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CNN Live Event/Special
IDF Chief Of Staff: "We Will Enter Gaza"; IDF Says Airstrikes Will Increase Against Hamas; 20 Trucks Of Medical Supplies, Medicine And Canned Foods Allowed Into Gaza Saturday. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired October 22, 2023 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNNI HOST: Hello, and welcome everyone. I'm Michael Holmes at the CNN Center with our continuing coverage of the Israel- Hamas war. An Israeli ground offensive into Gaza now appears all but inevitable. Hundreds of armored vehicles along with thousands of Israeli troops now poised to strike at Hamas at a moment's notice, and do it on the ground. On Saturday, the IDF Chief of Staff again repeating what they've heard all week "We will enter Gaza". An IDF spokesperson told CNN 's Anderson Cooper that it is not a question of if, only when.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESPERSON: We have a mission and a commitment to get all of our Israelis back home, and we have an end game to dismantle Hamas and make sure that the Gaza Strip will no longer harbor terrorists that threaten Israeli civilians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: The Israeli Military says its bombardment of Hamas targets will become even more relentless going forward ahead of any incursion. On Saturday, President Biden was asked if he was encouraging Israel to not invade. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you encouraging the Israelis to delay invasion?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're talking with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: 28 trucks were allowed into Gaza early on Saturday, but aid officials say it's just a tiny fraction of what's needed on a daily basis. And the U.S. Defense Secretary has announced that the U.S. will boost its defense posture in the Middle East in response to "recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces". The directive includes more missile defense systems across the region, as well as placing more U.S. troops under "prepare to deploy orders".
Elliott Gotkine joins me now live from London with the latest on all of this. Let's start with the speculation that this ground operation is coming. We don't know exactly when. It feels like it's been imminent for days. What are the latest indicators?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Michael, it does seem that we are closer than ever to this ground invasion that Israel hasn't necessarily been specifying, but now does seem to be doing so with the Chief of the General Staff telling troops that they will be going into Gaza. We've also seen Israel saying that it will be ramping up airstrikes on the Gaza Strip to minimize the danger to its troops. And on top of that, we now also learned that the IDF has been dropping flyers on a southern neighborhood of Gaza City, telling residents that if they do not evacuate, then they might be considered a partner to the terrorist organization. In other words, Hamas.
So, Israel wants civilians to get out of the way. It seems to be very much prepared with hundreds of -- well, more than 350,000 reservists called up, hundreds of tanks and other military assets there in the south of Israel. And clearly, they can't be there forever. They can't be there indefinitely. Now, perhaps plans for a ground invasion were delayed a little bit by the presence of President Joe Biden. Israel clearly wasn't going to go in while Biden was in town. But now, he is out. And it does now seem that this ground invasion is due to happen any day now.
Now, on top of that, of course, we've discussed already the best of times. It's an incredibly complicated operation for Israeli troops to go in on the ground, not just because of the potential for large numbers of civilian casualties, but for the potential for Hamas militants to emerge from their labyrinth of tunnels under the ground to take cover in some of the tower blocks, for example. There is always the prospect of booby traps, improvised explosive devices and the like, and danger not just to the lives of Israeli soldiers, but also the very real danger that there could be soldiers that could be kidnapped or taken hostage, to add to the more than 200 hostages that Hamas is already holding and other militant groups are holding right now, Michael.
HOLMES: Yes. One other thing, turning to the West Bank now, and it seems pretty unusual to see Israel doing airstrikes in the West Bank as opposed to where activity, but airstrikes. But, there was one in Jenin.
GOTKINE: There was, Michael, unusual but not unprecedented. There were Apache helicopters used in June where -- during clashes with militants there and when Israeli forces seemed to be getting bogged down and an improvised explosive device disabled one of the Israeli armored vehicles. Now, as we can see from those images, an airstrike seems to have ripped a hole in this mosque in Jenin. Israel says that it was carried out, this airstrike, to target, in its words a command center being run by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which Israel says were planning an imminent terrorist attack.
[00:05:00] Now, they've carried out that airstrike. They say they discovered the presence of this command center during clashes when Israeli forces went in a few months ago. I've asked for more specifics on that. But, that was the target. And they say this command center was operating underneath the mosque, and therefore this airstrike was carried out. Now, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, there is one death as a result of that airstrike and seven injuries. But, if -- and Israel for its part believes that the terrorists, in his words, were neutralized. That doesn't always mean that they were killed, but usually does. And we're waiting for more specifics on the number of casualties both from the Palestinian Red Crescent or the Palestinian Ministry of Health and from the IDF. Michael.
HOLMES: All right, Elliot, thanks for the update. Elliott Gotkine there in London for us.
Now, there was a Gaza crisis summit in Cairo in Egypt, and it ended on Saturday without an accord because of "differences". That's according to two officials. Arab leaders had gathered to try to thwart a growing escalation of the situation in Gaza, and tried to protect Gazan civilians. Israeli and senior U.S. officials were not at the summit. Israel's Foreign Affairs Minister said it was unfortunate that some of those attending "had difficulty condemning terrorism". The European Council President said the world was watching for them to make a good faith effort to help resolve the conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES MICHEL, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL (TRANSLATED): It's a conflict and tragedy that has caused so much suffering, so much hardship. This is a tragedy and a conflict that generates around the world, beyond the region, so much polarization, so much division, so much tension, and our responsibility is to step up to our duty to make sure that we truly and seriously move forward in the path to peace, stability, and security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Joining me now is journalist Gideon Levy. He is with the Haaretz newspaper. He is in Tel Aviv. Thanks so much. Good to see you again, Gideon. You wrote a piece in Haaretz, and you said "The reckoning with must be with Hamas, not with all Gazans." How does Israel thread that needle, deal with Hamas as a terror organization, but not destroy the lives of Gaza civilians or Gaza itself?
GIDEON LEVY, JOURNALIST, HAARETZ, & FORMER ADVISOR TO SHIMON PERES: Until now, it's very simple to go according to those lines, because most of the casualties until now, innocent civilians. Hamas is in the tunnels under the ground. And a huge population is paying a hell of a price. I'm not sure that neither you, Michael, nor me, can even imagine ourselves the suffering of those people who are now evacuated to the south and being bombarded also in the south, people without homes, without anything. So, it must be much, much more careful. I hope Israel will listen to the very good advice given by President Biden. HOLMES: Of course, Israel will and does say we avoid civilian casualties. This is all the doing of Hamas for what happened on October 7. What do you want us to do?
LEVY: I want us to do to follow the international law. I want us to do to be careful, the power (ph) also to be clever, because more suffer of innocent people will not make Israel more secure, or will make Israel more peaceful. Their life will be more peaceful here. We have to follow certain restrictions. And I'm not sure that while you bomb from the air and destroy whole neighborhoods, you really can't make this separation. Look, what happened on Saturday 7 was a barbaric terroristic action by Hamas, they deserve punishment. Israel has the full right to crush Hamas. But, the question is, first of all, is it possible? And secondly, what will be the price? And thirdly, Israel should keep some restraints. Even after this barbaric attack. Israel does not want to be compared to Hamas, I hope.
HOLMES: And to that point, I mean, how much of what's happening in Gaza to the civilians, how much does that risk actually increasing radicalization, not just among Palestinians, but elsewhere in the region? But, among those young Palestinians, a lot of them were turning away from Hamas, in a political sense. Could this turn them back?
LEVY: Much more than this. The visions, the images, are shown all over the world except of Israel, by the way. The Israelis exposed the less of what's going on in Gaza and no less than anyone in the United States or in Europe about the agony there.
But, in any case, people who are exposed to those scenes cannot remain indifferent and cannot become Israeli lovers. You can't avoid anger to see those scenes, and the scenes are horrible. And they should stop. They should at least be minimized. And I don't feel, especially on the eve of this ground operation, which I'm not sure until this very moment if it is a clever step, if it's not a hell of a risk that can lead us to much bigger catastrophe. But, that's another issue. We have to keep some borders.
HOLMES: You were there in Tel Aviv. I mean, you're out and about. How do you evaluate the mood in Israel, weighing in the desire for retaliation for October 7 versus what could be the fallout and also versus the welfare of the hostages? That must be a balance.
LEVY: Unfortunately, the strongest sentiment is now to take revenge. That's the strongest. It's even stronger than the desire to release the hostages. People think that we can do both. I don't think so. I think we have to make a choice. If the hostages are the first priority, and they should be the first priority, we cannot go wild in Gaza, because this will be on their cost. Unfortunately -- yes, sorry. Sorry. Go ahead, Michael.
HOLMES: No, no, no. I mean, I'm interviewing you. You finish your thought. LEVY: OK. So, the sentiment, the leading sentiment is now to beat them, to crush them, anger, revenge, nationalism, militarism. It's always in wars like this, and this time, much more after what's happened in the south.
HOLMES: Hamas has failed Gazans, ultimately. The Palestinian Authority has become impotent and unpopular. Those two things not necessarily unrelated. How great is the need once this is over for Palestinians to have and to be allowed to hold by Israel elections under international monitors? Can you even see that happening?
LEVY: I don't see it happening. And in the current political situation, political and social conditions, this will be -- no, this will not lead to anywhere, because first of all, to do elections in a cage is rather ridiculous. And to do elections under occupation is also not exactly pure democracy. And above all, the Palestinians, like now, any kind of leadership --
LEVY: -- the Palestinians are totally desperate, and they don't see any light from neither Hamas nor the BA (ph), and I don't see someone emerging all of a sudden a Nelson Mandela who can really make a change.
HOLMES: And a lot of -- yes. And also, you've got an Israeli government that wants to continue that weakness of Palestinian leadership, many would say for expansion of settlements and so on. But, absent a political track for Palestinians, will a resistance track invariably take its place?
LEVY: I guess so. I mean, what else is left. We will face now a society which has nothing to lose, and this time even less than in the past. People of Gaza have no hope. I know that the world will give some money to rehabilitate Gaza, but they know very well that whatever will be rehabilitated will be also distracted by Israel one or two or three years later. They have no perspective. And this will push them even more to the most radical. I mean, we might miss Hamas one day because it can get even worse than Hamas, where we will continue to push them to the corner without any hope, any hope.
HOLMES: Yes. All very depressing. Gideon Levy, always good to get your thoughts, my friend. Thank you so much.
LEVY: Thank you.
HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll show you how some Israelis are honoring their loved ones held hostage in Gaza, and demanding their government do more to bring them home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELLY SHEM-TOV, MOTHER OF HOSTAGE OMER SHEM TOV: All the countries, where are you? You must understand. It's crazy. We are in hell.
MALKI SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: We are in hell.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: And we want allows us back home now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: The mother of an Israeli hostage there, pouring out her anguish at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. She was one of several family members of hostages who joined the rally along with hundreds of other Israelis. They called on the government to bring all the hostages home immediately, and waved signs calling for a ceasefire. Israel's Military says 210 people are currently being held in Gaza two weeks after the deadly Hamas attack on Israel. And on Friday night, many of those same families, including the woman you just saw, were at another ceremony in Tel Aviv, where a Shabbat dinner table was laid with 200 empty plate settings, each one representing a hostage.
The parents of 21-year-old Omer Shem Tov who was taken from the Nova music festival on October 7 spoke with our Kaitlan Collins about their son and the last time they spoke with him.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: He sound much more panic, much more hysteric, and even in the one of the phone call he said they're running away. They carry 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 say that even see sometimes people, and I love you, I love you.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS": I mean, you must have been so panicked to hear your 21-year-old son telling you it's not just rockets. It's -- there is gunfire. People are running and being killed.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Yes, yes. It was like, we could understand from his voice that this is something that we cannot understand, even what is experienced over there.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: 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 a 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.
SHELLY 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. It's not the way. I call them to say, Omer, it's not the way. And he it answer. The phone was ringing and he didn't answer. And then, we saw that he is getting into -- he was behind the (inaudible). MALKI SHEM-TOV: And then in the evening, we got a video that was published by the Hamas that Omer is -- he is a hostage over there. We saw Omer handcuffed in a back of pickup.
COLLINS: With his handcuffed in a truck.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Yes. Yes, with his friend. There were alive. There was no blood or something on his clothes. And that's was the only single -- signal that we got for him.
COLLINS: And it's been almost two weeks. Tomorrow will have been two weeks. I mean, what have these two weeks been like for both of you?
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: We didn't -- we are not sleeping. We were not eating. We -- all 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 don't know if he is eating, sleeping, if they are beating him. The basic thing of a mother is to --
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Protect.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: -- 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. There were sitting, eating breakfast. Some of them were as sleeping. And then, these terrorists came in through their house and murder and took them from their house from the place that it's the most safe place, and they took him, babies, children, teenage mothers, fathers, grandmothers.
COLLINS: And he is 21. But, he is your baby. I mean, what is -- what's he like? What's his personality? What is he -- you were saying he kisses you three times on the cheeks --
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Yes. Yes. Yes.
COLLINS: -- all the time.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Yes. Yes. He is amazing guy. He is a party guy. He is by himself. He is a DJ. And he likes very much all this kind of festival, music festivals. So, that's Omer, very, very happy guy, very happy guy.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Yes. Funny.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Funny. Very cool.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: We call him a --
COLLINS: So cute.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: -- we call him sunshine, because like the sunshine, everybody wants to be --
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Next to him.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: -- 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 is 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 panic phone calls the next day when they realized 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 family is hoping that he will be back at their Shabbat dinner, at their table very soon.
COLLINS: Can you show me the video that you were showing me a moment ago?
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Yes.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Yes. Amazing.
COLLINS: And that was a picture of your family.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Yes.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Yes.
COLLINS: How many times have you watched that video?
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Oh my god.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: I saw it, you know, at the beginning when Donna (ph) 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 say, you're going to get out from this.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: Don't be afraid from your fear.
MALKI 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?
MALKI SHEM-TOV: Come back. Enough. Enough. You did enough troubles. Come back.
COLLINS: And what about you, mom? SHELLY SHEM-TOV: That I love him. That I miss him. That I want -- every day when he is going, he is coming to me, he is telling he is hugging me, telling me, mom, I love you. He is kissing me three times. And he is going. So, I want him back. I want to --
MALKI SHEM-TOV: I want to hug him. 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.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: You know, for us, it's a -- give maybe some light, but until we don't see them --
SHELLY 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 --
SHELLY SHEM-TOV: -- and I'm thinking about Omer, that he is there. And you don't -- he is -- whatever you call it. And it's the minimum thing that -- the monetary thing that they need to do, first of all.
MALKI SHEM-TOV: It's unbelievable.
HOLMES: Tens of thousands of Israeli troops are preparing for a ground incursion of Gaza, as Israel says it's going to be stepping up the airstrikes on the enclave. The IDF's Chief of Staff said Saturday that their military will enter Gaza and initiate an operation to, in his words, take out Hamas, but he didn't provide a timeframe. Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending more missile defense systems to the Middle East. The Pentagon is placing additional U.S. troops on prepare to deploy orders in response to the escalating situation in the region.
Now, the Rafah crossing briefly opened on Saturday morning to allow the first convoy of aid trucks to enter Gaza since this latest crisis began. The World Food Program says a shortage of basic supplies is pushing Gaza to the edge of catastrophe. Billions of dollars in humanitarian aid from the U.S., meanwhile, is still in limbo. And as CNN's Priscilla Alvarez reports, the White House faces an uphill battle to get the aid package through Congress anytime soon.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is asking Congress for $105 billion in additional funding to include aid for Ukraine and Israel. In a breakdown of the numbers provided by the White House, that includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, and over $9 billion for humanitarian aid, in addition to funding for the U.S.-Mexico border and the Indo-Pacific region. Now, White House official tells me, over the course of the weekend, the White House legislative affairs team is in talks with members of Congress of both sides of the aisle to shore up support for this funding package. Now, the White House says that they anticipate that there will be bipartisan support for a package like this, but they also face an uphill battle, as there is still no Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Now, House Republicans ended the week still scrambling to find a Speaker after pushing Republican Representative Jim Jordan out of the race. And over the course, of the last 24 hours, new Speaker hopefuls have already begun to emerge. But, there is no conclusion in sight, putting this funding package still in limbo. Now, President Biden is also trying to shore up support with Americans. In a primetime address this week, he made a direct appeal to Americans, trying to make clear that these just aren't ongoing conflicts happening abroad, but they also affect U.S. national security, and it is important for the United States to remain involved and provide critical aid.
Now, today, the President also received a briefing from his national security team as all of this continues to unfold, and his team seeks to shore up support among Americans but also members of Congress. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, traveling with the President.
HOLMES: Now, aid organizations are calling for unrestricted access to Gaza, saying in a joint statement from the UN that time is running out to help the thousands in need of medical assistance. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz shows us the dangers that come with this growing humanitarian crisis. Her report does include disturbing video.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT 9voice-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 healthcare 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 three percent of what entered this enclave daily prior to the conflict. More than 200 additional trucks of assistance remains stalled on the Egyptian side, according to the UN, and every hour costs lives. And so far, no civilians can leave the enclave. 10- year-old Palestinian-American Aiden is among those trucks.
AIDEN BSEISO, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN: And we had 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 (voice-over): Even if people are allowed out, it will be a limited number, most likely, only those with foreign passports, stealing 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 Mahmud (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 7 terror attacks when Hamas killed more than 1,400 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.
HOLMES: Well, let's bring in Shaina Low, the Communication Advisor for the Norwegian Refugee Council. Thanks so much for making the time. I know it's early there. Look, we've -- more than 400 trucks a day crossed into Gaza before this conflict. I think it was 450 a day. This was 20. UNICEF says it took in enough water supply for 22,000 people for one day. Is it fair to say what's being delivered is just dwarfed by what's needed?
SHAINA LOW, COMMUNICATION ADVISOR, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Absolutely. The needs in Gaza are tremendous already and are increasing every day as supplies dwindle. As this -- as the situation gets worse and worse, Palestinians in Gaza are resorting to negative coping mechanisms, forcing them to -- force to drink unsanitary, untreated water. This is going to lead to spread of infectious diseases. People are already in closed quarters. The UN is already reporting the spread of chickenpox, diarrhea, cholera and other issues based on just the lack of clean water and unsanitary spaces for Palestinians to be in. That's only going to increase the needs for medicines and water and food --
LOW: -- in the long term. We need more than just these 20 trucks.
We need at least 100 trucks a day.
HOLMES: Yes. Yes. And as I said, 450 trucks a day were going in before this. Now, fuel crucially was not allowed in with these deliveries. Israel says it can be misused by Hamas and so on. But, how crucial is fuel across a range of uses? With no electricity, fuel is needed to run generators for hospitals with ventilators and so on. And even if water were in the pipes in Gaza, you need electricity to pump it. So, how crucial is fuel?
LOW: Fuel is one of the top needs right now. Last week, Israel did open a water pipeline in the eastern Khan Younis. Unfortunately, most people aren't able to access that water because there isn't fuel to run the pumps needed to access it. So, it's -- fuel is a necessary thing, not only in the hospitals, but also to run generators, for bakeries, and other -- the mill. The only wheat mill in Gaza is not -- no longer operational because of lack of electricity. So, the fuel and electricity supply which Israel cut on October 11, I believe, October 10, needs to be restored immediately.
HOLMES: Yes. What are you -- I'm curious what you're hearing from staff and civilians inside. I know communication is really problematic partly because of the lack of electricity. I think people -- I saw people charging their phones using car batteries. But, what are you hearing from people inside? I mean, there is no doubt a desperate humanitarian crisis.
LOW: What I'm hearing from my colleagues in Gaza is just that the situation could not be more dire. Even simple things like getting bread to feed one's family are proving to be very, very difficult. My colleague Yousef told me yesterday that he went at four in the morning to get bread for his family. He had plans to go at midnight, this morning, to go and get bread because the line was so long at 4 a.m. But, he texted me this morning and said that, unfortunately, he wasn't able to go out as early as he planned. He wasn't able to go out until daybreak, because it was simply unsafe because of the ongoing airstrikes.
He is in Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, which was -- where people in the north were told to flee. And yet, those people are still unsafe from the ongoing aerial assaults and Israeli airstrikes.
HOLMES: It was interesting, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates, I think it's up to 160,000 homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. It's 40 percent of the homes, 1.4 million, half the population displaced. Even when this is over, what are Gazans going to face?
LOW: The reconstruction process in Gaza is going to be long and difficult. Already, Gaza was facing extreme challenges because of a 16-year siege imposed by Israel. There was a massive shortage of housing. Much of the housing in Gaza was already substandard. The amount of money and time and resources needed to rebuild Gaza and get it to a place where the 2.3 million people living there can live lives in dignity and safety with roofs over their heads and walls surrounding them, it's going to take months if not years to recover.
HOLMES: Shaina Low with the Norwegian Refugee Council, thanks so much for getting up early for us and for the work that your organization does. Thank you.
LOW: Thank you. HOLMES: All right. Coming up next, 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: All right. Turning now to the war in Ukraine, officials in Kharkiv say a Russian missile strike killed at least six people there. According to the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office, Russian forces fired two missiles at a building belonging to a logistics company with employees inside. At least 16 people injured in that attack and search and rescue operations are still underway.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Special Forces are launching raids on Russian- occupied Crimea, and they're using unconventional methods in the hopes of throwing Moscow off guard, and in order to boost morale during Ukraine's slowed counteroffensive. Fred Pleitgen shows us how.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A brazen attack from the sea, Ukrainian forces using jet skis to land in Russian-occupied Crimea. The fighter speaking goes by the call sign "musician". He tells me, the operation was successful but tough. While we were landing, the sea was storming, he says. The waves were up to two meters high, plus Russian warships were patrolling, the Raptors. The Ukrainian 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 rights. 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 us. We are fighting a trench war on the front lines, and the armed forces' success is not 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 Bratva unit say their next infiltrations are already in the works, but they won't say when, where, for how. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.
HOLMES: Still to come on the program, from Europe to Africa, demonstrations and protests continue over Palestinians caught up in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The messages people want the world to hear, that's when we come back.
HOLMES: In Spain, thousands demonstrated in Barcelona and Madrid to show their support for Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war, with protesters marching and shouting, Gaza is bleeding out and the world is watching. And in Tunisia, demonstrators waving Palestinian flags. They shouted that the world needs to "wake up, stand up, speak up and stop the genocide". Now, those two American hostages who were released Friday have reunited with family members in Israel. Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie spent nearly two weeks in Hamas captivity before they were handed over to Israeli Special Forces at the Gaza border.
Natalie's father said she is expected to come home Illinois to celebrate her 18th birthday on Tuesday. Natalie and her mother spoke on the phone with U.S. President Joe Biden after they were released. The White House posting video of the emotional call on social media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Hey, Judith.
JUDITH TAI RAANAN, HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: Hello, President Biden.
BIDEN: I'm so glad you're home, or not home but glad you're out.
RAANAN: Thank you so very, very much.
BIDEN: Hey Nat, how are you? God love you.
NATALIE RAANAN, HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS: I just wanted to say thank you for your services for Israel.
BIDEN: Look, that's been long-serving. I'm just delighted we're able to get you out. We've been working on it a long time. We're going to get them all out, God willing.
N. RAANAN: Yes, God willing.
BIDEN: I hope you're both not only feeling good but in good health as well.
N. RAANAN: Yes, sir. Yes, we are. Thank you very much, God bless you.
BIDEN: God bless you guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Now, the release was the result of negotiations between Qatar and Hamas. According to the IDF, more than 200 people are being held hostage in Gaza right now.
Now, the Premier League honored those impacted by the Israel-Hamas conflict, a moment of silence observed at both the Chelsea vs Arsenal, and Manchester City vs Brighton matches. Players, managers and officials will wear black armbands for the next round of matches.
Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. My friend and colleague Lynda Kinkade continues our coverage after a break.