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CNN International: First Aid Convoy Reaches Gaza 12 Days Into Total Siege; Hamas Frees American Woman And Her Daughter; Israel To Continue Military Pressure On Hamas; Western View Of Israel's War On Hamas; The Suffering Of Children In Gaza; Countries Work To Bring Citizens Home from War Zone. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 21, 2023 - 17:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London, and this is our breaking coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

Tonight, it is midnight in Jerusalem and Gaza. And there's a new warning from Israel right now. The Israeli military says it's increasing airstrikes on Gaza from this day forward. An IDF spokesperson says that's intended to, quote, "minimize the risk to Israeli troops" in the next stages of the war.

Keep in mind, we've been watching a steady buildup of Israeli forces, tanks, and military equipment along the border with Gaza, along with airstrikes and shelling since the Hamas terror attack on October 7th. The IDF saying today it will launch a ground operation in Gaza when the conditions are, quote, "optimal."

For the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began two weeks ago, 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid rolled into Gaza from Egypt earlier on today. But the Rafah Border Crossing is now closed once more and relief agencies warned more water, food, and medical supplies are much needed.

CNN's Sara Sidner is in Jerusalem for us.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Here in Jerusalem, it is very, very quiet, peaceful, if you will, although the tension you can feel among the people who are here. In Gaza, a very different scene. Mass destruction but one small albeit very small glimmer of hope for those who are desperate for supplies, medical supplies, food, and water.

Palestinian officials say that some of that aid has been let in to help out the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in need. But it is a fraction of what normally comes in when it is not during wartime. It represents about 3 percent of what it used to get into Gaza before this crisis.

Our Salma Abdelaziz has more on the story.


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: Having spent some time there, I can tell you Gaza City is unrecognizable from the bombing campaign.

I will -- last hour, I spoke with Jeremy Hopkins, a representative for UNICEF in Egypt, who has been watching and helping try to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. Here is what he said about the situation which he is hoping that there can be a cease-fire because the number of trucks that have gone in, just 20 of them, is simply not even close to enough and this needs to be sustained throughout the entire time that Israel is at war. Whether that will happen or not is another thing. Here's what he said.


JEREMY HOPKINS, UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE IN EGYPT: The situation is catastrophic, I think 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 dwindling supplies that we have prepositioned to -- reprovision the health centers, keep the only desalination plant that is still working to provide water going.

But nevertheless, as you have heard, as we have heard, over one million people have been displaced, 300,000 children, and 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 health and dignity, you should have 50 liters of water a day for drinking and washing and cooking, et cetera.

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 Rafah, 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, 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, to the hundreds of thousands of people who need them now.


SIDNER: The desperation in Gaza cannot be understated for the civilians there living in the worst kinds of conditions since the aerial bombings from Israel, and the response to the attack that happened just two weeks to the day ago, where Hamas stormed into Israel and killed more than 1,000 people in this country.

That was Jeremy Hopkins, a representative for UNICEF in Egypt, talking about trying to get more humanitarian aid, to the civilians in Gaza. We'll be right back.



NOBILO: The IDF chief told commanders on Saturday we'll enter the Gaza Strip. I asked Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy about speculation that a ground offensive is imminent, and whether we can expect something to happen in the next 24 to 48 hours. Here's what he said.


EYLON LEVY, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: I am not going to speculate on our precise troop movements and obviously not give away 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.

It 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. 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 alive, that mutilated and dismembered children, gouged their 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 can 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBILO: According to a senior Israeli official, the release of the two American hostages was the result of military pressure on Hamas. On Friday, Hamas has released two hostages nearly two weeks after abducting 200 people in Israel. The official added that the release of these hostages would not change Israel's plans for 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 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 many 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, is 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 White House says U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed by his National Security Team on the situation in Israel and Gaza. Earlier, he made it clear that his administration is working around the clock to ensure the release of any Americans being held hostage by Hamas.

I am joined now by CNN senior national security analyst Juliette Kayyem to discuss this ongoing situation.

Let's begin with the hostages, Juliette. Why do you think these two Americans have been released?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, so the key word is Americans. Hamas is also, in a narrative, positioning about where they are. They want to make sure that the narrative for in Qatar and elsewhere in the Arab world is one in which they are being seen as reasonable, vis-a-vis the United States' concerns about our own hostages. So, the fact that they are Americans is just rather obvious and symbolic.

In fact, they said that it was for humanitarian reasons, but both of the women who were escorted out or walking, they looked pretty healthy, that this was clearly to begin at least some dialogue to try to release more, likely non-Israeli hostages, as these deliberations are going on.


NOBILO: What was your reaction to the outcome or perhaps lack thereof of the Cairo peace summit? Are any countries surprising you in their response to what is happening?

KAYYEM: Yes so, I do think that it's -- I guess I would say it, you know, I think that Hamas is finding itself somewhat isolated in terms of what its narrative is the wrong word, but in terms of its ability to create a groundswell of support in the Arab world. People are upset, we see it in the streets, we see lots of people in the Middle East. But they are upset about the humanitarian issue in Gaza, not so much supportive of anything that occurred. And so what's surprising I think is just the calculation, what Hamas

must have been thinking in terms of how bad their calculation was, of what was happening last Saturday. So if you just look, you know, the -- look, things are happening. But to the extent that, you know, Israel is not really facing an existential threat up north with the Iranians and Hezbollah. You now have a border open in Egypt to get humanitarian relief.

And, as the United States have been trying to do, you're holding off Israel from a ground invasion at least for now until the humanitarian relief can get in. It is clear, at least the United States has made it clear, Israel does not have a day two plan. I mean it's relatively easy to go into Gaza, it's not so easy to figure out what are you doing there? Besides trying to eviscerate Hamas, what do you leave in its place?

NOBILO: This is another hypothetical, but given the stakes that are at play here, there are important questions to ask. We heard from the deputy head of Hezbollah basically saying that if and when Israel does invade Gaza, with tanks and soldiers, that they won't be able to continue to sit on the fence, I am paraphrasing.

What will be your expectational concern about Israel taking that step, and then the impact it might have on some of these regional players that so far haven't actually entered or engaged full scale in this?

KAYYEM: Right. So the -- look, there's been a lot of diplomacy going on, we don't know everything. Everyone has an expectation that Israel will go in, in some capacity, and then the key word is, what does that capacity mean? In other words, there are multiple ways to go in. If Israel can -- have evidence that they have taken out senior leadership of Hamas, then maybe President Biden's diplomacy will have worked. You're going to avoid the humanitarian crisis.

The biggest concern, of course, is a refugee crisis for the Arab countries. I'll be honest with you, you know, it's sort of ironic to hear them worried about the Palestinians now when you haven't really seen much engagement by them, and they clearly do not want that kind of refugee crisis on their borders. And so part of this will be how long is that engagement by Israel. And strategic strikes are different than a full-on invasion.

So we are going to see, you know, in terms of both what the experience is of the Palestinians who are there but also the engagement of the Arab nations.

NOBILO: And Juliette, when I was walking to work today through London, there were huge pro-Palestinian protests, tens of thousands of people. And obviously, the decisions that Biden is taking and the diplomacy that he is conducting, it does also depend on popular and public support in America. Do you think he is going to come under increasing pressure if Israel does continue these strikes, which are largely indiscriminate and thousands of Gazans are dying as a result?

KAYYEM: Yes, and that political hit will come from populations here in the United States who generally vote Democratic, the Arab Muslim populations, and in particular in progressive politics. He is likely aware of that. One of the things that gets lost in the discussion about Biden, and this sort of, you know -- the sort of cooperation and support we have of Israel and the politics here in the United States is that Biden is actually, or President Biden actually is talking about his discussions with the Arab leaders, about what he broke and what he said was Palestinian self-determination.

From the United States' perspective, we haven't heard a president talk like that in a long while. So he is obviously trying to hold off or buy some time with an Israeli invasion to see, can we begin finally -- no one knows what the answer is -- some discussion about the Palestinians in their own right. And if there's any, any, you know, if you thought, could anything not get worse, right. In other words, could things be less bad in terms of what we're looking at.


It would be that this ends or begins its discussion, excuse me, about, in the Western democracies, about the Palestinians, again, which even in the Western democracies, we had essentially abandoned. So we'll see.

NOBILO: Yes, I think that's a good point to raise, about that language, about Palestinian self-determination. Because that is an important shift even if it has been sort of obscured by the optics of the, you know, embrace of Netanyahu and everything else.

Juliette Kayyem, always great to hear from, thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you, have a good one.

NOBILO: As Israeli troops gather at the border with Gaza, can diplomatic efforts still prevent an all-out war? Hear what the Palestinian Authority prime minister has to say about that in an exclusive conversation with CNN.


SIDNER: The Israeli military has issued a very clear message today. That message, they will enter Gaza. Even more troops, tanks, and armored vehicles have been gathering near the border today, all in preparation for that ground offensive that we will expect to happen at some point, though they have not said exactly when.

Now we should also mention all that is happening here, as the Israeli military is warning that it will ramp up airstrikes in Gaza again. And fears, of course, are growing for the civilians there who are already dealing with an enormous humanitarian crisis, where they have no food, very little water, and no fuel, although 20 trucks were allowed into Gaza today, through the Rafah border with Egypt.

Some Palestinian leaders have been looking at the situation, as Israel has called on residents in Gaza in the north to move to the southern part of Gaza, ahead of this possible ground incursion. But there are those Palestinian leaders who are urging, actually, against that. CNN's Becky Anderson sat down exclusively with the Palestinian prime

minister and asked him what all this could mean for Palestinians going forward.


MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER: Palestinians in 1948 were pushed out of their homes, were forcefully transferred to the neighboring countries. Now, for Israel to push again, for their forceful transfer of more than a million Palestinians from Gaza out of Gaza, out of Palestine, into Egypt is something that has been designed to end, the question of the Palestinian right to return of the Palestinian refugees, which was a final status issue on the negotiations.


So that is a concern for Egypt because Egypt is not ready to be part of a conspiracy to end this Palestinian issue that's called the refugees, and also for Jordan, if that is going to happen in Egypt, then who will prevent the Israelis from pushing us here in the West Bank, to be forcefully transferred to Jordan? And that is where the issue of transfer is such a concern, because it is a national security issue for Egypt, it is a national security issue for Jordan. But it is an existential issue for us, the Palestinians.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: What's Israel's plan if it does destroy Hamas? Who will govern Gaza? Is there a world in which the PA takes over?

SHTAYYEH: We will not go to Gaza on Israeli time. The solution for Gaza is not going to take us anywhere. A solution in the West Bank alone is not going to take us anywhere. So what we want is a comprehensive solution, that ends occupation.

ANDERSON: There has been a surge in violence in the West Bank amid this Gaza conflict. Since October the 7th, more than 80 Palestinians have been killed in either settler violence or by Israeli security. How would you describe the situation here today?

SHTAYYEH: Very inflammatory, very dangerous. And as you rightly said, what you see in the West Bank is incursions into Al Aqsa Mosque. Home demolitions, settler terrorism. This Israeli government has changed rules of engagement. Ben Gvir has been distributing machine guns to settlers. They have been channeling violence against us. So there is a mood of anger. Palestinians are demonstrating in support with our people in Gaza.

Our -- the people who are in the streets today are average Palestinians because they know who's killed in Gaza are average Palestinians, kids and children and women.

ANDERSON: The IDF has been conducting raids specifically in the Nur Shams refugee camp. They say they are targeting Hamas operations. They said this is counter-terror raids. How extensive are Hamas' operations in this area? SHTAYYEH: I don't say that they are not. But I'm saying that this

situation can be all under control by the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinian Authority is allowed to function. And we have not been allowed to function. The Israelis, when you have people killed in the refugee camp of Jenin, people react. A funeral generates funeral. And blood generates blood. And very unfortunately that Israel is the main cause for all what has been happening here under.

ANDERSON: Prime Minister, we are hearing calls on the streets for Mahmoud Abbas, the president, to resign. What do you make of those calls?

SHTAYYEH: Look, people are angry. Mahmoud Abbas has been elected by the general public. We have --

ANDERSON: But there hasn't been an election in 16 years.

SHTAYYEH: Correct. Yes. But we have been -- he issued -- President Abbas issued a decree calling for general elections on the 22nd of May 2021. And it was the Israelis who did not allow us at a time when Israel had five elections in four years. Palestinians were not allowed to have their own elections.

ANDERSON: But to many Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority's central message that liberation can be achieved through diplomacy has failed. Has it failed? Can diplomacy still succeed? Is there -- is there still room for a political solution? Because we are witnessing at present a vacuum into which Hamas is taking terror, not diplomacy as a tool.

SHTAYYEH: Good question. If the situation is deteriorating every single day because of the Israeli measures, then people are looking the other way. But if you ask the Palestinian public, do you want peace? They will say yes. Do you want two states? They will say yes. Do you want end of occupation? They will say yes.


SIDNER: Now, just a few miles north of the Gaza border in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, they are bearing the brunt of rocket attacks coming out of Gaza. It is also where a great number of Israel's forces have been amassing over these past week and a half in preparation for that ground incursion that has been promised.

Let's go now to CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who is in Ashkelon, has been watching what has been happening and changing along the Israel Gaza border.

What can you tell us this evening, Jeremy?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, in both visually in terms of what we can see on the ground, and in listening to Israel's top generals, it certainly feels like this ground invasion is imminent. What exactly that means, is it a matter of hours, is it a matter of days, is harder to discern. But I can certainly tell you in driving along the border with Gaza today, we saw massive groupings of troops, of armored personnel carriers, of tanks, of these D9 bulldozers, which are used to clear the path for those troops of IEDs and other potential obstacles.

We came across a grouping that I can't see right now but hopefully it's being shown on the screen of dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers. We saw not one, not two of these groupings, but four different groupings of this, just a few kilometers apart, as well as artillery positions. All of this, preparations for this ground invasion, which tonight Israel's defense chief -- military chief of staff, forgive me, has said that they will be going into Gaza, and that the goal will be to destroy Hamas operatives and their infrastructure.

At the same time, here in the city of Ashkelon, we are continuing to receive rocket fire from Gaza. In fact, Ashkelon is the city that has received the most rockets of any Israeli city. We spent some time in a supermarket walking the streets and also in the city's emergency operation center to get a sense of what life is like in the most fired upon city in Israel.


ADINA MORDECHAI, SUPERMARKET CASHIER: Go inside, go inside, go inside.

DIAMOND (voice-over): This is life in Ashkelon. The most fired upon city in Israel since Hamas launched its first rockets 12 days ago. Here, fears still grip some. Others carry on ignoring the sirens' wails.

SHLOMO COHEN, ASHKELON RESIDENT (through translator): When we're outside, we're very careful. When we're inside, God is protecting us. Every missile has an address. We don't need to be afraid.

DIAMOND: In a city where 90 percent of businesses have closed, this supermarket is a lifeline.

(On-camera): There's a lot of businesses that are closed.

MORDECHAI: They're closed.

DIAMOND: But the supermarket --

MORDECHAI: 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 now. I'm very afraid. Even now, walking, I must lie on the road, and to put my hands on my --



DIAMOND (voice-over): Getting to a bomb shelter isn't an option for everyone here. Prompting the city to help evacuate thousands.

HERZI HALEVI, ASHKELON CEO: We still have around 35,000 people that actually live without shelters so each and every rocket it means a direct hit for them. So we are trying to find solutions for them.

DIAMOND: 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 translator): When we got here, everything was in pieces, the door was out of place, there was the smell of gunpowder. A lot of nails and shrapnel were spread out. Everything was destroyed. We are starting to put things right.

DIAMOND: In the basement of an unassuming building, Ashkelon CEO takes us into the city's emergency operations 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 (on-camera): So before the rocket even lands, you can see where it would land?

HALEVI: Yes. We have some estimation where it's going to land.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Until then the first responders wait, and pray.


DIAMOND: And Sara, four people have already been killed in the city in the last two weeks, because of those rockets being fired by Hamas. 35 people have been injured and more than 1200 have been displaced from their homes because of rockets hitting those homes.

Now while the Iron Dome missile defense system does intercept the overwhelming majority of those rockets, some of them do indeed still get through, which kind of leads to that sense of fear and anxiety that really is palpable when you go around the city. In fact just last night, three rockets made it through that Iron Dome system. Two of them hitting homes and one of them hitting a parked car -- Sara.

SIDNER: Yes, that Iron Dome, we've seen it close up. It's about 90 percent accurate in hitting those rockets. But when there are so many sent over, it cannot get every single one.

Thank you so much, Jeremy Diamond, for all your reporting throughout this war that has exploded here between Israel and Hamas. And we'll be right back.



NOBILO: Support for people on both sides of the war can be seen on the streets of the United States. Across the nation protesters have been gathering to voice their opposition to and support for Israel's war on Hamas.

Jon Alterman is senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and he joins me now from there, and just outside Washington, D.C.

Thanks so much for being with us this evening, sir.


NOBILO: There was a flurry of diplomacy this week, an unprecedented visit from the U.S. president to Israel at war, and the British prime minister also visited. How would you assess the success of those trips and that diplomacy?

ALTERMAN: It's probably too early to tell. I think certainly what President Biden was trying to do was to align with Prime Minister Netanyahu to demonstrate his support to Israel, to the prime minister in order to have influence when decisions are going to be made.

What those decisions are going to be, what are the things the Americans are trying to have influence on is something we're just going to have to see. But I think certainly from an American perspective, having fought for two decades in the Middle East, the Americans think they've learned something about wars, and at this point, it looks like the Israelis aren't very interested in listening.

NOBILO: No, and I'd like to ask you more about the real politics of the situation, which is of course on a completely different plane to adjust tragedy and human suffering that is unfolding in Gaza. And of course that befell Israel. But did you think that the U.S., and potentially the United Kingdom, will come to regret the optics of going to visit Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, a very close ally of both countries, and literally and figuratively embracing him so publicly while this bombing campaign on Gaza has killed, I think, upwards of 4,500 civilians now?

That surely is difficult for the West to maintain its, you know, projection of a moral high ground with wars like Russia's invasion of Ukraine still going?

ALTERMAN: I think there is a difference between terroristic acts that are targeting civilians and civilians who are killed because they're in a war zone. I'm not excusing either one, but I'm just saying that I think they are different and from President Biden's perspective, and I think Prime Minister Sunak's perspective, there's a sense that as a democracy that deals with the sudden killing of 1500 civilians intentionally in cold blood, that in order to build some sort of solidarity would help ensure that the reaction to that incident is going to be proportionate, constructive, and leading toward the kinds of long-term outcomes that I think the U.S. wants and many countries want in Israelis and for Palestinians.

NOBILO: The pressure or encouragement that Biden can affect upon Netanyahu and his administration is of course key, but so is the reaction to the neighbors of Israel and Gaza and the regional players. What would you say about the reaction from them so far and what impact they might having, whether or not we can see it on what is going on on the ground?

ALTERMAN: So on the one hand, what I'm hearing privately is that message from governments is, we hate Hamas, too, and if you can get rid of Hamas, just do it. But the public expression is different. And I think publicly we saw a lot of this and response to that misinformation about the Al-Ahli hospital bombing that initially this was blamed on Israeli strike. The AP has the support article today that goes through a lot of the reasons why it see not to have been an Israeli strike.

But in the wake of that the explosion that killed tragically some number, hundreds of Palestinians, we had both the cancellation of the Arab meetings that Biden had wanted to make when he went to the Middle East. And we also saw statements from the leadership in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two states that had been interested, in the case of Saudi Arabia, and had actively concluded normalization with Israel. Calling what happened in the hospital or of a massacre.

I think as we look at the potential beginning of really significant ground operations by Israel in Gaza, it's not going to be miss apprehension. If there are a large number of civilian deaths, I think we're going to see an even stronger response by Arab leaders. And the things that we were thinking just two weeks ago about normalization, about Israel's place in the region, about what the regional security picture is going to be, could be profoundly different and profoundly different for a long time to come.

NOBILO: Jon Alterman, thank you so much for joining us today.

ALTERMAN: Thank you.

As Israel's battled with Hamas rages on, foreigners stranded inside Israel and Gaza are fighting to escape that war zone and returned to safety. The challenges for them of getting home, next on CNN.


SIDNER: As the war against Hamas enters its now third week tomorrow, it is the innocents among us that tends to suffer the greatest from war. We want to warn you that this next story contains images that are extremely disturbing, but it how the children are dealing with the bombardments in Gaza.

Our Jomana Karadsheh has more.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Why? Why have you gone, my son, he wails. 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 live haunted by what they've survived. The lucky ones still have parents to hold their hands. Ten-year-old Abdi 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. Malek (PH) is injured in the hips and legs. She lost her mother and siblings in an airstrike.

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.

Nine-year-old Mahmoud was out playing when his family home was hit. He's in hospital with head and leg injuries. 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 grandfather are injured. My uncle brought me unconscious to the hospital.

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 at 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. 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.

Seven-year-old Julia says she holds her mom, too, and hides. They're now living under the stairs. 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.

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: The youngest bear the brunt in Gaza in particular because about 50 percent of the population are children under the age of 18.

All right, countries around the world have been working to try and bring their citizens home, get them out of danger in Gaza. But for some people who went to Israel for work or for study, they could not escape soon enough.

Our Michael Holmes has our report.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out of harm's way, countries around the world are flying their citizens out of Israe on repatriation flights filled with foreign nationals fleeing the Israeli-Hamas war. Many of the people living in Israel were there to earn a living better than they could in their homelands. Officials in Thailand say at least 30 of their citizens have been killed since Hamas launched its attack on Israel two weeks ago.

Eight bodies have been returned, many of that it worked on Israeli farms. The Thai government says it's working to return the other bodies, and also repatriate thousands of Thai citizens who want to leave Israel.

PIROJ CHOTIKASATIEN, THAILAND PERMANENT SECRETARY FOR LABOR (through translator): The number of Thai citizens who wish to return home keeps increasing. We're trying to get Thai people back as much and as soon as possible.

HOLMES: Emotional reunions in Manila as a flight carrying Filipinos who were working in Israel returned home, many of the evacuees were employed as caregivers in Israel when the attacks happened. And some say they still can't shake what they saw.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Apart from the gunfights, explosions were heard along with the sirens. I felt nervous, I was shaking from fear.

HOLMES: More than 200 agricultural students from a work study program in Israel flew back to Nepal last week. Ten of their group were killed in the attacks. On Saturday, the bodies of four students were flown back to Kathmandu. Grief stricken families say it's hard to believe they are gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He used to say he would return home, build a concrete house, and bring all of us together. Now even his body is not here. HOLMES: The families say the students were full of hope when they

left, a chance to earn money as much as $15,000 and learn new skills in Israel's high tech agricultural sector. This father says his son was going to use his savings to start a farming business back in Nepal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If I had known about this danger, I would have stopped him. I thought he was going there on a study visa. It would be good for him and his bright future.

HOLMES: A future cut short like so many others caught in the middle of a conflict far from their home.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


SIDNER: Well, just another example that war is hell -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And that's it for this hour of CNN's special coverage. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. We'll have more news for you after this short break.