAZIZ: That will be the goal of Prime Minister Netanyahu is campaign in Gaza. That is the military objective. You've been playing the stories of some of the families that live again in southern Israel and those towns and communities, that were attacked that were surprised in this assault.

It is hard to imagine that those communities return to their homes and feel a sense of security and feel a sense of safety unless something shifts on the ground. But what shifts exactly? Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said and you heard in that soundbite that he will devastate Hamas, that he will turn it into an island of ruins, a really terrifying statement there that he will go everywhere in Gaza.

But it's not simple, Michael, as you know, Hamas is deeply entrenched in that enclave. They have absolutely prepared for the aftermath of this attack. There are no Israeli troops, Israeli troop presence so far on the ground and then you have to remember of course, those hostages that means a ground incursion, air assaults, any military action carries the potential risk of putting those hostages lives in the crosshairs.

And then there's the 2 million people living there in Gaza with nowhere to go. Yes, Hamas leadership can go underground. But where did the families who are trapped inside, where do they go, Michael?

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. Nearly 100,000 displaced already Salma, great report. Salma Abdelaziz there for us. Appreciate it. Now earlier, I spoke with Middle East Expert Robin Wright, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. And I asked her how Israel was caught so off guard by this massive incursion by Hamas.


ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: 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 a 911. And in dealing with groups like the Taliban in 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 their head of the state, 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 non-state actor in the world. It's more far more of a threat to Israel down the road than then 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 in dealing with militant groups.

HOLMES: Some -- some Israeli analysts have been reading, have been making the point that Israel made a critical strategic mistake by -- 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've just basically kept a lid on things with incursions and arrests in the West Bank and left Gaza alone in many ways, deprioritized 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 has 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 to 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, you know 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 they influenced Israel's response to these attacks?

WRIGHT: That's true to some extent. I think one of the things (inaudible) 1980s, 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 and 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 this -- that short term, he 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 and 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: Still to come on the program, the U.N. Security Council holds calls at an emergency meeting over the fighting in the Middle East. We'll go live to the United Nations for the council's reaction.


HOLMES: The UN Security Council taking no action Sunday following an emergency meeting over the fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas. That's according to several security council members who spoke to the media after the meeting. In other remarks, Israel's UN ambassador said his country is suffering ruthless terror attacks and referring to Saturday's assault as Israel's 911.

CNN Senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth joins me now with more. Good to see you, my friend. The -- the U.N. infamous for what it can't agree on or get done as much as what it can and in this case, it's the former, right?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That is correct. The most passion shown today were really the ambassadors from the Palestinians and Israel. They provided the real sparks, but that was before the session. The two were not invited, as is customary into the 15 nation chamber. The Security Council meeting did not agree even on a statement.

The U.S. ambassador was not that upset, saying there were some words of support for Israel that he heard. The Israeli ambassador calls it all workarounds.


GILAD ERDAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I have seen shocking footage, graphic images that will forever be seared in my brain. What we are witnessing are war crimes, blatant barbaric war crimes, slaughtering civilians, abusing hostages, taking babies from their roof -- from their mothers. There are no words to describe such savagery.

This is Israel's 911. This is Israel's 911 and Israel will do everything to bring our sons and daughters back home.


ROTH: The Palestinian ambassador said the media and some politicians only care when Israelis are killed. They have a host of complaints against Israel that have not been recognized by the Security Council. The Palestinian ambassador talked to reporters about what's really happening.


RIYAD MANSOUR, PERMANENT OBSERVER OF PALESTINE TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This is not a time to let Israel double down on its terrible choices. This is a time to tell Israel, it needs to change course, that there is a path to peace, where neither Palestinians nor Israel -- Israelis are killed.


ROTH: The ambassador from the United Arab Republic, they said they were the ones who called for this private meeting instead of a big meeting where there would be a lot of anger expressed. She'd said she expects to have many more meetings in the weeks to come. Michael, back to you.

HOLMES: All right. Good to see you, my friend. Thank you. Richard Roth there. Now Pope Francis is responding to the horrific attacks in the Holy Land calling for an end to the violence. Speaking in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, the Pope pleaded to stop the attacks and the weapons saying that terrorism and war do not lead to any solutions.


The Pope also expressing his sympathy to the families of victims.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I follow with apprehension and sorrow what is happening in Israel, where violence has exploded even more quickly, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries. I express my solidarity with the relatives of the victims. And I pray for all those who are experiencing hours of terror and anguish.


HOLMES: He went on to say, "War is a defeat. Every war is always defeat." Pope Francis also urging everyone to pay -- pray for peace. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Don't go anywhere. Our coverage continues with my friend Laila Harrak after the break.