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Israel Steps Up Gaza Assault Amid New Evidence Of Hamas Atrocities; Biden Administration Says, Still Unclear On Condition of Americans Taken By Hamas; Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) Wins GOP Nod For Speaker But Fate On Floor Uncertain. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 11, 2023 - 18:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Wolf Blitzer is next in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Israeli forces step up their air assault on Gaza as gruesome new evidence emerges of atrocities committed during the Hamas surprise attack against Israel, the death toll from the terror inside Israel climbing to 1,200 amid new rocket strikes, forcing civilians to run for cover.

On the ground, Israeli tanks and troops are massing near Gaza just ahead of a potential incursion across the border. Conditions in Gaza growing increasingly dire with more than 1,100 deaths and critical fuel and food supplies running out.

The war now entering its sixth day with the fate of some 150 hostages held by Hamas and Gaza, including Americans, still unclear. Talks aimed at their release underway as the U.S. secretary of state heads to Israel this hour.

The other major breaking story we're following. Congressman Steve Scalise wins the Republican nomination to be the next House Speaker beating out rival, Jim Jordan. But the House remains paralyzed tonight as Scalise tries to lock up the support he needs to win a full House vote.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

Tonight Israeli leaders are renewing their vow to crush Hamas as the world is getting a fuller picture of the scope and the horror of the Hamas attack that triggered this increasingly deadly Middle East war.

Our correspondents are covering all the breaking news on multiple fronts. First, let's go to our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward. She's joining us from Ashdod, in Israel.

Clarissa, you were among some of the first journalists to see the kibbutz, where a small Israeli farming community at that kibbutz where more than 100 people were killed by Hamas on Saturday. Tell our viewers what you saw.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the scale of the destruction honestly was just mind blowing. It has taken days and days for the Israeli military to even take the step of allowing journalists into this kibbutz, the Be'eri kibbutz, because of the scale, the amount of Hamas fighters who were there engaged in skirmishes with the army for days on end.

You can see the aftermath of that fighting, but also the extraordinary horror that we heard from people who survived that attack, who described Hamas militants infiltrating the compound, going door to door, house to house, executing people, abducting people, very striking in some of these eyewitness descriptions, how calm, how eerily at ease these Hamas fighters were. There wasn't any sense that they were in a particular hurry, that they were panicking. And these poor residents went down to their safe rooms, to their bunkers.

Important to remember, though, Wolf, these bunkers were built to protect people from incoming rockets. They do not have -- they're not safe rooms or panic rooms with extensive locks on the doors. So, unfortunately, many of these bunkers then turned into execution chambers. People found themselves trapped inside them, but unable to stop Hamas fighters from getting inside.

And we actually spoke with one man, originally from Ireland, who was separated from his eight-year-old daughter. She had gone to a sleepover at a friend's house, who also lived in the kibbutz. And he described to us the agonizing moment after two days of waiting for answers. He was rescued. He finally found out that his eight-year-old daughter, Emily, had been killed.

And listen to his reaction to that news, Wolf.


THOMAS HAND, LOST DAUGHTER IN HAMAS ATTACK: They just said, we found Emily, she's dead.


And I went, yes. I went, yes, and smiled, because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew. That was the best possibility that I was hoping for, she was either dead or in Gaza. And if you know anything about what they do to people in Gaza, that is worse than death. That is worse than death, the way they treat you. They'd have no food. They'd have no water. She'd be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people and terrified every minute, hour, day and possible years to come. So death was a blessing, an absolute blessing.


WARD: Wolf, he went on to say to me, what kind of a crazy world is this that we are living in, that a father would actually say this, that a father would actually feel this way. But he said that others in the community had felt the same way, that in some way, there was some mercy in knowing that little Emily at least went quickly and did not have to live through the horrors that more than 100 hostages are currently going through, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, so, so heartbreaking. Clarissa, thank you very, very much.

I want to go to the situation in Gaza right now and the rising death toll there, as Israel retaliates for the Hamas attacks with new airstrikes and, quote, a complete siege of the territory.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedemann is covering all of this. He's in his new location in Beirut, Lebanon, for us right now. Ben, how dire are the conditions based on everything you're hearing in Gaza right now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're dire. We understand from our people on the ground in Gaza City that within the last half hour there have been more airstrikes on that area.

Now, at 2:00 in the afternoon, local time, the only power plant in Gaza shut down. It ran out of fuel as a result of what Israel is calling its complete siege on Gaza, cutting off food, fuel, electricity and perhaps even water. And only the lucky few who have generators still have electricity.

Now, hospitals have generators but they are reporting that they will soon run out of fuel for those generators as well.

Now, the death toll at this point stands at about 1,100 so far, more than 5,300 injured. Now, among the injured, of course, in addition to ordinary of the civilians, are things like medics. We understand from the Palestinian Emergency Services that at least ten medics have been killed. And here, you can see some video of some of these medics reacting to the news that one of their comrades has been killed.

And in addition to that, of course, others, like journalists, understand that at least seven journalists have been killed since Saturday as well in this war, Wolf?

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman in Beirut for us, Ben, thank you very, very much.

Here in the United States, President Biden just issued a stark new warning to Iran in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel.

Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee. M.J., what did the president say?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the situation in Israel continues to be an overwhelming focus for this president. He was briefed by his national security team again today and he held his fourth phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And just tonight, Wolf, the president dropping by a roundtable of Jewish community leaders held here at the White House alongside Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish. And there were two notable comments that the president just made. As you know, Wolf, U.S. administration officials are very concerned about making sure that this conflict doesn't bleed out over Israel's borders. And the recent movements, the president said, of U.S. military assets into the region was very much meant to be a message of deterrence sent to one country in particular.

He also revealed that in his conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today that he stressed the importance of making sure that civilian deaths can be minimized. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We moved the U.S. carrier fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean and we're sending more fighter jets there in that region and made it clear, made it clear to the Iranians, be careful.


I've known Bibi for over 40 years. In very frank relationship, I know him well. And the one thing that I did say that it is really important that Israel, all the anger and frustration and just not explain it that exists is that they operate by the rules of war.


LEE: The president also trying to deliver a message of support to the Jewish community that is grappling with the atrocities of the past few days and some of whom simply just do not feel safe anymore. Here's what he said.


BIDEN: The United States has Israel's back. And I have yours as well, both at home and abroad. You know, you can see the pain in some of your faces as I walked into this room.

You worry about kids being targeted in school, about going about their daily lives.

We must all do our part and forcefully speak out against anti-Semitism and push back against the attempts to deny or distort the facts, to make clear there is no place for hate in America.


LEE: The president also said that his administration is working around the clock on the hostage situation in Gaza. He said, I have not given up hope of bringing these folks home. Wolf?

BLITZER: M.J. Lee at the White House for us, thank you.

This hour, President Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Israel with a key U.S. envoy involved in hostage negotiations as the fate of Americans held by Hamas in Gaza remains very much unclear right now. Let's bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt. Alex, take us inside the administration's efforts on the hostages being held by Hamas.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's clear that this is a huge priority for the Biden administration. They're devoting an enormous amount of resources to figuring out where these hostages are and to getting them out.

You mentioned that senior State Department official who works on hostage affairs going with Blinken to Israel. We also know that FBI negotiators and agents are also involved, as well as the intelligence community, trying to figure out how those hostages were taken, where they are now.

We've also learned from the Defense Department that there is a Special Forces team on the ground in Israel that is there to help with intelligence and planning. That's according to the secretary of defense.

In terms of the numbers that we're talking about, Wolf, the Israelis have said that around 150 people have been taken hostage by Hamas in Gaza. There are still around 17 Americans who are unaccounted for. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are hostages.

We did hear from the White House's John Kirby that a very small number of Americans, less than a handful, he said, are among those 150. But it's also very difficult to figure out where they are. They could be in bunkers. They could be in tunnels. There are different groups among Hamas. So, that's very complicated.

Here's a little bit more of what Kirby had to say earlier.


JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We don't know where they are. We don't know if they're all in one group or broken up into several groups. We don't know if they're being moved and with what frequency and to what locations. All of those questions, we're working hard to answer.


MARQUARDT: Wolf, we've also reported that the nation of Qatar is helping out. They are in direct contact with Hamas, unclear what success they've had in terms of getting in touch. The Biden -- President Biden has said that the full force of his administration is behind this effort. He did not want to detail all of the efforts he said earlier today, because then I wouldn't be able to get them home. Wolf?

BLITZER: What's the latest, Alex? What's the latest U.S. assessment of Iran's role in this attack?

MARQUARDT: Well, U.S. intelligence has not found any kind of smoking gun in terms of a direct role by Iran in this attack, their role in planning and executing and approving. It is clear that they have certainly -- they're certainly responsible or complicit, as the administration said, in some way because of their long time backing of Hamas.

I spoke with a senior Israeli official who said that it's hard to believe that Iran would not have known that Hamas was planning something like this. Our colleague Matthew Chance spoke with another Israeli briefed on the intelligence who said that Iran must have known about this operation before it happened.

But the administration certainly has not ruled out some kind of Iranian responsibility. It's certainly an option. They just have not found that direct role. We know that Israeli intelligence and American intelligence are now going back through what they've collected backed through evidence to see if there is anything more direct that would tie Iran to these attacks. They just haven't found that yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Alex, thank you, Alex Marquardt reporting.

We're getting new information right now in efforts to try to secure the release of the hostages being held by Hamas and Gaza.

CNN's Becky Anderson is joining us from Tel Aviv right now. She has details. Becky, tell us about your new reporting on talks regarding possible, I repeat, possible prisoner exchanges.



Diplomatic sources confirming to me, Wolf, that the Qataris are in touch with both Israel and Hamas on the possibility of the exchange of women and children who are being held in Gaza. The exchange would be for women and teenagers who are being held in Israeli jail. So, we're talking about Palestinian women and teenagers. And I am told that neither side has outright rejected this idea.

Now, of course, there is some precedent for prisoner exchange. Gilad Shalit, of course, was released in 2011. He's an Israeli soldier captured on the Southern Israeli border near Gaza back in 2005. That was five and a half years in the making, don't forget. But he was exchanged, as you will remember, for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners.

The Qataris are in a good position here in that they were the key interlocutors during the recent U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange. And they have had this sort of file at the behest of the Bush administration, let me tell you, back in the 2000s, this file with Hamas, so direct lines of communication open. And this idea is that this would be a prisoner exchange. And as I say, neither side has rejected that in any way at this point. More, of course, as we get it.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. Becky Anderson, thank you very much. Just ahead, there's more breaking news we're following growing uncertainty right now over the House speakership as Congressman Steve Scalise wins the Republican nomination for the job but still faces holdouts within his own party.

Republican Congressman Mike McCaul is standing by. We'll get his reaction right after the break.



BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories tonight. In the Middle East, Israel's escalating war with Hamas, more on that in just a few moments. Here in the United States, we're now also tracking new chaos in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Steve Scalise winning the Republican nod for Speaker, even as multiple members of his own party now still say they'll refuse to back him when a vote comes up on the House floor, leaving him short of a majority.

Let's get an update right now from CNN's Melanie Zanona, who's joining us from Capitol Hill. Melanie, how many Republicans are already signaling they'll oppose Congressman Scalise?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, at this point, Steve Scalise is well short of the 217 votes that he is going to need on House floor to become speaker. And, in fact, some Republicans are starting to doubt that he's ever going to get there.

At this point, we count over a dozen holdouts, this despite the fact that Steve Scalise has the support from Jim Jordan, who was his chief rival in the speaker's race.

Now, over the last few hours, Steve Scalise has been meeting individually his members, trying to win over holdouts, trying to assuage their concerns. And he did win over one of those holdouts. Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna came out and told us that she got commitments related to the Biden impeachment inquiry, other oversight issues, and she now feels comfortable backing Scalise.

But, Wolf, there are plenty of their members who still have concerns and say they will not back Steve Skelies on the floor at this point. Let's take a listen.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I'm not supporting Steve Scalise. I'll be voting for Jim Jordan.

REP. MAX MILLER (R-OH): But the leader that I want to stand behind is Jim Jordan. And right now, my mind hasn't changed.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I think the leader is a really great man and I've committed publicly to voting for Jim Jordan on the floor. REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I plan on voting for Jim Jordan on the floor because I personally cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone who attended a white supremacist conference and compared himself to David Duke.


ZANONA: So, Steve Scalise is facing a very similar dilemma to what Kevin McCarthy faced. He negotiated for months with conservative holdouts, ultimately went to the floor and it still took him 15 rounds to get the gavel.

Now, I will tell you this time around, Republicans want to avoid the same public display of dysfunction. So, it is a huge question of if and when Steve Scalise is going to go to the floor. But in the meantime, the House is paralyzed all while critical issues like aid to Israel and government funding hang in the balance. Wolf?

BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's get to all of the breaking news with Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. He's the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, and I want to get to the vote for House speaker in just a moment, but let me start with the truly awful situation still in Israel right now. You received a briefing on the Hamas terror attack earlier today. What stood out to you from that briefing?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I think what stood out was what we did in here. The idea that Iran had no fingerprints on this operation, we all know that Iran provides a hundred million dollars to Hamas every year, and a lot of the weaponry and the rockets involved.

Also on the intelligence failure, which I asked questions about, how did we miss this, how did the Israeli intelligence miss this. We know the Egyptian intelligence service handed this off days before the terrorist invasion, if you will, or attack. So, there's a lot of questions about that.

We're most concerned about Wolf is an escalation in the region, and that being not just containing Gaza and Hamas and Gaza. And, by the way, the next phase will be house to house, building to building, which will get more violent and more bloody, but also, how can we prevent Hezbollah from getting into this in Lebanon or these radical Islamic groups in Syria, and containing Iran itself. We don't want this to escalate into a sort of global jihad war, if you will, in Jerusalem. So, our intelligence is very important here in terms of prevention.

I'm very glad, though, the administration has sent both the battleships and the aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean as a sign of deterrence and the warnings that we are supporting Israel and we are condemning Hamas.

[18:25:02] The first resolution or bill that will go to the floor whenever we get a speaker in the chair, and I hope it's soon, will be my bill supporting Israel and condemning Hamas.

BLITZER: Well, let me just follow up, Mr. Chairman, on the potential of a warning from Egypt to Israel. Can you say unequivocally, based on the intelligence you've seen and heard, that Israel didn't receive a warning from Egypt about this imminent attack from Hamas?

MCCAUL: You know, I believe they did, we just don't know at what levels that occurred. I'm sure there are a lot of threat streams coming in to Israeli intelligence, particularly out of Gaza and the West Bank. But, you know, the thing is, Wolf, they we know Hamas have been planning this attack for quite some time, perhaps even up to a year ago. And the idea that it was not caught raises some concerns, also when it comes to groups like Hezbollah and Iran as well. We need to make sure we don't make that mistake.

For Israel, this is like they're 9/11. I mean, it really is. It's very reminiscent of what we went through in the United States when we did have a failure of intelligence and then we had this horrible, you know, killing of Americans on the scale that I've seen in Israel, it's horrific.

I was at one of the kibbutz down near the border, the closest one to Gaza, a year ago with then-Speaker McCarthy, and we met with all the people there. They talked about the threats from Hamas. 4,000 rockets have been fired a month before that. And I saw the daycare center. And then I got a call last Sunday telling me that there was a massacre and that kibbutz in that community where they were all slaughtered, the daycare center, the children were killed and even babies were beheaded. I mean, this is gruesome stuff and it's very sick.

BLITZER: Very sick indeed. What should the U.S. response be, Mr. Chairman, if evidence is uncovered showing Iran was directly involved?

MCCAUL: Well, I'll tell you what, Wolf, I don't like the idea of us lifting sanctions so that $6 billion can go into Iran to fund more terror activities. I know the administration will say it's only for humanitarian purposes. We all know this money is fungible. But don't take my word for it. The president of Iran himself said I will do with it what I want.

And so when you have the president of Iran saying that, I think the administration needs to take a pause on the $6 billion they have slated to go into Iran maybe in the hopes of some nuclear Iran deal because we know that they were behind a lot of what Hamas does. They're basically a franchise of Iran in the Gaza. And they are a terrorist organization. Iran is the largest state sponsor of terror and I don't think we should be funding it.

BLITZER: Yes, I will point out that the administration says the U.S. Treasury Department will control those money, those Iranian monies being moved to Qatar, to Doha, Qatar, and that they will only be allowed to go for humanitarian purposes, food, medicine, medical supplies along that line. But let me move on to the other breaking news we're following here in Washington right now, Mr. Chairman. As you well know, Congressman Steve Scalise won the Republican nod to become the next speaker of the House. But many Republicans, as you know, also know, say they will vote against him. Are you confident he can get 217 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives to avoid a protracted floor fight?

MCCAUL: I got to hope so, Wolf, I think not only for my party, but for the sake of the nation. We have to govern. And we can't govern without a speaker in the chair. We can't move a national security aid package for Israel and other conflicts if we don't have a speaker in the chair.

And the longer we play games with this, the more dysfunction that people see on the floor that only emboldens our adversaries, like Chairman Xi talks about how democracy doesn't work. And Putin loves this. The Ayatollah loves this.

I don't understand some of my colleagues when we all agreed as a family in our conference in a closed setting to support whoever got the most votes, and now you see people backing out of this.

I think it's dangerous. I mean, and particularly, Wolf, the timing of this, with the threat from Hamas in Israel and from other countries, Putin's invasion in Ukraine, Chairman Xi's threat to the Pacific. This is no time to be playing politics, and we need a speaker of the House so we can govern for the American people.


BLITZER: Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thank you so much for joining us.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it's still unclear on the condition of the Americans who may be among the estimated 150 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. We're learning more details about the people who are missing and others who are being held captive right now.

Brian Todd is following this part of the story for us. What are we hearing from the families during these very difficult times, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is so much uncertainty, so many of these people have no information about their loved ones.

But we are getting new details of how they were taken. We have to warn viewers some of you may find some video in this story disturbing.


TODD (voice over): Militants yell as a pickup truck approaches. In the back, 22-year-old Omer Wenkert is filmed lying almost naked and being beaten. Omer was taken hostage at the music festival last Saturday. His uncle tells CNN Omer's parents wanted the world to see this video. The uncle says Omer is in poor health and needs medication.

RICARDO GRICHENER, NEPHEW ABDUCTED BY HAMAS AT MUSIC FESTIVAL: It's horrifying. To see your nephew in this situation basically hit, brutalize, he could get very ill, high fever, getting up to basically physical illness to less certain in this situation.

And we, of course, we assume that he will not be treated very good.

TODD: This video shows 22-year-old Eviatar David (ph) being led around shirtless in a headlock after being abducted from the music festival. In another video, he's shown tied up in the back of a truck looking horrified.

Like others, Eviatar's brother wanted us to show the video, as excruciating as it is.

ILAY DAVID, BROTHER HELD HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: It was very hard to see that video. It made us very angry, very sad, but also a little bit optimistic because we saw that he's okay, that he's fine, that he's not injured.

TODD: This video shows people cheering as a kidnapped 85-year-old grandmother from kibbutz near Oz, Yafa Adar, is paraded down a street in a golf cart. Yafa's granddaughter says she can't understand why anyone would want to take her.

ADVA ADAR, GRANDMOTHER KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: We don't know how long she can stay without her medicine. And I do know that every minute that she doesn't have her medicine, she's in a lot of pain and she's suffering. And, you know, I'm sure she's very scared and I'm sure she feels very alone.

TODD: When we first saw this video of Shani Louk, she was in the back of a pickup truck, unconscious, a militant draping his leg over her. At least one person spat on her. Shani's mother gave CNN an update.

RICARDA LOUK, DAUGHTER ABDUCTED BY HAMAS AT MUSIC FESTIVAL: We heard information that she is alive and that she has a bad head injury and is in a hospital. That's all we know.

TODD: One analyst says this about the hostages.

NATAN SACHS, BROOKINGS CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY: These hostages are meant to be as two things, one, human shields, just like the rest of the 2 million people in Gaza are human shields for Hamas, and second is bargaining chip.


TODD (on camera): A diplomatic source tells CNN Qatar is mediating between Israel and Hamas to exchange women and children being held as hostages in Gaza for Palestinian women and teenagers being held in Israeli jails.

Meanwhile, traveling with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel is a U.S. deputy special envoy for hostage affairs who will work to try to get Americans released from Hamas captivity. There's a lot of activity going on behind the scenes.

BLITZER: A lot of activity indeed. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

And we'll be back with more on the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: Right now, we want to update you on the story of 22-year-old Ori Arad, who was killed after the Hamas attack on the Nova Music Festival in Israel. I spoke to his brothers last night on this program when they had not yet learned his fate.


SHAY ARAD, BROTHER FOUND DEAD IN ISRAEL: Ori called again to our father, told him that he is surrounded by many terrorists that are shooting on them with machine guns, Kalashnikov, and hand grenades. He updated my father that he must have taken action, he must have confronted them because he doesn't want to stay like a duck on the road.

But they shoot the car, he lost control, and that's a result the car flipped twice, and he lost his consciousness.

In an act of pure evil, I don't have any other word to describe it. They shoot him 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 served on Saturday noon, and from 7:00 A.M. on Saturday we didn't hear nothing from our brother.


BLITZER: Ori's funeral was held today in Israel.

I'm joined once again by his brothers, Shay and Nir Arad.

Shay, we are so, so sorry for your unimaginable loss, your younger brother. Can you update our viewers on what you know, what happened, and how are you holding up now?

NIR ARAD, BROTHER FOUND DEAD IN ISRAEL: First of all, we would like to thank you, Wolf, for having us in your show and giving us the platform to talk about our brother, legacy, Ori.

As you mentioned, unfortunately, we got the official confirmation about Ori's murder by a pure evil terrorist. We buried him today, and we're surprised from the barbarism that we saw in the identification process.

Ori was out of conscious and the monster shoot a full magazine on him, including his face, to make sure he will never wake up again.


S. ARAD: Thousands of people came to pay respect to Ori today. Among all of the touching tributes, there was one specific that shed tears to the entire crowd, when one of the girls that was rescued by Ori shared the story on the heroic acts of Ori during the terrorist attack, she called him my guardian angel.

BLITZER: Nir, tell us how you're doing and how your family and community are reacting and experiencing. How are they doing?

N. ARAD: It's unimaginable. We are fighting to stay optimistic. We are trying to do it for Ori, of course. It's unbelievable situation and it's a nightmare.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Shay, yesterday, we spoke about your brother Ori's bravery and his strength. Tell us a little bit more about how he will be remembered.

S. ARAD: You know, the girl that Ori has saved in this terrorist attack mentioned during the funeral that the fact that Ori could run away from this horror scene, but he chose to stop and save her and her friend's life.

And, of course, for me, it's not a surprise because this is the values, this is the ideals that Ori live his life accordingly. So, this is the situation that we're handling now. And we will remember always Ori as a hero, as someone that follows his heart, willing to help and sacrifice is life for the greater good.

BLITZER: Nir, is your family getting any support from the Israeli government? Does your family have questions that still need to be answered?

N. ARAD: First of all, yes. We are receiving support from the government. All the logistics and arrangements that need to be taken care of to the funeral and to the day after it are taken care by the government. But still there is a lot of open questions that we are waiting or expecting to have answers on them.

BLITZER: Shay, as you look at this horrible situation that has developed over these past few days, what is your hope for the future?

S. ARAD: I think, first of all, I would like in your permission to thank the President Biden on his speech yesterday. It strongly encourages, especially since we were exposed today to many whole views from the Hamas massacre, beheaded babies, corrupted bodies, a lot of eight years old people and open-bellied pregnant women.

So, I believe that liberal nations around the globe should join forces now in order to eliminate pure evil and create a better world for all of us, thinking about our brother that, remember, he just went out to celebrate life in a party, and today we buried him. So, this is what I expect.

BLITZER: Our deepest, deepest condolences, Shay and Nir, to your family to both of you. May he rest in peace, as we say. And we also say zikhronah livrakha, may his memory be a blessing. Thank you so much to both of you for joining us.

S. ARAD: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: And coming up, you'll hear from a woman whose relatives are missing after Hamas attacked their kibbutz.



BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news we're following as the war between Israel and Hamas rages. We're also hearing from families speaking out about their loved ones who remain unaccounted for.

I'm joined now by LeElle Slifer. She has relatives in Israel missing after Hamas attacked their kibbutz, while other relatives managed to escape.

LeElle, thank you so much for joining us. We are so sorry for what's going on with your family over there in Israel, you're relatives. They live in Be'eri, which is located near the Gaza border.

Take us through what happened when the Hamas terrorists stormed their kibbutz.

LEELLE SLIFER, FAMILY MEMBERS MISSING AND ESCAPED IN ISRAEL: Kinneret and her husband, Ashiel (ph), living in kibbutz Be'eri, had their daughter Carmel, their son in-law, and daughter-in-law, granddaughter, three years old, over the night before, Friday night, for Shabbat dinner. I know Simchat Torah the next day, they spent the night, they woke up to the sound of rockets and sirens, and immediately knew something was not right, so, they hid in the house.

Terrorists came in, and one by one, pulled them out of their home. They took Kinneret, handcuffed her, bare foot through the streets. We do not know what happened to Carmel. They found Olon and Yerden and Gefen (ph) hiding, tied Olon's hands together and threw the three of them in a car, with four terrorists, and put another member of their kibbutz in the trunk. They started driving Olon and Yerden and Gefen towards Gaza.

Olon and Yerden realized that if they got to Gaza, they may never come out. And so, when the car stopped, they encountered a tank and the terrorist got out to investigate what was going on. Olon told Yerden, we have to make a run for it. They ran out of the car. Yerden was holding Gefen, three years old in her arms, and when she could not hold her anymore, she passed her off to Olon, whose hands were still tied. The terrorists were shooting after them, chasing after them and they split up and tried to evade them.


Olon hid in a field with his daughter for 24 hours, all night long and was able, thank God, to get back to kibbutz the morning, but they do not know what happened to Yerden. She is still missing. Olon went back to search for her. And hasn't found any sign of her, Her body, any signs of struggle, nothing, and Carmel, we still have no idea what happened to her.

And Kinneret, we saw the terrorist video parading her and another members of the kibbutz down the street. A few days later, I happen to be online, and I saw a video of the same four people. They had just shown walking, laying of the street of their kibbutz, unmoving and I could clearly see Kinneret's shirt and shorts but we haven't found her body.

BLITZER: Oh my God.

SLIFER: We don't know if she is alive or dead.

BLITZER: We have that video, LeElle, the view you just described, and this is something you think is important for the whole world to see, and we want to warn our viewers, it is very, very disturbing. How were you able to find this, and how has your family dealt with all of this.

SLIFER: Every hour of the day, in the middle of the night, I have kept searching online, for information about the hostages taken from Be'eri. And I saw that article on "The Washington Post" that morning. I saw thumbnail. And I got the sinking feeling in my stomach. But I did not see her in the thumbnail. And I could not bear to watch it.

Later that afternoon, my husband saw the video and came to me and said, I think this is Kinneret, I think you need to watch. And I knew I had to. And why when I saw it, I send it to my mother. It was middle of the night in Israel. And called up Kinneret's sister and brothers, and told them what we had seen. And it's -- it's so very difficult to watch.

BLITZER: LeElle Slifer, thank you so much for joining us. Our -- we are just so sad to hear this story and our heart goes out to you and your family. But thanks for sharing your story with us. We will stay in touch with you, if that's okay.

SLIFER: Of course, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us now from Ashdod in Israel, just a few miles north from the Gaza border.

Anderson, you've been hearing similar stories of people whose loved ones are missing and kidnapped. And it's so, so sad to hear this. And I know you spoke with one woman that was -- it which is so painful to hear her story. What strikes you about this conflict, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, that poor woman, who you have just spoken to, I have spoken to. I don't know how many people have experienced similar, horrific losses. There is not anybody in this country who does not know somebody who has been kidnapped or killed, mutilated, wounded, is missing.

The -- yeah. There is such sadness here and there is such anger here. And there is such resolve here in what is to come. I don't think anybody can really understand, given how chaotic and in this surprise attack, how unorganized things have been.

As you just heard, it is up to family members to scroll through jihadist videos online to look for word or an image of their loved one. In some --

BLITZER: It's so painful. All the people of Israel, but it's so painful for all of us, indeed, all around the world, to hear these stories, see the stories, and you are getting them very much up close and in person. And it's very painful, I'm sure, for you as well.

What are you bracing for now based on everything you are hearing and seeing, Anderson?

COOPER: Well, you know, listen, I think it -- our Matthew Chance has had reporting talked to a senior Israeli official about discussions that are going on. We heard from a little bit of this from Jake Sullivan yesterday in a press conference he gave, we won't go into great detail, but about diplomatic discussions going on about what to do with American citizens who are in Gaza right now who are desperate to get out.


And also what to do about the civilian population in Gaza to try to, as much as possible, get them separated from Hamas and away from Hamas. There are talks, according to Matthew Chance, and his reporting with a senior Israeli official, about trying to figure out about the Egyptian crossing, the Egyptian border and the southern part of Gaza, and whether something can be worked out with Egyptian authorities, who have been reluctant to allow that border to be opened to get Gaza civilians out.

But that is one, perhaps, avenue to get American citizens out of Gaza, who have been visiting family members who live there. And also, according to Matthew Chance is reporting, with an unnamed senior Israeli official, they are discussing the idea of as many as 2,000 Gazan residents a day, to be able to cross into Egypt. And, again, it's up to Egypt to whether or not to accept that, or decide to do that or they would be housed as another question. But, obviously, discussions were underway that would certainly be something that Israeli authorities, you know, have to take into consideration any kind of ground incursion into Gaza, the defense pact nature of, it more than 2 million people that live there.

And so anything that can reduce the civilian population they are, I would think, is something that is of interest to all sides there, except, perhaps, Hamas, who want the civilian population there to shield them as much as possible.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper reporting from Ashdod, in Israel -- Anderson, thank you very much. And Anderson will have much more coming up from Israel, 8:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360". We will all be watching.

Right now, I want to bring in Professor Shibley Telhami. He's the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development over at the University of Maryland.

Professor, thanks so much for joining us. First of all, let me get your thoughts on the Palestinian civilians in Gaza right now who are under bombardment as power through and water seem to be running out. How much worse do you fear this will get for them and how urgent is the need for some sort of humanitarian corridor?

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, ANWAR SADAT PROFESSOR FOR PEACE & DEVELOPMENT: Look, it's a horrible scene. I watched what you put on the Israeli victims, and it's really heartbreaking. It's hard to see, are to watch. And my heart goes out to the families and the victims.

I look at the Palestinian side and I see that the overwhelming majority of people are civilians who are getting killed in my heart goes out to them. It is really hard to watch civilians getting hurt, vulnerable civilians who are helpless getting hurt, whether they are Jewish or Arab, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, and that should be really the guiding force here in thinking about this.

When you look at the Palestinians in Gaza, obviously, it's a very densely populated area, it's 2.2 million. And it's very hard, even if you can figure out that you're going to extricate some, it's easier said than done logistically. Remember, the Israelis had very few settlements around Gaza, and not very heavily populated, and when the government told them to leave, they could not even figure out how. Even in a country like Israel, they did not have buses, did not have logistics, the cell phones are not working.

So, even just a logistic of knowing people was hard for Israelis, imagine what it is like for Palestinians there who are -- don't have electricity, who don't have water, who don't have, in some cases, medical supplies, and certainly transportation. It is really devastating.

And I fear, you know, when you look at the numbers now, I mean, Wolf, you and I have talked about this over the years, the devastation of war in the Middle East. When you look at what has happened in four days, today probably reached 10,000 people dead and wounded between Israelis and Palestinian. 10,000 people between dead and wounded between Israelis and Palestinians in four days. And it's overwhelming the civilian victims. This has got to stop.

And look, I understand what happens in times of war. You know, hearts harden in a way that you just only look at your own survivor, your own pain. And you want to lash out. The thirst for vengeance is unlimited on both sides.

We see this happening over and over again. That is why we need sober leadership. Vengeance is never a strategy. It's not a moral strategy. And it is not one that will get two good results.

Destruction and devastation might make one feel, one day, two days. In the end, it does not solve the problem, and it creates more problems than it solves.

BLITZER: It's a horrible, horrible situation all around. Professor Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland, thank you

very much as usual for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

For more information about how you, our viewers, can help humanitarian efforts in both Israel and Gaza, go to, or text "Relief" to 707070 and you can make a donation.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", live from Israel, starts right now.