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CNN Live Event/Special

Israel P.M. Warns Ground Offensive Into Gaza Is Coming; Tempers Flare At U.N. Meeting Amid Ceasefire Calls; WHO: Six Gaza Hospitals Close Due To Lack Of Fuel; UN: Eight Aid Trucks Entered Gaza On Tuesday; Teen Girl From Gaza Shows Extent Of Home's Damage; Sources: Hamas Used Landlines To Avoid Detection & Plan Attack; Israel PM Warns Ground Offensive Into Gaza "Is Coming"; Mother Remembers Son Killed In Hamas Attack. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired October 25, 2023 - 02:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world as we continue our coverage of Israel at war. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Right now, it's 9:00 a.m. in Israel where the country's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling troops the next stage of the war, the ground offensive is coming with just one mission. In his words, just smash Hamas.

His comments come amid concerns over the hostages and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza where the death toll is still rising. At the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, Secretary General Antonio Guterres drew backlash from Israeli diplomats when he appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I have condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented seven October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel. Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians or the launching of rockets against civilian targets. It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.

But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Excellencies, even war has rules.


KINKADE: Well, those comments prompted this swift response from Israel's U.N. ambassador who took to social media to call on Guterres to resign immediately over those remarks. But even as tensions flare, the situation in Gaza grows more dire by the day. Drone footage has captured the level of destruction there following more than two weeks of Israeli airstrikes. A response to the deadly terror attacks by Hamas on October 7th.

On Tuesday, only eight of the 28th trucks scheduled to enter Gaza made it through the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border. While some food, water and medicine has been delivered. Residents say it's not nearly enough to meet the urgent needs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This thing that has been distributed cannot be called aid at all. And it should not be referred to as such because these items do not cover any of the people's needs. People in Gaza are dying in two ways. I fast death or a slow death in refugee camps. We are asking for the simplest and most essential elements that allow every person. Young or old, child or adult to stay alive. Neglecting our lives like this is unacceptable.


KINKADE: One of the biggest concern is a lack of fuel which is used to power Gaza's hospitals. The World Health Organization says six hospitals have already been forced to close. Journalist Eliott Gotkine joins us from London for more on this. Good to have you with us. So, the U.N. is warning that fuel and Gaza using generators at hospitals will run out within 24 hours. It's calling for an immediate ceasefire. And of course, it comes after we heard that the U.S. is urging Israel to delay a ground invasion.

It's just -- how dire things right now in Gaza?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're dire, Lynda and getting worse by the day. You've mentioned at least six hospitals being forced to close. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA is saying that it will have to cease all operations by the end of today, if fuel does not get in. And the World Health Organization, also adding that there are something like 1000 patients on dialysis. 130 Premature babies and they would be at risk of medical complications or death if fuel does not get into the Gaza Strip.

From Israel's perspective, though it is saying that it will not allow fuel to go in because Hamas will simply take that fuel and use it to fuel its war machine to continue firing rockets at Israel and carry out infiltration attempts as well. Indeed, the IDF in a somewhat sardonic tweet that it put out, posted a satellite image that it said -- showed half a million liters of fuel in fuel tanks in the Gaza Strip and responding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that looks after Palestinian refugees they're in the Gaza Strip saying ask Hamas if you can have some. So, now -- for now, Israel's position remains steadfast.


It will not allow fuel into the Gaza strip. It is continuing its bombing campaign of Hamas targets. Outlining a number of targets that it hits overnight just in the last few minutes, and indeed hitting a cell of divers, of Hamas divers who came out of a tunnel they say from the Gaza strip into a beach just north of it to try to infiltrate into Israel. The IDF saying it took out that particular cell. But the humanitarian situation is continuing to deteriorate.

And as we've seen that blazing route between the U.N. Secretary General and Israel's envoy to the United Nations not just calling for the U.N. Secretary General to resign but accusing him of tolerating terrorism. Lynda?

KINKADE: We also learned that Israel has carried out several strikes on Syrian targets. What more can you tell us about that? And how risky is it given the concerns about a broader regional conflict?

GOTKINE: I think, Lynda for now, what we're seeing both in Lebanon from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed proxy in the South of Lebanon there and also from the Syrians. It's really -- I suppose testing Israel to see kind of just how far it can go without sparking a more widescale response. And what Israel says is that it fired a number of rockets towards Syrian Army positions. Yesterday, hitting in its words, military compounds and artillery posts of the Syrian army.

And also radar systems in response to missiles that were fired from Syria towards the Golan Heights, which Israel took from Syria and annexed a couple of years ago. So, tensions rising there, it's not the first time we've seen Israel firing back at positions inside of Syria. But clearly there is a concern that that could escalate with the Syrians, that things could escalate further with Hezbollah in the South of Lebanon. And of course, we're also seeing rising violence in the Israeli occupied West Bank as well.

So, Israel's main front of course, remains the Gaza Strip. It says that it is still planning to go in and Yoav Gallant, the defense minister saying yesterday, the war is just starting. Clearly it doesn't want to be fighting on additional fronts, but Israel's position is that it is ready for all eventualities. Lynda?

KINKADE: All right. Elliott Gotkine, we'll leave it there for now. We will chat to you again soon. Thanks so much.

Well, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. says Gaza will not have "A moment of quiet until all the hostages held by Hamas are brought home." Israel's defense forces dropped leaflets in Gaza Tuesday appealing to residents to any information about the hostages being held by Hamas. The message promises protection and compensation in return.

An 85-year-old Israeli woman was one of the four hostages that had been released. She says Hamas gunmen took her underground to a vast network of tunnels, which she said was like a spiderweb.


YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ, ISRAELI HOSTAGE RELEASED BY HAMAS (through translator): We began walking inside the tunnels with a wet ground. It was moist all the time. We arrived at a large hall, there we were 25 people. After two to three hours they separated five people from Kibbutz Nir Oz.


KINKADE: CNN's Matthew Chance has more on the hostage situation. And a warning his report contains graphic content.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is the extraordinary moment. An 85-year-old Israeli grandmother was released by Hamas.


CHANCE (voiceover): In video recorded by the militant group. You can see her shaking the hand of a masked gunman. Shalom or peace, she says as she's led away.

Back in Israel. Yocheved Lifshitz is speaking about her hostage ordeal.

LIFSHITZ (through translator): I went through hell. They went on rampage and our kibbutz, kidnapped me, lay me over a motorcycle on the side and flew with me through the plowed fields. They stormed our houses, eight people, some of them like me kidnapped. They didn't distinguish between old and young.

CHANCE (voiceover): The Hamas attack on a kibbutz of Nir Oz in southern Israel earlier this month left a quarter of its residents killed or kidnapped, including many children, according to Israeli officials. Yocheved described that she was forcibly driven away with her elderly husband and hit with sticks on the journey into Gaza. Her daughter who helped translate her mother's ordeal to reporters described where her mom and several other Israeli hostages were held on the ground in Gaza.

SHARONE LIFSHITZ, DAUGHTER OF YOCHEVED LIFCHITZ: There are a huge network of tunnels underneath. It looks like a spiderweb.

CHANCE (voiceover): The October 7th attack.


Many of them recorded by Hamas gunmen themselves as they rampage through Israeli communities. Took an unprecedented toll. Even at least 1400 Israelis dead and more than 200. Like Yocheved, kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

Y. LIFSHITZ (through translator): The lack of knowledge in the army in Shin Bet harmed us very much. We were warned three weeks ahead of it. They showed us masses reaching the road. They send fire balloons to burn our fields. And the army somehow didn't take it seriously.

CHANCE (voiceover): A catastrophic lapse in security that left us so many Israelis exposed.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Tel Aviv.


KINKADE: With me now from Tel Aviv is Chen Zeigen. His mother Vivian Silver has been missing since the deadly Hamas rampage on October 7th. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm so sorry. Can -- what you're going through, your brother and your family are dealing with. What do you know about what happened to your mother Vivian?

CHEN ZEIGEN, SON OF MISSING CANADIAN-ISRAEI ACTIVIST: We don't know much. We know that we were messaging with her all through the morning of the Saturday, the morning of the attack until she fell out of communication after she wrote us that someone is entering her house. Since then, we have not had much information about what happened to her. She has not been seen in any of the videos or pictures that have been circulating around.

KINKADE: You were able to geolocate her phone. Is that right?

ZEIGEN: Yes. We've gotten notified by the Israeli authorities that her phone was geolocated in Gaza.

KINKADE: And I understand your mom Vivian lived in a kibbutz near the Gaza border for decades where you grew up. And from what I've read, she sounds extraordinary. She had received recognition for her work as peace activist efforts which included transporting Gaza patient -- patients from Gaza to Jerusalem for treatment. How would you describe your mother?

ZEIGEN: My mother was -- in her personal life she was a kind and loyal friend. She was loving mother and grandmother. And then in public life she was fierce, unrelenting woman willing to speak and stand up for what she believed in without compromise. What you describe is just the activities she was involved in after her retirement. She devoted her professional life as well before that to peacebuilding and garnering understanding between Jews and Arabs and Israel and -- Israelis and Palestinians.

KINKADE: Wow. Remarkable woman. We know that Hamas has now released several hostages. How did you feel seeing that and does that give you hope?

ZEIGEN: It is always mixed feelings. I'm very happy for the women who have been released. Any chance to release any hostage is a good thing. In my view, no one should -- no one should be left behind.

KINKADE: The IDF has now dropped leaflets into Gaza, offering rewards for information on hostages. This 2-1/2 weeks after the terror attack. Do you feel that enough is being done to get those hostages home?

ZEIGEN: It is hard for me to say. I know that we have been in touch with the Canadian government.


The Israeli authorities are also in touch with us. We urge the international community and the Israeli government to do whatever they can to release all of the hostages as soon as possible. I'm sure some actions are being done covertly that we are not aware of. So, it's hard for me to say.

KINKADE: Do you feel that Israel should postpone this ground invasion? I mean, what do you feel about the ground invasion why there are hostages in Gaza?

ZEIGEN: I feel that the hostage is -- the release of the hostages -- of the hostages should be the first priority of the Israeli government.

KINKADE: And if you could say anything to the Hamas members holding your mother, what would you say?

ZEIGEN: I hope they are aware of her support of Palestinian civilians. I hope -- I hope they're treating her kindly. And I hope to be with us as soon as possible.

KINKADE: I hope so too. I really, really do. Chen Zeigen, thank you so much for your time. We wish you all the best and we really hope you and your mother are reunited really soon.

ZEIGEN: Thank you.

KINKADE: Still to come. Third time's the charm, fourth time is routine. U.S. House Republicans have voted on another nominee for speaker with a key vote on the full House just hours away. Could this be the one?

Plus, new prosecution deals could mean trouble for former U.S. President Donald Trump. We have the details after the break.



KINKADE: Welcome back. Republicans have named a fourth nominee for U.S. House speaker and just three weeks after Kevin McCarthy's unprecedented outsider from the post. Congressman Mike Johnson survived a key vote at the 11th hour Tuesday night, becoming the party's fourth candidate. Here's what Johnson had to say after securing the nomination.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system. This conference at U.C., this House Republican majority is united.


KINKADE: The Full House vote is set to be held around lunchtime today. Despite weeks of Republican infighting, Johnson says that he is confident he'll get the 217 votes needed to become speaker. Well, Donald Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has reportedly made the first publicly known deal in the special counsel's federal election subversion case. According to the ABC News, Meadows was granted immunity from prosecution and he has met with federal prosecutors at least three times this year during our investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

ABC reports that Meadows told Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigators that he did not believe the election was stolen and that Trump was being dishonest in claiming victory.

While in the Georgia election subversion case, former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis has pleaded guilty for aiding and abetting false statements about the results of the 2020 election that will peddled to Georgia lawmakers.

Last week former Trump campaign lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell pleaded guilty.

Michael Genovese is a political analyst and president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount. And he joins us from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, Mark Meadows, Trump's former Chief of Staff reportedly gets immunity. Thanks to an agreement to testify in the investigation into the insurrection. Should Donald Trump be worried?

GENOVESE: Well, it's been a bad few days for Donald Trump. A number of his supporters who work for him are peeling off talking to prosecutors making plea deals. And the traditional strategy, which is to start on the outside and work your way into the big fish is starting to work. They got a big fish today and that is Mark Meadows. President's chief of staff. He knows where all the bodies are buried. He has a lot that he could offer.

And so, I would guess that he got a very good deal. And so, the dominoes are starting to fall. So yes, Donald Trump has to be concerned right now.

KINKADE: I have to ask you, though, just how trustworthy is Mark Meadows especially given what he has reportedly told investigators in this case, is at odds with what he has written in his own book.

GENOVESE: I know and then he could be attacked for that, which is the truth here. I think that because he is still subject to perjury charges, he is likely to tell the truth under oath. And so, I think the courts will rely on that. But he's got a lot that he could offer. And so, you know, Donald Trump's dance card is already quite full. And he's got to be concerned because he's got a lot of legal troubles. He's got a lot of political issues because of the campaign.

And so, Donald Trump is -- must not be sleeping very well right now. And Mark Meadows is probably the biggest thorn in his side right now. KINKADE: And speaking of other legal cases, in the Georgia election interference case, a former Trump lawyer who had spread lies on the airwaves about election fraud was in court today. I just want to remind our viewers what you said after the election.


JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: President Trump is right that there was widespread fraud.

The election was stolen and President Trump won by a landslide.


We have this overwhelming evidence of fraud. This election, it was fraudulent, it was corrupted. All of these false and fraudulent results.


KINKADE: Well, today Ellis was in court expressing remorse. I just want to play this sound.


EELIS: What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true. I believe in and I value election integrity. If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges. I look back on this whole experience with deep remorse.


KINKADE: So what's next for her?

GENOVESE: Well, you know, she was a loyal mega supporter. She started the party line and did it effectively. But the truth is starting to surround her now and she's pressured. She had to do something. It's going to be a very costly prosecution if she goes through with it. She had to make some kind of a deal. And as I said, the dominoes are starting to fall, and she's one of the many sort of smaller dominoes who could add to and get closer to the center.

Apparently, she knows a lot about Rudy Giuliani and a few of the other people next to Trump. Maybe not as much about Trump. But, you know, she was a very loyal person and she did the MAGA line. Now she's got to tell the truth. Again, she is also subject to perjury charges.

KINKADE: Yes. And Michael, I want to turn if we can to the House Speaker issue. It's been three weeks since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted. And they are desperate to end the chaos. Republicans have announced a new nominee, the fourth in three weeks the House Speaker. Just -- who is Mike Johnson?

GENOVESE: He's not very well known outside the Beltway because he's not a show horse. He's very conservative. He is one of the election deniers. And so, you know, the -- this morning we thought that the candidate -- that the Republicans were going to vote on was Tom Emmer, but he was an election denier done. Donald Trump savaged him during the day. So, he had to pull out because he knew he couldn't get the votes.

Question is, can Johnson get the votes? All you need are for people to say no. And there are some Republicans who have already said that they intend to vote for Kevin McCarthy and the first ballot, maybe the second. Who knows? And so, it's going to be very hard to see if how you get through this paralysis. Because, you know, you ask, why all this craziness? What the point? The point is, this is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

You've got the Donald Trump side versus the traditional Republicans. Is Donald Trump going to be a fixture going into the future? Or will they put them in the rearview mirror? Will the Republicans go with institutionalist? Emmer. Or will they go with a Trump populist? A MAGA Republican. And that battle will determine the future of the Republican Party. It may be decided not in the halls of Congress, but it may be decided in courtrooms because if Donald Trump gets into legal trouble that may be the end of him.

KINKADE: All right. Michael Genovese, always good to have you on the show. Good to have you with us. Thanks so much.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

KINKADE: Well, potentially catastrophic hurricane is now moving ashore near the Mexican results city of Acapulco. Hurricane Otis is a category five. The most powerful rating and the first one ever to make landfall in the eastern Pacific. Wind speeds are around 270 kilometers an hour. That's 165 miles per hour. Mexican authorities went to beaches Tuesday, urging people to take

shelter away from the coast.

Still to come. U.S. and Israeli officials are learning more about how Hamas militants managed to launch their murderous surprise attacks on Israel. Those details next.



KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. New satellite images appear to show Egypt is sealing off the Gaza border between aid convoys. Take a look at these images by Maxar Technologies taken Tuesday afternoon showing an unbroken shadow of a cement slab wall which Egypt constructed after Israeli strikes bombed the roadway on the Gaza side.

The images come as eight aid trucks out of the expected 20 entered Gaza Tuesday. And the United Nations is once again warning that the enclave needs aid, especially fuel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TAMARA ALRIFAI, DIR. OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS & COMMUNICATIONS, UNRWA: Almost more important than anything else is fuel. So far, fuel has not been allowed into the strip. Fuel is extremely urgent because without fuel, the trucks themselve cannot move. Without fuel, the generators cannot produce electricity for hospitals, for bakeries, and for the water desalination plans.


KINKADE: The UN relief and works agency is also warning it will be forced to halt operations in Gaza by Wednesday night if no fuel is delivered. Israel has ruled out any fuel being allowed to enter Gaza because it claims Hamas may steal it for its operational infrastructure. A 13-year-old Palestinian girl is expressing her grief and anger about the situation in Gaza. Nadine Abdullatif says her home in Gaza was struck, she sent CNN a video showing the extent of the damage.


NADINE ABDULLATIF, PALESTINIAN TEEN: Look how it turns out. The olive trees, the olive trees of our land, they are still getting out people. The whole place was smoke last night when we are trying to escape. This is where we were sleeping.


This is where we are sleeping, the door, everything, everything is rock. This is where I was sleeping. And here was where my little brother was sleeping. Everything is destroyed, everything, the chair.

We were sleeping on those pillows. I don't understand how we can live like this anymore, we're children. I want to live. I cannot live like this anymore, I can't. They're looking for people. They are still looking for people themselves. This is our house. This is our house -- it's not there. My room.My clothes, all of my clothes. My closet.


KINKADE: Well still to come, US and Israeli officials are learning more about how Hamas militants managed to launch their murderous surprise attack on Israel. All those details, next.


KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. We are learning more about how Hamas militants were able to plan and execute their terror attack on Israel without alerting Israeli officials. It involves old-school counterintelligence measures, underground tunnels, and even above ground training. Our Pamela Brown has the details.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Sources are telling CNN that a small group of Hamas operatives used hardwired phones in the tunnels beneath Gaza to communicate over a period of two years. That's according to intelligence shared with US officials.

Those old-fashioned landlines allowed Hamas leaders to communicate with one another in secret. They avoided using computers or cell phones in order to keep from being tracked by Israeli or US intelligence, according to the sources.


Instead, they held meetings in person among a small group and stayed off all digital communications, we're told. Now, this partially explains why Israel and the US were so caught off guard by the attack, and how a thousand Hamas fighters were able to pour across the border without being stopped, as we have seen in the propaganda video released by Hamas.

All of this communication, we are told, happened in the miles of underground tunnel system that is beneath Gaza that the IDF nicknamed the Gaza Metro. Another way Hamas was able to keep this under the radar is that they kept the planning of the October seventh attack a secret, even from other members. Only a very small group knew about the mission until just before it was carried out.

Hamas ground unit commanders and fighters were in training for many months and kept in a state of general preparedness but only found out about the specific plans just a few days before the terrorist attack. And one of the sources said some of the training above ground was observed but didn't ring major alarm bells. The thinking was, oh, Hamas always trains people like this, it didn't look different.

And we also know that Israel had found hardwired phones in Hamas strongholds in the past. In fact, the Israeli military found a similar kind of communication system when they raided a city in the Northern West Bank over the summer, that's according to an Israeli official. They called it a joint operational command center and it had hardwired communication lines and closed circuit surveillance cameras to give advance warning of Israeli troop movements. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


KINKADE: Our thanks to Pamela Brown. We are going to take a quick break. We will be right back.



KINKADE: Welcome back. I am Lynda Kinkade. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling troops the next stage of the war, the ground offensive, is coming. With just one mission, in his words, to smash Hamas. His comments come amid concerns over the hostages and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the death toll is still rising. IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner joins me now from Tel Aviv. Good to have you with us.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESPERSON: Good morning. KINKADE: So aid groups are saying that people in Gaza desperately need fuel or they'll run out within the next 24 hours. The IDF has released an image on social media claiming that Hamas has more than five hundred thousand liters of fuel. How do you know that there is fuel there in Gaza, and if it belongs to Hamas, why not strike it?

LERNER: So obviously, the people of Gaza are not the enemy of Israel. Our enemy is Hamas who is holding 222 Israelis hostages, but also holding two million Palestinians hostage. If the aid organizations are so concerned with helping the people of Gaza, instead of demanding Israel facilitate the people, it should demand from Hamas.

Hamas needs to stand up to their responsibility and give, if they want the hospitals to continue to operate, if they want water, clean water, to be pumped through the system, they should distribute the fuel that they have to the people they say that they protect. This is the reality on the ground.

And demanding Israel give its enemies fuel that will be ultimately used to keep their tunnel system operating or to keep their weapons firing at us is, you know, that would be immoral to our own people. So I would say, first of all, use the fuel that already exists in different reservoirs throughout the Gaza Strip that Hamas is stockpiling. That is the fuel.

You know, Hamas, even a few days ago, took fuel from the United Nations, from UNRWA, and commandeered it for their own needs. That is the fuel that needs to go to the hospitals. That is the fuel that needs to keep the pumps for the water system to operate. That is their responsibility.

KINKADE: Lieutenant Colonel, I just want to go back to that image that the IDF posted on social media. Do you have evidence that Hamas has fuel in those tanks? And if not, why don't you take it out?

LERNER: Again, we are not targeting the people of Gaza. That fuel needs to go to the people of Gaza. We will not supply the fuel. That has been a very clear message from our government --

KINKADE: And you're certain those tanks are full?

LERNER: -- needs to be part of the solution of ridding us and ridding the people of Gaza from this brutal merciless terrorist organization that has no regard for any life, Israeli or Palestinian. And regarding the evidence, of course, before this all happened 19 days ago, before Hamas came into our towns in the South of Israel and beheaded babies in butchered people and raped women, the fuel was flowing through Israel's crossings into Gaza.

So we know what Hamas has, because it came through us. This is the absurd situation. There is fuel in Gaza, there is sufficient need. I would also add that over the recent years, all of the main facilities, especially hospitals, have all developed solar energy power. So there is power in the Gaza Strip. It's just who is responsible for the Gaza Strip? It is the governing authority of Gaza. That is Hamas. Israel is responsible for securing the safety of the

people of Israel. We would refuse to be held hostage by Hamas. The international community and specifically the humanitarian aid organizations need to be part of the solution of ridding this world of this brutal merciless organization that has no regard for human life, Israeli or Palestinian.

KINKADE: Lieutenant Colonel, the IDF has dropped leaflets into Gaza appealing for information about hostages, guaranteeing confidentiality and a reward. It's two and a half weeks since they were taken hostage. Why has it taken that long to send that message into Gaza?

LERNER: I'd say we are utilizing all of the tools at hand and this can be another option. Obviously, the people of Gaza are suffering from Hamas. And there may be somebody that knows something that might be willing to help bring this issue, to bring this war to an end, and bring the unlawful holding of 222 Israelis, men, women, children from the young age of nine months, and the elderly over the age of 80, back home. Decent people will do the right thing.


KINKADE: And if people no longer have electricity, use phones in Gaza because Israel has cut supply, how will they reach the IDF if they did have information?

LERNER: Lynda, we've seen extensive reportage from Palestinians reporting what's going on in Gaza. I would argue that while the situation obviously is not easy and it is difficult and dire for the people, there is messages going in and messages coming out all the time. You have extensive coverage from yourself at CNN.

KINKADE: Sir, I spoke to another family member of a hostage. His mother was taken hostage by Hamas. He wants to ensure that the number one priority is the return of hostages. When it comes to hostages or a ground offensive, what is the number one priority right now?

LERNER: The ground offensive is a tool, Lynda. It's just part of the solution. Ground offensive is part of the solution to rid us from Hamas. The hostages, as said by our chief of staff and by our prime minister, obviously, is top priority. Indeed, they work in tandem. They work side by side. And they are part of the solution to this crisis. This is not a war we asked for. It is a brutal offense against our sovereign borders.

It is an offense against our people. It is an offense against all decent people in the world. And so, it needs to end with a very clear message that people need to be released, they need to be released now. The International Committee of the Red Cross needs to have access to assess the situation and the well-being of the hostages that are being held against their will. The unfathomable crimes that Hamas has committed, they need to be held accountable for them, and we intend in changing the paradigm once and for all.

What we are asking from the world is to support this effort to change the paradigm to flee Israel from this looming threat from the never ending sort of death that Hamas wields above our heads. But also, free the people of Gaza from this terrible organization that has failed them miserably as a governing authority, as an organization, as a terrorist entity that has no regard for anybody's life.

KINKADE: Lieutenant Colonel, we've spoken recently about the concerns that this could become a wider regional conflict. We've already seen the exchange of fire between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israeli forces. And now, we are seeing a similar exchange between Israel and Syria, targets in Syria. What can you tell us about that?

LERNER: We are concerned that this could go a lot broader. The situation on the ground is very concerning. We have reinforced our military positions on both the border with Lebanon and of course, on the border with Syria. Hezbollah in itself has launched extensive attacks against our people, our civilians, our military operating near the border, so much so we've had to evacuate over 30 communities from the border with Lebanon and the town of Kiryat Shmona a small town of some 25 thousand people.

So we are taking the necessary steps in order to evacuate our people from harm's way. We are very clear, if you attack us, we will respond, and we will respond with force. Lebanon needs to understand, for instance, that these attacks happening from Lebanese territory are jeopardizing Lebanese security. So they need to get Hezbollah under control and make sure and stop them from attacking us.

And to all of those terrorist organizations that think that this might be a good time to challenge Israel, look very carefully how we are dismantling, destroying Hamas, and pursuing their leaders, really think very well if you want to cross that threshold. We will not be patient towards any aggression against Israel.

KINKADE: Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, we appreciate your time, joining us from Tel Aviv, thank you.

LERNER: Good morning.

KINKADE: We are learning more about the people killed during the Hamas attacks more than two weeks ago. 28 year old Laor Abramov lost contact with his parents after fleeing the Nova Music Festival on October seventh. Now, his mother, Michal Halev, has received confirmation of his death. CNN's Erin Burnett spoke with her about how she's dealing with the grief of losing her only child.


MICHAL HALEV, SON LAOR ABRAMOV KILLED IN HAMAS ATTACKS: When he was born I felt like I received a precious diamond into my hands that all I need to do is take care of him and his well-being and protect him and keep him safe from the world.


And I keep getting stories now from that specific party, people, survivors wrote to his father and to me saying initially when the whole mess began, he was one of the first to tell people what to do, to show people the way to give a glass of water to the scared girls that were with him. And yes, he was, he is -- I can't talk about my only son as someone in the past. He's a gentle, loving, beautiful human being.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an incredible gift, to be able to be that kind of person.

HALEV: Yeah. And so, it's not only that I lost the light and love of my life, but the world lost an amazing human being. And I really have a message, actually, for the world, if I can say something, if it's okay. I want to send out a message to the world, we need to raise lovers. We need to raise children on love, because my son, he was not a fighter.

He was raised on love. And the people who attacked him and all the others in this horrible massacre, heartless massacre, they were not raised on love. And there are also Palestinian mothers who raised their children on love. But they are held hostages over there in Gaza by the Hamas.

BURNETT: But you're talking with such compassion. Where do you find that? Do you have the rage, or have you been able to deal with that?

HALEV: I don't know of outrage. I am -- my heart is broken. And I feel like rage leads to more violence. And I can't bear any more violence in this world.


KINKADE: Well, thanks for joining us this hour. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I will be back with much more news and CNN NEWSROOM after a very short break. Stay with us.