Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
CNN International: Israel Warns Of Ground War: "We Will Enter Gaza"; IDF: We Are Focusing On Our Readiness To The Next Stage; Stern: Hamas Hostages Held Under Extremely Bad Conditions; Calls For More Aid After Trucks Deliver Supplies; Parents Of Hamas Hostage Talk About Their Son; Aid Groups: Child Killed In Gaza Every 15 Minutes. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired October 21, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A warm welcome to everyone joining us from around the world. I'm Julia Chatterley in New York. The Israeli military is issuing a clear message today that their operation in Gaza is continuing to evolve and intensify. The IDF Chief of Staff telling Israeli commanders to, "we will enter the Gaza Strip", and that we don't know when that ground incursion may happen.
We're getting more signals that it could happen soon. Starting today, Israel is ramping up its air strike campaign, all while more troops, tanks and vehicles continue to line the Gaza border. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, say the Israeli operation has already killed nearly 4400 people.
And aid groups are warning that the humanitarian reality of life in Gaza is only getting bleaker. The first aid convoy allowed into Gaza entered through Egypt's Rafah crossing today. But the crossing only opened for that short period and aid group say the flow of aid into Gaza isn't nearly enough to meet the need as Clarissa Ward reports.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So now it's been two weeks of no aid relentless bombardment, mass displacement 20 trucks is obviously just a drop in the ocean. But officials are saying that they're hopeful that this is the start of something more sustained, more continuous.
The U.N. believes in hopes that potentially tomorrow or on Monday that more of their trucks could go through. Today those 20 trucks were Egyptian Red Crescent trucks. They drove through the Rafah border crossing. They unloaded that aid with was food, water, medicine. Palestinian trucks then loaded the aid and drove it through to the Gaza side.
Now there's a meeting today of Arab leaders here in Cairo. It's called a conference of peace. President Sisi, the Egyptian President spoke in the last hour or so he said, this is a welcome sign. But it's not enough. We need to build on this and establish a sustained humanitarian corridor. We need a humanitarian ceasefire as well. And beyond that, we need to work on establishing some kind of a peace process a two state solution, so quite a long list of things that need to happen. Right now there seems to be consensus, at least on that first step of trying to establish a more continuous or sustained humanitarian corridor.
The hospitals at this stage are barely functioning. The fuel supplies according to one U.N. person who I was speaking to will be out our own depleted in two or three days. So that is a vital resource that is desperately needed, and negotiations ongoing to try to get at least 100 trucks in every single day in what will be the beginning of a continuous corridor.
And hopefully eventually also, the establishment as the Israelis had previously mentioned, and also President Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have some kind of humanitarian zone where some of the 900,000 displaced people inside Gaza could find some refuge and some respite. We are still though a long way from that.
CHATTERLEY: In the meantime, tens of thousands of Israeli troops now line the border with Gaza. Soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles have been gathering there for two weeks now ever since the Hamas terror attacks. The IDF says a ground operation is in the offing with the aim of totally eliminating any future threat from Hamas.
Earlier I spoke with the IDF International Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus. Just take a listen to what he had to say.
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: That is a challenge because we have seen Hamas, tampering with humanitarian goods. We've seen them steal fuel that was intended for civilian purposes, specifically in order to fuel pumps that pump water for the population to drink.
But Hamas stole that fuel that could have fueled those pumps for more than six days, which is really essential. So it will be a challenge and we don't have boots on the ground in the area. We will try to use technological measures in order to make sure that there are no weapons.
And that anything that goes into the Gaza Strip indeed, is received by those who need it, those poor Gazan civilians that are being used by Hamas.
CHATTERLEY: Can we assume that once the ground offensive begins, no further aid will be allowed into Gaza? Or will you try and manage all and again, can you ensure the safety of those convoys?
CONRICUS: We definitely prioritize civilian population for one we want them evacuated out of main combat zones and for the second thing we've said they are not our target and wherever we can we will try to alleviate and make the situation less bad for them. They are in a bad situation. And we understand that it's not a situation that we put them in, Hamas put them in this situation. This wasn't our initiative and not our choice on the 7th of October when Hamas crossed into our borders and butchered civilians, and raped and took hostage. That is what unleashed this unfortunate situation.
What we are doing now is simply trying to help ourselves and defend our civilian population. But at the end of the day, we will try to make it as least difficult as possible for the civilian population while making it the most difficult for Hamas and all of those who support Hamas.
CHATTERLEY: Thanks to you, IDF International Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus who is speaking to me there. Now, the Egypt peace summit has now ended without any accord or joint statement. Arab leaders had gathered in Cairo on Saturday to try and secure a ceasefire.
However, Israeli and Senior U.S. officials weren't present. The Egyptian President criticized the international community for not doing enough to end the violence, calling on them to address the root cause of the problem. He's now renewing calls for a two state solution and encouraging others who attended the summit to do the same.
Let's discuss with Francis Ricciardone Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt and Philippines and a Former President of the American University in Cairo. Ambassador, good to have you with us tonight, there was never going to be a statement coming out of this never mind a ceasefire from these negotiations.
But there does seem to be a shift particularly from Western leaders that they steal back Israel's right to defend itself. But again, they calibrate that it has to be within the confines of international law. What did you take away from this peace summit?
FRANCIS RICCIARDONE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY, EGYPT & PHILIPPINES: Well, you know, at one time, it would have been considered a breakthrough to have the leaders of so many Arab States very explicitly calling for a two state solution. That's nothing new for the Egyptians.
Since the Camp David treaty of peace, it has been Egyptian policy and more to the point of American policy, Republican administration, and Democratic administration. Every President since time has called for a two state solution. President Trump, equivocated of it, but didn't disavow that.
And we're firmly back on that as the United States position. It's hard. It may prove impossible. But that has been resolute American policy. So the leading voices of the Arab world coming up behind that are, I have to believe that's a positive thing for every claim of Israel for the Palestinians for a way out.
CHATTERLEY: Are you suggesting that perhaps and obviously, it's very early days, but the suggestion that what we could see come from the violence over the past few weeks, however long it continues, is perhaps a more wholesome, inclusive discussion about what the future looks like is difficult to imagine at this stage, perhaps as it is?
RICCIARDONE: We can hope and we can pray it's a grim and horrible price. But you know if that can arise, if the two parties in the conflict can come to that same conclusion. Despite the rage that eats feels the hurt the victimhood, the rage, the outrage, very understandable.
President Biden was, I thought very artful and clear in his stating, he was very sincere and said he has compassion for both sides. But if, on the Palestinian side, there can be a strengthened resolve the Palestinian Authority has signed on to his two state solution many years ago, Hamas has not.
In Israel, there's been a large debate about this. Most Israeli governments from the right have not signed on to that. But it would take quite a see change, to see if the Israeli side would sign on two state solution. And then both sides work together to make that happen, but how we get from the current horrible situation to negotiations.
I don't see how we do that without de-escalation and a ceasefire as first steps toward the immediate things of return of the hostages and humanitarian relief and then to that end to really deep conversations supported by outside parties, the United States and the rest of the Arab world toward a two state solution.
CHATTERLEY: Whether they'll admit it or not. Do you think one of the things that perhaps many of the players in that meeting will have agreed on is that they're considering life without Hamas in Gaza?
That's an assumption.
RICCIARDONE: We'll have to see how that plays out. It's, you know, from the outside and from the perspective of Americans and Israelis, it's hard to see how Hamas could come out of this without having been thoroughly discredited, even with where they are now, never mind with whatever else may be follow them through IDF action in the coming hours or days.
My own view is the point is already very, very clear that Hamas is not capable of leading -- , much less governing. And certainly they they've dealt themselves out of any long term solution to the question of Palestine. So I think they're already thoroughly discredited. But they have the guns.
They have the power to intimidate those 2 million people that are there. How that would be resolved? I don't know. I can't see how an Israeli invasion will do that, sadly, honestly.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, and that cuts to the core of the discussions that are still taking place behind the scenes now where does this invasion and beyond take us. Ambassador, good to have you with us sir thank you so much for that. Nic Robertson joins us now from Sderot, Israel.
Nic, good to have you with us, I'm sure you were hearing that conversation there, too, about the prospect of a Gaza beyond Hamas. And the considerations are required for that it ties to what we've been hearing from many Israeli officials, the head of the military today to impossible to predict the timing of a ground offensive. But the belief is that it's happening and you can talk to the noises we can hear behind you too.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, there's drone activity above us. And it's pretty loud right now. And often is and often those several drones, and we just saw a flare that would have been immediately behind me that was hanging in the sky fade up over the sort of border area, just beyond the border fencing into Gaza proper several heavy detonations as well.
And I think that pressure to the point of the conversation you're having there, that pressure is really strong on Israel at the moment, to have a clearly articulated view of what happens after a military incursion. And as your guest was saying, trying to imagine that from where things stand at the moment is very, very difficult to do.
Because at the moment, it seems that things do stand on the verge of an incursion by Israeli troops. We don't know when that's going to be. We haven't seen any perceptible de-munitions of the forces that are around here. Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen a lot of forces moved into the area.
We have seen from our own travels around the sort of Israel-Gaza border today that there are still areas full of tanks and full of armored personnel carriers that don't have troops with them yet that are parked up military bases. So there is still heavy military equipment that Israel can bring potentially into the fight.
But for all those troops that were sort of rushed forward to be close to the border with Gaza, hard to know, for us, because we don't have access to them, how ready they are for an incursion. But it does seem that Israel still is positioned for it. And so it does feel as if it's relatively imminent at the moment.
CHATTERLEY: And Nic, I wanted to get back to a conversation you and I was having a couple of hours ago about military preparedness and the IDF. I spoke to the IDF International Spokesperson and I asked him how Gazans can help themselves when we come to that point is the IDF have to separate civilians from Hamas fighters.
And the challenges of doing so, for the IDF forces that are preparing to go in in terms of this ground of Asian that had been waiting now for more than a week have been preparing for two weeks. How do you ensure that their mindset is right when they've been prepared now for many days to enter Gaza and all the stresses and considerations that they have to face?
ROBERTSON: Yes, I think there are several things there. There's the training that they have. And we've seen them doing training in an urban environment for combat, for urban environment combat and these are in model villages that are modeled on Palestinian towns where there are mosques, there are stores, there are people's homes. So the preparation in terms of military preparedness of how to fight in that environment, I think those skills and a lot of the force is really in the IDF a very, very well honed and officers we spoke to who were training there very ready a week ago almost now very ready. It appeared to you know for the ground incursion.
But then the other part of that picture, I think is informed by the experience of former IDF soldiers who've been in on previous ground incursions and we spoke to one Former IDF soldier, who was the spearhead of going in to Gaza in 2014. And he said, look, the rules of engagement we had were that anyone you came across was most likely Hamas.
Rules of engagement are, you know, anyone you see is potentially a terrorist target or could be a terrorist target. And the reason they were given that instruction was because the civilians had been told at that time like now to move further south, and Hamas again, like now had told the civilians not to move further south into Gaza.
So as a soldier going in, he said, it was very difficult because you are being told that anyone that you see is most likely and expect them to be and you can shoot at them, because they are a target that's either a terrorist or associated with a terrorist. So it's not quite clear what the rules of engagement will be if they'd been adjusted for troops going in this time.
But from an IDF perspective, they've said very clearly to us, we've asked them about it. It is up to you know the responsibility of Hamas is to make sure that the civilians are not there our responsibility, so is to go after him. So it's very, very difficult for soldiers going into combat here because of the reality of potential civilians and Hamas potentially hiding behind them and being among them.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, it's such incredible perspective and insight. Nic, good to have you, thank you so much for that, Nic Robertson there. OK, many Israeli-American say they feel helpless watching from the United States as the war against Hamas rages on. What some are doing, though, to help their fellow countrymen and others, next?
And stranded in Israel and desperate to get home, we'll talk to the Head of a U.S. based nonprofit that's taking action to get people out of the war zone as Israel's battle with Hamas continues, that next on CNN.
CHATTERLEY: In the United States, there are major efforts to help both Israelis and Palestinians with hospitals in Gaza on the verge of collapse and civilians running out of food. Palestinian officials say Gaza needs 7,000 trucks of immediate aid. Meanwhile, many Israeli- Americans are working to collect humanitarian supplies.
Camila Bernal has more on what people in the United States are doing to help both Israel and Gaza. CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're focused on raising as much money as possible collecting as many supplies as possible but also focused on mental health resources and fighting misinformation. A lot of these Israeli-Americans began to watch and see what was going on in Israel and say they were shocked.
They were heartbroken and also felt helpless in a way many of them that were maybe IDF members were able to travel back to Israel. But others say that it's just better to stay here and do everything they can to help from the U.S. I talked to the organization, Bulletproof Israel.
And they said, in the beginning, they were in need of a tactical gear, bulletproof vest, anything that they could collect to help the military. But they now say they're also very focused on medical supplies, the basics. They've been able to ship from LA, from New York, from Miami, and they will continue to do so over the next couple of days. They say they want to send as much help as possible. Here is the CEO of bulletproof Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LION SHIRDAN, CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF BULLETPROOF ISRAEL: For me wouldn't make sense to go back. But knowing so many people in Israel and knowing what they're going through what my goal is just to do everything that I can to help them out. Everything, everything, it doesn't mean, there's no limit to what I would do. It doesn't matter. They're there and they're fighting for us. And they're trying to get my family out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERNAL: And Lion told me, two members of his family have been kidnapped, which is part of the reason why he's doing everything he can to help from the U.S. Now, we also reached out to organizations helping Palestinians in Gaza. And what they've told us is that it is impossible for them to send supplies.
So instead, they are extremely focused on trying to raise as much money as possible. But again, it's Americans who feel like they need to do something from the U.S. to then send that help. Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.
CHATTERLEY: And two weeks after Hamas launched its devastating surprise attack on Israel. The Israeli government says at least 235 foreign nationals have been killed, and 74 others remain missing. Some may have been taken hostage by Hamas. But right now there's very little information out there about the identities, locations or status of those abducted by the terrorist group.
Now behind the scenes, there are groups trying to find and rescue the hostages taken by Hamas, and one of them is Project Dynamo, a U.S. based organization that rescues people around the world in places where the U.S. government has no access. Project Dynamo says it's already gotten 293 stranded people out of Israel since the fighting began.
And joining us now is Bryan Stern, Project Dynamos Founder and CEO. Bryan, thank you so much for joining us tonight. There are the families of 293 individuals that are very grateful to you and your team tonight. And you say there are more people to go and help.
BRYAN STERN, FOUNDER & CEO OF PROJECT DYNAMO: Yes, there's obviously there's people who are stuck in Israel. There's, of course, people stuck in Gaza, and of course, the hostages. And that's kind of our three lines of effort. We call operation Promised Land. This is our fourth warzone deployment.
Sixth if you count natural disasters in the last 25 months. We started Afghanistan, then went to Ukraine, then went to Sudan, Russia for a minute. And then hurricane Ian and of course, Maui, and now here we are in Israel.
CHATTERLEY: And those that you send in their Veterans?
STERN: Predominantly, yes, our ground team members, the combat vets, usually led by me. I just got back myself with a head of 293 people in two different tranches. And then we have a team of civilian case managers and case workers who interact with the families who do a data management here in America.
And they're really the unsung heroes of these operations. They're the ones really, really, really talking to the families and getting things going while we're on the street, trying to land airplanes trying to get people across borders and those kinds of things.
CHATTERLEY: I think you're all heroes. Bryan, you mentioned it. There are people to still get from Israel. There are people in Gaza. We'll talk about the hostages in a second. But entering Gaza is a very different prospect at this moment than entering Israel. You have plans, I believe, to go and get people, rescue people that are stuck in Gaza.
How do you even prepare for an operation given the challenges of being there, be it a warzone the challenges of Hamas government, the fact that you're operating in a gray area where the United States can't or won't tread?
STERN: And don't forget that we're donor funded.
STERN: We do all this on a shoestring budget. So we just completed 602 missions that turn into just under just over 6800 people that we've rescued globally.
So in 25 months, I bring those statistics up just to say we're very good at this. We are very accustomed to working without a lot of help. Everywhere we go, there's generally no U.S. government presence or access there. So and we do it on a shoestring budget, funded by donors.
If your viewers are watching, and they're inclined projectdynamo.org is where you can go to donate. That's also where you can go to help. How do we do it in Gaza is very complicated. But we've done this under Taliban controlled Afghanistan, we did this under Russian FSB controlled occupied Ukraine.
We did this in the middle of the Sudanese Civil War. So it can be done, but all these operations are hard of the 602 rescue missions that we've done over 25 months, not a single one of them was easy, not one. So they're all very difficult. They're all very unique. They're all very special and the way we go about doing it is unique and special with it every single time.
CHATTERLEY: Bryan, do you lose your window of opportunity once the ground invasion begins? Or will you still attempt to get a person out of Gaza even once that begins?
STERN: In order for us to operate, we need three things to be present. One is a need, somebody in trouble and American hostage, whatever it may be, but there has to be a person or group of people that need help. Number two is I need a team. I need a team that can do it, that will do it on both the case management side, and also on the operations and the intelligence side.
And the third thing is funding. I need all three of those things to be green, if you will. I need all three of those things to be present for us to work. As long as those three things are present, we will continue to operate. I can have all the Americans I want stuck in Gaza, and an amazing team to do it if the funding doesn't hold out.
That is extremely difficult to conduct operations. Airplanes do not fly themselves, they just don't. So funding is a huge part of what makes this machine work. That's the fuel of the machine. We have the team, we definitely have the need. But funding is our biggest problem right now at this time.
CHATTERLEY: Bryan, talk to me about the challenge of getting hostages out of this situation. Do you believe that? Despite you and your team's best efforts, actually the best way for the hostages to escape is diplomacy for them to be released rather than a team like yours to go in and try and rescue them particularly given the urban challenges the tunnels that we know, Hamas operates in Gaza.
STERN: Regardless of the environment, doesn't matter what the circumstances are negotiated. A negotiated release is always the best option. Diplomacy is the answer if diplomacy can prevail. It's an amicable agreement, whatever that may be, is always safer for the hostage and generally speaking safer for the hostage taker too.
So we always and we do both, Project Dynamo has broken people out of jail. And we've also negotiated people out. Of course, the number one way the best way is diplomacy if it's possible. And I really think that it is possible in this case, I think this is a big challenge. I think that the hostage takers are professional they know what they're doing. Hamas has been doing this has been doing this sort of thing in this part of the world for many, many, many years. They know the leverage that hostages bring, that's why they take them. They didn't accidentally take hostages, they deliberately took hostages.
So I think there is definitely space for diplomacy on multiple levels on multiple fronts through multiple vectors and we hope and pray that is the answer. At the same time, we're going to continue to operate to not get in the way of diplomacy to absolutely not get in the way of diplomacy or not getting away if anything.
But sometimes groups like ours can be a little more effective sometimes because we're not restricted by policy or politics or bureaucracy are those things. So it allows us a little bit of freedom of maneuver that other places don't have.
CHATTERLEY: Yes, so as I mentioned the gray space operating within the gray space. Bryan, good to chat to you, thank you stay safe, please with your operation.
STERN: Thank you very much Project Dynamo -- .
CHATTERLEY: -- we wish you well. I saw, I know I was about to say if the three things the one that stood out again was funding. These projects need funding. We got it, sir. Thank you. Now marching in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza ahead will show you some of the rallies taking place in the region and beyond.
CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to CNN "Newsroom". As the Israel, Hamas war moves into its third week. There are some ominous signs it could be about to enter a deadly of phase. The Israeli military says it's going to step up airstrikes and with tanks poised at the border as Israeli government spokesperson says a ground offensive is "coming soon".
Aid agencies meanwhile, warn of another threat to the people of Gaza disease. They say unless more food and medical supplies are delivered like the convoy we saw earlier Saturday, deaths from disease could skyrocket. Jeremy Diamond joins us now from Ashkelon in Israel.
Jeremy, the hope is that more convoys of food and medical assistance will come in the coming days. That of course will be deeply complicated. If indeed we do see the ground offensive begin, as some of the evidence and commentary today suggests.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, undoubtedly and those negotiations about further deliveries of humanitarian aid certainly are ongoing. And one of the complicating factors and one of the reasons why it took so long to even get those 20 trucks of humanitarian aid in just today is the number of countries that are involved in that have to sign off on the process of getting those trucks in. And the coordination that has been involved between multiple countries and multiple aid organizations to get those trucks in the Egyptians, Palestinian officials inside of Gaza, as well as Israeli officials. And of course, the United States has been trying to facilitate some of these negotiations as well.
And the question is beyond the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, Will civilians and in particular U.S. citizens be allowed to leave Gaza via that Rafah crossing into Egypt? It was a week ago now over a week ago, frankly that, U.S. citizens were told by U.S. government officials that they should head towards that Rafah crossing, believing that crossing would open in order for them to leave.
And yet still, despite the visit by the President of the United States to the region, just a couple of days ago, American citizens as well as any other civilians inside of Gaza still are locked in effectively unable to leave the country into either Israel or into Egypt via the South. At the same time the humanitarian situation in Gaza is growing direr by the hour.
Officials from various aid organizations and international groups like the United Nations, all pointing to the same thing, a very dire humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding there. The Director of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain saying that the situation in Gaza is catastrophic that starvation is rampant. And she also said that this cannot be the last convoy of aid allowed into Gaza.
CHATTERLEY: Jeremy Diamond there, thank you for that. -- Jeremy is saying too. Across the Arab world demonstrators are showing solidarity with the Palestinians and as Israel siege of Gaza grows longer, the crowds of those protesters are growing in number. Nada Bashir reports from Amman.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): In downtown Amman, worship has gathered for Friday prayers. But it's not just the call to prayer that has drawn these crowds today. With a call to action in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This protest is a pledge of chance that the people of Jordan will not leave Gaza alone.
Thousands of men, women and children, entire families draped in the traditional Palestinian scarf, a symbol for many of Palestinian resistance.
BASHIR: Well, you can hear how loud the crowds are here. For -- another day in Amman, thousands of people have taken to the streets protesting against Israel's continued aerial bombardment off the Gaza Strip, protesting in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
BAYAN ABU GHARBIYA, PROTESTER: We're doing this for our families who are dying in Gaza because we are unable to do anything. So the least we can do is stand here in solidarity with them to support them. So that they know that we are with them with our hearts and everything. BASHIR (voice-over): There is palpable outrage here in Jordan of Israel's ongoing bombardment of besieged Gaza Strip and deep seated anger directed towards Israel and Israel's Western allies, many here even calling on the Jordanian government to close down the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman.
For days now, protests have taken place not only across Jordan, but also across the wider region. In Cairo, a state has long clamped down on mass demonstrations, hundreds gathered into -- square. Hours earlier, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres was forced to cut his visit short after protests erupted there.
Gaza has faced relentless Israeli airstrikes for almost two weeks now. And protests across the Arab world and the wider region are at a boiling point, Iraq, Tunisia, Yemen and Turkey and even further afield and with Gaza on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. This protest movement is only growing stronger. Nada Bashir, CNN in Amman, Jordan.
CHATTERLEY: Back in Israel hundreds of empty play settings at a Shabbat dinner each one honoring a person held hostage by Hamas. CNN talks to the parents of a 21 year old taken from the Nova Music Festival about what the past two weeks has been like that's next.
CHATTERLEY: The release of an American mother and daughter taken hostage by Hamas is a bittersweet development for the families of the more than 200 others that were also abducted by the terrorist group. Many of those families were at a ceremony in Tel Aviv on Friday where a Shabbat dinner table was laid with 200 empty plate settings, each one representing a hostage.
Among them were the parents of 21 year old Omer Shem-Tov, who was taken from the Nova Music Festival on October 7. Our Kaitlan Collins talks with them about their son. And the last time they spoke.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MALKI SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: From a phone call to another phone call is sound much more panic much more hysteric. Even in the one of the phone call, he said they're running away. They have a lot of friends, but they start to run so they lost some of his friends.
And while he was running, he said that they are shooting all over and he said that even see some dank people. And I love you. I love you.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And, you must have been so panicked to hear your 21 year old son telling you it's not just rockets, there's gunfire, people are running and being killed.
M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, yes. It was like we could understand from his voice that this is something that we cannot understand even what he is experienced over there. SHELLY SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: He told me he was panicked. He was afraid. He said that they got into the car and they're trying to escape from there. My daughter told him, send us the live location, he sent the live location and then the phone was stopped. And then we started to see that the point is moving like not in the right way.
COLLINS: Not coming home?
S. SHEM-TOV: Not coming home at all. It's moving to the board. And my daughter started to cry and she told us listen, it's not the way I called him to say, Omer it's not the way and he didn't answer the phone was ringing and he didn't answer. And then we saw that is getting into --
M. SHEM-TOV: He was behind -- .
S. SHEM-TOV: He was behind -- .
M. SHEM-TOV: And then in the evening, we got a video that was published by the Hamas that Omer, he's in hostages over there. We saw Omer handcuffed in a back of pickup with --
COLLINS: He is handcuffed in a truck?
M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, with his friend. They were alive. There was no blood or something on his clothes. And that's was the only signal that we got for him.
COLLINS: And it's been almost two weeks tomorrow have been two weeks. I mean, what have these two weeks been like for both of you?
S. SHEM-TOV: We are not sleeping. We are not eating. We all have of the things that we are doing now it's to shout all over the world. Our pain that no mother in all over the world needs to feel, like mother and father needs to feel like we are feeling now. Imagine that your son is going to a party and the next day people murderers kidnapped him.
And you know if he's eating, sleeping, if they are beating him. The basic thing of a mother is to protect her son and I cannot protect my son. And it's driving me crazy.
And it's I'm talking not only for myself, I'm talking for a lot of families, you must understand that people were in the safe place at their home. They were sitting, eating breakfast, some of them were sleeping. And then these terrorist came in through their house and murder and took them from their house from the place that it's the safest place. And they took him, babies, children, teenage, mothers, fathers, grandmothers.
COLLINS: And he's 21, but he's your baby. I mean, what's he like? What's his personality? What is he? You were saying he kisses you three times on the cheeks all the time.
S. SHEM-TOV: Yes.
M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, he's amazing guy. He's a party guy. He's by himself. He's a DJ, and he likes very much all this kind of festival, music festivals. So that's Omer very, very happy guy.
S. SHEM-TOV: Funny.
M. SHEM-TOV: Funny.
COLLINS: So cute.
S. SHEM-TOV: We call him sunshine because like the sunshine, everybody wants to be next to him.
COLLINS: The last time Omer's family saw him was at Shabbat dinner two weeks ago. He was there like he always is. He's always the life of the party as they talked about his big personality. And that night was the night that he went to the Nova Music Festival. The next time his parents heard from him was in a series of panicked phone calls the next day, when they realize that the festival he was out was being attacked by Hamas.
The ceremony tonight in this huge table that you see is for all the families whose loved ones are being held hostage tonight, whose loved ones, won't be at Shabbat dinner tonight and Omer's families hoping that he will be back at their Shabbat dinner at their table very soon. Can you show me the video that you were showing me a moment ago?
S. SHEM-TOV: Yes.
M. SHEM-TOV: Amazing.
COLLINS: And that was a picture of your family?
S. SHEM-TOV: Yes.
COLLINS: How many times have you watched that video?
S. SHEM-TOV: Oh my god.
M. SHEM-TOV: I saw it. You know, at the beginning when -- posted. I saw it. I don't know maybe 100 times and each time I'm crying. And I get very emotional even now when I see that you get very emotional. And also the song says you're going to get out from this.
S. SHEM-TOV: Don't be afraid from here.
M. SHEM-TOV: Yes. You're going to get out from it.
COLLINS: If you could talk to him right now what would you say to him?
M. SHEM-TOV: Come back enough. Enough you did enough troubles come back.
COLLINS: What -- ? S. SHEM-TOV: That I love him that I miss him that I want. Every day, when he is going, he is coming to me is telling, he's hugging me, telling me Mom, I love you, he is kissing me three times. And he's going so I want him back.
M. SHEM-TOV: I want to hug him, to smell him. That's what I want very much to hug him and smell him.
COLLINS: It must have been a relief to hear what the IDF said today that they do believe most of the hostages are still alive?
M. SHEM-TOV: You know for us it's maybe some light but until we don't see them.
S. SHEM-TOV: I want to say something about that. My son have asthma, he cannot breathe well. And I also, every day when I'm coming when I'm waking up and I don't have cannot breathe. I'm taking my inhaler. And I'm thinking about Omer that he is there, he is gone -- .
It's very cold and it's the minimum thing, the mandatory thing that they need to do first of all.
M. SHEM-TOV: It's unbelievable.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHATTERLEY: We'll be back after this.
CHATTERLEY: As we keep saying children how are among those suffering the most is the situation in Gaza deteriorate. I want to warn you this next story contains images you may find disturbing. Jomana Karadsheh has more.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why? Why have you gone my son he -- . He wanted to be a pilot. You're only sleeping he says, kissing his boys lifeless body. Every day of this war has brought pain paying no parent wants to ever live through.
Every 15 minutes in Gaza, a child is killed, a group says. More than 1500 children killed so far in a war that's only just beginning of 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.
10 year old Abdul Rahman 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 he did the Israeli military's warning and move south thinking it would be safe, but it wasn't. -- injured in the hips and legs. She lost her mother and siblings in an airstrike.
NUHA MUAILEQ, GAZA RESIDENT: The 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 (voice-over): Nine year old Mahmoud was out playing when his family homeless hit. He's in hospital with head and leg injuries.
MAHMOUD AL-ALOUL, INJURED CHILD: 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.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): 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 our 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 a 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: 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 (voice-over): Seven year old Julia says she holds her mom to and hides. They're now living under the stairs.
JULIA AL-BAYYARI, GAZA RESIDENT: 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 (voice-over): 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.
CHATTERLEY: Thanks for joining me this hour. I'm Julia Chatterley. Stay with CNN, Israel-Hamas war coverage continues with Michael Holmes after this.