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Hamas: Hundreds Killed In Israeli Strike On Hospital In Gaza; Jordan Spokesman: Planning On Second Speaker Vote Today. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 14:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Congressman Jim Jordan tried and failed to secure the speakership on the first ballot. We'll have more on that in a few minutes. Continued chaos and disarray among House Republicans.

And the United States still does not have a speaker, for the first time, to the best of my knowledge, ever.

But, first, we're going to Israel and Gaza where hundreds are reportedly killed at a hospital in Gaza that is still on fire. Video we're just getting into CNN shows rescue workers pulling people out from under the rubble.

Mahmoud Abbas, on the West Bank, has declared three days of mourning.

The Israeli Defense Forces say that it is investigating exactly what happened and has no details to share at this moment.

It's unclear exactly what happened, except, right now, something very horrible.

Let's get straight to CNN's Clarissa Ward.

Clarissa, what do we know for a fact right now? And what are we looking into?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know for a fact that there has been say horrific incident at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City in northern Gaza. That is the part of Gaza that Israeli forces had ordered people to evacuate from as early as Friday.

We don't know exactly yet what caused the incident. It does appear to have been some kind of a massive strike, though, from preliminary videos that we are starting to look through.

The Palestinian Health Authority is saying that at least 200 to 300 people have been killed. And you are already seeing a massive reaction from Palestinians inside Gaza. Hamas calling it a genocide.

Also from Palestinians in the West Bank, declaring three days of mourning, flags to be flown at half-mast. And certainly, we're also seeing a much more higher level of rockets

coming into Ashkelon in the last couple of hours. There's been sirens at least several times and several barrages of rockets.

And all of this leading to fears of a real intensification of violence on the eve of President Biden's visit to Israel.

And from what we're seeing and hearing, it's very clear that there's going to be an incredibly strong reaction to this -- to this hit, on the hospital.

Again, it will take some time to work out exactly what has happened. It is late at night. There is very little electricity. It is challenging to find exact numbers for how many were killed and how this happened.

But what we can say is that, according to a number of reports on the ground, thousands of people were seeking refuge in this hospital.

This is something that's very common in Gaza, Jake. When you have intense Israeli bombardment, people tend to flock to hotels, hospitals, mosques and shelters, because those places are largely considered to be safe.

So, a lot of families will go and, literally, often, sleep in the hallways of hospitals or hotels, wherever they can find. That appears to have been the case at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital.

We're hearing there were also people being treated. Now many of them are being moved, obviously, with the dead and the wounded, to the Dar Al Shifa Hospital inside of Gaza City.

And all of this coming at a moment of protracted suffering for Gazan civilians, who are facing what the U.N. has called an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

And of course, as Israel has urged people to leave northern Gaza and move south, these types of strikes and the ferocity that we have seen in the south, there have been a lot of strikes, too -- which is where Israel has been pushing people towards -- has really left a lot of people paralyzed.

We've spoken to families who say they don't want to move. They're too scared to move. They don't want to even leave their houses.

So, clearly, a horrific day in terms of the death toll, now well above 3,000 Palestinians killed. And we are just trying to put together a better picture of how exactly this happened -- Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Clarissa, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health says that this particular hospital was sheltering thousands of displaced people who have been evacuated from their homes in Gaza City, as Clarissa was just suggesting.

Joining us now to discuss, the former Air Force colonel for the U.S., Cedric Leighton, as well as CNN national security analyst, Kim Dozier.

Thank you so much to both of you.

Cedric, look, I know there are people out there who think that there's just one easy answer that we can just share right now. But, obviously, in a situation like this, it's not that simple. Go ahead.


COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, that's right, Jake. One of the key problems that you have is, you know, what was being targeted? Was this, in fact, an Israeli airstrike. And of course, that looks like that was really the case.

And when you have a situation where there are a lot of civilians, it really complicates the targeting mechanism and the whole targeting process.

So, I would really like to know, you know from a military standpoint, what the Israelis were targeting. Did they think that there was a Hamas entity in the hospital?

And even with that, you know, what kind of justification would there be to do this kind of a strike? It's something is that is, you know, really different from how we do the targeting process in the U.S. Air Force, at least it appears to be.

And that is something that, I think, you know, really has to be investigated.

And I think it also, you know, puts a -- kind of a brake on what the Israelis are doing right now in terms of their offensive operations. They will find it difficult to continue these operations if these kinds of mistakes, if that's, in fact, what happened, continue to occur.

TAPPER: I want to warn our audience right now, it's 2:35 p.m. in the east coast. So, this is a time when kids might be watching television. We're going to bring you some video from Gaza right now of the hospital. It is rather graphic.

It is the scene of what happened, and there are people who have been wounded. People who have been burned in the fire. So, just know that that is what you're looking at. These images coming in.

And, Kim Dozier, you have covered war zones before. And so often, there are so many questions, and that we don't know, and in the fog of war, it's difficult to answer.

First of all, so many things to keep in mind. One, this latest spate of violence began with Hamas attacking Israel two Saturdays ago. Something to remember.

Two, obviously, the Palestinian Israeli conflict did not begin two Saturdays ago.

Three, if Israel did, in fact, strike this hospital. And we don't know that to be the case right now.

Four, sometimes Hamas does misfire and blame it on Israel.

Five, Israel is bombing that part of Gaza right now.

Six, sometimes Gaza -- sometimes Hamas does embed within the population.

I mean, there are so many things we do not know. The one thing we do know is that innocent people in Gaza are being hurt and are being killed.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And, Jake, what those images add up to is a mass casualty event that could change the international opinion of what Israel is doing right now. It could shift international opinion against them.

It's already shifted that opinion in the Arab world against Israel. In Israeli news channels, they are still covering hostage families. Arab news channels are covering the destruction insides Gaza.

But this is a denied area, so Israel, international investigators, we can't get in to see what brought that structure down.

Remember, Israel is also trying to target the subterranean weapons storage cache, rocket launcher facilities. And Hamas has a pattern of having those types of things stationed near civilian areas.

TAPPER: When you say subterranean, let me just translate for folks at home who are not familiar with that word. Hamas has an intense, complicated, rather sophisticated tunnel network --


TAPPER: -- under Gaza, sometimes, under homes, under apartments, under hospitals.

I'm sorry. Please continue.

DOZIER: Yes, absolutely. They've bragged of having 300 miles of tunnels beneath Gaza City, beneath other parts of the whole territory.

Israel and the U.S. have tried to use new technology to map those tunnels. But Israeli officials have admitted to me, they don't -- they don't know the whole structure.

So they're trying to smoke fighters out of some of the entrances. And they're hitting multiple targets related to that.

Is that what brought the structure down? It won't matter to people in the Arab world. The young generation of Arabs watching this, growing in anger, against what Israel is doing.

And that's going to make it harder for Egypt, say, to open its Rafah border crossing to allow aid in. It's going to make it harder for all Arab leaders to do what President Biden will be asking them to do in his visit tomorrow, to show some sort of cooperation with Israel that helps the Palestinian people.

TAPPER: And, Cedric, it is under this circumstance that President Biden is getting into Air Force One and flying into Israel. It's already a circumstance under which his U.S. Secret Service detail must be grinding their teeth.


I mean, if it were up to U.S. Secret Service, presidents would never leave the White House, much less go to war zones. But I cannot imagine how upset and worried they are right now.

And Israel's national security minister, Ben-Gvir, who is rather hawkish -- would be a charitable term -- he just wrote on telegrams, quote, "The only thing that needs to enter Gaza are hundreds of tons of explosives, not an ounce of humanitarian aid," unquote.

A rather hideous thing to say, given all of the innocent civilians, innocent Palestinians suffering in Gaza. What do you make of that?

LEIGHTON: Yes, indeed, Jake. I think the real problem for President Biden is going to be to try to cool as best he can everything down. And that's a really tall order.

He was already confronted with an almost impossible task by coming into the Middle East, especially into Israel, and doing this situation.

And his stated purpose, with at least part of the Israeli visit, is to take a look at the strategy that the Israelis are proposing and to the kinds of tactics that they're going to be using in order to achieve that strategy.

This kind of a situation, if it is, indeed, something that goes back to what the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, have been doing, then it really not only complicates things.

But it also calls into question the entire mechanism with which the Israelis are actually prosecuting this war. How are they doing it? How careful are they?

You know, the idea of humanitarian areas, humanitarian corridors, that kind of thing would really need to be worked out. Should have been worked out way before this.

But this really underlines the fact that there's a lot of -- there's a lot of missing pieces here. And that's the kind of thing that really needs to be fixed before we have more civilian casualties like this.

TAPPER: And, Kim Dozier, just to underline something that I thought was important when I was interviewing an Israeli official the other day, the Israelis regard this as an existential threat to Israel.

And especially, when you look at the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and you look at the unbelievably horrific attack on Israel two Saturdays ago. I raised the issue of civilian casualties with the Israeli official, as I have every time I've interviewed an Israeli official since that horrible day, October 7th.

And the Israeli officials -- the one Israeli official said to me, along -- I think it was Saturday or Sunday, I can't even remember, and said, "I'm sure there were innocent Germans, too."

That is how they look at this.

DOZIER: Absolutely. For them, they're worried about a two-pincer, being hit from not just rockets from Gaza, but rockets from Hezbollah in Lebanon in the north.

Hamas has openly declared that it wants to wipe out the state of Israel, so has Iran. The Israelis feel like this could escalate into something where every single Israeli in every part of the country is threatened.

And when I tried to ask the same question you tried to ask, they get angry. They're like, yes, it's bad, but that's where the enemy is, and the enemy needs to be wiped out.

TAPPER: Kim, Cedric, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

We're going back to Israel as we learn more details on this horrific hospital strike. Again, we do not know at this hour who is responsible for that strike. We'll find out as much as we can and bring that information to you as soon as we can.

Coming up next, what is the next step for Congressman Jim Jordan after he failed rather ignominiously to win the gavel on the first ballot? Is there a path forward? We're going to go live to Capitol Hill. That's next.



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage. Two stories rippling across the globe right now.

One, graphic scenes in Gaza City where a hospital was caved in, killing hundreds and stranding an untold number under the concrete. It is unclear right now who is responsible for the strike and for what the Palestinian government brands as a war crime.

The other story is happening right here where we are on Capitol Hill. Jim Jordan wants the speaker's gavel. But after the first vote, it appears there is no clear way he will get it.

I want to go right to CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, I know you've been speaking to sources about what's next. What are you hearing? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim Jordan

plans to press ahead. Even at the moment, he is still short the 217 votes he needs to be elected speaker of the House with 20 Republicans on that first vote.

That first vote he can only afford to lose three Republicans. But nevertheless, he's still playing for the vote.

His spokesman just put out a statement saying, "The House needs a speaker as soon as possible. Expect another round of votes today. It's time for Republicans to come together."

It's not clear exactly the timing of this vote. But we do know that Jordan is meeting behind the scenes with the holdouts, trying to convince them to come his way.

I've heard from a couple of them who indicate they are open to supporting him on the second round.

Including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who said he wanted to vote for Kevin McCarthy in the first round, to register for the opposition the way McCarthy was pushed out, saying now it's time to get behind the House speaker.

Another one comes from John James of Michigan, indicating some openness to voting for him, Jordon, on the second ballot after not voting for him on the first ballot. But there's a significant amount of a run to make up.


And there's a real risk, Dana, of other Republicans who voted for Jim Jordan, but only did it tentatively, even though they weren't totally sold him, voting against him if this continues to drag out because they want a new candidate.

Congressman Vern Buchanan of Florida, someone who initially support Jordan's initial rival to replace Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise. Buchanan voted for Jordan.

But I asked him moments ago about whether he would still with Jordan if this continues to drag out. He was not certain. That was still an open question for him. And that will be an open question for others.

So if Jordan pushes ahead, doesn't get close to 217 votes in the second ballot, expect some calls from some of the members to step aside, to allow another candidate to put his or her hat in the ring, given that no one has been able to get the 217 votes needed yet to become speaker of the House.

And leaving this House completely paralyzed, effectively shut down and unable to act on any legislative business for the last two weeks after the historic ouster of Kevin McCarthy.

Even though that is still -- that is what Jordan is trying to convince his members to come in line, saying, look, we can elect a speaker today, come and support us, we can get the House moving again.

But at the moment, he has a ways to go, Dana, to get the votes even as he presses ahead on the second ballot. And we'll see how he'll do on the third ballot if he falls short yet again.

BASH: Yes, losing 20 votes, as we've been reporting, was not what he expected. He expected, if he was going to lose the first vote, it would be by far fewer numbers.

Thank you so much for that reporting, Manu.

I want to go to our Melanie Zanona, who is outside of Jim Jordan's office, rather.

He is huddling, Melanie, with the people who are trying to help him find the votes in a very frenzied way. What are you learning?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Dana. I am outside his office, but Jim Jordan is not in his office. We are told he is in the capital, as we speak, and he is having the critical meetings with holdouts trying to win them over.

Now it is unclear, at this point, what he can offer these members to get them to change his support. As Manu was mentioning, there is real concern that some of the people who voted for Jordan on the first ballot might start to bleed their support and vote for someone else on the second ballot.

The question now is whether Jim Jordan can really show progress. But to give you a sense of the problem he's facing here, some of these members, like the New York Republicans.

For example, they cited some of Jordan's past record on voting on critical issues that are important to New York. And for example, he voted against aid for Superstorm Sandy. He voted against health care funding for 9/11 first responders.

Those were issues that were very important to the centrist Republicans, are a key voting block of the House Republicans, who really handed the GOP the majority last years.

And it's unclear whether Jordan can assuage those concerns. These are things that he voted against. And it is not clear when he can convince them that he's ready to bunch and lead.

So we'll see what he's going to do in these critical meetings.

But in a sign of hope, there are some other members who voted against Jordan on the first ballot who are signaling that they might be willing to flip.

But at this point, if Jordan is not able to make progress in the second round, a lot of Republicans are doubting that he's ever going to be able to get there.

So a critical few hours here, Dana. It is unclear if they'll have a conference by meeting. At this point, we're expecting one-on-one meetings. And at some point today, we're expecting a second vote -- Dana?

BASH: OK, Melanie, thank you so much for that reporting.

My panel is here now.

And, Doug, I was talking to someone who was close to Jim Jordan who said that, yes, he is going to, as we heard from our colleagues, push for a second vote.

But it doesn't mean that the whip count that the work that he's doing to change minds is going very well.

It's, at this point, perhaps more about his brand as a fighter and that he can't just give up after the first vote.

It's something that we were talking about here privately. But it is actually something that is very much on the minds of not just Jim Jordan, but the people around him.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, we know the whip count didn't go well. Obviously, the margin was a lot larger than they thought it was going to be. And some of that was whip projecting and telling people what they wanted people to believe.

But if that had been eight or 10 votes, then the Don Bacons and people like that, who said a sliver of our conference shouldn't be able to hold the House hostage would then be that sliver of the conference and they would be in a very strong position.

Twenty is a big number. And it means, while we all are doing one thing, Democrats and Republicans all do is hurry up and wait to see what that next vote's going to be.

If that number is bigger, it will be a lot harder for Jim Jordan moving forward.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, the brand you mentioned of being a fighter and also being supported by Donald Trump, not someone who gives up easily.

I'm not surprised that they'll go to a second ballot because to have given up after the first ballot would have been to have totally folded when, for years, you've gone out and told Republicans that we have to keep fighting and we never give up and we don't stop in the face of political adversity.


So the momentum is the key. If it's not the same or if he only picks up one or he loses one, you wonder how much the conference will tolerate.

How many more attempts will the larger rank and file tolerate when a lot of these people didn't want to get rid of McCarthy in the first place. And then they were with Scalise.

Jordan is far from their first choice. And how much leash do they give someone like this if they're not showing progress on this next immediate vote.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I find it hard to believe that, on the next ballot, he doesn't get under 10, how do you go to a third? At 20, it's already so large, you have to really knock that down.

BASH: He can only afford to lose --


ALLISON: He can only afford to lose three. So if you can't get under 10, I don't know what the endurance of the caucus is.

But I will say, on the contrast, my Democratic friends are remaining united and have continued to double down on the call that if we can't find something -- if the Republicans can't get their act together, why not try a bipartisan platform?

BASH: Well --

HEYE: There is a third option and that's a temporary speakership with Patrick McHenry who Republicans not just like, but really respect.

BASH: Which is becoming an option for more and more Republicans in the building behind us are talking about.

Jim Jordan, as we've just been talking about, did not have the votes in the first round. It doesn't look like he has them in what we expect him to have in the second round. We are expecting that to happen. And a lot of high drama as the Ohio Republican vows to keep fighting.

Also, of course, we are following the horror in Gaza as hundreds are dead inside a packed hospital.

Much more on the breaking news right here on CNN after this.