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CNN International: IDC Chief Of Staff: We Will Enter Gaza; Eight Trucks Enter Gaza As Rafah Crossing Briefly Opens; Israeli Tanks, Troops Line Gaza Border For Possible Incursion. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired October 21, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. We are continuing our coverage of Israel at war. And the Israeli Military now offering new clarity on their operation in Gaza. The IDF Chief of Staff sending a clear message to commanders that they will in fact, enter Gaza when the time comes.
A spokesperson for the IDF told CNN earlier that their focus is on in his words, eradicating Hamas, and deciding who will govern the strip in the future will have to come later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: The only thing I can say is that Hamas will not be in charge at the end of this war. That is for certain. What will happen? Who will govern? That we'll have to see and people in suits will have to tell people in uniform exactly how, what the strategic endgame is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Meanwhile, the first aid trucks finally made their way into Gaza, Saturday as Egypt's Rafah crossing, briefly open to grant them passage, but a group say it's not nearly enough to meet the dire needs of civilians under siege. Nic Robertson is Sderot in Israel with the latest and Nic, it does increasingly look like the ground operation into Gaza is coming, what is your read on what you've heard, and what's been happening where you are?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's very hard to gauge even though we're only a mile from the border fence itself. In the past few minutes, we've heard a couple of very loud explosions. And when they're loud, as loud as those were, it tends to mean that they're sort of closer to us. So potentially closer to the fence.
So potentially, just inside Gaza, we can hear the sounds of mechanized tanks or armored personnel carrier -- carriers moving in the distance. That could be sound that's carrying from the from the very close to the border fence itself, or -- or from the some of the other staging areas. We heard small arms fire in the last few minutes as well, that again, coming from the direction of the border fence. But it's very hard to tell if that is just -- you know, the IDF has told us that there have been places where the troops IDF on the Israeli side of the border have been targeted by anti -- by Hamas with anti-tank weapons, and they respond to that. So it's hard to know if these are sort of isolated, sporadic, you know, moments of combat across the fence line without actually an incursion, or the tension building up for it.
We've been driving along the eastern side of the border today. And it's very hard, because of the military zone and the security restrictions for us to be able to get a close look at what's going on. I mean, it certainly does seem that compared to a week ago, Israel's not rushing, lots of armor and lots of troops in.
And so all of those that we saw rushing in a week or so ago, it would imply that they're in place because we're not seeing an outflow of troops from the border area. So it's very hard to get a detailed understanding of what's happening very close to the front. But we do know that the IDF said that they would increase their amount of shelling and missile strikes today and -- and that we have definitely seen that compared to the past couple of days when it was -- when it was a quite -- a lot quieter.
HOLMES: Yes, you've covered the region for years covered conflicts for years. What -- what is your sense of what an incursion might look like tactically? You know, bulldozers, then tanks and infantry. What -- what's your read on that?
ROBERTSON: Yes, well, you know, and possibly -- the possibility of before that of being breaks along the border area, the bulldozers to quickly break through the border fence area, because -- because there is a fence and there is a border wall, and Israel will have to pick its points of where it's going to going to go through and in the past it's used sand berms put up by those big bulldozers to know so that Hamas, the Islamic Jihad on the inside of Gaza couldn't see what was happening or precisely when those troops would -- would come through.
So all of that sort of stuff has to be done as well. There's been plenty of time for that to happen. But for the troops going in having spoke to a -- spoken to a soldier who was at the forefront of going in on the last incursion in 2014, he was told that the rules of engagement were the civilians are gone.
So anyone you see is going to be a terrorist or somebody associated with a terrorist. And as he found out during that incursion, that wasn't entirely the case. And he also talked about the fear of going in so I think for the troops going in, you have those two difficulties one, you know, their own fear about the situation and -- and the fact that they will be almost certainly encountering civilians, which will make their ground operations much harder.
As you know, it's worth calling to mind that when we hear these explosions here, there will be people very close to those explosions, if we can hear them here, they will be a whole lot louder to the people inside of Gaza. And if they're aimed at Hamas in the border area, as you would expect during an incursion, this would all be designed to make it easier when the troops get in.
You know, you would expect the military to hit those Hamas targets where they think they might be hiding out in the fields, or where they may think they set booby traps and all these sorts of things, to try to make it safer as the soldiers go in. But I think this is, as we've been talking about, this is a very difficult time for both the military and the politicians to decide when to go in.
Because what happens to the hostages when they go in? What happens to all the discussions that we know have been happening in the background at the moment? Does all that go unhold or does it get completely lost and of course, to the point you were making before is what is going to be the final outcome that Israel is going to try to achieve.
What is it they want to leave behind? They've indicated that they need to -- they'll -- yes, Hamas will be gone. But what's the -- what's the Palestinian leadership that's going to take over and how's that going to evolve? There are so many questions still outstanding of where we stand right now myself.
HOLMES: Absolutely. Yes. And many of the civilians in the north of Gaza, in Gaza City have not or cannot leave, don't have the means to so. A lot of complicators. Nic, good to see you my friend. Nic Robertson there in Sderot.
Now the Israeli Military, meanwhile, says it's aircraft struck a mosque in the West Bank to -- in order to stop an imminent terrorist attack. The IDF said Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives had an underground base in the Al-Ansar mosque in Jenin. An IDF spokesman spoke -- spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONRICUS: If you recall, there was some significant fighting in Jenin, a few months ago, significant fighting for about two days. And during that operation, we discovered terror infrastructure inside a mosque, actually a tunnel system inside a mosque. What we did today was to strike that tunnel system that was hidden under a mosque because we had new and live intelligence that suggested that there was an imminent attack coming from a joint Hamas and Islamic Jihad squad that was preparing itself from that mosque.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Now separately United Nations official says an Israeli security operation at a West Bank refugee camp left at least 13 people dead, including five children. We have some video that illustrates how our lives have been disrupted even for those in Gaza who have survived the death and destruction so far.
We see a tent city there it is offering refuge to 1000s of Gaza residents who are fleeing south or have been able to flee south. The Hamas run government in Gaza said in a statement earlier this week that more than a million people have been displaced to this area. They are desperate for basic necessities that most of us take for granted.
We've shown you that trickle of humanitarian aid that got through on Saturday and organizations are calling now for unrestricted access to Gaza saying in a joint statement from the UN that "time is running out to help the 1000s in need of medical assistance." CNN's Salma Abdelaziz shows us the dangers that come with this growing humanitarian crisis. Her report includes disturbing video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 UN and every hour call costs lives.
And so far no civilians can leave the Enclave. 10 year old Palestinian American Aiden is among those trapped.
AIDEN BSEISO, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN: And we have no place to go. All the streets are bombed. They're -- 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 2 million others half of them children into this hellscape. But some refuse to go even if they could, fearing Israel intends to bomb and besieged them out of their homes, never to return. Even as Mahmood 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 7 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 war zone 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: All right, I want to bring in Hani Almadhoun, who is the philanthropy director at UNRWA USA which supports the UN -- UN's Agency for Palestinian refugees, but he is speaking with us in a personal capacity because he has family in Gaza, I want to make that clear.
Hani, good to see you. We spoke last week you told us about the desperate situation for your family, your parents and others. How are they now?
HANI ALMADHOUN, PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR, UNRWA USA: Well, thank you for having me back. I appreciate it. You know, every day is a challenge. Today I woke up around 4am, messages from my mom. You know, they're not doing well. I have a sister right now. She's sheltering in the middle area. She is the only one from our family who managed to go there. She's at an UNRWA school. Two sisters at the local hospital up north, (inaudible) and my mom still in our house up in the evacuation zone in Gaza.
They actually -- the house next door was bombed five, five doors down was bombed and destroyed. And this morning, the message from my mom was hey, the -- the market got bummed. I can't find your dad and then 10 minutes later oh, never mind. Your dad wasn't there. So he's saved. 10 minutes later, maybe 30 minutes later she said like hey, your sister in law lost all her family. All the blood -- blood line is gone. 12 people who are related to us to our to our sister in law are gone.
Many kids, men, women that, that's just heartbreaking. Because you know, you see these? It's getting closer.
HOLMES: It's just hard to imagine the stress that they're living on. I mean, those aid trucks got in but it's nothing really, it's a drop in the ocean. What does your family tell you that civilians need most right now and has to be said none of that aid is going to get up to where your parents are?
ALMADHOUN: Right, exactly. That's the challenge. As I said, my sister is in the middle area. She's the one who sent me pictures of the tuna cans that they received today. Literally, these items got in this morning and she was -- they were having those for lunch. This is how quick UNRWA is operating on the ground.
And I'm proud of my colleagues who are despite 17 staff of UNRWA got killed, you know, in the airstrikes and attacks, they're still delivering. My family's water, we're not asking for computer chips here. We just want something to human ,water, bread. UNRWA is distributing food to the local bakery shops and asking them to sell the bread at reduced price which is really out of the box thinking.
But also like you've noted, nothing is going north. So my family is just hey, you just figure out what to do. Ultimately, you know, we want to get more services there but the family is struggling. They're OK for about few more days and food. But as you've seen, it gets worse as time passes.
HOLMES: Well who knows what will be happening in a few more days. I mean, you wrote a piece for cnn.com this week. And I just want to quote a line from it. Here you said, "knowing my family could be killed at any moment, I live with the gnawing fear that any buzz my phone makes will make the new -- will be the news I fear most." What is that like for you and others that you speak to who have family in Gaza, that perpetual fear?
ALMADHOUN: Yes, my wife's family's from Gaza there too so I'm a refugee inside Gaza. She's a local girl so everybody she knows is that. So that's you know that's the trouble she hears from family, they're up in (inaudible), honestly meeting with some, you know probably security blanket on Monday. I'm going to give them the coordinates over there.
My mom is because I want her to be safe. And obviously, you know, I love all Palestinian civilians. But you know, my heart is with my mom and my siblings who are hiding in the stairs -- with the stairs case. So I just worried for them and I want to make sure they're safe. And that's why I communicate publicly that I want them to be safe.
My sister is not safe in the middle area, my in laws regretted going into the middle area. But again, it's a developing situation, you've been talking about military invasion, and that we may have different reality tomorrow. But as of right now, things are not looking good. And I'm grateful some aid is coming in. But that's about 3 percent of what the locals -- the local -- the local need is.
HOLMES: Yes, it must be incredibly worrying for the family, particularly in Gaza, because in Gaza City, because the Israeli military has essentially said those who haven't left you have every likelihood of being considered as -- as you know, combatants or -- or working with Hamas.
So I mean, that -- that adds its own stretch. The other thing you wrote the article that I found interesting, you wrote about a relative who -- who loves Gaza, and despite, you know, other conflicts, he says, I'm going to stay, I want to be here. I love this place. But now he wants to leave. He wants to get out for good. What does that tell you about this situation?
ALMADHOUN: Yes, Omar, it just has a thriving business where he sells people you know, like dish washers, TVs and all that and he's done well for himself. He had an opportunity to go to Dubai, work for a few months. And he said I love Gaza too much. Now he said out of the blue, he said, hey, I want you to make a promise if I make out of this thing alive, I'd like to help -- I'd like you to help me or point me to where I go so I can leave.
It's heartbreaking. And Michael if I may share one more story of my friend -- my friend Mahmoud. I was in Gaza on the Fourth of July, America's Independence day. And I want it you know, my girls are there, we always celebrate it. Mahmud was the only one who found an American flag for me in Gaza. You know, those are not very many places.
But Mahmoud looked all over Gaza. He found it in some bookstore in Gaza City. And you know, right now -- he felt very proud he accomplished this. Right now I'm afraid that an American bomb will bring harm to them. So there's a lot of stories, a lot of struggle, obviously, you know, my family are Palestinians but you know, we're here, you know, we don't choose our destiny.
But you know, you don't choose your family and I love for them to be safe. And I know that they're civilians, they're good people, they're not involved with anything but even that's not good enough to spare people as we've seen in news from kids and women and various people.
HOLMES: I want to -- I do want to ask you real quick before I let you go. I mean, are you detecting from friends and family any anger at Hamas?
ALMADHOUN: There is anger all around to be honest with you. They're feeling let down by their closest you know, you've -- you've heard the Arab Summit, you know, you hear the live those things. So there's frustrations. All right now I really want to focus on the humanitarian side, and I want to make sure everybody's safe.
But by the time when there is a minute for us to breathe, assess our damage and bury the dead. I'm sure there's going to be deep conversations as Palestinians they will have and I pray for everybody's safety and you know, hopefully we'll have a better conversation if we check in next time.
HOLMES: Inshallah, Hani Almadhoun, I feel for your family, I feel for you, and I hope it all works out. Let's stay in touch. We'll talk again. Thank you.
ALMADHOUN: Appreciate you. Thank you.
HOLMES: Well, a Peace Summit called by Egypt ended without an accord according to quote differences said two officials who were there. Arab leaders had gathered in Cairo on Saturday to try to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and protect its civilians. However, Israeli and senior U.S. officials weren't there.
The Egyptian President calling for the resumption of negotiations for a "two state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state." Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was unfortunate that some of those attending it "had difficulty condemning terrorism."
Still to come here on the program the first full day of freedom for two American hostages. After Hamas released the mother and daughter abducted while visiting family on October 7. How their Chicago community is reacting to word of their release. Also still to come, lifesaving supplies finally getting into war-ravaged Gaza while U.N. org and other aid organizations called this humanitarian relief just the beginning of what is needed.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOLMES: The International Committee of the Red Cross says it helped facilitate the release of two American hostages from Hamas captivity on Friday. The aid group says it transported Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter who's a teenager Natalie across the border from Gaza to Israel.
They had spent nearly two weeks in Hamas captivity. The Red Cross says their release is a sliver of hope for families of other hostages. Natalie's father says he is over the moon that his daughter is safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URI RAANAN, FATHER OF NATALIE RAANAN: She's 18 years old teenager, typical American teenager. Care about her nails, about her hair, about her fashion, but she sounds very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well as the U.S. waits for Judith and Natalie to return to the state CNNs Whitney Wild went to their hometown near Chicago to speak with the community there about their expected return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT : 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. 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, ILLINOIS: Our prayers have been heard for Judith and Natalie and we are so overjoyed.
WILD: Judith and Natalie traveled to Israel from Evanston, Illinois, and have been missing since the Hamas attacks on October 7. They were visiting a kibbutz in Israel for Judith's mother's 85th birthday. Judith's sister told CNN, she had no idea if they'd ever return.
SARAY COHEN, JUDITH RAANAN'S SISTER: I was very worried about my sister and my niece. My niece is -- she's 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 -- is -- she's 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 -- 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 and Natalie 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've 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: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Whitney Wild there reporting. Now many Israeli Americans say they feel helpless watching from the U.S. as the war against Hamas rages on. What some are doing to help their fellow countrymen? That's next right here on CNN.
HOLMES: The Israeli Military has prepared an enormous fighting force poised on the border with Gaza and ready to move the war to the next phase. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Ashkelon with the very latest.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in case there was any question that Israel intends to go into Gaza strip with troops a ground invasion, those questions are being put to rest this evening by Israel's Military Chief of Staff. The top general saying, "We will enter the Gaza Strip."
What he is also telling his troops is their mission. And he says that it is to "destroy Hamas operatives and infrastructure." Now these comments add to others by the Defense minister, by the Israeli Prime Minister, all making clear that a ground invasion is certainly approaching. Now on the ground, what we also see are the signs of a potentially imminent ground invasion as well.
As we were driving along the Gaza Strip today within about eight kilometers or so of the Gaza Strip, what we found was not one, not two, but four different groupings of the dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers, as well as these D9 bulldozers which the Israeli Military uses ahead of ground troops to try and dig up and set off any potential IEDs as well as any other obstacles that may be in the way of those forces.
Now put together these four groupings that we saw in just about one square mile of an area represented hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers as well as those bulldozers and there were also infantry troops of positions along the way.
Now the only question appears to be exactly when the Israeli Military will move -- move forward with this invasion. Certainly Hamas seems to continue to be dangling the possibility of additional hostages being released as one way to try and delay this ground invasion.
But Israel's Military continues to insist that it will move forward at a time and place of its choosing. And in line with that Israeli Military officials now say that they are increasing their strikes, that they're intensifying those strikes in order to try and minimize the risk to their own troops when they move in on the ground.
But the question of what the impact will be on Gaza civilians who have already suffered so much in two weeks of bombardment, by Israeli forces, more than 1600 children are believed to have died according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. That question of civilian casualties still remains going forward.
Israel's Military has directed civilians to move out of the northern part of the Gaza Strip and to move south. And when I spoke with a special forces commander, just the other day, this commander said that civilians have been directed out of those areas, and he said, "anyone who has chosen to stay there has chosen a side." Indicating to his troops, that any person who remains in that area could potentially be an enemy, and could potentially be a target.
Now, at the same time, that commander said that his troops will still try and avoid civilian casualties. But those comments and the broader specter of this war and how it has already impacted civilians inside of Gaza, certainly raises the possibility of a very bloody time. Bloody days, bloody weeks ahead. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Ashkelon.
HOLMES: And joining me now from Washington, DC is Khalid Elgindy, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute. Good to see again, sir. It is looking more like this incursion into Gaza is going to happen. Part of why Israel says it wants to dismantle Hamas, what do you fear that will result in or lead to?
KHALID ELGINDY, SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: I think what it will result in is what we've already seen, which is civilian suffering on a massive scale, I think it will be even greater once they go in on the ground at which point we can also expect that Israeli forces will take casualties.
But it's going to be a long, ugly, messy, very bloody battle inside Gaza where, you know, it's going to be house to house, building to building and -- and based on what we've seen from Israel's bombardment from the air, we can expect massive civilian casualties.
And the more -- more suffering, unfortunately.
HOLMES: Yes, yes. And worrying when you hear the IDF say that basically anyone who hasn't managed to get out of the northern areas could well be seen as being, you know, part of the battle, which, which is very worrying. We saw that regional summit in Cairo end with no result. How would you evaluate the regional temperature right now? And -- and how precarious is the mood of the Arab street level?
ELGINDY: Well, I think the mood in the Arab street level is -- is quite angry. People are outraged at the mass civilian casualties that we're seeing. I mean, as -- as the report said, at least 1600, probably more children have been killed. They didn't just die, as the report said, but they were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
And so we're seeing, I think, in addition to I mean, part of the anger is directed, of course at Israel for committing these atrocities, but also at the United States and the West for their seeming indifference to Palestinian suffering. I mean, the -- the fact that Israel has cut off I think, you know, this story doesn't get enough play.
But, you know, it's not just that Israel is bombarding from the air, which -- which it is -- it is doing, but it has cut all food, medicine, water and fuel to Gaza for now more than 15 days. And so this is an entirely manmade deliberate humanitarian catastrophe that that we're witnessing.
And so of course, the Arab public has been outraged. We've seen now the largest demonstrations in the Arab world since the revolutions a decade ago or more. And there's a lot of pressure on Arab leaders to -- to respond. But -- but they're -- there -- it doesn't look very likely because the United States is simply not interested. Neither the United States nor Israel are interested in a ceasefire.
HOLMES: It's always important to say, you know what, what Hamas did on October 7 was, you know unquestionably terrorism. It was -- it was abhorrent, but it's interesting the most recent polling and surveys from Gaza before October 7, there was one in July, in fact showed lessening public support for Hamas. I mean, that it was a Washington Institute poll I'm thinking of in July showed half of Gazans wanted Hamas to negotiate a two-state solution.
What are the risks that the level of destruction and death in Gaza, the suffering will actually reverse that and -- and increase support for militant groups?
ELGINDY: Oh, absolutely. And this is one of the reasons why I and you know, handful of other analysts in Washington are -- are so alarmed at the indifference of the Biden Administration or more like, the kind of blank check that they've given to Israel. Even if -- if -- if you set aside the human costs, which I hope we never do, because, you know, ultimately, that's what matters most. But -- but even if we, for the sake of argument, set that aside, and you look at this in cold calculating terms, it's phenomenally short sighted and frankly, reckless, and maybe even I would say, stupid, to allow this kind of death and destruction at this scale, to continue indefinitely.
Because, you know, the same way that Israelis feel the trauma of October 7, and even a desire for revenge, well, you now have, three times as many Palestinians have been killed, and they've been under nonstop bombardment. And just the sheer terror of that is going to stay with them for a very, very long time.
And -- and that's not the sort of mindset that we should be instilling if you care about the future stability of this region. Another -- another thing you were talking about Gaza, quite rightly, but the West Bank is very much in play. The Israeli human rights organization, Betsy Lam released a statement, I think it was on Thursday, and they accused Israel of exploiting the war to promote its political agenda of taking over more land in the West Bank.
That's an Israeli group. What's your take on that as part of the overall environment that includes, you know, the encroachment of the settlements, the government policies that encourage that, the growing settler violence in the West Bank? How do you see that dynamic?
ELGINDY: Oh, yes, very much. So I mean, as awful and horrendous as the situation is in Gaza. And it is quite awful. What we've seen over the last two weeks is the deadliest two weeks, really, in more than 20 years. In large part, I think about at least 80 of Palestinian, mostly youth, teenagers, in some cases, have been killed by Israeli soldiers, I think, in large part because there is this sense that, you know, all eyes are elsewhere, you know, people are focused on -- on Gaza.
And so Israel has a free hand. And, you know, alarmingly what we're seeing, not necessarily new, but new in -- in -- in recent terms, but we're now seeing airstrikes. Israel is carrying out airstrikes on targets in the West Bank in Jenin and Nablus. And -- and -- and that's a very alarming development. Part of this escalation that, frankly, the international community, the United States, in particular, should be trying to de-escalate rather than fueling it with kind of, you know, post-911 War on Terror speeches that are really out of place, and I think, are quite dangerous.
HOLMES: Great to get your analysis Khalid Elgindy. We'll talk again, thanks so much.
ELGINDY: Thanks for having me.
HOLMES: Now, once again, some signs of relief for people living in Gaza, tiny signs, even if it was just a fleeting glimpse as well.
Yes, it's 20 trucks bringing supplies, they came through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt on Saturday. Aid organizations say it's nowhere near enough to meet the desperate needs. And it's interesting you think about 20 trucks went through. Before this conflict 450 used to go through every day with goods for Gaza. Many Israeli Americans are working to collect humanitarian supplies as well. Camilla Bernal has more on what people in the U.S. are doing to help both Israel and Gaza.
CAMILLA 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 & CEO, BULLETPROOF ISRAEL: For me, it 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 Leon told me to 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.
HOLMES: Now earlier, CNN's Sara Sidner spoke with Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF representative in Egypt about the organization's aid efforts in Gaza.
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JEREMY HOPKINS, UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE IN EGYPT: 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 had prepositioned to reprovision the health centers, keep the only desalination plant that is still working to provide water going.
But nevertheless, as you as you have heard, as we have heard, over 1 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 health and dignity, you should have 50 litres of water a day for drinking and washing and cooking, etc.
Right now, people are down to less than three liters of water per day. The health centers are 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 -- some trucks went over the border today. But we are calling very strongly for a sustained human -- humanitarian corridor that brings supplies in every day.
We want all the border points to be open. And if we talk about Rafah, we want to be able to ship in the pipeline of supplies that we have ready which our water, water system supplies, medicine, medical supplies, and of course, other agencies have food and other badly needed commodities for this life saving 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 -- is going -- 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 green light 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 have the border open daily, and we can ship the 100-200 trucks that we would need collectively as the humanitarian community to deliver the lifesaving supplies that are required, we will 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 staff.
So health workers, health centers, hospitals, schools, children should not be targeted. A child should never be a target in a 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 1000s of people who need them now.
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HOLMES: Still to come on the program, countries working to get their citizens out of Israel and back home. We'll have more on those efforts after a quick break. [22:45:00]
HOLMES: In the two weeks since Israel's war on Hamas began, countries around the world have been working to bring their citizens home to get them out of danger.
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HOLMES: Out of harm's way, countries around the world are flying their citizens out of Israel on repatriation flights filled with foreign nationals fleeing the Israel Hamas war. Many of the people leaving Israel were there to earn a living, better than they could in their homeland. 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 the dead worked on Israeli farms. The Thai government says it's working to return the other bodies and also repatriate 1000s 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.
MYLENE RIVERA, EVACUEE (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. 10 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.
DURGA NEUPANE, AUNT OF DECEASED STUDENT (through translator): He used to say that he would return home, build a concrete house and bring all of us together. Now even his body is not here.
HOLMES: The family 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 agriculture sector. This father says his son was going to use his savings to start a farming business back in Nepal.
BEJHULAL DANGAURA, FATHER OF DECEASED STUDENT (through translator): If I had known about this danger, I would have stopped him. I thought he was going there on a study visa and it would be good for him in his bright future.
HOLMES: A future cut short like so many others caught in the middle of a conflict far from their home.
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HOLMES: Well, 1000s are continuing to take part in protests and demonstrations all around the war -- world over the war between Israel and Hamas. Police estimate more than 100,000 people marched through London on Saturday to the Prime Minister's residence. They called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Demonstrators chanting Free Palestine and waving Palestinian flags. Other pro-Palestinian protests took place this weekend in Germany, Spain, and Washington DC. Coming up next to the latest on the war in Ukraine and how the country's Special Forces are focusing their attention on Crimea. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Ukrainian fighters have received a much needed boost of morale this week. That's thanks in part to successes on the battlefield all of this coming as Ukrainian fighters. There was a -there was several injuries in a strike in the Kharkiv region though. This coming as Ukrainian fighters got this boost of morale thanks to in part, a secret U.S. delivery of long ranged attack missiles.
Ukraine has been pleading for the weapons for months and they've been using them already to destroy Russian equipment in occupied territory. Another morale boost came from Ukrainian special forces, who are making daring raids into Russian occupied Crimea. Fred Pleitgen reports.
FREDRIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A brazen attack from the sea. Ukrainian forces using jet skis to land in Russian occupied Crimea. The fighter speaking goes by the callsign musician. He tells me the operation was successful but tough. While we were landing the sea was stormy, he says, the waves were up to two meters high plus Russian warships were patrolling, the Raptors.
The Ukrainians say they also managed to destroy Russian Military gear before racing off across the Black Sea using larger boats to carry fuel for the jet skis on the long journey back to Ukrainian held territory. Musician says these missions are militarily essential. It helps our forces in the trenches, he says, we distract the enemy's attention towards us and the enemy is forced to relocate their personnel and vehicles to the Crimean seaside.
Ukraine has started a major campaign against Russian Military targets in and around Crimea, hitting the HQ of Moscow's Black Sea Fleet, damaging a submarine and a Russian landing ship as well as hitting an airbase. The Ukrainians use drones and cruise missiles for some of the attacks but rely on a network of undercover partisan groups inside Crimea for information and targeting.
One of the groups agreed to answer our questions, but only in writing for security reasons. We constantly monitor all military facilities on the territory of the Crimean Autonomous Region with the help of our agents and residents of Crimea, who constantly inform us the Atesh Group writes, a wide and developed system of agents allows you to make a choice.
One of the key targets Ukraine has hit several times, the Kerch bridge linking occupied Crimea to the Russian mainland. The attacks have led to severe disruptions. Russian leader Vladimir Putin vowing revenge.
There will definitely be a response from Russia, he said the Ministry of Defense is preparing proposals. For the Ukrainians missions like these are also psychologically important. One of the planners of the jet ski raid tells me.
We are fighting a trench war on the front end Lions and the armed forces success is not so obvious he says and special operations of this kind in the rear or in the sea, they inspire and give energy to keep fighting.
And the fighters in the (inaudible) unit say their next infiltrations are already in the works, but they won't say when, where for how. Fred Pleitgen, CNN Kyiv.
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HOLMES: In the U.S. it's back to the drawing board for Republicans in the House of Representatives to find a new candidate to serve as speaker. CNN's Melanie Zanona is in Washington with details on that.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the Republicans are back at square one. For the second time in two weeks, their GOP nominee for speaker has failed to win enough support within the party. Jim Jordan tried to take another vote to the floor on Friday. He failed to win enough support to win the speakership gavel. In fact, he bled even more support.
And so after that vote, Republicans huddled behind closed doors and took a secret ballot vote where they essentially voted to dump him as their speaker nominee. But there are serious questions about who if anyone can get the 217 votes it's going to require in order to win the speakership.
A lot of members are really upset about the situation that they find themselves in. One of those members includes Dusty Johnson, he's a more moderate leaning member. Our Manu Raju caught up with him after that conference meeting. Let's hear what he had to say.
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REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): America's got real problems. And this is a time where we need people who are interested in problem solving, not self-aggrandizement. It is time for big boys and big girls to stop with the nonsense and get back to work for the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZANONA: So now lawmakers will go home for the weekend. They will have another candidate forum on Monday with an internal speakership election on Tuesday. So that is the earliest we could potentially see a new candidate emerge. And already there are half a dozen Republicans who have jumped into the race.
That includes Tom Emmer, he's the Majority Whip and the third ranking highest Republican. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who's also a member of the Far Right Freedom Caucus, and Kevin Hern, who leads the Republican Study Committee which is the largest conservative Caucus in the House.
But as of right now, it is shaping up to be a messy competitive race. These candidates have not had a head start so it's going to be a while before anyone is able to unify around a candidate in the party. But as of right now, no speaker, no consensus and no ability to govern. Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.
HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes and I will have more coverage of Israel at war after a break.