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Hundreds Believed To Be Dead In Gaza Hospital Blast; Biden On His Way To Israel For High-Stakes, Wartime Mission; Second Speaker Vote Tomorrow After Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Loses First Round. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired October 17, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show where you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer. He's in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, a deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza. Palestinian officials say hundreds were killed and they're blaming Israel. But Israel denies that, saying it has intelligence indicating the hospital was hit by a failed Islamic jihad rocket.

The blast is certainly complicating President Biden's high-stakes mission to the Middle East. He's on his way to Israel to offer a wartime show of support and to personally push for desperately needed humanitarian aid in Gaza. But a key summit with Mideast leaders was just canceled.

There's also breaking news in the U.S. House speaker stalemate. Congressman Jim Jordan just set a vote for tomorrow morning on his bid to win the speakership, the GOP firebrand losing a first vote today with 20 of his fellow Republicans refusing to support him.

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

Let's get right to the breaking news in the Middle East, the deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza. Israel and Palestinian groups are at odds over who's to blame.

Clarissa Ward and Erin Burnett are standing by for his life in Israel, M.J. Lee is over at the White House, as this blast threatens to become a flashpoint in the Israel-Hamas war.

First, let's go to Clarissa. Clarissa, what do we know about this hospital blast?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that thousands of people were taking shelter in the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian officials are saying that hundreds of people have been killed and the scenes and the aftermath are just absolutely horrifying. Many of these people were seeking refuge. They thought that the hospital would be a safe place for them to go. You may remember that the IDF had ordered people to leave Northern Gaza. We've been speaking to people on the phone for the last few days. Many didn't feel it was safe or even possible to leave. And so a lot of people go to hotels, to hospitals to try to find a safe place.

Now, there is a continued back and forth about who was responsible, how this happened, Palestinians on the ground pointing out that hundreds of people have been killed. That is not really consistent with the kind of death toll that you would see from a rocket. Also the enormity of the blast, the damage it did destroying that, one MSF, which is Doctors Without Borders, an NGO on the ground, one doctor said that the entire ceiling of the operating room collapsed as he was performing an operation with the force of that blast.

And all of this now leading to a huge ground swell of anguish and outrage both in Gaza, the West Bank, but also across the Arab and Muslim world and beyond and really putting a huge amount of pressure onto this visit of President Biden. As you mentioned already, King Abdullah of Jordan has basically said that there will be no summit in Amman, where Biden was expected to meet with Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas, also Egyptian leader President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as well as King Abdullah, and a lot of questions now going forward as to what this means for humanitarian efforts, but also as to the real possibility of an escalation in violence here and across the region, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Erin Burnett into this conversation. Erin, Israeli officials, as you well know, they are categorically denying any responsibility for the hospital explosion, but officials in Gaza directly blame Israel. What do you make of these conflicting claims?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, they are conflicting. And, of course, Israel is pointing to the Iron Dome, actually, as one reason why they should be trusted on their claims. They're saying they know where rockets come from. That's how they calculate where they're going to come in, and that they know where this rocket came from.

As you said, they said it's a Palestinian Islamic jihad, another Islamic terrorist group in Gaza, not Hamas. They said that they detected a barrage of rockets that came from nearby this hospital and flew over this hospital just around the time that the hospital itself struck. And they say that they weren't conducting operations at the time. So, we'll see if this is able to be verified and proven.

But, Wolf, is Clarissa is pointing out.


You're seeing demonstrations already. Immediately after this happened, we started to see crowds gathering in Ramallah, near the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's home right before he canceled his appearance at that summit, which he did first, and then, of course, King Abdullah of Jordan canceled the entire thing. That reaction is immediate. So, even if it is possible to come out and conclude who did or didn't do it, if Israel did not do it, if that is even possible to confirm, as you can see, and as Clarissa is saying in this region, people will believe what they want to believe no matter what the facts actually end up being. And that is what makes this such an incredibly dangerous and tragic moment, although, sadly, incredibly predictable, given the back and forth that we have all been experiencing these past ten days.

BLITZER: Good point. M.J., you're over at the White House for us. As you know, President Biden, he is getting ready to head off to the region tonight. What more can you tell us about how this, this latest development, is impacting his plans?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president is on his way to Israel, but the White House just minutes ago announced that the Jordan portion of his trip has been canceled all together and releasing a statement for the first time addressing that hospital blast.

Here is a part of that statement, the White House saying, after consulting with King Abdullah of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt.

The president sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza, in which a speedy recovery to the wounded.

This, of course, coming after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pulled out of that meeting that he was supposed to participate in with President Biden and other leaders in the region. This meeting was supposed to take place in Jordan after the president had concluded his meetings in Israel.

And I can tell you this is going to be a very big sort of disappointing setback for this administration. We know obviously how important that meeting with President Abbas was going to be. Any chance of there being diplomatic conversations, any diplomatic efforts would need to include him. So, that is going to be a setback as far as this trip is concerned.

And the fact that the president is no longer going to be meeting face- to-face with Egypt's president, President Sisi, that is a country that has been so central to all of the conversations we have been talking about in terms of the U.S. trying to secure humanitarian aid, getting into Gaza, establishment of a humanitarian corridor so that people who want to leave Gaza can leave.

And I just have to stress, you know, President Biden is somebody who advisors around him will always tell you very much believes in the power of being in the room, meeting face-to-face with these leaders. So, the fact that he is no longer going to be having this meeting in person in Jordan, again, is going to be a disappointing setback. The White House has said, though, that this meeting is postponed, suggesting that they will try to have these conversations still take place. But, again, it is not going to be something that we see happen tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: M.J., has the president boarded Marine One to fly over to Joint Base Andrews and get off on Air Force One?

LEE: Yes, and we didn't hear him taking any questions from reporters who were hoping that he would address this situation with the hospital bombing in Gaza.

I will note that the fact that the White House took many hours really to even address the fact that this bombing, the strike had happened, I think, really gets to the sensitivities involved. You all were talking about how there are conflicting claims right now as to who exactly is responsible, obviously a situation that the administration is going to be incredibly careful as they wait into it. They're not going to want to make it seem as though they are taking sides as intelligence is still being gathered about what exactly happened and who was responsible.

BLITZER: Clarissa, how much does this hospital bombing now compound the human suffering in Gaza as officials are still struggling with the humanitarian response? Well, this is a massive setback, Wolf. Well over 3,000 Palestinians now killed, more than 600,000 have been forced from their homes in the northern part of Gaza to the south. The hope was, or the aim through various diplomats, was to try to get some kind of a humanitarian corridor established through that Rafah border crossing with Egypt, allowing aid in, allowing foreign nationals out.

Ideally, I guess the idea was to set up some kind of a humanitarian zone, although, obviously, that was going to be fraught with various complications. It had already been days and days of people waiting, gathering, sitting near that Rafah border crossing and often at great danger, despite the sort of advice of Israeli forces for people to move into the south.


There have been strikes throughout the south all throughout this morning.

And so when you speak to people in the north who are still in their homes, they say, well, why would we move south when there's no evidence that it's safe? And when you speak to the Egyptians, they also say, well, why would we open the border crossing when there are still strikes so close to the border?

This is going to make it even harder, Wolf, to find some kind of a consensus and get that aid to the people who need it most, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so important. Erin, what does this mean for Israel's calculations right now as it clearly is preparing for a major ground invasion of Gaza?

BURNETT: Well, Wolf, at the very least, it complicates them, right? I mean, there had been clearly hope here as well that the double summits tomorrow might have had some significant effects, maybe. Maybe there wasn't a lot of hope. Certainly, they said it wouldn't have impacted their plans for an invasion itself, but that they had thought maybe it would have had some sort of a positive impact on escalation. Of course, that's now off the table, at least for now.

I was just speaking before joining all of you with the former head of operations for the IDF, a general. And he was saying, look, it's an incredible tragedy, what happened. It's an incredible tragedy. But the reality in his view is that Israel will still go ahead with a ground invasion. However, that actually looks like it may not be what people expect, but that there's no way around that.

But there's no question it complicates it because public opinion in the world -- court of public opinion matters very deeply, Wolf. And this, no matter how it ends up, again, no matter what they're able to prove or disprove, this is a blow to Israel.

BLITZER: Yes, it is. Erin Burnett, Clarissa Ward, M.J. Lee. Ladies, thank you. Thank you very, very much.

And this note, Erin, of course, said we'll be back right at the top of the hour for Erin Burnett Outfront. She's live in Israel.

Just ahead, we'll have more reaction to all the breaking news, Senator Chris Murphy, a key Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is standing by to join us here in The Situation Room.

Plus, we'll get an update on the chaos in the U.S. House of Representatives as 20 Republican defectors torpedo Jim Jordan's first attempt to secure the speakership. Will a second vote tomorrow morning turn out any different?



BLITZER: We'll have much more of the breaking news from the Middle East in just a few moments, but there's also major breaking news here in Washington, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan trying to win over 20 Republican holdouts tonight after failing to secure the speaker's gavel on the first ballot earlier today. Another vote has now been set for tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.

Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is tracking all of the action up on Capitol Hill. Manu, how far is Jordan saying he's willing to go prepared to take his fight to become speaker?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's indicating that he's ready to go for the second ballot, Wolf, tomorrow morning. The question, though, is will he go on to a third ballot, because he does not appear to have the votes in the second ballot, as Republicans plunge deeper into turmoil as we get into past the second week of this -- following the historic and unprecedented ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker, and the paralysis that has ensued, as Republicans have been unable to unite behind a leader. A speaker is required to be elected to move on any legislation right now. And right now, no one can get the 217 votes needed to win the speakership, Jim Jordan losing 20 Republicans today in today's vote, he could only afford to lose three.

So, behind the scenes, he's been trying to pick off members one by one. But I am told by Republican sources that his opposition could grow among the Republican ranks, something that they are trying desperately to prevent.

At the same time, Wolf, there are ongoing discussions, bipartisan discussions about trying to empower the interim speaker, Patrick McHenry, give him more power in the legislative process. That is something that Jim Jordan is warning against as he tries to urge Republicans to fall in line.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No one, no one in our conference wants to see any type of coalition government with Democrats. So, we're going to keep working and we're going to get to the votes.

RAJU: Are you open to McHenry specifically?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Our focus right now relates not just to any one individual, but to getting the institution reopened. I have respect for Patrick McHenry. I think he is respected on our side of the aisle. There are a whole host of other Republicans who are respected on our side of the aisle. Jim Jordan is not one of them.


RAJU: And rank and file Republicans are beginning to talk about that idea of trying to figure out some way out of this crisis, whether to pass a resolution to ensure that Patrick McHenry has more power to move on legislation. That would require some support likely from Democrats given there are significant Republican opposition. But Democrats would want something in exchange, which makes all this uncertain how this will play out.

And, Wolf, this all comes as so much key legislative action is waiting here in Congress, including an upcoming expected aid package to Israel, Ukraine aid, something being pushed heavily by the White House, and efforts to avoid a government shutdown by mid-November.

Nothing can be acted upon until the House elects a speaker. Whether they can do that tomorrow remains a major question, and it seems unlikely at the moment, is Jim Jordan weighs his next steps, whether to keep fighting, or whether to bow out, and potentially to another candidate who also could struggle to get the 217 votes needed, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. As I keep saying, the stakes are clearly enormous. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

I want to turn right now back to the breaking news in the Middle East, the devastating explosion at a Gaza hospital that's reportedly killed hundreds of people. The blast occurring just before President Biden had departed for Israel.

Let's bring in Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, Hamas claims Israel is responsible for the attack on that hospital. The IDF says the attack was a failed rocket launch from the Palestinian Islamic jihad organization, an organization the U.S. regards as a terrorist organization.

First, let me get your reaction to this awful tragedy. How will the U.S. try to get to the bottom of what happened?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, first of all, this is an awful tragedy anytime you have this scope of loss of civilian life. We mourn, just like we are continuing to mourn for the families of Israelis that died at the hands of Hamas. I have not been briefed on the attack on the hospital. I don't know who's responsible.


But what I do know is that Hamas often embeds itself, its political leadership, its military leadership, its ammunition, inside civilian populations and inside civilian buildings. It's not uncommon for Hamas to hide inside schools, inside hospitals. And so they make it very difficult on Israel to find and hold accountable the perpetrators of the crimes from a week and a half ago. But I simply have not seen any information to confirm which side was responsible here.

Obviously, I'm much more prone to believe the Israelis. I don't tend to ever believe Hamas. And so I look forward to hearing the details.

BLITZER: How important, Senator, is it that Israel publicly released intelligence backing up their analysis that the IDF was not responsible for this deadly hospital blast in Gaza?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, listen, I don't tend to require Israel to provide proof of the claims they make. They are an ally. My default position is to believe Israel. But, of course, there are others who don't necessarily share my view. And so it is likely going to be better for Israel to provide evidence or proof so as to try to make sure that skeptics of Israel, and they exist all around the world, will believe the case that they're making.

BLITZER: Are you concerned, Senator, that this deadly explosion at this hospital in Gaza makes President Biden's trip to Israel, and he's supposed to get there tomorrow, even more dangerous? Is this the right environment, do you believe, for the president of the United States to go to Israel right now?

MURPHY: I think it's really important for the president to be there. This is an exceptional leader, somebody that knows the Middle East, the complexities of that region better than anybody else in the United States, perhaps better than anybody else in the world. And I think at this moment it's really important for the United States to stand side by side with Israel.

We all knew that going after Hamas and holding these terrorists accountable was going to involve civilian casualties. It is incumbent upon Israel to limit those civilian casualties, but it was Hamas' decision to enter Israel and perpetrate these horrendous attacks. It's Hamas' decision to embed itself in civilian populations in order to hide from accountability inside Gaza.

And so I know that President Biden is going to have a conversation with Netanyahu about how this war will be conducted, how best to effectuate Israel's aims and how to limit the impact on the civilians inside Gaza, but to the extent that this war ever had to happen, the blame for that lies with Hamas.

BLITZER: As you know, the president was scheduled after his talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel to go to Amman, Jordan, for meetings with various Arab leaders. But that has now been canceled in the wake of this deadly hospital blast in Gaza. The reaction to this attack is clearly spiraling right now across the region. Are the goals of this diplomatic mission now still achievable?

MURPHY: Well, the primary goal of this diplomatic mission is to show to the world that the United States stands with Israel at this important time. And -- well, it may be true that right now Abbas doesn't want to stand in a public forum with Israeli or U.S. leaders, we are still engaged in hour-by-hour diplomacy in the region at the highest levels to make sure that this conflict doesn't spill over and move beyond a conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

And so that diplomacy conducted by the president, by Tony Blinken, continues whether or not there's going to be an in-person meeting with the Jordanians and the Palestinians when Biden is in the region.

BLITZER: And the Egyptian president, El-Sisi, as well.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is warning that if the strikes on Gaza persist, the resistance forces, that's what he calls them, the resistance forces, it supports, can't be held back from attacking Israel. How concerned are you that this war could escalate into a major regional conflict?

MURPHY: Well, we should not allow for Iranian threats to stop us from holding these terrorists accountable. Iran is responsible for the existence of Hamas. Hamas would not have the ability to attack Israel if it did not have a patron in Tehran.

And so, of course, Iran is going to threaten action if anybody holds their proxy, Hamas accountable.


But in order to square the moral universe, in order to make sure that other terrorist organizations don't take attacks against Israel or the United States, we have to work with Israel to hold Hamas accountable, and we can't let Iran dissuade us from that.

BLITZER: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for joining us.

MURPHY: Thank you. BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have a closer look at the plight of civilians desperately trying to flee Gaza, even as the border crossing with Egypt remains shut.


BLITZER: Back now to the breaking news on the escalating war in the Middle East and the deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital believed to have killed hundreds of people for Palestinians trying to flee Gaza.


The border with Egypt could eventually offer a way out, but with that border closed, those civilians are trapped right now.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has our report.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This city should be the way out of the war zone, but it too is caught in the crosshairs of Israel's relentless air assault. You are looking at the aftermath of airstrikes on Rafah. Thousands have flocked here in recent days seeking safe passage only to find more death.

My children, oh God, please find my children, this man pleads. They are under the rubble. Oh God, please pull them out.

It is unclear if his children survived. Israeli bombardment has killed dozens here in recent days, according to Palestinian officials.

The city, which sits on the Egyptian border, is home to Gaza's only possible humanitarian corridor, a corridor that is now inoperable and unsafe, the WHO says, because of Israeli bombardment.

And at the border crossing, footage shows smoke billowing from multiple airstrikes nearby on Tuesday. Desperate families gather here for hours a day, praying authorities will allow their exit. So far, a diplomatic standoff keeping this crucial corridor shut. Cairo is reluctant to take in refugees but says it wants to see aid allowed into the enclave.

Israel's government has imposed a complete siege of Gaza after Hamas terror attacks killed some 1,400 people. It says it aims to wipe out Hamas.

LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, SPOKESPERSON, IDF: We continue to operate and strike Hamas targets, as we have defined before. And we try to do that according to the law of war conflict and, of course, to minimize civilian casualties.

ABDELAZIZ: Intensive efforts by the U.S. and the U.N. are yet to resolve the logjam, leaving countless people like this Michigan residence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the war, I can't sleep, a lot of bomb. These people here, these people here live. It's not life.

ABDELAZIZ: On the Egyptian side of the border, life-saving aid is piling up, and with more than 10,000 wounded Palestinians and a health care system on the brink, every hour counts.

DR. MARGARET HARRIS, SPOKESPERSON, WHO: That's why it's critical to get there. This is for people like pregnant women. We know that there are 84,000 pregnant women, and many of them are delivering every day. Babies don't care about bombs. They come when they come.

ABDELAZIZ: Gaza is in a stranglehold, rights groups say, under siege and under attack, with innocent civilians desperate to hellscape a growing health state.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN London.


BLITZER: And thanks to CNN's Salma Abdelaziz for that report.

I want to get reaction right now from the general secretary for the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. I should note, Dr. Barghouti, you're a medical doctor.

The IDF says Islamic jihad was behind this deadly blast at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, that it was a failed launch of a rocket aimed at Israel. Palestinian authorities, of course, say it was an Israeli strike on that hospital. What is your understanding, Dr. Barghouti, of what happened?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, GENERAL SECRETARY, PALESTINIAN NATIONAL INITIATIVE: My colleagues are there, and I've been talking to them, and they are definite about what has happened. This was not a blast. This was not an explosion. This was an air strike. It was a deliberate war crime that Israel conducted on this hospital.

And Israel, by the way, repeated two different lies. The first lie was that there were Hamas people hiding in the place, and that's why they hit it. And then the second lie came immediately after claiming that it was jihad rocket and something like that, because I think they could not deny that there was an airstrike.

So, the reality is that this was a war crime. This should not have happened. I do not want an Israeli or Palestinian killed, but the reality here is that Israel is conducting acts of genocide against the population of Gaza.

Several air strikes are happening every day. 70,000 Palestinians' homes have already been destroyed. Roads are destroyed. Infrastructure is destroyed. There is every chance that there will be epidemics in Gaza because of lack of drinking water, because of the destruction of the sewage system. And that's a very dangerous situation because Israel insists on conducting this collective punishment on 3.2 million people.

And add to that this act of ethnic cleansing, which is also considered a war crime, by pushing people from the north and the middle to the south. If this continues, there will be thousands and thousands and thousands of people killed, Palestinians and maybe some Israelis as well. And this has to stop.

So, the only way out of this for President Biden is to, first of all, I demand that he condemn this attack on the hospital because nobody should accept airstrikes on hospitals.


BLITZER: But what evidence that, Dr. Barghouti -- with all due respect, sorry for interrupting, what evidence do you have that it was Israel that deliberately bombed this hospital as opposed to Palestinian Islamic jihad, a group the U.S. government calls a terrorist organization, that inadvertently launched some sort of rocket that attacked this hospital?

BARGHOUTI: It is totally unacceptable to continue to blame Palestinians for killing Palestinians and to avoid accusing Israel of war crimes when they are committing war crimes. And to claim that jihad -- why would Jihad hit the hospital where Palestinians are?

BLITZER: Supposedly, they're saying it was an error. It was a failure on their part. They didn't deliberately want to hit the hospital, but it hit the hospital.

BARGHOUTI: No, but that's a lie. The first lie that Israelis said was there was an air strike because Hamas people were hiding in the hospital. And then they erased this statement quickly. So, that shows that they were trying to find a way to escape the responsibility of a war crime they have committed.

And then who attacked Rafah with another airstrike that took the lives of 60 people? And before that, who attacked Khan Yunis with another air strike that took the lives of 60 other Palestinian civilians? It's going on. And the only way out of this is to have immediate ceasefire.

I don't know why the United States, Britain and France are not supporting ceasefire. Why don't we stop this massacre? Why don't we stop this war? Why can't we have a peaceful bath during in which Palestinians will not be deprived of water, electricity and food? They think that they will eradicate Hamas. They are trying to eradicate the whole Palestinian population.

And Israel cannot hide the fact, which was said by the Israeli spokesperson, that their goal is to evict all Palestinians in Gaza to Egypt. That is an act of ethnic cleansing that cannot be allowed, because if that happens, it will mean that Israel will ethnically cleanse Gaza Strip. That is unacceptable.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Dr. Barghouti, was it a mistake for the Palestinian president, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to say he was canceling his upcoming meeting that was scheduled in Amman, Jordan, with President Biden? BARGHOUTI: I don't think he could meet with him in the light of this criminal attack, and especially because -- and it's not just Palestinians, Jordanians are also canceling that summit because they say that they have no guarantee that President Biden will work for ceasefire and for stopping this ongoing onslaught.

We need peace and we need immediate stop of this war, which will lead to nothing but more victims on the side of Palestinians and Israelis.

I was so touched today by a report of an interview with an Israeli woman who lost her daughter and I think -- daughter not a son. And she said I am so sorry for losing my daughter but the response to that should not be vengeance. And what Israel is doing is vengeance and that will not lead to peace, that would not lead to a solution.

The only way out of this is to immediate -- to have immediate ceasefire, immediate supply of food, drinking water to people immediately in Gaza and then to have exchange of prisoners so that the Israeli prisoners can come back home safe to Israel.

These airstrikes of Israel have already killed 22 Israeli prisoners. Do they want to kill more? Don't Netanyahu want these prisoners to come back home safe? I don't understand the Israeli logic. It's really unacceptable and a war crime by striking a hospital is totally unacceptable.

BLITZER: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, thank you so much for joining us.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces joins us live with the latest military intelligence Israeli military intelligence of the deadly Gaza hospital blast as the IDF denies any involvement.



BLITZER: There's a lot of anger in the Arab world tonight after a deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital. It killed hundreds of Palestinians amid disputing accounts of who's to blame.

Let's go to CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman. He's joining us from Southern Lebanon once again. Ben, what is the response there where you are in Lebanon and, indeed, across the Middle East tonight?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this incident has set off a firestorm of protest and anger across the Arab world. In Beirut, we understand that hundreds, perhaps thousands of protesters have gathered in the square at the bottom of the hill that leads up to the U.S. embassy north of Beirut in a town called Akkar. There, the protesters are trying to break through barriers set up by the Lebanese police who are firing at the protesters with tear gas. In addition, in Beirut, Hezbollah has called for a massive demonstration in the capital to condemn what they say was the Israeli attack on that hospital in Gaza, in Ramallah, on the West Bank. There are protests there against Israel but also against Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the main square. There have been clashes with Palestinian security forces and people are chanting for the downfall of Mahmoud Abbas.

In Amman, the Jordanian capital protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy.


Fires were set around the embassy. Some protesters tried to break inside. Jordan security forces stopped them from doing that.

In Turkey, there have been protests outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. Some protesters are throwing fireworks at the embassy there. The Turkish police, we understand, are trying to keep them back. There are also protests in Rabat, in Morocco, and other capitals around the Arab world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman on the scene for us in southern Lebanon -- Ben, stay safe. Thank you.

Let's go to Tel Aviv where we're joined by a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus.

So, Lieutenant Colonel, thanks for joining us once again especially on this very important day with all the breaking news.

CONRICUS: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: As far as this deadly Gaza hospital blast, you and other spokespeople for the IDF categorically denied that Israel was behind this blast at the Gaza hospital. You say it was a Palestinian jihad rocket that failed and exploded. I understand the IDF says it has evidence to support this.

What is the evidence and what does it show?

CONRICUS: Yes, Wolf, exactly, succinctly said by you. And we have just released for the international media a video footage from a UAV. And we're going to release additional intelligence, basically a conversation that was intercepted between various terrorist where they themselves, unknowing of the fact that we were listening, confirmed that this was -- that they understand that it was a rocket that misfired.

And as the time goes by, what we've done -- it took us sometime because we wanted to be sure of the information before we say anything, we went through our own systems and confirmed that we did not fire at that location and that there was no our misfire. Then we checked what it could have been. And we collected intelligence from various sources, from all of our systems. We listened to what the enemy was saying and we checked the fire

control system and saw that indeed there was a barrage of rockets that was fired by the Islamic Jihad towards northern or central Israel and at least one of them misfired, which is a common phenomenon when it comes to their rockets. It misfired and landed on the ground and exploded.

There are still question marks as to what happened to verify the alleged amount of casualties. We are looking into it with our censors to understand if the amount claimed by Hamas is indeed the amount or if those numbers have been inflated. And we are cross checking and referencing if there was any staging of an event.

But the bottom line is that we have confirmed and all of our chain of command stands behind it, that this was not an IDF strike. It was a misfired rocket by the Islamic Jihad that landed and was probably caused that explosion.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel, when will you release the evidence you say you have pointing to Islamic Jihad?

CONRICUS: So, we released the footage. It's already out. I'm sure the desk will receive it soon and be able to analyze it. In the coming, I'm sure, minutes, perhaps less than an hour, there will be the recording of the conversation which is also evidence that at least the other side knew, Hamas and others, knew that this was a misfire.

BLITZER: Who was the intercepted phone conversation with? Who were on both ends of this conversation that supposedly pointed to Islamic Jihad?

CONRICUS: To the best of my knowledge -- now, I haven't heard the conversation yet. I've been told about it. It's between Hamas terrorists. There might be a conversation also of Islamic Jihad terrorists it.

But it will be in Arabic by Palestinian terrorists where they tell between themselves that they understand there was a misfire.

BLITZER: Will President Biden be able to review all of the Israeli evidence that you say you have? Will he get a full briefing and other top U.S. officials when everyone meets -- when the president of the United States meets with the Israeli leadership tomorrow?

CONRICUS: That and more and the U.S. military officials are already aware of the intelligence. They already know that it was the Islamic jihad so I've learned.

And we are, of course, as always coordinating with the U.S. we share intelligence and, of course, when President Biden lands, that will be displayed so that he himself can be convinced that this was not done by Israel.


It happened by Islamic Jihad rocket misfiring and then all of the events that have unfolded since should be perhaps reviewed with a totally different perspective.

BLITZER: Can you definitively state, Lieutenant Colonel, that there were no Israeli military operations in the area of this hospital around the time of this blast?

CONRICUS: We have looked into our activity, and there was no strike on that hospital or in the immediate vicinity. Of course, northern Gaza Strip, Gaza City, that is the area where we have said before it is going to be an area of significant military operation. So, there was military activity ongoing.

But factually not circumstantially, factually, this was an Islamic Jihad rocket. And I've also been asked if it may have been an interception by the Iron Dome that caused the rockets to explode and land. That has also been categorically denied. That is not the case, and we do not intercept rockets over Gaza.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thanks so much for joining us.

CONRICUS: Thank you.

BLITZER: I want to bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He is joining us from Jerusalem right now.

Jeremy, you just heard the IDF spokesperson say -- talk about the intelligence that they say they plan to show not only President Biden, the top U.S. military leadership, but the rest of the world as well. Why is this -- why is this so important for President Biden's trip to Israel right now?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, Wolf, I think it's really important to understand why the IDF is doing this kind of full core press trying to show every piece of evidence that they are gathering to indicate as far as they are concerned that they were not responsible for the strike.

On the one hand, of course, they want to disprove the narrative that has been spreading about their responsibility for this attack. But, on the other hand, it is also clearly being more urgent because of the fact that President Biden is set to land here in Israel in a matter of hours now, really. This visit by President Biden is intended to be a strong show of solidarity by the United States with Israel in its campaign against Hamas, President Biden, and Netanyahu standing shoulder to shoulder at this moment ahead of an expected Israeli ground operation inside of Gaza.

And, so, obviously, this is the last thing that they want is to have a sense that the Israeli military is responsible for a strike on a hospital in Gaza. Regardless of the evidence, this has already scuttled parts of President Biden's trip, he is not going to Jordan.

But, Wolf, I do also want to talk to you about a very important conversation I had today with Yossi Landau, who is a 30-year veteran of this Zaka search and rescue group. I spoke with him today. He has been in conflict zones and visited the aftermath of terrorist attacks for the last several decades.

But he has said he has never seen anything like these terrorist attacks that were perpetrated by Hamas two Saturdays ago. I need to warn our viewers that the content, the testimony you're about to hear is very graphic, and also know that CNN has not independently verified all of his testimony, that we do have evidence of similar atrocities carried out by Hamas.


DIAMOND (voice-over): Ten days after Hamas carried out its attack in southern Israel, Yossi Landau is still discovering fresh horrors from that day.

YOSSI LANDAU, SOUTHERN COMMANDER, ZAKA: We were going to clean up, to pick up the terrorist, there was like all of the houses in the back were, the field there. And, there was one terrorist body of the dead over there, and we went and just right next to him, was a body, of this 14, 15-year-old. Her head chopped off. We were looking around for the head, we couldn't find it.

DIAMOND: Landau is a 30-year veteran of Zaka, a search and rescue group that specializes in recovery of the victims of mass casualty events. But he has never seen anything, like the horrors of October 7th.

On your way to kibbutz Be'eri, you came across a shelter. You found 20 people inside, and they were burned alive?

LANDAU: I first came into that place, I saw there were hugging, they were trying to escape, and to defend themselves.

DIAMOND: When people are burned alive like that.

LANDAU: They suffer. They suffer until they burn, they suffer.

DIAMOND: For hours, Landau and his team of 30 volunteers worked painstakingly to pry friends, relatives, and perhaps even lovers from each other's arms.


LANDAU: We have to take out each and every one, and take them apart, while they were burnt. Only this took us about four to five hours.

DIAMOND: At kibbutz Be'eri, Landau and his team found a family of four around the dining room table. On one hand side, the parents, on the other, a boy and a girl, about six or seven, all with their hands tied behind their backs.

You said that the bodies that day, they spoke to you, they told you stories. When you got kibbutz Be'eri, what was the story that you found in that first house?

LANDAU: The terrorists were having a ball, eating the food that was on the -- over there that was prepared for the holiday. Tough. DIAMOND: Landau set all four had a bullet hole in the back of their heads, and signs of torture.

LANDAU: And I saw the father. He was fresh, it wasn't something that was suffering to be missing an eye, he was missing an eye. Sat next to the children, the children were screaming. I'm sure.

DIAMOND: In another house, Landau found a pregnant woman, shot from behind, and stabbed in her stomach.

LANDAU: A knife, stabbed, and the baby.

And the mother, lying on her stomach, big pile of blood, and shot in the back.

The same thing came up, question, who was first? And we had the baby. Are we going to use two bags or one bag? We decided we're going to use one bag.

We are not the evil people to separate the infant from the mother. No, we're not going to do it.


BLITZER: Our thanks to CNN's Jeremy Diamond for that report. We're learning new details about the landlord charged in that deadly attack against a young Palestinian American boy and his mother in Illinois.

CNN's Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suspect in the stabbing death of 6-year-old Palestinian American boy Wadea Al-Fayoume in the Chicago area was smoldering with hatred toward Muslims, according to new court documents. They cite Wadea's mother telling authorities that just moments before the attack, Joseph Czuba approached her and said he was, quote, angry at her for what was going on in the Jerusalem.

The documents cite the suspect's wife as saying he, quote, listens to conservative talk radio on a regular basis and had been getting increasingly upset at events in the Middle East.

Wadea's incredulous heartbroken family addressed the hatred.

YOUSEF HANNON, UNCLE OF 6-YEAR-OLD MURDER VICTIM: We are not animals, we are humans. We want people to see us as humans.

TODD: This comes as the FBI says it has seen an increase in threats inside the U.S. since the start of the Israel/Hamas war, threats targeting Jewish and Muslim citizens and institutions.

PETER BERGEN, AUTHOR, "UNITED STATES OF JIHAD": The emotional reaction to what is going on in Israel and Gaza is very, very strong. This is not just a news story for a lot of people. This is a story that they feel very strongly about emotionally.

TODD: Today, a sober warning from the homeland security secretary.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We remain very concerned about the lone wolf, the individual incited to violence by an ideology of hate.

TODD: The FBI has just arrested this man, Jeffrey Hobgood of North Carolina, for sending threatening emails to a Jewish center in the Charlotte area. According to the FBI's criminal complaint, Hobgood said in the emails, quote, I am going to take every one of you out, using expletives, saying we are at war, and your citizens started it, who's going to finish it.

This man Carl Mintz was arrested in recent days and charged with making threats of violence against Palestinian-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest Arab-American communities in the U.S.

DAWUD WALID, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS MICHIGAN: We know that dehumanization has a linkage to violence. It starts off with dehumanizing a group of people, then this opens them up to mob-like mentality of people to target.

TODD: Inside the U.S., experts say, the threat from lone wolves to commit antisemitic and anti-Muslim violence is a threat that is notoriously tough to track.

BERGEN: Lone actors are very hard to detect and they're also pretty hard to dissuade because typically they're acting by themselves. They're not part of a group that can be penetrated by law enforcement.


TODD (on camera): Analyst Peter Bergen told us one of his biggest concerns is not only that this war could be drawn out for months, but that more and more disturbing images will be continued to view on social media and elsewhere, Wolf, and that could ramp up the threats.

BLITZER: Yeah, certainly could.

All right. Brian Todd, thanks for that report.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

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