Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Israel Bombarding Gaza As It Reports Hamas Attack Killed 1,000; Hamas Fires Hundreds Of New Rockets Toward Ashkelon, Israel; Biden Confirms Americans Killed, Captive After Evil Hamas Attack; House Republicans Scrambling To United Around New Speaker As Israel Aid Hangs In The Balance. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 10, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Candidates before the secret ballot election tomorrow.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Manu Raju, it seems like quite a mess there. They're definitely going to still have the vote tomorrow?
RAJU: Jake, at the moment, that's the plan. They've had the secret ballot election in the House GOP Conference. But the bigger, larger question is when they will actually get a vote on the House floor. That is uncertain, because, at the moment, Jim Jordan has indicated if he gets the votes to become nominated as speaker, he wants to ensure this won't go ballot after ballot after ballot, that he can actually get 217 votes on the floor, simply to get nominated by the conference, you need to have a majority of the 221 members.
But Jordan does not want to go to a situation like we saw with Speaker McCarthy back in January, 15 ballots, that messy process, which is why they're trying to sort this out behind closed doors.
And the question, Jake, is can either Jordan or Scalise get there. The expectation is that they can. We'll see if they ultimately can.
TAPPER: All right, Manu, thanks so much. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Gaza under fire as Israel unleashes new airstrikes and says Hamas terror attacks have killed at least 1,000 people in Israel. The war taking a rising toll on both sides, with at least 900 now reported dead in Gaza.
Hamas launching a new barrage of rockets toward Israel as gruesome details emerge about the terror group's surprise attack. Israeli forces uncovering new evidence of women and children brutally massacred.
And tonight, President Biden is forcefully condemning the Hamas attack, calling it pure, unadulterated evil. The White House confirming at least 14 Americans are among the dead, and 20 or more U.S. citizens may be hostages of Hamas right now in Gaza. Four days after the initial assault by Hamas, an untold number of people are missing, leaving families in search of their loved ones and in anguish. Some are sharing their heartbreaking stories with CNN this hour.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news unfolding this hour as Hamas has been targeting an Israeli coastal city near Gaza. We have our correspondent standing by there and in other key
locations, including the White House, where President Biden just voiced support for Israel in his strongest terms yet.
Let's begin with CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward. She's joining us from Ashkelon in Israel right now. Clarissa, what's happening on the ground where you are tonight?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest thing that has happened, I guess, was a couple of hours ago now, we heard an announcement over the hotel's Tannoy system telling people to stay in their rooms, that it believed that-- there was a belief, rather, that some militants may be around the area.
We subsequently could hear an Apache helicopter gunship overhead. We could hear some bursts of machine gun fire. The Israeli Defense Forces had put out an alert saying that three militants were killed in some kind of a shootout backed by a drone, backed by that Apache gunship in the Ashkelon industrial center.
And this really coming on the heels, Wolf, of just a relentless afternoon of barrage after barrage after barrage of rockets. Hamas had issued a warning essentially saying that everybody should try to-- or civilians should leave the city by 5:00 P.M., that they were going to deliver retribution for the forced displacement of civilians in Gaza. And at 5:00 P.M. on the dot, as we saw for ourselves, an onslaught of rockets began and basically continued on and off for many hours, the sirens on and off, and the Iron Dome doing a pretty formidable job of intercepting the vast majority of those rockets.
So, it has been a long night for the people of Ashkelon. It's been quiet for the last hour or so, but, of course, it's not over yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, good point that iron dome is saving a lot of Israeli lives right now.
Is there a clear sense, Clarissa, of what Israel's next move will be? The obvious speculation right now is whether or not Israel will go ahead with some kind of a ground offensive in Gaza. That has been the opinion of many people just based on the amount of weaponry and hardware and military personnel being deployed to that area along the border.
[18:05:03] Obviously, it is somewhat complicated by the fact that you have dozens and dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip. What that would mean for their security remains a real question. And so it's difficult, frankly, to know exactly what the next step is going to be.
And I want to underscore something as well, Wolf. Today, we had heard originally from Israeli forces earlier in the day that they believe that all Hamas militants who had successfully infiltrated that border had either been killed or captured or eliminated in some way.
And yet, throughout the day, we continue to see skirmishes along the border. The incident that I mentioned to you just a couple of hours ago here in Ashkelon, I think, really kind of emphasizing just how much Israeli forces have their hands full with a number of different threats, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clarissa, I want our viewers to listen to one Israeli general describe the aftermath of the Hamas attack on one Israeli kibbutz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. ITAI VERUV, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: What I saw, hundreds of terrorists with full arms, full gear, with all the equipment and all the ability to make a massacre, go from apartment to apartment, from room to room, and kill babies, mothers, fathers in their bedrooms.
I heard during my childhood about the program in Europe and the Holocaust, of course, all my family came from Europe and they are survivors, et cetera, et cetera. I never think that I would see in my eyes picture and things like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Clarissa, is the full scope of the brutality of the Hamas terror attack on Israel still coming into focus right now?
WARD: I think, honestly, Wolf, it's really just coming into focus. It's important to remember that for the last few days, it hasn't been possible to get near to many of these areas.
Nic Robertson was there today at the kibbutz that you just referenced. We visited the site of the Supernova music festival a couple of days ago, but it was still incredibly dangerous, very tense situation. The Israeli military wanted us to get out of there very quickly.
And, as you know, when you're going through and trying to document what may well possibly amount to war crimes, this is the kind of journalism that really requires a lot of time, a lot of effort. And we are only just now starting to get the opportunity to really go in and try to put together a fuller picture based on eyewitness accounts, based on what we can see on the ground, based on some of these social media videos that need to be verified of exactly the horrors that transpired, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Clarissa Ward, stay safe over there at Ashkelon. Thank you very much. I want to bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman right now. Ben, I know you're in Jerusalem, but give us a sense of the situation inside Gaza tonight. BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've
seen is continued Israeli airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip. This is really just a continuation of what we've been seeing throughout the last few days. And the Israelis say that they have managed to kill a political leader of the Hamas movement, but also being killed are many civilians.
At this point, the death toll stands at at least 900 with about 4,500 wounded. The hospitals are overwhelmed at the moment. The U.N. is hosting as many as 175,000 people who have been displaced in Gaza, taking shelter in U.N schools that have been turned into shelters, providing some food, some sense of relative safety for those people who are fleeing the fighting.
In addition to that, the Palestinian government in Gaza is saying that at least 170 buildings have been totally destroyed along with thousands of other residential units that have been seriously damaged.
Now, what we're seeing is that, you know, we heard earlier today the Israeli military telling Palestinians in Gaza that they should leave the Gaza Strip. They had to somewhat step back on that statement because the Egyptians clearly do not want a flood of Palestinians entering that country.
So, most people have to stay put and hope that they can survive. Here's what one Palestinian woman told CNN just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OUMMAH THAHIR, GAZA RESIDENT: Last evening was the most difficult evening we had, us who live in the tower. They bombarded all the areas around us.
The floor was shaking, everything. The windows, the glasses were shaking. The floor was shaking. Everything was shaking in the house.
My children survived with a miracle by God.
What is our fault? What did my children do? There is no electricity, internet, food or water. Why?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEDEMAN: And many of these people, like this woman, really feel that they're caught in the middle. Many in Gaza do not support Hamas, but they don't have any choice. They don't have the opportunity, the chance to leave, and, therefore, they just have to stick it out and hope they can survive. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Ben Wedemann, thank you very much. Here in Washington, President Biden spoke by phone today with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and then he spoke to the American people about the war against Hamas.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche is joining us right now from the White House. She has details. Kayla, what was the president's message today?
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it was a forceful rebuke of terrorism and anti-Semitism and a message that the U.S. can and will do everything in its power to provide support to Israel. In the near term, that is replenishing ammunition and interceptors and requesting more from Congress when it returns.
The U.S. is also providing hostage recovery expertise for the hostage situation that is happening on the ground, though there're still an unconfirmed number of American hostages that the administration has said that there are 20 or more Americans that are considered missing at this moment.
In his remarks today, President Biden increased the death toll of Americans to 14 among the thousands of civilians who were killed. But President Biden said they were not just killed, they were slaughtered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The brutality of Hamas, its blood, thirstiness brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS. This is terrorism. But, sadly, for the Jewish people, it's not new. This attack is brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by a millennia of anti-Semitism and genocide.
Israel has the right to respond, indeed, has a duty to respond to these vicious attacks.
Democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.
Terrorists purposely target civilians, kill them. We uphold the laws of war, the law of war. It matters. There's a difference to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation.
I have one word, don't, don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAUSCHE: The U.S is actively engaged in contingency planning to avoid, in case the conflict escalates, but also engaged in deterrence to try to keep that from happening. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser today, said that the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Mediterranean was not in direct response to Hamas. It was to send a message to the region not to widen the war. And officials say that there could still be more assets that are deployed to the region for that very same purpose. Meanwhile, here at home, there are worries about increasing domestic threats, homeland and security and FBI stepping up security around big cities and Jewish centers of life. President Biden noting that local state and federal law enforcement is on enhanced watch, essentially, for this and Biden saying there's no place for hate in America. Wolf?
BLITZER: Second day in a row, the president of the United States has been warning about an increase to potential anti-Semitic incidents at Jewish synagogues, Jewish schools, other areas of high Jewish concentration here in the United States. We'll watch that part of the story as well.
Kayla Tausche, thank you very much.
A United Nations envoy estimates Hamas is holding as many as 150 hostages right now in Gaza.
CNN's Becky Anderson is in Tel Aviv. She's got more on this part of the story. Becky, I know you've been talking with relatives of some of those captured or killed by Hamas. What are they telling you?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, we heard from the families of four Americans today who are presumed hostages with Hamas in Gaza. One of those is Sagui Dekel-Chen, who is a 35-year-old young man with two kids and a baby on the way. His wife is pregnant. They lived at the Kibbutz Oz, which has been completely annihilated by the Hamas militants who rampaged through that kibbutz on Saturday morning.
His father, Jonathan, says that his son hasn't been heard of since Saturday morning. This is what he told me earlier. He is appealing alongside the other families that we met today for help from the U.S. government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN DEKEL-CHEN, SON MISSING AFTER HAMAS ATTACK: There are well over 130 hostages or, like my son, simply people that we have no information whatsoever about.
And so it really would be a kind of partnership, but a partnership in a just cause. These are civilians. These are farmers, teachers, regular people like my son, who had dreams, have dreams. And this is not the future any of us want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The bottom line here is that these families, and as I say, we heard from four families, but their stories echoed amongst so many people that we have spoken to. They've heard little to nothing from the Israeli government and nothing from the U.S. government. And they are appealing on behalf of the members of their families who
are presumed taken hostage, and we are talking here about a 23-year- old whose parents we met today who'd been at that party in the desert on Saturday morning, when he was taken by Hamas gunman, Sagui, who is a 35-year-old, we're talking about a 66-year-old lady whose son spoke today, the father of a 19-year-old dual citizen, American-Israeli, who was captured as well. They want the U.S. government to work with whoever it takes to help get these hostages released.
Now, we do know there is some talk behind the scenes that Qatar, for example, who helped mediate the U.S.-Iran deal recently, got the five Americans released. The Qataris were very much involved in that. It does sound as if they may be behind the scenes working to try and mediate something at this point. But the frustration was palpable today, Wolf, absolutely palpable. They've heard nothing and they need support. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, it's so heartbreaking, indeed. Becky Anderson in Tel Aviv, thank you for that update.
Just ahead, how far will the United States go to support Israel and its war against Hamas, as Americans are among those killed or captured in these terror attacks? I'll speak live with the key White House official. John Kirby is standing by live. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news right now out of Israel as Hamas attacks inflict more death and damage. Tonight, President Biden says the United States stands with the Israelis against what he calls pure, unadulterated evil.
Joining us now from the White House, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby. John, thanks very much for joining us.
As you know, Hamas could be holding 20, maybe even more American hostages right now in Gaza. I understand the administration is on contact with families -- with the families. And the president said he's sending experts to assist in hostage recovery. Can you expand on what that actually means? How actively involved is the U.S. right now in trying to bring these American citizens home?
JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, it's early days right now and we don't have a lot of information, Wolf, about where they are and what condition they're being held, if they're being moved around. And we have to remember this is an active war zone, which makes any hostage recovery effort that much more difficult. We're obviously going to be developing options, looking at possibilities, how we can get them back, how we can get them back with their families.
The first thing we're doing is communicating with the Israelis, because they're on the ground, they're closer to it. They have context that we probably could benefit from. And so we're having active conversations with the Israelis about what they're seeing, what they possibly know. The second thing that we're doing, Wolf, we've offered to provide hostage recovery expertise that we have here resident in the United States. Now, I recognize the Israelis are good at this too, but we've got terrific experts in the law enforcement community, intelligence community, in the United States military, and we have offered to the Israelis advice, counsel, any of that expertise that they might find useful.
So, we're going to work at this very, very hard. You heard Jake Sullivan talk about this. There's no greater priority to President Biden than the safety and security of Americans overseas, and we're going to keep at this work. They belong to be freed. We call on Hamas to release them now. Short of that, we're going to do everything we can to get them back with their families.
BLITZER: Yes. Jake Sullivan is the president's national security adviser.
As you know, John, President Biden today gave a very sharp warning to other governments and organizations in the Middle East to not attempt to take any advantage of this current situation in Israel. Is there any reason to think that is currently being attempted by various organizations and governments in the region?
KIRBY: Well, we've certainly seen some worrisome activity by Hezbollah, rocket attacks from Lebanon into Northern Israel, certainly been paying attention to their rhetoric. So, we're concerned than any other actor, be it a terrorist group, be it a nation state, might think that this is a good opportunity to take advantage as Israel fights against these Hamas terrorists, and that's the message we're sending, don't do it.
And one of the big reasons why the president ordered the carrier strike group from the USS Gerald R. Ford, the aircraft carrier, into the Eastern Med was exactly that deterrent message. We've got serious national security interests here at play, and we mean to protect and defend them.
BLITZER: I listened very closely, of course, like everyone, to the president's speech today, a very important speech at the White House. He did not, though, ask Israel to be restrained, at least not publicly, in its attacks against Hamas. Is the White House concerned about the impact that the airstrikes and the possible ground invasion of Gaza will have on the civilian population in Gaza?
KIRBY: We don't want to see any more civilian lives taken, Wolf, or any more civilian wounded or injured.
There's been enough, particularly with these more than a thousand murders of Israeli citizens in their own homes and their own neighborhoods. We don't want to see any more innocent civilian lives lost.
But the focus right now, we believe, is solidly and should be solidly behind making sure that Israel has the capabilities, the tools, the weapons it needs to defend itself, to defend its citizens against Hamas.
BLITZER: The president also said today he will ask Congress to provide aid for what he called our critical partners. Does the White House want aid for Israel and Ukraine specifically to be tied together?
KIRBY: We're working with Congress to make sure that the needs of both countries, both key partners, are fulfilled. Ukraine aid, we've put a supplement on the Hill, a request for $24 billion for aid to Ukraine. We want to see that filled. We're talking to Congress about that. We're also talking to Congress about the possibility that we may need additional funding to support Israel.
Right now, we have authorities and we have appropriations in the near term to take care of the needs that Israel is probably going to have in the next days, weeks. But we can't take that for granted.
And so we are having conversations actively with Congress. Whether there's going to be a tie or not, I think, look, those are all parts, all part of the discussion that we're having with members of Congress.
The important thing, Wolf, is that both countries need our help. We are in a unique position and more than capable of helping them both. And we're going to have to need -- we're going to want, we're going to need Congressional support, bipartisan support for both efforts.
BLITZER: John Kirby at the White House, thank you very much for that update.
KIRBY: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Coming up, families are sharing harrowing stories of their loved ones who were killed or taken hostage by Hamas. You're going to hear from the relatives of a young man who's missing after the attack on a music festival in Israel.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Right now, we're back with more on the breaking news we're following, Israel striking back at Hamas as the death fell from Saturday's brutal attack hits more than 1,000 people in Israel.
Let's get a live report now from Ashdod in Israel, where CNN's Jeremy Diamond is standing by. Give us the latest, Jeremy.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Listen, today, we set out to do a story about all of these hundreds of thousands of military reservists and this massive military buildup that Israel is preparing for.
But as we set out to do this story along the Gaza border in Israeli communities here, one thing became clear is that this is still a very volatile, very unstable situation. Even before the next phase of Israel's military campaign, whatever it may be reveals itself, whether it was rockets flying overhead as we were in the city of Sderot or a fire fight that we caught near the Israeli town of Mefalsim, this is still, Wolf, a very unstable, uncertain situation.
DIAMOND (voice over): Three days after hundreds of Hamas militants infiltrated Israel, Israeli forces are still fighting to eliminate the threat.
We are here right outside of the Israeli town of Mefalsim, where we have been hearing repeated exchanges of gunfire over the last ten minutes or so. These exchanges, we haven't seen who exactly they are between. But we do know that Israeli forces have been continuing to try and clear some of these Israeli towns around the Gaza Strip from those Hamas militants.
The IDF later confirming they killed two Hamas terrorists in the battle. But minutes after it ended, Israeli Defense Forces rushing a casualty into an ambulance.
But the soundtrack to life in most Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip today wasn't gunfire but rockets. In Sderot, the booms punctuate the stillness of the day.
We just come into a shelter here where we can take cover from these Iron Dome interceptions. And, of course, they're intercepting active rockets coming in from Gaza. The booms are very loud, they are directly overhead.
20 minutes later, another barrage of rockets headed for the city of Ashkelon.
All right, we're in the city of Sderot, where we can now see that barrage that Hamas promised at 5:00 P.M. appearing to head over in the direction of Ashkelon. Now that is exactly where Hamas officials said about an hour ago that they would fire rockets in that direction.
But there is also another sound in towns like Sderot, Israeli troops and reservists mobilizing to the Gaza front, part of a massive call-up of more than 300,000 reserve troops, preparations for a potential ground invasion of Gaza. For some, this moment feels different.
ARYEH EASTMAN, PARATROOPER IN RESERVE: Then we came in with a concept of full control. This one started with much more obviously confusion and the playing field is different, certainly. But I think in the last two days, the momentum has shifted.
DIAMOND: And the entire country is springing into action, with those out of uniform bringing food and supplies to troops, after days of tragedy, also a sense of resilience. I'm not afraid at all, she said. When it will be my time, it will be my time.
(END VIDEOTAPE) DIAMOND (on camera): And, Wolf, late Tuesday evening, the Israel Defense Forces also now confirming that the first shipments of advanced U.S. weaponry provided by the United States in the wake of Hamas' attack this past weekend has now arrived in Israel.
It arrived at the Nevatim Airbase in Southern Israel.
The IDF in its statement did not say what kind of weaponry was being provided, simply that it is, quote, designed to facilitate significant military operations and increased preparedness for other scenarios. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jeremy, thank you for that report, Jeremy Diamond reporting.
Families of people who were killed or kidnapped by Hamas are sharing very wrenching accounts of their final conversations with them or learning of their fate on social media.
Brian Todd is tracking this part of the story for us. Brian, how are they coping with these truly horrible developments right now in Israel?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of them are barely coping, Wolf, others are being very stoic.
Tonight, we have new and jarring accounts from relatives of the hostages, and we have to warn viewers, some of you may find some of the video in this story disturbing.
TODD (voice over): This is 25-year-old Noa Argamani screaming, don't kill me as she's taken away on a motorcycle. Her father, Yakov, described seeing the video for the first time.
YAKOV, ARGAMANI, DAUGHTER AND HER BOYFRIEND KIDNAPPED IN HAMAS ATTACK: It was Noa frightened and threatened. You don't once believe it, even though you can clearly see it's your daughter.
TODD: This is 12-year-old Erez Kalderon being shoved around and taken away by militants who attacked a kibbutz. He's one of five members of Gaya Kalderon's family who are missing.
GAYA KALDERON, BROTHER, SISTER, FATHER, GRANDMOTHER, COUSIN MISSING: I see the Hamas taking him, grab him. It was so hard to watch it. I had to protect my brother my whole life, so it was so, so hard.
TODD: Yifat Zailer told CNN this video is of her cousin and her cousin's two babies, nine months old and three years old, being kidnapped. Speaking to CNN's Anderson Cooper, she broke down.
YIFAT ZAILER, COUSINS KIDNAPPED IN HAMAS ATTACK: I want my family back. I want my family back. I'm trying to be strong and stoic and speak clearly, but I'm devastated.
TODD: The parents of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin say witnesses told them their son is a hero, throwing grenades back out of a bomb shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hersh's arm from the elbow down was severed, was blown off.
TODD: They say Hersh managed to walk out of the shelter but was then taken away.
Yoni Asher is looking for his wife and young daughters after seeing them in this video, a scarf placed on his wife's head as they're taken away on a cart. He describes the last moment he spoke with his wife.
YONI ASHER, WIFE, DAUGHTERS, MOTHER-IN-LAW KIDNAPPED IN HAMAS ATTACK: She told me the terrorists of Hamas entered the house and later on the conversation was disconnected.
TODD: Ricarda Louk says she found out her daughter had been abducted also on social media. The video shows her daughter, Shani, unconscious in the back of a pickup truck being paraded around by armed militants.
RICARDA LOUK, DAUGHTER KIDNAPPED IN HAMAS ATTACK: It looks very bad, but I still have hope. I hope that they don't take bodies for negotiations, and I hope that she's still alive somewhere.
TODD: Hamas is now threatening to execute civilian hostages and broadcast those executions if Israel targets people in Gaza without warning. Israeli rescue operations could be dangerous.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The hostage takers could kill the hostage. There can be an accident in which the rescuers kill the hostage. So, that, typically, a very dangerous moment for a hostage is a rescue.
TODD: The government of Qatar has been in talks with Hamas about the hostages, according to a senior U.S. official and another person familiar with the discussions who spoke to CNN. They say the U.S. has been coordinating with the Qataris on this.
Analyst Peter Bergen believes the Qataris can be effective as a mediator, pointing out that they recently played a key role in the release of several Americans being held in Iran. Wolf?
BLITZER: These are such heartbreaking stories indeed. Brian, thank you for that update, Brian Todd reporting.
Just ahead, I'll speak with the family of a man who is now missing after Hamas attacked the music festival he was working at.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:43:23]
BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news right now out of Israel in the Middle East where an estimated 150 people are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
I'm joined now by two guests, Shay and Nir (ph) Arad, their brother Ori, was working at the Nova Music Festival in Israel when it came under attack by Hamas and is now missing. To both of you, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me start with you, Shay. Your brother is, what, just 22 years old, Ori. Can you share with us what he went through?
SHAY ARAD, BROTHER MISSING IN ISRAEL: Yes, sure. First of all, Wolf, thank you for hosting us. It's a huge platform to show the story of our brother, Ori.
So, as you mentioned, he was working in the festival. He was a bartender. He arrived to his shift around 3:00 A.M. He was very happy, very excited. He was working there with two good friends. Around 6:00 A.M., he called to my father an update, there is a missiles alarm. And he and his friends found a (INAUDIBLE) under the deck of the bar and waited to hear the interception of the Iron Dome.
A few moments after that, he and his friends ran to the cars and started driving home in two different vehicles because they came in separate cars. In the middle of the driving, he saw on the side of the road two girls. They were super afraid, super nervous. And my brother, Ori, he had a very special character. And he looked on them and said to them in a special self-control and nonchalant, told them, jump in, girls.
I will take you home, you can count on me.
They started to drive. But in a moment, dozens of terrorists blocked the road from all the sides, and started to shoot everywhere. He called again to our father, told him that he's surrounded by many terrorists that are shooting on them with machine guns, Kalashnikov, hand grenades.
He updated my father that he must take an action. He must confront them because he don't want to stay like a duck on the road. He don't want to leave the car and hide in the bushes.
And it took a decision to speed and up try to avoid them. Since it was the only choice that would give him a chance to escape the massacre, sped up against them, but they shoot the car. He lost control. The car flipped twice and he lost consciousness. While the two girls in the car had minor injuries. The girls pretended to be dead.
But after 20 minutes, our brother started to regain his conscious but the terrorists noted it. But in an act of pure evil, I don't have any other word to describe it, they shoot him in again, in a scene that's taken from the Holocaust period or something like that. We got the entire story from the girls that he saved on Saturday noon, from 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, we didn't hear nothing from our brother.
We don't have any official information about Ori (ph). Is he alive, is he injured, is he hospital or still in the field? Maybe he's dead, maybe he's kidnapped. We don't know nothing. We are in complete darkness as of today.
BLITZER: It's so gut-wrenching to hear this.
Let me get Nir involved in this conversation as well. We are, of course, all hoping and praying that Ori is found. What should everyone know about your brother?
NIR ARAD, BROTHER MISSING IN ISRAEL: My brother was an extraordinary young man, full of life, acting, talent, always surrounded by family and friends. Entire future was ahead of him. He just came back from after long (INAUDIBLE) in Asia with his friends. He was soon to start his degree in the university, only a few days from now.
BLITZER: It's really so, so sad to hear this.
Shay, let me get back to you. When did you last speak with your brother, and how did that conversation go?
S. ARAD: My last conversation with him was on Friday. But the last conversation that he had with our family is Saturday, 7:00 a.m. that he talked to our father, listen, dad, I am asked to take an action, I can't stay here like a duck, I don't want to wait them to kill me, I need to do something to confront them.
This is the situation. This is the juncture that he had. He was very special. The name Ori in Hebrew, is "my light", because in every room that Ori entered, he provide huge light.
He was the most beautiful and the most charming young man. He was full of ideas, huge heart, always willing to assist and help. He loves the life and knows how to live them to the maximum.
This is our brother. And we are missing him a lot. We are full of pain and the most concerned situation that we don't know what is going on with him. I don't know if it's Gaza Strip, I don't know if he's dead. It's a horror movie for us.
BLITZER: Well, good luck. We are, of course, as I said, praying and hoping for the best.
Shay and Nir Arad, thank you very much for joining us.
S. ARAD: Thank you, sir. We are praying for good news but expecting for the worst. Thank you very much for hosting us.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
And to our viewers, for more information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Israel and Gaza, go to CNN.com/impact or text "relief" to 707070 to donate.
Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking news we're following as President Biden pleads with Congress to approve military aid for Israel. House Republicans are scrambling to select a speaker so the chamber can finally get back to work.
I'll get reaction from a key Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is standing by live.
BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following. President Biden is now asking Congress to take urgent action, his words, to surge military aid to Israel right away. But tonight the House of Representatives remains paralyzed without a speaker.
This hour, Republicans are debating behind closed doors as the party scrambles to try to unite around a new leader.
CNN's Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill for us.
Manu, what do we know about this critical meeting that's ongoing right now against the backdrop of Israel's war with Hamas?
RAJU: Yeah, as President Biden calls on Congress to act on new aid to Ukraine as soon as next week, the House is completely paralyzed until they can elect a new speaker, in the aftermath of the historic and unprecedented ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker last night. Issues like aid to Israel, issues like aid to Ukraine, how to avoid a government shutdown by mid-November, all cannot be resolved until this major situation, this crisis within the GOP is handled, and whether Steve Scalise, the House majority leader or the House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan have the votes to get there remains the question at this very key moment.
They are answering questions from their members right now on a whole host of issues. One of them that came up was aid to Ukraine, I'm told, that they indicated that there might have to be compromise on that issue with the United States Senate.
Now, a big question is how these speakers will deal with pressing issues like aid to Ukraine. The White House and other Democrats want to tie that to the Israel aid package that is expected to come as soon as next week.
I had a chance to ask the -- Jim Jordan, the potential speaker of the House, whether or not he would move on aid to Ukraine, and tie that to Israel funding. And he indicated Israel was his priority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Mr. Jordan, Israel aid would obviously be a big part of your speakership. Would you be open to tying that to Ukraine aid?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We got to help Israel. That's for sure. Nobody wants a shutdown.
RAJU: Would you be able to guarantee that?
JORDAN: I got a plan that I'll outline for the conference.
RAJU: If you don't get 217 votes, would you drop out?
JORDAN: I think we got to get 217 votes to go to the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And that last point so key, Wolf, because in order to get nominated as speaker of the House under current rules, you need to have a majority of the 221 Republicans. But Jim Jordan indicating there he wants to get 217 members, which will be the magic number on the House floor, trying to get some unity behind a single candidate and trying to hatch that out tomorrow or in the days ahead.
So that is the urgent question for the GOP, can they unite behind a candidate because at the moment, they are divided, uncertain about their future. And, of course, so many key issues that the next speaker will deal with. How that gets all resolved, uncertain at this key moment.
BLITZER: So much at stake right now. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.
Let's stay up on Capitol Hill. I want to get some more now from a key Democrat, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
And I want to discuss what's going on in the House in just a moment. But, as you know, the IDF is now saying they're facing assault from three fronts, Gaza, Lebanon, and now Syria.
I know you've just been briefed as a member of the intelligence committee. What can you tell us?
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): Well, certainly as a member of the House Intelligence Committee and as a former intelligence officer with the CIA, I know that our intelligence community is working around the clock to collect all available information so that we can ensure that we are strong and important, vital partners to our Israeli counterparts, particularly during this time of catastrophic need on the ground in Israel.
What we know is that there has been a horrific act of terrorism, violent, horrific crimes committed against families, against women, against children, against babies. And among the dead are Americans and among the hostages are Americans as well. So, we are working here on Capitol Hill certainly as a member of the intelligence committee to make sure that we are conducting the necessary oversight, but also keeping a close watch on what is happening on the ground in Israel, especially as our close partner and ally continues to face attacks around the clock.
BLITZER: I know you've echoed, like so many other of your Republican and Democratic colleagues, for that matter, President Biden's call to surge military aid to Israel.
But how damaging, Congresswoman, is it for the House of Representatives to be essentially powerless right now until it has a new speaker?
SPANBERGER: Well, interim steps, the Biden administration and President Biden took important steps forward saying that we were going to push more munitions and additional supplies for the Iron Dome to Israel. But the next step has to be congressional action. It has to be a vote on the House floor to provide additional support to our Israeli partners and allies.
And that has to happen very, very soon. And in order for that to be possible, our Republican counterparts who are in the majority must elect a new speaker so that the House of Representatives can do the business of the people both for our constituents at home and for our partners and allies abroad.
BLITZER: In his address today, his televised address today, President Biden did not call for any restraint from Israel. Are you at all concerned that Palestinian civilians in Gaza will pay a heavy toll for what's going on right now?
SPANBERGER: The reality is that Palestinian civilians have been paying a heavy price under -- under Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization that has been wreaking havoc on the people of Gaza, and has been now committing horrific and atrocious acts of violence in Israel in villages and towns and communities, murdering people in their beds, attacking large community gatherings and a music concert.
And, so, what Israel needs to continue doing is to recognize the ongoing threat of this terrorist organization, certainly to the people in Israel as they continue to inflict harm and to the hostages that Hamas continues to hold and to the people on the ground in Gaza.
BLITZER: How worried are you about civilian casualties in Gaza?
SPANBERGER: I am deeply concerned about any time a civilian is killed, is put in the middle of what is a horrific and violent act of engagement. In this case, I won't use combat because in fact Hamas when they went into Israel, they targeted civilians, they targeted families, they targeted kids and murder them.
But Israel needs to continue to be able to defend herself. We all across the world need to ensure the safety and security of civilians and the United States needs to stand ready to help our allies.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Spanberger, thanks so much for joining us.
SPANBERGER: Thank you so much for having me. BLITZER: And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" live from Israel starts right