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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN International: Dire Humanitarian Conditions Unfolding In Gaza; Hamas Frees American Woman And Her Daughter; IDF Chief Of Staff Says They Will Enter The Gaza Strip; Palestinian Authority PM: We Should Condemn Needless Death; IDF: Israel To Step Up Airstrikes On Gaza; Gaza: The Suffering Of Children. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired October 21, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London, and welcome to our breaking coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.
Tonight, 20 trucks filled with food, water, and medical supplies finally going into Gaza from Egypt. The Rafah Crossing open briefly Saturday to let this first convoy of humanitarian aid through after days of waiting. UNICEF says it brought in enough water for 22,000 people. But keep in mind, that will last for just one day. And it's far short of the 400 humanitarian trucks the U.N.'s World Food Program says entered Gaza daily before the war. And officials telling CNN the situation in Gaza is catastrophic. People are starving and more supplies need to be allowed in as soon as possible.
There were more Israeli airstrikes, shelling, and explosions in Gaza today, including near Rafah. All of this unfolding as tens of thousands of Israeli troops are gathering at Israel's border with Gaza. Israeli military chief of staff telling IDF commanders that the military will enter Gaza and initiate an operation to take out Hamas.
So let's go straight to my co-anchor this, our Sara Sidner, who is in Tel Aviv, Israel for us.
And, Sara, you've been telling me that it's been very quiet where you are today.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It has been extremely quiet, a very prayerful day on this Shabbat. But Palestinian officials are saying that in Gaza there simply is not enough aid that has been able to come in to try and help the hundreds of thousands of people, who are dealing with what is a humanitarian crisis there.
I know we've been talking about they're finally some aid has been let in and people have been waiting for that for days now. We are now in exactly two weeks since the October 7th surprise attack. They say that only the issues -- about 3 percent of what is used to get into Gaza before the crisis has been able to make it in.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hospitals in Gaza are crumbling. Everything is running out, from surgical equipment to medicine. And the tiniest lives are left hanging in the balance.
We need power, we need access to clean water, this doctor says. Without basic services, this will be a humanitarian catastrophe.
Already seven hospitals and 21 primary health care facilities here are out of service, according to Palestinian officials, because of shortages. After intense diplomatic efforts, prayers of relief at the Rafah Border Crossing as a trickle of aid was allowed in from Egypt. But the 20-truck convoy is only a drop in the ocean of need here, equivalent to just 3 percent of what entered this enclave daily prior to the conflict.
More than 200 additional trucks of assistance remain stalled on the Egyptian side according to the U.N., and every hour costs lives. And so far no civilians can leave the enclave. Ten-year-old Palestinian- American Aiden is among those trapped.
AIDEN BSEISO, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN IN GAZA: And we have no place to go. All the streets are bombed. They're literally gone. How are we supposed to go out? How? It's all closed.
ABDELAZIZ: Even if people are allowed out, it will be a limited number, most likely only those with foreign passports. Sealing some two million others, half of them children, into this hellscape. But some refuse to go, even if they could, fearing Israel intends to bomb and besiege them out of their homes, never to return.
Even as Mahmoud (PH) buries his children, he says he will keep fighting just to exist here. We will still be patient. As long as we are alive on this earth, we will be patient, he says. We will never leave this land.
After the October 7th terror attacks when Hamas killed more than 1400 people in Israel in a brutal surprise incursion, Israel vowed to wipe out Hamas. But with hundreds of airstrikes pounding the densely populated enclave a day, innocent blood is being spilled.
Innocent children were struck down while they were sleeping, this woman shouts. What did they do? Did they carry weapons? These are innocent children who know nothing. Tell us, when will this end?
There are calls for a ceasefire to get civilians out of the warzone and allow more aid into Gaza, but the pleas fall on deaf ears so far.
Israel is preparing for the next phase of its operations, a potential ground incursion that can only bring more suffering.
Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SIDNER: As you saw there from our Salma Abdelaziz, it's a devastating situation in Gaza at the moment even though there has been some things that have been able to come into the Rafah Border.
I want to bring in Jeremy Hopkins. He is the representative for UNICEF in Egypt.
Thank you so much for taking the time out. I know this is an extremely important and busy time for you all. Can you give me some sense? Because about 50 percent of the population in -- excuse me, in Gaza is 18 years or younger. So they're children. Can you give us some sense of how they are coping with all of this, especially in that there is a humanitarian crisis, not just from the airstrikes that have killed so many?
JEREMY HOPKINS, UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE IN EGYPT: Thanks very much. It's a pleasure to be with you. Yes, indeed, I mean, the situation is catastrophic -- the introductory comments you made are quite accurate. We have a team obviously of UNICEF staff in Gaza. And they have been, over the last two weeks, using the (INAUDIBLE) supplies that we had repositioned to re-provision the health centers, keep the only desalination plant that is still working to provide water to go in.
But, nevertheless, as you have heard, as we have heard, over one million people have been displaced, 300,000 children displaced. That means that they are not in their homes. And the fundamental needs right now are water, food, and medicine, and fuel. So, for example, in order to live in a healthy community, you should have 50 meters of water a day for drinking and washing and cooking.
Right now people are down to less than three liters of water per day. The health center is running out of supplies. We have babies in incubators. And if the fuel runs out those incubators stop working, you can imagine the consequences. We are very concerned. And yes, indeed, some trucks went over the border today. But we are calling very strongly for a sustained humanitarian corridor, that brings supplies in every day.
We want all the border points to be open. And if we're talking about that fact we want to be able to ship in the pipeline supplies that we have ready which are water, water system supplies, medicine, medical supplies, and of course other agencies have food and other badly needed commodities for these lifesaving humanitarian response.
SIDNER: I'm just curious, you know, I know you would like to see all of the borders open and that just does not appear to -- it's not going to happen at this point because we have heard from the Israeli government to the military that they have been given the greenlight for a ground offensive, if that is what they so choose to do it, so with that in the parameters, with that sort of in the way of bringing in aid, what else can be done?
Is it just the Rafah border? Is there anything else that can be done to try and cure this humanitarian crisis there?
HOPKINS: You know, if we have the border open daily and we can ship in the 100 to 200 trucks that we would need collectively as the humanitarian communities to deliver the lifesaving supplies that are required, we would be able to deliver a humanitarian response. But of course we need at the same time a cessation of hostilities, and we need humanitarian guarantees for humanitarian stuff.
So health workers, health centers, hospitals, schools, children, should not be targeted. A child should never be a target in the conflict, nor should the humanitarian workers helping to provide lifesaving relief to people affected by this crisis. So we are calling on the parties to ensure, that there is humanitarian space once the supplies are in to make sure they are delivered to the vulnerable people, for the hundreds of thousands of people who need them now.
SIDNER: I want to ask you about something that we've been hearing about, that is potentially happening in Gaza. And because you have people on the ground there I'm wondering if you are hearing or experiencing the same thing. There was so much desperation among those hundreds of thousands of people that left north Gaza because Israel told people to evacuate from North Gaza to the south, that they are now going back because the situation is overwhelmed in the south, and they figure they have better luck in the north. Is that what is happening at this point in time?
HOPKINS: You know, the situation is evolving very fast. We've heard the same thing you've heard. I cannot comment on whether it's correct or not. But what I can say is that, wherever a child is, whether it's in North Gaza or South Gaza, wherever a child is, he or she should not be targeted. She or he has the right to be safe anywhere, all the time, everywhere.
SIDNER: Because it is so densely populated, because Israel has declared war after they suffered that devastating attack, on so many of its civilians by Hamas, do you have any hope that the children will be safe, especially when there are aerial bombardments in such a densely packed place?
HOPKINS: It's a grave, grave protection concern of ours. And you know, there are a series of rights violation, human rights violations, of child rights violations which includes attacks on schools and hospitals, killing and maiming, kidnapping and taking children hostage, and we also called for the release of all hostages. But the situation that we see on the ground cannot improve until there is a cessation of hostilities.
So that is our ultimate call. And it's up to the parties to cease hostilities, so that we can deliver humanitarian support safely.
SIDNER: Jeremy, thank you so much for your work and your humanitarian work for the children of Gaza and around the Middle East. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today.
HOPKINS: Thank you very much.
SIDNER: Bianca? NOBILO: Thanks, Sara. And we'll be right back in just a few minutes
with more on our top story. Stay with us.
NOBILO: Hamas has released two hostages, nearly two weeks after abducting 200 people in Israel. U.S. citizens Judith Tai Raanan and Natalie Raanan were handed over at the border with Gaza. The pair are currently in the care of the IDF and spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden.
CNN's Whitney Wild reports.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The walk to freedom in a snapshot. 59-year-old Judith Raanan and her 17-year- old daughter Natalie are finally safe after two weeks as Hamas hostages.
WILD: They're headed home after prayers and tears. A community's fear now replaced by joy.
RABBI MEIR HECHT, CO-DIRECTOR, CHABAD OF EVANSTON: Our prayers have been heard for Judith and Natalie, and we are so overjoyed.
WILD: Judith and Natalie travelled to Israel from Evanston, Illinois, and have been missing since the Hamas attacks on October 7th. They were visiting a kibbutz in Israel for Judith's mother's 85th birthday. Judtih's sister told CNN she had no idea if they'd ever return.
SARAY COHEN, JUDITH RAANAN'S SISTER: I'm very worried about my sister and my niece. My niece, she is not even 18. She's supposed to be celebrating her birthday on the 24th of this month. We know that young women are being raped and injured. And Judith is -- she is not very, very healthy.
WILD: She says Hamas kidnapped 11 other family members from another kibbutz and they are still missing, though CNN cannot independently verify that information.
COHEN: As you can imagine, we are devastated and we are having quite a hard time.
WILD: Natalie's brother told CNN he's looking forward to hugging his younger sister again and helping however he can as she recovers from the trauma.
BEN RAANAN, NATALIE RAANAN'S BROTHER: At least from my father, Natalie is doing well. She's composed. We are ready to start this incredible journey of healing and trauma relief for her.
HECHT: Both Judith and Natalie are artists, kind, giving, generous souls.
WILD: The office of the Israeli prime minister says the Israel Defense Forces met Judith at the Gaza border Friday along with the International Committee of the Red Cross, transferring them to a military base in the center of Israel to meet family members.
As one family readies to embrace their loved ones, the families and friends of hundreds more are left to wait and wonder.
HECHT: They have gone through the most evil period of their life, and by people that inflicted just terror and horror to them and to so many others. And our job is to be there for them.
WILD (on-camera): The White House says President Biden spoke with Judith and Natalie by phone Friday. This as U.S. officials work around the clock to try to bring home 10 other Americans still missing in this conflict.
NOBILO: The release of the two hostages is a bittersweet moment for the families of those people who are still being held captive. Before the release on Friday, many of those families were here at a ceremony in Tel Aviv, a Shabbat dinner table laid with 200 empty plate settings.
Our Wolf Blitzer spoke with the mother and uncle of the 28-year-old woman who went to the Nova Music Festival, and is still missing.
ALON ENL, NIECE EDEN ZECHAIRA IS MISSING: We are always under -- it's a daily routine in Israel to be under threat. And she's really shocked to see that in this moment, everyone saw what happened, you know, everyone saw it. Still, the world is giving us such hard times because from her opinion, we had this small talk before, and she said, it's -- first, they need to bring them home. First of all, before any war, before any conflict, before anything we're talking about, bring these kids home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: I'd like to bring in Israeli government's spokesperson Eylon Levy and he joins me now live from Tel Aviv.
Thank you for joining us today.
EYLON LEVY, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: Thank you for having me on the show.
NOBILO: We've heard, in the last hour or so, from the IDF chief of staff that, quote, "We will enter the Gaza Strip, we'll embark on an operational and professional task to destroy Hamas operatives and infrastructure."
Given we've had that statement today, there's been much speculation about whether or not a ground offensive is imminent. Can we interpret that something will happen in the next 24 to 48 hours?
LEVY: I am not going to speculate on our precise troop movements and obviously not give away it on CNN when our forces are going in for the next stage of our campaign to destroy Hamas. But it is coming soon. Israel has made a strategic decision in the wake of the October 7th massacre, which murdered over 1,400 of our people, with 210 hostages still in the Gaza Strip, that we are going to dismantle Hamas.
Our goal is victory, total victory against Hamas. And for that, the whole country is getting prepared for what is going to be a very difficult and grueling and long period ahead. And unfortunately, we as a country have realized we simply have no choice, but to totally dismantle the terror organization that perpetrated the atrocities on the 7th of October. We simply cannot, as a people, as a country, allow ourselves to live next to this ISIS style terrorist state, another day longer.
NOBILO: How does the protection of the Israelis who remain as hostages in Gaza apply to your military planning?
LEVY: The safety of the hostages in the Gaza Strip is an absolute priority for us, and we are demanding their immediate and unconditional return. We're demanding that they be given access to the International Red Cross and we will do whatever is necessary to bring them back. Just a word on the numbers. We have confirmed that there are, at the moment, at least 210 Israeli hostages inside the Gaza Strip.
And I say at least 210 because two weeks on from the October 7th massacre, there are still between 100 and 200 people who are still missing. And that's because we don't know whether Hamas abducted them from their beds or simply turned them into the sort of human ash the world hasn't seen since the Holocaust because in the October 7th massacre Hamas cremated whole families alive.
They invaded villages and used thermobaric weapons. And I remember your own reports on CNN describing them as the most terrifying weapons in the world after nuclear weapons. They used those weapons to burn whole families inside their homes and there are still 100 to 200 people, who are still missing. And we don't know whether they are in the Gaza Strip, we don't know whether they have simply been burned to a cinder and charcoal.
And that's part of the challenge now as we try to set about freeing those hostages. Part of the last two weeks has been trying to identify who exactly is in the Gaza Strip because the only information we have about their hostages is from the gruesome videos that Hamas has been releasing on Telegram revealing the horrible, horrible, awful fate inside the Gaza Strip.
NOBILO: Will you hold off on the ground invasion until the hostages are released? Because hostages were released yesterday and it seems that Hamas will be less likely to concur with mediation and release hostages once you launch a ground invasion. How does that play into your calculus?
LEVY: We are demanding their immediate and unconditional return. But we know exactly the sort of terrorist organization that we are dealing with and know that it doesn't have a fiber of humanitarian sentiment in its body. This is an organization that beheaded people, that committed brutal acts of rape, that burned whole families lived, that mutilated and dismember children, gouged eyes out, murdered children in front of their parents, murdered parents in front of their children, committed atrocities that are so bad that I know some of the international media have been reporting this fully admitting that they can't possibly share all the gruesome details on television because it simply cannot be repeated on television.
So we know the enemy that we are dealing with, we know that it is an evil organization, worse than ISIS and that's the organization we are committed to defeating and destroying, and bringing our hostages home, and destroying it, by the way, so that it could never again perpetrate such atrocities, and never again harm a single hair on an Israeli civilian, or take another civilian hostage, or any hostage back into the Gaza Strip ever, ever again. We simply will not allow it.
NOBILO: We've also heard from the IDF today that you are deep in your tax to minimize damage to your forces. When you do enter Gaza, I imagine that would be met with huge fear and concern within Gaza, given that around 4,500 civilians have already been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes.
LEVY: First of all, I would say to treat with extreme caution all the numbers that are being reported by the Hamas Health Ministry. These numbers have not been independently verified. These are numbers that Hamas is spouting out. And I'm old enough to remember just a few days ago when Hamas immediately claimed 500 to 800 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a hospital, and it turned out there was no air strike, the hospital wasn't bombed, and the death toll was considerably lower.
So if possible let's treat with extreme skepticism what Hamas is claiming. We know that it is waging a war of misinformation in order to gain international sympathy through the media. And we should treat that with all caution. Now, of course, while minimizing threats to our own forces, these are our children who are conscripted at the age of 18 and going into the army to protect their people.
Like you say, personally I have many friends who are doing reserves now because they've simply been ripped away from their ordinary lives to guard our borders. We will of course continue doing whatever is necessary to minimize civilian casualties inside the Gaza Strip. Because we don't want more people to be hurt, that's why Israel has been urging civilians to temporarily evacuate for their own safety the areas that are going to see especially fierce fighting. The areas were Hamas has embedded its terrorist infrastructure underneath civilian areas.
And it's regrettable that Hamas has been stopping them from evacuating, stopping them from getting out, and there was an interview with Khaled Mashal just the other day on Al-Arabiya in which he said, you know, we're willing to sacrifice our people for the cause of jihad. Now we don't want people to be hurt. That's why we are doing everything that we can to get civilians out of harm's way. But at the end of the day, Hamas, the terror regime backed by Iran, has ultimate responsibility inside the Gaza Strip.
It's been the government there for 16 years, and this is just part of the horrible, horrible conditions that we're having to deal with as we advance with this campaign to destroy Hamas, the organization that perpetrated that massacre on the 7th of October, the worst terror attack in world history after 9/11, because we have no choice. There simply is no way for Israel to continue living alongside such an evil terrorist organization.
NOBILO: If you don't want people in Gaza to be hurt, apart from the very direct and immediate threat of airstrikes, there is of course the humanitarian crisis. Now 20 trucks have entered with humanitarian aid. You and I, and everyone knows that's nowhere near enough. Can you give us an update on when further humanitarian aid will be allowed in?
LEVY: So the humanitarian aid that has been going in is through the border between Egypt and Gaza, the Rafah Border Crossing. For a range of legal, operational, and moral reasons that is the correct entry point. We want to see more humanitarian aid reach the people of Gaza.
And we're hopeful that if what happened today is successful, that will be a model for things to come, for more aid to reach the people of Gaza through that crossing. Now we have only one condition, that that aid not reach Hamas, that is our demand, and our right under international law. In fact, it would be internationally unlawful to allow international aid, international taxpayer dollars, to reach the terrorist organization that perpetrated the October 7th massacre.
We already know, just a few days ago, Hamas stole 24,000 liters of fuel from UNRWA, fuel that was supposed to go towards hospital generators is now being used in order to fire rockets at our cities. And we know that Hamas is going to try to steal international id, that is supposed to go to the people of Gaza. And that's why we are demanding and we're being absolutely clear, aid for the citizens of Gaza, that is good, that is absolutely fine, that is absolutely all right, and that is to be welcomed.
But not aid that is going to be diverted towards Hamas's death machines, so it can continue to perpetrate atrocities like the ones we saw on the 7th of October.
NOBILO: Eylon Levy, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
LEVY: Thank you very much for having me on.
NOBILO: The peace summit in Egypt ends without an agreement. We go back to the region to find out what happened and what Arab leaders are thinking. That's right after a quick break.
SIDNER: I'm Sara Sidner in Jerusalem. Today marks exactly two weeks since Hamas's surprise attack on Israel that killed men, women, and children. More than 1,000 people in this country. Many world leaders have come in support of Israel, one of the biggest, the United States of America.
Israel has continued to strike Gaza, since that attack, killing more than 4,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry there in Gaza.
CNN's Becky Anderson spoke exclusively with the Palestinian Authority prime minister. She started by asking him if he condemned the October 7th attack by Hamas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER: The condemnation should be of killing every civilian, every human being that does not deserve to die, we should condemn that. More than 1,600 children has been slaughtered in Gaza, more than 700 women. The general mood in Israel today, is a mood of revenge, and I think this appetite for killing should be stopped, under any circumstances, not one single human being would like to see innocent people killed.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: You aren't willing to say that you condemn the attacks, though on October 7th, why?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER: Well, because you see, the Palestinian story does not start on October 7th. Palestinian catastrophe has been there for 75 years. And we have been crying loud and we have been shouting loud and clear, we need the solution.
And what has happened yesterday is yesterday. The mood of revenge and the preparation for a ground operation which is going to cost 10,000 Palestinian lives. This is where the focus should be. And that is what we should stop.
ANDERSON: Were you shocked, surprised by the ferocity of the attack on October 7th?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYE: Everybody were -- everybody was shocked. This is something that has been unprecedented by all means. The Israeli government policy has to be held responsible for all what has happened.
The Israeli strategy was to keep Gaza isolated, that people in Gaza were very angry, were distressed -- or depressed. The people of Gaza were unemployed and under the poverty line. We have to make to provide meaningful life to the people.
That was not there. Gaza was a Jew -- a zone that was shrinking every single day. The situation was shocking to everybody, but the magnitude of destruction that we have seen today in Gaza is something that is a criminal act.
ANDERSON: Israel's defense minister has said "his troops will soon see the inside of Gaza." And I quote him on that. As Israel's military ready -- readies itself for the next stage. Just how concerned are you?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYE: Very concerned. If the Israeli army goes into Gaza with a ground operation, then our anticipation is that thousands -- additional thousand, maybe 10,000 -- 15,000 Palestinians will be killed. So, we are more than concerned.
ANDERSON: Why did President Abbas walk out on what was it scheduled to be a summit in Jordan with the U.S. president?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYE: What happened at Al-Ahli hospital was a horrific scene. We asked one simple question. Is the United States ready to say to the Israelis stop the incursion, stop the attacks? We were not assured on that. And therefore, any meeting became meaningless.
We, the Jordanians or the Egyptians -- and by the way, and the Americans, they didn't fully understand that President Abbas had to work -- to walk away. And they also bid condolences on the loss of lives in the Al-Ahli hospital.
ANDERSON: The U.S. has been absolutely clear that Israel has a right to defend itself and that it will support Israel in its efforts to destroy Hamas, whatever it takes. Your thoughts on that?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYE: The support of Israel blindly is a license for killing. And I hope that the United States does not go into that direction. Israel is not under existential threat.
The White House -- the president should call for the parties to sit down and work together on a peaceful solution. Encouraging Israel to destroy the people of Gaza, that is not going to bring a solution. Look at the pictures. Look at the pictures.
Who has been killed in Gaza? Children, women, old men, churches, mosques. This is not a war on Hamas. This is a war on the Palestinian people wherever they are in Gaza the West Bank, and Jerusalem.
ANDERSON: Prime Minister, what is the role of the United States in securing a fair and just future for the Palestinian people?
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYE: If they have the will? They can do it. But very unfortunately, I'm very frank with you to say that I don't think that the current American administration has the political will to end the conflict. They are managing it. Without them -- without them, there is no solution. With them only, there is no solution. So, what you need is a collective international effort.
Those who have landed in Tel Aviv to show support for Israel, unfortunately, have been given the greenest of the green light for Israel to continue its attack on Gaza. International support should be for peace. International support should not be for aggression.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the Egypt peace summit has now ended without an accord. The Arab leaders had gathered to try and secure a ceasefire, but Israeli and -- Israeli and senior U.S. officials were not there. The Egyptian president now criticizing the international community for not doing enough to try and stop the bloodshed that is happening in Gaza and address the root cause of the long-held conflict.
Our Nada Bashir has more on this story. Nada?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, Sara, we are certainly seeing continued outrage here in the Middle East, in Amman, where we are, in Jordan. And, of course, in expressing that is on the diplomatic front, we have seen that vocal condemnation, but it has certainly been expressed on the popular front as well.
We have seen huge protests taking place across the region here in Amman. We've seen hundreds gathering on a nightly basis on the streets outside the Israeli embassy. Just yesterday, we saw thousands of people participating in a march through downtown Amman, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinian people, calling for an end to Israel's aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, and protesting against the humanitarian catastrophe that we are seeing unfolding in the Gaza Strip.
Now, of course, it is not just happening in Amman, but this is a cause that is felt very close to home for many here. More than half of the population in Jordan are of either Palestinian or Palestinian descent. We've spoken to people at these marches, who have loved ones, relatives, and family members inside Gaza.
They tell us that they're checking their phones every couple of hours, calling them to see if they are still alive. That is the reality for many here in Jordan. And indeed, across the Middle East.
We have seen protests erupting in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, where typically these protests are not sanctioned by the state, yet we saw hundreds gathering in Tahrir Square, a remarkable site there. And they're happening further afield as well, from London to Washington, DC. This is a growing movement in opposition to the situation we are seeing in Gaza.
But as many begin to fear that we could see a ground incursion, that will certainly trigger further protests and further popular response to this. But, of course, this has been a situation that Arab leaders have been very vocal about as well. You mentioned the Cairo peace summit.
We have some pretty strong words from King Abdullah of Jordan, a key player of course, on the diplomatic front when it comes to trying to find a resolution to this ongoing war and Israel's ongoing aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip. He condemned the violence that we are seeing both in Gaza and the West Bank as well as in Israel. But he also had these words to say about the situation.
He said the relentless bombing campaign underway in Gaza as we speak is cruel and unconscionable on every level. It is the collective punishment of besieged and helpless people. It is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. It is a war crime.
And this is a sentiment that we have heard echoed by rights groups, by NGOs on the ground, by doctors who are still operating in Northern Gaza, despite the fact that we have heard that evacuation order from the Israel Defense Forces. Doctors from Doctors Without Borders have told us that they refuse to evacuate because they cannot evacuate hundreds of their patients. This is the reality on the ground in Gaza, and this is drawing a fierce response across the Middle East.
SIDNER: Thank you so much, Nada Bashir, for explaining all of that. And we should mention, you know, there are more than three million Palestinians who live in Jordan. They make up a huge part of the population there. And as you mentioned, many of their family members and friends live in Gaza. We'll be right back.
NOBILO: The IDF says it plans to step up air strikes on Gaza in preparation for the next stage of its military operation. Officials say ground incursion is a matter of when not if at this point. The IDF's chief of staff is telling commanders today we will enter Gaza.
Meanwhile, a brief opening at Egypt Rafah Crossing let 20 trucks into Gaza earlier on, the first aid convoy since the war began. UNICEF says there's enough water for 22,000 people for just one day. That's a small fraction of what officials say is needed, of course in comparison to the 400 truckloads that used to enter Gaza daily before the war.
Jeremy Diamond joins us now in Ashkelon, Israel. Jeremy, we've had more statements from the IDF today which point to the imminence of a ground offensive from the IDF into Gaza. What more are you learning about those preparations?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Not only are we hearing very clearly from top generals, the defense minister, or the prime minister of Israel, that a ground invasion is indeed in the offing here, question -- the only question remaining is exactly when that ground invasion will begin. But in addition to that, we are actually seeing that reality here on the ground near the Gaza Strip. We drove by today, several massive groupings of tanks and armored personnel carriers as well as these D-nine bulldozers that go in front of the -- of these tanks to -- and armored personnel carriers to try and clear out any potential IEDs and obstacles as they go into Gaza.
With a video that you're seeing right now is just one of four groupings of tanks and armored personnel carriers that we saw all within just a few miles of the Gaza border. Now, at the same time, General Halevi, the military -- the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff saying tonight very clearly, we will enter the Gaza Strip and also telling troops there that they will take on the task of "destroying Hamas operatives and infrastructures." The clearest indication today that a ground invasion is indeed in the offing and perhaps even imminent.
NOBILO: Jeremy, you've been spending time with people in Ashkelon where obviously it was such a tragic brunt of the Hamas surprise attack on October 7th. And rockets continue to be fired into that area as well. How are people coping on a day-to-day basis?
DIAMOND: Look. People are very afraid here, you know. You can sense some real anxiety, fear, and also just a sense of apprehending what may come next when this ground invasion kicks off and how Hamas may respond with additional rockets in this direction. Ashkelon is the most fired upon city in Israel, about 25 percent of all the rockets that Hamas has fired in the last two weeks of this war have been fired on this very city. And we got a sense of how residents are reacting as we were -- went around the city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go inside. Go inside. Go inside.
DIAMOND (voiceover): This is life in Ashkelon, the most fired-upon city in Israel since Hamas launched its first rockets 12 days ago. Here, fear still gripped some. Others carry on, ignoring the sirens wales.
SHLOMO COHEN, ASHKELON RESIDENT (through a translator): When we're outside, we're very careful. And when we are inside, God is protecting us. Every missile has an address. We don't need to be afraid.
DIAMOND (voiceover): In a city where 90 percent of businesses have closed, this supermarket is a lifeline.
DIAMOND: There's a lot of businesses that are close.
ADINA MORDECHAL, SUPERMARKET CASHIER: They're close.
DIAMOND: But the supermarket --
MORDECHAL: The market is -- it's working because people have to eat. They have to drink.
DIAMOND: So, you come, what, once a week or --
ETI GILBOA, ASHKELON RESIDENT: Once a week is enough. And they -- we are very afraid. And the send now rocket. I was lying on the -- on the road and to put my hands on my --
DIAMOND (voiceover): Getting to a bomb shelter isn't an option for everyone here, prompting the city to help evacuate thousands.
HEZI HALEVI, ASHKELON CEO: We still have around 35,000 people that actually live without shelters. So, each and every rocket, it means direct risk for them. So, we are trying to find a solution for them.
DIAMOND (voiceover): More than 1200 rockets have targeted Ashkelon. And while most are intercepted by the Iron Dome, about 200 have made direct hits, displacing families from their homes, causing casualties, and shuttering businesses like this bakery.
DOR MACHLUF, BAKERY OWNER (through a translator): When we got here, everything was in pieces. The door was out of place. There was a smell of gunpowder. A lot of nails and shrapnel were spread out. Everything was destroyed. We are starting to put things right.
DIAMOND (voiceover): In the basement of an unassuming building, Ashkelon CEO takes us into the city's emergency operation center where officials try and shorten response times, tracking incoming rockets headed for the city.
HALEVI: Rescue teams, police ambulances, everything is going from here.
DIAMOND: So, before the rocket even lands --
HALEVI: You know --
DIAMOND: We can see where it would land.
HALEVI: We -- yes, we have some estimation where it's going to be landed.
DIAMOND (voiceover): Until then, the first responders wait and pray.
DIAMOND (on camera): And while the Iron Dome missile defense system takes out the overwhelming majority of rockets fired at the city, the fear that grips people is because some of those rockets still do make it through. Four people have died in the city of Ashkelon in the last two weeks, 35 people have been injured by these rockets, and over 1200 people have been displaced because of rockets hitting their homes. In fact, just yesterday, we had one rocket that hit a parked car and two rockets that hit homes in this city.
NOBILO: Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much for joining us from Ashkelon, Israel.
And joining me now live from Washington, DC is Bilal Y. Saab, senior fellow and founding director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute. Thanks for joining us today.
BILAL Y. SAAB, SENIOR FELLOW AND FOUNDING DIRECTOR, DEFENSE SECURITY PROGRAM, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: It's a pleasure. NOBILO: So, we're all waiting to see whether or not Israel begins a ground offensive and crosses the border into Gaza. We know that tanks are amassing and that there's a much bigger military presence there. And we've all had confirmation from the IDF, it will be happening very shortly. What factors do you think are at play here incentivizing or holding up Israel's decision to enter in a ground invasion?
SAAB: I mean, I would suspect that they're probably doing last-minute further collection of intelligence. You got to remember that they have the extra layer of complexity, which is the hostages. So -- and they're also probably looking at maps. They're probably doing last- minute coaching of their troops.
It is such really a sophisticated operation. You have to deal with urban warfare, you had to deal with subterranean warfare, and then you got to deal with the hostages on top of that. So, this is probably one of the most complex operations the IDF has ever had to do. And it's frankly, a history of confrontation against Arab -- militaries and Arab military forces. So, there's, frankly, no surprise why there's extra care and extra preparation before going in because they also understand that the collateral damage is going to be inevitable. So, they have to factor all those things.
NOBILO: There have been increasing attacks on Israel's northern border with Lebanon -- with Hezbollah. But to put it crudely, Hezbollah's technically sort of remained on defense here. They are not full scale engaged in this war. If that were to happen, how would that change the dynamic and the calculus? Because in terms of their arsenal and capabilities, they might present a more formidable foe for Israel than Hamas.
SAAB: Oh, dramatically. It will be a completely different ballgame. You're talking about a foe here that is incredibly more powerful than Hamas, and in many ways, the idea of being considered as an actual regular military.
I don't need to remind you what happened in 2006. Hezbollah fought to a standstill. It's the idea of fall for 34 days. Most likely, if this were to happen and God forbid it does, it would make 2006 look like a walk in the park.
The missile arsenal, the rocket arsenal, the change of doctrine that is much more offensive in nature than defensive. All of that will create such carnage, frankly, across the region. We're not even talking about the Syrian front also, which is also an option for the Iran-led axis.
NOBILO: We've heard as well, I think it was earlier today from the deputy leader of Hezbollah basically saying that when a ground invasion begins, they're not going to be able to continue to sit on the sidelines. I'm paraphrasing slightly.
NOBILO: So, how do you think they respond, you know? Because they'll also be thinking about trying to avoid, you know, a catastrophic outcome here for all parties involved. But what options do they have if Israel does invade on the ground?
SAAB: Right. Yes. So -- I mean, you're already seeing the shelling, right, which I would consider as still being within the rules of engagement between the IDF and Hezbollah. This kind of communication that's going on, even though it's deadly messages, right, I mean, people are dying on both sides, Israeli soldiers, but also Hezbollah fighters and journalists. This is the language of deterrence, right? The Israelis trying to deter Hezbollah from opening another front, and the Hezbollah trying to deter the IDF from mounting a ground incursion into Gaza.
I don't know if any of this is going to work. Frankly, I think the IDF is pretty much determined, as you very well know, to enter into Gaza now. It's only a matter of time. But perhaps just signaling to the Israelis that they are prepared, that they are ready, that they are willing to enter into this fight, might perhaps change the intensity and the magnitude of the ground invasion itself. It might not detour it, but it just might influence the decision-making of the Israelis.
I don't know if any of this is going to happen. But this is once again, the kind of communication that's going on. It's pretty explicit at this point, frankly, between Hezbollah and the IDF. And you could see how there's such a high risk of escalation because you got to remember in 2006, neither party wanted a war, but they ended up with one anyway.
NOBILO: Quite right. So, we're seeing posturing signaling with already deadly consequences --
NOBILO: And very alarming indeed. And Bilal, thank you so much for joining us. It's really, really good to speak to you. Hope to talk to you soon.
SAAB: Absolutely. Thank you.
NOBILO: Coming up. The civilian death toll climbs by the hour. We have a report on the children caught up in Israel's war on Hamas.
SIDNER: All right. I am live here in Jerusalem on the second week, the anniversary of that surprise attack by Hamas on Israel that killed more than a thousand people here in Israel. Meantime, in Gaza, there have been an enormous amount of airstrikes over the past two weeks, killing thousands upon thousands of people there. This region reeling from the tension that is still here, and a lot of the violence being criticized from around the world.
But finally, we have seen some very small amounts of relief in Gaza with trucks that have been able to go in through the Rafah Border with Egypt and provide about three percent of the humanitarian aid that is currently needed there. I think we are going -- we are -- yes, I think we are going to give you a look at what has been happening from Jomana Karadsheh.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Why? Why have you gone, my son? He whales. He wanted to be a pilot. You're only sleeping, he says, kissing his boy's lifeless body. Every day of this war has brought pain, pain no parent wants to ever live through.
Every 15 minutes in Gaza a child is killed, aid groups say. More than 1500 children killed so far in a war that's only just beginning. A war they didn't choose one for which they are paying the heaviest price.
Those who lived, haunted by what they've survived. The lucky ones still have parents to hold their hands. 10-year-old Abdul Rahman (PH) still doesn't know the strike that left him injured, took away his mom, dad, and three sisters. His aunt, the only one left to try and comfort him.
He wakes up, he cries, they give him painkillers, and he goes back to sleep, she says. I'm worried about him. The shock when he wakes up and finds out that his mother and father are gone, his aunt says.
He's the youngest. He was so attached to his parents. He used to play football with his dad. He would go with him everywhere.
Families here say they all heeded the Israeli military's warning and moved south thinking it would be safe, but it wasn't. Muaileq (PH) was injured in the hips and legs. She lost her mother and siblings in an airstrike.
NUHA MUAILEQ, GAZA RESIDENT (through a translator): A girl in the third grade, what did she do? Her aunt asks. Did she shoot Israelis? She didn't. We're peaceful people in our home, she says. We didn't launch any rockets or shoot. We didn't do anything.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): 9-year-old Mahmoud was out playing when his family home was hit. He's in hospital with head and leg injuries.
MAHMOUD AL-ALOUL, INJURED CHILD (through a translator): We were playing in the garden and suddenly a missile landed on us, he says. Trees fell on me. My mother, my father, my brother, and my grandfather were injured. My uncle brought me unconscious to the hospital.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): Most of the injured in Gaza, doctors say, are children and women. With no power, no water, and medical supplies running out, the health care they need is on the verge of collapse. Around half of Gaza's population are children. Most have only ever known life under a blockade and war. Now in this kill box, no place safe from Israel's relentless bombardment.
Desperate for any promise of safety, many have flooded Al-Shifa hospital grounds. The constant buzz of military drones overhead has become part of existence in Gaza. Some find a little escape from this living nightmare no child should ever endure. Loujain and Julia say their neighborhood was flattened by airstrikes.
LOUJAIN MASABE, GAZA RESIDENT (through a translator): We've been living in so much fear, panic, and anxiety, she says. Whenever I hear airstrikes, I don't know what to do. I hug my mom.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): 7-year-old Julia says she holds her mom too and hides. They're now living under the stairs.
JULIA AL-BAYYARI, GAZA RESIDENT (through a translator): I get upset when I see injured here in the hospital, Julia says. When I grow up, I want to become a doctor so I can treat them so they can get better.
KARADSHEH (voiceover): It's a war on Hamas they say, but it is the youngest who bear the brunt. Ensnared in violence they can't control. Trapped in this race against death. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.
SIDNER: Out of the mouths of babies. That was really, really difficult to see. All right. We will be right back.